Zentangle® Inspired Artist Trading Cards

I’ve recently completed my artist trading cards for the Certified Zentangle Teachers 52 Card Deck Swap. Artist Trading Cards (ATC) are 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches and are swapped or exchanged for the pure fun of sharing the artwork. For this swap, any type of media was allowed as long as it involved Zentangle®.

Warning – I love process and the figuring out of it. This could get long but I do have photographs!

I started my ATC’s by mapping out a 2.5” by 3.5” grid in pencil on an 18” by 24” 90 lb. cold press watercolor paper. I’m a creature of habit and one of my habits from my weaving background is to create samples before totally committing to a process. I laid in a colorful watercolor wash background and then began to draw. Two or three cards later I decided I wasn’t inspired to continue this way.

 
 
 
 
artist trading card sample

So what about free motion stitching tangles on a watercolor washed fabric? I thought I could do that. Time for another test. I pulled out some very pale, plain cotton cloth in assorted colors and used Setacolor Pebeo fabric paints in a thin watery wash. After heat setting two sample fabrics, I fused a different stabilizer to the back of each and mapped out the 2.5” by 3.5” grid lightly in pencil.

I used Superior Threads variegated thread to stitch this test and really liked the resulting color play. I decided to see if I could boost the color next to the stitching to enhance the tangles so I experimented with my Prismacolor pencils. This really helped bring the surface to life.

From this test, I learned that I tended to want to stitch inside the grid instead of ignoring it and it was slow going to think up every tangle as I went. I also re-learned (been here once before) that when you do a lot of stitching in a small area you shrink up the fabric. My pre-drawn grid had shrunk to less than 2.5” by 3.5” and I couldn’t erase the pencil. Watercolor pencil might be something to consider for the future.

free motion stitched fabric

 

free motion stitched fabric

I thought,  “I can do this”.

Next, how would I stiffen the cards so I could put information on the back? Use fusible web and watercolor paper. Yes, I decided to forgo the visibility of the stitching on the reverse so I could sign them and apply labels. Yes, I tested this too using 90 lb. watercolor paper and then cut my first samples out. More proof that I should always test things and firm up the process before I go too far.

 
 
 

Here’s what I learned. I preferred the slightly puffy fusible interfacing as it made the cards more quilt like and interesting.  I also found that I preferred to use the color pencils before fusing the interfacing. The little glue dots on the interfacing created a bit of a pattern on the fabric that I didn’t like and even extra heat didn’t make them melt away before adding color pencil.

Around this time, I came a cross an image of fabric on which someone had stamped and stitched. Hmmm… time for another experiment. I pulled out some small stamps created for a previous project. I applied the stamps in clusters, let the fabric dry, heat set it again, and stitched around the patterns with my variegated thread. I decided to add another layer of thin interfacing to the backside to enhance the stitch quality. Pretty enjoyable.

stitched fabric and artist trading card samples

 

stamped and stitched fabric test

Next, how do I make it more Zentangle like and pick up the pace? Well, maybe I could make a repeating string (Zentangle term) based pattern and stencils to stamp through. What? First, I decided on a string in a roughly 8 x 8 inch square, avoided the edges, and turned it into a repeating pattern. From that I created a stencil (5 layers) that I could stamp the tangles/patterns through.

pattern for stencil

After testing the stencil layers using the original small stamps, I realized it would be more than tedious to use the individual small stamps in each stencil opening. Why not carve stamps that covered each of the entire stencil openings? Using the original stamps and soft rubber carving material I created 10 large stamps. By now, “I know I can do this.”

I had my process, tools, fabrics and a plan. It was still slow going but I enjoyed barely blending the fabric paint colors on plates, using my carved stamps and watching the patterns develop.

frabric with very wet wash of colors
Fabric with very wet wash of colors.
large carved stamps
My carved stamps.

