Friday, May 31, 2013

Self Portrait sewing

As part of our last assignment, we had to elect to work on a portrait, a landscape or a still life.  I thought I would challenge myself with the portrait - and it was definitely a challenge!!
I tried drawing and collaging an image but wasn't particularly happy with what I had come up with.  Nothing looked particularly human, let alone like me.
So I tried a different approach.
I started by taking photo of myself, using the computer.  This was a 2.00am, when I couldn't sleep - I thought I might as well get up and be doing something.  I got good shadows as I hadn't turned on many lights.
Then I tried some effects in the photo programme but they weren't particularly great.  So I exported them to photoshop and played around a bit more, trying to get some value areas to work with.

I then used this to play around with the first part of our assignment which was to paint Vliesofix and iron it onto fabric as a background.        
I painted the Vliesofix according to the areas of darkness, etc.  I used fabric paints - I had tried some old, very old, silk paints but they tend to stay on the backing paper more than the gluey part.  Fabric paint works much better.
It is reversed because I traced it. It was relatively dark when wet but dried much lighter.

Then I used Photoshop to draw around the photo and get a line drawing.
I traced that onto the backing paper and sewed it.

One has just machine embroidery thread, the other has Australian Tapestry Workshop wool in the bobbin.  I prefer the sewing thread one, it is more subtle.
A friend saw the finished piece and thought it looked like I have the evil eye - such is life when you don't like drawing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Getting back to tapestry.

Now that I have handed in the current assignment for the machine embroidery course, I can start looking at my tapestry again.  I had hoped to have finished it by the end of May, that isn't going to happen!!
We had our tapestry group meeting on Saturday, with the new extended hours, and I thought I might get a few hours of weaving in.  Ha!
Two of our members had just returned from overseas, textile oriented, trips and there was a lot to look at.
Then there was the discussion of what some of us were weaving and how it was going.  What became obvious was the benefit of meeting regularly and having our work with us, there was very helpful discussion and suggestions.
I did manage to pull out some of my weaving though and redo it.  So I have basically come home with the same amount of weaving done.  Oh well.
At our April meeting, one of the members had made a suggestion that I took up.  I have a design with lots of straight lines (I probably should have turned it sideways) and I really don't like sewing up slits.  K Spoering has just posted about this recently, with a lovely little lesson on how she does it.  But I would have had many needles hanging, with many bobbins, and I tend to tangle them.  So my friend's suggestion to intertwine the wool as the two colours meet was taken up with joy.

It didn't work perfectly, there are some lumpy bits but I did improve as I went on.  Pulling out involves massive work across the design, so I am treating this as a giant sampler and am allowing myself to not have it perfect.  I know this might upset the purists but I am quite comfortable with texture.  I will be deliberately putting some in higher up in the design.
Anyway, tapestries are meant to be viewed from a distance, so the little bit of unevenness should just blend in. I hope.

Monday, May 27, 2013

More machine embroidery

Wow, it is a week since I posted last.  Where does the time go?
Actually, it has probably gone, this time, on an assignment for my Machine Embroidery as an Art Form course.
As I posted before, I attended an Olga Walters workshop and it so happened that it had very similar techniques to the current assignment in my course.
We are doing some work with heat bonding and laying out fabric or fibre scraps to make our designs.

I wasn't doing landscape designs, I decided to challenge myself more than usual and try portraits.  However, at the workshop I did a layout based on on of Olga's designs and have now done some free motion sewing on it.  It doesn't look at all like her work but it was fun to do.

Olga suggested that I frame it with the black fabric but that is as far at the finishing off has gone.  I will have to decide how to do that when I get it back from my teacher.  I am sending it off with the coursework, just to show her the sorts of things the workshop was about.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Olga Walters workshop

I have just had a wonderful two days participating in a workshop at the Embroiderers Guild.  It was so much fun!  I felt really inspired - now I have to keep that enthusiasm up and continue to play (as Olga called it).
The workshop was called Whimsical Workshop - Fabric Collage.  Olga showed us how she works on her quilts and bags.  It is seemingly simple when she demonstrates - not so much when you do it yourself.  The techniques are not that hard but the design that looks so easy when she works is not quite the same when you try it yourself.
She is a lovely teacher, always seeing the positives in your work and then going on to how you might develop what you are doing.  There is none of that 'do it my way', she allows you to develop your own visions and to play (and make mistakes) in your own direction. She makes suggestions about what to do next, allowing you to decide if that is what you want to do.
Mistakes are usually incorporated into the work and are no longer mistakes.  The occasional mistake that remains a mistake is worked on and problem solving techniques are employed to rescue the work.
Olga not only taught us her techniques for the class samples but demonstrated quite a few other ideas that could be incorporated when we go home and master the class techniques.  She is a very generous teacher and has revved up my enthusiasm.

I haven't finished any of the samples yet but will post a couple of images to give an idea of the techniques.
Torn strips of fabric laid out over Vliesofix(Bondaweb) and iron onto base fabric.

The anchoring sewing - more needs to be done.  Lots of texture still there, I am hoping not to flatten it too much. Olga uses pieces such as this to make her bags and quilts.

More fabric laid out onto Vliesofix, then ironed onto the base fabric, waiting for some machine sewing.
Olga brought in a lot of her previous works to show how her techniques have been used.  You can see images of some of them here.
I have only put images of my work, if you want to see how she has done it, much better, go to the link above.

Monday, May 13, 2013


I posted a while back about a piece that I had been experimenting with.  I had been playing around with different feet on the machine to get some texture and the fabric had wrinkled quite a bit.
As the time got closer to hand in the assignment, I realised that I was going to be out of time if I started a whole new sample.
I put the fabric onto some wadding (as for a quilt) and decided to see what would happen.
Lo and behold, it is not too bad now.  It is not perfect but I did learn that sometimes you can rescue disasters.

