Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oh Canada - Contemporary Canadian Art at MASS MoCA

There's a fabulous exhibit at MASS MoCA called Oh Canada that I wish I could see in person!  120 art works by 62 Canadian artists are featured. 

The Globe and Mail has a great article here.  I find this quote by Denise Markonish, one of the curators, particularly poignant:

"To the surprise of many, it did not include some of Canada’s art stars – Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas and Janet Cardiff. Such omissions, Markonish says, were entirely intentional but not meant as a slight. “[They’re] already what the art world expects when they hear ‘Canadian art,’ ” she says. “Canada’s a big country, and there’s a lot going on, and I wanted to give voice to a lot of artists who aren’t known here; or if they’re known, to present other facets of their practice.”

You can read more info about the show and the artists here, at MASS MoCA's website.

Ann Brauer visited the show and has blogged about it here.  She has posted some terrific photos.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Silk Wallhanging - Auditioning Fabrics

I'm auditioning fabrics to frame this gorgeous piece of eco dyed silk by Arlee Barr.  I want to embroider / quilt through all the layers.  (Click the pictures to enlarge and see the beautiful details)

I really like the bronze silk dupioni, but I'm not sure about the maroon:

Does black look better than maroon?

I'd love to find a rich chocolate silk, I think that would bring out the greens and orange in the eco dyed piece.  Perhaps even a deep burgundy.

I used knit fusible interfacing on the back of the eco dyed silk - it's perfect.  It's so light and diaphanous so the silk retains it's suppleness, yet it adds significant stability.  A shout-out to Allie Aller for the knit fusible idea - here's how she uses it for crazy quilting.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday

Here's my string quilt so far:

Please excuse the crappy way the blocks are displayed - I'm currently reorganizing my tiny apartment so that my living/dining room will be a studio (goodbye kitchen table, but hello fabrics being more accessible!)  I'm still trying to figure out a cheap yet effective design wall.  Fleece and batting both suck - I need something pinnable. 

And here's what I'm calling my Synthetic Folly:

 I fell in love with these fabrics years ago at a local quilt guild's rummage sale (the colours in real life are a glorious chartreuse and navy floral print).  I knew the synthetics would be difficult to work with, but this is ridiculous.  They have fought me every step of the way - the seams pucker, creases can't be pressed out, and even fusbible knit interfacing on the back can't make these fabrics behave.  UGH.  

To be fair, it didn't look this bad yesterday when the interfacing was newly applied, but rolling it up made all the freaking bubbles and creases re-appear. 

As much as I love these fabrics, I'm on the fence about this thing.  I originally wanted to add lots of hand embroidery, sort of like a hybrid crazy-sane quilt.  Now I'm not sure all that effort will be worth it.  At first I thought the embroidery and quilting would flatten it out and disguise the puckering, but now I suspect all that handling will just make it worse.  And having to press the darn thing every single time I want to stitch on it to get the bubbles and ripples out - hmmmmm, not happening.

I might just tie this instead of quilting it and use it as a cuddle blanket - it's a nice size, about 50" x 60".  And not investing any more time means I'll actually enjoy it as a blanket, and I'll be able to throw it in the washer without worry.

At what point do you decide a project isn't worth it?

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Won a Giveaway!

I was one of the very lucky winners of Alex Hall's giveaway over at Under A Topaz Sky.  Her embroidered ribbon roses are exquisite in person, the photo doesn't show the beautiful sheen:


And it came wrapped in this gorgeous piece of Japanese fabric:

Thank you Alex!  The embroidery deserves a nice frame, I'll have to keep an eye out for one.

Using Interfacing for String Piecing

I've been doing some string piecing using my favourite colours - turquoise and purple!  This is a stash buster so I'm only using what I've got.  Here are some blocks so far:

My favourite foundation is sew-in interfacing (non-woven, non-fusible) - the stuff used in dressmaking.  Interfacing, how do I love thee, let me count the ways:
  • It doesn't shift, distort, shrink or otherwise behave badly (unlike muslin!)  
  • It's dirt cheap
  • It can remain in the quilt - no spending hours and hours ripping out paper and distorting the seam stitches in the process
  • It withstands tons of handling, including lots of pressing
Interfacing is also my preferred foundation for crazy quilt blocks and paper piecing.  Haven't tried running it through the printer but transferring a pattern using a light table is a breeze. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Springtime in Ontario

There's a wooded park in my neighbourhood with lovely trilliums currently in bloom - aren't they gorgeous? The trillium is Ontario's provincial flower:

Cool looking fallen tree trunks, with some roots barely hanging on:


Mossy tree  roots:


 This isn't a great shot but you can see the ravine.  Not much rain this spring, so this creek is almost dry:

I know most people hate dandelions because they're weeds, but I love them.  I think they're beautiful and they remind me of playing in the grass as a kid:

This park is in the middle of an urban sprawl so many people walk through to just take a walk, or to walk their dogs.  There are two high schools down the road so lot of kids hang out here.  I adore that it's a well-used and well-loved park - but I really abhor all the litter.  I tried hard to keep litter out of these shots.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Review - The Art of Embroidery by Françoise Tellier-Loumagne

The most recent addition to my book collection is The Art of Embroidery by Françoise Tellier-Loumagne.  

