Snowflakes (Sort of)



OK, looks like we aren't going to get snow, at least not with this cold front or the next (blowing in tomorrow night). So I've satisfied my desires (which are fickle at best) with some snowflake like mandala designs made with various iPad apps. 

India Inspired Pillow

I hope to offer a class on Craftsy one of these days (you can help get me there by reccommending me as a teacher send an email to I demo'ed a couple of two hour sessions during the Houston International Quilt Festival and liked their professional attitudes and have enjoyed checking out the website. (Jane Dunnewold teaches a dye class there, too.)

So it seemed essential to actually take a class on their platform and to see how it worked. The lessons here are all video, with supporting print materials -- though I admit, I just went by the video and had no problem with the pillow project I tried. The class was taught by Carol Ann Waugh, Slash and Stitch, and she was great -- easy to follow, not boring, but certainly thorough. I just plowed through in one day with the class, though all the Craftsy courses are taken when and where and on your own schedule. The class commentary and questions to the instructor seem to be easy -- though it definitely must mean quite an ongoing commitment to the class by the teacher, since students start at any time and work at their own pace. Here's my project. I think I'll make more for Christmas gifts if I can work in the time. This pillow took me about 6 hours, but I think the next one will go more quickly as I learned some tricks from the first time through -- like, don't use slippery fabric for your bottom layer! And for less stitching, use more print or patterned fabric on that bottom layer, too. 



Anyhow, if you like to sew, quilt or make art with fabric, I reccommend Craftsy -- and this course was great!

PS Here I am at the Quilt Festival doing a stamp-making demo at the Craftsty area in the Food Court.


 Photo by Lesley Riley

Coming up at Southwest School of Art

Registration has begun for classes at the Southwest School of Art.  (210-224-1848, ext 317/334)

2349 | Finding Your Artist Voice  
Instructor:   Susie Monday 
Dates:    Mon, 10/1/2012 - 11/19/2012 | Time: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM 

Distinguish your work by finding a vocabulary of shapes, images, marks that are personal and explored over and over - find your artist voice by refining, repeating and elaborating a process. This course will not be technique-or media-oriented, but will help you define and focus your work though the active creation of a series (five to 10 pieces) within the parameters of your self-selected direction. 


Screen Printing Free Form Letters

This blog post is intended as a bonus for those enrolled in my More Text on Textiles online course that started on Joggles today. 

Now, it's not too late to join in the fun, so if you are interested in this 4-week, PDF based course (with an online forum during the next 6 weeks), head on over to this link for enrollment info --

It's an affordable way to get your feet wet with putting words, quotations, pithy comments and other thoughts (yours and others) on your art quilts, art cloth, wearable art or mixed media pieces.

Using letter forms for screenprinting stencils is another way to use your cut letters. P.S. This post assumes you have a basic knowlege of screenprinting. If not, go to this site to see a demo at This is a demo that takes you through the entire process, making your own screen. You can purchase them ready-made at many art supply stores. This demo shows all kinds of stencils, and you will be using your cut letters as the stencil. YOU don't need a clamped frame, I just move my small screen over the fabric. 

Because these letters will be used as a one time stencil, then thrown away, I usually just use old newspaper or sheets of newsprint, or recycled copy paper. Newspaper is really great because it is really thin and adheres to the screen and wet ink really well.

Any thin flat paper will work, but if you want a reusable stencil, cut your letters with contact paper (backing side up, the sticky side goes against the back of the screen).

 You can use any clean silkscreen for your tool. Occasionally I even use one with defects or blocked areas, for a distressed kind of print.

 Free-hand cut your word or words from your choice of paper (instructions are in the first lesson of More Text on Textiles). Then use small folds of masking tape (one or two per letter only), and tape your letters on the back (bottom) of the screen. Your words should read correctly through the screen unless you are intentionally reversing them. This is a great time to teach yourself to cut serif letters or letters that enlarge some iconic type (like those used by Corita Kent in her work).

