Auditioning From The Scrap Bag

August 3rd, 2020

I’m starting a new larger piece, aiming to submit to Quilt National. Entries have been open for months, but I’ve only just focused in the past few days. Most of the times I have been selected for QN, I’ve made my entries in the last few weeks before closing, so I’m more or less on my accustomed schedule ­čśë With the book club and my mahjong group in recess for the duration, there’s little social activity to interfere with it !!

Auditioning from the scrap bag

Late last week I began dabbling with samples and fabrics, but for one reason and another, none of these urged me to continue in this vein.

Left – strips of pieced stripes; Upper right: what can I say; Lower right: segments oversewn with (a) cream and (b) flourescent red – too much wrong with this idea.

At first I thought cream background with cream thread would be great … but the result is quite blah, though it took me 3 different samples to be convinced. I do think that would look lovely in greys or gentle sunset/sunrise colours, even though ‘soft colours’ aren’t my thing. Never say never. Slices of pieced strips aren’t ‘it’ this time, either, though I sewed one piece with cream, another with gold and the third with light silver/gold. Metallic threads definitely need a dark background to literally shine. Finally, the upper right hand sample needs more experimenting: there’s no drama, although there could be, and this idea needs more work, which would take time I don’t have.

Late on Sunday afternoon, I found some marvellous overdyed fabric that I thought a whole lot of red and purple/darkish shapes would look great on. I assembled the reds, called it a day and was all set to start stitching today. But in the shower early this morning, a different image came to mind; one with serious meaning and an apt title. The result was I felt I had to totally change my fabric ideas again, for the third time. I think this might be the first time I have ever had a title for a quilt before the quilt is actually under way.

The fact that I found some fabric I’d completely forgotten about, and by sheer fortune had a reel of matching thread, convinced me I had done the right thing by changing the fabrics/thread combo yet again. It took several hours to put the previous lots of fabric away, and then turn out the scrap bag to pull pieces of the things I now needed: hand dyed fabrics in warm earthy colours, with no commercial prints and, interestingly, no commercial plains this time- they just won’t work, even though I normally mix them all. However, I found lots of scraps of hand dyed fabrics plus some yardage of several colours, so now I have plenty of ironed fabrics gathered ready to do a sort of mosaic type of design using the oversewn technique that I’ve recently found so agreeable.

This quilt has a dark theme, one to do with this dreadful pandemic, so there will be no clear bright colours, and nothing with any white in the fabric. It’s not that I’ve become stricken with depression or anything, it just wouldn’t be appropriate, given the title and imagery.

Hand Appliqued Small Quilt

July 29th, 2020

I recently posted on using gold straight stitches to hand applique joined strips of fabric scraps, http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=5758 and mentioned making a 40cm x 40cm piece – which I finished today. Yay!!!

Working title only at this stage is ‘gold oversewn bush colours’ 40cm sq.

To machine quilt black on black between the bands of colour, I chose a thread with dull finish to make it as unobtrusive as possible – which of course means that the lines of quilting MOL invisible! But it is there, and when I take it and the next one to my photographer, Eduardo Baldizan, in a few weeks’ time, I’m sure he’ll capture some close up detail at a dazzling number of pixels resolution.

I know many art quilters do have several pieces in progress at any time, rather as painters do, but it’s not normal for me to start another until I’ve reached the final hand sewing stage of either binding or facing, and the hanging sleeve. With more than one piece under construction, I find moving from one work to another distracting. If I get really stuck and can’t move on, I have been known to take something down off the wall, put it and those fabrics away completely out of sight before working on the next.

Sample Making – Auditioning Ideas

July 24th, 2020

The other day I found an interesting image called “Ruffles” from Peggy Ostercamp’s weaving on Pinterest. It consists of a core some fibre covered by a sleeve of her diaphanous hand woven silk fabric which is much longer than the core, so as it hangs it settles into wrinkles. Intrigued, I pinned the image to capture the essence of what inspired me at that moment, and immediately made a sample of a core with wrinkled fabric around it. I used firm plastic for my core and covered it with a tube of plain cotton, then added a few little needleweaving things – because when I saw Peggy’s work it immdiately struck me that this could be a framework/canvas for some kind of needleworked construction.

