People love color! And hand painting and dying fabric offers numerous ways to bring color to fiber. My heart is very much with my eco-printed silk art. However my many years of painting cannot help but be enthusiastic about my first love of hand painting.
When I began to work with fiber art-silk predominantly-it did not take me long to realize that there are as many ways to put color on silk as there are to put paint on canvas!
Block printing, screen printing, hand painted, hand embellished, detailed, abstract….all play a part at some point in what I create with silk.
Drawing and Painting
My tools are simple. Wood stretcher bars, eye screws, elastic and clips. For a hand painted design, I’ll first stretch a silk piece such as a scarf onto the frame. I’ll use a resist which to free hand draw my design onto the silk. The resist acts as a dam of sorts-containing the liquid dye within its boundaries so an artist can create a particular image. The end result can be anything from super realistic to whimsical to abstract.
People are intrigued with artist demonstrations and rightfully so. Nothing is more fascinating to watch than a painting of any kind, come to life as they watch.
Watching a work being created is an experience that cannot be duplicated simply by looking at a finished piece with no knowledge of how it came to be. I have noticed that people do understand painting. A canvas, paints, etc are in the experience of most people. But painting on silk is not. There is a huge difference between the cheap scarves created in masses with digitally imprinted designs vs an artist’s one of a kind handpainted scarf!
To add to the zen like feeling of slowly hand painting on silk and watching the dyes spread out onto the silk as if pulled by an unseen hand, is the ability to take it outdoors. I work with my ecoprinting outside all the time, spilling out onto my silk studio deck. And when those moments click into place, an artist truly has it all.
Winter 2016 finally decided that January 2017 was a great time to begin, so for a week the weather forecasters gave dire predictions of a “southern” nor’easter. Sort of tantamount to a snow apocalypse. But the actuality was a lot of sleet and about 5-6″ of snow on our little mini-farm. However, the bitter cold for a North Carolina day (high of 22) changes things a bit and keeps everyone home and pretty much off the frozen roads!
This snowed in period has turned out to be a good time to give my thrift store find some TLC. I only invested $45.00 in this vintage White series 77 sewing machine. And frankly, it seemed like a bargain for the machine with all its attachments, instruction booklet and its all original beautiful cabinet! On a Facebook group, Eco-Dyeing Creating Learning that I am an administrator to, a member, Rudolph Ramseyer shared his research into vintage finds and noted that “An interesting bit of information is that White owned their own forests and sawmills, which supplied timber to their cabinetmaking workshops.”
It took 2 men to get this into the back of my little Honda Fit at the Thrift store. The back seats of the Fit fold back and up allowing room for upright items that normally could not go into a compact vehicle. Of course at home, it was my husband and I who unloaded it to my office/sewing room. That weight factor alone tells you a bit about the history of sewing machines in general as none were designed to be portable. My current Brother CSi6000 probably weighs…2 pounds? And in spite of all the fancy stitches built into the plastic Chinese made machine (most of which I do not use), it is sobering to realize that a machine that could go both forward and then, with the flick of a lever, go backwards without missing a stitch, was a huge deal 60 years ago!
The box of attachments is priceless in that they are all there. An immense buttonholer must have been a godsend. And there are attachments (some I have no clue about) and instructions for hemming, stitching lace, a combination tucker, edgestitcher and top braider, embroidery, quilting, a 5 stitch ruffler, one for gathering, one for single stitch pleating, shirring, piping and a host of other techniques, some of which I have never used!
The sewing thread sits on the middle spool holder. The one towards the wheel is for use with the automatic bobbin winder. Stitch length adjustments on the right and tension adjustments on the left. It is a pulley system, not a belt system and, of fascination to me, run with a knee operated lever (seen lower right top photo). It is also interesting that these were called “rotary electric sewing machines” and were driven by the rubber wheel contacting the motor directly in back.
So now cleaned and oiled, I have played with sewing on it. There is something oddly comforting in sitting down to a machine that was once the pride and joy
of a household. Was it a gift from a caring husband ? Or purchased on a new “lay-a-way” plan? Did the woman marvel at the amazing things she could now do? Was she able to add buttonholes or create beautiful ruffles she had never before been successful at sewing?
Sometimes it is the little things we take for granted that can give the most enjoyment. This frigid, snowy day for instance, makes me grateful for simple pleasures: indoor heating, hot coffee, power still on, outside animals fed and comfy and, quite frankly, the Internet. I feel no guilt today indulging my inquisitive passion of researching little things such as a vintage sewing machine. And today, it’s a good place to be 🙂