Screenprint onto ironed flat fabric with thickened dye (see the Dharma catalog for easy instructions and supplies), textile screen printing ink, or other inks. Use a padded surface under your fabric.

Use your word as a repeat, or as a one-time print. When finished wipe down the screen, remove the letters and wash. Let textile ink prints dry, then iron to set. Thickened dye prints need to be batched, as with any dye painted fabrics.









Susie Goes Live on Joggles



 It's here! This week I launch my first online (for real) course on Joggles, Text on Textiles.

I'll be teaching this on on the Joggles forum, and have been working on ways to provide meaningful help and feedback. I am considering adding some experimental videos (on the side, with links on the course materials) so this will be have a learning challenge and curve for me as well. The video's won't be part of lesson one, since it's less a technique than a getting-started design lesson, but I'll work on the videos for others of the 5 lessons. 

The workshop is only $45, so if you are interested, click over to the site and sign up now. The first of the lessons will be posted on Wednesday.










That link again:



A Fine Time, with Mary Ruth Smith

The Texas Federation of Fiber Artists happened this end-of-February in Kerrville. I had a great time at the events in Kerrville that I attended. (And a wonderful time during the open studio at El Cielo on Friday, with special guest artists Robin Early, Sarah Burke and Mary Lance.)

Tops on the list: Mary Ruth Smith's stitching class. Just to hear her stories and her approach to her meticulous and amazing work was worth the price of admission to the entire conference. (Mary Ruth says take photos, but not of her face...)

Let the photos inspire:


 The piece above is layers of French knots -- Mary Ruth says it takes aabout 2 hours to stitch one square inch, about 200 hours in each of the pieces in this series (and she is FAST).

Mary Ruth says that she works with stitch in three ways: to construct fabric (as with the French knot piece above), to embellish and to draw. Some pieces use one approach, others several. She most often uses only one kind of stitch in a piece -- ie, thousands of seed stitches, thousands of cross stitches or thousands of those knots. Looking at her work, I noticed that quite a few also had maybe two different stitches -- one constructing the surface and one embellishing it.

I've been stitching (by hand) ever since the weekend, and have these observations:

Hand stitiching for me is quite meditative. I think I can give up yoga (no, not really... the shoulders say otherwise).

It takes a LONG TIME. Hand Stitch is the "slow craft" that calls to me. I get antsy with some tedious chores, but not hand-stitching.

I can travel with hand stitch projects -- even walking the Camino this summer, I should be able to carry along something!

I like black thread and the black lines that stitching with it makes. A lot. 

The overlay idea (putting a very sheer black fabric over ones first layer of stitch) is a novel and interesting way to play with value and to tie together bits of small appliqued fabrics -- it serves to hold down all the little threads and edges without fusing or satin stitching the entire edge. Mary Ruth used to buy her sheer Japanese made chiffon scarves at WalMart, but they no longer seem to carry them. She finds them now at ( Meinke Toy. HOWEVER, I think I found a substitute yesterday at the local wholesale florist -- in San Antonio at Travis Wholesale Florist. It's a very sheer, very transparent length of fabric sold as a decor sheer. $6 for a whole lot of cloth. I'm sending a piece to Mary Ruth immediately!

Another great source she shared for yarns, sari strips and paper yarn, perfect for couching: Darn Good Yarn.

She also likes to color her fabric before stitching sometimes with scraps of disperse dye painted papers. These dyes, for polyester and other synthetic fabrics only, are similar to the Crayola fabric iron on dye crayons. She now uses a product from ProChem called Prosperse Dyes. Here's a helpful YouTube with textile artist Mary Gamester that illustrates several ways to use this kind of product. And a helpful one-page sample from a book by Carolyn Dahl.

