A Visit to Gwen Frazier's Coloring Class

Nora Creeach 2004

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Gwen Frazier's completed coloring quilt Click to Enlarge As some of you know I am unable to get around too well so when I was invited to attend a coloring class given by Gwen Frazier I had to decline. Gwen then provided me with pictures of her quilt and an audio tape of the Violet Block Coloring Class. She also said I could share the experience with you.

She began by telling us how to make a sandpaper board.[1] This board has a padded side to press on and a sandpaper side on which you will place your fabric to do the coloring. The purpose of the sandpaper is to grip the fabric and show some texture in your coloring.

The first tip we were given is to divide all the crayons in color families and store them in these groups. This is to prevent the color rubbing off on the one next to it and causing a smear of a totally different color on your work. It is not so bad if a dark pink rubs of on a lighter pink but a brown or black could ruin your piece if it were to smear on a pale pink flower. In the regular 96 Crayola box there are not enough dividers so you can arrange the colors so the families are not too different to those stored next to each other.

After the coloring in the block is completed and you are happy with how it looks you can begin the embroidery. Gwen suggests you use some variegated threads to give your piece more life. You can also match your thread to the crayon colors. As she says "don't limit yourself, let your imagination and creativity flow."

To center your design on the fabric, fold the pattern in 4 equal parts marking the center with a plus sign. Then fold the fabric in 4 and pinch press the center to mark it.

Use a light table to trace your pattern in single long stokes don't scratch back and forth to form the outline as it will be more difficult to cover when you are coloring. Gwen recommends a fine point (#1) Micron pen [2] in brown as it is easiest to blend in or cover with the crayons.

If your choice of fabric is a tone-on-tone, sometimes the dye used in the fabric will make coloring over it difficult. You may find the wrong side of the fabric better suited to your coloring so try both sides. Make a sampler [3] of the project so you will have the information if you need to replace crayons or threads or wish to make another same block or a different block with the same colors.

To begin coloring pull all the crayons you will be using and place them in front of you in groups of three per color, a medium for your base coat, a light for highlighting and a dark for the shadowing. Suggestion were given for the African Violet but use your own preferences as to pattern and colors used.

African Violet Block

Place your fabric on the sandpaper with the pattern side up and base coat all the leaves first with your medium green crayon. Work in small circular motions using the flat, bottom end of your crayon moving from the edge of each leaf toward the center. If the area is too small for the flat of the crayon, carefully color with the tip using a light hand and the same circular motion. Be careful you do not leave streaks or definite lines when working with the tip end of the crayon. The colored area should not be solid color but there should be bits of white showing through.

When you have base coated all of your leaves use the tip end of the darkest green to draw in the veins. We do this now because as we go on we may not be able to see them and would then need to freehand the veins rather than trace over the lines.

We now give the leaves some depth and more shape. Begin coloring with the leaves farthest back or behind as the leaf on the far left, then the one center front to the rear of the large lighter leaf, then to the leaves on the right behind the flowers and then the top left hand side. These leaves all are to the rear of the other elements in the picture. After base coating them with your medium use the flat bottom of the darkest crayon and again working in a circular motion move around the outer edge give the leaf a cupping look and pull the color from the edge toward the center of the leaves. Continue going over all the leaves paying attention to where the shadows would naturally fall. You will add more of the darkest green along the edge where the shadow of the forward leaves and flowers would be and along the outer edge of each leaf.

When the fabric is pressed the color will lighten so it is good to do the first pressing when you think you have enough color on the picture. Set your dry iron at the hottest setting. Gwen says she sets hers on scorch. Do not iron as you may smear the color. Place the fabric color side down on a piece of copy paper and using a press lift motion press the entire colored area. You will need two pieces of paper. The first will remove most of the wax then repeat the pressing with a second sheet to get the rest.

Look at your piece and you will see how much lighter it is now than just before the pressing. Fill in and darken where you feel it is needed. Now highlight using the lightest green. Add the highlight to the side of the leaves where the light would normally fall. Refine the colors adding where needed remembering that the next press will lighten your work again. At this point you can add some streaks of purple from the center rib or vein toward the edge to give more definition. A lot of leaves have a little purple in them so use as you think looks best.

Shading on the leaves will give your embroidery shadows and depth.

You will press your work several times during the coloring to set the color, remove the wax and then adjust with more color as needed. When you are satisfied with the leaves move on to the flowers.

This is a repeat of the technique used on the leaves. Base coat with your medium value crayon using the circular motion working from edge toward the center of the petals. Add your darkest color to shadow where needed and the lightest color to highlight. Color the throat of the flower with the lightest color, in the purple African Violet Gwen suggests Periwinkle blue that will later be covered with yellow French Knots. Press and re color as needed. Use some streaks in your darkest color from the edge toward the center to give a veining effect to the petals. When your flowers are colored to suit you can add punch and sparkle by going over the flower petals with a glitter crayon. Use the same circular motion over the entire flower.

The pot is done the same way with the all over base coating in the medium value and the adding shadows and shading with your darkest color. Press and adjust colors where they are needed and add your lightest color highlights. Looking at the picture you will notice additional colors were used to "shape" the saucer of the pot by drawing curve line from the right and left edges toward the center, but leaving an area in center front free of the lines, to give the saucer a curve look.

At this point my tape ran out but I think from what I learned during the portion of the class I did attend I should be able to color a block, motif or other elements to include in my box of CQ tricks. Below are hints and tips given throughout the class. Gwen is an excellent teacher and the folks in the room with her had a lot of fun as did I listening and following along.

Cactus block Click to Enlarge

Footnotes & Hints:

[1]  You begin with a piece of Masonite board (a clip board works well), a piece of Garnet or 180 grit sandpaper, a piece of fabric size to cover board and a piece of Warm and Natural batting for padding. Gwen also adds a piece of leather to her board. On side one place the batting cut to fit the board covered by the fabric (sturdy cotton to take the heat) and the piece of leather on the reverse side glue the sandpaper. The leather piece is used when you want a very smooth look without texture, because it gives and does not show marks.

[2]  Store pens flat and tightly covered. Buy one and a spare, tape the spare to mark it and use the other. These pens dry out fast but using this system you will always have the spare to fall back on and with it marked you will not open it until the first is used up.

[3]  Make a sampler using the fabric you will use for your block, all the colors you will be using and write the color name or number with your Micron pen. You can also add a few stitches of the fibers you will use to embroider the finished block including the name and color of each fiber and where it came from. Your sampler becomes a complete record of your project available in case you wish to repeat it or share it with another crazy quilter.

* Crayons will pick up fibers so when you notice it is not coloring as well use your fingers to "clean" these fibers away. With use the crayons will become dull. Use a small pencil sharpener where you can see and clean the shavings and blade not the sharpener packaged with the box of crayons. This sharpener is sealed and you can't keep the colors from smearing onto each other.

** Oxiclean will remove crayon. Make a paste with water and working carefully scrub the paste into the crayoned area slowly. This product is a bleach so treat it accordingly. Orvis is another product and works well to wash quilts. Gwen gets hers at the tractor store and says there are no directions for quilt washing as it was intended for washing animals. She uses a handful in the big commercial washers at the laundromat to wash her quilts.


kit by Black Cat Creations
email: thimblewiz@worldnet.att.net
Name of quilt is "Grandma's Potted Treasures" and has 12 blocks.

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