Botanical Printing and Natural Dye Part 3

After several days of printing with the larger pieces of fabric, Kristy brought out note cards for us. What a great bonus! Here is my first bundle of 5 note cards ready for a bath in cochineal.

And here are the iron  blankets and the cards.  Again, so fun to have two prints in this process. I am thrilled with the detail on these prints, with both the paper and the cotton cloth.

Each of us did our best to bring fresh cuts of plant samples for the days’ printing. My fellow students and Kristy all had access to much more than I did so I was very grateful for their contributions. Not only did I get some great prints but I also learned about more plants.

Back to more experimentation. I was specifically interested in the ability to print using dogwood with the flower. I also brought a bright yellow-green linen from my stash and used that for my iron blanket.  The green was much softened by the iron bath. I have taken two photographs of this length of fabric. In the photo below, the first two prints are of dogwood. In the first print I had removed the large node from the center of the flower, placing the petals in the right locations. I did not remove the flower node in the second print. I am actually happy with both prints. The lavender, yellow and grey colors on the silk noil are simply wonderful. I dipped the botanical specimens in iron water and used the linen fabric also dipped in iron water. The last leaf is an oakleaf hydrangea.

I am over-the-top happy with the second half of this experiment. The cedar is beautiful, detailed and, frankly, better looking that this image reveals. The print on both fabrics is completely usable. The wild blackberry leaf and dogwood spray also printed beautifully.

The next three images are of one piece of silk noil fabric dyed with weld. All of the botanical specimens were dipped in iron and placed on the fabric. The end of the fabric (here, the right end of the first photo) was left exposed. No iron blanket was used. The bundle was submerged in a cochineal bath.

I am thrilled with the subtle, detailed prints in all the leaf samples. I went for large leaves in the experiment and the reward was far more than anticipated. The fabric is 11″ wide.

I will be using every scrap of this fabric!

I was so much ‘in the moment,’ focused on each step and being accurate with my notes, that I forgot too often about taking photographs. I kept my wits about me here though. This is a white silk scarf with plants dipped in an iron solution and the linen fabric (you can see the original color here) also dipped in iron solution. Half of the scarf here

and the other half. The iron blanket was then placed on top and the sandwich was rolled and tied.

Here is how the bundles looked when they were ready to be steamed or boiled. My initial is on the label as well a the time that it went to be processed.

And here are the results. Again, the linen iron blanket was softened by the iron.

The colors, detail and outline of the leaves are crisp and wonderful.

On our last day of class I couldn’t resist bundling another bunch of small leaves with the note card paper. They are so charming.

The four of us in the class will be gathering next month at Katherine’s home to do more printing. I plan to take prepared cotton fabric. I can’t wait!

If you missed my first two posts on this class you can find them here and here.

Botanical Printing and Natural Dye Part 2

If you missed my first installment sharing the results of a 4-day class on Botanical Printing and Natural Dye, just click here to be all caught up. A reminder that I am not showing everything I did in this class, just the pieces that I found the most exciting and that I can see using in future art pieces.

The example below, shown in two images, was one piece of silk noil fabric with half of the piece being covered in an iron-dipped cotton cloth. I love the results on both halves. The first photograph is the side with the iron blanket. The prints of the leaves are sharp, though the pigment transfer did not highlight veins of the leaves, except in the far right leaf.  I really like the subtle color background on this fabric — it’s uneven and has a dreamy, quiet feel. The iron blanket prints were unsatisfactory so I won’t show it here.

The leaves on this side of the fabric were dipped in an iron solution. The veins are well defined in these prints. The colors that came from the leaves varied — there is brown, gray, black, yellow and violet here! A wonderful mix that has great possibility! Again, I have some splotching where the iron solution dripped from the leaves while they were being placed on the fabric. This is one yummy piece of fabric!

I almost passed on the opportunity to print with this next fabric, a silk jersey dyed with logwood. This is not a fabric I would ever choose to work with. It slips and slides just looking at it. But boy, am I ever glad I did! The prints that I got are incredibly clear on both the silk and the cotton that was dipped in iron solution. Thank you, Kristy, for that gentle nudge in the right direction.

I’ve taken two images of this piece of fabric to better show the prints. I love the sharpness of the prints, the variety of colors and the bonus of having two great images of each leaf. I will stabilize the jersey fabric with Pellon Shirt Taylor before I incorporate it in my work.

Stay tuned for part three. I think you’ll discover some nice surprises.



Botanical Printing and Natural Dye Part 1

I spent four days in early July with Kristy Kun of Opulent Fibers and three classmates learning about the process of botanical printing and natural dyeing. Kristy spent the week before our class preparing the fabrics with mordant — a substance that prepares the fibers of the fabric to bond with natural dyes — and dye so we were able to hit the decks running from the first day. We produced prints on a variety of fabrics and a good range of natural dye such as logwood, madder, cochineal, weld and chestnut. I am more interested in printing with botanicals than I am in dyeing fabric using plant resources and you’ll see that reflected in the samples I will share here.

