A Pandemic Treat

May 21st, 2020

Well, this pandemic is turning out to be long term in effect, isn’t it? For some time to come, we seniors especially will be continuing to go out less and spend time in and around our home. Things are gradually loosening, but we’ll carefully think about and plan even the simplest outing, like a trip to a museum or exhibition, which we always took for granted. Instead of just wandering in during open hours, it’s likely we’d have to book a time to attend the Dreamtime Art exhibition I posted about march 9th last, just days before the first covid-19 cases were announced here in Uruguay, and the world as we knew it was changed for ever. We’ll be wearing masks and practising social distancing when we do go out for anything, and it seems the ability to travel is a long way off. Even when we can move again, I expect it will be much more difficult and complicated, though long distance travel’s never been for the faint hearted, anyway. And, most likely it will cost more.

In the last 40 years or so of my privileged life, every 4-6 years I’ve been able to tie in attendance at a top rate textile arts workshop to coincide with either a visit back to Australia, or up to the USA to visit our kids and grandchildren. I’ve found it a great mental health thing to have a refreshing few days in a workshop with a world-class teacher of my choice; and for just a while to be in the company of other like minded students has always been stimulating. I’ve always been prepared to live anywhere Mike’s work has required us to be – and these occasional sorties I see as equivalent to gold stars the teacher puts on my work book, in a manner of speaking.

For several years I’ve received the newsletter and occasionally accessed the archives of an organisation called TextileArtist.org “A place for textile and fiber artists to be inspired, learn from the best, promote their work & communicate with like-minded creatives“… As a response to help creativity in the sudden stay-at-home- or lock-down world of stitchers around the world, they held a 7-week challenge for stitchers they called ‘the community stitch challenge’. It was free, and it turned out to be very popular, with people saying they’d love more. I signed up but didn’t actually do any of the classes, but the workbook download was sent free to everyone who signed on.

Despite the demand for more, TextileArtist.org couldn’t keep doing this without funding, but came up with an ambitious idea which has caught the imagination of stitchers around the world, including yours truly. The information’s all on their website – but basically for a monthly fee, in 3 out of 4 weeks per month, top teachers will each present a one week workshop. Whether to do all three or pick and choose is up to you, but as a subscriber for that month you have all the class videos and materials plus critiques, the members-only FB page and feedback, and continued access to all that as long as you’re a member of The Stitch Club. If you leave the scheme, you can download everything you’ve paid for before you go – which sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I gather many people have signed on for the initial offering price, and to me it seems a great idea at just the right time. For all the reasons people attend workshops or symposiums, it offers much of what you’d expect at a fraction of the price you’d be forking out to travel to something like this, though we all know that nothing online is quite as good as being physically present in a classroom. A compensation is that we don’t have to haul fabric, threads and equipment through airports, we sleep in our own beds, wear whatever we feel most comfortable in and always have access to whatever fabrics and threads we already have in our sewing rooms or studio 🙂 I’m sure I have more than enough thread and fabric in my cupboard to keep me going for several years’ intense study, at least!

Detail, “Out Back of Bourke” 1986; from ‘Sunburnt Textures’ solo exhibition, 1987.

So I’ve signed on, and am looking forward to the first weekshop on Monday next, with a stitcher whose work I have long admired: Debbie Lyddon of UK. Her stitcheries emanate from intimate experience with the colour, shapes, lines and textures of landscape around her and it’s shifting, changing moods. I am looking forward to being reminded about taking inspiration from landscape and using hand stitch especially, to explore my own sense of place. I know this is going to be interesting and fun.

Limited Edition Face Masks To Benefit Relief Fund

May 13th, 2020

I wrote about a fun thing a month ago cutting out a set of lips and heat set it to a cream face mask, adding details by hand using marker pen. Despite saying I couldn’t see myself going into production, there are various ways to do this, for example take some fabric to be commercially printed with the image to then continue with making some masks, or brush up on my stencilling skills, make a stencil and use paint. Thinking more about this though, I decided I could make a limited number and sell them to raise funds for one of the pandemic relief efforts, of which there are many around, and I’ve asked a Uruguayan friend to recommend one in particular. While he’s working on that I’m continuing to make them, and when most are finished I’ll put the word out.