I’m busy oversewing fabric strips with gold onto a black background which I hope to finish today, but now I have this little sample kicking around, I can think about some possibilities:

  • use something non-crushable like nylon organza or some glittery fabrics I have in my stash?
  • make a soft rollable or foldable core rather than firm plastic sheeting?
  • hanging arrangement – sleeve? grommets?

Making a sample can show if an idea works, and may even lead to an unexpected ‘aha moment’ a long time after you make it. It can also eventually show that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should !!!

Lines, Marks, Stitches, 3

July 22nd, 2020

Of course I love glitter, but using thread the same colour as the background to oversew the strips is a whole other area to pursue. I like the effect of small segments of colour lined up beside each other against the black.

L to R – (a) black quilting thread – marvellous (b) black perle #8 – too thick and shiny, and (c) a shiny polyester thread – too thin.

The glorious straight stitch is my very favourite, with enormous expressive potential in lines that outline shaopes and build into patterns and in groups to infill areas. Previously http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=741 I’ve posted on some of the ways this most basic stitch of all has been used since humans began sewing fabrics together for preactical purposes, and it was invitable that the element of decoration appeared concurrently. It is a very human characteristic to decorate surfaces and objects in our surroundings, and there are others in the animal kingdom that also decorate, chiefly as part of their routine to attract a mate.

In my last post I wrote “The sewing is very calming and satisfying ÔÇô a perfect project for these turbulent times.” With the rise of the Slow Stitch movement in the last few years, and appearance in the fibre art of Penny Berens, Judy Martin, Christine Mauersberger, Dorothy Caldwell and many more artists, the straight stitch is hugely popular. Of course, hand quilting uses straight stitches, but I have been creatively stitching with them since long before I encountered quiltmaking in the late 80s. These pieces date between 1986 and 2007:

Upper left, detail “Sunburnt Textures” 1987; Lower left, detail “Desert Tracks 5: 2007;
Centre, detail “Heritage 1”, 2005; Right, detail “On the Edge Of The Golden Mile” 1986

The next image is a collage of details from some more recent works (2004-2016) featuring straight stitch as both quilting and embroidery.

Upper Left detail “About Red” 2015, Upper Right Tetrahedron, “Wave” 2016
Lower Left detail “Ebb&Flow 8 2004, Lower Right detail “Sunburnt Textures 5” 2015

Lines, Marks, Stitches, 2

July 19th, 2020
Adhesive backed strips (L) gave smooth edges. Hand basted strips (R) gave frayed edges

Contrary to my expectations, I found I like the frayed version better. So in the past couple of weeks I’ve been working out how to work a complete work using this technique. I’m currently doing a 40cm x 40cm as a ‘sample’ on black – love the rich look of colour+gold stitch on black. The linear shapes are another of my favourite constructions, ie. strings of fabric scraps pieced to form a line, in the Ebb & Flow style motif I often reference:

  • Note the machine basting down the centre of each strip – of course it will be removed all the oversewing’s completed. I was so obsessed with hand stitch it took me a while to come up with this blindingly obvious time saving solution ­čÖé and once I did a large work seemed perfectly feasible.
  • Joining the gold thread – I decided visible knots on the front of the work, as they add to the frayed thread textured edges.
  • One of my most valued pieces of sewing equipment, this blue hoop works with a spring loaded metal ring which expands to fit inside the groove on the inner edge of the blue plastic. I’m using it upside down so that nothing catches my thread as I sew. The working surface is only 15cm diameter, but it is so quick to release and move along a bit, it’s a breeze. I had a look online just now and machine embroidery hoops come in all shapes and sizes, and all look much more complicated, apparently designed to fit in one specific machine. This ring works with every machine, and when used the right way up sits flush with the sewing table. I bought it in an Elna shop 40+ years ago. I definitely need a hoop for this work – tried it without but it is just too slow, and this small one works really well.
  • The sewing is very calming and satisfying – a perfect project for these turbulent times. Based on what I’ve done so far, I estimate coverage of this kind over 40cm x 40cm will total approximately 12 – 15 hours. That makes it reasonable to consider doing a much larger work with dimensions of 1-2m.
  • And yes, with these colours and gold, this is definitely a landscape quilt, no working title at the moment though.
  • In different fabrics, with different threads in the stitched oversewing, totally different look will result. Very exciting potential that I feel is a natural follow-on from what I’ve been doing for so long. Making samples always pays off, eventually.

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