Archive for the ‘Screening’ Category

Back on the Face of the Earth

Monday, December 13th, 2010


"Cave Series VII" (C) 2010 by Tracy McCabe Stewart

I know it’s been a while.  I have been busy with non-art stuff for a while and haven’t had much that really seemed worth writing about. 

I just completed the piece shown above.  It’s another piece in my cave series; all are based on the incredible images found on the cave walls of Altamira (Spain), Lascaux (France) and chauvet (France).  As much as I work with these images, they never cease to thrill me.  I have another piece on the boards, so it will be a lot less time before the next post!

SAQA One Foot Square Auction Begins!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) begins their annual fundraiser today!  This is a great opportunity to purchase some great art work and help a really wonderful organization at the same time.

How the Auction Works

There are 288 Benefit Auction quilts donated by our members. The SAQA 2010 Benefit Auction will begin on Monday, September 20th at 2:00 Eastern Time and conclude on Saturday, October 9 at 2:00 Eastern.

Last year’s Benefit Auction raised $47,325. The funds raised through the Auction are critical to supporting SAQA’s exhibitions, catalogs and outreach programs.

How the Auction works:

The Auction is run in three sections (Section 1 – Pages 1a and 1b; Section 2 – Pages 2a and 2b; Section 3 – Pages 3a and 3b).

On the first day of each section’s auction, the price for all pieces in that section is $750. The next day (at 2:00 Eastern), the price drops to $550. The third day, it drops to $350, then $250, then $150, and finally $75.

The first section will begin September 20th at 2:00 Eastern.
The second section will begin September 27th at 2:00 Eastern.
The third section will begin October 4th at 2:00 Eastern.

On another note, I’ve been vat dyeing again.  This one below was made from a Procion dye that I got from Dharma Trading Company called Mild Wing Sauce.  It was an oops dye they were selling at a great price.  It was screened with golden yellow and scarlet vat dyes.

Scarf Mania! Scarf by Tracy McCabe Stewart

this one was created from another oops! Dharma dye called How Now Brown Cow.  I LOVE this color.  It was screened with scarlet vat dye as well.

More Scarf Mania! Scarf by Tracy McCabe Stewart

Taming Dragons and Layering Screens

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I know I haven’t posted in ages.  I’ve been absorbed in revamping my garden.  I downsized my big pond to a smaller one that requires less upkeep.  It involved moving tons of flagstone in the summer heat.  I wasn’t really feeling too creative afterwards. 

I fished this dragonfly out of the pond and he seemed quite content to dry off on my fingertip:

My Pet Dragonfly

Here’s a shot of the new pond.  I dismantled the waterfall, but have water bubbling through this millstone:

New Pond (c) Tracy McCabe Stewart

Three of these cute green frogs moved in the new pond.  So far, my big frogs haven’t returned.  This guy likes to hide in my lotus plant:

Green Frog with a Personal Umbrella

Here’s a couple of shots of parts of my garden.  I have gone heavy on the grasses and shrubs because my Great Dane and other big mutt mow down anything much daintier:

Tiger Eye Sumac, Hibiscus and Grasses (C) Tracy McCabe Stewart

and here’s more grasses in front of my garden shed:

Garden Shed (C) Tracy McCabe Stewart

and a shot of my old pond:

Fish! (c) Tracy McCabe Stewart

and I did manage to put multiple layers of screening on my latest piece.  It combines both regular and metallic paints:

Screened Layers (c) Tracy McCabe Stewart

Here it is with hand dyed silk organza over it.  I like the look; a bit more subtle:

Layered Piece (c) Tracy McCabe Stewart

Back to the Caves

Thursday, June 10th, 2010


Cave screen:As you may have noticed, I haven’t gotten a heck of a lot done in the art department over the last few months.  I did revisit a whooping crane piece I’d started before leaving for my trip to Japan, but wasn’t really engaged enough to stick with it when design problems arose.  It is currently in pieces waiting for me to get interested again.

