Alternative Fabrics | Mixed Media

Fibristos and Fibristas, firstly, sorry for posting late! I hope the time difference between the UK and Canada doesn’t throw this entry off too much date wise! This time i’d like you to see what else can be considered a “substrate” for your cross stitch, ribbonwork, red/black/white work, your “regular” embroidery and your experimental works of art.
Alternative Fabrics | Mixed Media
Ya want cheap fabric?  You don’t have access to a conventional fabric store? Commercial fabric bores your stitchy underpants off?Fabric and craft stores aren’t your only choice!
  1. Burlap and jute, coarse cotton—save the potato, feed and seed, flour bags—ask at the local plant nursery, big bakery or animal feed store. Often a rough or coarse fabric, these are perfect for the primitive, antiqued or frayed edge look. Wash them separately first, to remove any dirt, additives and chaff! These are also great for rougher, tougher threads and patches.
  2. Decorator samples are often available at drapery and upholstery outlets. They are usually small, can be quite expensive yardages when bought by the metre, but cheap as an “end of the roll”. Some places will also have samples that were sent by a manufacturer and they may sell those as well.
  3. Local dressmakers and tailors can be a good source of scraps as well. Offer something in return, or be prepared to pay if they request a little “something”.
  4. Always recycle clothing and household linens!! Memory items, special occassions and your taste can make your art for giving or keeping a more personal work of art.
  5. Trims—hit the thrift shops: grab those old linens, special occassion dresses and curtains. Consider the cost of the materials–if you can’t see paying 5 bucks for one special bead or bit of lace that was used to embellish, then don’t spend it. Check the jewellry, bags and belts sections also: even broken bits can be re-purposed.
  6. If you paint your own fabrics, save the cloths you use to wipe your brushes or that are being used as a work area. Often with the addition of stencilling, or stamping, these can be very unique and completely original!
  7. You can use less expensive acrylic paints on fabric IF you add a textile medium. Golden sells a big bottle that you can judiciously mix with your acrylics, at a ratio of one to one. I find the most cost effective way to do this is to use a small measuring spoon. I generally add 1 teaspoon to the same amount of paint, mix well and that gives enough for a small area. Adjust your quantities as you need, though i find it better to do less than i think i need as it does cover a surprisingly large area. Remember to heat set!!!! (You can do this in the dryer when the paint is dry, or press with an iron and parchment paper or a press cloth to prevent paint adhering to the iron.) If you’re painting something that is not to be worn or used everyday and therefore doesn’t need washing, you can forgo the textile medium, but still set it in case of moisture hitting it.
  8. It’s small pieces, but if you look around you can find 100% cotton at the auto and workshop suppliers. I lucked into a package of a dozen 18×18 white flannelette “shop towels” that will take dye beautifully, perfect for small projects or dye and paint experimentation. They also come in bright red! Regular price was 4.88, but i got them for half, on sale. They also have very interesting “10 lb rag bags”, in miscellaneous fabrics, colours and prints for anywhere from 5-10 bucks, perfect if you’re interested in “used” looking.
  9. Swap with friends and strangers!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can also use dryer sheets, paper towels, coffee filters and teabags(used or not), landscape fabric, some metals, leaves, bark and roadkill scraps (i mean rags you find on streets and highways, not actual Roadkill!), any paper or plastic you can sew through. Check out fancy art papers at art supply or giftwrap and stationary stores. Look at these “Thai Lace”i bought:
Alternative Fabrics | Mixed Media
Imagine this with some dye or paint and judicious hand or machine stitch!!! How about that crosstitch you love done on clear plastic? What about redwork on bark?
And how about these for more esoteric alternatives? Not on the market yet, but maybe someday!
Who knows what other manipulations will happen with fabric and threads? What can you stitch through?

Alternative Fabrics | Mixed Media~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as “curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated“.  Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog.

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