I finally started stitching this piece yesterday. I filled in the sky and worked on the mud flat with blues/greys and brown/rusts (to really see what I’ve done, click on the image).
Today I worked on the land in the distance (still have the headland to work on). Then started in on the vegetation on the bank. First I had to modify some elaborate floral stitches on my machine to get the feel of the taller plants on the edge, next the long dried grass; after that the shorter dried grass next to the gravel (which I haven’t done anything to yet).
I’ve begun stitching the dark lines on the sun-bleached bench; I still have more to do there – just not sure which elements to try bringing out.
The gravel will present a bit of a challenge – I’ll probably use wandering straight stitching with a mixture of lighter and darker thread.
The most difficult element will be Ruby herself – I want to bring in the construction elements of her jacket – cuffs, the yoke and pockets, the collar. I think I’m just going to outline her hair, her face, and her hand, and leave the fine facial detail alone!
Maybe a bit more later this afternoon; if not, I’ll work on the piece again tomorrow.
What’s sticking out in the photo is my attempt to bring a bit of grey cloud to the upper right corner of the piece. I’m seriously thinking about taking out the grey thread and replacing it with the paler blue I used for the rest of the sky. The darker stitching seems a distraction. Retracing the stitching will have to be done v-e-r-y slowly so I can reuse the needle holes from the stitching I’ve taken out! Fingers crossed that it’s doable.
Grey Thread Removed From Sky
I did it – took out the grey stitching in the sky. Looks better. Check on the closeup (click on the image) and you’ll see the needle holes I now have to use as I stitch with lighter blue thread!
In case you harbour any illusions that I work in a tidy way – I wish to share the chaos on my cutting table!
Creating a textile wall art piece is an exercise in mess! It may start out looking orderly, but it quickly degenerates into piles of tiny scraps of fabric scattered everywhere; some so small I need fine tweezers to pick them up and place them.
Step 1 is to guesstimate the size of the piece of fabric (leaving enough for me to trim my way to the shape I intend), then Step 2 is adding fusible web to the back. I use a silicon sheet when pressing to be sure I’m not sticking fusible web to my ironing board.
Step 3 – I cut out whatever small shape I need and carefully place it on the background (which is already fused to the muslin base). Sometimes to get a shape, I cut that element from the paper printout of the scene – that’s what I’ve done with Ruby – I’m using my paper cutout to help me position all the other elements. Ultimately, I’m going to print the Ruby enlargement (~115%) on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of prepared fabric (for her to fit the size of this piece I’ve had to crop and enlarge various parts of the photo to get the overall magnification right).
After establishing a position for my horizon, I work from distant background to foreground – carefully layering the bits of fabric and pressing the cutouts into place, waiting for them to cool before adding the next bit. At this point, I’m also trying to visualize where I’ll be thread-painting to build texture and detail to the scene – in the case of the mud flat at low tide, the brown bits of fabric will be stitched with light blue thread, the water will be stitched with brown thread to blur the boundaries of water and mud.
I just thought you’d find the mess I work with interesting. I use both course and fine permanent markers to adjust colour, sometimes I’m even able to cut bits from previous projects printed on fabric sheets to provide a bit of added detail. I was looking at the rocky beach from a fabric print-out of Black Rock Beach but the pebbles are too large to be useful for the gravel path in front of the bench at Five Islands Park. I will use a bit of Stonehenge fabric and thread-paint it to get the effect I want.
Now to do more on this project….
I’ve just spent the morning working on the distant background – the NS mainland in the far distance, the islands closer to the Parrsboro shore and the nearby headland. Then I started on the mud flats – it’s fiddly and the bits of fabric may be too large but I won’t know that until I get the foreground developed. I can always remove some of the bits of brown and fill in with thread-painting.
Shaping & Fusing Elements
Looking at the photo, Ruby might be just a bit too close to the centre – I may want to position her a smidgen closer to the right edge. But now I’ve got the layout positioned so that her head is above the headland. I also like how the sky has turned out – it’s a piece of fabric I purchased quite a while ago. I will add in some more grey clouds on the right, probably using some organza, but this will thread-paint nicely.
