Saturday, 31 August 2019

Chapter 6 post script

Sian suggested that my dissatisfaction with this last piece may be remedied by correcting the tonal
quality and balance by adding a dark piece at the back and then cutting away from the front. Scary stuff but Sian reminded me that I already had a record of previous results so nothing to lose!

This is sample 6.4 as it was:

And this is the revised piece but I couldn't resist stitching the cut away pieces back on top near the cut away to add a further dimension:

These added tonal contrasts worked really well and I had fun manipulating the shape of this piece using the additional strips at the back to give an impression of rising waves:

Very pleased with this now!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Summer School 2019

Our workshop this year was led by Artist Alice Fox and entitled Into The Woods. Our brief was to gather and forage materials from outside and then learn how to use natural dye processes to mark and colour cloth, paper and thread with the addition of hand stitch to create samples as a record of what we found.

We collected all sorts of foliage and noted our thoughts, senses and observations in our sketchbooks as we explored the woods behind our classroom. It was raining which certainly added atmosphere and brought forth the wonderful aromas of the woods and forest floor.

On return to class Alice introduced us to Ecoprinting and her recipe for an iron solution into which we dipped our leaves and then layered them within the folded pages of our sketchbook.

An iron solution is made using the addition of some rusty nails or such like into a vinegar and water solution which matures over a week or so. This acts as a mordant, aiding transfer of colour and producing dramatic results. Plants containing natural tannins give better results e.g. oak, prunus, rose,  blackberry and raspberry leaves, Our pages were clamped together and then steamed [ they can be simmered with other things could be added e.g. onion skins, beetroot etc] to add further interesting effects.

Strips of silk / wool were lined with foliage, then rolled into bundles and added to the pot. It's better to use silk / wool i.e. protein fibres as they colour more readily

We made our own inks from gathered foliage - brambles, acorns, nettles etc. and Alice challenged us to make our own mark making tools from outside

And our own cola pens:

We also made monoprints and rubbings into which I added a wash with our inks

And dyed threads:

Used for some lovely slow stitching at the end of the day:

The fun continued after I got home - I started off my own iron solution and made a selection of my own inks.

I continued experimenting and worked into the pages of my sketchbook. 

When my iron solution was ready I decided to make a little series of prints using leaves collected in my garden and allotment on watercolour paper:

Top strip [silk] is about the allotment in the autumn including leaves from  blackberry and raspberry, runner beans, sage, carrots

Bottom strip is about our garden in the autumn including grape vine, acer, morning glory, rose, fuschia

Bundle of paper pages on top.

I'd like to try and do one of these for every season - my two favourite places!

Chapter 6. Cutwork

The brief for this chapter involved stitching layers of fabric with areas of free style textured machine stitchery; patches of fabric were then cut back to reveal the surface below.
These are based on my designs in chapter 2 incorporating the same colours and textures and worked according to the shapes of the cut or torn areas of my designs.

The cutwork in this chapter involves producing a base layer of textured stitching followed by further layers each cut back or melted to reveal the textures below.

The base layer is worked to develop a stitched texture using free machine embroidery. Needle size 100. Feed dog down. Base layers supported from behind by iron on Vilene.

A second layer of fabric is added over which I lay a layer of stitch 'n tear. I drew the shapes to be stitched onto this. I outlined these with straight stitch and then removed the paper.
My outlines marked the areas to be stitched into, leaving areas unstitched which were cut away.
Outline stitching was worked into the texture. Edges were frayed and distressed.

I've uploaded the original designs from chapter 2 for reference before showing the cutwork samples.