Each of us brought our own fabric to use as the iron blanket — fabric dipped in an iron solution or fabric wrapped around some rusted metal– that was used for many of the prints. I was delighted to see that many of the plants I used printed very successfully on the primary fabric as well as the iron blanket. This first sample shows just that. The fabric on the bottom of the photograph is silk noil with chestnut dye. The blanket is cotton fabric dipped in an iron solution. Plants used were sumac (a variety I was not familiar with but what a beautiful leaf! My classmates referred to it as ‘fancy’ sumac.) and peony. Click on photos to reveal a larger view.

Plants here are peony, dogwood and sumac. I can definitely imagine using both the silk and the cotton prints.

The following images are of two panels (two images per panel) of silk noil using plants dipped in iron solution and no iron blanket. Panel one has wild blackberry, maple

hawthorn and oak. I’m very happy with the shadowy effect that was caused by some dripping of the iron solution as I placed the leaves on the fabric.

The second panel has eucalyptus, maple

and sumac. I love the strong colors and crisp edges produced in these samples.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.


Hand of the Artist

I was at Art Quilt Tahoe last week taking a class with Lorie McCown. Lorie is a fiber artist and a painter so she brings a lot to the table. She is keen on creating work that reveals the hand of the artist. Her work is created by layering fabric which is held together with some machine stitches, but primarily hand stitches. She and I share an interest in how we create the quilt line in our work — I felt there was something to learn from Lorie.

Right away I was out of my comfort zone. Lorie uses a scissors for some cutting work but never a rotary cutter and mat and usually she snips and tears fabric. So, okay, I’m there to learn, so I dove in, snipping and tearing fabric and placing it on a background. Then I caved a bit, placed tulle on top of the 2 layers of fabric, batting and backing, and quilted the entire surface. This provided a nice flat surface to begin layering a design.

Here is where I dove into my box of threads: embroidery floss, yarn, hand-dyed collections from Oliver Twists and more. I was ready for the comfort of hand work. I started by couching down some hand-dyed ribbon, then moved on to other designs, working back and forth between hand stitching and hand-cutting leaves that I stitched onto the surface by hand. Lorie shared her method for leaf construction — it creates a leaf with real dimension.

Leaf detailI got to a certain point and knew that I had gone as far as I could: the next step needed beads and I didn’t have any with me. I was so in the moment that I completely forgot to take progressive photographs of the process. Here is the completed piece (Click on the image for a larger view):

Hand of the ArtistHand of the Artist measures 14 3/4″ x 15 3/4″. The list of materials is very long for this small piece: commercial and hand-dyed cotton, hand-dyed and silk-screened silk, hand-painted cheese cloth, tulle; commercial cotton embroidery thread, hand-dyed cotton embroidery thread, yarn; beads.

The bead leaves are heavy and thick and getting them to remain where I stitched them turned into quite a puzzle. I stitched several on using what I always use for beads: size D nymo thread. I didn’t like the thread showing and it allowed the beads to twirl. Off they came. I had to use a method that would keep them secure, no matter the orientation I placed them in. Aha! I said. Embroidery stitches. This allowed me to use some of Els van Baarle‘s hand-dyed embroidery thread (She was teaching at AQT and I bought several hanks of her thread.).

Els van Baarle embroidery-threadI used 2 strands of thread and a small embroidery needle. I came up through the hole in the bead, took a stitch to the right of the base, catching the top 2 layers of material and batting, coming up an equal distance to the other side of the base, then down through the hole to the back. Needle back up through the hole again, I created a double Colonial Knot (I stacked 2 Colonial Knot stitches on top of one another to create the depth I needed using a light-weight embroidery thread.) and tied it off on the back. I prefer the Colonial Knot to the French Knot because the Colonial Knot will stay upright and stationary wherever it is stitched — no falling over on its side like the French Knot. I first tried a single Colonial Knot but when I pulled the thread snug to the back of the quilt the knot slid through the hole — a double knot was necessary.

Hand of the Artist, detailThe leaf beads look as though they are wearing a necklace. Kind of charming. Most important, though, is that the stitches are intentional, serve their purpose and look good. Success!

This post is linked to Off the Wall Friday. Check out what other fiber artists are up to there.




French Knots and Finger Cots

I’ve completed the on-line course at Craftsy with Carol Waugh. I have thoroughly enjoyed working through her methods, constructing my own machine stitch reference and doing some needle work I haven’t done in many years — embroidery.

I used a fat quarter of fabric to create my surface design. There is extensive machine work in the form of couching, decorative stitching and quilting. When I completed that much, I cut the piece apart to create a notebook cover and (as always, click on an image for a larger view)

Franki Kohler,

Almost done with this notebook cover

some postcards.

