Archive for March, 2010

I spent most of the weekend making friends with my sewing machine.  It’s a slow process, as all relationships are.

I attended the 2nd weekend of the Landscape  Quilts workshop.  This weekend was devoted to threadpainting.  It’s a look that I love, but whoa….I had no idea of how much there is to learn.  Not only is it the technique itself: fast foot peddle and slow hand motion; no feed dogs so the person guides the fabric and stitching.  Try making even sized stitches that way.  It’s wicked hard! Then of course there’s thread type — different types for top thread and bobbin thread.  Oh, and tensions, again different for top and bobbin threads. And even though the machine is not regulating stitch size you still need the control on the right setting. I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve already forgotten.

Anyway, I learned a huge amount and if I can ever relax and remember to breathe it might actually become enjoyable. Though I’m using a machine, there will definitely be plenty of me put into any piece I use thread painting on.

I’ve just started working on stitching the second of the landscapes, so I have no photo to show you.

I do have the machine stitching finished on a piece I’m calling Maze #1.  All it needs now is framing/mounting and it will be ready for display.

It’s hard to see the stitching in this photo, so here’s a detail.  (Sorry for the crappy lighting.  My point and shoot camera with a flash isn’t the best for the job at hand).

And here’s a detail of the detail:

That’s it for now. I’ve got to get into the studio and do some more work on that landscape.  I wonder if I could get on the good side of my sewing machine if I brought her some chocolate???….


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I finally finished and mounted a piece I started over a year ago.  I had originally titled it “Dianthus” because it reminded me of that flower. Now, after adding applique and stitching, it has changed significantly.  I’m not sure what I want to call it.

I learned so much making this piece.  After I had added most of the appliques it was pointed out to me that there really wasn’t a pathway for the eye to follow.  So I added more appliques (white ones) to try and achieve this.  I was only partially successful.  Then I decided it needed stitching much like quilters use.  And so I added some stitching. Here’s a detail of the machine stitch lines (as well as the appliques).

I had thought I’d stitch over the whole piece just like is done on a quilt.  However, after adding the 7 or so lines, I decided it was enough.  I’d gotten the effect I wanted, which was movement.  Movement along the wave of appliques from the lower left corner to the upper right one.

This piece opens up a whole new discussion in the area of hand vs. machine work.  Both the applique and the stitching are done by machine. And the effect feels perfect to me.  I guess hand stitching, machine stitching, bead embroidery all have their uses and their place. However, even when machine stitching, I must still sit at the machine and guide the process.  For me, it feels as if I am still putting something of myself into the work.

This past week I also finished up a second landscape based on the same photo as I used before.  “Winter at Natural Bridge”.  I thought this second piece would be a more abstract version than the first, but it doesn’t seem so.  The colors are different.  The materials and object representation are different, but it’s really no more or less abstract.  Here’s a photo of the piece by itself with the photo beneath.

Here’s a picture of both pieces for comparison purposes.

The surface design that I will be adding will change both pieces enormously, I hope.  Stay tuned….

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A few weeks ago I was in a quilt store.  I noticed a woman sitting at a sewing machine.  When I looked closely I was amazed to see that the machine was actually doing cross-stitch embroidery. Wow! I thought.  That’s too cool. And then I watched as the woman got up and walked away in order to help a customer.  The machine kept at its task.

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently bead embroidering a felted piece. The main imagery, these swirly things, needed a boost.  More “weight” as it were.  Or depth of color. I thought about stitching them, but chose beads instead.  It takes me 2 hours to bead embroider each swirl.

Here’s a picture.  It gives a good view of both machine stitching (zig-zag lines), hand stitching (outlines) and bead embroidery (both outlines and the random beads in the body of a swirl). The swirl in the center is one which took me 2 hours to bead embroider.

Here’s another view.  

I’m not sure how well the details show up in these photos.  Sorry if it’s hard to see. I think a detail of a beaded swirl is in order.  In this one the light is all wrong, but at least you can see all those little seed beads:

As I was stitching away I started to think about the differences between hand embellishments and machine embellishments.  That expanded to the differences between hand work and machine work.  What do we gain from each of them?  What do we lose?

At first the machine doing cross-stitch seemed way cool.  But the more I thought about it the more I thought maybe it wasn’t so cool. I began to consider the human aspect that was no longer part of that textile.  The specialness of the person who strove to make perfect stitches, to add something of themselves to the cloth. I also thought about what the maker took away from the hand embroidery.  A sense of pride, but also a groundedness and  peacefulness so often lacking in today’s world. Is that because of the speed at which we move? or because we no longer leave a little bit of ourselves in the things around us that we touch?  Or do we no longer even touch things in our world?

I like sitting for hours with felt and a needle in hand, inserting it in and back out again.  After awhile it’s as if I cannot stop.  One more bead; one more stitch.  Just one more.  and one more.  and one more. When I finally force myself to stop I feel so much the richer and fuller for the time spent with a piece of felt and a needle.

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