Friday, October 30, 2009

Tapestry Frames Bag + Machine Embroidery (contd) ...

The machine embroidery is taking a while to complete - as it normally does! The effect is just what I wanted and whilst working, I'm trying to decide whether to complete the final stitchery in metallic or black thread. I'm slightly biased towards the black thread as the metallic will probably be unpractical when completed as it can easily get caught - however it may unify the metallic areas. On the other hand, a black thread will unify all the colours better as well as suitable match for additional outer fabric (I think I have a large remnant of black drill which would be ideal).

I'm also considering using my couching machine - haven't used it for ages but it would add quite an unusual texture. It will also use up a variety of thick threads/yarns etc - but again it may result in a 'catching' type surface. As a secondary idea, I might use one of my sewing feet that couches fine yarn - this would possibly provide a more uniform stitch/line compared to the couching machine. Food for thoughts whilst I continue with this part of the stitching!

(Unfortunately I don't think I have any spare or surplus test samples to trial on - will have to investigate this further and have a dig-around in some of my boxes!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tapestry Frames Bag with Machine Embroidery ...

As promised, here's the canvas now with some of the machine embroidery added. Some colours are appearing to be more 'brilliant' and the piece overall is looking more textural (not so apparent in this photo).

Here's the same section as shown last Friday:

And now, a new section side by side for side-by-side comparison purposes. The photo to left is the original with no machine embroidery added - just the plain tapestry.

You can see immediately that shapes and colours are slightly more 'enhanced' in the photo right together with a few additonal ones from the machine stitches.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tapestry Frames Bag - First Stages ...

Well, finally got started on the first stages of the outside panel yesterday - using some texture-making techniques not tried before.

I'm definitely going to machine embroider over the canvas prior to quilting it. This is because of the durability problem(s) of tapestry stitches as previously mentioned. It would also use up a rather large surplus stock of cotton threads as well as providing another textural layer on top of the stitched wool one. Additionally, the quilting shapes will become more prominent when finally stitched since there will be less stitching needed to hold the fabric together (here's hoping the machine embroidery will do its job!

I first pinned together the canvas, its fine net top layer and a fine fabric layer underneath (to prevent stitches snagging when machined I used a recycled net curtain remnant). Random selected stitched ' shapes' were outlined by machine in straight stitch to hold the 3 layers together instead of pins. Overall, this was started in the centre of the panel and was worked towards the outside. It was difficult to control the fabric tensions 100% but I'm hoping the top net layer (which caused the canvas to pucker in places) can be stretched slightly when machine embroidered.

A small initial area close to the centre has been started using a cotton thread in a colour similar to the wool. Free zig-zag stitch has been used, following along the pattern shapes of the wool stitching. So far, the net is stretching quite well and flattening the area out (photo of this to come).

It looks as if the machining will take longer than anticipated ... NEXT ENTRY should show how far I've got!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Frames Bag - Initial Ideas

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the frames tapestry idea (mentioned last week) - here are some initial thoughts, possibly for a bag:
  • It will be something along the lines of the Carry-bag that was made to hold the 'Make-Do-and-Mend Embroidered Book’
  • One issue that must be met is that the bag should be capable of holding a wide variety of larger frame sizes … so very likely to have panel(s) that can be removed. First thought on this were use of Velcro fastenings but these can be difficult to sew and, in layers, can be quite thickand create further 'bulk'. On further consideration, I’m thinking of using a series of zips – possibly open-ended.
  • The bag is needed for carrying and holding frames plus if/when transported, it should also add a degree of protection to any tapestry on the frame(s). For this reason, and to add further textural interest to the stitched panel, I've decided to quilt the stitched panel.
  • A further problem that must be given consideration, is the durability of the tapestry panel. Being made with the odd/wide variety of yarns and stitches, the finished canvas is not particularly hard-wearing. I've already noticed a couple of stitches whose threads have broken/split since it was made a couple of years ago. It's possible this will develop into a greater problem once the bag is in use. So, following this with my earlier thought of quilting, I’m going to machine-quilt the panel. However, this cannot be completed directly on the stitched canvas as many stitches are long ones and could get caught under the quilting foot. Also, much of the canvas could become visible once quilted so I have decided to use a fine/transparent covering over the top of the tapestry to hold yarns in place. Initial tests ‘in the hand’ are being done and ...
... it's complete to its next level ! 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tapestry Idea …

Having just mentioned about finding the frame (see yesterday's entry), it's first a good idea to show you what I shall be using for the bag's fabric inner and its outer.

