As of the beginning of the week, my design wall was a bit crowded.
I have two quilting projects ongoing, plus work from my Textural Style class, as well as photos to inspire new projects. Starting from the top right, there’s my two single color studies from class.
The blue one is done except for an edge treatment. The red one has become a two color study and has lots of big stitch embroidery. I have a section I want to embroider, but it’s mostly done. I have to figure out an edge treatment, but it won’t be bound. I may do a buttonhole stitch and then paint over that to seal the wonky edges.
On the bottom right is my fantasy village that now has lots of machine quilting, though it doesn’t show up well in the photo. I found that black thread works best. White is anemic and even red thread doesn’t show up well. That will have a pillowcase finish as batting is already fused to the silk pieces.
In the lower left are two pieces from the final day of my class. They began as one, but I couldn’t get the left and right sides to work together, so out came the rotary cutter. They are built on a dye mop up cloth and include rotted linen, silk organza scraps, handkerchief scraps, painted cheesecloth, and leftover fabric feathers. The scraps are roughly machine sewn down and I have begun hand embroidery. I’m thinking of mounting them on larger quilted pieces to give them more presence as they are less than 12 inches square.
Finally, there’s my problem child, the piece in the upper left. It’s not the piece itself, though I spent lots of time creating the sky. Rather, I am unable to get a response from the photographer on whose photo I based the piece. A friend sent me the photo which he found on Tumblr. I wanted to do the right thing and get the photographer’s permission. After I identified the photographer through an image reverse search, I found his website and wrote to the email address given there for permission to base my work on his. No reply. Then, I found his Instagram account and DMed him. Still nothing. So, I decided to go ahead and finish the piece, but I don’t think I can exhibit or sell it. Of course I will credit his photograph. At any rate, I will quilt it before I add the last bits of black bias tape.
Off my wall I have my 100 day project little collages, which total 38 as of today. They’ve proved to be great little arty snacks I can knock off each day. Limitations (4 by 4 inches, only paper scraps) really help clarify the mind and speed up a project. Another off my wall project is a sketchy inventory I did of my studio’s contents for insurance purposes. I am appalled to realize how much money I have spent on thread alone.
If I want to start more projects I better get the wall cleared off. I’m keeping a list of possibilities.
For some years crafters and quilters have extolled the virtues of slow hand stitching. They say it’s a soothing meditative process that will relax you, make you appreciate the process, and be mentally restorative. The implication is it will make you a better person.
My latest attempt to reach such a zen-like state was sparked by a free online course called Stitch Camp taught by Gwen Hedley on textileartist.org. We began by making random marks on two pieces of white/off white cotton with two contrasting colors.
Gwen used twigs to apply paint. My first deviation was to skip the twigs as the ground was snow covered. We were to use diluted acrylic paint. My second deviation – I used textile paint that I watered down too much and it made blobs. We were to mark one piece of cotton heavily and the other one lightly, then cut up the cotton however we liked, rearrange the pieces in a way that connected the marks, and hand stitch the pieces together. My third deviation (do you see a pattern?) was to zigzag my pieces by machine and to make two rearranged pieces from them. They were still ugly.
Then, we were to use hand stitches to emphasize the connections between the sewn together pieces. After I backed the pieces with fusible fleece, I began to do elementary stitching in red, navy and off white threads. After what seemed like days, I had stitched two long lines, done seed stitching, running and back stitches, and loose satin stitches. I added small bits of fused fabric. (Gwen did small hand sewn applique additions. Deviation four.) The awful looking piece still looked awful, and the only thing I was meditating on was a toss to the waste basket.
I figured the piece would become less ugly only if I embroidered over every speck of the surface. That wasn’t going to happen. Every stitch I made annoyed me more as one of my fabrics had a very tight weave that was hard to pull the needle through. The process didn’t make me calmer as Gwen (who stressed this was about process not product) had confidently said I’d feel. I saw many ways the ugliness could be eased, but none involved thread.
Out came the paints and Posca markers. I painted two layers of paint over the piece I had embroidered to help the contrasting colors meld more. I got creative with markers on the unstitched piece and found that process calming.
It’s not that I don’t get the tactile pleasure of hand stitching. I enjoyed embroidering my felted wool squares because the colors were bright and wool felt so good to sew. Lots of small pieces to embroider are a better fit with my limited hand stitch attention span. I could finish one square in 15 minutes. However, when my starting point is ugly and stitching is a struggle I am not going to persevere with a project that seems endless. I don’t think my path to process nirvana is hand stitching. The fault is in me, not the instructor. In fact, I could happily fall asleep to Gwen’s soothing voice. I guess Stitch Camp did have some meditative qualities for me.
I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.
Filed under Commentary, In Process, Stitch
Tagged as Gwen Hedley, Hand stitching, Posca markers, Stitch Camp