Welcome once again to this July post of Stitching News. Several new readers have joined us again in the last couple of weeks. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this first post of July. The summer is upon us, and Cornwall is getting busier, even before July 4th, when the extra relaxation of the rules since lock down begin. I must say we are staying put, and being very cautious about wandering amongst the visitors, although we would love to see our grandchildren and family.
In this post I am writing about:
- Make do and mend!
- Further progress in Unit 3 of the machine embroidery course which I started in March. So much to learn and practise, but my enjoyment continues.
- Progress on Turvy III
I have been meaning to buy a new ironing board cover for months!! Then there was lock-down and the cover had deteriorated to a point that was driving me to despair! So a couple of weeks ago I decided to mend it! I hasten to add that the deterioration is nothing to do with household ironing, but due to additional wear and tar from the constant small fiddly bits of ironing when I am stitching and pressing seams etc. I do this a zillion more times that I iron clothes!!
I had a large torn area near to the iron stand. For many years that has been the area that has always been vulnerable on my ironing boards. The badly worn patch with a large hole in it had been exposing the inner foam sheet for far too long! It always happens where the heel of the iron sits! Why have I never thought of mending ironing board covers in the past? It was a doddle!
I cut two large pieces of white cotton; one for underneath, and the other for the top. On the under fabric I had ironed a piece of Bondaweb the same size. It was placed with the Bondaweb uppermost. The top layer of white fabric, was placed over it, and the burnt very damaged area was sandwiched in between. I could see to match the placement! No hems, as I wanted it to lie as flat and smooth as possible. I then added a smaller patch for good measure. This is the blue one in the photo, which still well and truly covered the damaged area. Everything was stitched in place with a zig-zag stitch. I hasten to add that the area I have covered, is far larger than the damage! It just seemed sensible, while I had the cover off, to reinforce a larger area. This cover should last for a good while now, before being patched again, maybe several times! Boro comes to mind! However, these are “make do and mend times”… and strangely it has given me a great deal of satisfaction!
Unit 3 has been in my possession for a couple of weeks now, and I went straight to the end of it, when it arrived, and started on my planning etc for the first assignment, as you know from the last post! So I have now returned to the beginning with Exercise 1; a drawing exercise in the design element of the Unit.
This is about form and texture. We had to choose a “natural object” such as a shell, branch of wood, stone etc.” to draw, endeavouring within the drawing to create the 3-D nature of it, as well as the textures.
Then we had to isolate one area and reproduce this as a collage using a variety of papers and card to create the textures as well as possible. We had to disregard colour, and concentrate on the form and texture. I took the photo of this fabulous tree trunk, hosting a well established climber of another species, when I was abroad on holiday a couple of years ago.
It seemed a very good example to work with as you can see. Not a great deal of variety, but sufficient to think about!
Have I bitten off more than I can chew?
I must say that this was a huge challenge for me. I was well out of my comfort zone, but commonsense tells me that I need to challenge myself in order to progress. I lost my way a little as I was nearing the bottom, but I was pleased with the majority of the drawing, especially as I had not attempted anything quite like this before! I have always been a fan of the saying: “If you want to grow, push your limits” as my ex students can probably well recall!
I used an HB propelling pencil, and a 2B pencil for the drawing. Next I isolated an area and thought seriously about how I was going to produce the collage.
The brief in the Unit actually says “You are now going to interpret this in depth, using a wide range of papers to create a texture sample”.”Scrunch, pleat, fold, do anything which will create variety and raised areas”.
Anne has also given lots of ideas of what sort of papers we might use….indeed I have been using a wide range of different papers in both of the previous Units, so have become increasingly aware of their various qualities.
Observing my subject matter closely was the main “tool” required to do this exercise We were referred back to various parts of Units 1 and 2, during these exercises….building on skills already practised in the course so far.
It took me a long time to get going with The textured collage, and it certainly wasn’t my finest hour, but I gave it a shot! The background texture of the main tree trunk has worked well, and I think the whole collage relates back to the original photo!!