I noticed, over the past few days, that when I thought about starting or working on one of my bird pieces, I’d start drifting away.  Suddenly, any thing else was more interesting:  laundry, walking the dogs, solitaire, you name it.  Interestingly, when I thought about doing some work on my cave series, I began designing and working the logistics of the piece out in my head.  I guess I need a break from the birds for a while.

I began working out fabrics and creating new thermofax screens to use in the piece last night.  I haven’t decided whether this will be a pure fiber piece or a piece that combines fiber and etched copper like my Lascaux pieces:  Horses and Bulls I and II

Anyway, here are some of the new screens I made based on the cave paintings in Altimira, Spain and Lascaux and Chauvet, France.

I am going to try to get some screening done over the weekend.  We are getting house stuff done next week (carpeting).  I need to empty out all of our furniture for the job and move it all back again when they are through.  It will be completely chaotic here for most of the week. 

Have a great weekend!

Big in Japan-More Preparation

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Here are the scarves I started a few days ago.  I will bring them all to Japan and let my daughter choose the one that I give to my daughter’s host mother.  I posted about this yesterday here.

I thought the scarves needed another layer of vat dye, so I screened an indigo and grey mixture over them.  I got better haloes today, too.  I think this one below is my favorite.  There’s a real hot spot from my camera’s flash.  The color is much more even:

Procion MX and vat dyed scarf by Tracy McCabe Stewart

 Here’s the second scarf:

Tree screened scarf by Tracy McCabe Stewart

The final scarf turned out all right, but the new screeend flowers turned out really blurry.  It was all the same vat dye, so I don’t know what happened.  I like the look of it anyway:

Procion and Vat dyed Scarf by Tracy McCabe Stewart

Big in Japan-Trip Preparation

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

I am headed out for a 10 day trip to Japan this Wednesday.  My daughter has been finishing her last year of university in Kobe and staying with a host family there.  she has a minor in Asian studies. 

Big in Japan is a fun song from the 80’s by Alphaville.  It’s one of the worst music videos ever; complete with Robin Hood sort of outfits that don’t really have much to do with Japan, as far as I can see.  See it here.   We hum it around here because I am 6’2″ and going to the land of 5′ people.  I’m guessing I won’t exactly blend in. 

Right now, I am trying to get gifts together for Ashley’s host  family.  The Japanese have a somewhat complicated ritual of gift giving.  Here’s what I know:  gifts from/related to your geographical location are appreciated.  The presentation is really important, too.  I will wrap my presents in hand dyed fabric to try to make them extra special.  

I am from Chicago, so I am bringing them a book on Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  I am also making a hand dyed scarf for my daughter’s host mother.   Apparently she wears very plain, dark clothing, so I am trying to do something pretty subdued.  I started by dyeing silk scarves blue grey and screened them with vat dye solution.  Here are the results form the vat dyeing.  They will probably get a layer of fabric paint before they are complete. 

Here’s a picture.  I am having a hard time getting the colors true because the silk is so reflective.  I barely got any haloing on these-too bad.  She wants plain, so I won’t add another design layer, but may screen some paint to make the effect more monochromatic.  

Hand Dyed Scarves by Tracy McCabe Stewart

Thermofax/Silk Screen Workshop with Barbara Schneider

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I just can’t get enough of taking classes from Barbara Schneider.  She’s a fabulous teacher and I always learn something that I’ll actually use in my work.  This class was no exception.  The focus of Barbara’s class was on expanding uses for thermofax screens and silk screens.

We started out by making oversized thermofax screens.  You’re only limited by the width of the machine, but can make them as long as you care to.  We created frames by cutting one side out of two frames and gluing them together for a larger total opening.  I made some great screens but forgot to take pictures of them.

Barbara also showed us some of her experiments with screens past their prime.  Below, she has created a sewing line to add visual interest.  Good for backgrounds.

