Monday, April 30, 2012

Week 25 - Machine-stitch samples

For my machine-stitch design, the last thing to do was to determine which lines I would stitch from the pylon photo. Luckily at college there were some giant pieces of tracing paper and I just traced off the ones I wanted. It's amazing how curved the lines actually are even though they are straight pieces of metal! I guess that's the effect of perspective and camera distortion. As a result I feel I need to copy the same lines to get the perspective effect and to ensure that it looks 'real' and not too perfect.

The purple lines are the horizontal structures that carry the electricity wires at the top of the pylon, which I have simplified out. I am going to stitch them in a paler colour to make them recede. I have also omitted some of the electricity cables as they didn't work.
Then I started on some samples. First I stitched some random lines on dissolvable fleece in metallic threads and different coloured bobbin threads using free-machining. This is quite easy to do once you have got the thread started as long you make sure the stitches overlap. I was generally stitching in horizontal lines so I needed to make sure I looped back up the rows above otherwise it would all fall apart when the fabric was dissolved.
A quick rinse under hot water and ironed dry between 2 tea towels. You can see that not all my rows linked together enough.
Then I decided to see if I could reproduced a section of my design successfully. I masked off this area as it had most of the colours in and was also an interesting section of the lines to stitch because the centre is on the right at the bottom of the yellow part.
I cut a pale blue piece to cover the whole area as my backing piece. Then I layered on strips of the other colours, roughly cut to shape to mimic the colours I saw in the design. My sample last week taught me that the chiffons are bold and difficult to integrate so I tried to partially shape and fray them at this stage.

I also incorporated some small sections of fused Angelina fibre behind the top layer. I wanted to put some of the machine-lace I made above in on the yellow section, top right, to mimic the blue spotty bits in the design but was unsure how I would fray the fabric below so in the end I left it out.
Next I cut a piece of Soluvlies to size and traced off the lines for this section of the design. The Soluvlies is fairly transparent and I had gone over my tracing with a thick felt-tip so this was quite easy. I traced the lines with pencil, however, as I didn't want any ink to bleed onto my finished sample when I dissolved the fleece.

I pinned it down and stitched the lines. I started with the purple lines as they are supposed to be the most distant. It didn't sew as well as I hoped, initally, but got a lot better as I added more rows. I think in my final piece I may have to put more layers of pale organza on the back to make it thicker.
I did the vertical lines first and then the horizontal ones. By the time I got to the latter I had realised that it looked a lot better if I could start with a narrow stitch width and then get gradually bigger.

Here it is after washing the dissolvable fabric away completely. I am really pleased with the richness and variations in colour.

The stitching the centre didn't work very well so I will have to try again on this. The wide diagonal lines would look too messy if I tried to satin stitch them so my intention is to bond some strips of dark blue fabric on for them and just stitch up the edges.
Here it is after cutting and fraying the relevant areas. The really sparkly areas have Angelina behind so that worked well. I am very pleased with the result and have learnt a lot from making this sample.

I have also been progressing my hand-stitch. My goal this week was to finish the Dandelion but I have also managed to do the stem and leaves of the Goosegrass too.

The Dandelion stalks took forever and are not that neat - satin-stitch needs a lot of skill and patience.

I enjoyed doing the octagonal trellis blackwork pattern on the flower head but wonder if it is too much now that it is complete. Compared to my design the overall effect is darker and I may have lost something in the overall composition as a result. I'm not changing it though!

The Goosegrass was relatively quick and easy by comparison. The stem is multiple rows of Stem stitch and the leaves are just 3 rows of Straight stitch, all sewn with 3 strands of embroidery floss.

Finally, I went to an event at Brockenhurst Village Hall in the New Forest yesterday and saw this hanging (below) that the local quilters had made about the village!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week 24 - Reverse applique and machine-stitch design

Having got my hand-stitch design finalised, I turned my attention to my final machine-stitch piece this week. I wanted to use the pylon design that I have included in both my line design and shape design books. My concept is that looking up through the middle of the pylon is like looking through a stained glass window of the sky. I want to make the whole piece in sheer fabrics that give subtle variations in colour as they are layered and cut through plus I could incorporate some pieces of machine-lace created by free-machining on dissolvable fabric.

My tutor approved the concept and gave me some things to think about, such as if it is a window hanging, identify the window it will hang in and make it to the right size!
I had the pylon image so I needed to create the sky design. I experimented with Brusho on wet tracing paper - not a success - before going back to lining paper.

I dampened it all over and then brushed on blues, yellows, orange and red. I had a couple of goes at college but I didn't think they were quite right so I came home a researched dramatic sky images on the internet. The one top right on the left hand piece of paper was the one I chose for inspiration.
I had another go and this is the result. It is approx 80cm square so I had to join the lining paper.

