Linda Colsh: Tool kit

Linda Colsh: Tool kit

Welcome to the fifth edition of ‘Tool kit’, a series of articles where we take a look at some of the favourite tools used by professional textile artists. Each item includes a description of the tool itself, as well as its brand, model, and year.

Here’s another look at the series so far:


In this fifth edition of ‘Tool kit’ we get a firsthand look at some of the most valuable equipment used by Linda Colsh. An American artist recently returned to Maryland after more than 26 years abroad, Linda exhibits, teaches and lectures internationally. Her art has been published worldwide and is in private, corporate, and museum collections.

Item 1- thermal imager

Item 1 –  Thermal imager

Item 1 – Thermal imager

Description: Thermal imager

Brands: Panenka, Vistafax, Thermofax (reconditioned)

How do you use this item in your practice?

I use a thermal imager to create (burn) screens for screenprinting on fabric. My work is characterized by the unique and extensive screenprinting I do. My subjects are mainly elderly men and women. I use as many as 6 or 7 screens to print each individual.

Why do you use this specific item?

I can burn a number of screens in a short amount of time with the thermal imager. The traditional screenprinting process requires much more space, time and equipment. I print text, textures, and many other images using my thermal imager screens. I often layer prints from several screens to create a variety of final images—images that repeat, but with variation.

And where did you buy it from?

In Europe, I bought directly from Guenther Panenka

In the US, I buy from Welsh Products in CA

Item 2 - iMac computer with retina display

Item 2 – iMac computer with retina display

Item 2 – iMac computer with retina display

Description: iMac computer with Adobe Creative Cloud.
(I use the other parts of the Design Suite for making labels for my art quilts, PR documents, etc)

Brand: Apple, Adobe

Model: 27-inch retina display iMac

Year: 2015

How do you use this item in your practice?

The computer with along with my Epson inkjet printer and Brother laser printer, are indispensible for my process. I alter photos on the computer in Adobe Photoshop.
Then print them directly on fabric and to make the prints I use to burn screens with my thermal imager.

Why do you use this specific item?

I print my own photos directly on fabric (Epson Durabrite pigment inks—basic Epson all in one printer WF3540). Working on a large iMac retina display permits me to make adjustments and do the image alteration for the fabric images to be precisely as I want them to appear. I can work with several images open and visible at the same time thanks to the 27-inch screen in Adobe Photoshop.

Even more important to my process and the look of my work: I alter my photos significantly in Adobe Photoshop.
I make imagery that I print from a Brother laser (toner) printer. These toner prints are then used to burn my screens using my thermal imager. The large iMac screen with retina display makes fine detail work on my photos possible. I can open a number of images at one time and work simultaneously on them.

And where did you buy it from?

Apple  & Adobe.

Item 3 - Speed Queen Washer

Item 3 – Speed Queen Washer

Item 3 – Speed Queen Washer

Description: Old school washer: top load, 20-gal water stainless steel tub with center, flanged agitator

Brand: Speed Queen

Year: 2014

How do you use this item in your practice?

Rinsing dyed fabrics; washing art quilts (only if necessary!), washing fabrics before surface design

Why do you use this specific item?

I recently moved to the US after 26 years overseas. All the washers I have owned have been very basic Whirlpool top loaders. Until a few years ago, washers all operated by filling the tub with user-selectable hot, warm or cold water and agitating with a tall, flanged center agitator. New washers are almost all HE (High Efficiency) machines which use very small amounts of water, are not as user flexible for selecting water temperature, and do not have the tall center agitator. Honestly, they do not clean as well; and, for dyeing fabric, there is no way to do a full-water agitated wash or rinse.

