A few days ago I made and published this audition sample with a view to a new work featuring strips of stripes made up of the thousand or so small scraps and snippets from several projects in the blue-green colour range, including last year’s SAQA Benefit Auction quilt.
Working this very improvisational way, it’s not logistically possible to cut each snippet individually – it’s like prepping veggies – you do a whole lot at once and then get to work using them. Late last year I scored a heap of luscious hand dyed offcuts from fellow art quilter, Lorraine, so there were many blue-green bits to put together here. Once I’d posted it, I noticed how the short row, of darker fabrics oversewn in black and grey, really receded towards the back, compared with the strips of lighter brighter colours that appeared to be closer. Well, of course I knew this bit of theory, but seeing it reminded me that this is something I can exploit in my next composition.
Lots of machine stitching later, I have a collection of groups of strips of the green-blue and green-yellow groupings, ranging in depth, but length of about 5″, that I’ll cut into wavy lines and stitch down with black thread into a grid outlined on black fabric:
I just finished the work I’ve been writing about, and for the moment, at least, calling it “Odds and Ends”. I commenced it at the start of the current SAQA 100 Days challenge in progress, now just over half way through. I haven’t been posting every day, as I felt there was no point in posting essentially repetitive images every single day! For me, that was a bit different from the previous 100 day one, about 18months ago, in which I did a small sample every day
There’s enough of the binding showing in the above pic to see that the border is segmented, several strips at a time joined into the dark grey-brown background fabric. I machine sewed the binding strip to the back, then folded it over to the front, hand hand stitching it down in the same way as I covered all the other edges in the quilt.
My regular readers know that even before a work is finished I am already thinking ahead a bit about the next – and this following sample completed today is part of that process:
Here, I’ve auditioned 4 fabrics from cream/unbleached calico, through light grey (with a touch of mauve) the dark grey/brown I used in Odds and Ends, and black. I cut wavy strips from the same sets of scraps in predominantly greens+blues, and auditioned silver, neon green, neon yellow, black and grey threads. I thought I’d prefer the sliver which isn’t exciting enough (I don’t think I’ll use gold in this case) but I really like the black (polyester sewing machine thread) against the black fabric, and grey thread against the grey. Another multi-audition coming soon.
In the last few years we’ve seen an incredible expansion of interest in hand stitch, especially with the Slow Stitch movement with attendant features of mindfulness, torn fabrics applied using running stitch, straight stitch or pattern darning, the embrace of meditation, and so on. As a hand stitcher, aka embroiderer, from the 70s, this is a development I’ve welcomed. I’ve never ‘abandoned’ hand stitch and hand quilting, but in the past 5-6 years hand stitch has become a much more significant feature of my own surface designs. The Glorious Straight Stitch, as I term it, has always been a favourite, and during the pandemic, having all the time in the world at home, I found myself truly calmed by simple hand stitching, listening as I always have done when making, to recorded books and more recently, podcasts.
One of the questions in my previous post, was about the kind of edging I needed for this work. I didn’t think either of my favourites, fine binding or facing, were just right. I felt they were just tooneat for this raw edged hand stitched style, which continues the line of several raw edge applique works I’ve made and shown in the last few years. It was the border treatment I worked on this next work, Caribbean Crush, that gave me the solution:
I needed to construct a segmented binding, which was easy enough given that I had various groups of pieced strips partly used. I added bits of them into a long strip of the background fabric, avoiding joins at the corners; sewed this to the back of the quilt, folded it forward and hand stitched the raw edge down onto the front of the work, in the manner of all the other applique on this quilt.
I love improvised, machine pieced patchwork, but without any planning for this to happen, raw edge applique has taken a major position in my recent body of work, and I haven’t planned anything pieced for ages! Below are some examples: clockwise from upper left – Pandemic Pattern, 2020, detail; “Make Do And Mend” banner 18″ x 24″ for Lift The Sky project ww.liftthesky.com ; Regeneration 2, 40cm x 40cm, 2019.
With steady progress, doing at least a small amount most days, I’m now reaching the end of the quilting on this work. I’m liking the loose ends left hanging, and I’d like my readers to understand that for me, it takes some effort to stitch raw edge applique which frays a bit during all the subsequent handling, to leave threads hanging, and to have shapes out of alignment, all of which goes against everything I was taught about good craftsmanship!
As I always do at this stage of any work, I’m thinking about 3 things:
What will I call this work? The phrase ‘odds and ends’ has become the working title. A friend commented that this reminds him of flying kites. It is so interesting to see what ideas come into people’s minds without the prompt of a title… I’ve often said that “Untitled” is a lazy cop-out, and that the best statement about a work is a carefully chosen, brief title. So, a title is on my mind – and it may well end up being Odds and Ends, but there might be something I like better. There’s plenty of time before any entry deadline.
How will I finish the edge of this work? My favourite edge finishes are a very fine binding or a faced edge- but neither feels really right for this one, so I’m thinking about alternatives. A torn or ragged edge would probably reveal at least something of the plain calico/undyed muslin of the quilt’s back, and maybe something of the fine white batting layer. I’m certainly thinking about doing something like a really rough scrap binding using more of the scrap fabrics I scored from Lorraine. (sounds a bit bizarre, I know)
So, what will I select to work on next? As usual, too many ideas and not enough hours in the day. .And not for the first time, I’ve been thinking I’d like to work on a group of small pieces related in theme, materials and techniques. I’ve already started to work out how I’ll deal with an interesting possibility posed by this sample which I whizzed up to keep the idea in my mind, working around that favourite square motif; but a single-stitch-to-a-side-grid could probably work for a triangular grid, too.
I came across this small sample this week, and was impressed with its age and realised how influential this little doodle has been since 2013 as a stepping stone for many works which add surface stitch to the segments, some examples of which I show below. The hand stitch can be surface design only or may also serve as hand quilting.
I have always found inspiration in landscape shapes, colours and textures. I studied and loved physical geography and geomorphology, in which one draws simple diagrams to illustrate a point or a structure. Like many of us, I’m fascinated by views or slices through layers of rock showing how shifting pressures beneath the Earth’s crust forced movement between overlying layers of rock in response, producing characteristic structural patterns which a geologist can ‘read’ to understand more about the underlying structure and history of an area, all of which is relevant to mineral formation and potential nearby. Erosion and deposition too, result in interesting patterns, so my landscape inspired designs are essentially diagrams in fabric and thread.
I began using this arrangement of strips to suggest landscape many times since the early 2000s, with both improvisational patchwork –
and also in appliqued leather segments forming the surface design.
My Quilt National ’21 quilt “Pandemic Pattern” featured hundreds of ~1.5cm x ~5cm fabric strips appliqued with straight stitch oversewing. The strips in this case represent the rows of closely spaced, hastily dug fresh graves that we saw in certain parts of the world as the Covid-19 pandemic swept around the globe; so this is a pattern on the landscape, not of landscape shapes themselves, but I mention it here to remind myself that my passion for oversewing strips of fabric did not just come out of the blue in 2020 when I decided to hand stitch the surface design of my first ‘pandemic quilt’.