Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Not much time

I recently joined an online group which has only been going for a short while.
We have a challenge for the month of June. I only joined in the last 3 or 4 days. So not much time to be making and doing.

However, I have found that the theme proposed and the timeframe have come together reasonably well - so far.

The theme is Collections (or Collections, I can't actually remember at the moment). Being in a hurry, I just thought, what have I collected in the past? The first thing that came to mind was - swap cards.

So, being a person who hasn't thrown out a lot along the way, I found a small collection that I have kept. I do remember getting rid of some, many years ago, but had some that I just couldn't bear to part with.

I went through the ones I had, keeping in mind that I need a fairly simple image to work with in a short period of time.  I came up with some fish cards. I decided to use them as they also are a collection of fish.

Not being person who chooses to draw, I decided to play around with them in Photoshop.

I had thought to use them at actual size and make the images. Then I realised that that might be a bit fiddly, so I enlarged the images and printed them out in black and white. I have some cards that have the same image but in different colours, so I thought I could play around with different fabrics and see if I could come up with something along those lines.

The background was going to be a bit of a problem, especially if I used the cards in an upright way, it was going to look rather regular and any mistakes would stand out. And I am sure I would make mistakes.

Bright idea - use the backs. The cards are often from playing card sets and have the usual playing card images on them. I photographed some and played around with them in Photoshop too.

That is as far as I have got, so far. I am hoping to use the above cards as the background, then lay the fish cards over the top.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Collage without concentration

We had our tapestry group meeting today. We have been talking, in a desultory way, about using collage as a design tool.
After the bulk of our meeting, and after a few members had to leave, three of us spent some time discussing the benefits of collage and actually working on the idea.
One of our members had come prepared - with notes, papers, glue-stick and scissors.

We drew three 10cm squares each and randomly (very randomly, in my case) found a magazine with an interesting image(s) that we then proceeded to cut or tear up.
The idea was to have the 10cm squares not near the edge of the paper so we wouldn't be constrained by the need to fit the image into the edges, something that I had read previously. (I haven't cut mine to be square yet, may do so, may not bother.)

I wasn't really concentrating, was NOT going to continue my theme for my month of collages (it has to be revealed to the other group first) and so just picked an image from a skateboarding magazine (of all things).

I put glue on the square, ripped some paper up and came up with three pieces.

I probably won't use them in a tapestry, or a machine embroidery, but it did show me a little bit about my design process - a bit random really. I was just using one photo, trusting that the photographer is an artist and that the magazine designer is one too. So I felt that I could count on the colour co-ordination, the overall artistic base that I was using.

One of them speaks to me in terms of being chaotic - in an interesting way. So ... maybe it will inspire me to something.

Whether it does or not, it was a very enjoyable process, much more than just doing it by myself. There is benefit from doing it alone but there is also benefit from just doing it in a less concentrated way - because we were chatting about various things (mostly to do with the design process, colour choices, etc), watching what the others were doing and being creative together.

In fact, it was so enjoyable that we took a bit long and stayed till closing time! (Maybe a little bit past closing time - sorry ladies.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Discovering the automatic stitches on the sewing machine

I missed the date yesterday: 11/6/17. Oh well.

Today I (finally) got to do some sewing. I have been thinking about the new challenge for the Embroiderers Guild, Victoria's challenge - Take a Shell.
I took a shell.
Then I put it away.
Absolutely no inspiration.

I have been browsing Pinterest. And I have seen a couple of works there, and in person, that have used the built in stitches on the machine.

I bought my machine about a year and a bit ago - nice exact information there.

I usually only use the straight stitch. When I did the workshop with Kathryn Harmer Fox I used the zigzag stitch too. But that is all I have used on my machine.

Today was learning day!
I had Taken a Shell - today I actually looked at it.

Here is my take on the shell. It might not win any prizes in the challenge but I have finally started sewing again.

First, I attached a piece of wadding to the fabric. I am thinking of mounting it on a preprepared canvas, so it has to be the right size, with enough leftover fabric to wrap around the side. I am not particularly good at mounting works, so it will be interesting to see if this preparation is good enough. 

Then I drew a rough pattern, based on the shell. I hope the so-called water-erasable pen actually does erase! I have left it in the sun on previous occasions and the sun seems to have set it. It is winter and I  didn't get going till twilight, so it should erase. 

The rater large selection of stitches on my Husqvarna. I haven't used them before, it was a learning experience to simple choose the stitches, let alone the size and width. 

Work in progress. I had a bit of fun choosing the various stitches and turning them to fit the pattern. No free motion sewing here, I had to let the feed dogs be up, set the tension and actually fiddle with the width of the stitches. 