I simply used the twin needles and the pintuck foot.  The background design was a grid based on the geometric elements of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs and worked well to straighten out a lot of the wrinkles. I used a hoop to help keep the fabric taut.  This was a bit of a nuisance as I wasn't doing all that much sewing inside the hoop area and had to keep resetting the hoop but I think it was worth the effort and helped to stretch the wrinkles out.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

More attempts to meld fabric painting designs with machine embroidery

As part of my assignment on using fabric paints stamped or stencilled onto fabric in conjunction with machine embroidery, I played around with different feet on my machine.  My new best friend is one that had a ridged base and is used with twin needles.  I love it!  Having mainly only made quilts in the past, I am not familiar with any of the feet apart from the straight stitch one and the free motion one (aka the darning foot). Oh, and the quarter inch foot, which is for straight stitching also.
I  took one of my simpler designs and used twin needles, and the pintuck foot, to produce some texture.  As I was basing my work on the flowing floral themes of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, it was relatively easy sewing.
I did a simpler stamped and stencilled design than previously, and used the stitches from the front and the back of the fabric.
I used some cotton quilt batting that I had lying around.  It helped with the texture - and it stopped it pulling in so much.

The lines suggesting stems (if you see the design as floral) are done using the twin needles and the foot.

Here you can see the raised lines from the front and the areas of green thread you can see is the stitching from the back, still using twin needles.  I sewed that part from the reverse. The twin needles would not let me go into the very fine parts of the design but I decided not to let that worry me, this was a learning experience after all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

World Premier Phantom of the Opera Amateur production

The Phantom of the Opera is having its world amateur debut on Friday.  After my recent visit to the Hollywood Costume exhibition, I was interested to read this article about the costumes for the show. Considering it is an amateur show, there is a lot of work done for the love of theatre. It is a great experience for those who enjoy theatre but it must also be a huge commitment.
I know Laura Slavin, who is playing Christine, and I see the huge effort that is needed to maintain a career outside music, to maintain family and social life and also to rehearse and perform.
Congratulations to all those who put in such an enormous amount of work mounting such a show.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fabric paint and stencils

As part of my machine embroidery course at SWTAFE, we had to use fabric paint, stamps and stencils to come up with a design.
I took a while to come up with some designs.  As I have already said, I played with fabric paint and stamps.  Then I tried to match the stamping with embroidery.  I found this quite hard.  I had trouble envisaging how embroidery would complement the designs that I had come up with.
I think I was influenced by the screen printing I had done as part of my Diploma of Studio Textiles and Design. We learnt how to design repeat prints, how to screen print. But now I was being asked to combine that with embroidery and I had trouble visualising the two together.
Here is my attempt to come up with a design, inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It has elements of his grids and his floral designs. I was inspired by the gorgeous book, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Textile Designs, by Roger Billcliffe.  It has many images of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs as well as those of his wife, Margaret and her sister Frances Macdonald. As the title suggests, the focus is on textile design rather than architecture, for which Mackintosh is also famous.

 The stencil was cut using very old Contact (the stuff we used to use for covering books) left over from my teaching years.  Contact was suggested in our class notes and I found it useful for larger than A4 sized pieces.  (Our works were required to be 30cm x 30cm or more.)
 The ovals were done using a stamp I had cut.  The grids were done using a lino cut I had made, visible in the above image, through the stencil.

 Here you can see a different stencil that was cut out of plastic. I had printed a similar image using the same stamp.  Then I had to use the cut out bits of the stencil and place them over the printed parts.  I masked the ovals with paper.
I then rolled green paint over the image (hoping the masks would work!).
Now I had a printed piece.  It had taken ages, waiting for each part of the printing process to dry before trying the next step.
This is as far as I have got with this one, I don't have a clear idea of how to incorporate machine embroidery yet.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hollywood Costume exhibition

I went to the Hollywood Costume exhibition yesterday.  It was very, very good.  The friend I went with is a movie buff, which I am not.  (She is not at all interested in textiles.) I can't remember the last time I went to the movies and I don't usually watch any on tv. We both had a lovely time.  She was very excited about some of the costumes and how they reminded her of favourite characters and scenes.
I was very interested in the costumes and the information about how they were designed.  Apparently the script is usually sent to the designer who then interprets the mood of the characters and the story.  There were some video interviews with directors and designers who talked about how they work on the costumes and how important it is that they work well in the scenes.  It seems some actors don't get a good feel for their characters until they put on the costumes, so it is very important that the designers get it right.
There was also some writing about how scenes are shot and the need for everything in the shot to be important, and the need for all the costumes, not just the main characters' ones, to be right. It was interesting on many levels.
The research involved for most of the costumes was phenomenal too, especially the historical ones.
Of course, there was the sheer beauty of many of the costumes too.
We were not allowed to take photos but I just had to post about it anyway.  It was great!
Some of the costumes that were on display at the V&A were not sent to Australia but it is still a wonderful exhibition. As with the Grace Kelly exhibition, the lighting was low but the information was well lit and presented at a good height and with a good sized font.
The exhibition is on for several months and I highly recommend it. Word is that it is crowded on the weekends.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Yarn Bombing at Warburton

Bit of a random post today - it is a bit wintry today and I don't much feel like going out.
I was at Warburton last week and saw this on the pole near the war memorial.  You can see the flowers in the background, it was around Anzac Day.

Later, I visited the Rosanna civic centre and saw this display of pieces that didn't make it into the Home Exhibition (mine included).  Apparently there are more at the Greensborough centre too.  I might call in if I get over that way.