Saturday, April 13, 2013

Life's transitions

I have mentioned that my hands will no longer support any degree of hand stitching.  I've been doing less of that for a few years now, and I can see a real deterioration in my skill with a needle.  Needle work has been a major part of my life for almost 60 years, but within the last couple of weeks, I've had to face the end of using a needle in my hand.  This has been coming for over twenty years, but I never thought it would actually arrive.  There have been a couple of times in the past, when I've faced a major transition in  my life.  One that springs to mind is the day I had to surrender my professional license and retire for good, another was the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child.  Not necessarily sad times, but definitely times of change and adaptation.

As I did then, I did today.  A formal ceremony of doing away with the old life and taking a look at the new.  With my retirement, it was a matter of shredding all of my notes and papers ( even the old Roladex) pertaining to my professional life, and taking all of my test books and professional books to a thrift store. ( I did keep a couple of professional journals in which I was cited or published)  Today, I sorted through all of my fibre art related magazines, and literally threw out most of those that related to hand stitching. Embroidery Canada is gone.  Needle Pulling Thread is gone.  My recycle bin is full.  I have empty shelf space to fill with new interests.

As in the past, I find that I'm not sad, but rather relieved, as though a weight has been lifted.  It actually feels good.

Friday, April 5, 2013

what I've really been up to

The past few months I've been talking a bit about the whitework that I've been doing by machine.  I have spent a lot of time looking at the work of Cindy Needham, Diane Gaudynski and Leah Day, and I've been doing a lot of practicing.  For the most part, "whitework" is a bit of a misnomer,as most of my work has been on hand-dyed or coloured fabric.  I've even taught a couple of classes in using the filling stitches,and should soon have another class on focal images such as feathers and paisleys. The following are all my original designs. Please respect that, and don't copy.

The first piece was done on pale green, low water immersion dyed cotton, with #50  cotton thread.  Unfortunately there wasn't as much value contrast as I would have liked, so some areas have been augmented with Lumiere paint.  The interior of the paisleys has been beaded.  It was a friend's comment that the paisleys looked like Carp that lead me to make the School Days piece that has been previously posted.

The next piece is a little harder to see, as it is white on white.  It is about 36 inches square, and I learned many,many things making it. Never use a square-drawn grid design as filler at the edge of the piece. You will never get everything absolutely square-never! And when it is off square, it shows.  Don't make your focal areas, and in this case they are hearts, too complicated or fussy. they will just get lost in the background. Otherwise, I was very pleased with my ability to pull this off,considering that it is the first larger piece I have made in years.  Learned something about quilting larger pieces too. This is done with #60 white cotton thread on cotton muslin.

The next piece is my favourite, and not yet finished.  It is also about 36"by 36", and is done on hand-dyed, and painted cotton Damask with #100 silk thread ( Superior Kimono Silk)  I have posted before about the difficulties quilting on cotton Damask, and this almost drove me crazy. The actual quilting is very hard to see, except where I have traveled on a previously quilted line. In some places I have done it purposely, to show an area better.  I am trying to bead areas of this, and in one picture there is a clear image of how the actual quilting stands out better where some of the beading has been done, and the lower area not yet beaded.  It is my intention to bead the entire area of 3/4" grided quilting, but I find I can only work on it for about 20 minutes before the hands give up. I have mounted the piece in an 18" frame, and then I place this over an open area between the support of two tables.  In this way I can work with two hands, and not worry about trying to hold the weight of both the quilt and the frame.

The final piece is more experimental.  I was trying to create a more formal piece, firstly with the possibility of a show entry,(not going to happen!) and also to experiment with machine trapunto.  The machine trapunto worked very well. I really like the effect, and plan to use it frequently in future.  But when I hung it beside the three previous pieces, it looked too formal.  It had no life--no movement!  Lesson learned--I must remember to invest some emotion into my designs.  This is about 25" square, and worked on cotton with rayon machine embroidery thread for the Feather Tree, and Superior BottomLine for the background.