Recycling a Little Blue Dress 2

Artwork In-Progress
The op-shop little blue dress unpicked so that I can attach strips of cotton fabric easily by machine. These 3 strips are to act as a guide so that I get all the patches straight.

The op-shop little blue dress unpicked so that I can attach strips of cotton fabric easily by machine. These 3 strips are to act as a guide so that I get all the patches straight.

This is as far as I got yesterday – the side seams and hem are unpicked and I have stitched on 3 strips of the shirt fabric to the back of the dress as a guide for getting the other patches straight. As I was doing that I thought “well, that’s mistake number 1 – I should have added to the length of the dress first”. Oh well, it might get some pleats added at the end, or the cuffs/collars of the shirts. We’ll see. I think I’ll carry on stitching patches on and worry about fit first (I’m thinking that all the stitching might pull it in a bit). If it fits then I’ll do something about the length – or not. 🙂

The op-shop little blue dress unpicked so that I can attach strips of cotton fabric easily by machine. These 3 strips are to act as a guide so that I get all the patches straight.

The op-shop little blue dress unpicked so that I can attach strips of cotton fabric easily by machine. These 3 strips are to act as a guide so that I get all the patches straight.

Recycling a Little Blue Dress

Artwork In-Progress

I bought this little blue dress at an op-shop.

The dress I bought in an op-shop which fits nicely but is made from thin fabric and is a bit short. I'm going to try stitching pieces of other old clothing onto it to make a unique "arty" dress.

The dress I bought in an op-shop which fits nicely but is made from thin fabric and is a bit short. I’m going to try stitching pieces of other old clothing onto it to make a unique “arty” dress.

It fitted well but the fabric was so thin you could see through it, and it was a bit short. I decided it was a candidate for one of a series of altered clothing pieces that I have had in mind for a while (read that to mean that I have a stash of clothing bought from op-shops destined to be modified into something I would wear!). I am concerned about the amount of textile waste and pollution there is from all stages of the fashion industry – from manufacture right through to the post-consumer. So I “rescue” fabric and clothing whenever I can see a way I might use it. Anyway, this dress was so thin I decided it would make a good base to patch other fabric onto. It is also a very simple shape so I figured I could open the side seams to make it easier to stitch those patches on by machine. That way if the stitching caused some shrinkage (which I think is almost bound to happen) I can add a panel at the side seams. I can do the same thing at the shoulder if that also proves to be a problem.

Nagging doubts that have prevented me from starting this project to date are, 1. it will shrink so much it won’t fit, 2. that it will look really old-fashioned and almost “hippy”, 3. that I’m wasting time that could be better spent on something else, 4. that I won’t like it once I’ve done it, 5. that people will laugh at it, 6. that it isn’t really “art”, 7. that I could make some yardage in the same way and then cut out a dress using a pattern that I know will fit, 8. well, the list goes on – I could probably add 20 more negatives easily. 🙁

Recycled blue shirts destined to be "married" to the Little Blue Dress to make a unique "arty" dress.

Recycled blue shirts destined to be “married” to the Little Blue Dress to make a unique “arty” dress.

So, I have decided to go ahead regardless. The best that can happen is that I end up with a dress that I like and the worst is that some fabric that probably would have ended up as landfill, will end up as landfill. I won’t have wasted my time because I know I will learn a lot along the way.

Collagraphs

Artwork by Liz, Artwork Experiments, Uncategorized
Nine small collagraphs to experiment with texture by Liz Arnold, September 2015

Nine small collagraphs to experiment with texture by Liz Arnold, September 2015

The Collagraphs

Amongst other things, I made 9 small collagraphs (printing plates) (4.5 x 3 inches) over a period of a few weeks (quite a bit of drying time for various layers). They were experiments to create texture and to see how much depth variation gives a good print when using the press. The answer is “not much”. The plate at top right has circles punched from an old dilapidated paperback and crocheted cotton thread. The circles printed well but the crocheted cotton thread was probably a smidgen too thick as it trapped a lot of ink. I used (hogged?) the press at PAWA during the last Saturday Skill Sharing Session and the other members were really helpful in showing me how to set the press up, and how I should leave it when I’ve finished printing.

The Prints from the Collagraphs

Nine small collagraph prints (4.5 x 3 inches) by Liz Arnold. The lower middle print with the splodge was the first print - too much pressure on the press. September 2015.

Nine small collagraph prints (4.5 x 3 inches) by Liz Arnold. The lower middle print with the splodge was the first print – too much pressure on the press. September 2015.

The second photo shows the prints from those 9 plates. The very first print I did was the one with a big splodge! 🙁 I had too much pressure on the press – and possibly too much ink on the plate as well. The pressure was reduced for the remainder of the prints and I like how those came out.

Top row: 1/ cotton yarn, thin card and sand, 2/ watercolour paper strips, 3/ book page circles, the top of a bread mix bag, thin card strips. Second row: 1/ thin card and carborundum, 2/ eggshell (I put all sharp edges pointing down ie outside surface of egg up, and after I glued this the first time I rolled over it with a rolling pin and then applied another 2 layers of glue so there were no sharp bits sticking up), 3/ scrunched tissue paper. Third row: 1/ the top of a bread mix bag and thin card strips, 2/ crochet cotton, paperback page punches, 210gsm card rings, and thinner card strips, 3/ watercolour paper strips.

When I did these prints the plates had all had 8 coats of spray varnish. When I cleaned them they went a bit soft so I put them in the sun to dry for a couple of days to make sure I wasn’t trapping moisture inside and have since given them another 8 coats. Spray varnish doesn’t obscure detail but I don’t like the smell/effects on me even though I’ve been using a mask and spraying outside (staying downwind). I’m going to try brush on varnish which I was avoiding as I thought brush marks might give an unwanted texture. It’s probably just a question of getting the “knack”.