One friend said I need to document them. I don’t think she reads my blog, so wouldn’t realise I often document things as I make them, so would be taking a few pics for my visual diary, anyway. The number of these I could seriously consider making I set at 25, the chief determining factor being only having enough high quality cream fabric to make 24 more, but I had in mind my sustaining momentum to do more than that 🙂

I found this wonderful free clipart image of a nervous biting of the lips (upper left corner of first photo) which I felt summed up the atmosphere of this pandemic so well. I cut it out, cut out the teeth area in the centre (all this cutting a finicky dedication, believe me) and used this template (reversed) to trace around onto the backing paper of the Steam-a-Seam adhesive already on one side of the red fabric, so that when it’s turned over for ironing on to the cream background, the image is oriented the right way. These various stages are respresented on the left side of the first photo.

I made my masks of a rectangle of fabric cut about 10″ x 12″, folded to about 6″ x 10″ . The design is placed in the middle of what becomes the front when sewn. The elastic ends are caught in the side pleating as the ends are sewn.

The lips from the first one I made were appliqued using Misty Fuse – a web heat set adhesive. The machine stitching close to the edge prompted a little minor fraying which meant a less distinct edge – so I ran a fine line of Fray Check around the edges, and will wash gently by hand, and will advise everyone else to wash gently by hand, no bleach, and air dry before ironing on a cotton setting. Though for the rest I used Steam-a-Seam 2, which is a more ‘solid’ adhesive and the result was much better, compared with the top pic.

Also, the only red fabric I had sufficient of for the rest is a little darker: but, joy+luck, of the two red threads I have in my meagre thread stash, I just happened to have an exactly matching red for the darker fabric, though it is a quilting/thicker thread – but, hey, there’s a pandemic on.

Shading and teeth were details added by permanaent marker pen, fine point, and a line of dots rather than a solid line, mostly. The dots also helped cover the worst of the frayed edges on the inside edges of the lips. From samples first I found brown looked better than black.

The Mask As A Blank Canvas

April 25th, 2020

A loosely defined group of artists here in Uruguay are decorating or doing something in some way to make a statement through face masks, or tapabocas, which here are now required to be worn by everyone wanting to go into any shop, bank, cambio or anything else that is open for business. When the group began talking a couple of weeks ago, I responded that it was a good idea to channel some creativity during this period of isolation, and suggested it might even might lead to an exhibition or perhaps a fund raising auction to help starving artists, or something. Well, artists are typically starving, anyway, so maybe that hasn’t changed a lot with the Covid-19 Plague.

Yesterday I thought I’d better rattle my dags and produce something, as some wonderful things have started appearing on the Whats App group page. And once I started thinking and looking for ideas, I found a couple in some collections of free clipart I browsed, and this morning spent some free time making this first one. I mean, it was not like I had anything more pressing or had any social engagement to get dressed for.

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Just for the sake of the photo the mask is folded down to allow the eyes to really feature, so don’t give me a hard time about how a mask should be worn, OK? Ideally sunglasses or even reading glasses would be worn with these (so that I could read labels), even though walking about with them on is not comfortable, but my optometrist says I’m not a candidate for transitions.

I think this should work OK with social distancing out on the street or in the supermarket, right? We’re now required to wear masks or ‘tapabocas’ pretty well everywhere you can think of as people begin to move about a bit more while still social distancing and staying at home whereever possible. It’s interesting that once upon a time you had to remove all head and face coverings in every bank here … now a mask is required to enter a bank or cambio, supermarket or any other business.

One friend has already suggested she and ‘everyone’ will want one. I’m not planning to go into production myself, as the lips are appliqued red fabric, and the other details hand drawn in – took about an hour and a half to make and decorate from scratch – so, way too time intensive even to do a limited edition. But some bright young thing might start up some kind of production, perhaps printing them onto pre-made non-medical masks which are selling cheaply everywhere now. Just yesterday, a young man came to the gate selling packs of 5 in aid of a community support group. We have plenty, but I gave him a donation, anyway. Quilters are making masks for hospital staff and other front line people, using lovely quilters’ fabrics – so perhaps this kind of thing will catch on.

