Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Composite Sheet Module 1 Stars

Stars Composite Sheet

Looking through my portfolio of work, the recurring motif that emerged was the 'estoile' or curved ray star. The star with three rays- a relatively simple shape- lent itself to numerous variations in the cut and fold exercises.
By orientating it differently or changing the way the paper was folded, I could produce infinite derivative

Monday, 14 May 2012

Inlay Applique Chapter 10

Counterchange Sample 2
Felt squares

I started with 4, 71/2cm squares of felt which I decorated by bonding threads, fibres, braids and ribbon. I then drew my design and cut out the pieces to use as a pattern. I wanted to use a shape with curves but this made the use of wider insertion stitches impossible.


Segments swapped over

I used a large cross stitch and a fine perle cotton to reattatch the outer layer. Second
was a plain antique insertion stitch in a medium perle. Next came a laced insertion stitch with metallic thread and finally, in the centre, a further round of antique insertion in a medium perle.
The 'fit' with this technique is obviously all important but I found the felt has a certain amount of play. I'm still not totally happy with the Wonderweb I'm using and dont like the residue it seems to leave. I am looking for a subtler alternative -any suggestions?

Counter-interchange Sample 3
Estoile based pattern 
I decided to go for a purple/gold combo for this sample and chose a design I'd developed from my estoile motif in the cut and fold exercises. I found it really useful to go back to my counter/interchange paper exercise too. I chose a simple curved rhombus motif for my
supplementary shape.
I chose my hand dyed and overprinted cotton and 2 gold shades of organza for my fabrics and bonded them in varying combinations to a felt backing. Each square is 7.5cm.

Pieces swapped around
The outer edge of each new shape was outlined with running stitch using stranded
cotton, while the middle rhombus were attached with a simple antique insertion stitch in stranded or mercerised cotton. I used a machine feather stitch to join the squares together and decorated the shapes within the rhombus with a small heavy
machined cross stitch using variegated rayon.
I think this piece is neater than the previous one and particularly like the effect of the marbled fabric and shaded machine stitching.

I've enjoyed this chapter as it has been another excellent opportunity to try new techniques.

Inlay Applique Chapter 10

Hand insertion stitches
Insertion stitch Sample:
I am the lucky owner of several vintage needlework books (1920s) and took some time out to read the insertion stitch sections. The stitches were traditionally used on lingerie and household linen. Many of them looked complex and time consuming!
I decorated strips of felt with snips of fabrics and threads and bonded them with net or organza.
The stitches I trialled from top are:
1. Slanted antique insertion (stranded cotton)
2. Herringbone insertion (perle 5)
3. Beaded insertion (fine perle)
4. Plaited insertion (coton a broder)
                                            5. Buttonhole insertion (medium perle)
                                            6. Laced insertion (perle 3 and stranded cotton)
                                            7. Knotted insertion stitch (cotton a broder)
                                            8. Straight insertion stitch

I haven't done anything like this before so followed the instructions closely, tacking everything to brown paper.   I was pleased with my stitching but felt the bonded strips were too 'busy' against the intricacy of the stitches. I particularly liked mastering the plaited insertion stitch - its not perfect but I'm sure it will improve with practice!

Machine insertion stitches:
There are many stitches on my machine that use a left/right needle motion that can be used to join two adjacent pieces of fabric. They obviously provide a much more uniform effect.
From top:
1. Heavy cross stitch
2. Decorative zig zag
3. Feather stitch
4. Feathered chain stitch
5. Herringbone stitch
All stitching was completed with machine embroidery rayon.