When I first started using the computer for design, I just played around getting to grips with the software. Digital cameras weren't around, so the best (and quickest) way of transferring imagery into your hand was by use of an 'old-fashioned non-digital camera'. As I started to 'play' in the software and manipulate shapes etc, I found myself constantly camera-clicking - quickly gathering photos as reference for design ideas.

And it was one of these photos (see left) which was then used as a reference to start a small canvas stitching sample ... to use up a selection of left-over yarns for a stitching demonstration. Next, having made that initial start, I decided to continue with it and re-create the entire photo in stitching and use up a huge quantity of odds and ends of knitting,
sewing and embroidery yarns. And so it grew ... and grew and became a much larger panel - almost as wide as the full width of the canvas!

And here it is finished (right) together with a partial (lower inset) section.

It is this tapestry that will now be used for the main section of the outer bag. The inner lining is to be made from one of those pieces of fabric that you come across in your store and wonder "why did I buy that?" ... with the answer "to finish this ... !"

Monday, October 12, 2009

EQUIPMENT: Cutting Board ...

I expect you noticed that the background for some of the crib liner photos (see September - October headed as PINS .... Crib Liner) was a gridded cutting board. It's one of my many pieces of equipment bought over 20 years ago and is still always very useful.


It’s basically a large piece of (folded) cardboard that opens out to a full size cutting table. Photo at right shows it folded (size appx. 25cm wide x 1.25m depth) - but it can be opened out 6 times more giving you a max. total size of appx. 1.50m x 1.25m (see centre photo below).

It can be placed on the floor, on top of a bed, over a small table as wel
l as on many other pieces of furniture that initially you are unable to use as a cutting table. It has series of pre-marked notations on it (eg. straight lines, curves, scallops, right-angles, measurements) so can be used for a wide variety of uses - including photography !! It's easily folded up so can be stored away simply plus you don’t have to open it out to full size to use it. I often use it over/across) the ironing board if/when I run out of space (fairly often!). Being cardboard, it's really light to carry and move around AND you can trace through any or all of the notations on to pattern paper.

Opened out full-size, it looks like this:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Make a Moses Basket, Crib - Liner & Covers ...

NOTE: If you want to find more about me & what I do,
click here : STITCHERYDOODAA for links into my STITCHERYDOING world !

Here's details for my making of a set of covers and liner for a Moses Basket Crib (an original heirloodating from 1972) - see left. 

The set I've made (right) is in cream and white embroiderie anglaise fabric (cotton and polyester) and features a range of varied pattern-making and sewing techniques. If you would like to find out about making this in more detail, click here:

I also made a small bag full of 'baby goodies' to match the set (below left) and as you may notice, the ribbon ties have a floral trim at their end & match those on the liner (below right).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sewing Holdall …

One of my most useful pieces of equipment is a small zipped bag - appx. size 30cm x 20cm (see below left).
Inside it has removable loose-leaf style pages - each one having sets of individual zippered pockets. On the outside is a mesh pocket that holds a small pressing cloth and paper towel - ready for any emergency use! I've had it for many years and use it for holding all my separate small sewing 'gadgets' and accessories ... things like pins, marking tools, guides etc. It's ideal for class demonstrations (its always ready filled) as well as being positioned next to my sewing machine for constant use.

Here's the bag opened out showing assorted packets of different pins as well as a few guides and markers. Besides a tin of general glass-headed pins I have constantly on the work-table, there are many others I periodically use. Fine ones for lace, fine and sheer fabrics - long ones for furnishings or thick fabric - ones with large heads for ease of handling (eg. holding fabric in place when draping over a pre-formed shape) - heavy duty ones for denim and similar fabrics - ones with blunt ends for use with knitting.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Broomstick Crochet …

Another fascinating craft is BROOMSTICK crochet. Popular in the 1930s and 1970s, it makes lovely lace-style and delicate fabric for both garments and window furnishings.