When we arrived in the US and moved into our new home, I planned my wet studio to have as large a top-loading washer as I could find with the above requirements for water amount and temperature and agitation ability. After significant research, the only currently offered washer that meets the needs of surface designers is Speed Queen, a company that mainly makes washers for commercial laundromats. The large tub is stainless steel and Speed Queen has an excellent durability reputation. The tub fills with water and I can select the temperature of the wash, interrupting a cycle when need be by simply opening the lid. The rinse is cold, but I can run a second wash cycle at any temperature without soap. I read that some dyers reverse the hot and cold water input hoses to arrange a cold wash followed by a hot rinse.

And where did you buy it from?

Spicher’s Appliances, Hagerstown MD local family-owned firm. I bought from them because they stand behind what they sell; we bought many of our appliances from them because of their knowledge and service.

The washer can also be purchased at Speed Queen.

Item 4 - Bernina 930 sewing machine

Item 4 – Bernina 930 sewing machine

Item 4 – Bernina 930 sewing machine

Description: Bernina 930 sewing machine

Brand: Bernina

Model: 930

Year: –1985

How do you use this item in your practice?

I piece and quilt with my Bernina 930. This is an all-mechanical model, 30 years old. I have the model with the rear-tap foot pedal for needle down. I don’t use the knee-lift, but I do have the machine in a recessed table so I have a large flat surface for machine quilting. I recently bought a used second Bernina 930 to have as a back up.

Why do you use this specific item? It does everything I need. It almost never needs repair, just regular servicing. My sewing process is simple: I use mostly simple square and rectangle shapes, from very small to very large, pieced together to create my compositions. The 930 has a variety of presser feet but I mostly use the ¼” foot and, for quilting, the walking foot.

And where did you buy it from?

Salinas CA sewing machine store (now closed)

Here are two alternatives Ebay or Bernina.

Item 5: painting, printing, & mark-making tools (traditional and nontraditional)

Item 5: Painting, printing, & mark-making tools (traditional and nontraditional)

Nontraditional markmakers

Item 5 – Nontraditional markmakers

Item 5 – Painting, printing, & mark-making tools (traditional and nontraditional)

Description:  All sorts of brushes, pens, markers, sprayer bottle for water, brayers, barens….big variety of tools, including some nontraditional tools, for painting, printing, discharging and inking fabrics

Brand: Various

Model: Various

How do you use this item in your practice?

I paint directly on white or black fabric or discharge black fabric. Various brushes offer many possibilities. I use a water-filled sprayer to create effects such as washes, drips, and textures from the acrylic paints I use for direct painting on fabric. I experiment with all sorts of nontraditional items that can function as mark-makers or brushes (corn husks, sticks, brooms, ….)

Why do you use this specific item?

I am always looking for the unique mark, the biggest simplest dramatic brushstroke, special textures, interesting watermarks, …. I make a lot of simple wash backgrounds and layer other marks and prints on those. I do a lot of monoprinting from many kinds of surfaces. I work vertically sometimes because the results are different than working flat and horizontally. I like to watch paint drip and move through fabric to see what happens.

And where did you buy it from?

Everywhere (I love art supply stores, but I also find stuff in the streets and even things, like river stones, from the creeks near my home.)

Item 6 - Ironing table

Item 6 – Ironing table

Item 6 - Print table

Item 6 – Print table

Item 6 - Wet studio design wall

Item 6 – Wet studio design wall

Item 6 – Design walls and purpose-made tables

Description: Design walls and purpose-made tables

Brand: Custom (my own designs, helped along by researching the studios of other surface designers and artists on the internet)

Model: Padded print table (4x8foot), hard surface multipurpose surface design table, ironing table; gray-flannel design walls

Year: 2015

How do you use this item in your practice?

These big items are simple studio working table bases (raw 2x4s, simple braking casters, plywood…) made to sizes I specify. The tops of the various tables are purpose-designed for the processes I use.

The print tabletop is padded with several layers of needle-punched batting covered with sheeting. I prefer a clear-plastic (4 or 6 mil) covering over the sheeting.

The large multipurpose worktable has a hard, smooth, easy clean laminate Formica-type top.

