Tuesday, December 8, 2015

GTP African Textiles Factory Tour

Tour guide Angelina answers a question
I recently had the opportunity to visit an African wax print factory, GTP, which is located in Tema, Ghana.  They print under their own label and others such as NuStyle and Woodin. GTP is partially nationally owned and partially held by Vlisco group.  African wax printers are becoming a rare thing because there are Chinese printers who can produce an adequate product and sell it cheaper.  GTP's business strategy is compete by producing a superior quality product.
One of the coolest things about the GTP labels is that they try to source their fabrics from Africa.  The actual GTP line begins as cotton grown and picked in northern Ghana.  That cotton is shipped to the eastern Volta region in Ghana and made into cloth called Grey Cloth.  The Grey Cloth then goes through the process seen in the picture below. 

The Grey Cloth is fed to a machine in which a caustic chemical is applied to the fibers to open them for the dye process.  Heat is applied (see inset) and then the chemical is washed out and the fabric is bleached to white.  It is now prepared for dye.

GTP then has several different methods to dye the fabric.  We were shown a traditional stamping process, a wax process with etched copper cylinders, and a laser cut cylinder printing process.  This photo is of the etched print process.  The white is the fabric back, the black is wax resist and the blue is the dyed fabric.  The fabric will go through as many dye baths as necessary.  After the fabric may go through machines that heat the fabric to give the wax bubble and crackle effects.  The wax will be removed and then the fabric is heated at a very high temperature to set the dye.
The photo below shows the hand stamping stations for the traditional fabrics.  We were given an opportunity to try stamping.  The stamps are very large and hard to handle.  The stampers use many layers of gloves to make their hands larger.  GTP recognizes that this work can give repetitive stress injuries and so they provide a pension package for these workers that takes that into account.
The small photo below is the processing bay for decontaminating water.  There are many toxic chemicals from the dyes and fabric treatments. The water is treated to make it as inert as possible before it is put back into the environment.

For the finishing, the fabric is washed, baked (to dry and to set the dye) and then rolled into bales.  The fabric reviewed for quality and sorted.  It is hand folded and labeled on large tables.  The labels have a scratch off area, a newer development so consumers can check the fabric is authentic and not pirated.  Below you can see a couple of guys at the machine that helps them wrap it in plastic and tamps down the label.
GTP will print institutional fabrics (organizations like schools or churches) and from individuals.  I am looking printing a with Dakar Women's Group to print a fabric for their organization.  At this time, those prints are only available on Spoonflower.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Artist Profile: Candy Joyce and How to Sew a Cute, Breezy Jumper.

Candy Joyce is a designer and illustrator from the United Kingdom. She is one of my colleagues at Spoonflower and also has a shop of home goods at Envelope.  Her work has a graphic sensibility and she is inspired by mathematical sequences, such as Fibonacci. 
Candy Joyce enjoys a good zombie and that has inspired her to design zombie dolls.  You can see a sample of the reversible dolls found at her website on this video.  Evil clowns are a natural subject for a zombie doll.

I entered a contest sponsored by Candy Joyce and won one free yard of fabric.  My daughter and I looked through her portfolio on Spoonflower and selected Spring Stitch Flowers.
My daughter's jumper was super easy to make.  You will want to measure the length of the jumper from shoulder to waist and waist to ankle (or desired length of pant leg.)  The pant legs should be about 2x leg width tapering to a loose waist. The leg holes are elasticized but only loosely.  I have tabs at the waist for alignment but it would also be a great place to add an elasticized waist.  Top should be a little wide.  The shoulders are sew 2 inches on each side, allowing the front neck to drape.  This drape also allows the child to put on the jumper without need of zippers or buttons.  The waist tie is optional.
If you like Candy Joyce's fabric or would like to get another (such as one of mine,) Spoonflower has free Worldwide shipping for 24 hours beginning 9am EST, Monday, November 30.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ghana Fish Market, Star Dress and Animal Families

Myrtle Dress at the fish market
Yesterday, I got out of the house and went to visit the international fish market in Tema, Ghana, a waterfront and factory town outside of Accra.  I have been to a couple of other markets in other countries and this one was cleaner and less chaotic than most.  Although, anyone planning on going should be aware you may be mobbed as soon as you exit your vehicle.  It might also be a good idea to know what you want to buy before you get there.  This is not a market to casually stroll.
Kai the fisherwoman cleaning some Tilapia
 In addition to the fish market, I visited a couple of Korean grocery stores, a German butcher shop and had a very nice lunch at a Korean restaurant.  The town felt very relaxing because there is more space between buildings and lacked the close packed feeling of the city.

