Wednesday, July 25, 2012

pounding out my frustrations . . .

Haha!  Not really.  Although I do admit that not having internet over the weekend did leave me feeling a little . . . down.  But only because I was *so* looking forward to participating in the Crafters' Campfire event on Saturday!  Other than that . . . don't tell anyone . . . it was actually rather nice.  Shhhhhh!!!  If you tell anyone I said that, I'll deny it!

Monday brought the repair tech.  He told us that our town has received more lightning strikes (and subsequent damage) than any other area in the county.  The crazy thing is, our RV has a heavy-duty surge protector on the hookup *and* the modem itself is plugged into a surge protector.  The same one as our router (which was fine).  Evidently it took it out through the phone line.  Crazy!!  This is the sixth modem we've had replaced since we've had service (right at two years).  Again, crazy!!  He gave us a new set-up and then left us with two more ... just in case ... so we wouldn't have to wait a weekend again!  You gotta love that kind of service!

When the tech left on Monday, so did I, to spend some time with my Ellie-bellie. From there I went straight to a three-hour long guild board meeting.  By-laws, procedures and budgets.  Can you say fun?  Whew!

But TODAY, I want to share our program from last Thursday night's guild meeting and the subsequent 'craft' I had planned to share on Saturday!

Our speaker was Bettye Kimbrell.  
She was a darling woman -- reminded me so much of my Grandma Willie.  She's from Mt. Olive, Alabama, and had just the best sense of humor!  She was quite the darling and as she started talking about leaf pounding ... her topic for the evening ... she had her daughter hold up this quilt:
When I first saw it, I have to admit I was terribly confused.  Those leaves were so big, I thought she'd appliqued them, because they couldn't be real.  Come to find out, they *are* real!  
Those are castor bean leaves and they do indeed grow that big!

She went on to explain the process of picking the leaves she was going to use ... and discussing which leaves worked better than others ... how to tape them to the fabric, the materials and method for pounding them, and the process for 'setting' the pounded leaf into the muslin, so that it was forever retained (and washable, even)!  
Her program was wonderful and she followed it up with a Q&A session and then allowed us to come up and view her pieces and did several smaller demonstrations.
I loved this piece ... look at the scrumptious details!  She does all hand-quilting on her pieces, too.  
She said if she was going to spend that much time hammering her projects, she was going to spend that much time quilting them, too.  She did make me laugh!

I wanted to share the process, but it was too hard to capture what she was demonstrating so I decided to come home and do it myself!  I mean, gracious . . . I live in the middle of 109 acres of trees . . . I was pretty sure I could come up with a couple of specimens that would work for leaf pounding!

You start with a wooden cutting board, a *very* thin kitchen towel, a small hammer (not a rubber mallet!), masking tape, and muslin.  She preferred the natural over the bleached, but said it was just that, a preference.  Of course, I think the natural looks best as a backdrop for a botanical anyway, so that's what I did.  (And, it's what I had on hand ... worked out well that way!)
I started with a tulip poplar leaf.  Not a big one (because I was a little unsure how much "pounding" it would really take to get the chlorophyll beaten out of the leaf and onto the cloth!
Then, using just cheap old masking tape (and she stressed that the cheap kind was best -- you want to be able to see your leaf through the tape), you tape your leaf, right side DOWN, to the muslin.  
You can even shape your leaf ... manipulate the stem, etc. ... by tape basting -- using smaller pieces of tape -- your leaf to the fabric.  Then covering it with tape in its entirety.  She used 2" tape -- I used what I had on hand.  It took me a little longer to cover my leaf, but it worked just as well.  Once you've finished your taping, you're going to turn the fabric over. 
See how you can still see the leaf through the fabric?  You don't want to pound on the tape side, because that will cause the chlorophyll to bleed through your muslin and into the work towel that's covering your wooden board.  You're actually going to hammer your fabric, and the masking tape will prevent the leaf liquid from going anywhere.

Now it's time to start hammering!!  Hold the hammer very close to the head ... your arms will get tired very quickly if you don't!
Small taps starting on the outside edge of the leaf.  This is why it's so important to be able to see your leaf -- blue painter's tape would make it hard to see for the pounding.  You need to be firm, but gentle -- you don't want to tear up your muslin.  After just a few tentative taps, you can already see the leaf taking shape!
It took me less than fifteen minutes to tape and pound out my leaf.  You'll notice that I pounded all the way around the leaf and down the stem, too.  Once you're satisfied with the imprint of the leaf on the muslin, carefully peel off the masking tape.
The reminder of the leaf will come off with it.  I thought that was pretty cool looking, too!  It's important to note that once you start pounding a leaf, you need to stick with it until it's finished.  If you get halfway through a leaf and then have to leave for a period of time, the chlorophyll will dry up and die, and you won't be able to finish up your leaf!
Here's my used leaf and pounded leaf, side-by-side.  Isn't that cool??!