Sample 6.1 

Sample 2.1 original design

Cutwork sample

Base layer 
Fabric - space dyed woollen felt  
Stitching - horizontally worked free zigzag using cotton thread in teal and turquoise machine thread on lower bobbin. Whip stitch. Stitching worked side to side in free style which beautifully represents watery effects and undulating waves. I added an orange in stranded cotton to the lower bobbin for cable stitched highlights.
Finally I used a crewel wool in teal on the lower bobbin for further cable stitch  to emphasise the undulation of the waves, the depth of the water and a sense of movement.This resulted in slight distortion of the fabric.
Second [top] layer 
Fabric - Space dyed linen
Stitching      Cotton / rayon machine thread in blue, upper and lower bobbins, worked in sideways zigzag. I added a crewel wool in teal to the lower bobbin and worked cable stitch followed by orange stranded cotton for more cable stitch to add contrast and highlights.
Unstitched areas cut away to reveal layer underneath. Edged of fabric frayed and distressed.

Sample 6.2

Sample 2.2 original designs

Sample 6.2
Base layer 
Fabric - monoprinted cotton organdie
Stitching and threads - Gutterman machine thread worked in circles using a narrow zigzag using 2 shades of darker blue and lighter shades in places.
I left the areas within the circles free of stitch to make the most of the monoprint which accentuates reflecting light.

Second layer
Fabric - Random dyed linen
Stitching and threads  True to the colours on my original design and representing deep water I tried to find the right thread but decided in the end to use 2 threads on top through one needle [ a mid and darker blue] with a variegated orange thread on the lower bobbin to pick up the random dyed orange in the fabric - all Gutterman machine threads. I worked this in a sideways zig-zag [ good for watery effects] and a few circles in narrow zigzag to pick up on  those in the base layer.I added a bit of metallic [ Madeira Glamour in turquoise] to add reflective effects.

 Photo of 2nd layer with the addition of a paper template for the 3rd layer

I hadn't been sure of a 3rd layer but after discussion with Sian at Summer School I reconsidered and thought about the addition of 3rd spiral ripple layer and tried it out with a paper template. I wanted to achieve an effect suggesting a passing ripple - like a shadow on the water

Third layer
Fabric and stitching - cotton organdie [same as the base layer] I lay my fabric on the surface with my paper template over it and carefully stitched the outline. Then I worked in a free circular pattern to reflect the base layer taking care to stitch over the strips from layer 2 and then cutting away the parts of the spiral covering the base layer to reveal the stitching below and produce a fragmented 'ripple'. Delighted with this and thanks to Sian for helping me reach this decision.

Sample 6.3

Sample 2.6 original design

Sample 6.2 
Base layer
Fabric   Space dyed silk
Stitching  I wanted to represent the lozenge shapes on my original design and consulted my stitching samples [ch 3]. I decided upon a straight stitch cross hatched and worked back and forth using whip stitch to provide colour and texture.
Threads  1. Gutterman machine threads in variegated dark blue / teal on lower bobbin and teal on top.
2. Gutterman threads added to lower bobbin in turquoise.
3. Gutterman variegated yellow to lower bobbin and Madeira machine embroidery thread in yellow on top.
This selection used in turn created wonderful puddles of texture and colour.
4. Cable stitch for added texture. The following thicker threads were wound by hand onto a lower bobbin with a loosened tension [ I keep a spare bobbin case especially for this so I don't mess up my best bobbin case kept for dressmaking].
In turn I used stranded cotton in yellow, 4 ply dark blue wool, 4ply threads in blue and green, crewel wool in teal, space dyed cotton perle, space dyed linen threads.

Lovely distortion of the fabric resulted

Second layer
Fabric space dyed silk. I drew the curved lines I desired on the stitch 'n tear and stitched the outlines after which the stitch 'n tear was easily removed.
Stitching I found this challenging and felt reluctant to cover my previous stitching and work blind but realised that I would have to relinquish control and trust the serendipitous outcomes!

Threads I used swathes of  Gutterman yellow variegated on the lower bobbin with turquoise on the top and vice versa in whip stitch to create a beautiful blend. I'm pleased with the formation of a lovely yellow / turquoise border and ridge created by the whip stitches at the edges where the work has suddenly changed direction.

On cutting I was delighted and relieved to see the colours blend and dance!

