Planning Pandemic Pattern 3

December 28th, 2020

Some of the pieces in the bag of beautiful fine leather offcuts I blogged about a few weeks ago are used here in Pandemic Pattern 2:

Pandemic Pattern 2, free machine quilting in progress. Donation for the 2021 annual SAQA Auction

This 12″ x 12″ work is way ahead of schedule for SAQA’s annual September auction, as I normally make my donor piece in late January or February. However, I also often use these small format pieces as samples, and this one is really a sample for the next Pandemic Pattern piece, which is already on my mind as I finish the applique work featuring gold on black.

What I learned from the Pandemic Pattern 2 piece is:-

  • that machine basting the small circles of leather to the fabric was all very well in a small work, but physically out of the question for the large piece I have in mind.
  • I sewed stemmed french knots into the holes that the machine basting made. I’d like the next covid molecules to have fewer spikes, and was thinking about how to achieve this using my basting method. Leather can be tough to sew through.

This morning I took a break from the black/gold to do a few test samples for Pandemic Pattern 3 I have in mind.

A set of stitches, including stemmed fly and some other long straight stitches with two short ones crossing close to the free ends.

In the first pic, there’s some hi-vis citrusy knitting yarn, acrylic, about 8 ply. I don’t know if it will be useful in the work I have in mind, but I auditioned it, anyway, in single, 2- and 4-strand thicknesses, with some french knots w/wo stems – underwhelmed with the fuzzy effect. It would be better couched. More importantly in this pic is my first pass at using hi-vis polyester thread. (upholsterer’s thread weight and very strong) I learned a while back that it is rather springy, so it’s really difficult to use in some stitches. Here, however, I liked the effect of very open or shallow, long stemmed fly stitch, enough to persevere with exploration of it –

Some wide long-stemmed fly stitches, plus simple long stitches with short stitches crossing at one end.

Next I did the long+2 tiny cross stitches in two weights of flourescent orange thread. Pinning the leather and stitching around with long straight stitches (up from beneath through the fabric, down from the top through the fine leather was no trouble with a sharp needle) That was followed by another round of small stitches crossing the free ends – the easy solution I’d been looking for, and I now have the heart to tackle the large work on my mind. I like the effects of both threads.

I just can’t get this fabric to photograph showing its flourescence, but it is much brighter than the kind of mint green it looks.

Trying out these various possibilities only took about an hour of my time, but helped me make some decisions. I’m a real fan of sample making.

Inspiring Raw Materials, 2

December 27th, 2020

I enrolled in The Stitch Club when it started in early May, and though new registrations are currently closed, check the website and if you like the whole idea, you can put your name down for notification next time they open. Every 4 or 5 years ince the late 70s, I’ve been in the habit of going to a long workshop over several days, at a summer school or similar. I value the charge, the boost to my creativity this experience brings, while learning some new skills or techniques. The networking opportunity with like minded souls is very stimulating, too. I was starting to think about working one into our next trip to Australia which, of course, thanks to Covid-19 didn’t happen this year. I never have trouble keeping myself occupied, and am never short of ideas for my next artwork. However, seeing rather more fibre and thread time than usual ahead, I thought treating myself to a series of workshops by prominent textile artist teachers would be a treat and compensation for the pandemic’s disruption – what a good decision.

Hand stitch being one of my passions, it has been so inspiring to take online workshops from a variety of top stitch artists from several countries. When planning the workshops, the organisers clearly required all Stitch Club tutors to design projects with requirements lists featuring repurposed and recycled fabrics, and materials that average stitchers and craft people will have around their homes, anyway. I can honestly say that apart from some wire I needed for in workshop #1, I haven’t needed to buy anything to proceed with any other, and my sewing or embroidery resources are not large. Thanks to my upbringing (and probably age) I’m in the habit of using what I already have around and improvising where necessary, a skill and attitude honed in 2 decades of Austalian Outback living.

I make non-traditional or art quilts often featuring freehand patchwork, and have always kept offcuts and decent sized scraps, so although my stash is very small by many standards, my generous sized scrap bags contain plenty of interesting bits and pieces. The lovely cotton fabrics I love to work with in my contemporary pieced work (heaps of examples elsewhere on this website) are impossible to buy here in Uruguay, and I only have access to them in USA or Australia. I tried mail ordering a few times, but 2/3 of the consignments were pilfered, so I gave up on that.

L – collaged raw edged applique on a plastic base
U.R. – metallic finish leathers, machine appliqued with gold thread
L.R. mylar backed nylon machine appliqued to black faux patent (vinyl)

I believe this whole situation has left me more receptive to any kind of material’s potential when faced with something unusual, like this black patent finish vinyl:

Land Marks, 2016, 120cm x 90cm

When I came across this faux patent, I bought the last 1.3m piece on the roll, used every square centemetre, and have never seen it again.

Land Marks detail. Nylon backed mylar, hand drawn marks, machine applique.

One of the Stitch Club tutors, Susie Vickery, took the recycle-repurpose materials furthest so far, developing her workshop around using actual rubbish, like plastic mesh vegetable bags,strips of plastic bags and packaging. She coupled this with an exercise in Jacobean crewel embroidery, a european style that reached a height of popularity in the C15 and C16. The formal, stylised designs of this embroidery are still very popular today, usually carried out using fine wool thread on linen or wool twill fabrics. Though I’ve never done any, it is lovely, and the history of this well documented style is fascinating, but an investment in expensive materials is needed to faithfully duplicate the intricate colour gradations and finely detailed patterns that characterise it. In a follow up video segment this morning, Suzie Vickery made an interesting, thought provoking statement:- that she’s found that using beautiful expensive, specialised materials can actually paralyze a person’s creativity.

