Thursday, August 22, 2013

Michelle Powell Smith: Crafting with Kings, Queens and Courtiers

With an academic background in art history, I quickly fell in love with the new Kings, Queens and Courtiers collection, which is made up of portraits of royalty and nobility. Dating from the Renaissance through the 19th century, the collection includes portraits in a wide variety of styles, from Cranachs northern Renaissance princesses to Rococo royalty. These are, by and large, formal and posed portraits. 

Im especially fond of the earliest pieces in this group, from the German princesses to the images of Tudor royalty. While I think these would make lovely notecards, stationery, or papercrafting projects, Im not a papercrafter. I looked at these images and quickly pondered small project bags, tote bags, journals or even t-shirt transfers. Obviously, to sew with these images, they have to be transferred to fabric in some way. They are quite detailed, so they require a transfer method that allows for some amount of detail, as well as color.

My preferred method for putting images on fabric is an easy one, and one many crafters know already. I have to squeeze time for crafts in with work and parenting, so quick and reliable are high priorities. For this method, youll need freezer paper from the grocery store, a lightweight, smooth fabric, your iron and your inkjet printer. Cut the freezer paper and fabric to the size of printer paper or the largest size your home printer can manage. Iron the freezer paper to the fabric, matching the wrong side of the fabric and the shiny side of the freezer paper. Insert the fabric sheet into the printer paper tray, making sure to arrange it correctly for printing on your printer. Size your image to fit the fabric sheet and print, using the highest quality settings available. The end result is a crisp, full-color image of your favorite king, queen or noble on fabric; however, its not washable and wont survive getting wet.

In order to make this work for totes, journals and makeup bags in my house, its going to have to be waterproofed and at least wipeable for clean up. I live with four children, several cats and dogs. Non-washable fabric that simply cant get wet just isnt going to work with my lifestyle.

Im opting to rubberize my prints with silicone caulk. I laid out my fabric prints and applied a heavy line of silicone, then pulled the silicone down the printed fabric. With our printer, there was no fading or bleeding during the silicone application. After a few failed attempts, I realized this works best before peeling away the freezer paper backing. Ive not done anything with my rubberized royalty yet, but I have tested the newly created fabric and my old Singer Rocketeer sewing machine will sew it with ease. Right now, Im planning a tote pieced with heavy canvas with a Cranach print on each side and possibly pencil cases for my teens with Henry VIII out of my prints.

Other alternatives I considered included covering the prints with a layer of clear vinyl or experimenting with different sealants. Im planning to try some other options, including heat setting, with this collection and others to make these designs fabric-friendly. Theres no reason that amazing historical and artistic resources like the Kings, Queens and Courtiers collection have to be limited to paper crafters, digital artists and others. Those of us who prefer fabric can bring these designs into the sewing room with ease. 

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