Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thistle Journal Cover

   I am hoping that if I actually get caught up with the Christmas rush and customer's orders, I make the time to finish up a couple of my own projects. First of all, I would like to finish this journal cover I began probably three months ago.
   It never fails, what begins as a simple little project takes on a life of its own in no time at all. I always find it amusing that what some people consider to be obsessive attention to detail is to me absolute mindless bliss.
   I began with a beautiful blank piece of linen that was prewashed. I lightly marked the center spine area of the cover, the perimeter, and then a few circles that I wanted to leave open except for the stitching.

I painted the images with my Thistle Stencil and began working the hand embroidery around the outside of the circles. I photographed the piece, printed it out, and then began drawing on the image with pencil to help me decide what to do next.

I really enjoyed every minute of working on this. There were many evenings when I couldn't wait to settle into my old chair, surrounded by wisps of brightly colored thread and needles poking out everywhere, and watch a good film. I finally realized that I needed to stop stitching on this piece and begin something else before every speck of linen was covered up!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Tuesday Drop-In Class

This is a linen bag that I am making. The hand embroidery is still in progress. It has been hand painted with my stencils, and it will be machine quilted after the embroidery is finished.
For the past few months I have been teaching a drop-in class at Eureka Fabrics in Eureka, CA. It is always interesting to see who will turn up, and it is never boring. I love having a roomful of people, but I also enjoy having just  a handful of people that I can give my undivided attention to.
Although the focus is on quilting and fiber art, we basically cover whatever it is people need help with.
Starting August 1, 2015, we are starting on hand embroidery where I will be teaching most of the basic embroidery stitches, and then we will move on to make a journal cover utilizing what we have learned. The class info is listed below, and you can sign up here: Eureka Fabrics.
For the first two weeks we will be working on a variety of hand embroidery stitches, and the third week we will be making a journal cover using some of the techniques and stitches you have learned. The journal covers will be simple projects you can finish in one afternoon.
·       Tuesday, August 4, 2015:: Hand Embroidery Basics, 1-4 pm
·       Tuesday, August 11, 2015: More Hand Embroidery, 1-4 pm
·       Tuesday, August 18, 2015: Journal Covers, 1-4 pm

For Hand Embroidery:
·       White or light-colored fabric, 4 10” squares
·       Embroidery needles in assorted sizes; my favorites are size 5/10.
·       Embroidery hoop, anywhere from 5”-7” will work best
·       Embroidery thread in 2 colors that contrast with your fabric

For the Journal Cover:
·       You will need to bring a journal or sketchbook with a cover that is not too flimsy.
·       Fabric large enough for the outside, and you will also need fabric for the inside of the cover.
·       A button for closure if desired.
·       Embroidery threads and other items for embellishment.
·       Batting if you wish to machine quilt the cover.
Note: The fabric needs to be large enough to cover the front and back of the book plus enough for seam allowance. It will be easier to embroider if the fabric is not cut to size yet.

When deciding which images to use for this bag, I wanted to use something I had not worked with before, so the moths were perfect. This particular species is known as the agrius cingulata (pink-spotted hawk moth). The actual moth is more pink than red, and I found it in the book Night Visions by Joseph Scheer.
This is the other side of the same bag. It will be embroidered differently from the front of the bag.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Paint and Stitch: the Little Bee Bag