Simple Counterchange Sample:  I learnt to make felt at a workshop in Stroud years ago and thought this
was a good opportunity to use my Merino tops! The felt was lovely; blended purple and pinks and for my second piece I chose a dark purple from my readymade stash. My decision to bond the latter with lilac spider net and snippings, gave it an interesting texture BUT made it too similar in colour to the handmade piece. Looking at  the finished article it is difficult to see where the changed pieces are! The choice of sheers is really interesting as it has an almost optical mixing effect,
changing shades with quite unexpected results.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Chapter 9 Samples 4 and 5

Sample 4 Slashed Applique
Worksheet (A4)
Slashed Applique Close Up
14cm x 14cm
Again, it was exciting to try out a new technique. I'd seen this method used in historical costuming at an exhibition in Stratford and knew that a sumptuous textured effect could be obtained. Because I chose fabrics that frayed easily, I worked the edges with the blades of tiny scissors, quite easily. I had visited Janners, a silk mill in Suffolk, about two weeks ago and bought lots of natural textured silk in their sale. I dyed this piece purple and it became almost fluffy as it shredded. The fibres are all slightly different; from the metallic strands to the matt threads of muslin. It was a really satisfying exercise with a soft abstract outcome.

Sample 5 Ripple Applique
Worksheet (A4)

Ripple Applique Close Up
14cm x 14cm
Initially I wondered whether the shape I'd chosen was too complex but decided to cut away on both
sides of the top yellow linen, to reveal the collage of colours underneath. I actually accidentally burnt a patch of organza away when I was pressing the finished piece, but it was serendipitous as a piece of green muslin simply appeared beneath. It would be interesting to try this with a soldering tool!

Chapter 9 Reverse Applique

Sample 1 Mola Worksheet
Mola Close-Up
(17cm X 15cm)

I have seen examples of Mola in museum collections and was enthusiastic about attempting a new technique. Looking at the elaborate efforts
produced, I can only marvel at the skill of the needlewomen! This took me a couple of evenings to hand stitch and a lot of patience.... It requires a good light and considerable dexterity to turn corners and stitch evenly and neatly. For a first attempt, I was fairly pleased but in retrospect wished I'd chosen a more vibrant colour palette.

Samples 2 and 3 Contemporary
Worksheet (A4)

Sample 2 Close up
12cm x 12cm

Sample 3 Close Up
12cm x 12cm

This method was certainly a lot speedier than the previous one! (I read that when sewing machines were introduced to Panama, they were ignored by embroiderers who preferred to produce their mola by hand.....a genuine labour of love!!! I decided to follow Sians advice about printing on to fabric to produce the top and bottom patterned layer on the respective pieces. I used a pad underneath each piece and finished up with a much lighter, almost shadowy imprint which was easier to overlap. I like the different pink/plummy tones in Sample 1 and the matt/shiny contrasts of the different edges. With sample 2, I used 6 layers and particularly liked how some of the bonded fibres trapped between the top and second layer peeped out of the edges. The changes in depth perception made for an interesting concept.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Chapter 8 Complex Samples 5 and 6

Complex sample 5
Sample 5 Worksheet

The inspiration behind this piece was the furled petal shape of a flower on the initial photographic collage of star shapes. I padded the centre and then bonded it to the finished
piece. I think a second round of petals perhaps of transparent fabric would have been interesting. The eight sided star layer machined on top was completed in a strong fuschia pink but against the yellow looks red!

I enjoyed using a new set of 'dabber' type
tiny stamps to overprint my hand dyed
cotton for this piece. Although I used a specialist metallic thread machine needle, I really struggled with the Madeira metallic thread I machined with. It seemed to split and bunch and I spent along time unpicking and playing with tension to achieve a reasonable
stitch. The centre shape is padded and I've discovered some fabrics lend themselves more easily to this technique.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Chapter 8 Complex Sample 4

Sample 4 Close Up
Sample 4 Worksheet
 I selected 2 variations of my Estoile cut outs from
Chapter 4 and played around layering them in varying orientations. I wasnt initially very sure about my colour choices- too similar? BUT because all the fabrics had differing degrees of sheen, I liked the subtle textured effect that resulted. The shot silk tafetta in the very centre was a wondeful plum/black
colour but cut into a small piece, this effect was lost.

