Purple Poppies

This is the current state of my wall art piece. The purple poppies are pale. I could remove this fused appliqué, print new poppies, darken them with permanent markers, or work with the current appliqué and see whether I can intensify the colour by thread painting. I don’t know which to do yet, which is why I have done nothing, so far. Stopped. Dead.

Immobilized, I spent two days this past week reading “Prediction: A Pandemic Story” by Michael Lewis. While about our current pandemic, he grounds his narrative (as he always does) in presenting the stories of people who were reading the tea leaves based on what they were able to deduce about what happened in the 1918 flu outbreak, the asian flu I experienced in 1957, the impact of SARS in 2003, the swine flu epidemic that didn’t quite happen in 2009, which predisposed them to know another uncontrollable pandemic was inevitable and the steps they began taking to mitigate the anticipated disaster.

I read the book in two days – on my phone (I prefer reading on my iPhone rather than holding a book in my hands). I had a headache from so much reading, but I couldn’t stop.

Having lived through the past 18 months we know about the US government ineptitude but the reality as seen through the experiences of his central “characters” is compelling. “If only…” I kept saying to myself; so many people could have avoided becoming seriously ill, the numbers of deaths could have been so much lower, the impact on the economy would have been so much smaller.

In some ways, it’s too soon to write the book – we have not come to any end point in the pandemic, and Lewis’ “resolution” at the end is weak – of necessity because the pandemic is NOT over. Who knows when the disease will finally die down globally because until it does the virus will continue spreading and mutating.

Here’s another review of the book from the Irish times. But I recommend you read the book – I found it gripping.

I have also begun an online course offered by The World Bank: The Hidden Side of Energy Access: Understanding Clean Cooking. Who knew that 4 billion (yup, billion) people lack access to modern clean cooking options that allow them to cook conveniently, reliably, safely, and affordably. The problem is using non-clean energy sources impacts health, gender, climate, and environment. The costs of pollution from cooking with wood and charcoal, in other words, using unclean cooking sources, are enormous.

Not something I’ve ever thought about. I pull some stuff from my refrigerator, prepare it, cook it, without giving it a second thought. So I decided I’d learn something useful from the course. Well, I am, but oh, is it frustrating. This has got to be the most poorly designed learning experience I’ve ever tried. A number of years ago I participated in a World Bank course on climate change which was very engaging. Interesting reading, video, discussion. I gave the course quite a bit of time and learned some useful things. Here, each module consists of a collection of powerpoint slides with a gazillion acronyms (which I can’t remember – even MECS – modern energy cooking services – is stretching my brain. Then there’s MTF – the multi-tier framework for cooking – a tool for assessing the affordability, safety, convenience and availability for cooking). The course is all about memorizing stuff. Even the “discussion” forums are about regurgitating the dense content from the slides. The navigation is completely unintuitive, I’m forever fighting to find my way from one part of a module to the next.

Fortunately, there is a report on which the course is based. Here is a link to Access To Modern Energy Cooking Services. In our current climate crisis it’s probably useful to know something about this particular global factor which in some ways affects us, too.

I may quickly work through the remaining three modules, foregoing the exercises, quizzes and “discussion” to get an idea of the arguments. But I think I will take time to read the report – I have little patience for watching powerpoint slides – I’m a reader – I make sense through reading.

There are just not enough hours in a day to keep up with everything – the political news, learn new stuff, be creative….

I have to decide what to do with the Purple Poppies and then just get on with it!

At Five Islands – Completed

I finally finished the wall art piece yesterday. It took some time to do the careful hand stitching – to tack down the mitred corners, and the hidden binding and hanging sleeve on the back of the piece. It’s now done.

At Five Islands – Completed

The piece turned out to be a bit smaller than I was originally thinking about it: 21.5″ x 18.5″ – but it’s still a good size. Now to find a place to hang it in my place until it goes into the Art Labs exhibition during the summer.

It’s hard to tell from the photo that the grunge blue framing strengthens the blues of the sky and water and brings out the greens of the bank in front of Ruby. If you click on the photo you’ll be able to see the thread painting more clearly.

So this project is now completed. On to something else. Yesterday I brought out the bag with the diamonds pieces and put it on my cutting board. I want to see if I can salvage that project in some way before scrapping it permanently and moving on to something else. I still need to make two more quilts and some other small pieces before July – there’s time, I’m not panicked and if I don’t make my goal, I do have a closet full of finished quilts I can bring back for the show. I’d just like to get more new projects in the works.

