A very happy new year to you all. A new year brings fresh beginnings and new hopes. Last year brought its own totally unexpected challenges to all of us. No one could have written it. But the beginning of this year gives promise, even though many difficulties will still have to be overcome with the virus.
As stitchers, quilters, embroiderers, and lovers of cloth in all guises, we are SO fortunate that we can immerse ourselves in wonderful creativity during these very uncertain times. Long may we enjoy it, and if we all strive to instill our love, skills and enthusiasm to the younger generation what a wonderful legacy we would be leaving. Enthuse, inspire and look forward, (not backwards) are my goals for 2021.
The promise of spring is wonderful. The hazel catkins are well out and the Hellebores are beginning to show their heads again.
I had to search, but once I started looking I could see hellebore heads emerging everywhere!! They are so intriguing, and such a welcome sight!
They grow like weeds in our garden, which is amazing when I see the price of just one plant in garden centres!
As I continued to explore the garden I noticed that what was a tiny myrtle bush at the beginning of 2020, has shot up and is clearly thriving!
Myrtle is of Mediterranean origin and is an oily dense bush. Because of the oil in the leaves it gives excellent Eco prints, as do the leaves on our little Olive tree.
I have Eco dyed with myrtle leaves many times over the years, but have never even noticed the berries that follow the dainty white flowers. You can see them in the photo above, of our original myrtle shrub. I can feel another printing session coming on!!
I have sewing machine news, and, sadly, it is that it has been poorly for about three weeks now. My old second-hand 807 Bernina machine is also not happy either! A week’s gentle sewing with it didn’t produce a standard of stitch that I was happy to have scrutinised. Basically I had completely forgotten how little control I have of the speed of the machine. All is not lost though, as I have ample hand stitching to work at until my machine comes back, hopefully with a clean bill of health! I am not expecting it for possibly another couple of weeks yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying the hand sewing, and have been working on more Eco prints.
Hand sewing is so therapeutic; rhythmical, meditative and strangely comforting! I have always loved it, and shall never tire of it!
I had machine stitched the detail on the leaves on the cards below several months ago. I had put them away as I didn’t know how I wanted to use them at the time. As you can see, I made a decision this week!
The apparent simplicity of the finished cards belies the amount of hours that has gone into each one. I have often repeated myself in this blog, and am about to do so once again(!) I really do not mind at all how long a process is going to take, as long as I know I am going to be pleased with the end result! The little smile along the way reassures me of that. From top left in a clockwise direction the three leaves are Acer, Portuguese Laurel and Cotinus. I am fortunate to have a very well stocked garden of shrubs, trees and plants, lots of weeds too, (many of which print very well indeed), so I have an endless resource with which to play and experiment when printing.
1. The leaves were initially Eco printed in a batch of possibly 4 parcels with 10 leaves in each, which result in about 40% of usable prints. This may well seem to be a poor percentage, but within each of the folds of my concertina folded paper, a leaf is trapped inside. I insert leaves in the front and back folds. Thus, they end up with a print on each side! Clearly, I have to chose which print is the most suitable for the project I am working on! Some don’t work too well either, so there is also always some natural elimination! I like some of the transfer of colour and mark, that comes with using this method, rather than having single individual prints.
2. I selected a few to work on, and closely machine stitched around the often intricate outline of the leaf, as well as over the internal veining. It was at this stage I had stored them away.
3. Next I cut each one out carefully close to the stitching and decided whether to leave them in their original printed colour (as I did with the four in the photo below) or to paint them in a sympathetic way to reflect their summer colour palette, as above.
4. Finally, I have given them a coat of acrylic wax and have hand stitched a simple border detail on the right hand edge of the card. I really like this very simple embellishment, feeling it gives a professional finish. It makes me smile as well, and that is a good sign!
I had also previously completed some simple out line machine stitching on some other prints several months ago, which secured them directly onto another background. I then mounted them individually onto cards.
A totally different end result, but valid, and an interesting alternative!
These haven’t been painted, but I have acrylic waxed them, which has brought out the beautiful colour palette detail.
I love the process of working out how to use my prints in a creative and interesting way. It rarely happens straight away. I often put them away in between the different stages, often for many weeks at a time. Reviewing them at a later date can be very satisfying when fresh ideas come to mind.
I have also looked out my most recently printed bundles during the last week and as ever, I was thrilled and delighted to see how they had continued to develop their marks and detail whilst all bundled together. I was inspired but my enthusiasm will just have to be put on hold!
The other Eco print stitching I have been working on are the pages for my new little book. There is no machine stitching in this book at all. Continuous lines of stitch may look to be machine stitched but everything in the book is hand stitched. The main supportive structure of the book is a strip of heavy weight water colour paper which I folded so that it has two valley folds on the front and one on the back. It creates a very strong structure which will allow the book to stand up alone, and unsupported. In order to take the stark “whiteness” of the water colour paper away I used a cotinus leaf as a “paintbrush”, dipping it into the murky steaming water in the bottom of the pan and stroking it across the surface, front and back!
I have posted the front cover in the past, but here is a reminder:
I have highlighted this cotinus leaf print by emphasising the occasional leaf veins in red. The actual print is beautifully clear, and with the addition of small French knots over the natural spots that developed in the printing process, nothing else was required.
I used a short length of one of my hand dyed threads to stitch a little detail on the top and down the left hand side of the print. The detail on the opposite edge was made using a commercial viscose thread.
The, height of the main book structure is 3 3/4″. and the width of each “face, is 3”.
Six Eco printed, hand stitched images, create the first half half of the book.
The photo above, on the left, shows the inside of the front cover, and opposite it is the stitched print which is anchored to the inside of the supporting structure of the first valley fold. To the right of that you can see the effect of the “painting” with the Cotinus leaf, onto the water colour paper!
Below, the next photograph shows the four little stitched prints that will be stitched into the valley fold in between the two prints above. The two outer prints will be stitched to the backs of the inner folded prints. Here I have laid them all in a row, as they are still separate and therefore easier to see. I shall change the position of them after I have stitched the next group so I am leaving my options open at this stage! I have posted a photo of this central folded unit in the row, in a previous newsletter
The first three from the left are all Cotinus leaves, which is why I shall probably move the first one to the next set of leaves I work on, and choose a different one here! The depth (top to bottom) of the inserts are half an inch smaller than the main book construction. I love inserts which are a different size to the overall book size. You can see from these three Cotinus leaves and the one on the front cover, that the choices for stitch within the same leaves are many! I have also only just noticed that the inside of the front cover (above) is also a cotinus leaf!! Yet another variation!
The variations occur due to the sort of steamer I use. I have an old electric steamer which has an intricate plastic grid which the parcels lie on. I also have an old stainless steel steamer which has a grid of holes, that I use on the hob. Sometimes I use a really old aluminium pan as a steamer too, which also results in different changes on the prints! I also use different weights on top of the tied parcels to aid with a good contact of leaf to paper and these can also impact on the print!.
All these elements are taken into consideration as I interpret the results in stitch.
Well, on a very wet and cold Saturday afternoon, I wish you all happy stitching until next time!