Monday, September 7, 2015

Block Printed Akita

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Hello there! If you live in the states, I hope that, like me, you've enjoyed a lovely long Labor Day weekend! We had great weather, saw a terrific performance of Eat the Runt at the Altarena playhouse in Alameda, and ate a lot of delicious food. No complaints here whatsoever.

So, much like last month's Mojave, I found myself seized with an immediate need to make the latest Seamwork pattern - in this case the Akita. I think what I like about these quick projects is that I can feel free to get creative and not worry about investing too much time into something that might not turn out the way I like. I had a piece of leftover black linen from Beej's shirt that I've been wanting to use up, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment.

Planning #block print #seam work #sewing log

I've done a fair bit of printmaking in different forms over the years, but I've always been disappointed with printing on garment fabric because it can be too stiff.  However, I thought that creating a border print along the hem might work because it doesn't sit directly against the skin. As you can see by my finished project, it didn't turn out exactly like my sketch. The Akita pattern calls for a little over a yard, and while my fabric wasn't long enough it was very wide. So I had two longish panels of fabric to block print and decided to use them to create a gathered bottom piece.

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Final verdict: I love it! The block printing, which I will detail in just a bit, is far from perfect, but I love the overall effect of the gathered bottom panel. It reminds me a little of the Marthe blouse by Republique du Chiffon, which is a pattern I've been admiring but so far have only seen on lovely slender ladies. I assumed it wouldn't look nice on lovely curvy ladies, but then again I've never paid attention to the rules of what I should and shouldn't wear based on my size. I think we should all wear what makes us happy.

I even love the gloppy elephants #elephantsareawesome #Akita #seamwork

My printing didn't turn out perfect; some of my elephants are gloppier than others, but I still like it. The Indian carved wooden block was a gift from a very dear friend, Ilene, who died almost three years ago. I love making something that reminds me of her. I've always had a thing for elephants and, as a result, Ilene was always giving me elephant-themed gifts. In addition to a warm, loving heart, Ilene had a fabulous eye for design. She was one of those people who would always find the best stuff at garage sales and thrift shops. I think she would enjoy this top.

Indian wood block #printmaking #sewing #seamwork #elephantsareawesome

If you've never printed with wooden blocks before, here are few pieces of advice:
  • Unlike carved stamps that have a bit of give, wooden blocks are completely rigid. You'll get a better result if you put a few pieces of fabric underneath whatever you're printing. 
  • Spend a lot of time getting the right consistency for your ink - not too thin, not too thick. I used water-based fabric ink (Jacquard textile) and plan to wait a week before washing it so that the ink will cure.
  • Let go of any perfectionist tendencies you might have. Or screenprint if you're after a more precise result. One of the best things about this type of printmaking is that there is always an element of surprise and excitement at the end. 
polka dot bias tape makes me happy #ilovepolkadots #sewing #scrap busting

Just a few more details about my new top...I made bias polka dot bias tape to finish the neck and the sleeves! This small detail makes me very happy. The pattern calls for a double turn for the sleeves, but based on my past experience with this heavy linen I knew I didn't want to fiddle with that. Plus, since the sleeves sort of wing out a bit, I thought the polka dots would be cute peeking out. I cut a size 16 and WAS planning on an FBA, but I got so excited that I forgot. This is a very boxy top, so in this case I don't think it's necessary.

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Okay, I think I've said enough about this project, but let me know if you have any questions. It's one pattern piece (or would have been if I'd made it as it was originally designed) so a super quick project.

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