I’ve always loved plaids. I suspect the intersecting bands of color have a ‘logic’ that appeals to my pattern obsessed mind. The Scottish tartans, in particular, are fascinating not only because of their colors, but because of their association with particular clans. I had been thinking about featuring a plaid ‘cane of the week’ for a while, but I wanted to experiment with color combinations and refine my technique first. Recently, I made a couple of plaid canes which I posted on Flickr:
These are ‘two-color plaids’. They are made with two colors, and one ‘blended square’ which is a combination of the two colors, for example the blue, green and blue/green shown in the top photo. Note that the colors of the blended squares are not solid but very fine diagonal lines which are intended to resemble the weave of plaid fabric. In a plaid or tartan fabric, visible diagonal lines are formed where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The intersecting stripes in both plaids were made with the two base colors, although I did add orange stripes to the green and white plaid on the bottom for extra contrast.
The most challenging step for me was to keep the squares and lines perfectly straight and even. As you can see, I was not totally successful! One of my Flickr contacts suggested the use of a flat acrylic sheet or square rod to keep the corners sharp, and it does indeed help. Of course, using an extruder with square dies would assure ‘perfect’ squares, but, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I do not use an extruder to build canes.
I’ve decided to go a more complex route and show the steps I use to make a ‘three color plaid’, which consists of the 3 solid ‘base colors’ ; A, B, and C, and 3 blends ; AB, AC, and BC. The resulting cane consists of nine squares. This is a diagram of the base cane, minus the intersecting stripes. I’ll deal with those later. Note that each square ‘shares’ a color with the square/s next to it and the squares above and below it.
Here is my plaid cane, step-by-step:
For my plaid cane I will use blue (color A), green (color B), and red orange (color C). I am using approximately 4 oz of each color, for a total of 12 oz.
I use my square cutter to measure equal amounts of each clay color (9 squares per color). The leftover clay will be used later to make the lines.
Here are my 'combined color combinations', using 3 squares of each color; blue/green (AB), red-orange/green (CB), and red-orange/blue (CA)
I chop up colors AB into small pieces using my clay blade
After the pieces have been chopped, I reshape them to form a rectangle, slightly thicker than the thickest setting of my pasta machine.
This rectangle is run through the pasta machine at the thickest setting (#1 on my Atlas machine)
After going through the pasta machine, I fold the sheet in half, and, with the folded side down, run it through the pasta machine again.
Here is the blended sheet after 2 passes.
I trim the ragged ends, then divide the sheet into 6 equal pieces.
I then stack the 6 pieces, square it up, and turn it so the side with the short irregular stripes is facing up.
I cut this square on the diagonal (corner to corner) to make 2 right triangles.
The 2 triangles are put together so the stripes are going in the same direction.
I stand this piece up so it looks like a roof, then slice it in half like this
I then put the 2 halves together to make a square with diagonal striping.
I then reduce this to form a 1/2" square 2" in length.
I trim the distorted ends, and now I have my "AB" combination square completed. Time to move on to the BC and AC combinations.
I use the same procedure to make my BC and AC squares. I then make square blocks with the solid colors. The solid colored blocks are also 1/2", but are half the length of the combination colored squares (1" instead of 2" long)
I then cut the combination colored squares in half. As you can see, I now have a total of 9 blocks that are 1/2" square and 1" in length
I now arrange the blocks to make a '9 patch square'. Make sure the diagonal stripes on the combination colored blocks are all going in the same direction! This is not as easy as you might think, the striping is subtle.
Here's a closeup of the cane. Time to add the lines !
I use the side of my ruler to lightly score where I will be cutting the cane to insert the lines
I also score lines along the sides of the cane to act as a guide so my cuts will (hopefully !) be straight all the way through.
This is what it looks like after lines have been scored on all sides, including the bottom; it looks a bit like a Rubic's cube, doesn't it?
I roll out thin sheets of the solid clay colors (#6 setting on my Atlas). These will be used to make the lines.
Note the position of the colors. I slice through the squares on sides of the cane, using the scored lines as a guide, and keeping my cut as straight as possible.
I insert thin sheets of the green clay, making sure my squares match up when I bring the pieces back together.
I then use the same procedure to insert the red and blue lines. Here is the completed cane before reduction.
The diagram on the left shows the position of the color blocks and lines.
This is what the cane looks like reduced. Note that keeping the outside lines straight is rather challenging ! Wrapping the cane with a sheet of clay would probably reduce distortion, but then it wouldn't be possible to combine the base cane to make a continuous patterned sheet.
Here's the completed cane....the lines could be straighter, but, all in all, not bad !
Here's another 3-color cane using the same diagram and steps as the one described above....The possibilities are endless !