Sunday, September 3, 2017

Backstitch patterns 2.1

Now in my course we are moving on to focus on the versatility of backstitch. Sue Stone, the tutor, says she likes backstitch as it gives a raised line unlike running stitch. The challenge was to divide each square into smaller areas and make patterns with backstitch.


In the first square we were advised to make a simple design to get the feel for the backstitch. I marked out the 4x4 grid and backstitched that first in a stone embroidery floss (3 strands). Then I filled them in with circles in stone, grey and white floss for a neutral textural effect. It was surprisingly hard to sew neat circles!

Next I had sketched out this pattern in my book. I decided to stitch it all in black floss, again 3 strands. Although the design was clear in my book, it wasn't that clear on the fabric so I decided to emphasise it by colouring in the shapes I wanted to portray with orange Inktense pencil. The background furnishing fabric I am using took the colour surprisingly well and I didn't have to add any water to make an even wash.

For the third square I looked back at my City and Guilds pattern book again and tried sewing a less precise grid in 2 strands of grey floss on the diagonal. To fill in I mixed several colours of floss in the needle and backstitched some 'roses'. These weren't that effective even though I tried different ways of stitching them.

For the final square I found a geometric design on the internet and practiced marking it out in my notebook first. To make it work I had to mark the diagonals and centre lines even though none of these would be stitched. When it came to marking it on the fabric I used an air-ereasable pen to mark these. I used the full 6 strands of floss and chose lighter colours in the centre and darker at the edge to emphasise the design. It was hard to get the design precise so that the star in the centre looked even so I am very pleased with my efforts. I think this could be really interesting over a larger piece, although it would be very time consuming to make.

Layering stitches 1.4

I was looking forward to this challenge -using running stitch in different directions and different threads to create 6 different effects.


In the first square I tried horizontal and vertical stitches in a space dyed thread. The 3cm square wasn't really big enough to show off the colours in the thread.

In the next square I stitched the same thread in a rainbowshaped pattern and then overlayed it with straight lines radiating out from the bottom centre in aqua and pink dressmaking cotton in the same needle.

I used dressmaking cotton mixed in the needle again for the third square top right. This time it was 2 strands each of pink and black. I stitched even rows vertically and then stitched over them horizontally, catching them in groups of 3, with 2 strands of blue dressmaking cotton. I added the rows in between to add to the decorative effect.

For the next square bottom left, I again used a space dyed thread, stitching each direction on an angle to cross over in places. Again due to the small size of square I don't thi k the effect is very clear.

The final 2 squares combined thick and thin threads at different angles. The one bottom right is more successful as the combination of pink and blue in the same needle over the white gives an interesting colour effect.

I can see that a large area covered in different directions of layered running stitch would be very interesting and an exciting background perhaps. The scale of these samples just didn't bring that out. One to come back to.

New Directions for Running Stitch 1.3

This module the challenge was to make a cohesive design over a 9 square grid using 3 different colours of thread and only running stitch but in different directions.

I sketched out an idea and then began to stitch it. We were advised to leave a 5mm gap between each square to make the design clearer. Unfortunately my bottle and glass abstract design was not working for me. I didn't like the gaps between the squares - they seemed really artificial. I found that I was avoiding my needlework so I decided to give up on it.

I sketched out another grid of squares and worked up a new design based on another sketch in my notebook. This was based on a design I had previously used in my City and Guilds course and was more abstract. I chose cream, grey-purple and gold threads. The main challenge was in which direction to make the running stitches for the best effect. You can see that in the top left box, which was the first I stitched, that I made the horizontal part in slanting stitches but I wasn't happy with it. I realised that I could angle the gaps between the stitches to imply perspective and felt happier with the effect. Therefore I carried on this way for the remaining squares. I realised that if I rotated the colours so that the colour in the horizontal bar was repeated in the vertical on the row below it would add to the 3D effect.

Having struggled with this challenge at the start I was pleased with the end result on this second sample and enjoyed making it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mixing in the needle 1.2


The next stitch challenge in my new course is focussed on using 2 threads in the needle to create different effects. We are asked to keep to running stitch only but can again vary stitch length and spacing.

As last time we were asked to stitch in a 4 block grid. In the top left square I used black and white dress making polycotton. I used 3 strands of each colour in the needle. I like the broken effect. It would be effective where one of the colours was similar to the background.

In the square top right we were asked to choose complementary colours. I started by using 3 strands of each from stranded cotton but I found that the colours didn't mix as well as in the first square. When I had to rethread my needle I tried separating out all the strands and recombining before threading up. This gave a much better result. I also played with leaving the tails on the front at the start of each row. Usually this would feel too messy for my liking but I think the result is interesting.

The third square, bottom left, used a boucle type cotton in blue with fine pink silk to show 2 different weights. This was really hard to sew even though I swapped to my fattest sharp. Not an enjoyable bit of sewing!

Finally I added some shiny pink rayon to the ecru wool I used in my last sample. It probably looks a bit like toothpaste! It is not quite as effective as just the wool in my last challenge.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Running stitch variations 1.1

I've signed up for a new course - Exploring Texture and Pattern. It is an online course created by Sue Stone and sons. It is based around 15 stitch challenges, which appealed to me to provide some structure to get back into active practice.

