Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Printing on Fabric

Hello and happy Advent, everyone!

I hope Thanksgiving was lovely (if you celebrated it, I mean). We didn't have snow, which in these parts is a gift. But it was cold, which in these parts is a given, so I shouldn't complain - or even be surprised, I guess. We have our Christmas tree up now, the cats have happily claimed the tree skirt as their own, the oldest child has returned to the Uni, the two younger children are transitioning to a new semester and its accompanying new teachers, and that's where we are now. Speaking of transitioning, I never feel as if I'm ready for the Great Whiteout. Winterizing the house and yard aside, there's also the mental and emotional adjustment to the shorter days and earlier sunsets, the extra hours I seem to spend driving in the dark on even the simplest of errands, the turning inward and indoor-ward, the subconscious focus on food and feeding those at home (particularly as the holidays draw nigh). It's just the natural cycle of things, I tell myself; it's supposed to feel unfamiliar. After all, I didn't grow up experiencing the four seasons; in Singapore we only ever had the consistent humidity, and the monsoons when the old year surrendered to the new.

Still, it is always lovely to leave behind the mania of summer and all its frenetic  activity, especially since also means returning indoors to more making and creating. Late in the summer, as I was preparing to send Emily off to college, I sensed a familiar restlessness - the sort that comes upon you when you're transitioning and feel a tad lost and are then overcome with the ridiculous desire to reinvent yourself by learning something new. So I started Spanish "lessons" on an app. Dad and I had always loved the musicality of the language, and he'd begun learning it from CDs decades earlier, so I figured I'd continue doing that. I also started looking into learning to print on fabric - what fun, I thought, to be able to introduce detail to fabric that wasn't piecing or texture. When Emily heard about it, she wanted to learn it, too, so I found a class and signed us both up. And in the days after she'd left home, I found myself looking forward to it on two counts: one, because learning is always exciting, and two, to reconnect with my daughter to do something artistic together in the midst of all that was changing.

So here we are - both of us super-exhausted after a full day of classes at Uni (her) and the running of a household of still-at-home-teenagers (me). 

The class was held at the Textile Center in downtown Minneapolis. Katrina, our instructor, taught us systematically how to lay the wooden blocks on cotton fabric stretched taut with pins, 


then add borders, 

and color fills. 

She provided all the supplies - the wooden blocks were her own, and the inks were silkscreen paint watered to a workable consistency.

I will say that I'd been hoping to learn the woodcarving aspect as well, because the point had been to be able to design my own prints at home eventually, but it wasn't the focus of the class. The blocks, our instructor explained, were hand-carved in India, where she'd learned the craft. At the top left corner of the next photo are four Scandinavian-style flower blocks I'd immediately fallen in love with, which made  appearances in almost all my projects.

We worked for 3 hours, at the end of which we each chose a project to showcase all the things we'd learned. I picked a bag (of course I did).

When you've worked with prints and colors long enough, you become somewhat particular about shades and combinations because some part of your brain has rules for what color goes with what and what looks off, even if it's just a smidgen too cool, or too warm. In this tote, for instance, let's just say that I loved some of the colors together more than others, and when it was finished, I stood there, aghast, but it was too late to redo the whole thing so I let it be. 

Katrina let us bring our own things to print on if we wanted to, so in the last 5 minutes of the class, I worked on some canvas bag pieces I'd cut out the night before. Emily did a border print on the straps. I loved this color combination much more than the previous one.

And I finally assembled it all a few weeks ago.

Here it is, inside-out, to show you the lining.

It was so much fun to make, and I foresee many more print-and-sew projects in the near future.

But I would love for this beautiful bag to find a new home, so I've (finally!) put it the shop. Please stop by to check it out there.

I have one more post planned before Christmas - a game I made for my 3-year-old nephew. Fingers crossed that I'll find the time to squeeze it in before then, but in case I don't, let me wish you all now: a lovely, restful, joyful Christmas and new year!