Sunday, March 23, 2014

Progressing slowly.



Work continues on Engine 22 and the first row of the main stitching is finished - that is 10 sections out of 44 – all good so far and the image is gradually appearing.

I have started thinking about my next piece for the Echoes exhibition in October.  My initial idea is based on revisiting Irish dance dresses now that my girls no longer dance.  I thought of making an ethereal dress that would hang by itself – an echo of the real thing and a kind of memento mori for a part of our life that has now finished.

A page from my sketchbook thinking about how to stitch the knotwork.


I cut out pattern pieces for a bodice and tried some ideas.



Slightly distracted into drawing hearts in knotwork.



I toyed with the idea of using bright colours and stitched a couple of samples, but soon moved back to white.  This next sample is a very thin piece of silk paper that I printed with lines in white acrylic paint.  The Thermofax screen is one I bought a while ago because the lines are reminiscent of my earlier work using patterns from electricity pylons.  I drew the knot in pencil on some soluble stabiliser and hand stitched the lines then dissolved it away.  It shrank more than I thought it would and unfortunately, the pencil lines marked the thread so it is now a dirty grey, but it is useful as a test.  I am going to try again but this time drawing in white pen  straight onto the silk.  My plan is to make lots of little pieces with fragments of patterns and join them with machine stitching into a single piece of fabric. I am not sure now whether I will make it into an actual dress or keep it as a hanging – will decide when I have more to play with.


Last weekend, I made some more pieces of silk paper but had a little accident with a couple of them.  I made them in the usual way with CMC paste and net, and had covered the table with an old PVC cloth.  Now, this is many years old – I originally bought it to protect the table from messy baby mealtimes and it has been used for painting etc for at least a decade.  For the first time ever, the colour ran and marked two of the pieces with pale flower splodges.  They sat around for a couple of days while I got on with other things and then on Friday afternoon, I gave myself some playtime, just for fun and did this.


These wonderful thread ends are from Marilyn, a very talented weaver who recently joined Gordano Textile Artists.  She came to our last meeting with the warp ends from her latest piece which you can see on the GTA blog here.  They are the perfect length for embroiderers to use and they are all dyed by her in the most wonderful rainbow colours.  She also had a bagful of snippets about an inch long which I pounced on.  I have sprinkled them onto the silk paper and layered with Mistyfuse followed by another layer of thread ends and then ironed it all together. I will need to add some stitching to stop the top layer coming off, but at the moment I am just enjoying the colours.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Making

It is always good to have some knitting on the go in the winter, so far I have made this shawl from some odd balls from my stash using this pattern

and one sock.
Socks are a great project to have on hand, portable and quickly finished. Once you have mastered a basic pattern, you can adapt it endlessly.  I have uploaded my favourite version to my new Patterns and Tutorials page so everyone can enoy it.

Work continues on my next engine piece - a companion to Engine 21 - but not much to see at the moment. Here are a couple of pictures showing progress on the background stitching.

 While the machine is running, I have time to ponder what the next piece of work will be.  My next exhibition is in October at Sidcot School with Gordano Textile Artists and the theme is Echoes.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

One More Time With These Engines

Well, the exhibition at Bristol Guild is over and all packed away, but here is one last picture of Engine 21 on display, courtesy of my daughter. Have a look also at the Gordano Textile Artists blog for more images of everyone’s work.  Seeing it on the wall, I realised I prefer the image on Engine 18 so the plan is to make that at the larger size as well and hang them as a pair.  I will try and get some other projects on the go so that I don’t go totally doolally stitching the background – there is an awful lot of it and it does get a bit tedious after a few hours (am I allowed to say that?  Just did).


If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that I didn’t write in as much detail as usual about designing and making these pieces.  Part of the reason is that I finally got organised and planned a series of articles for Design-IT, the magazine of the Computer Textile Design Group.  Sadly, the first one was published in what turned out to be the last edition.  I had written the second and roughed out the final two, and was going to cover splitting a large image up into bite sized pieces for the embroidery machine, playing with deleting sections and stopping the machine randomly.  I’m not quite sure what to do with this now.  It is a step by step “press this button next” tutorial using Paint Shop Pro and Embird, so probably a bit too specialised to offer to any other magazine that I know of (suggestions welcome).  If I finish off the series, I am happy to put it online for free but then it would make more sense to use screen capture to show how it works. So, more thought needed.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Same but Different - Work in Progress

My machine has been red-hot since my last post.  Engine 18 is officially finished and mounted on stretcher bars (approx 16 x 28 inches).

And work continues on the larger piece - working title Engine 21 (don't ask what happened to 19 and 20.  Just don't ask).  Using the same photo and background as a starting point but rendering it differently.  The finished size will be 54 x 36 inches - much larger than I am used to working so quite a challenge.  Here's a taster.

You will be able to see both of these in October if you come to The Gordano Textile Artists exhibition 'Distractions' at Bristol Guild Gallery, 68/70 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5JY.  Open Mon to Sat 10am to 5pm from 5th to 26th October.  Head across to the Gordano Textile Artists Blog to see some more of our work in progress..

