Thursday, August 27, 2015

messing about with sticks and strings

messing about with sticks and strings and pots and plants...

yesterday i tried my hand at eco-printing again as well as more stitching on previously done papers

if you remember my previous attempt at embroidering on the paper, i wasn't too happy with either the running stitch nor the number of strands of embroidery thread

today i tried a different tack... much longer stitches, going from joint to joint

with japanese leaf stitch at the ends, in lovely hand-dyed silk ribbon

"sea meadow" by judith montano

now we're talking...

yesterday after work i did the latest round of bundle-dyeing

various types of silkand plants form my yard, and in addition to the bundles, i tried the idea of doing silk in the same method as how you dye paper... stacked and layered with plant material and then compressed between two ceramic tiles, bound tightly with thick rubber bands

 boiled for an hour and a half, left to rest in the dye pot overnight and set out on a tray this morning

by 5:00pm i couldn't stand it anymore so started taking apart the stacked bundle

it was so wet though that after lifting off one piece of silk, i quelled my enthusiasm, put the top tile back in place and set it all aside until tomorrow - opening them up will be my reward after a long day at work

the purple colour is coming from the centre of a large gloriosa daisy i pressed - can't wait to see how it came out... fingers crossed the beauty of the flower comes through, at least a little

so i busied myself instead with getting back to stitching on the paper

 stitching tiny leaves within a larger leaf print

following the ridge on one side of the stem

 slowly working my way to the top, thinking about each area, looking closely

not keen on the holes, i'm adding tiny french knots at the joints in the hope of concealing them a little - not sure if it really matters - i may try an even smaller needle tomorrow and see if that makes a difference

thinking that at the top i'd like to add a flower of sorts, something that is going to seed?

there aren't too many days left before the little wildflowers and plants have gone to seed for real and there will be no more opportunities to experiment with this so i'm hoping to try my hand at another stack or two of paper in the coming days - it would be a wonderful thing to have a ream or two of pretty printed papers on which to mess about on a cold winter's day when the things that are green seem far, far away

Monday, August 24, 2015

a recurring theme...

words and stitching seem to be a recurring theme for me

i did the little wishing stars with your words of inspiration embroidered on the back...

and then little felt hearts last year

this time round i'm on a different tack... the bee gee's song "it's only words" is running through my head

{the video link i posted above is from the "one night only" concert they did in las vegas... i own the dvd of it and sometimes when i'm stitching of an evening and there's nothing on tv, i'll put it on and hum and stitch's such a wonderful concert!}

back to the song though - it's a favourite of mine and sometimes when i watch the video i think how sad it is that two brothers are gone now, and what it might be like to be the one left behind... patched and tattered hearts are not that rare...

so i'm making velvet and lace word hearts, taking my inspiration from that same song

today i started on the lace

snippets of silk, bits of lace, stitched randomly to a fine silk net, slashing it here and there to add some open spaces

i'm making a large piece, i'll add a little embroidery and then cut it apart, roughly, leaving some raggedy bits here and there - at least, that's the plan

eight velvet hearts have been stitched,  with a bit of batting in between the layers to add support

 hand-dyed cotton velvet, rayon velvet, and a lovely hand-dyed silk velvet yet to be cut

i like that the rayon one has a grain - below, the middle heart was cut on the cross-grain 

 next is to choose my wordsand phrases from the lyrics of the song, write them out, affix them somehow to the hearts and then attach the lace fragments over top, allowing enough of the word to show for it to be recognized but not glaringly obvious... protected by the lace, supported by the softness of the velvet

tender words, shared but not shouted

at least that's the hope of it - we'll see...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

summer romance

who doesn't love a good old-fashioned summer romance?

here's the story of mine...

the last half of august is upon us and i'm trying to grab hold of these few remaining golden days...

 change is in the air, plants both in and out of the garden are maturing, and i'm trying out some new preservation techniques

a while back, in june i think, i made a note of a few things i wanted to make sure i did this summer... eco-printing on fabric and paper was one of those things

the other day realization dawned that the window of opportunity was rapidly narrowing and so i spent a happy afternoon immersed in the process

gathering plants from only our yard, i laid a variety out on a small length of silk habotai

you can see here just how light this fabric is - perhaps a little too light, but as i am an experimenter, i went with it

wrapping all this tightly around a wooden dowel proved to be a challenge - the silk being so flimsy and slippery

  finally it was all well secured with a length of kitchen twine

this spent an hour in a boiling dye-bath of rusty metal, pinecones and three chamomile tea bags, and then sat in it for several hours

 i left it to dry overnight, which really didn't take all that many hours as it was a fairly small bundle, and the silk being so light...

the first patterning revealed was created by the string wrapping - love it

if this was all that i'd gotten i would have been thrilled, but there was more still to be seen

if you look carefully in the grooves of the photo below it almost looks like there is stitching there - must be something to do with the compression of the string?

the yellow colour comes from marigolds, purpose grown

 excavating the plant material...

