“Less is more” and “More is more” are common design mantras. Each has its adherents. A recent design experience took me way beyond “more is more” to deep in the weeds. I’m writing about my recent failure as a lesson that sometimes going for broke can break the piece.
After my Tansy Hargan From Sketchbook to Wall class I was eager to use the techniques taught, so I prepared a smallish (roughly 20 inches square) fused piece which I planned to gussy up with reverse applique, hand stitching, and pen and paint. It started out okay, if a bit pink.
Then I added hand and machine applique, and a bit of embroidery.
I thought more stuff would improve the piece, and utterly overshot the mark.
Finally, I cut off some of the hand work and lightened some of the applique with a white marker. The machine stitched bits are impossible to remove as there is a backing fused on.
My intention was to evoke the playing pieces used in children’s board games. I wish I hadn’t gone down the embellishment road as the original piece was much more pleasing than the monster I created. I could always cut it up….
Each week I toss out a few fabric scraps to reduce my collection. Most of my recent pieces are made almost entirely of scraps. Over the past two weeks I’ve put together three tops made of scraps and slapped fabric for another onto my design wall. Result? The scraps are winning. My color sorted boxes of scraps never seem to get emptier even though I’m not adding many new bits because I use mostly scraps. I suspect there’s a secret spell that transfers other quilters’ scraps to my boxes.
But I push on to use up those scraps. I decided each of my latest scrap creations must contain nothing but scraps (duh!), blocks sewn from scraps (I have a collection,) and photos printed on fabric. I also decided to use some techniques I learned in my From Sketchbook to Wall class.
Since it’s spring, allegedly, I began with pink and purple scraps and a highly distorted photo of begonia leaves. I fused the scraps onto acrylic felt and sewed around the raw edges. Then, I began to applique and embroider a la Tansy Hargan. I plan to embellish more once I figure out what to add.
Next, I moved to blues, purples, and grays and a more tailored look. The photo I used is left over from my shoes quilt. I fused the raw edge scraps to drill cloth and again sewed down the edges. There will be no hand work as that drill cloth is tough stuff. I went through way too many versions of the layout and have reached the point of declaring it done simply because I’m tired of it.
For a change I decided to sew my scraps together on the third piece and got into improv curved piecing. I was glad I remembered how to do the technique. The photo of spools of yarn was cut into four pieces which were scattered about.
Finally, I began to select scraps in the green and blue/green family for one or more pieces. Right now there’s no particular order to the scraps, though I think I may build circles with that one print fabric on the upper left. I wish I could tell you that deep thought goes into much of my work, but it would be a lie. Often I simply respond to colors.
And speaking of colors, I had to photograph this view of my house. My green house seems right for Earth Day.
Since last week I’ve continued to work on my small (about 10 inch square) pieces for my From Sketchbook to Wall class, and have five done (mostly.) I’ve learned that it’s hard to hand sew through fabric covered with acrylic paint, and that I want to hold onto some resemblance to my inspiration landscape. That surprised me as I think I’ve reached a fairly high comfort level with abstraction.
While I love the texture hand stitching gives, in the future I think I’ll use paint and its cousins more to transform the base fabrics. I have lots of painted fabric left for more such textile works, though I think I want to try to create fantasy landscapes next time.
I have lots of photos for inspiration, but I want to use them mostly as inspiration for textures. I like the rough arrangements I did of my painted fabrics better than my deliberately composed ones.
If you’re on Instagram and want to see other people’s work from this class, search #tansyhargantextilecourse.
I’m in the middle of a two week online class on textile creation given by Tansy Hargan, a British landscape architect and textile artist. It’s called From Sketchbook to Wall, which is an accurate description. We began with en plein air sketches of nature or built environments, moved on to thumbnail collages of the sketches, and then to transformation of clothing to fabrics for our final pieces.
I signed up for the course to get a different approach to textile art, and I’m getting different with a vengeance. We were to unpick old clothes with a seam ripper, paint them with acrylic until stiff, and add marks to our fabrics in a variety of ways.
Unpicking old clothes palled quickly, and I used men’s shirts I had already cut up plus remnants from my hoard. I combined textile and acrylic paints to use what was on hand, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around deliberately making my fabric stiff. All my past effort to preserve a soft hand in painted fabric made me cringe at the paper like results, but the advantage of that stiffness became apparent later during mark making. Some of the techniques were new to me and possible only because the fabric was stiff. Tansy demoed a variety of ways to mark fabric, including photocopying (stiffness is essential) and carbon paper. I wasn’t brave enough to run sheets of fabric through my brand new printer, but other students did that successfully.
Then it was on to reverse applique, hand stitching, and free motion stitching. Again, this is roughly done and fraying is encouraged.
I’m now at the point of actually composing and fusing the base layer of my 9 inch squares on top of old cotton sheeting covered with WonderUnder. We are to rip/cut our fabrics and arrange them on the fusible surface, inspired by our thumbnail collages.
I am saving the last two videos about stitching and further layering until I make more base layers. I suspect I’m overthinking the fabric arrangements, but it’s quite fiddly to get the little bits to stay put as you fuse them. After my ironing disaster I’ve made sure to use a silicone mat.