Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers – for Jen

Is it weird to create a fabric in honour of a friend who passed away? Fuck it, I’m doing it.

Jen was a friend of mine at university — many years ago — who died when she was only about 22 years old. She was a poet who wrote a compendium of poetry called Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers. I think that’s such a lyrical title and it has stuck in my head over all those years.

So I screenprinted some fabric using that title as inspiration. You can also read a bit more about what inspired this in my previous post.  I intend to make a fitted t-shirt out of it that will remind me of Jen when I wear it.  Here’s how it came together:

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers.

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac...in my 'outdoor studio'

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac…in my ‘outdoor studio’

Blending the ink

God I love mixing ink! Watching the colours blend is happiness-inducing.

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it's covered in black cat hair. :|

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it’s covered in black cat hair. :/

FYI, in case you’re thinking of trying silk screening yourself, I used a screen printing kit by Speedball that I got from a local art supply shop. It was a very reasonable price and did the trick well. It’s a very easy process, but I am glad that I took a short course on screen printing before I tried this…the kit came with instructions but I think I might have screwed up a bit if I had just gone by those, especially the part about setting up the silk screen frame, where you have to block out the edges with tape or by some other method. Glad I was shown what to do by a pro at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). If you’re in Toronto, the Make Den has screenprinting classes (in addition to their sewing classes) and as of today, July 24, 2013, there’s a Groupon available for their sewing & screenprinting classes for more than half off. Wish I’d seen that before I signed up for the AGO classes!

The Scarlett O’Hara Apron

The movie Gone With the Wind made a big impression on me when I was a kid. It seemed to be on TV an awful lot on Sunday afternoons, right up there with The Sound of Music, so I saw it a lot. But Carol Burnett’s spoof of GWTW might have made a bigger impression. I’ll never forget how she spoofed the scene where Scarlett, having no money but needing to look like she does, takes a set of green velvet curtains and makes a gown out of them to go impress Rhett. Carol, as Scarlett, comes down the stairs in a gown still with the curtain rod in it across her shoulders. God, she was funny. (And she was a successful comedian long before society had really come to accept women as comedians…you could argue it still hasn’t if you listen to any internet comedy stream — so few women to be heard. But that’s a topic for another post.) You can see part of the Carol Burnett skit here.

So I pulled a Scarlett O’Hara and used an old roman blind that I had sewn from Ikea fabric, and turned it into an apron. I’m taking a screen printing course at the Art Gallery of Ontario and we had to bring our own smock. Having too much time on my hands at the moment, I thought I’d make my own. And this seemed like a good way to re-purpose those roman blinds that have been sitting rolled up in the basement since I replaced them a couple of years ago.

I simply cut out a basic apron shape from the fabric, without measuring (of course). Well, ok, I admit I measured how wide it needed to be. But I actually did that thing where I held my hands apart about the distance I needed and walked over to the fabric with my hands still held in the air and measured that way! I’m absolutely incorrigible. Then I folded over the edges and topstitched all around. One strap across the top, and two ties at each edge, and viola.  The top strap is long so that it easily slips over the head; just make a knot at the top once it’s on for a better fit.

The basic shape of the apron. Authentically smeared with screen printing ink!

The basic shape of the apron. Authentically smeared with screen printing ink!

The other true-to-form thing I did was cut it too short, cause I was just kinda eyeballing it. So I attached an extra piece across the bottom (you can see the seam). Measure once, cut twice, kids! But who cares? It’s a smock for painting! Having used it a couple of times already, I realize it could use a pocket for holding a tool or whatever while working. Eventually I’ll attach a patch pocket to the front.

Scarlett O'Hara, eat your heart out.

Scarlett O’Hara, eat your heart out.

Here’s a picture of the fabric I’m screen-printing, in progress. My inspiration comes from I Heart Fink on Etsy, who makes gorgeous tops & dresses from screen-printed jersey fabric. I’ve got two Fink shirts in my wardrobe and they’re super-flattering. I’m going to use one of them as a template to sew my own copy with my own screenprint on it. I have a new appreciation for the detail in the Fink pieces — I’m not likely to get nearly as beautiful a screen print myself.

fabric1

My screen printed fabric in progress

fabric2

Second pass of screen printing: peach coloured circles have been added.

This is my first time in a very long time I’ve attempted to mix actual paint colours (most of my colour selections have been digital over the last decade or so). I was kinda hoping for a more light-magenta colour but instead I got mauve. Oh well, not a tragedy. I just got some metallic gold ink so we’ll see how that adds to the mix.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 12.34.06 PM

My top from I Heart Fink

Another gorgeous I Heart Fink top I bought.

Another gorgeous I Heart Fink top I bought.

I just love those I Heart Fink designs, but they’re pretty spendy so they’re not an every-day purchase. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can make something half as nice with my own fabric.