Sheer Overlays

July 20th, 2021

I am currently making some small works, partly for a change of scale which I enjoy now and then, but also because I am waiting to take delivery of a floor standing embroidery/quilting frame I’ve had a local carpenter here in Uruguay make up for me, basing it on the pics of one commercially available up in the USA, which would cost me a large amount of money to import. I’ve seen the pictures of what PJ has made up for me, and I just have to be patient until it arrives in a few days’ time. I have some small artist canvas frames that I had big plans for several years ago but never got round to using, so I’ll be mounting this week’s creative output on those.

I saw an idea on Pinterest some time ago, which suggested I could use layers of sheer fabrics, overlaid and set in place with Misty Fuse, that wonderful bonding web stuff, and in some way stitched into place.

In the first sample, left, the black running stitch is dramatic, but the gold running stitch isn’t very interesting. But in the sample on the right, the gold machine stitching is striking, and probably more interesting than if it were in black or dark grey. These little blocks are about the size they will be on the actual work, so I think I’ll go with the gold machine stitchery.

Stencilled Gold, 4

July 17th, 2021

Choosing another spot on the sampler that is developing, I did this little sample and like the stitched applique effect on a bit of paint that is about the size of a thumb print.

Continuing my love affair with gold glitter, I took some of the gold lame I’ve had languishing for some time in a box of exotic fabrics, added some Misty Fuse bonding web to it and pressed some shapes of it onto black cotton and some of the neon orange nylon (which I have in abundance)

The shape on black is ~3cm x 3cm, that on orange is a large thumbprint size.

Around the curved part of the shape on black, I did stiches alternating in black and gold, and rather like that effect compared to the all gold stitching. It’s an interesting option even though it means stitching around the shape twice, of course.

Stencilled Gold, 3

July 4th, 2021

A few posts back I blogged an initial sample using stitch around some gold shapes I stencilled on a piece of black fabric, Those first little bits of stitching were pretty tame and tentative, really, but I’ve kept the sample piece on my design wall, and yesterday went back to add some more interesting gold stitchery onto it:

Stem stitch orbiting a gold shape, ends in a broken line and groups of stitches at the other end. Some gold thread irregularly couched down with the same gold. The lines of tiny gold dots on the LHS and towards the upper RHS resulted from stitching across the stencil without thread in the seriously blunted needle… I think I need to blunt an even thicker needle.

Now, I can envisage using that stencil again and getting exactly the same shapes, or doing some freehand splotches or even finger prints, or using a paintbrush … To be seen and appreciated of course, gold needs to be against a dark colour for the best result. And I love gold and glitter thread, so there’s something brewing somehow.

Sunburnt Country, 2021. 60cm x 40cm

However, I also have some earthy tan fabric that might lend itself to some of that treatment with say browns/greys to form a background for some little landscapes left over from the bunch I made to use in Sunburnt Country. I didn’t use them all for this piece, and feel the need to go to this subject again, but perhaps larger.

Embroidery,Hand Stitch, Slow Stitch

June 28th, 2021

When I was young, there was Sewing, Mending, Embroidery and Fancy Work. No one ever talked about ‘stitch’ which would have sounded pretentious, rather ‘arty farty’, somehow. If any general word was used, it was ‘stitchery’. But today the preferred term is ‘stitch’, and before going to current usage of this word, let me look back to when I became an Australian teenager, in 1959.

Sewing was a practical term, implying making something, anything, from a piece of fabric, using hand or machine. It included household items like hemming sheets, making new kitchen curtains, hemming serviettes and a tablecloth cut from a length of fabric, or most importantly making clothes – for a child, older family member or possibly the maker herself. In the Australia of my youth, most people who ‘sewed’ were home sewers, most often mothers, and ‘dressmakers’ who sewed for hire. Mens’ clothing was and still is made by tailors, and hardly surprisingly, traditionally most of those are male.

Mending is still the term for every kind of repair or alteration to any textile item. Letting out and taking in seams, taking up and letting down hems and waistlines, replacing zips and buttons, turning collars, and so on, including mending tears and seam failures in clothes and household textiles of all kinds. What we don’t hear much about these days is the sub-set of mending known as ‘darning’; people don’t darn socks much now, though perhaps some still do on pure wool jumpers/sweaters. Many of the young in more affluent Western countries wouldn’t be too familiar with the process of weaving across a worn hole or thin patch with suitable thread to prolong the life of the rest of the garment, and I will return ‘darning’ when I get to the point of my heading for this post.

Embroidery is the general term for stitchery applied to a textile item or a garment to decorate or embellish it. The needle can be hand held or mechanised (machine embroidered) When I was a girl Fancy Work generally mean embroidery to produce beautifully decorated household linens such as doilies or sets of table mats and serviettes, duchesse sets. pillow cases, and monogramming towels, sheets, pillow cases, linen hankies and the like.

