I’ve been making these little blocks for several years now. I have one of those document boxes full of them despite using a large number in a group project. They are all 6.5 inches square and are sewn as leader-enders as I work on other projects. Using them to leave on the bed of the sewing machine between the construction seams of quilt blocks or dresses or making binding for quilts along with a single needle plate means a starting point doesn’t crawl down to be greet the bobbin, and there aren’t so many loose threads to bunch up in the casters of your chair.
Making them is rather addictive; it doesn’t take long to have a large pile sitting on the ironing board ready to press and then square up and then add the next bits of scrap. While working away on several art pieces, I constructed these nearly completed squares.
As you can see, a real mish-mash.
But then I rearranged the pieces and added these strips.
That center space will be filled with a portrait of my aunt as a telephone operator. She ran the switchboard in the days of party lines and needing to listen for your particular ring set. I’ve started on the drawings but not quite happy with what I have so far. My process includes doing the drawing, then enlarging it via photocopy to the appropriate size, then on to the fabric and thread portion.
I am not a fast worker and need to take breaks to stop, think, and do more looking before moving forward.
The word prompt for our next art group meeting is “SHOES….Historical”.
It has become a bit of a challenge to come up with an idea to illustrate the word that is just not the usual kind of image. So far there is a jester’s shoe and a mockup of the shoe Marie Antoinette wore on her way to the guillotine.
I took this photo of discarded auto parts several years ago–brake shoes. A bit more research and perusal of a repair manual, line drawings and I had a basic plan in mind.
Then on to selecting fabrics. I knew what colors I wanted to use—and these parts were laying on the ground with some leaf litter. The background of oak leaves on a dark background was perfect–then on to the brake shoes and the spring. I found two pieces of rusted muslin–perfect for those rusty parts—the spring had to be a different color–not true to life bu contrasting.
And yes that is a Tide box. I store my fabric in Tide boxes…it always smells nice and no problems with mildew in this humid climate.
I use freezer paper templates and free=hand cut some pieces. They are appliqued by hand using a fine thread onto the background—it is now ready for the machine work. It will be covered with a lot of thread to show both detail and form.
I have decided to call this piece finished.
What does remain is the backing, sleeve for hanging, and label—but the art part is complete.
Some of the additions were challenging as I worked from the back; the thread I used was a ribbon type thread, too thick to go through a needle and had to be wound onto the bobbin and the tension loosened. The piece is getting quite thick with the many layers of fabric and thread and my machine was not happy about punching through it.
The next parts will be fairly easy—I just need to finish the quilt loaded on Vivian before I can load up this one and do a bit of minimal quilting. Then the formal portrait with detail shots. Fortunately it is fairly small—24 by 28 and so will fit just great into my photo studio—and I won’t have to get out the pole and drape and ladder for the outside of the shed photo studio.
Since I’ve been working on finishing up some more traditional projects, the next art piece will take a bit of thinking before commencing. I have two ideas, but will mull them over and do a bit of design work first before deciding.
After some thought, I decided that I needed more contrast in the stones to make them appear rougher. I wound Designer 7 (YLI) black—onto several bobbins and began working some darker areas into the individual stones. This is challenging as I am working from the back; the bobbin thread is all the same color from the previous work and it is challenging to see where one stone ends and another begins.
This still wasn’t quite right and so I tried placing a thick cotton thread around the facets of several stones, thinking I would couch it down.
This didn’t seem quite right either.
After more thought, I got out some jeans thread–white—and started working in some lighter areas on the face of each stone. This is heavy work as the piece is getting quite heavy now with all the thread and layers. The bobbin trace got so hot, it burned the bobbin thread and so after two hours work I had to stop and let the machine cool—and my shoulders and elbows and wrists rest as well.
I think this is going to work. I have several more hours of threadwork ahead of me–limited by the heat of the bobbin trace–but a clear path lies ahead.
That print I chose for the wall behind the rocks seemed too bold; I toned it down with some strips of a sheer blue with black polka dots. No, you can’t really see them but they do add to the textural quality. I’ve also added a sheer with black swirly lines over the stones and begun to stitch it all down.
That base fabric is not heavy enough to hold the many layers of thread I use and now you can see on the very edges the addition of a fine wale corduroy. This is one of my favorite fabrics to use as an under layer. It is heavy enough to withstand the stitching, yet flexible.
At this point there is a lot of thread and I am wondering if I have lost the feeling of individual stones.
Time for another rest of the eyes.
Taking a break to do a few other things and letting me eyes rest from the project at hand always seem to let me resume with enthusiasm.
I thought the large pieces of fabric were too plain although I used prints. I wanted more definition of the rocks and so I began adding some bits of color to each stone.
If you look closely you can see the button head pins I used to place some of these pieces. By this time, all those rocks are sewn onto the underlying base fabric. I use a fairly sturdy material such as a duck. I am not particularly concerned with fiber content although I usually use a cotton or cotton blend.
In the upper left corner, I began to add some dyed cheesecloth and tulle to further enhance the idea of rocky surfaces.
Occasionally it is helpful to step back from a piece, fold it up, hide it or bury it under piles of stuff to let the eyes and vision rest.
Working on a small project or three is fun. I save the trimmings from various projects in a small pile on my worktable and will use them to make some small collages destined to become postcard type pieces.
Here is the beginning:
Here is the result with two portraits of Hondurans–an old man and a young girl. I haven’t got them quite right yet–still working on them. It may be time to hide them and put the rocks back up.
After three days of selecting, cutting, some piecing of the tops of the stones and lots of pins, I am now ready to attach these pieces to the background. I like to use a relatively heavy weight fabric such as no-wale corduroy or sometimes canvas. I use a lot of thread and it needs to have a substantial fabric underneath to support the threadwork.
Starting a new piece is always chaotic. On the design board is the full size photo poster. on the floor behind the ironing board and on the floor in front of the ironing board are the pieces being cut from the selected fabrics.
Yes, those are large Tide boxes you see on the shelves behind. When my boys were still at home, I bought the largest size Tide boxes I could find–as I did several loads of laundry every day and more on the weekend. The boxes are sturdy and my fabric always smells nice.
A pile of rocks against a weathered barn wall caught my eye. There was an abundance of moss on a few of those rocks suggesting a long term placement. The rocks or stones or building blocks were piled on each other and on some weathered boards and were definitely not uniform shapes.
After learning a bit in Photoshop in a class by the Pixeladies two years ago, I was able to convert the photo to black and white; resize it and then rather than printing it section by section on my home printer, I emailed it to Office Depot. I splurged on a bit more expensive paper for a poster sized print I could use as my direct pattern for each piece.
The next step was to pull appropriate fabrics–not necessarily true to life colors but ones that were appealing AND as part of a composition exercise regarding proportions of colors contained in a non-related picture. (my image was a map of somewhere near Seattle with cities, roads, rivers, and suggested route in red). Although I started with that color scheme in mind, it quickly became something else.
Tomorrow I’ll show you the next step.