Calligraphy on Fabric Workshop

The Calligraphers' Guild of Manitoba Calligraphy on Fabric workshop with Ike Derksen (one of our own members!) was wonderful. Here's a little of what we did during the day...

Acrylic paints, thinned slightly with water, were our medium of choice. They dry permanently and won't reactivate if you add more wet layers. Our writing tools were flat watercolour brushes; longer haired brushes hold more paint and are more resilient as you work. Our first fabric was a heavy natural canvas. It took the paint really well, and personally I love the "dry brush" look that is easily achieved. Nice crisp letterforms were easily achieved on the canvas.

Ike is a sign painter by profession, and at his workshops you can be sure that you will pick up some very useful tips for your work. To make speedy lines for your lettering, brace your pencil against a ruler at the place you want your line to be drawn. Brace your other hand against the side of the table, and slide both hands, pencil tip and ruler, along your work surface. The first time Ike did this, we all just shook our heads in amazement, but it really works well, and is a great time saver! Ike also added a few paint strokes to his work later on with this same technique.

We also tried lettering on more delicate fabrics such as lining and drapery fabric. It was interesting to compare the different textures of fabrics, the ease of lettering, and the reaction of the fabric with the paint. On the dark fabric, we drew lines (if desired) with chalk, with the same technique as above.

Being a sign painter, Ike is not afraid to use a really BIG brush, and make really BIG letters!

Ike's lettering on the dark lining fabric.
The paint tended to through the lining a little, 
and as it bled a little, the letters appeared a little softer.

Trying different colours on the drapery fabric.
The metallic gold didn't show up as well as expected, 
while the (darker) green actually showed up better.

While I've done quite a bit fabric painting and stenciling on fabric, I've never really given myself the freedom to "write" on my fabric. Might sound a little strange, but this workshop pulled out that stop. I can see so much potential with this....journal covers, tote bags....I think the possibilities are endless!

For more pictures of the workshop, see the Calligraphers' Guild of Manitoba blog.


  1. Sounds like it was a great workshop! I'm trying to understand the techinque used by bracing a pencil.. it sounds like it is really useful!

  2. Cori Lynn, sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to describe in words. Your hands are just acting like a parallel rule. As long as you only slide your hands together and don't move them around, and don't move the pencil position, your line will be true and straight. Imagine Ike's hands staying in the position shown in the photo, and then just moving horizontally (he walked along with the movement) in the same position.

  3. Hey! I love the new blog look! I always read my little blog roll on my Google reader, which is not at all pretty. I'm totally diggin' the green colours . . . .

  4. I want to go!! Sigh. One of the sad things about small town life = no cool classes. :(

  5. What amazing work! Makes me want to get out the fabric and paints! Much nicer to be able to do this at a workshop like this, though....

  6. i think if i ever move again, i'm coming up to live near you (even with all of that pesky snow!)! we can sit and make books and letter on fabric....and i would definitely join your fabulous guild! that tip about lining your paper is worth the price of admission! i can't wait to see your journal covers and tote bags.....
    xox, :))


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