Chapter 8 Complex Sample 3

Sample 3 Close Up
Sample 3 Worksheet

I decided to use a Nordic star motif from my line drawings for this sample, repeating and overlapping it using the different techniques
practised so far. I cut away the central star
but when considering the sample in retrospect, wished I'd chosen a stronger colour for the bottom layer, as it gets lost!

Chapter 8 Complex Sample 2

Sample 2 Worksheet
Sample 2 Close Up
I chose the second design from the line drawings on one of the earlier pieces in the module. The Star of Bethlehem, even in 2D has a dimensional quality that I thought would lend itself to padded areas. I learnt
that this technique presents challenges depending on the fabric and stitch used, but after several attempts found a way to keep the organza intact.

Worksheet Chapter 8 Sample 1

Sample 1 Worksheet

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Chapter 8 Complex Sample 1

Complex Sample 1 close up

I decided to move away from my 'estoile' and 'hoshi' star motifs for this Chapter and spent some time looking through my portfolio of work for
a different source of inspiration. I especially liked the pen and ink, Faberge star on my line drawing research sheet and tried to simplify it for stitch by using just the main shapes and minimizing the detail.
Finally I 'bit the bullet' and used two of my silk stash pieces for the bottom and middle layer, a hot pink dupion and a metallic shot taffetta. I sketched out my ideas deciding to combine a cut away layer with a semi bonded top layer (muslin) to give the design a three dimensional feel. I stitched around the diamonds with Pekinese stitch and a medium cotton thread (as shown on my outline stitch sample.) This was definitely a learning curve! The cotton was a struggle to get through the two layers which were both tightly woven fabrics and it was tricky to neatly follow the contours of the fairly small shape.
I ended up with an almost crocheted lace effect. Again, I think when attempting a more complex stitch, I need to sample, the thread, fabric and stitch to see if it will work on a bigger scale.

I decided not to totally bond the green trefoil shapes on the surface but 'tacked' with strips of web, so that they stood away from the rest of the design. The smaller trefoil on top is actually a shade darker than the larger trefoil beneath but the photograph doesnt do this justice.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Chapter 7 Sample 6

Sample 6 Worksheet

Sample 7 Close Up

I decided to make a piece of bonded fabric by trapping snippets under gold spider net. I used this as my middle layer. Because of the thickness of it, I used a blanket stitch to edge it with an almost candlewicking type cotton thread and a crewel needle.The top layer was a shot organza which despite catching the light in some orientations, lost alot of its detailed shape when in place. I tried to emphasise it by choosing a gold perle thread and close short running stitch. I chose the two shapes to explore whether this method worked with complex almost 'doily' type shapes and feel that it did. I found it hard to cut the layers away without accidently snipping the underlying stitching and needed a good light and lots of double checking.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Chapter 7 Sample 5 third attempt

Sample 5 Close Up
Sample 5 worksheet

 I was pleased with this sample because the colours sing and the composition has an
Indian feel to it. I also got the satisfaction of improving my machining skills and can already tell that free embroidery is a bit of a coordination act- smooth consistent treadle speed and light handling and turning of the fabric. Practising helped me relax and enjoy the process and I definitely need to do more.

Something completely different!

Isn't nature a wonderful source of creative inspiration? I bought this Italian candy beetroot in Stroud farmers market at the weekend. How pretty and it tasted great!


Stitch  Notes

Stitch Experiments

                                I decided to spend some time experimenting with tension and stitch length when my machine was set for free embroidery and made notes against each sample.I am still not sure of the extent to which my treadle speed and manipulation of fabric is determining consistency of stitch length but am getting more of a feel for things.

My first attempt at a Vermicelli filling stitch

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Chapter 7 Sample 5 - second attempt!