The photo above, shows 2 ‘Broomstick Pins’ with corresponding crochet hooks below each one. The broomstick pins (large knitting needles, dowel or tubing) can be of any size – the larger the pin/needle, the larger the lace loop.
Simply this form of crochet is another 2-row procedure: Row 1 creates stitches (like knitting) on the broomstick – Row 2 involves using the crochet hook to group these stitches together by forming a crochet row.

It links both crochet and knitting and is ideal for anyone who wants to enhance their craft techniques. It produces a textile that is delicate and lightweight making it also suitable for baby garments and accessories.

An excellent reference book for both this and Tunisian Crochet is the 1987 publication: Exciting Crochet by Murel Kent.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crochet equipment ...

With craft classes soon starting, I thought that this month I would show you some of the basic 'tools of the trade' ... various equipment that is used to make a wide variety of fabric and thread craft items. I'll try to include a selection of both 'large main' items as well as small and extremely useful 'gadgets'. Some, as you will see, can be used for several crafts across the range of sewing, knitting, crochet and/or embroidery.

The simple CROCHET Hook (above, lower) is used to crochet lace-style edgings, trims, buttons and garments as well as a variety of craft items. BUT some other useful 'hooks' (somewhat difficult to locate these days) can also be used for other crochet-based stitches.


In the photo left, is a metal 'Hairpin Hook' - to the right, 3 'knitting-style needles' known as 'Tunisian or Afghan Needles'. All are used for crochet but for different types of techniques and stitches.

Hairpin Crochet: A Hairpin hook (also used for Knotting or Netting) is used together with a basic crochet or Tunisian hook). A working thread is wound over and round the 'hook arms' to form a series of loops. These are then joined together with a simple crochet slip-stitch to form a continuous looping-style lace. This lace is gradually worked along the central posts and by using the end-bar to hold in place, a long length of 'lace' can be easily made to create fabulous trims, braids, garments or other decorative items.

Tunisian or Afghan Crochet: A Tunisian hook is very similar in appearance and length to a knitting needle except that instead of a point at the end, there is a hook. At the opposite end is a 'knob' like a knitting needle and this prevents stitches falling off. Unlike crochet which has only 1 (or just a few) loop on the hook and is worked 1-row at a time, Tunisian crochet is a 2-row procedure. Simply: row 1 is formed by 'picking up' stitches (like in knitting) - row 2 is made by working back along the row in pairs of stitches, pulling one stitch through another. It is almost a 'cross' between crochet and knitting - ideal for anyone who finds it difficult to crochet (especially if they have a knitting background) or a person who justs wants to enhance their crochet techniques. It produces a textile that is firm and hard-wearing so is suitable for furnishings and similar items as well as practical 'hard-wearing' garments. It's easy to make and its appearance is not unsimilar to a type of rib.

A very good reference book is a 1973 publication: Joan Fisher's Guide to Crochet.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making your own patterns OR Pattern making ...

As well as using commercial dressmaking patterns, I also make my own - one of my personal favourites is:

Dress Pattern Designing - the basic principles of cut and fit by Natalie Bray


Originally printed in 1961, many of the suggested patterns/designs feature unusual seam lines as well as interesting shapes. Although the 'basic principles' can be rather lengthy to follow and/or complete, they do result in patterns that produce a good fit for specific sizes.

2 other books have also been written by the author - More Dress Pattern Designing and Dress Fitting. The latter book is extremely useful for gaining a wide range of knowledge regarding garment fitting for a wide range of body shapes with and without body imperfections. The 3 books work well together to provide a very useful 'working' insight into pattern designing, pattern shapes and their ultimate fit. Well recommended reading material!

More recently published are other books I use for reference - these being written by Winifred Aldrich. The first in a series is 'Metric Pattern Cutting' (originally printed in 1976) & it has been reprinted several times together with updates. It includes a wide range of pattern cutting designs and styles but is generally more 'modern' than the above books by Natalie Bray. Additionally, I found instructions easier to follow, shapes quicker to produce as there are less measurements required to make the patterns. A varied range of fitting techniques are also included.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dressmaking Companies ...

Sewing has been a popular hobby in days gone past - especially home dressmaking. From the beginning of the 20th century, after sewing machines began appearing in every high street, patterns for making clothes steadily increased in popularity. After WWII and right up to the 1970s, they were available in almost every high street department store as well as retail fabric and haberdashery shop. It was fun to sew and be able to wear (and make) something quite unique!