This is my first sample. The challenge was to use only running stitch, varying stitch length, spacing and type of thread to make each square different.

In the top left I used stone stranded cotton and I think it would be interesting to print onto it as I imagine the print would be stronger on the stitches than the background so would break up nicely.

In top right I used a hairy thread and realised that I had to use a longer stitch length to show this quality in the thread.

Bottom left is a space dyed rayon. Bottom right is an ecru wool. I like this square the most and I can imagine using a short stitch like this to show light on water or spots of colour for flowers in a meadow.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tea-flora tales


This is my contribution to Cas Holmes' collective art piece to raise awareness for the Plantlife charity. Anyone can make a small panel and send it to Cas for inclusion in the artwork.

The 'rules' are explained on Cas' blog but in summary Cas wants pieces that incorporate paper with text, floral fabric and a tea-bag or wrapper. I don't drink tea so Cas extended this to 'beverage of your choice' on our course last week, hence my use of my water bottle label. I hope she approves!

My reason for creating this piece is to highlight the fact that water is vital for all plants to grow and although we have had more than our fair share of rain this winter in Britain, we all have to conserve and make efficient use of water - we can't leave it up to others.

I have used some tea-stained calico as the backing and then added a patch with an umbrella from my daughters' cot quilt. This dictated the colour scheme for the rest of the piece and the black and white edging to the umbrella patch also drove me to use more graphic fabrics. I used scraps of dressmaking fabric and lace and overlaid them with some glitter spot tulle to suggest rain. There is a strip of sari silk down the left. I stitched on the water bottle label and then added further hand-stitching for the rain. Finally I found the words 'Water Fairies' in a child's book and added my own text above. The background for this text was too yellow, so I dulled it down with Inktense pencils before sewing the paper on.


Cas Holmes course

West Dean College
Last weekend a friend and I attended a course at West Dean College near Chichester. The tutor on the course was Cas Holmes, author of The Found Object in Textile Art, which readers will know is a favourite of mine.

The course ran over 3 days and was pretty intense, leaving us all exhausted at the end of each day. The college, its gardens and workshop facilities were excellent and I would recommend anyone to try a course there.
Cas demonstrating





We started by exploring textures in donated textiles. A theme of the weekend was the giving of pieces of fabric to each other, either willingly or randomly, to see what we could make of them.

I discovered that very interesting and subtle designs could be achieved by making rubbings of fabric with  fabric pastels. See example bottom right using white pastel on previously dyed fabric that was donated to me.

I also had success applying the pastels to lace and then ironing off the image onto plain fabric, even though these were not transfer crayons. On paper you can do the same with wax crayons.
Next we explored printing from fabric. I have several pieces of curtain fabric, that were given to me by a local shop, with a raised texture so I experimented with those.

You can either apply acrylic paint direct to the fabric and print it or brush paint onto a sheet of thick plastic first and press the fabric on to pick up the paint and then print.

The advantage of using the plastic is that a monoprint is created on the plastic which can also be printed. E.g. bottom left is the print from the fabric far left and the piece of fabric mid left above it shows the mono print.
Then we moved on to creating texture in fabric ourselves to print from. These were some examples that Cas had made previously. The joy of this is that you can use up any old fabric that you wouldn't know what to do with and it becomes useful.
I used a piece of old denim as a foundation and attached an off cut of fabric that had tucks sewn in and a piece with a lace edge. I sewed a fold in the fabric for extra texture.
We were also encouraged to sew pieces on the back to give a 2 sided printing block.
Then to print from it using acrylic paint, the same way as above using paint on a plastic sheet. I also used pastels to make rubbings of my block. A couple of these pieces have been stained with blue Brusho.

I also added extra detail by adding some free-machining.
As before, taking a mono print from the paint left behind on the plastic was equally fruitful. These print were on 'tea-bag' paper, which is very thin.

We were then encouraged to start assembling pieces of fabric together to a theme. I had taken along this image from the New Scientist magazine because I liked the colour combinations.
After much changing of mind this is what I assembled and then stitched. Another theme of this weekend for me was to be resourceful - we couldn't take all our threads, fabrics and trimmings to the course so we had to make the most of what we had. I wanted something more muted for the background so turned some fabric over and used the back.

We also tried out Cas' technique for using wallpaper paste to temporarily secure layers of fabric and paper together so that they can be stitched, printed on or otherwise worked into. I have tried this before - see my previous blog.


Another joy from this course was to see all the waste paint from my work mopped up with this drop cloth, which I also used to test out a few prints first. It could be cut up and incorporated in a future piece of work and this is one of the ways in which Cas works, she explained to us - keeping a thread from once piece of work to the next to spark new ideas in the future.

On the last day I gave up my blue/brown theme and moved on. I had taken with me some items of clothing from my daughters and so I focussed on making a piece with these. It would not have dried in time if I had pasted it so at the moment it is still pinned.

On the course I was most taken with the techniques to be able to create your own prints using stitched print blocks. finding uses for previously un-useful fabrics and discovering fabric pastel crayons.