Bull Fighting

blog bull fighting

detail of piece, bull skull measures 6 inches across

Working on this piece has been so rough it has felt like bull fighting. What a trial.

I think I may have shared a snippet of this piece before so I thought I would do a “work in progress” post as incentive to get the piece finished. Originally I started this work back in October or November, it fit a theme for a submission so I jumped in with both feet. I quickly discovered an ambitious idea, even on a small scale, takes a lot longer than a few weeks to complete so I abandoned any thought of submitting the piece.

I wanted to put together a fibre piece that had a lot of different elements. So far this piece has been naturally dyed, eco printed, had a lino-cut made of the bull skull and then printed on the fabric, it has been stitched with various hand dyed threads including some very thick lopi. Beading is still to come.

Composition was a challenge from the beginning, probably because I didn’t plot everything out and just went for it……..and then changed my mind from a small 5″x7″ piece to a 9.5″x14 inch piece part way through when I realized I wasn’t going to submit it. Thankfully the lopi helped tie the composition together.

The lino-cut didn’t reproduce exactly how I had planned either with the final look being thin and grayish. I’m not sure if the natural dye I used was maybe weaker than my last batch, or it was a case of printing a lino cut on the naturally dyed eco-printed fabric, but things didn’t go to plan. Perhaps a mix of too many variables to really be able to pinpoint the lino-cut issues. Rather than dwell on the issues stitching seemed to be the answer. I will try a print on plain fabric once this project is done and then I can see if there is a dye problem and then fix it if needed.

The other challenge has been the actually stitching, the fabric (2 layers) is almost impossible to get a needle through. I have never encountered this before. So far I have tried many different needle and thread combinations but the result has been the same, the only way I can stitch is pulling the needle through one stitch at a time with pliers. It has taken forever. Strange thing is I have used these fabrics before , they are just different cottons, and one layer at a time they are fine, but going through two layers is impossible without pliers (and you have to pull really hard too!). Really odd.

So what is left to do? I need to finish up the “grassland” stitching and stitch around the eco-printed leaves (these items aren’t included in the detailed section in the picture shown). After that a little bit of beading just to add in one more element and introduce a new texture and some new colors. The last decision will be how to frame or hang the piece (never easy to figure out).

There is still a very long way to go.


For those who are interested, I have a new photo project blog going, a photo essay of our neighbourhoood. It is a “mostly pictures and not much text” blog that evolved out of another blog that was started almost a year ago. I think it will be interesting to explore our neighbourhood through a lens. The blog can be found HERE if you are interested.

Of course I still write at the blogs  Island Home and  Debra Hunter as well. Each blog has a different focus and they are pretty fun to write.



What happens on a Friday night….

 lino cutCutting.

blog lino cut 2The lino block is almost done.

This one is 12 inches by 12 inches. I expect there to be challenges as I print it on the naturally dyed fabric.

yarnTying and weighing.

 yarn Scouring and mordanting.

The stash is getting low. Many weeks of non-stop knitting and developing new items.

Lots of dyeing in the future and perhaps an indigo vat next week if it warms up.



The Start of a New Piece

I figure it is time to get back to blogging the fun stuff so today I am sharing the beginning of a new art piece. This piece is inspired by a fence post we came across on a rural back road near our cabin. Well to be honest there isn’t much but rural back roads near our cabin (and lakes)….but that is what makes it fantastic.

The piece is based on the image featured in the post titled “The Skull”.

The gallery below will walk you through the beginnings of the process.

(Please click on the images to view full size.)

The piece will be a lino cut on fabric. Both the base fabric and the printing of the linocut will be done with handcrafted natural dyes. The plan is after printing the linocut the piece will then be embellished with beads and hand stitching.

I have to admit I am pretty excited about working on this one. It’s going to be fun!



blog H

Block Printing , A Second Attempt

Way back in March I decided to experiment with block printing. I shared my experience in the blog post titled “Block Printing, A First Attempt” . The result was “fine” but I knew I could do more with it. So I thought about it for quite a while and then recently gave it another try.

