Posts Tagged ‘hand stitch’

The Shimmer Effect

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

SAQA juror Pat Forster selected one of my works,“The Shimmer Effect”, for an online exhibition, Geometric Expressions, which opens on the SAQA website on January 3rd next. I’ll post that link here when it’s available.

I never show a completed work on my blog or website until it’s been exhibited, ie published somewhere, so for now here’s a close detail shot of the surface texture, along with my statement about it: “A square symbolises balance, solidity and stability.  Hand stitching over concentric squares in gentle neutral colours calmed my unease at current disorder and chaos in the world.  Metallic threads in my work signify value or importance, here referencing tradition and hope.

Close detail, “The Shimmer Effect, 2022. Each square is ~6cm.

I posted about it while making this quilt as it was such a long project. It’s about 1m square, with each concentric square unit being 6cm, with a total of 121 squares of fused nylon organza strips oversewn by hand in metallic thread. The fabric itself has a subtle glittery texture.

Yay!! My Work Selected For A Challenging Call

Thursday, September 28th, 2023
“Below The Tideline” / “Debajo de la Linea de Marea” 2023, 20cm x 20cm Fibreglass, glass beads; beading plus hand and machine stitch.

A few months ago I saw a call for entries for an exhibition here in Uruguay early next year. South American artists working in glass and/or textile were invited to submit a 20cm x 20cm piece combining both textile and glass materials and techniques in some way. The January exhibition will be along the coast at Maldonado, part of Punta del Este, the summer season playground for the rich and beautiful from Europe and other latin Americn countries. An online catalogue will be presented, too, so for exposure alone I thought it definitely worth trying for. 

My first thought was “fibreglass, that’s a textile!”, and my next move was to rummage in the cupboards for a long forgotten stash of large glass beads. On a visit to Egypt years ago, a textile artist friend living there took Mike and me to a glassblowing artist’s studio. I simply couldn’t resist gathering up a heavy half-full shopping bag of these huge beads, with no idea of what I’d do with them. I strung some into a necklace, which looked great, but was so heavy I could only wear it for about 3 hours. I don’t remember what I did with it, but probably gave it away.

I called a carpenter friend, PJ, who had some remnants he gave me to experiment with. through sample making I learned how to handle this stuff – and it is not at all like stitching on even weave linen!  For one thing it’s pretty slippery to work with, so there were handling problems requiring creative solutions.  After a week of fiddling around samplising, I followed PJ’s recommendation to visit a store where I could buy some fabric and was able to buy just one metre. I also bought some velo – (trans. veil) It’s very like a single layer of unwoven facial tissue and similarly delicate, which disappointed me a bit. Velo’s used as the final finishing layer on surfboards, for example, giving a smoother finish to the board, and probably making a difference to the performance in the water. I had decided not to get into the area of resins and toxic fumes etc, but did look up health and safety concerns for fibreglass itself, and that’s ok on its own, though it bothers some people when they get it on their skin (I didn’t). As a fibre it’s fairly heavy, and any tiny pieces fall, they don’t waft around in the air.

Considering techniques, to use,my first thought were of the counted thread and drawn thread embroideries I made when young, but the piece of fabric I had wasn’t closely enough woven, and so I turned to the creative embroidery I worked with in the 80s, in the style of Constance Howard and the other, mostly British, embroiderers of that era. Perfect – because in recent years, after a long period making quilted contemporary patchwork, my layered stitched artworks are again featuring hand stitch as a vital surface design element.

Glass beads from Egypt! The fabric is fibre glass, and the other bobbly things are another purchase I simply had to make in Egypt… they’re thread ‘buttons’ for traditional men’s clothing. I’ve always thought them quite beautiful but they’re not very robust – several are unravelling even though about all they’re ever done is travel a day or two in a suitcase, then sit in a drawer and about once a year just slip through my hands for a few minutes….

In this pic are several things I auditioned for the piece I eventually made. I had thought I’d hemstitch the edge, but the glass is too brittle to fold over into a hemstitched edge – in addition to which it is very slippery indeed – so although it looks like even weave linen, it doesn’t behave anything like it!! I had a fairly steep learning curve to handle and control it, while adapting my expectations a bit! And, in the end, I didn’t use the hemstitching, the grey ribbon or the two glass flowers.