Franki Kohler,

Almost done postcards

Then there is the hand embroidery. Carol took us through the techniques for stitching French Knots, running stitch and the lazy daisy stitch. That took me straight back to my childhood and learning those very stitches from my Grandmother. Whoosh! Nostalgia time.

Even though it’s been quite some time since I’ve done crewel embroidery, those stitches are still with me. I pulled Judith Baker Montano’s Elegant Stitches from my book shelf and looked through it. Her instructions are great and soon I was stitching a Squared Palestrina Knot — on the left, the ‘x’s’ with a knot in the middle– and combining buttonhole stitch with lazy daisy for a simple design.

Squared Palestrina Knot, left; Buttonhole with lazy daisy, right

Squared Palestrina Knot, left; Buttonhole with lazy daisy, right

Most of the embroidery has been done with pearl cotton. Let me tell you, it’s not easy getting pearl cotton through fast2fuse and a layer of fabric stabilized with shirt tailor. After struggling to pull the thread through, I dove into my supply of tools and pulled out some finger cots. I rolled one onto my thumb and — ta da! — the needle comes right through — even with very bold French Knots. Grandma taught me to wrap the thread around the needle three times for a French Knot but Carol has no hard and fast rules. So I thought, let’s go for it and I was wrapping the thread 4 and 5 times. I’m happy with the bold look it gave  the daisy and solo French Knots on the left.

Bold French Knots

Bold French Knots

I’m not quite done. I have some beads that are screaming to be stitched on and then there will be a trip to my local bead shop to find just the right ones to add to the closure for the notebook cover. Stay tuned, I’ll share the final results.

Here is where this adventure began.

Back to Basics

When concentration eludes, it’s time to dig into some basics. Lucky for me, I’ve just begun an on-line class through Craftsy with Carol Ann Waugh.   Stupendous Stitching focuses on using the decorative and utility stitches on your home machine to create your own personal surface design. It’s not surprising then, that the first assignment is to stitch out an example of each of the stitches on your sewing machine.

When I purchased my first computerized machine I did just that. But that was long ago and that machine has been replaced.  Let’s face it: the illustrations for most of the stitches on your machine don’t resemble what actually stitches out when you use it. I welcomed the opportunity to create a handy reference for my machines.

I’ve gathered the supplies: Pellon shirt tailor to stabilize the fabric (shirt tailor has fusible web on one side), Wonder-Under, trim to finish the pages and eyelets to allow the pages to be held together in book form.

Franki Kohler, gathering supplies

Gathering supplies

I became so immersed in this project that — oops! — I forgot to take a few in-process photos. There is nothing revolutionary about the process though: beginning with the first stitch on the machine, use the default setting and stitch several inches; vary stitch length and width to see how the stitch changes — even a slight change in the original stitch could reveal your favorite new design. Use a permanent pen to mark the corresponding machine number on your reference fabric. Repeat this process until all the designs have been stitched on fabric. Here are two of my pages finished:

Franki Kohler, 2 pages of stitch reference

2 pages of stitch reference

The pages were trimmed, pairs were fused together, the edges were stitched first with a narrow zigzag stitch, then with a wider zigzag while applying cording. Here are the final pages ready to be finished.

Franki Kohler, final pages ready to be finished

Final pages ready to be finished

When I finish the pages for my Janome 6500 I’ll be doing the same process for my Janome 11000.

Surface Design on Textiles with Lonni

I’ve just returned from Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove where I took a class with Lonni Rossi through Empty Spools Seminars. Lonni has been designing fabric collections (5 or more a year) for Andover Fabrics for 12 years and she shared her techniques for creating designs on textiles using Setacolor paints, silk screens, stencils and a variety of hand-made and found objects.

I have been using Setacolor transparent paints by pēbēo for many years to create my sun prints. Lonni introduced me to the opaque and metallic paints as well as thickener and discharge paste. Setacolor paints are water based, non-toxic and clean up easily with water. They are permanently set with a hot iron.

Lonni and the 22 students there brought a variety of tools which we shared with each other freely. I couldn’t resist using Anne’s rope stamp. She made this by securing the rope to a piece of wood with double-stick tape and painting the entire surface with house paint.


Here is the discharge paste stamped onto some hand-dyed fabric.


When the fabric is dry, the paste completely disappears. Then it is ironed with a hot iron. At home I soaked the fabric in a vinegar-water solution for 15 minutes, then washed it in the washing machine. And here is the final fabric.


I didn’t get a picture of this piece during the ironing step but here is one of Anne ironing her fabric — the design appears as if by magic!


