First Swim

I did a bit of thread painting on the background of this piece yesterday during the Art Quilt Class – I wanted to demonstrate how I double up the rayon thread and use both in a single needle, how I stitch the raw edges using a very narrow blanket stitch, how I freely sew flow lines in the background.

First Swim

Today, I finished up the background by adding a bit more dark fabric to the water and doing quite a lot of stitching for detail (the thread actually becomes lighter the farther from the foreground it is). As well I did some dense stitching along the water edge to suggest foam. I left the darker edge of wet sand clear of stitching because that sand is always packed densely while it’s still wet. The stitching in the sand is intentionally more random to hint at the irregular detail from many footprints.

For the moment Charlie is still a piece of paper. Tomorrow I’m going to work on creating him from 4-6 layers of flesh-toned fabrics from very l light on his right shoulder to very dark at his bum and the backs of his lower legs.

I added my signature while I was working at the machine rather than struggle to add it later. I do the embroidery using the metal hoop which allows me to just place the art piece flat and hold it in place with magnets instead of trying to force it into a double pieced hoop – much easier to position the fabric.

I’m still not sure whether I’ll border this piece or not or whether I’ll use a hidden binding – I’ll see how I feel when the child is assembled and added. Finished dimensions will be approximately 12″ x 10″.

First Swim with Child

OK, so I didn’t wait until tomorrow – I pieced the child this evening. Didn’t turn out badly at all. Now to edge stitch all the pieces – slowly and carefully.

Dots – Completed

Dots – Completed

Having given the piece a name, I realized the majority of the fabrics I used to construct the piece had dots in them! So to take the idea further, I appliquéd more dots of various sizes to add further detail to the piece, and stitched around the outside edge with rayon embroidery thread using a narrow blanket stitch. Although difficult to see, the 1/4″ binding is also a dotted fabric. Finished size: 12.5″ x 17″.

Portrait

Another demonstration: a pieced portrait.

I started with an image of a face, printed it in black and white, outlined the colour boundaries, pulled all the beige tone fabrics from the stash I could find (large pieces and scraps), created templates for the large areas using baking parchment paper, cut them out, then created templates for the smaller areas, and cut those out.

What I didn’t do here, but should have, was to apply fusible web to the fabric before cutting it – instead, I’ll use a glue stick to adhere the cut out pieces to the background.

I was mainly playing around to see if what I ended up with resembled a face in any way and it does. Once I’ve glued the pieces down, I’ll probably do a bit of edge stitching to hold the thing together.

Peony

With the Peony, I’m playing around with Danny Amazonas’ fused appliqué technique – a collage of small pieces of fabric fused on top of one another to create depth and detail for both the background and the main subject.

I began by preparing 20″ x 26″ pieces of muslin and batting and sewing them together along the 9″ x 12″ dimensions in the center of the quilt – this marked my outside boundary. Then I pencilled in the approximate location for the focal element – the peony. That gives me an inner boundary for the background appliqué collage.

Backing Prepared

One of the things I’ve learned from looking carefully at Amazonas’ textile art is the background is livelier when there’s visible small pattern elements in the fabrics. The overall effect is a shaded dark support for the focus element which sets up the contrast for the finished art work.

I cut pieces from the fabrics I’d collected and auditioned them to see how I might establish a colour flow within the background.

Auditioning Fabrics For The Background

I applied “wonder-under,” a paperbacked fusible web to my complementary and contrasting pieces of background fabric. Then I cut small pieces from each and arranged them filling the space from outer to inner boundary.

Background Fused In Place

At this point, the background looks lighter in overall tone than it will once the light fabrics are added in the center to create the very pale pink flower. If the background still seems too light when the peony is added, I will apply a wash using acrylic paint to tone down the brighter colours.

As far as I can tell, Amazonas doesn’t sew on top of his constructions. My plan is to do the same in this demonstration piece. However, when it’s assembled I may feel it wants more detail and add some thread painting. I’ll have to see how it turns out.

That’s it for today.

Rudebeckia II

I’ve been working away at the Rudebeckia piece all this week. Tons of decisions to make, this fabric or that, cut using a traced template or free cut, where to position the elements, how much detail to use in the background, what colour thread…. Every decision is a final one as well – there isn’t much that can be undone as the work grows. It’s how it is.

Here I’ve partially stitched “leaves” in the background (I’ll finish that stitching when I’ve done the thread painting on the flowers). The central flower is all assembled and fused in place as are the other two flowers.

Applique Fused, Partially Stitched

And then the thread painting began. I started in the middle of the main flower and worked my way out from dark thread to the light. I worked at my machine for a couple of hours each day until I finished the detail stitching this afternoon.

Here is the back of finished piece – you can see how much stitching it required to complete the work.

