Saturday, 3 February 2018

January stitch bits

In between my "work" stitching, I have to have a play too... just quick stitch sketches or samples that may or may not lead anywhere. For ten years I made weekly samples to strict themes and formats; this year I'm keeping it loose. Anything goes! So here are the first four.
18/01 One for sorrow – magpie feather. Inspired by an article in the Skye and Lochalsh Echo about the only magpie on Skye, resident in north Skye since May 2012. Poor bird - five years on Skye and still looking for a mate. I used free machine embroidery on dissolvable fabric. (13cm long)
18/02 Winter birch trees. I love how winter birch trees, bare of leaves, seem to have a purple haze (!) around them which must be the waiting buds. So I wanted a little textile sketch to remind me. Starting with a scrap of black wool from an ancient skirt, I machine embroidered some simple lines for trunks and branches. Then I used the embellisher to add a fuzz of purple wool fibres and a strip of green along the bottom. (about 9cm square)
18/03 Icicles. Thrilled to see sparkling fringes of icicles last week, where water seeping out of peat edges has frozen. Not an easy thing to capture realistically in embroidery, being transparent and glassy smooth. But who needs realism? After a couple of false starts, I went with free satin stitch on hastily coloured Lutradur. With a slightly tight tension, aluminium coloured metallic thread on top pulled the white rayon bobbin thread up a bit, so the icicles aren’t solidly silver or white – an effect I liked. They all ended up leaning towards the left though… usually a good thing IMO but not for icicles! (The sample is only 5.5cm across and looks best no bigger than that.)
18/04 Flower of the month: gorse. Is there a month when gorse isn’t in flower?! But it’s got no competition in January. I free machined zigzags randomly on hand dyed grey calico (one day I’ll run out of my C&G stash). Then I backed it with felt and hand embroidered detached chain stitches for gorse flowers, using a horribly bright yellow tapestry wool. Just wanted an impression of the shouty yellow and the spikiness.  (About 9cm square)   

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Limpets part 4: two dimensions

I’m looking at limpet shells as flat shapes now – from above or from the side, simple and stylised. NOT realistic portraits!

From the side, they’re rounded triangles. From above, you see round-ish shapes sometimes patterned with spokes that don’t quite go to the centre. Strongly ribbed shells appear to stick out beyond the “circle” and make it seem more polygonal.

So it’s circles, triangles and spokes/ribs as starting points– and no need to make anything resembling actual shells!

Straight stitch on Somerset paper – punched a few holes as centres, Oliver Twists space dyed fine cotton.

Buttonhole wheels – space dyed linen thread on a scrap of Harris tweed.

Ribbed spiders web – pearl cotton 8 on denim. Love the effect of gently shaded thread here; note to self – worth drawing a circle on the back to get spokes evenly sized, or else odd ones will be left sticking out of the weaving.  

Straight stitch on hand dyed muslin (backed with felt). Seemed to need French knot centres; never mind whether they look more like flowers than limpets, the shells are just a starting point. Space dyed machine embroidery cotton from Oliver Twists.

Machine embroidery with Flower Stitch attachment.

Using a built-in pattern like a blanket stitch effect (720 on my Artista), with width reduced to 1. Photo shows the stitch worked straight, and then one round with the Flower Stitcher. Then I did lots of rounds reducing the diameter slightly each time, ending up by moving the needle across 2 or 3 steps to get as closer to the centre as possible. The first sample used purple top and bottom. Then I went for a subtler effect using yellow bobbin thread to match fabric – the top tension is a little high so it gets pulled up and makes the purple stitching appear less solid.
That inspired me to try metallic thread on the bobbin… with turquoise thread on navy felt, I got just a hint of sparkle coming through. Sorry, these are only 2cm across and I haven't managed to photograph them very well.    

Free machine embroidery cone patterns.

This is me doodling freehand on hand dyed cotton backed with pelmet Vilene. I tried using ribbed cone shapes to make patterns, always aiming to cut the thread as little as possible - which with these shapes means stitching forward and back along the same lines, so it’s not as delicate as you could be with hand embroidery.

My favourites above were the open, base-less ones, so I did a few more with shaded blue thread on navy felt. OK, they look more like floating seeds than shells, but they’re stylised, right?!

The “plan view”, limpets seen from above, still has more potential for 2D patterns I think.  This next one’s machine stitched freehand (no guidelines, eek!) on hand dyed cotton. 

With no backing (I used a hoop), the bobbin thread comes through and shows as tiny dots. What makes it interesting is using a shaded thread on both spool and bobbin, so the colour comes and goes giving a less solid effect.

A bit of Embellisher play next. 

Not much resemblance to limpet shells perhaps, but they’re still the inspiration. I embellished rings of wool yarn onto the back of hand dyed linen, then free machined on top with light grey and a darker bobbin thread to break up the stitched lines a bit.

And at last, my real fave – soluble fabricOverlapping limpet circles in three colours to start with. A bit of zigzag round the edge, plus careful pinning out to dry, helps them stay vaguely circular.

And these just touch rather than overlapping. I worked the outlines and ribs in very pale gold coloured (not metallic) thread first, then filled in and edged with off-white. Might’ve been better left more open and lacy? 

And that’s where I’m going to leave the limpet theme for now. There’s a few things I haven’t tried, like burning synthetics, layering, scaling up… but I’ve got other things I want to do now.  

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Limpets part 3 - more 3D forms

As promised, I’ve gone on to make limpet-inspired 3D… objects… made in the round instead of flat then seamed.
So it’s straight into free machining. If you machine stitch madly, round and round in a not-quite circular pattern, a flexible fabric should distort into a 3D cone.  
Yes! Well, not too bad… this first one’s rust felt, just free machined round and round from the centre in shaded rayon 30 Alcazar thread, then cut out.
And here’s a colony of them, domed FME on creamy felt. I like the extra colour-mixing of the coloured bobbin thread coming through, the bands would be too solid otherwise. Hmm, this is one to come back to…

So, how about the same method on dissolvable fabric? I give you – limpets made entirely of thread! It’s domed FME (as above) worked on Solufleece. I tried it first in a hoop, but couldn’t get a steep cone – that’s the big shallow one. Holding the fabric without a hoop worked better, but ouch, it’s tough on the fingers holding so tight. I used shiny off-white rayon 30 threads.
I really like these limpets, but they’re quite hard work - the stitching needs to be dense, to get the doming effect and to link the stitches without any structural support, so they turn out very stiff and difficult to decorate.

I also had a quick go at hand stitching 3D limpet cones – by partially gathering circles as you would for shibori. Trickier than it looks, and not a lot of fun.

Finally, I thought I’d try a couple of techniques from Jean Draper’s book, “Stitch and Structure”.

Coiling. Here I tried wrapping and coiling a cord to form  a shell shape. It’s sort of like making a coiled clay pot – only slower and trickier, IMHO. I used thick nylon cord and Coats Anchor multicolour pearl cotton thread. Quite tough on the fingers, and difficult to deal with the cord ends at the start and finish even after I melted/sealed them with a soldering iron. But the result’s quite cute… as long as you don’t look inside 😉

Buttonhole stitch - worked round and round a real limpet shell, starting at the top and increasing to match its shape (so why did it end up so steep?), in Crofter DK knitting yarn. A stiffer yarn might give a better result, but would be harder to stitch.

What else could I do? Well it’d be easy to crochet a cone, but not very interesting… knitting likewise. Felting might work, especially at a large scale… bigger forms generally might be worth exploring, as vessels perhaps.

But for now I’m moving on. Next time – surface designs or patterns inspired by multiple limpet shells.