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Almost Finished

Engine 18 wip (4)
Engine 18 with the stitching completed (probably); overall size is 43cm x 72cm.  If you look back to the last post, you can see I have gone back over some parts and added solid stitching and also repeated some sections slightly offset.  I am going to live with it for a while before deciding if it is definitely finished while I  work on the design for the larger version and think about some smaller pieces.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Engine 18 – Work in Progress

Why engine 18?  Simply because this is the 18th version of the design, modifying and tweaking the stitches in Embird  (embroidery software) to get the result I am after.  Some of the earlier versions have been partly stitched out, most have not but I like to keep all the stages as a record.  Think of it as being the equivalent of a series of sketches before the final drawing is made into a screenprint.  Actually, I am finding it increasingly useful to think of using the embroidery machine as a way of printmaking  and using some of the same techniques of layering and deconstructing or masking off parts.

I found in my experiments with Embird that I can break down the design and leave the machine stitching only the underlay (which is intended to stabilise the fabric ready for the filling stitches).  Randomly removing parts before transferring the design to the machine means I can make a series of similar but not identical pieces, or a limited edition of fragments.  This still leaves the option of stopping the machine while it is stitching and skipping or repeating parts on the fly.

So – the fabric arrived from Spoonflower last week and I have cracked on with the first version. To give you an idea of the scales, here are the two pieces together, the smaller is a fat quarter and the larger is one yard with the same print but bigger (and so more pixellated/broken up).  You can see them more clearly (and buy some if you like) on my page on the Spoonflower site.


And here is the work in progress on the fat quarter, with the background grid complete and about half of the engine stitched out.


As I work, I am thinking about the next version – in view of the size, I think I will have less empty space at the bottom but have not decided quite how.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thinking Aloud - Engines

Centaurus Engine cropped
Tidying up all my folders etc now the diploma course is finished means I have been rediscovering images and notes I haven’t looked at for a while,  which is useful as I need new work for an exhibition at Bristol Guild in October.  At the moment, I am playing with ideas inspired by photographs of aircraft engines taken in 2006 at the Industrial Museum in Bristol (now re-opened as M-Shed).  This is part of a Bristol Centaurus, an engine developed in the late 1930s.  I have reached the stage of having a file full of samples and notes scribbled on scraps of paper, so I am hoping writing a blog post will get it organised for me so I can see what I am doing.
My initial thought was just a small piece to use this background (from an earlier post) with some digitised stitching, but I soon found I was thinking bigger.
Essay images (7)
I simplified the image and printed it out a couple of times at different sizes across multiple sheets of sheets of A4 using the online tool Blockposters as an easy way of enlarging it – I find it helps to see the impact at various sizes laid out on the floor before making a decision.
Next, I took a part of the photograph and converted it to a stitch file.  I had an image in my mind of a sort of stitched screenprint looking quite crisp on top of the looser (messier) grid and printed background.  I took a number of photos while it was in progress as the half completed underlay is also interesting, and this led me to some more playing and sampling with different stitch densities, colours and sizes (not that you an really judge that in the photos).  I used a piece of canvas painted roughly with acrylics as I had used my only sample of printed fabric.  I also did a couple of mock ups with the printed backgound at different sizes.
Centaurus Engine  Design Trials (2)Centaurus Engine on Grungy Background
I stopped at this point because I needed to sort out what I am doing.  The questions to be resolved are 1) printed background or painted canvas and 2) size.  I really like the look of the image printed big – about 80cm wide – and with the proportions of image to background as in the photo above (it is about 1:1.41)  but if I use digitised stitching, I am going to have to split the design into probably 24 sections and take great care lining them up.  My latest sample (no picture as it is still in the machine) is with the image at just under 40cm wide, which works out as splitting into 8 parts.  The final choice of stitch density and whether to leave some parts with the underlay showing will also make a huge difference in the stitch count and therefore how long it all takes.  Free machining is another option; I haven’t tried a sample, but I don’t think it will give me the crispness I am after.  I also thought about printing the engine design as well as the background and overstitching, but then I wouldn’t be able to have the grid underneath
I also have lots of variations floating around my head – different colour schemes; layering on sheers (remembering these design ideas from 2009); colour splitting and letting the colours slide; a series of fragments as small mounted pieces or as another way of making one large piece.  Decisions, decisions.
Postscript – thinking aloud has helped.  Since I typed this yesterday (Sunday) I have decided to make one version at 40cm wide on a printed background and have ordered enough fabric to either a) make the bigger version as well or b) recover the seat of my bench (which is what I originally intended to use the design for and the reason I had a sample, only I hadn’t got round to actually doing it).  It will take a couple of weeks to arrive, so I can finish sampling, make sure I have enough thread and maybe play with some of the other ideas as well.  All of a sudden, October doesn’t seem very far off.