Painting by subtraction

I have been painting with fabric paints on cloth for a while now, and though it is really fun, and technically as straightforward as painting on a canvas, I am not so happy with the tacky surface I get when I fail to put on the brakes in time. If the piece turns into a table cloth– so often the case!– I don’t really want all that inadvertent texture.




So I decided to investigate starting with a colored ground, and removing the color to make my marks. I stocked up on black, navy blue and red sheets from Ikea, ran them through a cycle of washing the machine to remove the sizing, and painted/printed/marked them up with bleach or Formusol, a product described in Making your Mark, the excellent handbook published by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan of Committed to Cloth.
















IMG_3168 (Downsized to Ikea pillow cases!)  IMG_3166IMG_3169




My results were hit or miss! You need a long, sunny day (or a top quality steam iron and a gas mask), to activate the Formusol, and the black sheet in particular reads like a weather report, with visible splats of rain and smears from grabbing it, still wet, and running for shelter.  Household bleach works much faster, and has its own range of weird effects! It is a little scary combining the two.  I described to a friend how the seemingly innocent combination of household chemicals heated up and shot out of my hand, and she told me the tragic story of her teenaged cousin who blew up the house, and himself.

Enough risky practices; time to consult the experts!

Lucky me–months ago I had managed to snag a coveted place at Claire’s “Working with Intent” workshop, scheduled for the end of June. Nine of us wrote up our wish list of questions and hopes and goals, and Claire custom designed the course to fit our needs. It was heaven! Here is Claire, demonstrating dry monoprinting, a process invented by a friend who got called away in the middle of her (wet) monoprinting project!


Claire Benn demonstrating dry monoprint

My wish was to start at square one with the Formusol, and to see whether the process-heavy MX dyes (which don’t sit on the surface like fabric paints but become part of the fiber) are for me. We had a blast! With Claire’s guidance, I over-dyed my pile of samples, cut them into strips, and went home with the makings of two “potato chip quilts” (so-named because you can’t stop at one!)

It was a magical week from every point of view.


photo 1




We shall see if the energy and water greedy MX dye process is a keeper. Stay tuned to this channel!



4 Responses to “Painting by subtraction”

  1. Need an orange table cloth!

    Helen Love


  2. Mimi greer Says:

    Betsy. These are wonderful. I love them!

    • Betsy Lahaussois Says:

      Mimi! How wonderful to hear from you! I am so sorry I missed you in the flash visit to Iowa. XX

  3. Wow! Looks like so much fun!

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