Gotta go do other things now. Back at this tomorrow.
Immediately after giving up on the Diamonds Quilt, I turned to a new wall art project: At Five Islands.
I’ve written about my visit to the Five Islands Park this past July. While at the park, I managed to capture a photo of my friend Ruby who had been on the trip with me:
At Five Islands
I knew I would turn the photo into a piece of fibre art. I started by enlarging the photo so I could make the panel 15″ x 12″ and have Ruby still be prominent. Next I dug out a bunch of fabrics and scraps from the stash trying to match colour.
At Five Islands – Picking Fabrics
Then I sketched in some features (using a Friction pen which will disappear when I fuse fabric elements in place).
At Five Islands – Sketching The Scene
This morning I started cutting small bits of fabric to “paint” the scene:
At Five Islands – Preliminary Layout
Nothing is fused in place yet. I’m still trying to get the feel of the layout. I can see I need to squash the vertical aspect quite a bit because I want Ruby’s head to be well above the landscape behind her.
The challenge with this piece is getting the feel of the wet mud flat of the Bay of Fundy at low tide. Yesterday I painted a piece of fabric using an acrylic wash but the colour is much too bright for the scene. I need something quite a bit darker; I also need to cut away much more.
St. Margaret’s Bay
I have been studying a couple of my watercolour paintings of the ocean – I’ve spent hours in front of them trying to understand how to set up the mud flat. Because the water reflects the sky it has to be the same colour – it’s the subtle shadowing of the “land” elements that make us read “water”. With watercolour, the water is painted first with the darker land elements added after the water has dried. I need to do the same with my piece – lay down the water fabric then add strips representing “mud” on top. The thread painting will fill in the flow of the remaining surface water on the mud.
Next step is to add fusible interfacing to each of the small fabric pieces, shape them, then fuse them in place.
The finished colourwash panel – complete with inner raw silk border, rust piping and black crackle frame.
Blue Garden With Butterfly
I’m pleased with the colour distribution on this piece and the small butterfly appliqué adds a place for the eye to land.
I undertook a second panel for the class – this time I cut my fusible interfacing grid into 8″ strips, taped them to the cutting table, laid out my squares, fused the squares to the interfacing (easy to do because the strips were narrow enough to carry and place on my ironing board), stitched the three panels together, then continued systematically stitching the small blocks – cutting the interfacing as I went so I could press the seams open (which precludes stitching in the ditch as a finishing quilting).
Garden in Pink
I wanted to add some kind of focus element in the centre of the panel but I didn’t want another butterfly and I didn’t have anything else to place there so I’ve left it as is, for now. Should I come across an idea or an image of something small enough and from the right colour palette I can always remove the backing panel and add it to the work.
Next, in preparation for the Wednesday workshop, I cut a gazillion (around 2000 actually) 2″ blocks in as many shades of dark, light, and medium print fabrics as I was able to find either in my stash or from my local shops. I bought 4″ strips from width of fabric which yielded two 2″ strips – one I set aside in my stash, the other I cut into 20 2″ squares.
I’ve colour sorted all the blocks into sandwich bags placing bags with similar colours in larger ziploc bags so there is some order to this collection. I also cut a 26″ x 24″ panel of fusible interfacing in preparation for the class, and using the grid on the non-glue side as a guide, marked 2″ squares on the glue side so it’s possible to visualize the layout (the grid lines are very difficult to see when I’m working on my dark green cutting surface).
So I think I’m now ready for the Wednesday day-long class. Week 1 we’ll assemble the watercolour/colourwash panel; Week 2 we’ll turn it into a finished textile hanging – inner sashing, piping, outer frame, even an embroidered signature.
School Of Fish #2
School Of Fish #2
Finished with a hidden binding and backing fabric. I like this one even more than the original. I think the ombre fabrics create a feeling of water and notice the single fish swimming against the school…. But that’s it for fish – I have no more in my bag of fusible scraps.
