Monday, August 1, 2016

Do You Use Store-Bought Art Tools Or Do You Make Your Own?

     When you need a new tool for making your art, do you go out and buy it, or do you try to make it? Lately, I try to use what I have. Partly to be economical and partly to be gentle on the environment. Now that I'm dyeing fabric, which is new to me and using thermofax screens, which I only did rarely before, I'm finding that I need tools that I didn't have before. I know that I can order them online and they will be delivered in about 2-3 days, but it is rewarding to find things in my studio or the garage that have been sitting there collecting dust and spider webs and finding that they are perfect for the job.
     I love the flag fold pattern on dyed cloth and I wanted something similar with a criss-cross pattern on a narrow long piece. I looked around on Pinterest and other places and experimented with folding paper and figured out a fold that would give me what I wanted. If I used rubber bands to hold it together, though, the bands would leave a mark that I didn't want.
When you need a new tool for making your art, do you go out and buy it, or do you try to make it? 
      My husband had a couple of transparent sheer acrylic sheets in the garage that I could cut with some shears we have, so I cut two rectangles from it and then covered the sharp edges of it with duct tape. I put my folded fabric between the rectangles and put the rubber bands around them to hold them tight so that the dye would only penetrate through the folds and create the pattern. 
shears and folded fabric in acrylic sheets
      The first time I did it, I got the pattern I wanted. You see it here on a close-up photo with some stencils and thermofaxes printed on top. 
fabric is on the left
     The second time I did it, I didn't put enough rubber bands on top of the rectangle shapes, and too much dye seeped in. You see it here in this photo. 
dye bled too much
I'll probably over dye this fabric some time in the future because I don't like how it turned out. But anyway, that is one tool that I made instead of buying. I know that you can buy acrylic shapes for dye resists.
     The second tool I made is for thermofax printing. I have a store-bought rubber squeegie for regular screen printing, but for a thermofax screen, you need to use a much thinner tool or you get too much paint onto the fabric and ruin the hand of the fabric. Usually I just use an old credit card or gift card. But I have some images that are wider than those cards and if I use one of those cards to print them and run the card across them multiple times with the paint to get the whole image, I get a line or lines on the image on the fabric. So what I need is a card that is as wide as the image. Well, there is no card that wide. So I was scrounging around the studio for something stiff enough, waterproof, and wide enough that could be used over and over.
     I came across an acrylic sheet that I use occasionally as a surface for monoprinting. It came from a department store and was given to me by a friend. I have several of them.
acrylic sheet used to advertise cosmetics
     I took one of them and cut a strip off, covered the ends in several layers of duct tape to stiffen it up more, and it works great as a thin squeegie.
new tool
I just put the paint on one end of the thermofax screen and run my home made squeegie across the image once and I get a nice, sharp image without affecting the hand of the fabric very much at all. (Note: I usually mix my textile paint with textile colorless extender.)
How to use the new tool
     Plus, when I use my hand-made tools, somehow, my art feels more original to me, too. I know tools don't make it so, but it's more satisfying to me to know where it all comes from and to know that I thought of how to do it. It somehow makes it more fun, too. Especially if the tools are quirky and wonky as mine will always be ... I don't specialize in engineering.
     I'm very late in posting this particular blogpost. As I was writing it on Friday, a storm came up and lightning struck about 5 times a minute and it went on for an hour! The power went out. When all was said and done, we lost our phone, Internet connection, water pump, and OMG my blow dryer. I had unplugged my sewing machine so it was safe. It took until Monday to get the Internet and phone back. So that's why I'm so late posting this. But I can't complain. So much of the world lives without running water all the time. And our house didn't get hit by the lightning. It was close and it several places in the yard. We do live in the lightning capital of the world. (I'm in error. I meant United States.) That's about the 8th time our water pump took a direct hit. The power company already installed deep rods to ground the lightning. Too bad I can't make a tool to do better than that. I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday where you can find other art quilt blogs. Please make comments on their posts so that the artists know you stopped by.


  1. Agreed, it is satisfying to make a tool to fit the task at hand from stuff already about you.i like your jumbo squeegee. I think it is a good use of a curious mind and it also saves travel time and gas.

  2. I'm definitely in the mode, lately of "Use what you have."


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