I had a couple more leaves to try.  First I try a pairing of baby oak leaves.  Not all oak leaves are good for this process, because they tend to be thick and waxy, but I hoped these two were young and green enough that they'd work.  As you can see, they did, but the color is definitely lighter.
Next I tried the fern leaf ... that was incredibly ... lush ... in chlorophyll, which practically gushed out as I pounded it.  Next time I do a fern leaf, I'll know to be more judicious in my basting tape practices ... so the little furls go in the directions I want them to!

Once you've finished pounding all your leaves into your muslin, you're going to soak it in a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar.  This helps set the chlorophyll.  When Mrs. Bettye was asked how long to soak the project, she replied, "Oh, five minutes or thirty, if you were wanting to take a nap!"  She uses her quilting to enhance the details and outline of the leaf.  :)

You will notice that as the chlorophyll dies (over several weeks) the bright green color will fade to shades of tan and olive.  Short of using additional chemicals (which Mrs. Bettye refused to use in her process), there's no way to retain the darker greens.  But I think that adds to the charm of the pieces.  If you look back up at the pictures of her pieces, you can see that the colors of the leaves in the piece she's currently quilting are much more vivid than the two finished pieces.

Here's what I'm planning ... finding some pretty cotton, plain napkins (or making my own, if I have to) and making a fun set of botanical napkins with maybe matching placemats!  How fun would that be?

It took me about 45 minutes to pound the three sets of leaves I used for my sample piece.  And that gave me a whole new appreciation for this one:
Three hours per leaf!  Wow!!  There were thirteen!!  She did say she'd never pound a castor bean leaf ever again. 

So there's my leaf pounding demo!  Hope you enjoyed it.  I'm happy to answer any questions that I can!


17 left a comment . . .:

Jean(ie) said...

What a cool idea! Natural fabric dye! Thanks for sharing.

Service from a cable company? Wow! Unheardof!

Paula said...

Thanks for sharing the info. What an awesome idea and the results are even more awesome!
I will need to try this.
Have a great "vacation". Oh, bring me back something good....LOL!

Janet O. said...

This is fascinating, Denise. I've never seen such a thing. How fun would that be for a summer craft for older children! They could design their own fabric and then create something from it.
I have used chlorophyl to add a green color to some of my soaps and I know that if it isn't used up quickly it fades to a warm tan color.

Rachel B. said...

That was really interesting. I think I might have to give this a try. Thanks for the demo.

Teresa in Music City said...

Oh my! What a fun post to read! Enjoyed it tremendously!!! I can't wait to try it out for myself now :*) Thanks for going to such detail and showing us how it is done. I'm thinking like Janet that my grandkids would have a ball with a project like this!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

We did this with our 4-H group and the kids loved it. Aprons, pot holders and table runners galore! Thank you for sharing your experience with the process.

Asiyah said...

So very cool...I must try this! (Note to self: do not use poison ivy.) LOL!

Sarah said...

Denise - thanks so much for your tutorial. I've done pounding of flowers onto cardstock but it wasn't very successful. Taping the leaf in place is clever and not how I learned it. Did your speaker mention if red (maple) leaves would leave a red impression?

If I could get my act in gear, maybe I could gather the supplies and make some napkins from leaves I find camping this weekend :) Does it have to be soaked immediately or do you think it could wait until I get home?

Enjoy your trip too!

Quiet Quilter said...

Never heard of that before...a natural for some napkins and bookmarking if for sure!

Mary said...

Great to read how to set the Color in the project too. Sorry about your computer troubles. The Guild Meeting looks so fun. Great Quilted items she shared! Thanks for letting us be the fly on the wall.

Deb Reed said...

I couldn't make it to the guild meeting so I was so happy to see this demo on the leaf pounding. It sounds like fun and I'll bet the placemats, napkins turn out very nice! Thanks for taking the time to share this technique.

Melissa said...

Very cool! Would not want to arm wrestle her!

Melissa said...

I looked up Bettye on the Internet...she's famous! lol

Linda in Calif. said...

Great tutorial! And great post. These are so pretty and it sounds like fun - to pound for 15 mins or so, not for 3 hours. LOL! Thanks so much for sharing with us. And for sharing about Bettye too. I do hope to try this sometime soon.

Kate said...

Very interesting. Love the castor bean quilt, but at 3 hours a leaf, I think I'll just admire her's.

Melissa Labella said...

You are braver than I! I was fascinated by Mrs. Bettye and she made me laugh, a lot. :0) I just can't see myself actually completing that project, no matter how small! Plus, I only have one oak tree, the sadness of living in a planned subdivision, baby trees that are all half dead. Anyhoo, good job on your pounding.

carla ( said...

Hi!!!! Yes!! Just like flower pounding!!!! I have done the flower pounding but never a leaf...wonderful tutorial!!! Thank You