BUT as everyone could afford to buy their own clothes it became 'unfashionable' to make your own and with many having less free-time, it was not as popular. Consequently, over the years sewing patterns have become less readily available, their ranges declined and many companies have disappeared altogether amalgamated.

I have always had a hobby of dressmaking and using sewing patterns and so I have a general collection spanning from appx. 1910s to date. Mostly purchased within the UK, there are a cross-section of designs and sizes for children and adult garments as well as patterns for varied textile items that include soft furnishings, toys and accessories. The patterns have been produced by many different companies - mainly those readily available at the time. These include leading makes, such as:

Blackmore, Burda, Butterick, LeRoy, McCalls, Simplicity, Style, Vogue, Weldon

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dressmaking Patterns in Fashion Magazines ...

Some of my patterns originate from weekly magazines - available to readers who could send away for them.

The aim was usually to promote the magazine as well as sewing and fabric sales. This late 50s/early '60s pattern is typical of those generally available at the time.
Also note the subtle change to the pattern envelope and magazine WOMAN logo as it moves from the 1960s towards the 1970s.

Current fashion designers were often featured with the pattern garment being made up and photographed in the magazine. Here are just 2 such patterns – featuring designs of John Bates and Jean Muir.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dressmaking Patterns – Designers ...

During the 1960/70s, there was a variety of manufacturers who produced dressmaking patterns. Some of the main 'fashionable' ones were: Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, Simplicity, Style and LeRoy although there were others not quite as popular. These main ones had a range of dressmaking patterns available from the latest ‘young designers’ of the time so that you could sew your own ‘original designer' garment at a fraction of the cost and in a fabric or colour of your own choice.

UTTERICK 6979 - c.1970sThis one was designed by Betsy Johnson at 'Alley Cat' - a fashionable boutique of the period.

STYLE 3349 - c. 1960s

Another pattern - although not designed by a recognised or named designer, it featured garments that were almost identical to those from the BIBA range of clothes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wonderful Vintage Vogue Pattern ...

Ever since I began to sew, I've collected dressmaking patterns, many being those I have actually used and made from - here's a personal favourite:

VOGUE 8567 - c. 1970s

Wonderful shaped panelled dress with excellent fit and flattering design lines. 'Princess-style’ seamed panels ensure VERY GOOD BUST & HIP fitting.

Highly recommendable pattern.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Machine Embroidered book : Its Making …

 NOTE: This book can be viewed in detail as separate pages in earlier posts, an updated version as tab above 'The Embroidered Codex'
& viewed as slide show here

An embroidered book was made as a result of researching the diversity and inspiration behind ‘Make-Do-and-Mend’ during World War II (1939-45). What initially began as a simple study, soon became a collection of interesting and inspirational facts that I wanted to document. Selecting this textile-based topic for research, I continued the same theme for display of it: similar to a child’s rag book yet resembling a photo album. This 'book' would contain separate pages, each one relating to a particular needlecraft topic of the period. These would be: clarification of Make-Do-and-Mend – Household - Magazines and use of Transfers – Knitting – Embroidery and stitching techniques – Fashion and Accessories. Each topic would either be shown with original technique detail or interpreted using a more up-to-date method. To maintain continuity, the majority of fabrics and threads used for the book’s construction and sample making were either actual pieces from worn items of the period or remnants from past personal projects.

All inner pages of the book were made from a length of 1950s black ottoman fabric that had been stored in a cupboard for several years! I envisaged it as being 'Blackout fabric' & similar to that of the wartime period, so was chosen to represent the blackness, darkness and gloom between 1939 and 1945. It was also closely woven and ideal for machine stitching. To enable pages to 'be turned' when viewed in the book and also allow them to be displayed at a later date, 2 pages were each decoratively stitched back-to-back then stiffened with card for completion. The pages were made removable (from the book) for ease of handling and their method of attachment to the book's spine (defined by underwear of the period!) was chosen as being hook and eye tape.