Third layer
Fabric  Chiffon monoprinted with bubble wrap  which reflected the painted bubble wrap in the original
Stitching  I felt I needed to find a way of  giving the illusion of lifting this top layer from the page. I wanted drifts of circular stitching  I started by drawing more curved lines as desired on the back of the work to give my stitching guidelines
Threads Cotton thread in royal blue in upper and lower bobbin to begin with worked in free straight stitch in circular motions repeated to add definition  followed by swathes of turquoise thread in the same fashion. Adding blue over the turquoise seemed to add depth. I needed more texture so I added in some some 'twirls' of royal blue felting wool which seemed to add the drama I was seeking.

Cutting away the top layer emphasized the base layer and the yellow / turquoise outlines of the second layer so I added some 'twirls' of yellow felting wool plus a couple of blue beads which both added a pop of colour. I'm particularly pleased with the distortions of the fabrics caused by layers of stitching. Really pleased with this!

Sample 6.4

Sample 2.7 original sample

Sample 6.4
Base layer
Fabric Synthetic fabric with acrylic paint print using bubble wrap [ fabric printing medium added].
I've taken liberty with the colour scheme with this sample as the base layer in my original design was Quink Ink and Brusho dispersed with bleach. I therefore needed a dark background and chose this dark blue fabric with an apricot and turquoise print. This therefore set the scene for the colour scheme which followed.
Stitching The swirling wave like marks on the original have been portrayed by using a wide zigzag produced by moving the fabric in all directions and at various speeds to produce a diverse patterning. Whip stitch throughout.
Threads 1. Gutterman Sulky variegated machine thread in Apricot on top and apricot below.
2, Turquoise thread in apricot on top and dark blue below.
3. Turquoise on top and apricot below.

I've left threads uncut to add a sense of movement and drama.

Second layer
Fabric Space dyed muslin chosen for it's texture, colour and fraying quantities. Guidelines for stitching drawn on back of the work using horizontal and wave like shapes.
Stitching Lozenge shapes worked in narrow zigzag, I tried to work these in a directional fashion to add rhythm and pattern
Threads Gutterman Sulky variegated thread in apricot on top and below.

Pleasing colourways and shapes revealed on cutting away.

Third layer 
Fabric Space dyed cotton organdie with a beautiful deep blue and apricot areas of colour.
Stitching More lozenge shapes worked in a directional fashion with extended threads left uncut.
Threads  Variegated threads as before with turquoise on lower bobbin.

Wave light lines of fabric cut away

Fourth layer
Fabric Space dyed scrim. On this occasion I lay the fabric over the top and stitched wave light lines stitched
Stitching Undulating wave like and spiral shapes in zigzag in various width and length followed by cable stitch in spiral wave shapes
Threads  1. variegated apricot and turquoise threads
2. space dyed cotton perle and space dyed linen.

The scrim frayed beautifully and the colours below this and the muslin show through.

Layers 2, 3 and 4.

I worked on this quickly thinking I may have finished ready to discuss with Sian in my tutorial at Summer School.

We both agreed it looked unfinished. Sian suggested more stitching to contain the scrim and finish edgings.

More spiral stitching along the edges to finish the piece

This isn't my favourite piece, complicated by too many similar layers in the original paper design and difficult to tell apart and something I'll bear in mind next time.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Chapter 5. Free machine stitchery to interpret drawings

The brief for this chapter was to look back at my drawings in chapter 1 and then translate these into stitchery using free machine embroidered techniques which bring a fabulous range of textural effects.

The threads used include different types and colours which relate to my drawings including matt and metallic / shiny varieties [see chapter 4.9]

The fabrics were selected from any of those coloured and decorated in chapter 4 or any of the others collected which created which create similar effects to my drawings.

The needle size was generally 100 unless I decided upon a very fine fabric in which case I used a 90.

As is usual with free machine embroidery I worked with the feed dog down.

The stitch types were related to the type of marks made in my drawings and I experimented with different stitch shapes including straight stitch, zigzag or others available on my sewing machine.
Each sample had to exploit one one type of stitch or effect. Stitch effects include whip stitch or cable stitch both of which produce fabulous textural effects achieved by altering the upper and lower bobbin tensions.