Revamping spent screensHere are some of her results using this screen:She also showed us some different effects to create with regular screens:Thermofax screens using a sponge application

Above, Barbara has created a much softer effect by using a a sponge with her screen rather than the traditional application.
Below, she has combined sponge and regular paint applications:

Combination of sponge and regular applications

We then made silk screens by stapling cheap synthetic organza over stretcher bars:

Cheap silk screens

Barbara showed us a few uses.  first was creating a wax rubbing resist on the screen.  Barbara is using a doily.  She creates the resist by placing the doily underneath the screen and rubbing wax over the screen.  Now, whatever is run through the screen won’t permeate the wax rubbing:

wax resist on silk screen

We also made drippy screens with this blue liquid I’ve forgotten the name of.  You can apply it any way you like.  We dripped it all over.  When dry, the screen will be covered with a red liquid that acts as a resist.  You let the red stuff dry and then rinse the screen.  The places where the blue liquid are will rinse away and the red will remain creating a screen of the blue design.  Here are some examples before the red is applied.  I do realize that this is the lamest explanation ever:

 She also showed us another method using leaves or other objects (they will get ruined) as a resist and spray painting the screen.  You then remove the objects befor the paint adheres them to the screen.

Leaf resist screens

I had to leave the workshop early, so didn’t actually make any work.  That’s also why there’s no pictures of actual work.

I haven’t had any time to play with this stuff. I have been hunkered down working on a that huge heron piece I started a few months ago.  It’s basically done, but I’m not quite pleased with the head of one of them.  Once I fix it, I’ll post pictures. 

We had a really bizarre frost a few weeks ago.  My friend told me it’s called a hoarfrost.  I got some cool pictures I’ll post tomorrow. 
I am taking a class with Mary Hettsmansperger on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Hopefully, I’ll get pictures up soon! 

Vat Dyeing Primer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

With all of this vat dyeing I’m doing lately, I probably should have started by posting an introduction to the process and some instructions for doing it.  Better late than never 🙂

By the way, There isn’t any vat in vat dye.  Don’t ask me why it’s called vat dyeing, I didn’t name it 🙂  Actually, I think the name came from indigo dyeing techniques which are the same type of dye.  Don’t quote me on that, I may have made it up.

Here are the basics general info-almost all of which is information I got from Barbara Schneider’s  fantastic workshop: 

  • Vat dyeing is a really old technique (18th century)
  • It is the most light fast dye. 
  • Vat dyes are a specific type of dye rather than a dye process:  they are water insoluble in pigment form.  They are made water soluble-or able to bond with the fiber molecule- by adding a reducing agent.  The reducing agent used in my experiments is Formusol.
  • Once vat dyes are mixed they will last forever
  • The reason for the halo effect is that the discharge agents move faster than the dye agents
  • Increasing glycerine increases the haloing effect.  Other liquids need to be reduced accordingly.
  • The dyes we use(d) are Aljo Zymo-Fast (Vat Dyes).  Barbara does NOT use their recipe or directions.
  • Vat dye colors will not blend with previously dyed fabrics, but will blend with each other.


In order to vat dye, you need to steam the fabric.  For this, I bought a huge tamale pot on ebay.  It gives me plenty of room to add the fabric without it touching the sides of the pot. and has a steam tray built in that keeps the fabric out of the water while still being steamed. 

Humongo tamale pot

Humongo tamale pot


Humongo pot’s steamer tray:

vat dye primer1

I also purchased a 1500 watt hot plate so I could do my steaming out in the garage.  Formusol is formaldehyde based and releases fumes during steaming and application.  Do your process in a well ventilated area and/or wear a ventilator.

Within the pot, you want a few layers of craft felt and 3 layers of paper to sandwich the material.  Make them about 2″ smaller than the pot so steam can circulate. 

vat dye primer 3

Brown craft paper layer:

vat dye primer 4

 The layers go from top to bottom like this:  steamer tray/paper layers/craft felt/rolled fabric/paper layers/craft felt and then a larger couple of layers of craft felt under the lid of the pot.  Like this:

vat dye primer 5


 Once you have applied the vat dye by screening, stamping, etc.  Let it dry.  You then want to roll it loosely inside an old piece of fabric (a sheet works well).  See my last post for exceptions to this arrangement.  Wait until the water in the steamer is fully steaming and then arrange the layers as described above.  Steam the fabric for 15 minutes.