Another version of Star Attraction
I wore my the dress I just finished sewing the night before from Sprout Patterns.  Sprout Patterns is a new service from Spoonflower.  At Sprout Patterns you can select a Spoonflower fabric which is preprinted with the cut and sew pattern.  I am wearing the Myrtle Dress from Colette Patterns with my own design Star Attraction in Mint and Deep Teal.
Today, 1 day only, this pattern is available for 25% off.  Other patterns will be on sale at Sprout Patterns until Thursday, November 26.
Also today, a new Spoonflower contest begins with the theme Family Portraits.  My entry is based on animal families of the American southwest.  Pictured here are the quail, armadillo, prairie dogs, porcupine and black tailed jack rabbit.  This pattern coordinates with others in my Southwest Animals collections.  Please consider voting.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Barbells and Cheap Fat Quarters

One of the best things for me about living over seas it that I have more time to exercise.  It really helps that I live walking distance from my gym.  Last year with my children at three different schools, with three difference schedules, it was very hard for me to keep up with their schedules and also exercise.  Another benefit is that my oldest boy and I spend more time together now since running and using the equipment are two of his favorite things.
This week's Spoonflower contest theme is fitness, so here is my entry, African Mod Barbells Allover Blue and Green, which I have made into a scarf on Poly Crepe de Chine.  Please consider voting.
Also at Spoonflower this week, until noon EST Thursday, November 12th is half priced fat quarters.  Great time to stock up!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kitties and Tea

My sons went to Shop Rats excellent STEM oriented summer camp this past summer and while they were there having fun, I took my daughter into Mason, MI to look around.  Mason is a cute little town with all of the things that make me happy to see.  They have a nice coffee shop/book store, a quilt shop called Yards of Fabric, and antiques mall and artists coop and many other cute shops downtown.  Sadly, there had been a fire and so several other shops were closed during repairs.  All in all it was a town I recommend kicking around in.
Anyway, while there, my daughter picked out some kitty cat fabric (Window Tails by SPX fabrics).  It is nice to see we are diverging from PINK these days.  She wanted a dress, so this is what I came up with.  We are living in a hot climate now, so I went sleeveless.  It is easier and I didn't really have enough fabric to add them anyway.  I used one of her woven shirts to model the top of the dress on and then angled down from the waist to give it a slight A line skirt.  I finished the sleeves with bias tape since I did not have enough material to make it from the kitty fabric.  I also added the ruched insert and bow to provide a little variation for the eye.
And now for tea.  It is that time of year for Spoonflower's Tea Towel Calendar competition.  I chose to draw a modern day version of the Greek Goddess Hestia.  She was the goddess of the hearth and kitchen and one of her symbols is the kettle.  Seemed like a great fit for a tea towel.  Please consider voting.
Lastly, the new site, Sprout Patterns is having a sale today through Friday 12pm EDT.  This site prints patterns directly on the Spoonflower fabric of your choice.  The sale is for a $1 lined zippered pouch pattern.  WORLDWIDE shipping $1.  Limit three. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Small Things: Plants and Microorganisms

Haven't had a lot of time for crafts recently but ATCs are just the kind of art one can do with a small amount of time.  (If you haven't heard about them here is a little info.)  The guideline for this swap was to have a cut-out and an add on item.  I really enjoyed learning more about foraging while in the US this last year so I thought that would be a great theme for this card.  I used a page from my old, worn copy of Peterson's A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America that had fallen out for the middle ground.  The trillium is a pen and watercolor pencil drawing displayed in the cutout of the text.  I added more forgeable plants on top in the form trim, drawing and beads.
Forage ATC
I also had some excitement in that I won the ATC giveaway from Bridget.  This was her Additive/Subtractive Book Page card from a 1953 yearbook about Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.  Nicely done!
And on to other small things, this week, on Spoonflower, is a Microorganism design contest.  My younger son was excited about this theme and asked to help design my entry.  He did all of the drawing and I am responsible for the color of this small scale ditsy design.  Please consider voting.