Hand-written style notes to accompany samples or provide explanation were computer printed on black paper in white ink and used wartime-style stud fastenings to attach to the pages – other wording was machine stitched directly to fabric. This style of notation had been the format of many archived documents found during research. Its interpretation by using modern computerised sewing machine techniques would represent this and the importance of the wartime ‘Enigma’ machine. Many wartime slogans and other official recommendations had been shown in film footage, newspapers and various original memorabilia - this was repeated throughout the book by ‘writing’ them using computerised/pre-programmed stitching. For a variety of reasons, original books or magazine pages were unable to be stitched so photos and photocopies of them were used instead. Their permanent attachment to a page resulted in a selection of machine embroidery techniques being adapted and created. One of these was a method of making lace entirely by machine without the need for any form of backing or retaining fabric (more on this and others from March 2013 where they will be found by clicking to the link here).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Carry-bag …

For storage and display purposes after the book was completed, a large portfolio style carry-bag was made. It was slightly larger than the book (appx. 60cm x 40cm) and was worked on cotton ticking – in keeping with the theme of wartime fabric. The bag was lined, padded, had a zip opening to 3 sides and had handles made from rug tape.

From original photos and films of the period, St. Paul’s Cathedral came to be recognised as a central monument for wartime London. Its image was selected for the first pages of the embroidered book (see below) and was again used for the the bag. However, this time it would represent London being ‘in pieces’ after the Blitz and how it was rebuilt - depicted by a variety of sewing machine ‘utility’ stitches worked on patchwork-style ticking panels.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Page 14 …

The final page shows a variety of uses for other needlecrafts – designs once again having simple shapes and colours being bright.

Some suggested ideas are: dolls from wooden spoons, accessories from blankets and matching fashion accessories.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Pages 12-13 …

These 2 pages concentrate on the use of yarn or thread.

The first of these pages shows some examples for different thicknesses. The upper example shows creating a new fabric by weaving on net; the central example decoratively stitching on a plain knitted fabric and the third example shows a yarn being used in a different manner – the example of rug wool used to make some shoes.

The second of these pages shows some knitting samples of the period – typical stitch patterns and colours of those suggested items of clothing. Swatches of patterns were knitted using yarns and colours as close to those as recommended within the original instructions.

Again on this page, I continued with the theme of a photo album to display the samples with machine embroidery used to ‘write’ notes (eg. bright colours were cheerful
) and secure swatches and photocopies of patterns.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Page 11 …

This page is worked entirely in machine embroidery and shows a typical set of wartime clothes that had been recycled or made using different needlecraft techniques.

‘Stitched notes’ provide explanations (eg. old raincoat to make gas mask bag).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Pages 7-10 …

These 4 pages reference the variety of transfers that were available for stitching for varied uses and on many different fabrics.

With wide ranging uses, transfers could ‘brighten up’ any recycled material as well as enhance drab (fabric) colours.

The samples shown were stitched using today’s threads but in colours as close as possible to the ones of the period.

There were also
suggestions to use other items of haberdashery for making or enhancing clothes and home furnishings.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Pages 5 & 6 …

These 2 pages show some of the reference books and magazines printed during the war period. Providing instructions for a wide range of needlecrafts and fashion-related projects, the majority encouraged the recycling of various items of clothing and textiles.

On this page, an ‘economy’ slippers pattern was referenced. Transformed with a modern interpretation, a partial sample was handstitched in crazy patchwork using sections of post-war ties.

The next page shows a selection of popular wartime magazines that were available – sewing technique shown here is magazine photos held together by machine quilting on a netting layer together with various wording in free-machining.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Machine Embroidered book – Pages 3 & 4 …

This page briefly details the overall effect of WWII on London and the Home Front.

Lower left pocket contains samples of parachute fabric and cords to show the quality for a wide variety of 'home' uses.

The next page shows a typical house interior during the war. Items shown are those suggested during the 1939-45 period and could be made using a variety of textiles and/or needlecrafts. Often made to 'brighten up' a particular room - many were recommended to make ‘for economy’ with instructions found in magazines and books of the period. This page is machine embroidered – a colour photocopy enhanced with stitching and further embroidery.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Machine Embroidered Book - Pages 1 & 2 ...

The 'Make-Do-and-Mend book' has detachable pages inside - here are the first 2.

Page 1
(left) - machine embroidery on chiffon.

Page 2 (right) - discharge dye/resist technique and machine embroidery on grosgrain fabric.