At Five Islands IV

I wasn’t going to work on the Five Islands piece today but after lunch I found myself at the cutting table tidying up and before I knew it, I was picking up the small scraps of fabric and adding fusible web to each piece, then cutting them into shapes, next fusing them in place. And of course the next step was to peel the plastic backing from the photo printed on fabric, adding fusible web, fussy cutting out Ruby and the bench and pressing them into place.

Appliqué Assembled

I moved on to selecting thread to use for the thread painting. While I was at it, I added a tiny bit of darkening to the sky with fabric pastels and pressing it to set the colours into the fabric. I might add a bit more grey in the upper right corner of the sky but not until I’ve done a bit of stitching, first.

Selecting Thread

The next step is always the challenging moment – up to this point I can always remove a bit of fabric and try something else, but once I start stitching, the fabric selection is set. In addition, I really only get one go at the stitching because after I’ve picked out the thread there are needle holes (subtle but nevertheless visible). So, it’s take a deep breath and gently hit the foot pedal.

I want to do a lot of thread painting on the mud flats – browns into the blue fabric, blues/greys into the browns to obscure the fabric edges (If I can). Actually, I’ll start with the sky and work my way down to the bottom of the piece, including quite a bit on the bench and the gravel it’s sitting on to blend the two together a bit more.

The last element will be a signature in the bottom left corner in a soft blue/grey so it can be seen but doesn’t jump out – that addition always scares me because I can end up ruining the piece after I’ve put in a lot of work. So far I’ve had no disasters signing a piece but you just never know when the embroidery machine won’t quite cooperate!

Tomorrow I have a “Quilting In The Hoop” class at Sew With Vision (a Pfaff/Husqvarna dealership nearby) for most of the day. However, my calendar is completely free Thursday….

Iris

Yesterday, I enlarged and printed both the iris and its leaves on fabric then applied some Steam-a-Seam2 Lite (fusible web) to the back so the iris could be fused to the watercolour panel background. Last evening I fussy cut the iris, the bud, and the leaves.

Complete except for hidden binding

This morning I fused the appliqué elements to the panel, then thread painted them, taking care to edge stitch everything so the appliqué won’t lift  over time.

Iris – Thread Painting

Because the appliqué elements are rather small they didn’t want a great deal of stitching but I did want to work in a bit of shading on the leaves and on the flower – not so much that I obscured the shading within the appliqué.

I added a signature along the right side, then applied three border sections – first a narrow inner binding of natural raw silk, then small dotted green piping, last a 3″ purple grunge outer border.

All that’s left to do is add the hidden binding (I do have a small amount of purple grunge left but I’ll see if I can pick up 1/2m more because it’s a very useful colour to have on hand). Once the bindings are attached, I’ll insert a muslin backing and hand stitch the bindings in place on the back.

I will leave the piece as it is – while I can still lift the border to reveal the inner border construction. That will allow me to show the gals how I align the narrow border, and piping as I explain how I do it.

Yet Another Watercolour Piece

So I can demonstrate on Wednesday how I finish a hanging, I had to produce another panel for class. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to construct – a colour shading from dark purple in one bottom corner to very light in the opposite one. That was easier said than done – I had no suitable precut light colour squares; instead, I had to go back to my stash and pull out both large and small cuts of fabric in very pale colours that would blend with the purple range I was building. After considerable hunting and cutting, I was finally able to assemble a complete panel.

Once laid out, I stitched the rows (first sewing the 8″ panels together, then cutting apart each row, starting at one end, sewing and pressing each seam open).

Rows Sewn Together (Back)

Next I stitched the columns, again by cutting apart and sewing each column one at a time beginning on one side.

Columns Stitched, Seams Pressed Open

I pressed the seams open as I went along – first finger pressing, then pressing with the iron.

Completed Panel

I’m now ready to add a fused appliqué to the pale side of the panel – that’s for tomorrow. Once the appliqué is fused and thread painted, I will be ready to demonstrate how to add the three finishing layers on Wednesday.

Modern Flowers

When I finished the first modern flower appliqué wall piece a couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to try a second hanging – this one laid out on the horizontal with a border but having some the flowers spill off the piece entirely. Also I didn’t just want to repeat the flowers in the first piece – this time I decided to use layers of offset circles, again with leaves flowing through the space.

Modern Flowers – II

Early in the week I took the black/white leftover pieces from the first hanging, created a centre panel, then added a white-on-white mitred border; next I backed the pieced fabric using medium weight woven fused interfacing to stabilize the panel so it will remain relatively flat through the thread painting process. That worked well on the previous piece – Floral Collage – I decided to try it again on this larger piece.