Creating Pod-like Forms

Artwork by Liz, Artwork Experiments, Uncategorized
The bamboo sticks were soaked for a couple of days and then I put them in this shoebox to dry. The sides of the shoebox prevented them from moving while they dried out. I hoped the bamboo would retain the curve once dry. June 2015

The bamboo sticks were soaked for a couple of days and then I put them in this shoebox to dry. The sides of the shoebox prevented them from moving while they dried out. I hoped the bamboo would retain the curve once dry. June 2015

I have been busy with paper mache again recently. I had ideas for our MELD exhibition last year and actually started some works but because I always apply a minimum of 10 layers, alternating used office copy paper and brown paper so that it is really strong, my paper mache forms need a long time to dry and harden.

The bamboo sticks removed from the box once they had dried – they retained the curved shape. June 2015

The bamboo sticks removed from the box once they had dried – they retained the curved shape. June 2015

So I abandoned them in favour of other work for the 2015 MELD exhibition. Now of course (a whole year later!) they are thoroughly hard and can be painted/finished off. I’m thinking I could make more for our next MELD exhibition (or some other exhibition of course) if I start now.

I enjoy making 3D forms because of their tactile qualities. I like trying to produce sensuous curves and making pieces that generate that urge to caress, stroke or touch the work. I like trying to make the work reproduce that feeling I get when I pick up a really smooth river stone or piece of sea glass – it’s impossible to resist playing with the stone – turning it over and over in my hands.

The bent bamboo being held in place by a “sticks and string” framework while I work out how to secure the ends. Turns out hot glue is the best solution for that! June 2015

The bent bamboo being held in place by a “sticks and string” framework while I work out how to secure the ends. Turns out hot glue is the best solution for that! June 2015

Maybe I’m a bit perverse – creating works that give out that vibe to touch or caress and then putting them in an exhibition situation which more often than not has signs everywhere saying “please don’t touch the artwork”.

And pods in nature often rattle because of the seeds inside don’t they? So I’ve added the “rattle factor” to some of them too. But how would the viewer know that unless they pick it up and shake it? Definitely perverse. Grin.

Sometimes hot glue is the best solution! June 2015

Sometimes hot glue is the best solution! June 2015

This bamboo armature is the start of the 3rd pod this week. The 3 triangular frames that are tied in place will be removed once the hot glue has set. They were only there to keep the 3 bent “ribs” evenly (roughly!) spaced and the ends together while I figured out how to fix the ends permanently. I tried weaving around the ends but of course as I tightened the weaving it worked it’s way down the tapered shape and off the ends. So hot glue was the solution this time around. I started 2 others as well which have a very different underlying structure.

One of the things that appeals to me about paper mache is that it uses discarded material. It does take a long time because each layer is so thin – but then most things worth doing do don’t they?

Collagraph plate experiments – thin card

Artwork by Liz, Artwork Experiments, Uncategorized

I have been experimenting with making printing plates from various materials I had on hand (some of which I had bought years ago but never got around to trying of course). These can be used to remove paint to create texture on the Gelli plate (if they have some flexibility and no sharp projections) or as printing plates in their own right. I recently did quite a bit of reading about different ways to create collagraph plates. In particular I was interested in ways of waterproofing the plates if they were made from materials which weren’t already waterproof such as paper/card or fabric. This is because I have had experience in the past where some glues become sticky again when wet.

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I have made one out of thin card (140gsm) and paper shapes glued onto a thicker card (600gsm) which I have sealed with 2 coats of Atelier Regular Gel (Gloss) and 2 coats of WestArt Crystal Clear spray varnish. Concerns are that the edges will not be waterproof as it is difficult to make sure they are coated. I haven’t tried it yet and as they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. I have since read that Shellac waterproofs paper and card because it works by soaking in rather than sitting on the surface. This has 2 benefits: the entire plate is waterproofed rather than just the surface, and fine details are not filled in by the sealant.

I am therefore in the process of making another plate, with the texture of weaving, from the same thin card which I will glue onto thicker card and then seal with Shellac (which I have used before to seal wooden stamp blocks, but not for paper). I am interested to know whether the texture of the weaving will show or whether I will just get dots in a regular grid from the high spots.

These are the marks that were on the scrap paper that I cut into strips to make the woven paper collagraph.

These are the marks that were on the scrap paper that I cut into strips to make the woven paper collagraph.

While I was making this I became intrigued with the way the lines that were printed on the thin card were displayed in a completely new way. It looks almost like a code or cipher. So I’ve filed this away in the back of my mind in the “inspiration” category.

Op Shop Bounty

Uncategorized
Shell necklaces found in an op shop. I envisage these being taken apart and used to decorate textiles or baskets.

Shell necklaces found in an op shop. I envisage these being taken apart and used to decorate textiles or baskets.

There are a couple of op shops on my route home from meetings at Alexander Park Craft House and I often call in to one or the other to have a bit of a rummage around. This was my bounty from last week. The beads are made from shell – two of the necklaces are made from smoothed sort-of-rectangular beads and the other has perfectly round disks.

The sequin top has many more sequins on it than I could buy new for the same money. It needs about 3 stitches to secure a line of sequins which are starting to unravel but other than that this top could be worn – if I was half the size I am now! 🙂

This sequin top is WAAAY too small for me but I can use the sequins.

This sequin top is WAAAY too small for me but I can use the sequins.

I envisage all of these beads and sequins being useful embellishments on bags, baskets, vessels, or clothing that I make in the future.