As you may have read in my previous post, I live in Pearland, Texas, and we were affected by Hurricane Harvey. We experienced 51 inches of rainfall in 4 days, and we watched as flooding devastated our community. Following the directives of city leaders, we hunkered down, and we hoped, prayed, and watched the rising water. Though it was touch and go with the rising waters, my home ultimately did not flood like the hundreds of thousands impacted in my community.
I was notified of this challenge's rules as Hurricane Harvey was a developing into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. I told Fabric Mart that I would participate in the challenge until I was unable to do so. The water rose, and my anxiety and fear rose alongside it. We were told not to leave our home, so I retreated to my sewing room.
This first challenge is to transform a 2-yard "blank slate" of cotton muslin. I chose to use the muslin as a canvas to focus some of my emotions (i.e., fear, gratitude, grief, and guilt) related to the storm and the aftermath.
I am not new to embellishing fabric in fun, playful ways to express what is in my heart and mind. I have ice dyed cotton jersey for a maxi dress. I have airbrush painted my Afro diva dress, Peace, Puff, Afro Love bag and Afro Puff Diva dress for Little Miss. I have used multiple hand embroidery and applique techniques in my embellished shower curtain skirt.
I like my clothes to express elements of my personality or emotions. That usually results in happy-looking pieces. Sewing usually lifts my spirits and allows me to shift focus in moments of sadness. I currently feel broken. I am living in a broken city around broken friends and neighbors. With nowhere to go, I took to my sewing room. I contemplated how to show brokenness on fabric and to find a sewing pattern reflecting putting pieces back together.
Because of the storm, I was unable to shop for supplies to transform my fabric. I decided to use what I had on hand in my sewing space and pantry. It gave me a chance to try a "flour-resist" technique (see below for further details). A paste is applied to the base fabric. The fabric is dried overnight and cracked to expose the fabric beneath. Fabric paint is then applied, and it seeps between the cracks. After the paint dries overnight, the flour is removed to show the painted fabric beneath. This is a labor-intensive process involving saturation, breaking and cleansing.
The colors in the fabrics are black, blue, and gold. Black and blue represents the devastation left by Harvey. The paint effect is stronger in some areas and varies in strength throughout the fabric. I did this to represent the wide continuum of impact of Harvey on people who have been affected. The crackle can be interpreted as rising water and escalating emotions during the slow progression of the storm.
First responders and ordinary people with boats and trucks risked their lives to save people in immediate danger as the water rose. They are represented in a layer of gold painted directly on the muslin.
A second layer of gold overlaps the blue and black to represent love and out-pouring of local, national, and global support. It recognizes those who provided food, shelter, clothing, and ongoing cleanup in the aftermath of Harvey.
The McCalls 6028 pattern does not reflect my everyday style, but it communicates what I feel. I wanted a pattern with multiple seam lines to represent separation, structure, connection, and regrouping.
The black piping represents the common thread we share, the boundaries of overrun banks, and released reservoirs. The piping also reflects the inaccessibility of streets and the need to feel supported in difficult times.
This fabric is unlike anything I have made before. It is chaotic. It is messy. It is confusing. It is hard to look at, but it has more to show. This dress is organised, structured, detailed, and precise. It is purposeful and serves to calm the disorder.
The fabric is designed using the "flour-resist" technique described here:
- Make a flour paste with a 1:1 flour/water ratio. A good starting point is 2 cups of flour per yard of fabric. Stir until there are no lumps and it looks like melted ice cream. Lay your fabric on a protected surface and smooth the paste over areas to be treated on the right side of the fabric.
- Allow the fabric to dry completely overnight. Do not dry outdoors unless it can be protected from insects and vermin.
- The edges will curl, and the fabric will become board stiff.
- Bend, fold, and twist the fabric to crack the flour surface. The more cracks you make, the more the paint will permeate to the base fabric.
- Paint the fabric with fabric paint using a sponge dauber.
- Check the backside to see if the paint is showing through the backside sufficiently. If you are not satisfied, add more. If you plan on using multiple colors, apply the light colors first. Allow that layer to dry, re-crack, and apply the subsequent colors drying in between. Allow the paint to dry completely before the next step.
- To remove the paste and paint layer, submerge the fabric in a bucket or kitchen sink of water just until you can scrape it away.
- Wring excess water out of the fabric and lay it on a protected surface. Using a blunt tool like a spatula, or putty knife, scrape the flour and paint away and dispose of it in the trash.
- Lightly hand-wash any remaining flour from the fabric and dry. Heat set the paint with an iron or the method directed by your paint instructions.
This is a labor-intensive, slow process involves layering, saturating, breaking and cleansing. I thought it was an appropriate metaphor for my experience. This was a wonderfully therapeutic exercise for me. My family provided encouragement and guidance along the way. The waters are receding, schools and businesses are reopening and people are on the road to recovery. It will take time, but HoUSton is strong.
To see what the other contestants made and to vote click here.