Here it is, rinsed out to get rid of the marker. It is still damp, so will be lighter when I work out how to attach the actual shell - if I do. I thought about ironing it dry but don't want to interfere with the stitching and the texture, so will let it dry naturally. 
I may put the shell the other way, if it looks ok with the sewing - it doesn't seem to mimic the arc all that well. 
Oh well, at least I experimented and learnt about the various stitch choices on the machine. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gorgeous apple tree autumn leaves

I am probably inspired, partly, by the tapestry challenge our small group did recently. It was based on some autumn leaves (I assume they were autumnal).

Our apple tree is gradually losing its leaves at present and I couldn't resist taking some pictures.

I also had a wonderful view of our very old camellia bush as I was working in the last few days.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Next artist to inspire us ... Hundertwasser.

As I have already mentioned, our machine embroidery group at the Embroiderers Guild, Victoria, is working on a small A5 piece each month, inspired by a different artist.
I thought I would love this month, it being Hundertwasser but I have actually found it a bit difficult.

He has the most amazing colours, brush strokes, hidden faces, immediately-identifiable trees, etc. But I was just replicating his work, which I had promised myself I would try not to do.

So I waited a couple of weeks. In the midst of other things, I have been playing around with trying to do some collages. I found a visual diary that I had used before, for a tapestry based on the theme of My Place.

I realised that I might be able to adapt it to this challenge. So I got out my tiny pieces of scraps of fabric and fiddled around with them.  Eventually I laid them out according to a map of the local area.
I have used images of Darebin Parklands before (a lot, actually).

Here is the piece in its infant stage. It wasn't particularly reminding me of Hundertwasser. Then I came across a tiny scrap of fabric with some circles that reminded me of his trees. After much searching (thank goodness I did some sorting a little while ago) I found a larger scrap and could cut out some little pieces that I thought would do the trick.

Now I have finished, it is not something that you will say "Oh, that looks like it is inspired by Hundertwasser" but I know that it is. And now you do too, because you have read this!

You  can see the little trees cut out and put in the park area. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Nine Pieces

Our tapestry weaving group got together today to put all nine pieces of the image together.

We had been given an image, a blown up copy in black and white and then a section of the image. We each wove our piece, with no definitive information about what colours to use, etc. The colour image was the source of our colour decisions and we all used wools from the Australian Tapestry Workshop.

It is interesting to see the interpretations put together. The colours all matched rather well.
Some of the pieces were slightly bigger than others and it is strange that the whole bottom row turned out to be this way.

Mine is the bottom left-hand corner and part of the image is the correct size, the other end bulged out a bit. Unfortunately, that is the bit that meets the other pieces, so it is rather obvious.
Not to worry, it was a great exercise and very enjoyable. And we have taken our pieces home again. We will see if an opportunity to show them together turns up.

You might notice that we laid out the small photos incorrectly. But the larger pieces were correct and worked quite well.

We were very pleased with the outcome!
Now we are thinking about what else we might do as a group to make us weave, to collaborate and to have fun. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Setting up Holy Stitches

I have been helping to set up the Holy Stitches exhibition at the Embroiderers Guild, Victoria.

It has taken a couple of days to do the physical set-up and many hours of work beforehand, choosing the items, making up the catalogue, etc. Fortunately, I have only really been involved in the physical set-up, enough work for me.

There were so many items to choose from. It is not my sort of embroidery but the fineness of the works is amazing, as is the impressive gold work. I don't have to be a practitioner of the techniques to be inspired by the work.

Here are some pictures of the days of setting up.

Lots to choose from!

Sorting it into colour areas.

Getting there
The next log of images are from today - it took all day again, hence the need to take pictures when it was darker.

I seem to have focussed on lots of red pieces, there are plenty of other ecclesiastical colours.

I  am looking forward to the actual exhibition and hope we have lots of visitors.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


May is a wonderful month here in Melbourne. The nights are getting cooler and you can tell winter is approaching but the days are usually magnificent.
The grass is green and things are looking lush! More like spring than the typical autumn images that come to mind. But I suppose we think of the autumn colours that are really more typical of the northern hemisphere and now I am seeing the wonderful greens of autumn in Melbourne.

You do tend to get the wonderful shadows in autumn that are not so obvious in summer, the sun being in a different part of the sky. (And summer doesn't have much green grass anyway, see the image below.)

I took Penny to Warrningal Park recently and was quite amazed to see a tree that looked to have been dying, covered in leaves.

Here it is in December 2014.

That bare white trunk and sawn up branches didn't look very hopeful. I did wonder why they hadn't just chopped it all down. 
Now I know why!

The grass is green and the bare trunk is covered in leaves! It seems that those council arborists do know what they are doing. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Just in Time

I think it is true, the closer an event is to home, the slower you are to go and see it.
I finally got to Hatch today to see Turbulence. It is by local artists, centred around the idea of water conservation and environmental awareness.