Appliqued puffs, and crumpled fibreglass was machine sewn down before being hand embroidered over.
These large pieces of glass are heavy ~1.5 – 2.5cm across and ~0.5cm thick. Barely visible strips of nylon organza cut on the cross secure them under the strands of wandering fine glass beading.
Strings of beading and lots and lots of French knots add the textures that suggest encrustations in rock pools below the tideline.

I avoided googling to see what other artists are doing with this stuff, as I wanted to keep what I already envisaged within the exhibition’s prospectus, and it will be exciting to see what people have produced within those 20cm x 20cm measurements!

When I did get round to googling the uses of fibreglass fabric, I was astonished at the number of industrial, engineering, automotive and architectural uses of this material. It wasn’t easy to work with, but I would consider using it again if it was appropriate, or if a bright idea strikes me!

The exhibition opens early in January, and I’ll post the details of that closer to the time.

This One’s Going To Take A While …

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

Now, at last I feel mentally free to start a work I’ve had in mind for a few weeks since finding a photo I posted previously as an inspiring colour scheme. Stitching this will balance the hectic colours I’ve just been working with, and as surface stitch is so important in my designs these days, it is going to be a serious undertaking in stitch. As each of the expected 169 squares currently takes about 45-50 minutes each, from cutting the strips to the last stitch, I have plenty of time 🙂 to think about the title. I may speed up a little as I get the hang of managing the fabric+hoop needing to be draped over the ironing board – a fabulous sewing table which I’ll blog about a bit later.

Sample strip – pieces of different sheers I plan to use in this work fused/bonded onto some of the fabric background piece. The square in a square on the left end is my plan – a repeat block design of this, one of my all time favourite traditional blocks.

It’s not just the colours – greys, beiges and just a touch of soft apricot-gold, but this photo has so much reflected light shimmering off wet sand and the water’s surface, that in that earlier post I referred to ‘shimmer’ as a key word. That is what I’ll be aiming to present in what might be titled ‘Shimmer’ once I’m done.

The first four blocks of ‘Shimmer’, are shown here in process, from fusing the strip placement to completed square within a square. I used Misty Fuse, and an unbranded yellow gold thread from China. The metallic thread used will vary with the different fabric strips being oversewn. I have some coppery metallic which I think will give just the right touch of peach pink ….

Adding Pattern Layers With Quilting

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021
Hand quilting pattern derived from carved patterns in rocks, petroglyphs, made by ancient people in the 4 Corners area of the SW USA, in “Ancient Expressions 1” , 1989

One thing I keep an eye open for on when browsing on Pinterest is sets of marks and patterns, made by any means, that I think could look interesting interpreted in stitch. Of course, a stroke with a pencil makes the same kind of mark as that most basic of all stitches, the straight stitch.

In much of my textile art, I stitch through two or three layers of fabric to keep them all properly positioned in relation to each other, so that nothing sags with hanging or shifts with use as bed covering. I call this construction quilting, which is often quilting in the ditch (sewn along a seam line between two pieces of fabric) The stitches themselves either don’t show or they’re not really noticeable – they do this construction job in such a way as to add only a low relief element to the visual impact of my design.

Between each square is machine quilting in the ditch; hand quilting is both visible (green) and tone-on-tone invisible.
All machine quilted, but in the background with black machine thread it adds texture only. Along the edge of the inserts in a thread strongly contrasting with the black background, it adds to the relative importance of those lines.

Other quilting is meant to be seen, and I think of this quilting as like a fishing net, cast over the whole surface, adding another layer of decoration and meaning to the work as it settles into place…

Intense hand quilting all over with fine thread – the stitches themselves hardly show; it is the linear pattern of texture that is important.

A recent post by a fellow textile artist on an art quilt FB page offered a workshop on combining hand and machine quilting in the same work. That’s not a new idea, I’ve been doing that for years, but there are always people taking their first steps from traditional quilt making towards designing their own original art quilts, so there’ll probably be students around who’ll get a lot from that class. Traditional makers tend to have rigid rules about about what a quiltmaker should/should not do with her needle and thread, and it can take a sustained effort over time to break out of that mould.

