Sometimes I love getting an ‘art material’ and using it in a way it wasn’t intended! I know that many artists do this; it’s why both ends of the paintbrush get dirty; why happy accidents turn into techniques.
Lately I’ve been playing around with applicuts. An applicut is a fabric shape/image cut using a laser which is intending for applique work on quilts. It comes with a sticky ‘fusible’ backing so you can iron it down first and then stitch. Whether you use satin stitch, straight stitch, a decorative machine stitch or even hand stitching is really up to you. I recently hand-cut a shape with scissors. As I was applique-ing (if that is a word!) it down, I had problems with it fraying. I think I’ve been spoilt by using applicuts as the laser almost ‘seals’ the edges so it seems to fray less.
A friend of mine (the daughter of my dressmaking teacher) makes these applicuts. She hasn’t asked me to write this post and may just shudder at some of the things I’ve been doing with her materials!
Applicut as a stencil
When I started the art quilt I knew that I wanted to include some birds in it as Andrew loves painting pigeons. I also wanted a squirrel (one of our nicknames for Gesso). A small squirrel. I got some left facing and right facing doves. At first everywhere I put the dove in it’s ‘true applicut’ form seemed to stand out more than I wanted. My idea was to have a few doves over the quilt but integrated within it, rather than looking like items I added later.
I was getting nowhere until I was messing around with handpainting fabric (I’ve become a little bit of a painting fabric-holic) and decided to add a subtle outline of a dove by tracing around the applicut with a Pitt pen. It was subtle. I was happy.
But what would happen if instead of putting it on after the fabric was painted, I used it during the painting process?
Applicut as a mask
Under the screen went the applicut. It was going to get paint all over it. Hmm… nah… who cares. I had a spare one!
It shifted a little as I did it. Sometimes I think that would be annoying but in this case I didn’t mind that it was a little fuzzy. I did a monoprint with the lighter copper colour on a piece of perspex and then defined him a little more once again using a Pitt pen.
Applicut as ‘stamp’
After doing a few of these, my applicut was more than a little wet. I flipped him over (something I’d see Kerr Grabowski do with paper she’d been using under her screenprints) and rubbed a little . I must have also had gold/copper paint on my hands because even outside the bird I got some added colour. This is one of my favourites birds in the quilt. He sits in the top right hand corner.
Applicut for ‘pattern’
My applicut had started to curl up. I think all the moisture was getting to it. So I just plonked it down without worrying whether it was straight or not. I then got a pallette knife and dragged some copper paint over the top and then removed the applicut.
It looked nothing like a bird but I still liked it. At this stage my applicut looked decidedly dirty and sick. I had a couple so I wasn’t fussed if that was the end of this particular applicut. I’d had some fun with it!
Initially I’d tried using the ‘paper’ backing as a stencil tool. Unfortunately it’s slightly ‘waxy’ and after one use it ‘recoiled’ itself into an unusable state. When I try to unfurl it to stick it under the screen, it springs back and I can’t get it flat.
About a week later, I was painting fabric again. (Yes I know, it’s a little addictive!). Anyway, I was looking at the poor applicut which was once purple. Now mottled on both sides I could still see residue of the fusible backing. I decided to give it a shot and see whether it would stick.
Remarkably – it did!
Yesterday, I finally put a purple bird on the quilt.
They were always supposed to be purple – not gold and copper. I didn’t do anything untoward to this particular applicut besides clipping his wings a little. I wanted to make it look like it was behind the other shape (at this stage marked out by the temporary white tacking line). I intend to quilt along that line so hopefully it will look like the bird is in the background.
I’m not sure that I’m done with the applicuts just yet. If anyone has any other ideas how to get a little more mileage out of this one art material, let me know.