Liking the new arrangement

It’s amazing how shifting a few objects around in a room can open it up. I pasted a long piece of linen yesterday (3+ yards), and began painting the work today. I can move around the work more easily. The picture shows the pasted section resting on the top of my flat file, which is on wheels allowing me to push it around as needed. I’m glad that I can now work with a big piece of fabric like this.


And from the other direction…

The pasted fabric stretched out to dry.


Because the rice paste shrinks when it dries, the surrounding fabric pops up a little from the surrounding pasted areas.

Katazome giveaway winner; Ropes and sticks: beginning again

First of all, congratulations to Fran of Sun Valley, Idaho, the katazome giveaway winner! Thanks to all of you for putting your name in the hat!

This weekend I cleaned my basement workroom/studio, clearing clutter and hoping to find another square foot of space to use. (According to The Bard of Lake Woebegone, this frenzy of organizing is probably a form of temporary insanity, since it is January in Minnesota.) My goal this time was to find a way to stretch more than 2-1/2 yards of fabric across the space. Normally that’s the maximum I can manage between the concrete wall and the 6″x6″ post in the middle of the space. (there are 2 of these posts on either side of the chimney.) I found a way to extend this reach by almost a yard by using a D-ring on a clothesline.


To prevent the D-ring from slipping I’ve attached a clothespin on each side of it. You don’t really need the D-ring but I like it because it allows me to move around more easily without untying the rope or doing the limbo. Normally the D-ring would be attached to the metal handle on the post.  We also moved the freezer and a few other things to open up the space around this new adaptation.

Part two of this weekend of problem-solving was stretching the shinshi (bamboo fabric stretching sticks) across the back of the fabric, which seems like it would be easy, but frustrates me. It usually takes me 2 or 3 tries to make it work. Ideally, you want the shinshi to be perpendicular to the edges of the stretched fabric, but when that isn’t possible crisscrossing them is the alternative. The goal is to stretch the weave as evenly as possible, avoiding little tent-pole like protrusions and wrinkles. This is hard to do when the sticks are diagonal. Shinshi only come in a few sizes, and if you are working with wide fabrics and/or have custom requirements you adapt. Once learned, it’s an elegant and flexible method and allows you to stand and move around while working on a large piece. I find other fabric stretching equipment awkward.


Spilled Milk and this Week’s Progress

Yesterday I forgot to screw the bottom of the blender on tightly so the soy milk spilled all over the table and floor (I walk away while it’s blending to save my ears). This gave me the perfect opportunity to try John Marshall’s “quickie method,” which involves grinding dry soy beans in a coffee grinder and then swishing and massaging the resulting flour around inside a damp cloth inside a bowl of water. I like the slow method better, which is actually faster (provided you remember to soak the soybeans overnight in the fridge).

Ready to dye
Ready to dye

The old lab cart works well because I can wheel it around my work as needed. The dry pigments are mixed in the soy milk, which is still a bit frothy from freshness. Pigments settle out, so with each application you need to stir them up a bit.

Today's dye work stretched out
Today's dye work stretched out

My basement studio has many obstacles I’ve managed to work around! Two vertical 6×6 posts stand in the center of the space about 10 feet apart. The boiler, chimney and water heater are between them. I’ve rigged two stretching areas, one from each post attaching to the concrete wall opposite via aluminum door handles. I added a carabiner (i.e. D-ring) to one of the handles, which allows me to move around more easily with a minimum of ducking and crouching. I can stretch approx. 2 1/2 yards of fabric on each side of the room.

Owl detail
Owl detail

Above is a close-up of my new owl design after curing and wash-out.