This was a bit of disaster.... It serves as a reminder to get out my sewing machine manual and remind myself of tension settings etc. Machine embroidery has always been my crafting 'Bete Noir'. I know about using the correct thread and needle, releasing the presser foot, using an upside down ring etc... BUT on this occasion forgot all about lowering the feed dog. Fabric, thread and all got chewed up and I spent a happy half an hour dismantling the bobin shuttle and picking out bits of lint with tweezers.There wasnt enough of the sample intact to photograph!!
I decided to look for tutorials on You tube for tips and saw several serene sewers showing how 'easy' it was 'like painting' with a needle. My machine seemed to run away with me and I felt more like I was locked in mortal combat. Feed dog lowered I started again and produced the above, edges okay, but the tension went on anything curved; the stitches were of uneven size and looked almost couched as the lower thread came through in a loop. I know this is a tension thing and can be used as a deliberate technique but wasnt what I wanted. Back to the drawing board..... (And lots more practice)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Chapter 7 Sample 4

Worksheet Sample 4
Sample 4 Close Up

 I aimed to use a more contrasting colour scheme for this sample and decided to be a little more experimental by using the circular frame of my embroidery ring as my edge rather than continue with a square. Again I
used four layers but decided with the 3rd and 4th layer to cut away on both sides of the stem stitch and running stitch. I particularly liked the frayed edge of the muslin. The fuschia layer was applied to 'fill in'
the negative space left by shapes 2 and 3. The overall almost ribboned effect reminded me of Cornelli work
Cornelli Lace
and I went off at a creative tangent to look at how this was actually done......
I now know its worked on a machine.

Chapter 7 Sample 3 Notes

I attempted to arrange 4 layers for this design but in retrospect wished I'd chosen a darker shade of tulle for the third layer as it completely disappeared because it was too pale. I tried to 'bring it out' by using a thicker stitch- whipping the running stitch. I deliberately chose an estoile based and hoshi based motif from my cut and fold sheets because these were shapes, that most inspired my early efforts. While I was pleased with the intricacy of the design, I felt the colours I was drawn towards were too similar to Sample 2 and need to expand the palette I'm using for the remainder of the exercise.

Chapter 7 Sample 3

Sample 3 Close Up (10cm x 10cm)
Sample 3 Worksheet

Close ups of Chapter 7 samples 1 and 2

Sample 2 Close Up
Sample 1 Close up

I thought I would include close upsof samples 1 and 2 to give a clearer idea of my stitching!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Chapter Seven Sample 2

Stitched Sample 10cm x  10cm

This is a very subtle interpretation of the task, I think. The fabrics I chose for the layers, muslin,spider net and an irridescent tissue organza were quite difficult to work with but all were transparent and therefore interesting to layer. Again I have chosen quite similar shades and toning rather than contrasting threads. The shapes were relatively simple as was the running stitch I chose and I feel they combine to give a delicate almost ethreal effect
that reminds me of insect wings.

Chapter Seven Sample 1

Add caption
This technique required several read throughs of the instructions which appeared quite complicated. Once underway, although time consuming, it was quite a logical process. I was quite nervous at first about cutting away the layers and kept double checking that I wasn't inadvertently cutting away at the previous layer or catching any stitching.
I liked using a sheer layer on top as the stitches show through from below and was pleased with how the batik type middle
layer blended into the background. As mentioned on my working
sheet,  I deliberately layered up a shape with five lines of symmetry and another with four as I usually have a tendency to go for very balanced designs.
The stab stitch/ cross stitch edging on the middle layer was
completed in a space dyed thread and I feel this pulls the whole design together.

Chapter Seven Translating layered Designs into Embroidery

Key to Line Stitch Sampler
Line Stitch Sampler
 Thought a good way to start this Chapter and remind myself of a variety of stitches was to create a sampler (20cm x 20cm). I used strips of cotton lawn, scrim and sheeting from my stash of dyed fabrics. I tacked them on to the ground and then experimented with a range of threads and stitches. I especially liked the messy, slightly rolled edge that was created with the scrim. The exercise also reminded me of the different qualities of the threads and using the right needles, especially with the metallic threads and Marlitt.