Anyway, I have a couple more ideas waiting in my mind, but right now I need a change of activity, a new book awaits my attention. Take care everyone, and wash your hands.

Time To Look At Tiny Details

April 21st, 2020

Under the present Covid-19 quarantine conditions, the pace of life has slowed for a while, and I know I’m not alone in having more mental space for small things I might otherwise gloss over, though I believe I’m fairly observant, anyway.

Glancing down this morning as I walked along it struck me how these busy little creatures were on an entirely different plane from the world I was walking along in. These leafcutter ants were moving bits of leaf somewhere, but I couldn’t work out which from which direction they were coming or where they were going, actually. And when you realise they were about 2-3mm long, it’s clear some of them were managing huge loads, often without much help, it seemed.

I didn’t spend too long watching and taking this photo, because Dulce the Dog had been unclipped from the lead and was wondering along ahead. She’s very obedient, and being a typical dog, walks at least twice as far as I do in any one excursion, zig-zagging back and forth across the path and nature strip. She’s getting pretty old, doesn’t hear well, and her eyesight is clouding over with cataracts especially on one side, so although we were on a familiar path, I needed to catch up with her to cross the road at our corner. I think I’ll keep her on the lead tomorrow and spend a bit more time watching the ants when we get to that point on the walk.

All across the land the little creatures we often hardly take notice of continue on with their normal life routines. In our world we humans are adapting, to a highly dangerous infectious disease that has brought a sudden change in all our lives and which will change us for ever. The death toll is rising and no one really knows how high it really is, or what the eventual tally will be. It is said that the Black Plague of the 1660s killed about 1/3 of the population of the known world at that time (from China across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe) a number thought to be around 25million people. The current world population is struggling to come to terms with the new coronavirus, about which we know very little yet, really, and not enough to be sure of finding a cure or a vaccine for it. In the meantime it rages on, present in every country now, and killing many more than seemed imaginable just a few months ago. Well, epidemiologists, virologists and public health and disaster experts have been able to imagine such an event, and warning governments of the possibility of this kind of event for years now, but it seems few countries in the world were adequately prepared to deal with such a reality. But under the present circumstances, I’m sure the ants and other little creatures in this area, wretched spiders included, will be just fine.

Piecing And Inserting Rounded Shapes

April 16th, 2020

On a facebook page today someone was having problems growing a piece out from the centre adding curved strips onto a circular shape, finding the buckling increases with each strip – so here’s a little exerpt from class notes of a workshop I teach for advanced improv piecers. Who knows when I’ll ever get to teach a workshop again!

It is important to cut and then sew each shape one at a time, rather than cutting everything out and then putting them together, because the seam allowance must be structured in as you go, seam by seam.

Inserting rounded shapes or ‘closed’ arcs

  • First try a single curved shape or arc, like a fish scale – or part of one – as thick or narrow as you need.
  • A set of arcs can be constructed this way, too. (think rainbow …) this unit or set of stripes can then be set as one piece into the background fabric.
  • It’s important to not stretch either strip.
  • I use tailor’s marking chalk in one of those rolling wheely things, but a line of pencil dots is ok too.
  • You’ll notice I use pins – the tighter curve the more pins I use. (Think setting a sleeve.)
  • Practice.

(a) (b)

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                  (c)                                                     (d)

a) Cut shape to be inserted, place face-up on background also face-up.  Turn both over so that now reverse sides of both the background and insert shape are facing upwards

b) mark seam allowance on back side of the insert shape.

(c) on the reverse of the background shape,mark around the shape as per the chalk line, and cut inside this line

(d) with rights sides together, pin starting at the top of the arc and pin, easing out towards each edge – very like inserting a fitted sleeve.

With practise, you can also use these steps to insert complete roundish, or circular shapes into the background fabric !!! This is also called reverse applique – think of the molas of San Blas Is., off the coast of Panama and Colombia.

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