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?









Friday, May 8, 2009

INSPIRATION: Twinkling Raindrops ...

I often use my camera to act like a 'reminder' of something instead of making notes - it's often quicker & easier. If time is limited, resulting imagery can be taken a stage further at a later date or (as in this instance), a 'chance image' can immediately show a desired effect. Here, both photos were taken using one of the camera’s auto features - the shot left without it & right, with the facility switched on.



Several years ago, I'd bought a new camera & was getting used to using it - many auto features I hadn't come across before. Out for the day, I found myself sitting in a car in the pouring rain next to a tree & not having much to do, I decided to read the camera instructions. I wondered what would happen if I photographed raindrops on the window & used one of the novelty special effect features ... twinkling raindrops! This photo has now become a reference for stitching raindrops as well as future development for lacemaking & crochet.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Colour: Looking up at the sky …

Here are 2 fabulous skies - again I’m glad the camera (at the time, auto but non-digital) was in my bag …

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

COLOUR: What is the meaning of a season …





Whenever I’m out and about, I try to remember to take my camera with me ...











... you never know when it will be needed.









Here, I took some sky shots at each season ...








... now, every time I look at the images I can
recapture what I felt at the time.






The imagery is also useful if or when I need to verify colours!