Monday, April 13, 2009

Textile Construction #1

Yesterday I completed the first of the Weekly Textile Constructions I plan to do during the next 12 months. I have been inspired to start this project by artist Jeanne Williamson whose work I admire. I have been aware of Jeanne's work for some time but only recently read about her on-going weekly and monthly small art project and the book she authored entitled The Uncommon Quilter. In the book, Jeanne lays out a selection of the mixed media projects she has been making for a number of years. She describes how she makes a small mixed media work each week and explores materials and processes in whole cloth construction.

I believe the first rule of Art is that there are no rules. I have, however, established some guidelines.

1. I will construct one work weekly in a 12" x 12" format.

2. The exploration for the work is totally open. Construction techniques, surface design, and all materials are acceptable.

3. I will adhere to the convention that a quilt must have three layers of some type and have some manner of attachment to each other.

For Textile Construction #1 I choose to test the effectiveness of Soft Scrub to discharge dye from fabric. Soft Scrub is a commercial cleaning agent for sinks etc. and it contains bleach.

I began by cutting an assortment of fabric squares which had been dyed in a variety of colors with MX Reactive dye. The fabric is cotton. The squares were pinned onto a print board and the SS was squeezed and scraped across the surface of the fabric with a plastic scraper. I made no attempt to create a specific pattern other than applying the SS in random spots on each square.

After a few minutes (I did not time this.) I began to see the effect of the discharge. I applied a second application on some pieces with no additional manipulation.

The fabric was rinsed after 20 minutes and soaked in anti-chlor. The anti-chlor stops the chemical reaction of the bleach with the dye. The work was then rewashed, dried and ironed.

Observations on the Process:

1. The Soft Scrub is a very effective discharge agent. Very handy as it is ready anytime.

2. The discharge is fast.

3. A second application of SS was visible and made a second layer if marks.

4. Easy to see that it is possible to create soft edged or hard edged shapes.

5. Some colors discharged more strongly than others.

I selected four of the squares and stitched them into a single unit. This was then layed with a backing, cotton batting and the art layer and quilted together with four colors of thread. Each color was stitched across two of the four squares. The center is stitched every 1/4" and the outside edges are stitched every 1/2". The edges of the work were then zig-zag stitched.

Observations on Textile Construction #1:

1. There is an interesting juxtaposition between the simplicity and hard edges of the squares and the organic nature of the shapes created by the discharge.

2. As I looked at the completed piece I kept thinking of a map. I think it is due to the appearance of the light blue square and the overlaying grid stitching. Looks like a map.

3. I can see someone using SS or some other discharge agent in a very painterly way. It would likely require processing several times.


  1. Very good analysis of work process. TC#1 is greatly enhanced by the stitching. Keep up the exciting project.

    Tom D.

  2. This was a wonderful descriptive post about process and discharging fabric. You made it sound like something easy to try and bleach is generally not toxic(unless you drink it) for those with chemical sensitivities. Thanks for the inspiration. Your blog is lovely!