Wet Cyanotype Process

I have been creating cyanotype prints on fabric since I learned about the process from Sue Reno  in 2006. I enjoy the process and I feature cyanotype prints in many of my art quilts. I’ve used pre-treated cotton, raw silk, china silk and silk organza to create my prints. Each fabric features it’s particular fingerprint in the process, each one revealing subtleties that I like. I particularly enjoy the range of blue colors that the different fabrics produce — from delicate light blue to bold, dark blue — each appropriate to the unique setting that I use them in.

Recent Instagram posts have revealed experimentation by artists creating wet cyanotypes, tagged #wetcyan. The artists working on fabric posted results spraying water on their fabric and leaving it in the sun for long periods of exposure, 24 hours or more. My practice with the dry method has allowed for exposure for about 10 minutes. I had to try this.

I had pre-treated fabric that I brought with me from California — translation: it was over 2 years old. My supplier recommends using the treated fabric within 6 months. But what did I have to lose? I had white pre-treated fabric and a small amount of yellow pre-treated fabric. After gathering a few botanicals I got busy.

I sprayed the work surface, placed the fabric on top, positioned the fern and wild blackberry leaves, and sprayed the fabric surface. A sheet of glass was placed on top. Click on images for a larger view.

Within minutes I could see there was action. Color began to appear and the intense afternoon sun was cooking the leaves.

At noon the following day the chemicals were still reacting and creating a stew of colors.

I brought the fabric in and rinsed it out after 24 hours exposure. Here it is drying.

I was thrilled with the yellow, orange, brown and green colors that were revealed. Here are two more prints done at the same time. That’s rosemary on the left, Queen Anne’s Lace on the right.

My next experiment used smaller pieces of fabric and a shorter exposure time.

Again, the chemical reactions were happening immediately.

Here they are, dry.

I couldn’t resist a refrigerator raid for some Italian flat-leaf parsley.

And here are the printed scraps of yellow fabric I had. I love the dramatic colors on these!

I will be ordering more fabric from my supplier. I am eager to see if there is a significant difference in the chemical reactions with freshly treated fabric. Stay tuned.

What have you been experimenting with lately?

Eucalyptus and Fig

I’ve just completed a piece that I’m quite happy with. This piece is a very satisfying combination of old, new and hand made: my old cyanotype print on silk of a eucalyptus branch and new cyanotype prints on hand-dyed cotton of young fig leaves; some of my hand-painted fabric and hand-made fabrics from Africa. I met Janet Rothermel last year in a class at Oregon College of Art and Craft. Janet is a local pastel artist focusing on landscapes — check out her work here. Janet has a thriving garden filled with endless possibilities for printing and she was gracious in sharing some young dried fig leaves with me. The small size and great detail of these leaves are very inspiring.

After the concept for this piece was formed, the fabric was pulled for audition. Click on an image for a larger view.

I don’t expect to use every fabric; I do want enough choices to put pieces on the design wall and see how they work together. Here I’ve begun to cut strips and place them in possible layouts.

Possibilities include the direction of the cyanotype prints.

This step takes patience but is well worth the experimentation. While I was still considering a variety of possibilities, I became eager to begin the thread painting process. So, off I went to the machine.

I truly enjoy each step in the creation process, but the thread-painting step is probably my favorite. A little side note about the print: The eucalyptus trees that were near my home in California are the variety with long, slim leaves and beautiful acorn-hard capsules. The print above was created using a variety I found just outside Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. The leaves of this variety are shorter and wider, have a lighter grey-green color and, at the stage I took a branch, have clusters of tiny buds that will eventually open with white flowers. I enjoyed rethinking my process for defining the leaves and blossom buds. I began the process with a variegated green trilobal polyester thread. Next I went back with an olive-green polyester thread and finally I did some shading with a brown 50-weight cotton. Once the thread-painting was complete, I stitched together the fabric strips for the quilt top.

I spray-baste my quilt layers. Yes, sometimes I get a bit heavy handed with spray and that can lead to a sticky build up on the needle. It always cleans off easily and I move on. I am less annoyed by this than the process of removing pins or other stabilizers while I am quilting. I began by quilting the eucalyptus and the fig cyanotype prints using blue 100-weight silk thread. Next I marked the remainder of the quilt with guide lines.

See those vertical white lines? Those are my guides. I use just two marking pens. The pen on the top of this picture leaves white lines on dark fabric. These lines will disappear with heat from the iron when I block the quilt.

The blue pen creates blue lines on light fabric and is removed with water.  Now the quilting can continue.

When the quilting was done, I blocked the quilt, trimmed the sides and top and put it back on the design wall to determine how long I wanted the bottom panel.

I decided to trim 3 1/2 inches from the bottom. Next came binding and the hand work.

My studio assistant aka Cooper was more than happy to stay close while I was busy stitching Colonial knots in each of the bud areas. This art quilt measures 48″ x 19″.





