Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Sampling

Photo 1 is a clearer picture of the stitch sample. Most was done with the fabric stretched on a frame; I did a little in the top left corner without a frame to see the difference.

Photo 1
I had one of those mornings when nothing looks right - feeling doubtful about the design I tried some more variations, see photo 2.

From left to right -a) the circle segments I did a few days ago b) similar but with fewer lines c) trying close parallel lines (like the markings on an astrolabe) d) change of tack - would it look better with long straight lines as a contrast to the swirling background? e and f) variations of d.

Photo 2
Finally, I used the offcut of printed fabric to try adding extra colour with Markal sticks in places in case the printed fabric looks a bit flat over a large area. I also used bronze powder in fabric medium to paint the line, which could be enhanced with couching or stitching to imitate the markings around the edge of a mariner's astrolabe ( see this image from Wikipedia). I have laid the offcut over the stitched sample lining up the print to show the difference.

Photo 3

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sampling for hanging

Carrying on from the last post, I am finally catching up with myself. In between the first day's playing and posting to my blog last week, I decided to explore getting the whole image digitally printed onto one length of fabric by a commercial printer. When I looked into how to do this I was slightly hampered by not having Photoshop which is what is generally used, so I decided to try using Spoonflower. They print short runs and can work from a JPEG, and although the choice of fabrics is limited, their site is very easy to use and there is plenty of community support, with advice on colour matching. Easy for a novice to try!

I had scanned the image at 600dpi so when I enlarged it to full size, it reduced to 150dpi which is what Spoonflower uses. This is quite a low resolution but as there is no really fine detail in the image, it shouldn't matter. As it is, the file is huge so my computer finds it hard work to handle. I uploaded the file and ordered a fat quarter printed on quilting weight cotton as a sample. As the pattern is 3m long, this is just a small piece from the bottom, but at full width (37cm). Photo 1 shows how I have started stitching into the sample, following the swirls. The colour in this picture is fairly close to life.

Photo 1

I spent some time stitching over the weekend - mostly while hanging around at daughters' dance classes on Saturday -and today started thinking about how to make the curved lines in the earlier sketches that represent navigational instruments. Photos 2 and 3 show the sample with various metallic ribbons and wires laid across it to see the effect. I think it will need to be something very bold and with a reflective surface or the hanging will blend into nothing against grey stone walls.

Photo 2
Above - left to right - Copper wired ribbon, gold/orange wired ribbon, lurex ribbon
Below - left to right - Fine tubular knitted wire, narrow gold cord (could be braided?), heavier knitted wire.
Photo 3

None of these are right but from the point of view of showing boldly, the lurex is closest (but ugly) followed by the heavier tubular wire (too narrow and wrong colour). Really, I would prefer a brass or copper colour rather than gold, and I need to see how to vary the effect. In the sketch, the circular segments are solid at the bottom and become lighter towards the top, as does the background.

Now to practical details. I am stitching the sample (which tries out various threads and stitches so is quite random at the moment) on the printed cotton backed with cream cotton. I have a small offcut, so I think I will try with a different backing - perhaps black felt - as a) the stitching is quite heavy and b) white shows through the needle holes. The printed cotton is quite unforgiving of unpicking as it leaves a trail of white holes behind, so I think a dark fabric behind will help. After stitching, the hanging will be backed with a plain toning fabric and the edges turned in. To prevent sagging, I will machine through the layers unobtrusively, eg by going around the edges of the curved lines, and may need to weight the bottom edge. It will hang from a rod at the top either through a hanging sleeve or tabs - I think this will be decided when I have seen the whole thing and depends on what kind of rod. Old brass would be in keeping with the theme. I forgot to mention before that as the image is so narrow, if a length of fabric is printed, it will be repeated across the width, so I will have plenty left over for making mistakes - sorry, more samples.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ideas for a Hanging

I have started working on module 4 chapter 1 (study sheets on flowers in Elizabethan and Russian embroidery) but have been diverted into working on a site-specific hanging after being invited to exhibit some work in Gloucester in August. I wrote about this over on Quodlibet but have now decided to make it as one of the assessment pieces for the diploma.

I actually meant to write this blog entry last Thursday while the first thoughts were all fresh, but somehow ran out of time and then carried on working with some ideas. So before I get too carried away (and forget what I was going to say) it is time to get my head together and put it all in writing - I find posting to this blog helps to sort things out for me when the brain is buzzing.

So, I started with two thoughts which I brainstormed 1) I like the idea of a long narrow hanging based on the designs I posted about here and 2) the church (which is no longer in use for services) is dedicated to St Nicholas and I would like to reflect this in some way.

Because of the height of the space available, I want to make something on a large scale. I looked back at the prints I had played with before and found that the one I liked had sides in a ratio of 1:7.6. If the hanging is to be a simple rectangle, it is important that the proportions look 'right' while keeping the long narrow look I am after, so I checked a table of silver means to find the nearest one, which turned out to be 1:8.1231. If I scale this up, I can make a hanging that is 3m long and 37cm wide - large enough to make a statement without becoming unmanageable. To get a feel for working at this scale, I cut a roll of cheap lining paper to size and just scribbled on it with some Markal sticks, making big marks - picture 1.

Picture 1

Going back to the original design, with its swirls of colour on a dark background it looked a little like a night sky so this could tie in with St Nicholas being the patron saint of sailors and giving protection from storms. I played with enlarging and cropping the image again and chose a section that did not have any of the gold lines but had some particularly interesting swirls that suggested chaos and storm clouds. Picture 2 shows the image in the correct proportion.

Picture 2

Next step is to consider ways of getting this image onto fabric - these are the ideas I noted down as possibilities
  • dyed fabric base - could be joined pieces; stitch together and then dye to get colour variations
  • use Markal sticks on midnight blue background, add detail with stitch
  • digital print for background
  • add texture with gesso or crumpled tissue
  • use padded or raised areas
  • discharge colour to get swirls
  • add line sketches of nautical/navigation images - layered
  • is it to be opaque or translucent?
And here are some paper samples printed to scale to play with

Picture 3, left to right - the print untouched, shaped at bottom (don't like this), drawings of sextants and astrolabes.

Picture 3

Picture 4 left to right - astrolabe drawn on print. I thought this was a bit too literal so tried just circle segments to suggest the instruments. On the right I have printed a small part of the background larger and gone over it with Markal sticks. I would like to illustrate or represent the idea of the chaos of a storm being calmed or overcome.

Picture 4.
Picture 5 - another rough sketch on a small piece printed full size.

Picture 5

Picture 6 - I took two of the papers from picture 4 and stuck them up outside so I could see them from a distance - the larger one is not quite at full width.

Picture 6