The picture directly below on the left shows at the bottom of the picture an interesting and simple way to mount these stitched and stretched art works. Mary Ruth stretches her muslin or other fabric around standard sized stretcher boards. When the work is finished, she may remove it and wrap it around another display board, then she nails a smaller by one inch covered stretcher bars onto the back of the piece with the art stretched around it. This gets the hanging hardware, (ie a 13" by 13" art piece is backed with a 12" by 12" stretcher boards stretched with plain muslin).

Fun with Instant Sketch

I'm always looking for fun and differenct (and free or almost free) apps to load on my iphone, and this one is a winner: Instant Sketch. It's just another variation on a photo sketch tool, but it does precisely what I want with a miminum of settings to tinker with. This will be a great app to share in my COMPUTER TO CLOTH workshop at El Cielo this April, since it's an easy way to go from photo or collage or artwork to a completely black-and-white line drawing. You can alter the line hardness and softness, and add or subtract deep blacks. 

The image above is from this letter collage set and shows the possibility for using this app with art/collage and text, as well as its intended use with photos. I've posted a couple of those examples below, as well.

You can choose an HD or SD (definitions high or standard) for your output and email the images or share via FB.

The sketch above is from a cropped version of this photo (you can crop and scale in the app, too, or take a photo on the spot).




Well, other than the wrinkles, it all works. And I did earn everyone of them!



Art Play Day Number 1


Pat Schulz demonstrates the basics.


A small group of fiber artists and mixed media artists have committed to monthly (more or less) play dates, no end product in mind, but a time to explore different media that perhaps one or more of us has never explored. The first hands-on meeting was last week and we went head-to-head in Pat's Beacon Hill studio to experiment with tissue paper fabric (or is is fabric tissue?). The number has been limited to four, since that makes it possible for us to meet in each others' studios, most of which are fairly small and compact. We're taking turns organizing and teaching, and also play every fifth meeting to be a show and tell session where we each bring back one or more pieces of work that use one or more of the techniques explored in our sessions.

Whatever its name, this is a dry process (unlike the wet process using gel medium or glue that I was familiar with). Using Steam-a-Seam (best because it has a tackiness that holds the initial layer in place) or WonderUnder or another fusible webbing, ltissue papers and collage materials are layered between two fused web layers, then the top surface painted, then the whole sandwich of paper and fusible is ironed to a fabric "liner." One can make subtle and distinctive layered images that can be either treated like a paper collage, or if bound to fabric, stitched into other fiber media.

The end results (and some shots of the participating artists):


Beautiful experiments from Liz Napier


Pat Schulz's experiment with pattern paper and tissue...


Sue Cooke hard at work.

 A cactus from tissue and pattern paper, fused to a gallery canvas frame 12"by 12", one of my projects. Think there's a little series to be found, as I am fixated on my cacti these days. 


From Photo to Fabric -- Image Prep for Thermofax

Continuing the on-line investigations today (yes, I'm home and laying low with a spring cold, it seems), I've been looking for a good on-line photo editor that will take the place of PhotoShop for those of my students who don't own the software. 


The original photo

Since my knowledge of Photoshop can be contained in a thimble (I use it exclusively to resize photos and to turn photos into high contrast black and white images to use to make thermofaxes), it doesn't take too much to satisfy this tech need. And I found much more than needed with Pixlr. And even Pixlr Express will do what I need for converting to a thermofax-friendly image. Pixlr has been around for a while so it may be familiar to you -- best of all, of course, it's free and it takes up no room on your computer. You can save the images you create or alter into several different formats including jpeg and tiff files.

 The photos in this post show several different conversions using different tools in the software. Here are the tips I can share so far: use "desaturate" to convert from color to black-and-white. Up the contrast all the way, adjusting brightness as you see fit. These actions take place under the "Adjustments" tab at the top of the image editor. Then under "Filters" apply the "art poster" effect, moving the toggle switches to see what different effects you get. If you want a "noisy" print, use the NOISE filter before you play around with art poster.

Try your own combinations of actions and order of actions to vary the image. You'll find a rich field of image ideas to convert to thermofax screens, stencils, traditional screen-prints or even stamps with cut foam or surestamp.