Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trying a new technique, bobbin work

There are just so many amazing techniques and materials in threadwork and art quilting that it is hard to decide what to try next. So I've been trying new things as they catch my attention, or as it seems they might be the right technique for a piece I'm working on.

And last weekend, while I was participating in the arts show, the other fiber artist there told me about a class she had taken and that she had learned about bobbin work. And she brought in a small quilt she had bought from the teacher of that class, Ellen Anne Eddy! She is one of the most amazing artists with thread I've seen and I love looking at her work online. But to hold that dragonfly in my hand and see the stitching up close was inspiring.

So I had to try some bobbin work for myself. Bobbinwork is not a new technique. I found a description of  "Gold Thread Embroidery" in the "Singer Instructions for Art Embroidery" book published in 1911. It gives instructions to wind the gold thread on the bobbin and work from the back of the fabric. That book is amazing, and shows just how much you can do with a straight stitch sewing machine. The original issue is available digitally on the Internet Archive, and there is a reprinted edition out there somewhere.

The standard way to do bobbin work is to draw the design on the back and hoop the fabric. Being contrary (and not having a hoop available) I set up the fabric the way I do for all my dimensional applique, fusing a piece of my hand-painted fabric over felt. I had free-hand sketched the outlines on the front, so had to go over them with a washable marker, then use a lightbox to trace onto the back. Next time I'll sketch on paper and trace or outline around the shape.

This was the perfect time to pull out the boxes of embroidery floss I found at a thrift store a while back. I cut about 30-inch lengths of floss and divided them, using three strands at a time, and wound them by hand on a regular bobbin. For the starfish, I used cotton crochet thread I had hand-painted, with a strand of metallic thread wound with it. One note, for heavier thread, adjust your bobbin tension, or use a bobbin case just for bobbin work. I forgot to do that and slightly bent the tension spring on my case. Fortunately, I could borrow one from another machine to get back to regular sewing.

Some other useful things I learned, use a top thread that is similar in value to the bobbin thread, and which contrasts to your backing, so you can see where you are sewing. And sketch out areas for shading on the back. Make the edges of each color irregular so you can blend colors and not leave a sharp edge or bare spot between.

I'll be experimenting some more over the next few days, including trying using a hoop. I did not have a hoop that I could fit easily under the presser foot, but since I realized I really needed one, I started a search. I discovered that most machine embroidery hoops are machine specific, and very expensive. But I found one site, CreateForLess, that had them for a very reasonable price, in a couple of different sizes and shapes. I ordered an 8-inch round hoop late last week and it came in yesterday (fast) and fits comfortably under the darning foot of both machines I use for free motion.

I'll have more on this later.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More painted fabric and thread

I spent the weekend playing with some of my hand-painted fabric, plus creating more. This is so much fun!

some commercial fabric, after spraying with water
I am using Setacolor Transparent fabric paints, which are applied like paint, but create the effect of dyes when they are finished. My two favorite effects are sunpainting, using various objects or paper cutouts as a resist, and using salt, which concentrates the colors. I am using Jacquard's Silk Salt, but kosher or rock salt works as well.
the fabric with wet paint
I spent most of the weekend working on a project using some of the fabric I'd painted on bleached muslin, and I'll share that as I get further along. But just for the fun of it, I decided to try painting some commercially printed fabric. And, I pulled out some cotton crochet thread and painted it. I used a little of the thread in an experiment in bobbin work.

So here are the results of this weekend's fabric painting.

More later.

fabric on right after drying

other fabric, plus one more, after drying

cotton crochet thread, wet with paint

thread finished

Friday, September 9, 2011

Photo Friday - weekend on Tybee

It's been a busy week, trying to catch up in the office for work and getting started on a new piece using some of my handpainted fabric for fun. More about that later. Here are a few photos I took on Tybee Island during Labor Day weekend.

More later.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekend at the art show, and more

 Wow, what a weekend. Labor Day is the last big weekend of the summer for our restaurant, and this was my first time participating in a show by the Tybee Arts Association, so it was doubly crazy.

Before I even got to Tybee, I had to finish the pieces for the show, framing them, making labels, pricing and wrapping them for transport. Then Wednesday it was a meeting for work and a meeting for last minute details of the show. Thursday it was buying a new clothes dryer, then spending the afternoon setting up for the show. Friday stuff for work, then the opening reception during the evening. Saturday work morning shift at the show, then back to do stuff around the house and take pictures at the restaurant. Sunday another morning shift, knock out some to-dos at the house, back to pick up art and help with taking down the show. Then take pictures and watch the fireworks. Then a nice leisurely evening and to bed. No, not that part, because the power went out about midnight and we re-opened the store, staying open until 4 a.m. Days like this, it makes me wish I drank coffee.

The art show was fantastic, we held it in a historic cottage on the grounds of the Tybee Light Station, aka Tybee Lighthouse. Of the 20 or so participants, most were painters, there was one photographer, two jewelry artists, one who made beautiful little "fairy chairs" from twigs, shells and other found objects, one fiber artist (beautiful scarves and other items) and one quilt artist – me!

We had a great turnout, with lots of visitors to the Lighthouse wandering by to see the show and many others coming from around the area for the show. 

I brought seven pieces for the show, all beach-themed, and all including various threadwork elements, including free-motion quilting, free-motion embroidery, thread sketching and thread painting. 

They were: Palm Sunrise, pieced, painted and dimensional applique; Day at the Beach, pieced, free-motion embroidered and dimensional applique, with some hand-dyed fabric; Sea Turtle Trio II, pieced, painted, free-motion quilted and dimensional applique; Tybee Fireworks IV, pieced, painted and appliqued; Lighthouse with Boat II, pieced, free-motion embroidered, painted and dimensional applique; Sunrise Lighthouse, pieced, painted and appliqued; and Lighthouse With Sun, pieced, free-motion quilted and embroidered and appliqued.

Palm Sunrise sold at the show.
We all noticed that small items, like note cards and small prints, sold very well, so for the next show I will bring my fabric postcards.

It was great fun and I am looking forward to next time.

More later.