When the book is first opened, these 2 pages initially appear as 1 (see below) and depict St. Pauls Cathedral (London) amidst the smoke and fires of the Blitz.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Machine Embroidered Book …

Several years ago, I researched ‘Make-Do-and-Mend’ from WW II & it included reading many official and factual books. The conclusion of  that research was the making of an oversized (appx. 60cm x 40cm) and machine embroidered (rag-style) book. Samples of a variety of needle-craft techniques from the period were included and depicted in a manner more familiar today.

Here is my book:

I am showing it over the next few days together with brief descriptions for each set of pages.

The image (above right), shows the front of the book and represents London during the Blitz. It is worked in a variety of machine stitchings using mainly metal thread. The black/red central panel is raised and depicts the bombed and burning London buildings or metalwork. The outer coloured 'stitched hatching' is a quilted layer representing radial beams of tracer lights and bombing patterns visible during the night raids (better shown on the book's reverse - above left).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Inspiration: Necessity is the mother of invention ...

Sometimes reading a book can provide inspiration. When very young, I remember seeing this pink booklet – it was only many years later (for a final assessment in a textile course) did it get remembered and provide an initial inspiration for a stitched ‘Make-Do-and-Mend’ project - World War II based.Whether it was the phrase ‘Make-Do-and-Mend’, the iconic doll and logo of ‘Mrs. Sew-and-Sew’ or just something within the contents of the booklet but something inspired research of the topic … and specifically the subject of textiles and fashion during World War II. Maybe because personal memories of ‘MAKING DO’ had always made me question ‘HOW, WHY or WHAT’ but I found the subject fascinating. And initial research soon highlighted something else of particular interest! So to discover more, a greater in-depth investigation and research was needed.

Conducting personal and group interviews (both historians and local residents who could remember what was done during the war ‘to make do’), I also read a variety of narrative and factual books and made samples. This continued with further research of documents and other actual samples in museums and it wasn’t long before a reasonable amount of useful facts, recollections and copies of samples had been collated. (Today I continue to collect snippets of additional information and add to that already recorded.) It also became gradually apparent that one main reason for the lack of previously detailed/recorded information (and samples) was that it had just been lost … burnt during wartime damage - given away (during and after the war) for re-cycling and/or charity events - or just disappeared through wear and tear ! Plus, during the war years 1939-45 or soon after in the 1950-60s rebuilding of the country/countries, it appears to have ‘just vanished’. Many records being swallowed into a variety of ‘lost and forgotten’ company archives – no doubt because it’s content appeared to be of little use in a post-war world.

From information I’ve seen, read and been told … from personal recollections to museum exhibits … from wartime archives to narrative books …I discovered that this particular period of 1939-45 was one of immense imagination and inventiveness. Indeed, “Necessity was the mother of invention” - many people's aims were to brighten up a drab and indefinite wartime existence as well as ensuring all rations lasted for far longer than required. I also discovered that many ideas issued for this war’s use were not new but had also existed during 1914-18 in World War I … they had just been reissued or redesigned!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Inspiration: Phrases …

Here are some favourite phrases that I’ve noted for further reference etc - author’s unknown but my thanks to them for inspiration they've given me for work completed or will be!

“Life is a circle, I’m sure we’ll meet one another again” 

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” (click for link to artwork)

“Leave the moon alone, it’s not hurting you” (click for link to design)

“Eyes are gateways to your soul” (click for link to design concept)

“Wrap in cotton wool & it will soon become a straight-jacket” (click for link to design concept)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Inspiration: Adding eyes to a painted dragon (contd) ...

NOTE: If you want to read more about my design ideas, click here: MORE CONCEPTS

A few years ago (during a fabric hand-dyeing session), I sprinkled some pink and grey powdered cold-water dye randomly over a submerged length of cream coloured habotai silk.

When finally dried and pressed, the colours and shapes visible on the fabric started to inspire an idea for machine embroidery … a scene of various dragon-like creatures fighting against a clouded sky-scape. With this ‘picture’ in mind, a few test-stitching samples were begun but with the silk having a fine weave, it became necessary to add a backing fabric for the close stitching. Further test samples resulted in the addition of an inner layer of polyester wadding (sandwiched between the lightweight silk outer and the heavier cotton backing) to create a 3D quality formed by machine quilting.

