Printed Patchwork

As a longtime Lillstreet Textiles student/monitor/teacher, I always get the most excited when I’m combining printing/dyeing with sewing.  It feels great to use both sides of the department!  Thus, I’ve been experimenting with silkscreening dye onto patchwork.  This actually started a few years back, when I was still relatively new to silkscreening on fabric.  In the first classes I took, I printed clip art images onto lots of small pieces of quilting fabric.  It was great printing practice, but I also figured the images would look cool in a patchwork quilt someday.  It was a short jump of logic then to try printing images directly onto a patchwork background:

I really liked the result, but the idea was left to simmer on a back burner in my brain for a while.  Then about a year ago, I decided to revisit the concept, but with a twist.  Over the years I’d collected quite a few “white on white” fabrics with a white print on a white (or natural/off-white) background.  I knew that vat dyeing those kind of prints gave a cool effect where the white print resists the dye, resulting in a white (or tinted) print on a colored background.  To add visual interest, I combined some “white on white” prints with some other prints that had white or pale backgrounds.  Then I made some simple 16-patch blocks and then printed some diamonds on top with thickened dye:

I also made some blocks with half-square triangles, using white-on-white and black-and-white prints to create a diamond shape in the patchwork, and then printed that same diamond shape all over it in a few different shades of dye.

dye-printed diamonds on black-and-white patchwork

I’ve since made a few small quilts with these blocks, trying different combinations of colors and quilting stitches to see what I like best.  I’m not usually this scientific in my approach, but quilting has always been a sort of game for me where I set up some (usually pretty arbitrary) rules for a project and then see what I can do within that framework.  So it has been really interesting to see how many variations I can produce on this theme.

Much more recenlty, I started a third branch of the experiment.  Instead of basing my patchwork on a grid, and printing a shape that interacts with it, I’m printing big circles onto improvisational piecing.  I’m really excited about how it’s turning out so far.  These white-on-white and light-background fabrics are known in the quilt world as “low volume” fabrics, and there’s a good cheesy pun here about how I’m “turning up the volume” by splashing dye all over them.

dye-printed circles on improvisational patchwork

I’m sure there will be more to come soon – please stay tuned 🙂

-Jordana Robinson, Instructor

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