Friday, October 21, 2011

Flower Pounding Experiments

This all started with an email from my lovely friend Leonie Hartley Hoover.

I thought her design (above) was most intriguing!
Leonie included a link to a tutorial for how to do this here:

And this was what she had to say about her experience:

There are a few tutes out there on the net and I've listed one below from a reliable source I know of to give you an idea how it is done. This gal also wrote a book on it.  Some people mix alum and soda for the bath and some folks just use soda.  For my own use, I found the best for color density was plain baking soda and I soak the cloth for about 48 hours squeeze it gently and shake it out and then let it air dry. My experience with Borax, which some suggest using, was that the pounding faded more quickly over time.  The finished cloth is never washed, as even with heat setting, washing destroys the colors.

For more prolonged longevity, you can do the flower pounding, then scan the fabric into your computer and print out the image on other treated fabric. Lots of options to play with here.

Another thing you can do is tape the flowers down on the fabric if you like with wide masking tape and then do the pounding.  Lift the tape carefully and then put the tape (with the squashed remains) down again on another piece of fabric for a softer, more delicate pattern.

For the one I made today, I did not use tape at all, I just positioned carefully with my fingers and watched where the hell the hammer hit (-:  and I used plastic food wrap instead of wax paper. My foray into the process today was to see what colors would appear from different plants. For more control you can use tape or even remove the petals one by one and place them carefully on the fabric.  There is still some movement however and rarely perfection!  However, it is fun to try all the possibilities.

Alright I just had to try this!!!!!  And I had a blast.....
I followed Leonie's lead and just soaked my fabric in a baking soda solution and then let it dry for a few days.
During some "test pounds" I learned that red flowers turn into grey so I didn't use any; the oranges and yellows worked bestAlways have a test cloth nearby if you are trying out new flowers or leaves.

I had taken individual petals from calendula and California poppy, taped them down, and then pounded them.  This circle is about 6" in diameter.  The fabric is a silk/cotton blend.

I decided to build (or pound) my composition in stages, so here is the next round.

Those colors sure do shift!

Here I have added some of those striped zebra hollyhocks, and they changed from lavender and purple to aqua and blue!  The marigold leaves are in place about to be taped down and pounded.

One more round, with more poppy and calendula petals, and some fuzzy lamb's quarter leaves.

Taped and ready to go under the hammer.  Wider tape would have been better, but this is what I had on hand.

Here is where I stopped.
Now, the problem with pounded flower pictures is that they fade. Victoria asked about that in the comments from my previous post.  As Leonie mentioned, some people scan the finished fabric even while it is still wet and then print that onto fabric, thus capturing that glorious but evanescent pigment.  I didn't want to get my scanner icky, so I decided to photograph instead.

***Edit:  See Leonie's comment below!  You need to heat set the finished pounded fabric, especially before you scan it (no wet fabric in the scanner allowed.)***

That gave me an idea....
I figured if I was going to have to print the image anyway, why not add some unpounded flowers on top of the fabric?  That way I could get some of those reds and pinks I wanted, and of course sharper detail.  The pounded fabric would then serve as a background...and a very nice one, too.

Ah, this was fun....this is the photo, and below is the printed fabric (it is cotton lawn; I use EQ Printable fabrics for their dependably high quality results), next to the pounded fabric.  

The print is actually a bit larger than the original pounded fabric.
I love the background but it is going to fade.  I have the picture though in case I want to print it as is.

My plan is to create a border to go around this printed bouquet and make a little wall piece for my upcoming special exhibit at Road to California in January.  Fun!


Leonie said...

Hi Allie:
Glad you had fun with this technique and hope others will enjoy it too.
One thing you did not mention was about heat setting the fabric after the pounding has dried and personally, I NEVER put anything still wet on my scanner. Once your pounding is done to your satisfaction and any flower residue carefully scraped off,lay your fabric out flat and allow the piece to air dry. Then, with a layer of parchment paper over it, iron gently and the heats sets the colors. There will always be some fading and I find it depends on the flower types as to how much, but the heat setting does help preserve the colors better.
I like how you have incorporated the fresh flowers over the pounding and look forward to what you will do with your finished fabric!

NickiLee said...

You are having jsut way too much fun! This looks like a project that I am going to have to try out - still have some beautiful hydrangeas in my yard.

While in Texas this summer I collected and pounded cochineal bugs off the pricky pear cactus along with its flower. Used some alum and made some beautiful pink/maroon and orange dyes. So much fun but what a mess! After that I decided to buy a bag of the dried cochineals and pound it to a powder - let me know if you want some and I send you a little bag to try.

sharonb said...

This looks like a very interesting technique - thanks for sharing Allie

Pamela Kellogg said...

Allie, I'm always taken with your ability to expand on an idea!

I remember seeing the flower pounding episode on Simply Quilts. It never called to me but it is interesting.

I love how you decided to photograph it. I wouldn't want to get my scanner icky either!

Then to add flowers to your photo? Awesome!

Looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Love & hugs,

gaylenona said...

One year I talked my 3rd grade teaching buddies into a flower pounding Mother's Day project using pansies and greenery. By the time 90 children had pounded away, we all had mammoth headaches, the other teachers were hardly speaking to me, but the Mommas loved them!

JoWynn Johns said...

Delightful, Allie. Thanks for the step-by-step. It's always fun to follow your explorations.

kerrykatiecakes2 said...

AMAZING!! I love how your mind works!

Elizabeth said...

I ahve done some flower pounding but did not pursue it because of the fading issues! What you have done here is brilliant !!! Love it !! It is fascinating how the colors shift and the chemicals outside the flower change !!!

Elizabeth said...

This is stunning!! i love how you have used other fabric that you have printed flowers on - the lavender is a great touch!! You have given me so many ideas!! have a great time at the beach- Hopefully warmer than the WA coast?????

Leeann said...

some ladies in my quilt club did a flower pounding class earlier this year. When the pieces were dry they used a micron pen to to outline their features so they looked kind of like old botany drawings. Here's a link to the show n tell with some of their work. It's a long post and their work is a way down but it is there!