Cyanotype Experiment

Blue Prints on Fabric, my source for fabrics treated for creating prints, has a new product. Hand-dyed cotton fabrics — available in medium pink, turquoise blue, bright orange, chartreuse green and medium yellow — are then treated with cyanotype solution. These fabrics provide a new twist on the classic blue and white of the historical cyanotype printing process.

I recently received a yard of medium yellow fabric, tore off a piece about the size of a fat quarter and printed using California Poppies.

Franki Kohler, Experiment with cyanotypeThe area protected from u.v. light remains the color of the dyed cotton while the area not protected obtains a unique color as the cyanotype chemistry turns blue but also reacts with the base dye color. From this photograph it may be difficult to discern the subtle change in the background color from strictly blue to the blue-green I see in my studio. Evidence of that is revealed on portions of the stems where the stems were not making complete contact with the fabric.

In the past I have used primarily flat plant segments such as leaves or dried flowers to create prints. Using these flat sources has meant that complete contact with the fabric was much easier to achieve. I’m not entirely unhappy with the varied level of contact from these fresh-cut California poppies though. In fact, I rather like the variety of color that this print created.

A word of caution about using fresh specimens: Pinning the fleshy specimen to the fabric means you pierce the skin and release some of the fluid from the plant. Notice the far left flower stem and little ‘blob’ 3 inches below the bloom. That is where the pin released liquid from the stem and the chemical began to run. I was lucky to have only one such blob. If there had been many such leaks I probably wouldn’t consider using this print. However, with one small one like this I am comfortable considering it for a future project.

Studio Tour with PIQF

The annual Pacific International Quilt Festival at the Santa Clara Convention Center was held October 17-20. One of their events this year was to provide a tour of local artist studios. I was honored to be asked to participate this year along with fellow artist Alice Beasley.

I thoroughly enjoyed having 45 visitors in my studio. It was a great opportunity to explain how I actually create my art. So my primary focus during the studio tour was education. The more visitors understand the techniques and materials I use to create my art, the more they will appreciate my work.

Small works using my favorite techniques — cyanotype and sunprints — opened the opportunity for discussion.

10-18-aSeveral examples of both types of printing were available for close inspection.

10-18-bThe possibility of creating fabric and using it as gift wrap intrigued visitors (see Furoshiki Fabric Wraps).

And the possibility of mailing fabric art in the form of postcards always creates a stir. Here they are displayed mounted on archival mat, ready to frame.

10-18-eVisitors had just 45 minutes to take in my studio. The conversation was lively and the time allotted sped by like a blink. Everyone seemed to learn something and share a laugh.

Threadpainting Begins

For me, the beginning of every art quilt with a cyanotype is threadpainting the print. And as soon as that happens I become excited about how the print will look when it is quilted. It’s hard for me not to jump ahead imagining the great definition that the quilting will provide, the real puff of each leaf and flower, the color and texture that the quilting will add. For now, however, it’s time to stay in the moment and enjoy the process as it unfolds.

The print captured so much detail! Many of the veins of the leaves are clear and easy to stitch in. And the papery-thin flowers create such an elegant, wispy design.

Franki Kohler, Threadpainting begun

This print is on China silk, approximately 20″ x 24″. I’m using silk thread. It is stabilized with Pellon Shirt Tailor, a fusible interfacing that works perfectly for this kind of work. Unlike the paper tear-away products that I use, the Shirt Tailor will remain on the back of the silk print. Because of this, I stop every few leaves or flowers and give the entire piece a gentle steam pressing. It’s important to me that the silk remains flat and true to size.

I finished sorting and organizing my green fabrics yesterday and in the process discovered a piece of silk fabric that I screen printed in a class with Kerr Grabowski in 2007. Kerr uses a method she calls Deconstructed Screenprinting. I think this small piece may find its way into this quilt.

Franki Kohler, More silk fabric

For now its living with the other fabrics I’m auditioning. We’ll see what happens.

The Liebster Blog Award

I have been awarded the Liebster Blog Award by Carol Larson, a serious fiber artist you can catch up with at Live2Dye.  This award is given to bloggers who inspire you and have less than 200 followers. The Liebster Award takes it’s name from the German word meaning Beloved, Dearest or Favorite. Oh MY! I’m so honored to receive this award. Thank you Carol.

As part of the tradition it is passed along to 5 bloggers that have motivated and inspired.
To accept the award you must:
1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.
4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have been offered this award.

And now for my 5. . .

Sue Reno originally inspired me to start heliographic and cyanotype printing

Suzanne Kistler beautiful work and relentless creation

Del Thomas road trips and Wordless Wednesday and Corky, oh my!

Sara Kelly Incredible work and unstoppable positive attitude

Karen Musgrave Super high achiever who dares you not to be involved

Thank you Carol and my anointed 5 for inspiring me!