Old School Vibrant Microorganisms


Monday, October 12, 2015

Free shipping!

Ready for the holidays? I know, it's not even Halloween yet but for crafters, we have to get an early start if we want to make something in time.  To help you out, Spoonflower is offering FREE shipping WORLDWIDE for 24 hours Monday, October 12th at 9am EDT to Tuesday, October 13th, 2015.  My shop is at your service for patterned fabric, wallpaper and paper.  Here are a few patterns from my African Inspired II collection.

African Weave Hexagon Drop Tropical Large
African Weave Hexagon Drop Tropical Large

African Mod Barbells Allover Pinks
Peacock Deco Diamonds Large


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2nd Fairy, Michigan & Christmas Cookies Already?

Swap Fairy from Jill Webb, pattern by Susan Barmore
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dollstreet Dreamers had a fairy swap.  To accommodate everyone's busy schedule, the deadline got pushed back a couple of times.  I was very happy to get my fairy  from Jill Webb in the mailbox right before I left.  (Really, it came the last day I had mail service!)  I had to pack her in the suitcase and just got around to photographing her. 

My fairy, original design by Penney Hughes
I really enjoyed my brief time in Michigan.  I loved the seasons, the woods behind my house and all the wildlife wandering through.  I loved the chance to work with the Lansing Maker's Network folks and I learned a lot.  The people of Michigan were friendly and welcoming.  I enjoyed many special beverages that I had never seen before, like Faygo (Rock 'n Rye!), Vernors, Meads like B Nektar's Zombie Killer, various local hard ciders and the spirits of American Fifth.  I hope to return to Michigan when it is time to hang up the towel with overseas life.  When I do, I want to explore the art scene more and look deeper at the work of artists like Jane Reiter, Kelly Boyle, and ceramic artists Doug DeLind and his daughter Jody DeLind.
Christmas Cookies?  I know, not even Halloween yet but Christmas crafting starts now, so I have created a Christmas themed design for this week's Spoonflower contest, Pop Art Cookies.  I hope you will consider voting.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

One Last Thing! and another free swatch

Beginning to sand the table
The last few weeks have been super busy with the move to Ghana, but if you know me, I always have a project brewing, even in the midst of everything else. 
In between all of my other tasks, I had been working on a side table refurbish project for a few months.  This project began with an old table given to me by a friend many years ago.  It had a lot of water stains on the top, a loose leg and was generally bedraggled.  I began by sanding it down using a power sander at the Lansing Maker Network woodshop. 
Once the table was smooth, I applied Minwax wood finish in Red Mahogany, and coated it with a couple of coats of polyurethane. 
Now for the hard part.  I wanted to decorate the top of the table with a lace pattern.  I considered three techniques to achieve the lace design.  I considered taking some (expensive) lace and dipping it in paint and trying to carefully lay it on the top of the table to create a kind of stamp.  Ultimately, I decided that would create a unholy mess as well as ruin a perfectly beautiful piece of lace.  Next, I tried to convert my African Lace design to a raster file so I could create a stencil on vinyl cutter at the Lansing Maker Network.  Intricate lace designs do not transfer well to raster files.  This would be a good technique for a reverse stencil if you wanted to paint it or to leave as is with a layer of polyurethane over it as long as your design uses simplified geometrically based shapes.
The tools for the job
I was down to my last technique.  In college, I learned how create a print from a photocopy. I had to go the copy store and get an extra large copy of my lace. Now for the image transfer.  Wet the paper first to create a resist to the oil based printing ink which will adhere the photocopy toner.  Next spread out the oil based ink on a palette with a brayer (it is the roller shown in the photo).  Roll out the ink and spread evenly across the print. In my situation, I found that I was out of oil based ink and ended up using the oil paint seen below.  This is what happens when you are finishing a project in the 11th hour.
The print worked fine.  The only problem was the ink was largely transparent and did not show well against the wood.  My solution was to dust the paint with fine white glitter.  The glitter did indeed stick to the ink but stuck to the table surface as well.  I could not just wipe it off without smearing the print.  A can of compressed air solved that problem well.  Tip:  hold can of air 10-12 inches away from the table to avoid blowing the glitter off the print.
Lastly, seal the print with spray polyurethane.
And one last thing---get a free swatch of Spoonflower's new fabric, Poly Crepe de Chine until 12pm EST 9/4/15.  Get yours now!
The finished project in the wild!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ghana and Butterflies

