I love primitive art and somewhere on the internet I came across a shape resembling a brolga.


Brolgas are a northern Australain crane species and they dance in an exuberant fashion as part of their courting rituals.


(Photo courtesy of abc.net.au)

I also found this fabulous painting by Ros Jenke on her website.


Gosh, she is a terrific painter. She makes me wish I could paint, but that would be flogging a dead horse I fear. Better to stick with my version of art, which is dabbling in block printing right now.

I had a couple of meters of lilac voile left from my excursion into bunny rugs, and the brolga shape seemed quite the thing to turn some fabric and a bit of paint into a dress. I wanted short sleeves and an swing shape, so I merged my favourite 2 Tessuti dresses, the Eva for the bodice top and sleeves, and the Lily for the swing lower down. Below is a picture of the pattern pieces laid onto the fabric for cutting out, with the tilt away from the fold I so often talk about, without being quite sure whether anyone understands what I mean. The tilt adds volume at the CF and CB, getting wider towards the hem. I do this a lot, as I like volume, but not necessarily tacked on at the sides. It gives you a tad of extra room in the bust too and so could be used as a cheater FBA, although I don’t actually need it for that purpose. The photo below shows the back pieces being cut, which I do along the selvages, with a CB seam. The front would be cut on the fold, unless of course I want a CF seam as well.

tilt away from fold

If you are not too interested in the intricacies of block printing you might want to skip the next few paragraphs and go straight to the photos. My PR review with explanation of the sewing process is here.

Once I had cut out my fabric, I sewed up the CB seam I put in to save fabric, and also sewed up the shoulders. Then I laid it our flat (single layer) for printing., with the sleeve pieces not attached yet. I left the sleeve pieces loose for printing, but had the option of moving them roughly into place on my work surface to simulate where they will eventually go, so I could see how the motif placement would pan out.

The brolga stamp gave me a bit of a headache during the printing process. It is about the size of my hand and a bit unwieldy with the head, wings and feet sticking out everywhere. Not so much of a problem to plonk the stamp on the fabric, but the paint makes it stick and lift up the fabric on removal, and because of its size it is hard to take it off in one smooth action. It is then all to easy to get a bit of paint where you don’t want it.

This made me think that I needed to attach the carved rubber to a rigid backing. A bit of plywood would do the trick, except it doesn’t let me see where I place my motifs. So I picked up some Perspex offcuts at my local Perspex shop to try out with my next print run. I could also use some spray adhesive to stick the fabric to a piece of cardboard underneath. Depending on how it works with the Perspex I might do both.

I already mentioned that paint coverage can be a problem with block prints, and I had already tried sand papering the surface of the stamp to hold more ink, with no appreciable difference. So I thought that maybe using a brayer instead of a foam roller might give me a thicker layer of paint on my stamp. A brayer is a roller with  a rubber surface and the layer of paint sits on top instead of being absorbed by the foam with only minimal paint on the surface. This theory actually worked, there was more paint on the stamp with the brayer, but unfortunately it made the print itself looks a bit smudged and gluggy around the edges. So back to the drawing board. In the end I used a felt roller instead of either foam or rubber, which I think makes my prints looks best. I used the brayer to roll over the stamp to apply pressure to my print, which worked well also. Not sure if pressure with the brayer will still be necessary if I have a rigid backing on my stamp, but it might be.

So after a few gluggy prints at the back of my dress the rest of the printing went well. I confess here and now that the back of a garment concerns me much less than the front, which no doubt is a major failing on my part, but here you have it. So despite my trial prints on paper and scraps of fabric, when I get to the actual garment, I always start printing at the back hem so I can work out any problems before I get to places where they would be too obvious. Or heaven forbid bug me every time I look into the mirror.

after printing

Once the printing was done I let the dress and the sleeves dry in the open air and then put it in the dryer on high for another half hour to set the paint. With a thorough ironing once the dress is finished it should be good to wash. I am always a bit worried that I might gunk on a masterpiece before the paint has been set properly, meaning I can’t wash it without spoiling my prints and can’t set the prints without setting the stain as well.

But all went well and here is the result.

brolga2brolga1brolga sides up

This has been linked back to RUMS.

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