Tag Archives: fabric bags

Eco printing.

After a weekend visit to the Tasmanian Craft Fair I was inspired to try my hand at eco dying. The Writer bought me a beautiful autumn eco printed wool scarf in Italy this year which I love – the colours are soft oranges and muted browns on a cream ground. I treated myself to a locally made silk scarf with a smokey grey and burnt orange print of eucalyptus leaves at the fair and headed home with a plan to try it myself. (Craft fairs will do that to me – I have a list of three new crafts to try from this fair!)

So I did a lot of googling and found some great articles on how to eco print and had a stab at it. My first attempt gave me some gorgeous colours despite my slapdash approach! I would have pre mordanted the cloth with alum if I’d had any but really I couldn’t wait to try it so I just spread lots of eucalyptus leaves and rusty slabs from the old corrugated  roof I ripped off the Potter’s shed onto a length of calico, placed another piece over it and rolled it all tightly around a metal pipe. Then I wrapped it with string and placed in on a rack above simmering water. I covered the whole thing with foil to seal in the steam and left it to do it’s magic for a couple of hours.

Eco printed fabric bags
Eco printed “Rust and Eucalyptus”

I love the rusty colours and those smokey greys. I was a bit too liberal with the rusty metal additions and lost the eucalyptus pattern but didn’t mind as I like the abstract design that emerged.

The next day I went out and bought some alum from my local art supply shop. It was pretty pricey but will last for ages and as I’ve got the bug I’ll be getting my monies worth out of it. So, armed with the alum  I pre mordanted my second batch of fabric by soaking in a 10% alum solution overnight ( 10% of the weight of the dry fabric mixed with enough water to cover the fabric). Mordanting helps the dye from the leaves attach to the fabric. Then I repeated the process of layering the wet fabric with leaves ( I used maple leaves from the garden this time), rolling and tying. Then into the steamer for 2 hours. This batch was more successful at capturing the leaf shapes and I managed to get some subtle greens as well.

 

I’m a quick project girl and I love the fact this requires so little time and yields such interesting and unpredictable results. I can see me doing a lot more eco printing and dyeing in the future. Can I see me keeping a detailed note book of each experiment as every googled article suggests? Nope! I know I should but I also know I won’t – best just to acknowledge my lack of crafting rigour and get on with the dyeing and enjoy the anticipation every time I snip the string, unravel the cloth and release the print.

Eco dyeing has been a comfort to me this week, making something beautiful feels like a small antidote to the madness that has been the US elections.

 

The RDO report- a black sheep day.

On Monday I posted off  my latest commission and was waiting for a client to get back to me before I could start the next one so Tuesday found me with a RDO (rare day off) and no paintings waiting to be done! That really doesn’t happen often at this time of year with a steady stream of Christmas commissions coming in( as I write there’s already a new painting on the easel and 2 more waiting to be started).

Scottish Moors - acrylic on canvas painitng
Scottish Moors – just finished.
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Lone Mountain – current work in progress

With no painting on the go I found myself eyeing off my stash of fabric and favourite black sheep stamp . I love cottons and had a lovely earthy piece with tan,cream and terracotta stripes that I decided to pair with a tan cotton drill and turn into a couple of bags. I stamped away happily , making some decorative patches to sew on the flaps and backs and then spent a few hours at the sewing machine which has been feeling very neglected lately. By the end of the day I’d finished off 3 bags featuring the sheep print  and felt reconnected to my  sewing machine !

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But now it’s back to the easel……………I need to get some big snow covered pines on the foreground ridge , and maybe a few falling snowflakes.

RDO report- bags of fun!

I love my rostered day off (RDO)! Every second Tuesday I get a day off work that is just for me. I can do whatever I like with it and I try and pack a lot into those 9 hours. Here’s what I did today:

  • cleaned the washing machine before I did the washing because I truely thought the clothes would come out dirtier than they went in
  • took the car to Artery for some supplies that just won’t fit on the scooter
  • dropped in to see my brother and check out some fantastic plan drawers he has that I’ve been coveting – think they’ll be mine soon!!
  • exchanged the router that died for a new one that no doubt will die within the next 12 months
  • and made three bags using some really beautiful upholstery fabric featuring
  • shot some photos and added the bags to my Etsy shop

 

It’s been a good day!

 

 

 

 

The art behind a handmade bag.

I make bags much the same way as I paint a picture. Something will catch my eye, a shape will stick in my mind, a fabric pattern will pop out from all the others and I start thinking how I might use that idea to sew a functional piece of art – and what could be more useful, decorative and functional than a bag!

Just like a painting I get to make all sorts of decisions that will influence the final outcome. Will the bag be large or small, will the patterned fabric dominate or just add a highlight, will it be big, bold and bright or more elegant and subdued.

I like to paint fast. I try to be expressive and gestural in my approach. I value simplicity of design over fussiness . Just as I  want a painting to come together and tell a story so I want my bags to tell their own story , to insist on going to the market and being filled with winter pears , to sashay into the evening accompanied by a little black dress, to be slung over a shoulder and take a ride on a scooter.

There are lots of little details and flourishes that will lift a painting out of the ordinary and give it that extra something that makes you want to live with it on your walls for years to come. I like to add small details to my bags to finish them off. I might use strips of the main patterned fabric to trim pockets and isolate a graphic element in a small square against a plain fabric background just like a painting in a frame.

 

Sometimes a bag design will develop purely to showcase a fabric like this little tote with 3 “windows” I made just to frame a hand printed penguin on a mustard linen. I liked the result so much I’ve started using it to frame Japanese kimono fabrics .

I love hand printed fabric and make my own stamps to add a touch of whimsy to otherwise plain bags. I often”frame” them on squares of fabric which I attach to flaps, pockets and backs.

The other way by bag making is like my painting is that I have an overall design idea, an artistic concept and I start. I don’t always get it right first time, I may botch up something and then learn from that. I often measure with my eye not a tape measure! I make changes on the fly! No  two bags are ever the same – I  would get bored with that. I could always streamline my process and make a lot more bags a lot more efficiently but I just don’t want to. When I sit down to sew I look through my fabric stash to see what excites me today -then I choose a design idea to rework or try something new . Just like painting I want to be inspired, to try new techniques to challenge myself and hopefully make a thing of humble and useful beauty in the process.

You can check out my other bags at my Etsy shop.