Thursday, August 06, 2009

Exciting New Fabric Project

I have been planning this large fabric bed cover project with a client for months now. Finally its time on the work calender has arrived.The project is for a hand painted one-off piece with a central, radiating design, to cover a Queen sized bed, with a 2 foot drop on 3 sides. The fabric will subsequently be machine quilted with a star pattern, and lined to fashion a lightweight bedspread for a large, beautiful four posted bed. The starting points for the design is a rug from the same room, and floral designs from embroidered silk shawls from southern Spain. A LOT of planning has gone into this, since its so large, (approx. 8'x9') and needs to end up a very specific size.
Usually I staple my fabric down before painting, shrinkage does occur, and I like to work on a tight, flat, non- moving surface. But I can't do that here.

With extra allowance for whatever shrinkage will occur (usually 1-2 inches, depending which way the weave is), I boldly set out putting a lot of colour on the fabric, every which way I can. I want there to be a lot going on in the background of the design: a lot of depth. Since I don't know exactly where the dense floral areas will be, nor where the more open areas will be between flowers, I have to cover the whole thing with this mottled effect that will look like distant foliage and blurry leaves once the rest of the work is painted in. There isn't going to be the usual "designy" motifs I often put in the background of my fabric yardage (swirls, big dots, geometric grid designs of squares and diamonds, etc).

Its such a big piece, but I know from experience that finding the centre, and doing a lot of measuring and thinking at this stage pays off later, and it will probably all turn out OK. The border makes the measuring and planing final. In fact, I did this border twice, in chalk, since I decided to make the whole design bigger, and then we decided to add a third row of checks. The edge row of checks will be turned under after , and on top of the quilting process, to finish the whole thing on the underside.
Drawing with chalk is crucial, I simply wipe out mistakes with a wet sponge. Normally when I paint fabric yardage projects I either don't draw at all, except for marking out pillow squares, or I do a very vague block out of some feature (bird or something)..and just start painting. In this case, however, the design is very formal, and the dimensions,pattern and size of various elements is very important. So I am planning on drawing just about everything in the chalk first. I wipe it out as I go, and any little bits left over, come out in the wash.(!)

After a very intense chalk session, lots of measuring and wiping out, and thinking hard, I feel confident to draw out the outline in a dark paint. This dark outline becomes the shadow under the plants later.

Although I have followed the pattern fro the rug pretty faithfully, I am certainly going to make it my own, and also , since its not a wool tufted thing, but a painted thing, I can introduce a whole lot more interesting detail. Making the transition from the centre floral to the field of flowers goes through a couple of versions, and we finally smooth out the kinks in the design, and work out the details for the rest of the piece. We are looking for a an over-all sense of pattern, but not a slavish symmetrical mirror pattern from one side to the other. It also will develop an early Renaissance Mille Fleurs tapestry look.

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