This 304-page book has over 500 colour photographs.  It's not a technique book, but rather a visual feast.  Flowers, rocks, leaves, railway tracks, cauliflower and farm fences are just some of the items beautifully photographed to show all the glorious texture that exists out there.  Françoise then interprets those photos into textile pieces using various techniques (embroidery, quilting, adding found objects, etc.).  The way she uses embroidery is quite stunning.

There's very little text.  It's really about showing us that textures exist everywhere, and how to let our imaginations run wild when recreating that texture using cloth and stitch. 

Below is a selection of  some of my favourite page layouts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TAST 2012 - French Knots

Two VERY quick-and-dirty samples of french knots - not much time for stitching this week. 

  • Milliner needles are a must (the eye and shaft are the same diameter, so the knots slide off easily)
  • Keeping tension on the thread is essential.  I HIGHLY recommend Mary Corbet's french knot video tutorial

I tried for some realistic looking lily-of-the-valley. The knots are doubled #8 perle cotton, 6 wraps each knot.  They're still out of proportion: 

These french knots are a single strand of cotton floss.  I used pink tulle for the 'champagne':

And here's my embroidered lichen.  I've posted these before but I love this project so far.  I need to carve out a chunk of time next week to finish this:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TAST 2012 Catch-Up Week

I missed a few TAST stitches so I combined several into one piece:

Stiches used:  Detached Chain Stitch, Whipped Wheel, Barred and Alternating Barred Chain,  French Knots and Chain stitch.  The quilting will be Running Stitch.

I will finish this quilted fan because it's almost done anyway, but I'm not as pleased with it as I anticipated. 

What I learned from this project:
  1. A full size and full colour cartoon is worth the time.  Quick sketches do not show potential design problems.  This piece needs more negative space, it's too crowded.  I didn't realize how much negative space would be taken up by the small flowers because I didn't include them on my sketch - I only sketched in the branches.
  2. I have a bad habit of leaving only a small amount of extra fabric around a design area.  Had I left about 4 inches of extra fabric rather than only 1 inch, the negative space issue wouldn't have been as big a problem.
  3. Whipped Wheels use up tons of thread and take A LOT more time than I expected.  But they do look amazing, once you get the hang of wrapping them evenly.  Next time I'll work the wheel on a slip before stitching it to the project; it will lay flatter and neater that way.
  4. I need a larger stock of perle cotton colours, in various weights.  I used stranded cotton for the tree branches but it doesn't give the look I prefer.  Stranded cotton has none of the elegance of perle cotton.
I like this design enough that I'll make a larger version.  I'm treating this small piece as my mock-up or cartoon for the larger one.  This was an excellent exercise.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lichen Embroidery - French Knots

One of my favourite fabrics in my stash screamed out for some embroidered lichen, so I'm playing around with french knots.  They're tricky to keep uniform but for a nature inspired piece I'm liking the unevenness of the stitches:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Embroidered Silk Scarf with Leaves - Finished

Here's the finished the silk scarf.  It's not perfect, but I'm happy with it overall: 

I have a new rule - ALWAYS stabilize silk with fusible interfacing first.  The edges raveled so much that I had to make the final size narrower than planned.  

The lining is the same silk I used for the leaves.  

The running stitches are more subtle than I expected.  I tried for a sashiko style stitch but my hands automatically go back to tiny quilting stitches.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Embroidered Silk Scarf - Leaves

I'm currently stitching my mother's birthday gift:

Both fabrics are silk dupioni, with the leaves fused using Pellon's Wonder Under (I had some in my stash).  I worried about hand stitching through the fused fabric but it's surprisingly easy. 

The thread is a Japanese silk thread that's approximately the thickness of #12 perle cotton.  It's beautiful to stitch with.  I use shorter lengths than I'm used to with perle cotton, otherwise the silk thread gets a bit gnarled / frayed.   Not sure if it's because I'm pulling it through the fusible or if this always happens with silk thread.

I love this piece so far!  I'd be tempted to keep it for myself but these colours are definitely better suited for my mom's complexion.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Are you a 'No-Reply' blogger?

Blog comments are always appreciated and it's good etiquette to reply to someone's comment, or to visit and leave a comment on their blog in return.

Have you ever tried to respond to a comment but the return address is ''?  That happens when a blogger hasn't changed the privacy settings.  It's very easy to do:

1.  Log in to Blogger and click 'Dashboard' on your screen's upper right
2.  Click 'Edit Profile' (left side of screen, under your name/photo)
3.  Under Privacy, check mark 'Show my email address'.  Further down under Identity, type in the email address you want comments to go to (can be different from your log in email).

That's it.  Doing this will ensure that when you leave a comment for someone and they hit 'Reply', your email address will show up.  Hope this is helpful :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

TAST 2012 - Chain Stitch

I used another sketch for this week's TAST exercise.  The hair is Chain Stitch.  Her lips look weird, I'll restitch them tomorrow:

I don't draw well freehand, so I use a trick that most painters and illustrators are familiar with - use a model or photo as a drawing guide.  Life models, still life set ups, magazine photos, etc. all help to get the proportions right.  