     As I continue to attempt to simplify my life and determine what the true necessities are, at times I also carry that over into my work.
I am really terrible at packing for travel, but for my recent trip to Santa Fe for a workshop with Betty Busby, I was determined to try to tackle this issue. One of the things I did was to make this little bag that measures 5" wide by 6" high. It actually holds my cell phone, identification, credit cards, cash, lip balm, and a pack of kleenex: the bare necessities.
     The bag is made from a medium weight natural European linen that I have fallen in love with. There is something so incredible about the hand of this fabric that makes it especially lovely and wonderful to work with.
     First I painted the fabric with my Bee Stencil. The bag has the honey bee on the front and the bumble bee on the little back pocket. The stencil is made in two parts so you can paint the body first and then the details in a different color. I used Lumiere paint in copper and silver, let it dry overnight, and then heat set it for permanence.
     I had painted the linen pieces on a Saturday night, and the following morning I heat set the paint and began stitching. Even though it was a Sunday and I should have been doing household chores, I kept finding excuses to sneak back over to my studio to do just a couple more stitches on the bag. By the end of the day I had all the embroidery done.
     The really fun part for me was the hand embroidery. It is kind of odd, but doing the embroidery feels to me like learning a new language. It is still a bit awkward as I learn to compose artistically with this medium. At the same time it is very exciting as well as rewarding to see the end results. I love the interplay of the colors and the texture created by the stitching.

     I work in two pretty distinct ways: either very planned or intuitively. They both have their benefits, and some work, like my wholecloth pieces, does require more precise planning and composition decisions before beginning the actual piece. I really love to work intuitively though. It is always so exciting to begin with only a vague notion of where I want to go with a piece; then I proceed one step at a time until the next step is revealed to me. I think it only requires having faith that once you have that creative momentum it will continue until some inner sense tells you the piece is complete.

Friday, June 19, 2015

It All Started When......

      When I was very young,I learned to do hand embroidery from my grandmother. I always loved doing the handwork, and I spent many enjoyable hours working side by side with my grandmother learning new stitches and embroidering things that have long since disappeared to who knows where.
      Many years ago, in fact so many that I can't remember, I bought this old kit in an antique store. Someone had purchased the kit, embroidered one teeny little flower, and shoved it right back in the envelope.
      Every once in a while, I would get the urge to do some handwork and pick the piece up again. I would do a few little stitches, and then put it aside and forget about it.
     A couple of months ago I once again picked up the piece and commenced to actually finish the embroidery.
      I can't explain what it was that happened, but I fell in love with the process as well as the fabric. That beautiful old linen was like butter in my hands. The embroidery thread was not quite so delightful; it was really old rayon that tangled incessantly and caused me a whole lot of grief. I persisted and finished all of the embroidery,and now only the edges need to be finished.
The main part of the fabric has the date stamped on it: 1927. I think this must be longest running UFO. When I work on something old like this, I always wonder who the person was that purchased the piece originally.

The interesting bit is that I could not wait to do more work with this incredible fabric. I procured more linen and better thread; now I am totally hooked and I can't seem to stop.
Here is an almost finished corner. The kit also came with 4 napkins that are supposed to be inserted in the top of the lantern. The lanterns were embroidered on the gold linen first and then sewn to the background using the needle turn appliqué technique.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Santa Fe!

I have been in Santa Fe since last Saturday. I came here to take a four day surface design workshop with one of my favorite artists: Betty Busby.
 I am learning to use my new camera, and here is a shot taken from our balcony at sunset out across the arroyo. The skies are just incredible here, and I am amazed at how quickly the weather changes.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to take workshops from some very talented people. But I have never encountered anyone like Betty before. She is one of the most talented, generous, inspirational, and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of studying with. I will post photos and more information about what we learned next week when I return home.
This is Betty with Carol Larsen from Petaluma.They are downloading images for cutting on the Silhouette. The software is easier to use than I expected, but then I haven't done it on my own yet.
My sister Barbara is traveling with me, and she is enrolled in a very intensive workshop at the Nikon School of Photography titled The Art and Science of Landscape Photography. They spend mornings in the lab, and trek off to different locations each day. Barbara has been really busy, as the five day class runs for 12- 13 hours a day.
My workshop finished up yesterday, so my friend Kathryn Stotler, who flew in on Tuesday, and I are headed out for a day of photography and sketching. We are going to Bandalier, Los Alamos, Abiquiu, and then hopefully we will hike up Castle Rock at the Ghost Ranch. Living at sea level, it is surprising to me how much the change in altitude is affecting us all. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lovely Hand Painted Work by Kate O'Donnell