Left – back. Right – front. I still have this piece of ‘fancy work’ I worked 64 years ago, when I was in grade 5, aged ~10. I chose and bought this stamped, shaped piece of linen, and selected the thread colours. I stem stitched along the lines and filled in the leaf and flower areas with satin stitch. French knots are still a favourite stitch. I hand crocheted the edging.

Most embroiderers in C20 Australia didn’t make up their own designs, but either followed published patterns (books, magazines) or they bought linen pieces already stamped with lines of the design printed on them to follow, and this is probably still true today, as this craft remains hugely popular. There was a lot of pride in executing the more challenging stitches, which made them ‘fancier’ than the simpler ones (running, stem and chain stitches, plus the scattered and linear (whipped or threaded) variations of those.

I was moved to think about all this because of a little irritation, really, at how the straight stitch, that simplest, most basic stitch of all is being fairly carelessly called slow stitch, boro, sashiko, kantha stitch, big stitch quilting, depending on who’s using the term; and these are also being used interchangably. They are all the same stitch – putting the needle into the fabric, taking it out a bit further along and repeat, certainly; but some arrangements and patterns of them have precise cultural backgrounds which tend to become the subject of fads that come and go, depending on who’s promoting one of them in their book or teaching classes based on the flavour of the day. To me, it’s all the glorious straight stitch, about which I’ve written several times, including The Glorious Straight Stitch.

I’ve done a lot of hand stitch and quilting down the years, but I’m no expert on Kantha, Boro or Sashiko, seeing them all as usage of straight stitches in lines or in groups for practical or decorative purposes- often essentially ‘darning’, really. I googled the question “What is the difference between Boro and Sashiko?” and came up with this informative article in which Kantha is mentioned too, so it has a good perspective. Then I found this highly informative article on Kantha clearly demonstrating the similarities to its Japanese counterparts Boro and Sashiko.

And then, the other day on FB someone posted a photo of some embroidery they’re working on, referring to it as ‘my Slow Stitch piece”. It was nice, looked well done, included some beading and several of the more complicated embroidery stitches… in short, it looked pretty much like Fancy Work to me! Slow stitching is an actual movement that has grown in popularity over the past decade, surrounded by a somewhat almost spiritual mystique. Slow in this case means taking your time, being ‘mindful’, contemplating life while carefully considering how you place each stitch, as if somehow this makes it especially precious. Perhaps it does in a way, but I feel no need to literally stitch slowly; carefully executed stitches can be pretty speedy, too. Controversally perhaps, I also believe that slow stitch does not necessarily preclude machine made stitch, rather, it is the carefully placed stitch that’s the key to this code. And, further, I’ve always felt that careful placement of stitches to achieve a desired look, is the hallmark of good craftsmanship in textile art.

Textile Shadow Boxes

June 26th, 2021

I recently blogged about this little textile shadow box sample I made, trying out an idea I pinned on my Pinterest board many months ago. You’ll find further information on that here

Today I returned to my Pinterest “presentations” board, to see which maker came up with that bright idea. However, there’s no one answer, because I found that I’ve pinned several others, too, and it’s actually quite a popular method of presentation of artwork, and done in various sizes, not just to show little things. Here are some examples I found:

From detail sections I recognise, I’m pretty certain that the one I pinned and was directly influenced by, was work of the UK textile artist, Mary Morris. Another name that came up in one of the pins I found on my board, which had a ‘Note To Self’ on it to whoever had pinned it – ‘Shane Drinkwater’. It’s an intriguing image of what looks like 6 beer carton halves with painted insides and a section of dot-textured painting placed inside on the base. I searched Shane Drinkwater and found he is Australian (indeed, a fellow Tasmanian) a prolific artist whose painted works are mostly on paper and include a lot of grid-like layouts of irregular lines of dots, textured shapes and patterns of other marks. I found his work quite thrilling, with strong connection to contemporary quilt design and some contemporary Australian Indigenous art too, which is hardly surprising. Another interesting artist working at times with boxes I found was Deborah Benioff Friedman – both the boxes themselves and their real or implied contents are part of her assemblages. Saving the best for last, I found some lovely child-like art at Criando Com Apego which literally means creating with an emotional attachment. This is a delightful website with wonderful ideas to encourage and develop the imagination and creativity of young children – for whoever the website owner is, he/she has a passionate interest in teaching such children. The matchboxes have pictures placed in them, and each picture becomes a part of the whole story …. which takes me right back to my interest in using the shadow box arrangement for segments of some kind of textile to act together to convey something, a story, explore a memory, that kind of thing.

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