This piece became the first in what is now called my radiator series. I screened the background dots and stamped with Anne’s rope stamp, then I placed it on a working radiator. Not only did the fabric dry quickly but I got a stunning striped fabric in both directions! The deep blue vertical lines are a result of direct contact with the hot radiator tops; the three softer horizontal lines of color are a result of the color in the middle of the fabric moving to create the darker vertical lines.


I liked the effect so much that I created several half-yard pieces of fabric using the same drying method.


My friend Suzanna was creating a staggering amount of fabric for a project she’ll be working on very soon.


She brought some wonderful stamps and other tools. I borrowed her rubber band-wrapped rolling-pin to transform a lovely green linen:


I used copper-colored transparent paint to stamp the entire surface. To achieve a lighter shade of the transparent paint, simply thin with water. To use the thinned paint for stamping, add thickener. After drying I used opaque green, then blue paint to create larger striped areas.

One of our learning exercises involved painting a half-yard of fabric, tearing it in half and painting a ‘wash’ over one piece. The wash is made by diluting transparent paint 50/50 with water. Here is Nancy’s stunning tree fabric:


And here are Denise and Nancy sharing a laugh.


A trip to Pacific Grove always includes a visit to see what new things Pat Riley has. Here I am with Pat and my sister, Christy. I’m wearing a jean jacket I bought several years ago — it still looks brand new.


Next up:  News about exciting improvements being made at Asilomar Conference Center!

Zentangle Class

I took a beginning class with Grace Mendez on the art of zentangle. Zentangle is an easy-to-learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. The tools we used to create the drawings include a pencil, a smudging stick, Sakura micron pen 01, and paper tiles which are mould-made, acid-free, 100% cotton, heavy-weight  print-making paper with a vellum surface. The paper is die cut and has a deckle edge. The kit came in a canvas bag so I’m ready to travel with tangles!

Here is the first tile with four designs.

The second tile.

I took this class thinking that it could open my mind to new designs that I could use for quilting. The class was fun and relaxing and I can definitely see the possibilities for translating this into needle and thread work.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas are the founders of this registered teaching method for designing one stroke at a time. Learn more about them and their designs here.

Skill Building with Jenny Lyon

I’m always interested in learning new quilting designs and generally building my free-motion quilting skills. Jenny Lyon — quilter extraordinaire, teacher and friend — teaches at several quilt shops in the Sacramento area. I asked her to come to my home to share her skills with a small group. My friends Aileyn, Jean, Dolores and Pam joined us for the fun!

Jenny took us through what she calls a ‘decision tree.’ The answer to the question “What do you want the end result to be?” informs your decisions for not only the quilting design and its density, but which batting and thread you’ll use. She covered the reasons for using wool, cotton, orient and even double batting. She talked about the kinds of threads and marking tools she uses and why. Other tools we talked about included:  the Supreme Slider™ (not available in stores), a Teflon sheet which grips the bed of your machine and allows your quilts to glide easily; a single-needle throat plate; gloves, finger cots and Lickity Grip®. Since the class I have purchased and used the  single-needle throat plate for my Janome 6500 and the Supreme Slider™. I will try Lickity Grip® with my next large quilt.

Then we got down to the question for quilting: What is the mission for the quilting? Is it a secondary story for your quilt — meant to enhance the fabric design? Or is it the feature of a quilt with lots of open space? There is a lot to think through before you even begin quilting.  Jenny took us through drawing quilting designs on paper. At one time or another we’ve all been told about the benefit of drawing a design with our finger before starting but Jenny’s method for putting pencil to paper is even better. Finally, we were turned loose on our machines to try our hand at the designs we were most interested in learning. I managed to try a couple designs in class and I branched out with a few more later.

And here’s the group (L to R) Aileyn, Jean, Jenny, Pam and Dolores.

Jenny is a wonderful teacher with an easy, positive style that makes everything seem possible. And even though none of us was new to quilting, we learned a lot. Next step is practicing.

Broken Color

I spent all day Wednesday hanging out with three friends — Denise Oyama Miller, Aileyn Ecob and Jean Jurgenson — learning a design technique new to three of us. Last year Aileyn and Jean said they wanted to learn about the technique Denise uses in some of her art quilts. She calls it broken color — you’ll see why. Denise is an extraordinary artist in many mediums — water-color, collage, mixed media, acrylics and textiles — with each informing the other. We were in for a treat.

I purposely chose a small format and a very familiar subject. My finished piece will measure 12″ x 12″. Here is my pattern.

This pattern was traced onto WonderUnder, each piece was cut out on the marking line and fused to the wrong side of my fabric selection.  Then each pattern piece was carefully trimmed by about 1/16″, placed on the “fracture color” — that wonderful lime green is a silk fabric Denise gave me! — and fused in place.

I can’t wait to finish this little piece.

And here we are at the end of the day. . .

What a fun day it was! Thank you Denise for sharing with us.