Ultimately, the maker’s planned use of the textile art largely determines final choice of materials. On one hand, natural fibres (wool, silk, rayon, leather and cotton) are comfortable around the body and next to our skin, and in time they eventually decay into the biosphere – so think clothing and up-market household furnishings. Unless we’ve been hiding under a rock, though, we know that cheap, durable man made fibres or synthetics, usually take much longer to decay, eventually accumulate in the environment and produce harmful effects on all life forms. However, for a large installation they offer durability and sturdiness that natural fibres may not have in the same location.

Inspiring Raw Materials

December 12th, 2020

A few weeks ago I met a local stitcher, Maria, who put me onto a very good merceria/haberdasher in another part of the city I don’t know well. As errands in the pandemic have become ‘outings’ of some significance, it was a treat earlier in the week to visit it and find some more flourescent threads, which I’ve been collecting and using for a while now – some of them are in this photo.

The background fabrics I bought yesterday, on an outing to a wonderful store where every fabric is priced per kilo. I had shopped there once years ago, but as it’s out of my normal ‘circuit’, I’d forgotten it until I met Maria. So yesterday’s outing was to that shop. Outside the closed door to the shop are hand gel and number dispensers. Only 5 customers are permitted inside at a time, so by the time my number was up, I’d focused on two clear goals – (1) to ask to see some black and grey fabrics, and (2) see if there was anything in non-knit flourescent fabrics.

These are not fabrics for patchwork but use as backgrounds for appliques…. I’m thinking of those leather bits. I found a great polysester, almost gabardine weight. The vibrant flouro greeny yellow really pulsates, quite irresistible, and I snapped up the 2+m left on the bolt. The grey was very pleasing (2m) and of course they had black (2m) My tally was 6+m of 1.8m wide fabric for $535 (pesos) which is about US$12.60.

As a side note – I’ve always thought grey and yellow work well together, and was pleased with the recently announced Pantone’s colours for 2021 – a gorgeous video clip (1min). For only the second time ever, this year Pantone chose two colours, Ultimate Grey, a middish grey, and a very bright yellow known as Illuminating.

Lines, Marks And Stitches 8

December 11th, 2020

I have elected to go along with appliqued annuli, and for this section am finding it’s actually easier and faster to hand baste these down as I go. While I have gone further than in this pic, I have deliberately maintained a mix of sizes and thicknesses of the rings, and the two solid ones you see here had centres cut out after all – didn’t look good. In fact, once I work through all the annuli I have already cut out – another 50 or so, I think it will be even quicker to cut just the full ‘circle’ shape, sew it down and then cut out a middle bit.

It’s a large project, and it’s just as well as my enjoyment of the process isn’t flagging. Every now and then I find some way to rationalise, economise on effort or speed up the time for a step, and hand basting this area is one example.

The zig-zag stitching you can see is machine basting, to be removed. In a different light from the photo I put up in the previous post, the black fabric and the soft gold colour of the fabric are both clearer. This excellent quality photo was taken by my phone, and really shows up the stitching super clearly. The zone of circle patterning is roughly 25cm wide.

As I stitch I have time to either listen to recorded books , or put the radio on to a favourite music station and think about ‘things’, including my next projects, which will be a quick one in the Stitch Club workshop series, and then the next Pandemic Pattern. Yesterday I finished off a Great Courses lecture series on the Ancient Civilisations of North America, and today I started listening to A Time For Mercy by John Grisham. I have Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s In Her Own Words waiting, and I will soon return to Michelle Obama’s Becoming in which I was interrrupted several months back.

Lines, Marks And Stitches 7

December 5th, 2020

I rarely carefully draw out a design in advance – as I’ve said before, I go from thumbnail sketches to making any samples I need to.

A thumbnail from my sketchbook: ‘garter stitch’ is the technical term for the most basic knitting stitch
Dreamlines 3, 2015, 70cm x 40cm,

On monday I couldn’t resist tackling an idea to start using some of the seductive leather scraps about which I posted recently. Importantly though, I also needed some time to think about a couple of emerging aspects of this work:

  • The two wide horizontal stripes were the first pieces sewn down,
  • after which I attached the arches, arcs, partial circles – however you see them.
  • My feeling that those first two horizontal stripes really were too thick was confirmed once the solid ‘semi’ circles were in place.
  • So I did a couple of runs of widest/longest machine zig-zag basting, (lower left corner) and started cutting and removing a mid section to make two narrower strips that will be more harmonious with the rest.
  • The two circular rings pinned up are a possibility I’m considering – if I use them in a patterning segment I think they’ll be smaller and finer.

So this is both improv and slow stitch – two hot button terms in the textile art at present, each bearing auras of mindfulness and virtue signalling. It’s way too early to be certain how this will all look when it’s fnished, but that’s normal for the way I work. At an expected 1.8m x 0.9m it’s a fairly large piece for me, so I know there’s a lot more stitching to work through, but I have several more audio books waiting for my enjoyment, because once design problems are sorted, I listen as I stitch through to completion. Still, there’s a pandemic on, and I have plenty of time.

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