     Kate O'Donnell is an incredibly talented textile artist who lives in Pacheco, CA. I met Kate several years ago when I became acquainted and involved with a group of textile artists in Sonoma County, CA. They called themselves the Guilded Lilies, and they were an amazing group of women who shared a love of art and all things textile related.
     Over the years, I fell out of touch with most of the group as I live several hours away and time constraints kept me from participating in their wonderful retreats in the Healdsburg area. But a year ago, I ran into Kate at a show and we rekindled our friendship. Kate is a very accomplished dyer and art quilter. She has a special knack with color that makes her work sing with energy and vibrancy. Here is some of her wonderful work.
Kate used Radiance for the main painted panel and her own hand-dyed fabrics for the borders. I machine quilted both of these pieces for her.

      Kate had a very special friend that she wanted to make a wedding gift for. After taking my Stenciling on Fabric class in Fort Bragg, CA, last summer, she decided to hand paint  some Radiance using my Textile Design Stencils, Neopaque, and Lumiere paints.
     She painted the piece on the top first, and she was not quite satisfied. So then she painted the second piece and added the Chinese characters to the border. I love both pieces, and it makes me so happy to see how effectively she has used the stencils.
     I am including some images of the quick trapunto process that I used for the characters on the left border. The problem was that the metallic paint was quite heavy, and I didn't want to stitch through it. In doing fairly dense quilting around the outside of the characters, it would have made the inside of those shapes look really pucker. The extra batting helped to fill out the shapes, and now they look almost like they are embossed metal.
 The first step was to pin a layer of Hobbs Tuscany wool batting to the back of the entire left border. I then free-motion stitched very close to the edge of the 
painting with a neutral colored thread.
I pull back the top fabric and carefully trim away the extra batting on the back side.

This is the finished trapunto from the back side. Now I just layer my backing, batting, and top piece and pin the layers together as usual.
Here is a close-up of the finished quilted border.
I know that Kate put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into creating this piece, and it really shows. The lovely couple that she made it for really loved and appreciated her lovely gift to them.

Thank you for stopping by, and please leave a comment if you have time. I know that Kate would appreciate it, and I will pass your comments on to her.

Friday, January 09, 2015

New Wholecloth

I just finished a new little wholecloth piece. I had made one of these a couple of months ago, but I was not happy with the end result. I decided to give it a second try. What I did differently the second time was to do the entire background in a light cream thread, and I only used two different quilting designs. This piece was made with cotton sateen, merino wool batting, and taupe and cream colored Mettler threads.
Tropical Leaves: 20" x 20" ( final piece)
On the first piece, the quilted section in the very center detracts from the whole piece. Although I had chosen a very light gray thread, it came out looking very dark on the piece. When I designed this piece, I paid special attention to the negative space. However, when it is over-emphasized, it becomes the focal point which was not my intention.

First attempt
To avoid duplicating what went wrong the first time, I took my original drawing, photographed it, and then created multiple small images on one piece of paper so that I could draw in my quilting lines with pencil first. This helped me to better visualize the effect I wanted to achieve. This is much easier than ripping out unwanted stitching.

Here are a couple of close-up shots of the machine stitching process. Whenever I have a somewhat large area to be filled with lots of stitching, I will stitch through the center of the open area to divide it into sections as I work. This helps to keep any of the fullness evenly divided: helps in avoiding puckers.
You might wonder why I have a photo of a bowl of orange peels included in this post. Well, I am a person who has a very rapid metabolism which means that I have to eat about every two hours. But, when I am engrossed with an art project, everything else fades into the background; including the need for food or other minor issues. The two little mandarin oranges of which you see the remains were my dinner on the evening that I was hell-bent on finishing this piece.
 I mounted the finished piece on a piece of archival foam core that I had covered with a beautiful piece of European linen. I have three of my larger original wholecloths posted here if you are interested: https://www.sproulestudios.com/gallery/132