There was a LOT of plastic there. The message was clearly about all the plastic we use, the 'stuff' we buy and then just throw away, and the damage this does to the waterways.

It was great to see the two murals done at the KidsArtyFartyFest earlier this year. It seemed to be a very locally based exhibition.

One of the special bits was seeing some of the art works about the local animals and birds, and how they relate to the brochure you can get about the indigenous wildlife in Banyule.

It closes tomorrow, so I had to make a special effort to get there, well worth the effort though.

Congratulations to all the artists.

There were some interesting workshops around the exhibition also but, having left my visit till the second last day, I have missed out on them.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Inspired by ... Degas

This month we are supposed to be inspired by Degas.
Some of the comments about our works, at the meeting of the machine embroidery group, at the EGV, have been that we are being a bit too literal with our images.

Therefore, I decided to try something different. I noticed that Degas did quite a few sketches of ballerinas, some of them life drawings.
I remembered that we had done a life drawing semester in our Textile and Design course. After some rummaging, I found my folder (the benefit of never throwing anything out!).

As the piece is to be A5 and my drawings were A1, I took photos of a few that I thought might do.
Then I printed them out as A5 images and left them sitting, so I could let it sink into my subconscious and let it do the deciding for me - of which one to work on.

As one of them was blue, and as I thought that was the one I was going to do, I have been thinking about using my blue fabrics for a couple of weeks.

I got out my blue scraps, some of them very small. Perfect for an A5 piece, I thought. (I was right!)

I traced my drawing onto the fabric, using a water soluble (blue) pen. It turned out that I didn't use the blue one after all. I can't remember actually thinking much about it, I just started on another one. I think the lines were easier to see, rather than the blocks of colour in the blue drawing.

Then I laid out tiny pieces of blue fabric. I didn't cut much, just used the pieces that were there.

After that, I put the image beside the sewing machine and tried to draw over the areas I had intimated with my colour choices.
One of the things about Kathryn's class - she doesn't use any products along the lines of adhesives, you just pin your fabrics and then attach them with a meandering stitch, so as not to preempt the finished design.

It isn't fabulous (but maybe the original image isn't fabulous, that could influence the outcome) but it is done and I have tried a new(ish) method. And it is rather small.
I rinsed it to get the water soluble pen off. I rather like the fraying edges, think I will leave it like that. 

I tried the Kathryn Harmer Fox workshop method, that I did recently. I had a piece of the cotton and linen fabric, backed by interfacing, left over from the workshop. It was pretty close to the size I wanted, so I didn't even have to prepare that.

The idea is to trace the image straight onto the fabric, cover it with little bits of fabric and then sew over the top. Because it is quite a firm base, you don't need to use a hoop.

Once you use the small bits of fabric, it is hard, if not impossible, to see the drawing, so I had to rely on the printout of the image. Hence the loose interpretation of the original.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

4th Gondwana small quilt.

I was a bit late posting my 4th quilt for our first challenge. The group has only existed for about a year and we set a task of making 4 small (12"x16" - not sure of the metric dimensions, quilting always (mostly) seems to be in inches. Luckily I remember the days when we used imperial measurements - shows my age, I know) quilt.

Anyway, back to my stream of thought, after that rather large interruption.

Our last one was due last Saturday but I still only had the idea. That idea has been rattling around in my head for ages! I even went so far as to print some fabrics. It was when I was in the doldrums a bit and thought that I should be doing something.

So I got out two stamps I had - one on the soft cut stuff, which was a raised image. The other was cut into lino and gave the other sort of image (can only think of 'not-raised').

I had thought about fossils being buried in layers, so decided that I might play around with layering various fabrics and cutting back to them, using the image I have used a few times, of an ammonite. Also called reverse appliqué.

I used black fabric as the background, so I could cut back to that to represent the holes you often see in these fossils.
I have also been doing a little bit of reading about fossils and some of them become opalised. So I thought I would like to put in some colours that might indicate this - and be more interesting than the browns I kept seeing.
I drew the pattern on the background and used a thicker thread in the bobbin to show the spiral. It was only moderately successful, I think I could have used a darker colour, or lighter. More contrast, anyway. 

Work in progress, doing some of the cutting out. Not enough contrast, I thought. 

The daylight caused the photo to look very different. 

One of the fun things was that I used a multicoloured fabric and it was always a surprise what colour would appear.

I am not 100% happy with the outcome, the image doesn't leap out at me, but it is ok. And it is done. And I have learnt from it.
One thing I learnt, or reminded myself of, is that you need to do more than one line of sewing where you are going to do the cutout. The fabric just pulls out if you only use one, you need two to anchor it.

Also, you can't see the various layers all that well, especially that they have other fossil shapes printed on them. No matter, I know that there are other fossils buried in there.