I now have the tricky job of marking on the pylon lines and with it the next lot of decisions - do I faithfully reproduce the lines of varying thicknesses or do I simply represent them? Do I simplify it by missing out some of the lines? Do I want to put in the finer wires and other intricate details for interest? Next week's blog will show how I resolve all these points.
We also learnt a new technique at college called reverse applique. Normally you layer up various fabrics, the grottier and unpromising the better, machine stitch shapes or patterns through all layers and then using small sharp scissors cut through the layers, close to your stitch lines, to reveal different and unexpected colours in your shapes.

As this technique seemed close to what I wanted to do with my pylon piece I chose to give it a go with some of the sheer fabrics I have bought to test it out and use it as one of my samples.

There are 3 blue 20cm squares in this stack plus some other pieces cut into random shapes and layered haphazardly, including a piece of gold lace. I sewed geometric lines using a medium satin stitch. Above shows the front and right the back.

Then I started cutting away layers from the front or back or both. At first I just cut whole areas away around the edge. However, as I got into the middle this was harder to do so I started cutting frayed holes, sometimes cutting colours below away completely.
This is the result photographed against a piece of white fabric rather than on the window, although I like the effect against the window too.

It is quite painterly so I should be able to get a good sky effect using this technique. I like the dark blue thread I used instead of black.

Things to consider are:

  • I need to decide whether I want to treat the sky as a whole image or create the impression of sky almost shape by shape
  • The chiffons (orange and dark blue for example) are bolder than the other types of sheer so I need to use them carefully
  • I had planned to make the whole piece with dissolvable fabric on the top to add stability and also allow me to draw on the pylon stitch lines. However, dissolvable fabric can leave a residue after you have washed it off which could ruin the lovely frayed edges so I will have to sample that too. I also did not experience any difficulty with machining the sheers on this sample.
I have not progressed any of my hand-stitch piece this week - I have been doing some of the written research that we have to present along-side both final pieces (research on 3 british designer-makers plus narrative on our design and sampling processes/results, final costings, health and safety considerations and final analysis on completion).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 23/Easter Break - Progressing hand-stitch piece

Bought blue linen
These last 2 weeks have been all about trying to get going on my final hand-stitch piece. Having completed the design a couple of weeks ago it was time to make some decisions about what fabric I wanted to use for the blue panel on the background. A friend at college gave me some duck-egg blue linen which I initially thought would be perfect, as it was like the colour I had in mind all the time. However I had also painted a strip of linen that was more similar to my artwork design - so how to choose?

I laid all the cut pieces out with some of the embroidery threads on both backgrounds and took a photo. When I compared them side-by-side I felt that the colour of the painted piece 'lifted' the composition more. The bought linen was also quick thick and I was concerned whether the edge would show through the leaves and stems on top too much.
Painted blue linen 

I sewed a running stitch line around the edge first to indicate the intended finished size (A3) and then bonded the blue strip on in position with Bondaweb. The ends extend beyond the running stitch line and I oversewed them with a small zig-zag to stop them fraying as I was completing the whole piece. However, I left the vertical edges un-sewed, relying on the Bondaweb to stop it fraying.

Next I traced off the main elements of the design by sticking my artwork on the window and the background on top with masking tape and pencilling in the lines.

I then covered the edges of the white linen with masking tape to stop them fraying and backed the whole piece with a layer of white cotton. This supports the looser weave linen and makes the white area whiter. It is also handy for starting off and finishing threads as you can 'hide' them between the layers.

Finally I bonded on the trees, purple flowers and big leaves to start with before mounting it onto the frame. You can buy wooden frames that are made up of pairs of sticks with interlocking ends in a variety of sizes, all interchangeable. It is a very good product and so far has worked well. I stretched the fabric, folded the ends under and attached it with drawing pins. It was easier than I thought it was going to be and I haven't had one incident of the thread getting caught round a drawing pin yet!
At last I was ready to start sewing. I have discovered that it takes a long time do sew something as precise as this. Before every element I have to decide which stitch  and how many strands of floss I will use. I have done more samples where necessary to check out the technique or compare different effects.
I have researched different repetitive blackwork patterns for the flower heads.
I am going with Octagonal Trellis for the Dandelion head.
I have developed a vertical version of the Dark Fern Pattern for my Knapweed heads and a patterns of squares, sewn on the diagonal, for the Plantain heads. Each diamond has a tiny French Knot in the centre. After sampling I have decided that the patterns look best sewn in a single strand of embroidery floss.

This is as far as I have got. The Shepherd's Purse on the left is complete. The stems are Stem Stitch, the veins on the leaves are Backstitch. The patterns on the seeds are Straight Stitch and French Knots. The flowers are Bullion Knots outlined in Backstitch.

The Knapweed is complete apart from the pink tufts of petals (see samples above). The stems are in a thicker Stem Stitch and the leaf veins are Backstitch.

The Plantain is complete apart from the halo of white flowers (see samples above). The stems are in Stem Stitch and the leaf veins in Running Stitch.

The Dandelion leaves are finished - next the stems. The elements start getting progressively harder from now on as there is less reliance on filling in bonded shapes and more embroidery of whole plants.

So far I reckon I have spent 35 hours on it, not including the design. I am enjoying the challenge of it but it is physically tiring, on the eyes and the shoulders especially.