After the 15 minutes, remove the fabric and give it a good spritz with a plant mister.  Leave it for half an hour before rinsing and washing it.  This allows the halo effect to continue.

I then rinse my fabric out a bit with water and then pop it into the washer with some Synthrapol.


Vat dyeing can be repeated with additional layers.


Fine Art of Fiber starts tomorrow!

Vat Dyeing Experiments-Day 2

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Hi all,

I was at the vat dyeing again yesterday; trying to increase my understanding of the process.  I had some interesting results. 

First, the fuscia dyed cotton.  I screened some turquoise and some indigo vat dye onto this and got similar results to the day before.  My conclusion is that pretty much everything discharges/vat dyes to the green/blue family from fuscia.  This was true of my samples as well.  It’s a pretty combination, so I’ll use it again.  I got the same yellow, somewhat blurred results from sky blue again.  Here is the fuscia cotton from yesterday:

Vat Dyed Cotton

Vat Dyed Cotton

Here’s a detail showing some of the blue:

Cotton detail

Cotton detail


Here’s the sample from the day before using skyblue and violet-not much difference.

day 1 sample

day 1 sample


I did make a a great discovery with my silk organza.  Tuesday’s sample discharged beautifully, but didn’t lay down any new color.  I thought this might have something to do with the material’s position in the steam bath.  Normally, all of the vat dyed fabric is loosely rolled inside of a piece of fabric and steamed (like a jelly roll); the vat dyed material is not directly exposed to the steam.  The steam has to penetrate through the sheet to reach the material; sometimes through a few layers of fabric if it’s on the inside of the jelly roll.  For my experiment, I decided to steam the organza outside of the sheet; meaning it was directly exposed to the steam.  The result was much more color laid down.  Still no haloing, but a definite improvement.  I screened grey on there and love the silver effect that I got.  I will try to replicate the results in the next session.

vat dyed silk organza

vat dyed silk organza

Here’s a detail:




This piece of organza was on the inside of the roll and it didn’t even discharge all that well.  No new color laid down; I may be on to something.  I have more organza that I will experiment with on Thursday and try to confirm my conclusions.  I use organza all the time in my pieces and would really love to get that haloing effect on the translucent fabric. 

more organza

more organza

ThursdayI will be adding another layer of vat dye to the scarves I did on day one and playing with these organza pieces some more.  I will take pictures of my set up and process to try to paint a clearer picture of things. 

Comments/discussion from anyone else working with vat dyes would be greatly appreciated.  I would love to know whether anyone has figured out any hard and fast rules with this process.  It seems fairly random to me right now!

Vat Dyeing Experiments-Day 1

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Yesterday was the first chance that I have had to experiment with the vat dyes that we made up at Barbara Schneider’s fabulous workshop.  I have more batches steaming as I write this, but here are my results from yesterday.  My results are really unpredictable.  I think I’ll be at this for quite a while before I can get results I expect with any consistency.  I dyed hand dyed cottons, silk organza and silk charmeuse.  All had been previously dyed with Procion MX dyes. 

The most disapointing results were on my silk organza.  I discharged beautifully, but didn’t lay down any new color whatsoever, despite having used 3 different colors.  I have a few more pieces in the steamer right now to see if this is a consistent result.  Here’s yesterday’s offering:

Procion MX dyed silk organza screened with vat dyes

Procion MX dyed silk organza screened with vat dyes

 The silk charmeuse had mixed results; both scarves had good color, but one haloed quite a bit more than the other.  I am wondering whether this is a function of where it is in the steamer.  The materials are rolled up and set in the steamer; maybe the proximity to the outside of the roll has an effect.  I’ll try to experiment more with this.  Here’s the first scarf.  The color is great, but not much haloing:

vat dye day 1 2

Here’s the other one with better haloing.  The the sky blue came out as yellow:

vat dye day 1  3


the cotton haloed the best, but I had a strange color reaction with the sky blue turning yellowish and blurring:

hand dyed cotton screened with vat dye

hand dyed cotton screened with vat dye


More experiment postings tomorrow!