Last year I came up with a design collection (seen in this previous post), inspired by my time in Africa.  I had never been to Ghana, but had learned about it and had researched it's birds, plants and butterflies.  It was a country that intrigued me.  Now, it looks like my family may be moving to Ghana. In the midst of getting our household ready, I added to the Ghana Fantastic Floral collection for Spoonflower's new contest, Butterfly Coordinates.  The idea of the contest is to create four coordinating patterns that fit onto one yard.

Please consider voting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Boho Owls and Free Shipping

I inherited these owls along with other effects following my grandmothers death a few years ago. I like owls so have kept them but I knew I wanted to do something with them.  Then, the other day I was walking around a craft/home d├ęcor store and saw some very colorful owls.  I knew then what I wanted to do with my owls.  I cleaned the owls up a little and then painted them with metallic and flat acrylic paints.  I am pretty pleased with my whimsical boho styled owls.

In other news, Spoonflower is having free WORLD WIDE shipping today.  So, now is the perfect time to check out the shop and the new fabrics available for your projects.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mermaid Play

What do mermaids do when it is time to have fun?  My latest design, Mermaid Reef Country Life Reds illustrates just what mermaids get up to when they relax.  This design was created for a Spoonflower contest whose theme is to design a mermaid themed pattern for girl pajamas to be made by CWDkids.  Please consider voting.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lampshade Update

Most of our lamps are from the early 2000's.  Nothing wrong with that and everything still works.  However, some of the lampshades are yellowing or otherwise falling apart and I am getting tired of looking at them.  When I ran across a beautiful silk drum style shade at the thrift store, I was happy to take it home.  The picture on the left shows our old shade made of nice handmade looking paper, however, it is hanging on with Scotch tape.  Very sad.

I took the recently acquired lampshade, and since it is silk, I stamped it with acid free pigment ink in a simple design.

The real obstacle to my plan switching lampshades was that the new one was made with a smaller Slip UNO fitting than my floor lamp takes.  This was no surprise since, IKEA lamps are known for this and I was pretty confident I would be able to switch out the fittings.  How hard could it be?  (See the next photo for the original shade fitting, silver, middle right; and the new, larger white ring in the center of the shade.)
Dang, solder doesn't do the trick
Turns out pretty hard.

Nope, not glue either
I first tried to solder it but the solder just rolled off the surfaces---even off my roughed up wire.  OK, so on to plan B.  I tried gluing it in.  I used two different kinds of glue but neither could hold up the weight of the shade with the small contact that the wires made on the fitting.  I did think the use of binder clips to hold the drying components in place was pretty clever though.  :)
Tried screwing on wire terminals
Next I tried looking it up on Youtube.  Probably what I should have started with this step, but surprisingly, it was no help.
So off to Home Depot.  The staff there suggested I put three little holes in the UNO and screw on wire terminals.  I would then clamp the terminals down tight onto the wire.  Again, I had a problem with the weight of the shade overpowering the small contact points with the wire.