Pandemic Pattern #2, 2020; upper level – the scattered black stars I machine quilted, lower section – some of the fmq shape auditions along one edge.
“Gift Of The Nile”, 2008. Layered sheers ~1.2m x ~1m.
Using a free machine quilting pattern I devised from all the five pointed stars painted on the ceilings of the pyramids we visited in Egypt 2007.

Eye-Opening Grids

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Browsing online recently, I discovered the beautiful textile art of Canadian artist Chung-Im Kim .

Born in South Korea, and for nearly three decades resident in Canada, Chung-Im’s art interestingly and successfully blends her cultural past with her cultural present. Traditional Korean bojagi are some of the cultural roots to which Chung-Im periodically returns for inspirational refreshment; and in one body of work these well-known traditional textiles have become canvases for print and stitch compositions.  But it is her dimensional, sculptural work with felt that blew me away, with alluring titles of groups of work in her portfolio – pre-grids, grids, free grids, living geometry and miniatures.

Felt is made from a large variety of natural, synthetic fibres and blended fibres, with wool felt considered to be one of the oldest textiles in human history.  Late last year I wrote of an interesting exhibition by some international feltmakers in the textile biennial here in Montevideo, and though I have found and bought some beautifully crafted felt things down the years, I’ve still never seen anyone actually making felt, and have never seriously considered it as a ‘raw material’ for my own art, though I am aware of artists such as Rebecca Howdeshell US,  Siv Goransson UY and Australian Nancy Ballesteros.

Chung-Im describes her materials and process as industrial felt screen printed with digitally engineered images, which she presumably cuts into, and then assembles the remaining pieces by hand, for which see this image.  So I googled ‘industrial’ felt, and now understand ‘felt’ to be a huge field, more varied than I’d ever thought about, and of large scale manufacturing of felted fibres of various kinds and blends with industrial applications including carpet underlays and gaskets for use in some machinery. The most interesting site I spent time on provides sizes of pre-cut and rolled felt from small custom shapes, various page-sized sheets up to huge rolls of various widths and thicknesses, depending on the buyer’s requirements.  I immediately began developing a mental list of ‘buyer’s requirements’ to ask about, and it almost makes me want to ditch my woven fabrics and clear studio space for some industrial felt supplies … No, I doubt I’d take such a radical step, but some ideas a percolating, and as I do have some small pieces of craft felt around, some time I might paint, monoprint or stencil something on it of my own design, or look into getting something printed, as a canvas for embroidery, perhaps.  Felt as a non-fraying material with some body or stiffness is inspiring…but I digress.

These works really opened my eyes to the potential of ‘grids’, and to the realisation that I may have been interpreting ‘grids’ too narrowly, despite several posts on the subject, like this one .   Isohyets, topographical maps, aerial photos, erosion patterns, in fact all kinds of contour lines associated with diagrams, maps and charts all come flooding into my mind when viewing these works.

Chung-Im Kim, dawn,  2012,   71 x 60 x 6 inches.  Image artist supplied.

Chung-Im Kim, nalgae,  2012,  43 x 44 x 5 inches.  Image artist supplied.
Chung-Im Kim,  baekya 2009, 46 x 47 x 4 inches.  Image artist supplied.

These and many more works on her website show inspiration from landscape shapes and patterns of surface textures.

Another interesting group of work is titled ‘living geometry’ , containing pieces which I initially thought could have been filed with ‘free grids’, because all their grids are certainly irregular.  However, on further reflection, I realised the difference in concept is that these pieces appear to be growing right out of a surface in a very organic way, suggesting they are alive.

The combination of smooth, printable surface and stiffness that lends itself to sculptural goals, reminded me of the wool felt sculpture/garment exhibited by heather Brezo Alcoceba of Spain, which I mentioned in the post of 14/11/2017 last.  (scroll well down)  In this pop-over shoulder cape kind of garment, the wearability of which was not immediately obvious, it now occurs to me that that very 3D surface has a strong connection to the idea of irregular grids.

I’d like to thank Chung-Im Kim for supplying images and giving permission to use them in this article.


Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

All images and text are © Alison Schwabe
Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without written consent.

Translate »