Wearing Art

Fabric.com has had Liberty Tana Lawn on sale and I treated myself to a couple of pieces. Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Pepper Blue/GreenOne is the teeny-tiny “Pepper” print that is so bitsy that it reads as a textured neutral from a few feet away.




Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Strawberry Thief Green/Blue The other is a small piece of the print titled “Strawberry Thief”, designed by William Morris.

 Morris is one of my design heroes. He was a big player in the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 1800s, founding a decorating company with an emphasis on hand-made goods and core principle of fair pay for the workers, viewing artisans as artists. He designed textiles for the firm. He was a painter and hung with the Pre-Raphaelite crowd. He was particularly interested in book arts, printing exquisite volumes at his Kelmscott Press. He was a pioneer in historic preservation. He was also a poet. Even though his poetry doesn’t do much for me, this additional credit belongs on the list.

But here’s the thing – a textile designed by an idol was on sale for a good price, and I only bought a half a yard. Just enough to cover a cushion and have a bit left over, because I’m shy about wearing art.

 On the one hand, I really think that hand-made clothing should fully exploit its hand crafted-ness, including details and techniques that don’t lend themselves to the manufacturing process. I admire art-to-wear on a mannequin. But on the other hand, I’m not comfortable in clothes that draw a lot of attention. Coming up with a balance will take some experimentation. I DO know that I want Peggy L to teach me silk-screening.

 Here’s an experiment. I had some left-over linen, and I had the Sewing Workshop’s Mixit pattern. Many Sewing Workshop patterns are perfect blank canvases for surface techniques. The dartless tank I made is one of them. (The other tops in Mixit are good candidates, too.) The idea was to try some discharge dyeing using a bleach pen, and making a wearable muslin at the same time. A woven tank is a good TNT to have.

 Step one was to thread-trace the outlines of the pattern. I didn’t want to be inhibited by the edge of the fabric when drawing the design with the pen.

 I experimented on scraps with bleach from a bottle before I got the bleach pens, mixing it with some flour so that it would stay where I put it. The experimental pieces took a full 10 minutes for the bleached areas to go to white, so I planned a design that would take a little time to draw.

 Good thing I did another trial when I got the pen – it bleached super-fast! I was all fired up to forge ahead, so decided to just scrawl random circles with a kind of graduated effect, leaving the hem area untouched. And here you see the result. A bit crude because of the lack of planning, but there are some things I like about the effect.  There’s a nice difference between hard and soft edges which you can control by how quickly you draw with the pen. The overall effect reminds me of low-contrast tie-dye. I might do another piece using the bleach and flour mixture in a more controlled design.

 Thoughts on the pattern – there’s no shaping to this tank, so if you want any you’ll have to add it yourself. But because there’s no shaping, the hem is straight across, making it a great a great candidate for a border print. I sometimes need an FBA in most patterns, and this tank would hang a bit better if I made a small one. All in all, the fit is better than I expected from such an unstructured pattern. The shoulder sits well on me, and there’s no armhole gap, so I’m pleased. Add to that, it goes together in no time at all.

 I plan to wear this around the house and see if it makes me feel too much like an old hippy.

Interested in discharge dye? Some links….

Lois Ericson in Threads one of the art-to-wear masters.

Paula Burch some specific information on using a bleach pen.

Vintage Threads this blog post has some good ideas.


4 thoughts on “Wearing Art

  1. I like that technique!!! We MUST get together – so we can do some silk screening and discharge dyeing. Love your new fabrics, too. I went to Textile Fabrics in Nashville today to shop their sale. They are having 50% off all fabrics this week which means it is in the affordable range. I ended up with three pieces. I’ll post them on the blog this weekend.

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