the sage leaves printed rather well, i thought, and i think if i used a sturdier silk they would do even better

rose leaves also were a success

the green leaf transferred a rosy beige hue along with the green, which i thought delightful

i have a nice little stack of various types of silk and wool ready to go for the next dye-pot, hopefully on tuesday - i think i could get addicted to this, the experimental nature of eco-print dyeing, along with the surprise when all is revealed

and with the rudiments of knowledge in place, i turned my attention to paper

this time i went for a walk in the neighbourhood to find some different plants

i have a nifty gathering basket, bought many years ago - it has a small hole in the top for pushing plants through, and the basket, while allowing air through, keeps sunlight off the plants, and hours later they weren't wilted at all

i gathered what looked interesting, not what i knew to be successful
{my knowledge hasn't gone that far yet!}

the mr. cut me two small blocks of wood and provided three sturdy clamps before he went off to hockey

i folded and tore various bits of watercolour paper, selecting both hot and cold-press, as well as some good-quality artist's paper purchased in the art supply store in stowe-on-the-wold in the cotswolds two years ago

stacking and compressing, and stacking and compressing some more, i finally had it ready to go into the dye-pot 
{same dye-pot as the silk was in}

boil for 20 minutes, let it cool in the pot and then open it up before it's dry

tweezers and butter knife were the tools to excavate with

if i was happy with the fabric, the paper put me over the moon

some sheets were done flat, whereas others were folded

above you can see the print on the right and the leaf still stuck on the left - they actually peeled off rather easily, except for some of the thinner ones - they kind of disintegrated

i had the idea to separate things on some of the folded cards with parchment paper - i didn't read about it anywhere as a suggestion for controlling what prints where, but thought why not try it???

that's the true beauty of not being attached to the outcome - you try things and risk failure

it didn't fail though - it worked beautifully

below you can see the parchment on the right

 and this is how the paper looked after all plant material was removed - each side of the folded card is different, yet it was folded when put in the pot - cool huh?

the rose leaves printed very brown here

the wonderful, amazing thing that i didn't expect was the embossing effect the plant material had on the softer drawing paper

beautiful, strong impressions

the drawing paper and the hot-pressed 140 lb watercolour paper were my favourites

below is the cold-pressed watercolour paper sample - it came out rough, with very little relief-texture

but perfect for experimenting with stitch!

i'm using hand-dyed silk ribbon and cosmo embroidery thread, simple running stitches, and japanese leaf stitch

many years ago up north a few people in our quilting group, including me, experimented with sun-printing plants on fabric using sun-sensitive paints

it was great fun; you could mess about with mixing paints, varying plant material and so on, but after a while i couldn't get the paints as easily and it made a big mess

eco-print dyeing has a much greater appeal to me - it's natural, and the plants can work in either one or two ways - the combinations are endless and results are far more spontaneous

 i think i've found a new love!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

a diaper bag...

this story actually begins a long time ago... as most good stories do

once upon a time a young lady that loved all sorts of different types of needlework was reluctantly introduced (coerced) into joining a quilting group by a very lovely much older lady who knew she knew better

you can read all about that here:

one year the lovely older lady's annual quilting adventure took her on a quilter's bus trip to amish country

whereupon she met a kindly fellow quilter from japan

the lady from japan fell in love with a beautiful cross-stitch kit depicting two little amish children sitting on a bench, but alas, she had no idea how to cross-stitch

"don't you fret, i know just the person to do it for you" said the lovely much older lady from the yukon...

and so, when colleen arrived home she presented with me said kit

"i know it's easy for you to do this, and she's going to send you fabric"
was the explanation


happy to help a friend help a friend, i took it on and in a few weeks' time, the stitchery was sent off over to the sea

and in a few more weeks, a packet of fabric arrived back

image my surprise when a bundle of vintage japanese indigo textiles poured forth

along with some choice silk kimono pieces

sigh indeed!

 above are the indigo - one you can see is very old, and very faded - and i love it best

how does that work???

all this happened almost twenty-five years ago, and these fabrics have been carefully stored all that time, waiting...

waiting for me to understand just how rare and precious they are

waiting for the right idea

waiting for the right skills to be learned


when i formally studied needlework, one of my favourite parts was the history of a particular embroidery style or technique

you had to understand the social, political and economic state of a region and it's people at the time the embroidery was either developed, or flourished - i missed that kind of learning

so a while back i began investigating kantha and boro 

i loved the history - the precious nature of the cloth, the treasured way it was handled, preserved and saved

i wanted to create something like that but had so little of the japanese indigo... and so i decided to meld the two together... japan and bhutan

kind of a plate-tectonic type of thing, one colliding into the other

boro-style piecing with indigo and silk combined with kantha-style stitching

might be interesting...

 scraps of silk, tiny precious bits

i'm making a tote bag, simply patched together, and then stitched and embroidered... this little bit of already embroidered silk will be perfect for the pocket

i love how they look together
 both precious in their own rights - a contrast-in-love

looking for balance and distribution here - i have very little of some fabrics and two bag pieces and a handle to figure out

valdani hand-dyed perle cotton is perfect for the embroidery work i want to do, emulating the thread that would have been saved from the borders of the saris to be stitched with, re-use, recycle at it's best i think

folding and pinning... but why is it i'm calling it a diaper bag????

when we were in england a few years back, one of the things on my list to buy was fine english muslin - it's like gauze compared to what we have here

i bought the last meter they had at john lewis in london

and the last metre and a half at duttons for buttons in york

i was being foiled at every turn it seemed

until we were in dover on a wet sunday afternoon and ducked in to a drug store in search of q-tips

the young lady looked at us in great puzzlement until i said "ear swabs"

ah... baby section she said

and while we searched for those, i stumbled on a package of diapers made with 100% muslin
lovely fine gauzy things they were

i didn't hesitate for a second although i thought the mr. was going to faint

"it's for fabric" i said

really, he should know by now

 i washed and dried them to pre-shrink and the weave squished up a bit but it ironed right out and is now the perfect base for sewing my fabric patches to

 and if that's not enough, i'm using diaper flannel for the batting - lightweight and easy to needle for hand-quilting

and so, i'm calling it the diaper bag, at least for now

 appliqueing down the edges

i didn't turn all of them under - some of the selvage edges were left as they are - i like the look of it, and this way the cloth isn't wasted - kind of in keeping with the sensibility of the styles of quilting i'm trying to emulate

 i've found some wonderful videos online showing how to do the kantha embroidery - it's amazing what you can do with a simple running stitch

simple cloth, simple beauty