I decided to make a set of samples for each set of drawings selected being sensitive to the colour, tone on the fabrics selected whilst staying true to the drawings

Samples 5.1

Sample 5.1.a
I used monoprinted calico [corrugated card print] as a base which was placed in an embroidery hoop.
I worked whip stitched zigzag in varying stitch lengths whilst moving the hoop to produce the wave shapes and rhythmic effects. I used mid to dark blue threads to bring colour, shape, rhythm and tone.
A tiny suggestion of orange added vibrancy. I left the uncut threads which added a sense of movement.
The white areas of the background print suggest the reflection of light whilst also adding to a feeling of movement and volume to the water

Sample 5.1.b

For this sample I used a monoprinted chiffon [bubble wrap print] with a single layer of polyester wadding and a background of calico. All these were placed in an embroidery hoop.
I worked a whip stitched zigzag in mid to dark blue shades of  machine thread. The fabric had a hint of orange which I added to with stitch. I left the threads ends uncut again for energy and movement. This sample produced a softer effect.

Sample 5.1.c

This is a felted wool background with a faint monoprinted effect. I didn't use a hoop but added vilene to the back for support. I experimented with a cable stitch which is worked blind using a tapestry wool and then stranded cotton in a very loose lower bobbin to produce gorgeous textures. I've added some zigzag in ordinary machine thread between the cabled textural effects plus some darker smaller zigzag right next to the cable to suggest depth and tone. Uncut threads left to drift!

Sample 5.1.d

I decided upon a plain coloured but textured synthetic fabric overlaid with netting, all supported by Vilene on the back. The netting was secured and manipulated as I stitched using a whip stitched zigzag. I used tonal shades of Gutterman machine threads leaving some of the extended threads uncut across the surface uncut. This sample lacks areas of dappled white and helped me appreciate how effective these areas in adding an illusion of light and reflection.

Sample 5.2

Sample 5.2a

This is a monoprinted chiffon [bubble wrap print] and was supported within an embroidery hoop.
I worked different sized spirals in straight stitch using light to dark machine threads and whip stitch for effect plus some orange thread added at a late stage [in the lower bobbin] for a real 'pop'. A slight distortion of the fabric occurred with the addition of layers of stitching which gave a slight rippling effect.


This is painted silk with salt dispersal effects. I've used a size 90 twin needle with variegated blue and mid blue machine threads in the twin needle and a darker thread in the lower bobbin for a whip stitch effect. The sample is worked in an embroidery hoop. I added a gold metallic thread via the lower bobbin but didn't achieve the whipped effect I desired so introduced a yellow gold metallic thread through a single needle on the top with much more effect and fusion of colour. A wonderful distortion of the fabric suggests movement of the water.


This is a sample using space dyed linen and threads supported within an embroidery hoop.
I've experimented with cable stitch with my space dyed stranded cotton in a loosened lower bobbin and turquoise machine thread on the top. Beautiful fusion of colours [ fabric and threads from same dye lot]. I like the simplicity of the stitching with subtle rhythmic patterning of the variegated threads.


I've experimented here with layers of cable stitch on a base fabric of space dyed linen.
For the first layer I've used space dyed cotton perlein the lower bobbin plus blue and orange machine threads via a size 90 twin needle.
Second layer - Chenille yarn on lower bobbin, blue machine thread via single needle on top
Third layer - Further layer of cotton perle in lower bobbin with blue machine thread on top [single needle]. I hoped to achieve dark and lighter tones in rippled water effects.



This is faux Chinese silk coloured with Transfer paints - a lovely subtle effect.
 This sample is quilted with polyester wadding and a calico backing. I've used free machine embroidered straight stitch in pale and mid blue machine threads plus darker blue and orange
threads for added colour and tone.
The quilting has given a softness to the sample and the sheen of the fabric adds to the atmospheric effect.