Right now, I also have an old desk with a 24×36” rotary-cutting board on it, but am planning a 4x8foot gridded cutting table for larger work and squaring up and trimming quilted tops to ready for binding.

My ironing table is a wheeled base (same idea as my worktable bases) 22x60inch laminate top padded with 2 layers of silence cloth covered with cotton duck. I still use a standard ironing board in my sewing studio, but am thinking about duplicating my wet studio’s big rectangular rolling table for my sewing studio.

The design walls are 4x8foot (1/2 inch thick) Styrofoam insulation panels that I covered with medium gray cotton flannel. My handyman used 6 wood screws to fasten each panel to wall studs (we decided on screws because they are both sturdy and can be easily removed if the design walls ever need to be replaced. I chose Styrofoam because it takes pins well, although small pieces of fabric cling without pinning. I have design walls in both my wet studio and my sewing studio.

Why do you use this specific item?

Most of these studio items I had in my European studio, but in a much more jerry-rigged form. I designed the custom tables for my wet studio (large print table, multipurpose surface design table, and ironing table) when we moved to the US last year. Before, I had large surfaces, such as doors, on sawhorses and always dreamed of big, sturdy rolling tables with storage space underneath. With a new studio, I was able to realize many of my ideal, dream tools.

I used to design quilt tops on my “design floor” because I didn’t have a design wall. My joints are getting a bit too creaky for all that bending, crawling around and getting up again off the floor.

And where did you buy it from?

My local handyman worked with me to design and make my custom tables and design walls. Next up: we are planning an outdoor drying line to include an extra high line for large pieces of fabric.

Linda is an American artist who creates narrative textile art:

Her art has been published worldwide and is in private, corporate, and museum collections, including the Collection of John M. Walsh III and Germany’s Nordwolle Textile Museum. Recent career highlights include: selection to show in Fiber Philadelphia’s Inside/Outside the Box, Riga’s International Textile & Fibre Art Triennial, and Quilt (R)Evolution at Ohio’s Dairy Barn Arts Center. Her artwork has been featured in solo shows in France, Belgium, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Germany and the US. Among the awards her artwork has won are the European Quilt Triennial first prize, Nihon Vogue’s Quilts Japan Prize and top prize of the Fabric of Legacies Exhibition in Colorado. She has curated, juried, and judged exhibitions throughout the world, including Quilt National, Quilt Nihon, and Visions. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and previously served as Board member and Secretary of Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Her artists statement:

I explore humanist themes that focus on aspects of growing old and elderly issues: solitude, invisibility, identity, and concepts of what is beautiful (or not). My work references the concept of control: people struggling to stay in control when things get out of control. I choose imagery to express how people cope (or not) with the often-overwhelming world they navigate. I examine the idea that some people, maybe entire classes of people, are invisible. My work concerns the relationship between the individual and society, suggesting mutual responsibilities and sometimes irresponsibility. I am intrigued by the idea of edges and margins—specifically, people living on the edge or in the margins. A special concern for me currently is displacement: people reacting to change; reading cultures: one’s own or that where one finds oneself; inclusion or exclusion; resident, native, refugee, exile, immigrant…. Ideas of where one belongs, movement and dispersed cultures come into play.

For more information visit:

Here are her previous contributes to


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Sunday 26th, January 2020 / 10:24

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3 comments on “Linda Colsh: Tool kit”

  1. I too use a Bernina 930 purchased in 1985, it really does do everything needed with simplicity and reliability. I also have another more modern Bernina as my back up machine but can’t better the mechanical 1985 model. I enjoyed your interview, so good to hear how you work.


  2. I love the way you have found someone to make things to your own specification rather than make do with what’s commercially available. I’m looking forward to having studio space so that I don’t have to tidy things away and so that I can work bigger.

  3. Taufik says:

    I also have another more modern Bernina as my back up machine but can’t better the mechanical 1975 model. I enjoyed your interview, so good to hear how you work.

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