First Swim – Completed

Here it is – just done:

First Swim

It always amazes me how much finish work goes into one of these pieces – inner border, wide mitred outer border, backing, hidden binding, hanging sleeve. And a lot of it is hand sewing – I’m getting better at hand sewing, but it’s still awkward; I’m having trouble pulling the needle through with my thumb and first finger, especially if I’m trying to get through multiple layers of fabric!

Now to put the art quilting aside for a while and on to making pants.

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″.

This Week’s Work

Tuesday is fast approaching and I’m trying to get the last demonstration pieces sorted out for the art/landscape class.

Taking the idea of the “Portrait” piece – assembled from a range of cutouts of skin-tone printed fabrics, I decided to see what I can create based on this “At The Beach” photo:

At The Beach

One of the “secrets” of successful textile art (whether primarily appliqué or thread  painting or a combination of both) is simplicity. The point isn’t to reproduce the detail of the photo but to abstract/simplify it enough that you have a clear background and a subject. In this case, I’m removing dad and the other people and the land on the opposite side of the lake. I just want the nude child and his tentative steps toward to the water:

At The Beach II

So far, I’ve laid down layers of beach sand, set up the water’s edge, and covered the top of the background with fabric for the water. I’m place holding the child with a paper cutout on which I’ve marked the colour blocks – I think I can create him with bits of five fabrics representing the gradations of colour on his body.

The next step is to do a LOT of thread painting to bring out the texture of the sand and to represent the wind on the water. Then I’ll work on putting the child together – I’ve already added fusible web to the back of my flesh-toned fabrics so once I have set up the template pieces, I’ll cut them out and fuse them together.

Finished dimensions of “At The Beach” will be 12″ x 9″ with a hidden binding and no borders/framing.

Another sample I wanted to create was a “modern art” piece of the kind Melody Johnson does:

Banana Boulevard

Her pieces are often small (12″ x 12″), constructed from geometric shapes cut from either solids or hand painted fabric – pieced and appliquéd, usually with a hidden binding.

I just wanted to illustrate the technique – since I don’t use much in the way of solids I decided to dig out whatever prints/batiks I had in my “strips” box. This is what I came up with:

Dots

I still have to quilt the piece – I’m thinking I’ll quilt this starting with stitching in the ditch, then add more straight lines of stitching to fill the space; I’ll see once I’ve done the stitching along the seam lines.

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.