Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ink Week Wrap Up

If you missed the earlier posts in the series, you may find them here:
Today I'm going to wrap up the series about the Tsukineko inks, but the complete project still has many more days to go before it's done!

My original plan was that the coloured inks would be a watery wash to fill in some of the large empty spaces in this stitchery quilt, Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden. The stitchery was always intended to be the main feature, and to give the structure to the design. What I found on the first day, though, was that the more water you add to the ink, the more unpredictably it behaves. Here's a better photo of that first bird house:

So I think that while it's good to start with a plan, it's also good to be prepared to change it as events arise! I decided that I can live with the blue creeping over the lines in the block above, but that I didn't want that to happen with all the flowers in the other blocks. So the colours became darker and more saturated as I worked.

I bought some specialized equipment to work with the inks, and I was happy with all of it:

  • The Color Mixing Cups at the top of the photo are small lightweight plastic containers, each with its own lid. They come with their own tray, which makes it easy to organize and store the ink over a several day project.
  • On the left are the Tsukineko Fantastix, which also come with their own caps. I kept the ones that were loaded with ink in a plastic snack bag, and they were good for a few days.
  • On the right below the water jar are the plastic eye droppers, which I used to transfer ink from the bottle to the mixing cups, to transfer mixes from one cup to another, and to add clean water from the jar to the mixing cup.
With all three of these tools you need one for every colour of ink that you buy, and for every colour of ink that you plan to mix. They can't be cleaned, but the huge advantage is that they are much easier to control. They give you consistent results across the project. Painting or inking on fabric is very different than painting on paper, I found. It's less precise, so any tool that helps with that is well worth it.

I bought almost everything, inks, tools and fabric, from Dharma Trading Co., who also have some articles on techniques. The fabric was the Kaufman Kona PFD (prepared for dying), which really absorbed the ink well. The high thread count has been a little dense for hand stitching, but it certainly supports the thread well, and I've had no issues with stitch tension.

I will say that stitching over the bright colours, all of which you have chosen and painted yourself, is extremely satisfying! I have used all my favourite flowers as inspiration. The purple daisy colouration is inspired by purple irises, the small pink flowers are inspired by apple blossoms, there are the large coral dahlias, and the little yellow "sunflowers."

Those sunflowers, by the way, took two days of trial and error to get the right combination of stitch and thread colour:

In the end I decided that while the white gap between the ink and the stitching looked nice and "arty" in the purple and pink flowers, it did not work in the sunflower centres. I tried blanket stitch to cover up some of the gap, and it worked quite well. I also left out that yellow straight stitch in the petals, because it distracted from the clean curves of the stem stitch around the petal edges.

I still have more decisions to make about the four small flowers that are in the bird house blocks and scattered around the rest of the quilt, but this should keep me busy for now! I hope you enjoyed the series. It's been a large undertaking, but I've learned a lot. I can already think of a couple more projects for the ink, but I want to finish off a few more of my WIPs first!

Speaking of WIPs, since it's Wednesday I'll link up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network. And if you want to see all the posts on this project so far, including the quilt piecing and other little stitcheries, please click here. Happy stitching!


  1. Very labor intensive, Monica but the fruits of your labor are evident already. This quilt is going to be a definite work of art. It's very Matisse-looking already! The white background showing through is very typical of how fugitive water-based dyes or inks can behave. I love the look! Super, super job, especially for your first time using this medium.

  2. It's been great to follow your learning on this. It could be a text-book case of how learning occurs. The result so far is terrific. I love the way your observation (eg iris colour) influences the design and the behaviour of the dyes influences the way you stitch. It's really intelligent work that reflects in the harmonious result. It's been stimulating to follow. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Jillian! You're the expert on learning, so I appreciate that. The great thing about setting yourself a big challenge, is that the feeling of accomplishment is equally large when it's done! I've been very grateful for your encouragement along the way. :D

  3. You have adapted the unpredictability of the paints quite superbly to the enhancement of your work. The bleeding of the blue around the birdhouse and the white inner border around the flowers all look "casually" intentional. What a lovely work of art!

    1. Thank you very much, that's certainly the feeling I was hoping for! It makes me wonder, now, just how "casual" all those watercolour sketches I've admired in the past really were! It's been a lot of planning. :)

  4. Delightful, these inks do not seem to be available here i the UK but off to a stitching show today and will ask about them


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