This is space dyed woollen felt with a space dyed silk yarn used in the lower bobbin for a cable stitch effect. The silk yarn is beautiful but proved too thick and shredded in my machine so I decided to couch this in place.
I worked in cable stitch in the remainder using crewel wool, tapestry wool and linen thread [ the latter is space dyed].

I'm really pleased with the textures of the combined cable and couching and the the random colour tones


This an experiment using stretch lycra which has been coloured with transfer paints. I've used pale yellow and blue variegated machine threads. A lovely puckered and distorted effect was created by repeated layers of stitching


I was delighted with this sample worked in space dyed silk [supported by an embroidery hoop] and threads [silk and linen], the latter was couched in place with free machine embroidery. Then I spotted the glorious fray coming away from the edge of the space dyed silk and decided to couch them in place in circular patterns which were then outlined by couched linen threads. I left some of the extended threads uncut to add a sense of movement and energy.



This is chiffon with a bubble wrap monoprint. I used an embroidery hoop to support the fabric and worked straight and small zigzag stitching in mid blue machine threads. Orange thread was added via the lower bobbin for a whip stitch  effect. There is a slight distortion in the fabric and the chiffon adds a translucency.


This is transfer printed organza [2 layers] which has been supported in an embroidery hoop. I've used mid and dark blue machine threads on a size 90 twin needle and lower bobbin. I've added dark blue and orange threads via a single needle at the end to add some energy and colour vitality. It was fun to see the loopy threads created by the double needle through the translucent organza. The sample is backed by strips of painted silk and printed chiffon  to add a further pop of colour.


This is space dyed scrim which was supported in an embroidery hoop. I used machine threads in turquoise and mid blue followed by a darker blue and metallic bronze on the lower bobbin for a whipped stitch effect. The zigzag stitch was worked in various widths and due to the fragility of the scrim it has tightened into lines of irregular straggly stitching which has, in turn, fragmented the fibres of the scrim. The sample started as a 10cm square but has taken on its own shape as stitching progressed!


This is space dyed silk muslin and was supported by an embroidery hoop. Due to the lovely dappled effects of the space dyeing I felt it lent itself to several stitch types so I couldn't resist going for it!

The top of the sample is true to my drawings and is worked in pale blue variegated, mid and dark blue machine threads plus pale yellow variegated. I've added torn strips of the same fabric [lovely fray] which has been secured with whip stitched straight stitch worked in spiral patterns.

The middle section is a wide zigzag worked sideways for a watery effect using a pale blue variegated thread on top and a darker blue on the lower bobbin [whip stitched].

The lower section is worked in the scalloped stitch on my machine but with the feed dog down for free stitching in wide zigzag. Pale variegated blue on top and mid blue in lower bobbin and whip stitched plus the addition of darker threads to add tone along the 'horizon.'

Sorry if this is a little contrived but it was irresistible!!

The back view was also effective:


This is monoprinted woollen felt, which has a sweeping print across it produced by acrylic paints and the edge of a credit card. I've worked free machined satin stitch in navy machine thread followed by navy with orange on the lower bobbin. The spiral shapes appear to be sweeping across the sample as if caught by the wind!


A scrim sample with spiral shapes worked in straight stitch and whipped in turquoise and mid blue followed by a darker teal and  yellow / apricot variegated machine threads for added tone and colour.
Wonderful distortions and see through effect through the scrim to the stitching.


This is space dyed silk with strips of the same fabric plus some of the gorgeous fray laid across it. I've chosen turquoise and variegated apricot machine threads with the latter on the lower bobbin to produce whip stitched straight stitch in a loop the loop fashion [and then again with the same threads in vice versa]. I've pulled lengths of threads from the end to the beginning of the next row of stitching for added drama and sense of movement.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this chapter and despite having experience in machine embroidered techniques I have been constantly surprised and fascinated by the range of effects achieved simply by changing the nature of the fabrics, stitch types and effects plus the use of a diverse variety of threads. The possibilities are endless!! Bring it on!