I had kept the pile of small fabric scraps I used on the first flower appliqué on my cutting table – I didn’t have to go looking for more. This morning I cut various size squares from the scraps, added fusible web to each square, then cut out circles from 1″-6″ in diameter. What I have at the moment is a tentative layout. I think I want to add stems and more leaves in a somewhat lighter green to complement the dark leaves I have already cut out.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’ll fuse the individual flower elements, cut out stems and more leaves, play with arrangement, next fuse the whole to the background. Then I’ll start thread painting. The temptation is to simple outline each circle using a narrow blanket stitch but I’m not sure I’ll do that – I may decide to use doubled embroidery thread and straight stitch several rows close to the edge – I’m sleeping on that.

Floral Collage – Finished

I also finished the floral collage this morning. I resumed thread painting when I got back from Toronto (visiting family) – adding stitching to the leaves, flower petals, and using an embroidery stitch I modified to provide a shaped satin stitch for the stamens. It’s not obvious, but I did quite a bit of stitching on this piece.

Floral Collage -m Finished

I wasn’t sure whether I liked the “raw edge” appliqué – I began by stitching the edge with a very narrow blanket stitch but didn’t like how it looked (it didn’t work with this fabric as well as it did with the printed bark cloth I used for Tropical Flowers); in the end I decided to do just a couple of rows of straight stitching (short stitch length, single embroidery thread) as close to the edge as I could get. Up close the raw edge seems to add to the delicacy of the  petals and leaves.

The lime green inner flange works well to tie the leaves and the greens in the bordering fabric together. While the batik is busy, the inner border separation keeps the flowers from being overwhelmed.

I’m pleased with the overall effect. In this piece I decided to have the flowers spill over into the border – this makes them stand out from the background.

The flowers look a bit like Cosmos, but the foliage is wrong. I’ve spent a bit of time trying to identify the blossoms but haven’t come up with anything definitive. The fabric designer may have just improvised.

The wall hanging is finished with a hidden binding. Final size: 14.5″ x 20.5″.

Found Art – Another Floral Collage

While I was working on “Flowers” I came across a fabric scrap from some zippered bags I’d made and thought the blossoms were interesting, sharply enough printed to allow some detailed thread painting, so I cut out what I could and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Found Art

The previous collage was contained within the framed area. I decided to try a piece that extended the flowers beyond the inner border.

For some reason, the large floral batik seems to complement the colours and after auditioning several pieces for the inner border I finally selected the lime which ties the piece and the wide outer border together. I’ll bind this work with a hidden binding.

So far I’ve stitched in stems to give the collage a bit of flow. Next I’ll do something with the leaves, then finally the flowers. Not sure where a signature will go – I’d intended it to be in the bottom right but I’ve brought the stems too far down leaving me w little short. There are a couple of options – I Have to keep thinking about it.

Flowers III

It’s done – completed this afternoon. Binding the piece was more difficult than I expected. First I bound it as I would a quilt – but do you think I could get the corners to look alike? There’s often a bit of variation when I do a quilt, but because the project is rather large nobody notices the corners aren’t “perfect”. But on a small piece like this – a rounded corner, or a too pointy one is like a poke in the eye!

Flowers – Finished

So I removed my first binding (fortunately I didn’t have to trim the edges of the piece to any extent), then did a second one by binding the sides, then the top and bottom edges, turning in the ends to form the mitres. Definitely much better, if not completely “perfect”!

The challenging bit on this piece was creating embroideries of small circles which would fill the flower centres mimicking the fabrics I’d used which had small circles. I’m reasonably happy with how that stitching work turned out.

I do want to attempt a second piece like this – but I’ve got two others ready to work on before I get there.

Finished size: 16″ x 21 1/4″

Next project: Black Rocks

A composite photo – three photos actually. the first is the top photo taken this past August on a grey day visit to Point Pleasant Park walking past the Black Rocks beach – you see the dark rocks which form one side of the beach. I was standing on the board walk which heads out to the end of the container pier – I’m cutting out the boardwalk and the birds standing there. The image also needs brightening.

Black Rocks

The second photo was taken the same day but standing at the beach itself looking across to Dartmouth – when I combine the two I’ll blend the colour of the water and bring the shade/tone of the rocks closer to the colour of the beach gravel.

The third photo – David Lacey –  was taken at Burntcoat on the Fundy shore end of October 2008. Another dull day. The image size and tones will work perfectly in the Blue Rocks setting! I may even include the young gull standing on the beach, positioned a wee bit further right.

Now to find fabrics with which to construct the scene!