Wednesday, September 22, 2010

C'mon Baby, Let's Do the Mashed Potato

Poatato Dextrin Sample #1 - White cotton - purple liquid Rit dye

Anyone remember the dear departed George Carlin and his great humor? I love his shtick about Americans' need to accumulate stuff, or as George would say, sh*t. No doubt about it. I'm a material girl that loves her sh*t. The only thing better than getting new sh*t is getting sh*t cheap. I love the hunt of finding really good sh*t cheap. Finding a great bargain gives me a shot of adrenalin that keeps me going for days

Potato Dextrin Sample #2 - Mulberry colored cotton with bleach

My stash of quilt fabrics is a sub-category of good sh*t, and keeping it up to date is one of my satisfying occupations, so when I can get good textile sh*t, cheap, I'm in seventh heaven. I love to buy specialty fabrics, but sometimes making your own is even better. I've been wanting to try some potato dextrin dying, and when my friend Kris showed me some of hers I was sold on the idea. Well, potato dextrin is a specialty item that has to be purchased on the Internet, but I read somewhere that you could do it with instant mashed potatoes. Hey, cheap sh*t! I had to try it.

Potato Dextrin Sample #3 - White cotton - blue Rit dye
I purchased a big box of really cheap instant mashed potatoes and mixed one half cup of the flakes to each one cup of boiling water, stirred well and let it sit until luke warm. Meanwhile I cut some squares of fabric and pinned them to a slab of composition board. Half of the fabric was white cotton and the other half was two different shades of purple, you could use any color you choose. I took my drywall spatula and smeared various thicknesses of potatoes on the fabric and left it outside to dry. I left it outside while I was at work, so I was not at home to check on the progress. When I came home I was downhearted. The pins had popped out and the fabric was all curled up, and big hunks of the potatoes had dropped off. I gently crinkled what remained to create the cracks needed for the dye or bleach to penetrate the fabric. I decided to go ahead anyway, despite the nasty appearance of my project. (Did I mention I'm cheap?)

Poato Dextrin Sample #4 - Deep purple fabric with bleach
I did all of my work outside to prevent having to clean up a mess in my house, and also to insure good ventilation. I decided to use the bleach first. Never to do anything by halves, I used it straight out of the bottle and quickly ran to get my respiration mask because the fumes were so strong (a trip to the ER is NOT cheap). The results however, were amazing. It took about one minute or perhaps even less to get the desired effect. I quickly dumped the samples in a bucket of water and scrubbed the fabric to remove the potato flakes. Next I tried the Rit dye on cotton. The directions called for thickened dye, no other explanation given. How does one thicken dye? Who knows, so I just used the concentrated liquid which flowed into the cracks well. Unfortunately, when I'm dying, painting, etc., I am more like a 6 year old than I would like to admit. I want immediate gratification. I could only stand to wait about 15 minutes for the dye to set, so the color is a bit washed out in my opinion. I think if I had left it on for about an hour I would have gotten better results. Of the two, I liked the bleach process the best because you have no idea what the result will be. I thought sample #2 came out looking like Florentine marbleized paper. I hope to do some more dying before the weather turns cold as this is not a process you will want to do in your home. Anyway, give it a try, you might get some good sh*t, and if you're really cheap, you can serve the leftover potatoes to your dog or hang a few strips of wallpaper, I never thought they were fit for human consumption.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eating Crow

There have been quite a few times in my life when I have had to eat the words that have come out of my mouth. This started pretty early on. One evening, around the age of ten, I was standing at the sink and crying because I had to wash the dishes and touch all that icky food left in the bottom of the strainer. I distinctly remember telling my mother that when I grew up I would never have to do such a horrible thing because "I'm going to marry a rich man and have a maid." Like that ever happened! I didn't even own a dishwasher until 3 years ago. Other famous proclamations included never working with children or becoming a supervisor in my professional life. (I have been the supervisor of children's mental health services at our agency for eight years now), and telling a previous employer during an evaluation that "I don't really need any goals, I just want to enjoy living my life." Just a minute while I pick a few feathers out of my mouth.

As a result of that last statement, my boss sent me to a Franklin Planner seminar on, you guessed it, setting and achieving goals, which I had to pay for out of my own pocket by the way. The seminar tied goal setting into your personal value system. Now I had a reason to set a goal or two. Ever since that day I have set goals in spades and have accomplished a lot, including going back to college and getting two degrees. I only mention this as this past year I set some goals that have really moved my art quilt career along.

I am basically a type B minus personality. It takes a lot to get me riled up. I am also notorious for putting things off. I do things when I "get around to it." I had been talking about getting a website, learning Photoshop, and getting in some galleries for several years, but never got around to it. Then SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) started their Visioning Project this time last year. You had to publicly declare your goals and keep an online journal on their website for the entire year. My goal was to develop some marketing tools, and I'm proud to say I just completed this goal and then some. I especially wanted to set up a website,, and a paper portfolio.

If you were a little mouse in the room on my first day back to college at the age of 45, you would have had the opportunity to see me have an anxiety attack when I was asked to turn on the computer sitting behind me. Honestly, I thought the campus was so overcrowded and we were forced to have our English Comp class in a computer lab! I had to ask a little twenty something where the "button" was that turned it on. A dear friend of mine helped me learn to do web searches and really saved my bacon on various research papers, so you know I'm a bit challenged when it comes to IT matters. But with many stops and starts, a battle with Walmart over the purchase of Photoshop Elements and guidance from both of my wonderful sons, I can say I was able to overcome the computer technology I needed to complete my goals. The results are the paper portfolio shown above, a website, this blog and new business cards. I am ready to get out there and market my work. It's gonna be a good year. I'm pretty sure I'm not finished saying dumb stuff, but I am very practiced at eating crow. It's an acquired taste.