 One layer of the stencil is visible in the picture below.

 
clear stencil on top of fabric

 

stamped fabric

 

stamped fabric

Once the fabric was all stamped and heat set with an iron, I boosted the color in some places with my pencils, fused the interfacing to the back, and added another layer of thin, non-fusible interfacing to the backside. I used a variety of Superior Threads variegated threads to free-motion stitch with.

stamped fabric

 

stamped and stitched fabric

 

stamped and stitched fabric

 

backside of stitched fabric
Backside
backside of stitched fabric
Backside

With stitching completed, I used Heat ‘n Bond to fuse large pieces of 140 lb. watercolor paper to the quilted fabric. For each piece of fabric, I measured the stitched and stamped area and used an online site to calculate the most efficient ATC sized cutting layout for the fabric. (The site seems to have gone offline now but I found something similar for use on an iPad called Paper Layout). I drew the cutting layout lightly in pencil on the paper and fused it to the backside of the stitched fabric. Next, I cut the cards on the grid and pressed them with a hot iron a second time to be sure the fuse was complete.

How to finish the edges? I made several tests and quickly dismissed the idea of stitching. I did not like the perforations on the paper or the way the stitched edge looked.  Instead I decided to use the side of a small brush and craft paint to seal and finish the edges.

Final steps – create labels to include date, swap title, and contact information. The next to last step was to sign my cards. Finally, and this should have been done before finishing the edges, I checked them all to be sure they would fit in trading card sleeves. Of course, some did not so I trimmed and repainted them.

artist trading card

 

artist trading cards

With my cards complete and in the mail, I created a small quilted piece for myself. It meets the criteria for another challenge project involving quotes and artwork. After binding the roughly 10” x 10” quiltlet, I free motion stitched my favorite mantra on the binding.

I think I can.  I think I can.  I know I can.  I did it!

small quilt

 

Fishy Quilt Block Exchange

I’ve just finished participating in Mary Lou Weidman’s Hootchy Fish swap. All 36 participants used the same background fabric, shooting for bright Kool-aid colors in a 14” wide block. One of the style suggestions I liked was to use a strata technique – strips of various fabrics sewn together to create a new fabric.

Each person could design their fish or fishes to be any height. Each of 12 blocks could be the same or different. I started with graph paper, a sketch and a plan to make all of the fish the same way in order to optimize time. I used a variety of markers to colorize my sketch and that’s when my plan changed direction.

With limited time for swaps and projects in general, I love to use projects like this to take off in a direction that is new to me. So why not paint my own fabric instead of sewing the strata? And wouldn’t that be faster anyway?

I’m a firm believer in making samples when dealing with colors and techniques – which covers just about everything. I knew that straight paint would be thick and I wasn’t sure I had enough paint to cover the yardage I estimated. I wanted to thin it but not have it bleed and run all over so I mixed it with Pro-Thick SH. I sampled my colors and paint style ona fabric swatch. Perfect!

I started by flicking a mix of Pro-Thick SH with Setacolor paints – once with a water blue color and once with a cool magenta color – on prepared for dyeing (PFD) cotton fabric. Next I painted slim wavy thick and thin areas.

The following pictures show the progression as I painted the waves of each color.

After completing the painting, I heat set it with an iron, washed it, and decided it wasn’t bright enough. By now I had less paint and realized that my sample methods should have included testing and recording the ratio of Pro-Thick SH to paint. So… I sampled that.

I painted the same fabric again using a ratio of 1 part paint to 2.5 parts Pro-Thick SH mix. I also heat set it again and rewashed. Here you can see the difference between round 1 and round 2.

I also used 3 orange/reds to paint the lips/beaks fabric.

I am pretty happy with the fabric and my fish. I think even stronger color might match the commercial fabrics in the awesome fish blocks I received. And no, it wasn’t faster than sewing strata but it was very fun to experiment and construct the fish! The button eyes can be sewn on in the location of choice and the design of the block allows for them to face either direction.