Skinny Quilt #4 – An Update
Skinny Quilt IV – Straightened
I wasn’t happy with this banner – it wasn’t quite square and it showed when the piece was hanging. Yesterday, I took it apart so I could straighten the sides and while I had the backing and binding off, I decided to remove the smallest blue circle – first, because it was the wrong colour – it didn’t really show up – and second, it was the eighth circle and an odd number is more pleasing. Now the yellow in the top large circle is now echoed in the small one and your eye moves between the two and is then drawn into the complexity of the fabric design of the other circles. A better balance.
Best of all, the banner is now square so it hangs straight and I can include it I the banner/skinny quilt collection.
I spent the better part of the day hand stitching the hidden bindings on the back of each panel – took over an hour each and left a small hole in the middle finger on my right hand in spite of the small metal thimble disc (Ultra Thimble) I had stuck to my finger. (The hole will take a day or two to heal.)
Three Hangings – Completed 10″ x 42″
I made a point of matching the hidden bindings with the front of each hanging so that when they’re on the wall the fabric at the edge is consistent with the panel itself.
Back of Panels
I am definitely pleased with how these panels turned out – they feel refined, sort of elegant. I must find a location to hang at least one of them somewhere in my apartment! That will be a challenge because there isn’t much wall space left.
I played with the arrangement and the colour flow off and on yesterday – I’m stopping with this layout:
I worked at changing the block placement from linear on the diagonal to a more parabolic flow and also tried bringing in brighter colours toward the top.
The curved colour flow is stronger with the stitched blocks because they end up 3/4 the size (1.5″) of the raw 2″ blocks.
Assembling the blocks is a careful, slow process – I decided to work in pairs of rows, laying the row above on top of the blocks in the row below and rotating them 90˚ so I would be stitching the horizontal edge (12 pairs at a time). Next I pressed the pairs open, assembled 4-block units, finally stitched those together to form a 2-row strip.
I’m needing to be extremely focused while doing the pairing to make sure I’m reconstructing the block layout precisely. So far I’ve succeeded without having to take any stitching apart. I’ll have to be just as careful when I get back at the sewing later today!
I still think I want to add an appliqué of some sort because the panel seems unfinished – at least at this point. I still have no idea what I can add – I googled “watercolour quilts with appliqués” for ideas but everything I’ve seen doesn’t achieve the elegance I’m looking for. So once the panel is completed I may have to put it away and sleep on it for some time. I don’t think the panel wants a silhouette and a photo image printed on fabric won’t do either because the background is very busy. So I will just have to leave it for a while.
I started today by stitching the leaves first, not straight sailing because there are breaks – a few of them come from beneath a flower. With all the leaves done, I moved onto stitching with turquoise – first the blue yellow flower at the top, next the turquoise centres.
Thread Painting Underway
Then on to working the bottom left flower. I’ve done most of the yellow stitching, although I intend embellishing that further tomorrow.
Thread Painting – Detail
I spent quite a bit of time creating embroideries of small circles for the flower centres – I’ll use my metal hoop so I can do the embroidery work easily. I want to position embroidered circles on top of the fabric circles at the centres. I suspect that isn’t going to be easy to execute. In any case, I won’t get to that until I have all the other thread painting done. Then I have to decide if I want to do any kind of stitching on the background! I may leave it alone…. I’ve discovered I can’t plan any of this out in advance – it’s all about one step at a time. It’s about improvisation.
I was at the fabric shop this afternoon to pick up some thread to thread paint the poppies – I didn’t have any good peach/orange red tones in my collection – I want to transform the blue-red colour of the appliqué to a more orange red, and while I was there I happened across a largish wall panel half of which was a blurred blend of blues/greens which I think will work better than the green fabric I bought last week.
A Better Border
I’ve pulled out some dark blue and teal threads from the collection to overstitch the dark green areas and connect them to the border fabric. And now I can get to work on the poppies themselves.
It’s hard to tell precisely what the colours are from the photo which makes the greens very green and the border blues more blue than they actually are. I do believe the tones in that border fabric as I see it in natural light will liven up the whole piece.