Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Chapter 9 Reverse Applique. Traditional and contemporary methods

Sample 1.
This sample represents the traditional method and the Mola embroidery of the Kuna Indians in central Panama. I found a lots of information about them in The Art of Cutwork and Applique - Historic, Modern and Kuna Indian by Herta Puls, published by Batsford in 1978. Mola is the Kuna word for cloth and is often used to describe either the embroidered panels of the blouse or the complete garment. I had this book on my bookshelf from several years ago, it tells of the author's research and travels to the San blas islands off Panama. Fascinating.

I used 6 layers of fabric, comprising of a red cotton and a green cotton mix starting with the green as the background and then with the red and green layers alternating. I printed each layer with its complimentary colour.
I selected a template from one of my cut out shapes and decided to start with a simple rectangular shape in the centre which would give me enough leaway to cut and have the required 3mm turning allowance as directed in the module guidelines.
I tried to draw my design on the back of the background fabric but found it difficult to be accurate so decided to trace the shape onto some stitch n' tear which I pinned to the back and then tacked the outline directly from the back to the front as directed. I then gently cut through the centre of the rectangle to enable me to create the turning allowance. I enjoyed the process of snipping the tacking, sweeping my needle beween the two top layers to reveal the the line of stitches below and using these as a marker. I turned the top layer under securing it with a tiny slip stitch clipping the corners as necessary. I loved the rythmn of the work, repeating the process with each layer, making each one a little larger to create several layers. The rectangle and the next two layers were straightforward but the fourth was a more challenging and complex shape with many more corners to negotiate, clip and turn neatly. This took a lot of patience and I feel I'd need more practice for my mola to withstand the everyday wear of the Kuna Indian's garments! But I'm pleased with the result.

Sample 2a. Contemporary method using machine stitching.

For this I used 5 layers of fabric with a red silk for the background, followed by a synthetic fused with a printed Bondaweb and a piece of ribbed fabric [also fused] along one edge. On top of this is a green voile and then a red voile [both unprinted]and finally a piece of green synthetic lining fabric printed with red acrylic paint.
I have applied my template to the back [as before] and stitched through all layers with a red Sylko thread. I used a 90 gauge sewing machine needle with free stitching using an emroidery foot which enabled me to see the work clearly as I worked. I then started to cut as directed from the outer shape but on the inside of the stitching repeating the process until I reached the central squares. I decided to work another layer of stitching to emphasise the colour thus providing a wonderful contrast to the green fabric and picking up the vibrancy of the red silk in the centres. A further row of stitching to the red voile layer kept it secure and also added a sense of texture and solidarity with the outer red stitch.
This piece gives a lovely illusion of peering through the layers of fabrics of contrasting colours and textures. I love the way the printed 2nd layer connects with that on the top layer, red on green, dancing back and forth.

Sample 2b. Contemporary method using machine stitching.
This was worked using the same fabrics and template but by starting in the centre and cutting on the outside of the stitching; in contrast to sample a. there is an impression of stacking the layers rather than receding. It gives a totally diferent effect, at first I thought I'd got the layers of fabric in the wrong order but realised that because of the way they've been cut different aspects are visible. Fascinating.

I feel these last 2 samples are quite plain which goes against the grain for me and I really fought against adorning them with lots of stitching. I decided not to as I have shown the technique and I have a lot more to do for this module.

Sample 3. Chenille or slashed reverse applique

I have used the same template as for the last 2 samples but adjusted it slightly to allow for more ripples around the central shapes and the exterior. I used 6 layers of fabric ranging from scarlet silk on the top through to layers of maroon silk, green cotton mix, red voile and red silk as the background.

I used red Sylko with with a variegated red/dark red rayon thread on the bobbin. I worked in the normal machine stitch with the dog teeth down.
To accomodate for the thickness of the layers I used a 100 gauge sewing machine needle and worked in with a small stitch length [1] to ensure that the stitching would protect the design and withstand better the distressing which would come later. I worked 2 rows of stitching as directed
to re-inforce this. I had great fun slashing the fabric layers with my pointed embroidery scissors
but had to take care not to slash the background layer too!
I loved this and the effects I achieved by rubbing and distressing the fabrics of different colours and textures allowing layers of colourful fray to burst out at random. There's a great sense of movement and my eye keeps travelling around the sample spotting a rich variety of colours and textures. This is a very tactile piece, I don't feel the effect is really captured by the photograph as I work on the blog. That said I'm not able to zoom in until it's published so hopefully it'll look better.

Sample 4 Multi-coloured ripple effect.
I have stacked 11 layers of fabric, some not covering the overall area as directed. the fabrics range from printed cotton on top to voiles with printed Bondaweb fused to it and another which has been entirely covered with acrylic paint [the latter gives a wonderful shiny/leathery effect.
I've started using a normal machine stitch with the dog teeth down and a short stitch length [1] but I found I couldn't see what I was doing so I changed to my preferred free stitching using the embroidery foot which gave me much better visibility. I used a sturdy needle [gauge 100] to accomodate the thickness of the layers of fabric.
I really enjoyed this technique, I haven't come across it before and loved the rich textures I achieved as I stitched and cut towards the centre. I varied the threads from red and green Sylko to rayon and metallic to help create more diversity as I worked. I loved the way the shapes took on a life of their own in a piece that started out as symmetrical and progressively became more informal as layers were cut away towards the centres.
I'd love to do more of this and would experiment with a more luxurious fabric [eg silk or rayon] on the top layer to pick up the glimmer of the metallic threads. Conversely a lovely rustic effect could be achieved to represent tree bark perhaps.

I walked into town just after working on this and noticed the bark on a plane tree at the bus stop, there were some beautiful cross shapes on the outer bark and then some gorgeous depths in the cracks and layers. I could take a rubbing of this [ would be interesting] but perhaps after dark in case my neighbours think I've gone crazy!! I've attached my photo here.