Surface Design for Breakfast

oatmeal resist surface design
Fabric art quilt by Lisa Kerpoe.

cate pratoFall is my favorite season, and on a chilly morning last week I welcomed the change in temperature by having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

I usually put fruit in my oatmeal, but lately I've been thinking about adding dye. You see, I have been learning about "kitchen resists," pastes made from products right from your pantry shelf, like flour oatmeal, baby cereal, mashed potato flakes, and corn syrup. You use them to block out areas of the fabric to dye or paint over, yielding very interesting results to use in fabric art.

Kitchen resists are an alternative to wax resists, like batik. I love the looks, but the ironing and numerous washings you need to do to get all the wax out of the fabricnot so much. The beauty of kitchen resists is that they are safe to use and they wash right out of the fabric easily.

I decided to try out the oatmeal method using directions provided by fiber artist Lisa Kerpoe. Lisa has experimented with many kinds of kitchen resists with wonderful organic effects.

1. Wash your fabric in hot water with 1/2 teaspoon of synthrapol and 1/2 cup of soda ash. Note: Don't skip this critical first step! The oatmeal can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove if there is a sizing on the fabric. [Cate's note: I used a piece of cotton fabric that had been washed several times in detergent. It worked fine.]

2. Lay a heavy plastic drop cloth over your work surface. Place your fabric on the plastic and pin it every 8"-10".

oatmeal resist surface design
Lisa's oatmeal surface design.

3. Mix 1⁄3 cup of rolled oats with 1 cup of water. Microwave for 2 minutes.

4. Spread the oatmeal across the cloth using a squeegee or a spoon. Or you can wait until the oatmeal cools and relive your kindergarten days by spreading it on with your hands!

5. Let the oatmeal dry on the cloth. This can take 1-2 days depending on the temperature and humidity level of your working environment. To speed the drying, hang the cloth on a clothesline and/or set a fan to blow onto the fabric surface. [Cate's note: I used the fan, which helped a lot.]

oatmeal resist surface design
My results with oatmeal resist
surface design.

Now it's time to apply the dye. There are many ways to do this, depending on whether you are using thickened dyes or liquid dyes. Lisa usually paints on thickened dyes, as this yields a more distinct pattern from the oatmeal. But she also encourages experimentation and I was going very low-tech with this project, using Rit dye off the shelf. So I just made a shallow bath of the dye and water in a tub and gave the fabric about a 30 minute soak, gently stirring the fabric occasionally with a wooden stick.

I rinsed off the oatmeal and excess dye, frankly not expecting a whole lot, but I was really excited to see the results. Because I had used a liquid dye, the patterns were not as distinct as they might have been, but I still got a lot of variation in the color. I also turned my hands blue because I forgot to wear gloves. Oh well.

I'd like to try this again with the flour paste resist, because you can make a greater variety of patterns and even write in it. A great way to see these kitchen resist processes in action is to watch Lisa's segment on "Quilting Arts TV," Series 800.

You won't look at your pantry, or surface design, the same way again.

P.S. Do you ever use "kitchen" ingredients in your mixed-media or fabric art? I'm looking for good ideas, so serve 'em up in the comments section.




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