I have taken many classes from fiber artist Rayna Gillman. I love her warm, giving approach to teaching and I have acquired many skills from her lessons.
But maybe the most important lesson I’ve learned from Rayna is that rules and perfection are overrated—at least when it comes to surface design and art quilting. In fact, I think it’s her laid-back attitude, coupled with a keen eye for color and design, that makes her such a brilliant artist.
Take, for example, experiments in dyeing fabric that didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Rayna, who hand dyes many of her own fabrics, turns these not-so-great examples into backgrounds for further surface design, like Thermofax screen printing.
Rayna often screen-prints her hand-dyed fabric in preparation for what she calls “therapy sewing.” This is where she cuts strips of fabric without a ruler, then sews them together two at a time, playing with the combinations of pattern and color until she gets a block of strips that she likes.
Here is her no-rules process for screen-printing the fabric.
1. Select a small piece of hand-dyed or hand-printed fabric that you’re not happy with.
2. Tape the fabric down on newspaper or a drop cloth so it won’t move around when you print.
3. Choose a Thermofax screen (one that you made or purchased) that has an allover pattern. You will be cutting up the fabric into small strips later, so a screen with central motif won’t work as well.
4. Use a spoon to apply fabric paint to the top of the screen and pull the paint down with a squeegee or expired credit card. Don’t worry if you get blotches of paint or if the paint coverage is perfectly even, because this won’t show after you cut up the fabric.
5. Let the fabric dry before attempting another screen print on top of it. Then, choose another screen with an allover pattern (text, for example).
Note: Rayna likes to apply the same screen and paint to two pieces of fabric, then screen-print a second time over only one. This gives her two fabrics that will work well together in a later quilt. Repetition is a key element in quilt design, she says.
6. When your screen-printed fabrics are dry, go over them for 1-2 minutes with a dry iron to set the paint. Then cut them into 2½”-wide strips.
On another day in the studio, Rayna will cut these pieces into skinny strips, without benefit of the ruler, and start her therapy sewing.
I’m so glad I’ve had the benefit of watching Rayna’s process in class, and now you can do it in your own home. In her new Quilting Arts WorkshopTM video, “Free-Form Fabric Art: Cut, Piece, & Create without Rules,” Rayna demonstrates her techniques for Thermofax screen printing, cutting, and sewing strips of fabric, then revealing her thought process for designing a quilt.
This video represents a wonderful opportunity for you to learn how to let go, have fun, and be more creative with your fabric stash.