Thread Painting From Back

Final decision – the piece is a work of art, it needs a signature and date. I set up an embroidery on my computer, transferred it to my embroidery machine and used my metal hoop (which uses magnets to hold the fabric in place). I carefully measured where I wanted my signature to go, then holding my breath hit the embroider button. It came out fine.

This is the finished piece (I still have to hand stitch the invisible binding in place which I’ll do this evening). Final dimensions: 9″ x 12″ – it’s a small piece but a lot of work.

Rudebeckia Completed

That’s one piece completed and three more to go before June 6.

Rudebeckia

Rudebeckia

I’ve started this appliqué piece from a photo of a large textile art piece by Kate Themel. Mine is going to be small – finished size ~ 9″ 12″. I’m doing it as one of several examples of textile art for a class I’m teaching in June. I decided to use this image because it’s obvious where the colour demarkations are – they are often hard to see when you’re not used to looking at photos for that detail. To emphasize the colour layers I often print my photos (or enlarged photo elements) in black and white so I can distinguish contrasting tones. I will do that in another of the examples to illustrate how that is done.

Here, I began by tracing the main image areas thinking about the fabric layers I’d need. Then I pulled lots of scraps from my stash in the range of colours I wanted to use, making sure I had lots of contrast.

Rudebeckia 1

Next I set up my working background – a piece of muslin 20″ x 26″ (much larger than the finished art piece just in case I might want to add borders, binding…) backed with Warm ‘n Natural batting. I marked both the horizontal and vertical centres, then marked the dimensions for my finished piece, and stitched along those lines. Although the piece has to built from the background up, I focused on the main flower to begin with, cutting out the petals and the darkest accent from templates I created from the photo.

Rudebeckia 2

Next I added a dark background, fused and stitched it in place. I’ve done some dark leaf cutouts which will be fused in position later. At the moment I’m building up the layers of each petal of the main flower – four to go (I’ve kept each template pinned to the fabric so I know where the petals go later when it’s time to fuse the flower in place). I’ve also chosen fabrics for two background flowers which will be darker, less prominent, than the central one.

Before I can add the main flower, however, I have to thread paint the dark background to suggest foliage, then add the background flowers and thread paint them, add leaves and thread paint them, and finally the main black-eyed susan.

The next small example will be based on Peony by Danny Amazonas:

Peony

I’ve chosen this example to illustrate his fused appliqué without thread painting. Again, Amazonas’ piece is quite large, mine will end up a similar size to Rudebeckia – 9″ x 12″, so I won’t be able to include quite as much detail as Amazonas but I will be able to show the building up of the image from background to central focal point.

The example after that will be based on a photo I took a number of years ago:

Fence

This piece will illustrate how to create the effect of light by setting up extreme contrasts – the fence rails will be done using off-white fabric, heavily stitched with both blending and contrasting  thread to suggest the shadows. Also I will construct the background at the top of the image using pale fabrics but cover  it with one or more layers of pale grey silk organza to suggest the fog and the foreground will require a LOT of thread painting over carefully fussy-cut layers of fabric.

Watching the World

My fourth example may well be based on this photo (with boys positioned to the right rather than the left) to illustrate incorporating photo elements printed on fabric into a textile art piece.

I’ve got my work cut out for me for the next month!

Experimenting…

Yesterday I worked on the water of the bay. I wanted to suggest the white caps but not to cover the entire surface. I played around with stitches on my sewing machine – several provided possibilities. My machine allows me to modify and create actual stitches so that’s what I did. I tried a couple; in the end I modified the “grass” stitch – I made it narrower and removed several stitches from the single repeat to give me a short burst.

White Caps

Then I used Neocolori Wax Pastels to hint at the roughness of the sea.

Wind Waiting: Current State

It’s all about experimenting with the stitching before actually attempting it on the piece itself. I have just one chance at “getting it right”. Once I start stitching I have to continue, can’t take it out because the needle marks will show, so I try out different threads and stitch settings before actually working on the piece.

Experimenting

Looks a mess, but in my head I can see the effect of each experiment. Underneath are my tests for the water; on top I’m working on the grassy foreground – I need two effects: first, I need to imply the texture and height of the grasses and small shrubs on the bank – that will take the form of rows of horizontal stitching using three or four different variegated threads; second, I want to create a rough edge against the water – the pilots aren’t on the edge of the sandy beach (the landing zone below), they’re at the edge of the bank 89-100 ft. above the water (the launch zone). The edge of the bank, therefore, should show some grasses and twigs against the sea.

Last night I spent a couple of hours modifying some built-in stitches that will hint at that texture. (Once the pilots are constructed and appliquéd in place I will add grasses to cover their shoes because the vegetation at the edge of the bank wasn’t mowed.

So now I have to take a deep breath and start in. This is it!