A few final outlines and finishes were painted on the silk (including creature facial marks), fabric layers tacked together and stitching commenced. First some of the background and then outlines of the main dragon shapes - but other creatures began to ‘appear’ as further shapes were created from the quilting and padded stitchery. In fact in several instances, creatures actually appeared to rise out of the fabric itself – giving recollection to another Chinese verse that “spirits are attracted to the movement of cloth” !

Then suddenly – partially complete – I reached that dreaded stage of ‘what do I do next’ … what stitch – hand or machine? … what colour thread to use – more metallic or change to silk? … how was it to be finished and/or displayed - in a frame or as a hanging? … or should it just remain a large sample? The panel sat around unfinished for several weeks … inspiration failing to come and nothing inspiring me. So, I started another project – something I usually find helpful when reaching a ‘visual block’. Rummaging through several disjointed mounds of ‘reference material’ for the new project, the words ‘the finishing touch’ jumped up from a page – a definition that would now inspire me! Several months previously, a chance reading of a translated Chinese proverb had been jotted down and stored away in a pile of ‘things ready to file.’ The Chinese story and proverb provided exactly the inspiration necessary to continue stitching … mount the fabric on a wooden framework … and create a hanging picture. When finished, it was given the title of that translated proverb ie. “Adding eyes to a painted dragon” – my reminder of an inspirational block after actually painting in a dragon’s eye!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Machine Embroidery: Adding eyes to a painted dragon …

Generally, phrases or verses aren’t one of my favourite methods of initial inspiration. But, if a particular phrase seems to ‘stick in my head’, it’s then usually written down or noted for future use, interpretation or reference - usually in a note book I started several years ago.

Such was the case of a Chinese proverb I came across "Adding eyes to a painted dragon"… the phrase being given as a name to my piece of machine embroidery.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Colour : If at first you don't succeed ...

Any colour can be inspirational - it just depends on the mood you're in and whether you really like the colour you're using. Over time, I've come to learn two important factors: (a) don't use a colour that make you feel 'negative' and (b) don't continue to work on a project if it starts to go wrong as that produces yet another negative vibe ! BUT ... you can often 'swing the scales' in your favour should either of these things occur ....

If a particular colour feels wrong or gives you negative thoughts, consider using a slightly different shade especially if it's a project for yourself or a client can be persuaded. And if things should start going from bad to worse, wait a while and come back to the project later or even another day. Unless you feel positive and relaxed, inspiration and ideas usually don't flow !

Here's a personal example:
I started initial sketches for a patchwork/embroidery project in black pen and it wasn't long before subsequent ideas started leaping from the page in colour. I selected yellow, orange and brown felt tip pens as they were immediately to hand - the colours I'm not to fond of but represented the fabric and thread I was intending to use. As I put
colour to paper, ideas became slow and difficult to expand - the chosen colours appeared to 'jump off' the brilliant white page in their intensity and didn't appear to co-ordinate well together. The paper that normally faded into the background looked wrong with the yellow appearing too bright and strong as it vied for position with its orange counterpart. The shades of brown, in comparison, looked bland and more like a shade of orange - some black edges (to represent machine stitching) appearing dark blue. I glanced again at those initial black and white pen sketches for inspiration but ideas faded fast! I tried sketching a few more times before I gave up. I then remembered one of my favourite phrases "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" - but did so a while later ! With renewed energy and different colour medium, I selected a range of coloured inks in place of the felt tip pens. As I started to use them on the same white paper as before, the ideas just started to flow ... yellow looked bright and transparent, orange glistened when next to it and brown enhanced the other two. Finally after a few pages and with the addition of some black, a final sketch and design idea was complete.

I looked over at those initial felt tip ideas and wondered what had happened other than using the different colouring medium. The answer was obvious ... the colours, although similar, were actually very different. Here's the result (samples shown as fabric) - ink shades on the left, felt tips on the right - the colours at right are more yellow based and have less blue in them and are less like those colours I personally prefer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

COLOUR: Rainbows …

I’ve always believed that colour is central to any piece of work whatever it is … choosing an outfit … embroidering a wallhanging … selecting curtains … or just planting a tree in the garden. Correct choice & shade of COLOUR is vitally important … it carries meaning & also has a psychological effect.

The colours found in a rainbow are: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

Here are 4 sets of 'rainbows' – each one slightly different in its colour depth & intensity. Can you see the subtle differences?