I actually finished the piece using block printing this week. It is titled “A Catch of 10”, and I shared it on my other blog in the post “A Catch of 10 (2013) – Fibre Art – Red Deer, Alberta”. I notice that the first block printing post tends to get a lot of views so I though I would share a few work in progress pictures.

cotton ready to dye

cotton ready to dye

marigolds for dyeing

marigolds for dyeing

making marigold dye

making marigold dye

dyeing the cotton in the marigold dye

dyeing the cotton in the marigold dye

drawing the image on the lino block

drawing the image on the lino block

carving the lino block

carving the lino block

fabric dyed in marigold, madder and cutch

fabric dyed in marigold, madder and cutch

block printing the fish

block printing the fish

two printed pieces, one iron dipped and one not

two printed pieces, one iron dipped and one not

beading and stitching in progress

beading and stitching in progress

"A Catch of 10" (2013) 7 inches by 16.5 inches

“A Catch of 10”
7 inches by 16.5 inches

This piece is in a fundraiser this week. Details for the fundraiser can be found in my “A Catch of 10 (2013) – Fibre Art – Red Deer, Alberta” post.


Art and Photography by Debra Hunter
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Illustrating, stitching and beading….today’s “work in progress”

I guess there is something to be said for snowy days. Our youngest slept in, and didn’t wake up in a “mood”, meaning that I actually managed to accomplish something before the 11:00 am pick-up time for Kindergarten. Accomplishing something in the morning is a rare occurrence.

This morning I was able to put a few more rows of beading in on this piece. It is slow going with four seed beads being stitched on at a time.


The piece is all naturally dyed, with the base of cotton being dyed with marigold, madder and cutch. The fish started life as a lino-cut and then were block printed onto the cotton. I had attempted block printing many months ago, and while the results were “fine” I wasn’t really “wowed” at the time. I have spent the last few months thinking about it and what needed to change for me to be more excited about lino cuts and block printing. The first thing I realized was my first subject matter (leaves) might have been just a bit too twee for me. The second problem was that the prints were just too weak . A little experimentation on another project and I stumbled across the dye that I thought would work best for me, and it was a great improvement.

I have been wanting to do a fish piece for a while, but the idea had always seemed a West Coast piece in my mind, and a beaded piece takes a lot longer than my trips to the coast ever last. I am kind of funny with the way I work. When I am on the coast I tend to work on coast inspired pieces, but when I am in Alberta I focus on the imagery of the mountains, plants, woods and prairies of our province. This is almost like split-personality art. However last week I was thinking “Why not do a fish piece, tons of people fish in the lakes in Alberta!” There was the link to Alberta. (I know, I’m not exactly rocket-science material if it took me that long to come up with an Alberta link. Feel free to laugh!)

The fish still have a way to go. There will be more beading and more stitching with naturally dyed silk threads. The fish repeat through the piece which is a little different from what I usually do; they are all basically the same with tiny differences.

In addition to the stitching I finished another illustration. This is turning out to be a most enjoyable project.

illustration These images are being used as little chapter dividers for a book by a local author. I shared a previous drawing in this post. I must be doing okay as my children laughed themselves silly when they saw the drawing, plus my five year old congratulated me for “coloring between the lines”!

Hopefully tonight will mean more stitching and maybe a bit more work on the illustrations. I have five and a half fish to bead, 14 illustrations to go, and………….a Halloween cape to sew.

Artwork by Debra Hunter
fibre art, photography, painting and illustration

Block Printing, A First Attempt

Last Friday I came across this blog entry from the Linda Cote Studio.  As I read her step by step description of block printing I had two thoughts, the first was that “block printing was pretty cool”, and the second was “I wonder if it would work on fabric”. So later that afternoon I toddled down to the art store, bought the blocks and tools and thought I’d give it a try. Later that evening, after we put our children to bed, I started carving up the first block. My husband looks over at what I was doing and asked when I first thought about doing a block print, my answer was “About two o’clock this afternoon.”. This is how I tackle most projects.

Lino block coated with tumeric paste.

Lino block coated with turmeric paste.

Wet pieces of silk printed with tumeric.

Wet pieces of silk printed with turmeric.

I decided to do the first trial with turmeric. It was handy and cheap. It just took a little trial and error to get the paste to work and give a print. The wet prints looked great, but lacked a bit of contrast when washed and dried.


Turmeric printed on cotton.

turmeric on silk

Turmeric printed on silk.

I then decided to try printing over the turmeric print with madder. I will admit this was the first time ever working with madder, but I guess sometimes you have to just give things a shot.

tumeric madder prints

The first three prints from the left are on silk, with the last print on cotton. The third print has been stitched in naturally dyed threads. All the prints have been washed and dried.

Using block printing definitely opens up a whole new set of possibilities with natural dyeing. I think it works well combined with stitching, and would be a useful way to continue a theme through a series of projects.

Madder and turmeric print on silk, stiched with naturally dyed silk and cotton threads. The print measures 3" x 4.5".

Madder and turmeric print on silk, stitched with naturally dyed silk and cotton threads. The print measures 3″ x 4.5″.