I have dozens of glue books in which I keep magazine photos that I like.  Clothes, hairstyles, home decor, etc. all get pasted in.  I started keeping these glue books over 25 years ago and now they're really coming in handy for embroidery!  :) 

Here's the original magazine clipping:

And here's the tracing I created from it - I just traced the major outlines and added extra flounces to the hair:

No doubt there are many of you that, like me, have no formal art training and can't draw freehand.  I encourage you to give this method a try.  It's easy and produces great results.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cascade - embroidered quilt

My chevron stitch sample took on a life of it's own and expanded into this:

I'm calling it Cascade.  I just kept layering fabrics and adding stitches.  Stitches used:  chevron, running stitch, herringbone, beading. 

I'm starting to get the hang of free form stitching as detailed in Stitch Magic and Exploring Colour with Julia Caprara.  This piece is so beautifully textured and ripply!  I love it.  My work used to always be very neat, tidy, geometric, minimalist.  And I do still love that look but I'm having fun trying new techniques and branching out.

This lacks 'something', not sure what. I'll keep playing with it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TAST 2012 - Chevron Stitch

Love the chevron stitch, so many possibilities!  My sketchbook has many more ideas I'd like to try.  This sample shows me that I need to pay attention to the fabric grain when marking:

This one isn't finished yet, I'd like to add more stitching, some beads, etc:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

TAST 2012 - Herringbone Stitch

My sketchbook got lots of action with this stitch but nothing was original until I hit upon the idea of corset lacing:

I translated one of my quick sketches into embroidery.  It's mostly stem stitch but I had hoped the red lacing would be more dramatic.  Still a cool concept though - I'd like to try using silk ribbon, perhaps with wider and taller herringbone stitches.  I can see a series with this theme.

TAST 2012 Cretan Stitch

TAST 2012 - Week #4 - Cretan Stitch

My original cretan stitch attempt was pathetic so I gave it another try.  I flipped through some old sketchbooks and found the perfect subject for cretan stitch - brittle starfish!  

The fabric had to give the impression of watery natural habitat, yet still provide some camouflage.  

This piece of fabric is very special to me.  Back in 2001 I was fortunate to take several quilting workshops with Caryl Bryer Fallert.  The workshops were fabulous and the icing on the cake was that she had some of her hand dyed fabrics available for purchase!  I snapped up a bunch of course! 

The starfish body  is my first attempt at satin stitch.  

This isn't finished yet.  I want to quilt it but I have an idea for making it three dimensional.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Comments problems on Blogger

If you're using Blogger and aren't getting many comments, check your settings. Go to 'Dashboard', then 'Settings', then 'Comments'.  Under 'Comment Form Placement' be sure to click 'Pop Up Window'.  If your setting is currently embedded, then most of us can't leave a comment on your posts.

TAST 2012 - Cretan Stitch

Cretan stitch - blech.  So boring.  Three pages of doodles in my sketchbook produced nothing original.  The only variation I truly like is when worked as leaves but that's been done and done and done.

So I pulled out the excellent Stitch Magic by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn.  One exercise is to randomly pick descriptions from a list and work the stitch in that manner - like it or not.  My exercise was:  cretan - vertical - needle weave - irregular.  Double blech!

Here is the ugliest piece of embroidery I've ever stitched:

The original exercise in the book is meant to be worked over and over again - heavily - to almost obscure the base fabric.  Frankly, I was already bored with this tiny sample.  I probably should do the exercise properly at some point, however I disagree with the authors that working with a combination one dislikes will produce the most unexpectedly wonderful results.  If I dislike a stitch, a colour, a thread, etc, then I've already checked out. 

On my Fly Stitch post I specifically told myself to always remember I dislike stitching without a plan.  So much for that.  WHY do I keep trying crap that I already know I hate?

And WHY do random / haphazard textile experiments look wondrous and avant-garde and often beautiful when others do it, yet when I look at my own experiments all I can see is a messy sneeze?  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TAST 2012 - Feather Stitch

Here's my Feather Stitch sample.  The snowflake (upper right) is beaded, the star is Chained Feather Stitch and the motif on the left has French Knots.

So far all my TAST samples have been stitched on 100% cotton (quilting fabric).  This one was hand dyed.  I should experiment with some other fabrics.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fly Stitch - Take It Further

I'm very pleased with how this turned out.  This was my personal 'Take It Further' challenge following on from Sharon's TAST 2012 Week 1 - Fly Stitch:

I thought it needed a little more 'oomph' so after revisiting my inspiration photos I added some tiny little pine needles along the whole branch.  Not sure which one looks best:

 The pine needles and pine cones are Fly Stitch.  The branch is irregular Portuguese Stem Stitch, for texture.

I was lucky to get the 'hoop burn' marks out of this velveteen!  Only after removing the hoop did I realize I probably shouldn't put the bare hoop against velveteen or velvet since the nap gets crushed and it's sometimes permanent.  A wet washcloth rubbed on the surface fixed the problem this time, however in future I will try this tutorial.