Finally in desperation I took apart a second IKEA lampshade and overlapped the wires.  Not elegant but works. 

not the most elegant solution
So in the end, I am enjoying my lampshade but I have to say Never Doing This Project Again. Of course, if I did, I would know how.
Finally can enjoy my lamp again!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Insights Makers

 This week instead of my usual schedule I worked with the Lansing Makers Network (LMN) as a volunteer (and member) to host a group of Lansing elementary school children.  The children were part of an enrichment program called BEYOND Insights.  Each year the BEYOND Insights program has a different theme and activities.  This year the children, grades 3-6, worked on projects such as creating their own museum displays on Egyptian history with activities such as making their own mummy, and making papyrus paper.
To celebrate the end of the year, the BEYOND Insights group decided to supplement their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum with activities at LMN.  The members had a great time working with the children.  We divided the children into small groups to work on a variety of projects.  The children made and decorated wooden planters, visited the woodworking area, had demonstrations of the lasercutter and 3D printers, had a slowest marble anti-race (sort of Rube-Goldberg-ifying a marble race,) and created an electromagnetic motor.  The members of the Lansing Maker's Network did a phenomenal job creating all of the kits for the different activities. 
I am really proud to be a part of such a great group.
An example of Rube Goldberg machine, OK Go's video for This Too Shall Pass

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gelli Plate Experiment & Star Attraction

I have had fun in the past experimenting with gelatin plate printing so when I discovered the Gelli printing plate I was pretty interested to work with it too.  The Gelli plate has a clear, soft surface.  It holds it's shape, unlike the slow (or sometimes quick) decomposition of gelatin.
I first tried printing on fabric using my usual Jacquard fabric paints.  I did not like the response of the paints to the printing plate.  I need to experiment further but the paints seemed to react to the plate.  Once dry, the paint easily peeled off of my silk, an effect I have not seen before. 
My next experiments were much more successful.  I made the prints shown here using lightweight cardstock paper shapes.  This time I used transparent and semi-transparent Liquitex Basics acrylic paints. 

Steps to Monoprinting
1. Smooth a small amount of paint with brayer on the Gelli plate.
2. Quickly arrange cardstock cut-out shapes on plate
3. Align paper over plate
4. Gently but firmly press hand all over paper.
5. Carefully lift paper and set aside.
6. Remove cutouts. Optional, place 2nd paper down to pick up ghost image (paint that remains on the plate.
7. Clean Gelli plate and brayer. (I used wetwipes.)

In other news, a new fabric design available in my shop: Star Attraction.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fairies, Mom, & Still the Giveaway

It has been a while since I worked on a doll of any size.  Doll Street Dreamers is having a fairy swap for members.  The deadline has not yet arrived so you still have time to join and participate.
This is my Pink Fairy for the Mini Fairy swap.  She is of my own design.  Her body is cotton and she has paper wings, organza and chiffon dress and rainbow dyed mohair hair.

In other news, Spoonflower's  weekly contest is designing a floral border print.  Spoonflower suggests the design could become a skirt for mom.  If you remember my post on my chicken curtains that you won't be surprised my design, Garden Path with Onagadoris Yellow Border, includes roosters in with the flowers.  My mom always liked the bright colors that complement her dark hair and fair skin.  I think she would like this.  Please consider voting starting on Thursday, until then the Bee contest is still up.  See previous post.
Garden Path with Onagadoris Yellow Border

And lastly, my celebration giveaway on Spoonflower is still running until the end of April.  Drawing will be held May 1.  Comment with your favorite of my designs for a chance to win and favorite a design for a second chance. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Milestone Giveaway! And Bees!

Things have been silent here on the blog for a couple of months.  My husband had knee replacement surgery so I have been a busy bee helping him plus doing the extra the things around the house that he normally does.  Things are getting back to normal now, thankfully.
So here I am with three things.  First, I am back with another Spoonflower contest.  This week's theme is Bees.  It was difficult to decide between my designs and polling my friends resulted in a three way tie so I went with this one.  Please consider voting.
Busy Bees Blue
Here are other two designs.

Busy Bees on Lavendar
Busy Bees on Yellow Daisies
 And now for the milestone.  I have finally broken the 100 favorites barrier on Spoonflower for one of my designs.   To celebrate I am giving away three yards of fabric of any of my designs.  To be entered into the drawing, simply comment on my blog naming your favorite of my designs from my shop.  To get an extra entry favorite my design on Spoonflower.  These entries will be combined with my Facebook entries.  The drawing will be May 1st.

And for the last little giveaway.  Spoonflower is giving away a swatch of their new fabric Cotton Lawn Ultra.  Simply enter the coupon code freelawn.

A little Bee PSA