I have used screwed up brown paper, white card, smooth thick brown paper, torn off corrugated carboard, which I also used. I also used some recycled florists paper, and some Indian rag paper. I must admit that I have used some string as well.
PVA glue was used for attaching it all to an A4 piece of card.
Dyeing fabric was my next task in this Unit. This is one of my all time favourite activities, as those of you who know me, will be well aware of! As was going to use this opportunity to dye a specific range of colours, I actually didn’t use the method that Anne had suggested in the Unit. She gives lots of information on the process, but I needed some dyed fabric for a specific piece of work, so I chose a method I have used many times in the past.
I am actually very low on hand dyed fabric at the moment, so this has come at a very good time for me. I have used Procion and Dylon dyes for years. The latter are easily bought on the High Street and I do like the more muted colours I have to say. I do have quite a selection of Procion dyes too, but for this particular dyeing exercise I have used Jeans Blue Dylon dye, and I made up my orange colour with a Procion scarlet dye mixed with a little Procion golden yellow. Blue and orange are complementary colours and will give a lovely range of earthy colours. Any mix of complementary colours will do this. If I had chosen to do an exchange between two primary colours, the result would have produced bright, clear colours.
I haven’t dyed any fabric for at least two years, and as I am constantly dipping into my stash, it has become well and truly depleted. I prepared a household soda solution, and having machine washed all the fabrics that I wished to dye, in the washing machine to remove any factory dressing in them I took them from the washing machine and put them into the soda solution, soaing them thoroughly. The soda fixes the dye to the fabric. I have a set of measuring spoons, Marigold gloves, an old apron, a plastic jugs, recycled containers and disposable masks set aside (the latter for use when I am using dye powders) and purely dedicated for use when I am dyeing fabrics.
Below is the full selection of the fabrics that I dyed. As you can see I also soace dyed a few threads. Can never throw up an opportunity!
The exchange method of dyeing required me to put my measure of liquid dye into a poly bag, supported in my “dyeing” jug. Then I dropped a piece of soda-soaked fabric into the bag and I squeezed and manipulated the colour into the fabric, through the plastic bag. I pushed the coloured fabric firmly down to the bottom of the bag, twisted the neck of the bag just above the tight wet ball of fabric, so that no liquid could leak out, and I sat the bulk of the bag on its “tail” in an old washing up bowl. I worked through the order of adding dyes to each new bag (there are 9 steps in total, and therefore 9 polythene bags). Confining the wet dyed fabric in a small space helps to give textured pieces of dyed fabric. If you want flat dyed fabric, the fabric needs space within the bag, but even then you will probably have some marks. These are what makes the fabric so unique.
It is important to have a range of pale, mid tone and darker tones in a piece of work as this gives it its energy, and sometimes a little clash of colour works wonders too! You can see here that I have dyed some commercial fine stripe shirtings and checks. Because I often work in miniature, I love the scale of the woven stripes and checks. They work really well in tiny pieces!
So, when I had reached the 9th bag I went back to the first bag and added another piece of fabric to each bag, manipulating and squeezing the bags again, ensuring absorption of what dye was let in the bag into the fresh piece of fabric added. and I frequently added yet another fabric to the bags too.
I have found over the years, that doing this is the easiest way of producing a range of tones that all work so well together. The later addition of fabric, has given the first piece an opportunity to soak up as much of the dye as it can, resulting in a good strong colour. Subsequent additions get paler as they are added. Even if a fabric looks as though it has not changed at all, if you put it up against the original white, you will see a definite pale colour there. It is almost impossible to by really pale fabrics, so this method works fantastically well
Another bonus is that every bit of the dye solution is utilised in the bags. you don’t end up pouring unspent dye down the drain! I leave them soaking for at least 12 hours, before rinsing them until the water is clear. I always include a very hot rinse, followed by a cold one again, during this process. Then I give them a final hand wash with just a little Stergene in the water. I spin them in the washing machine to get rid of the excess water, then I iron them dry!! This is the exciting part when you can see all the subtle variations of colour and shading within each individual piece. They are always darker when they are wet, and while ironing them their true colours and the wonderful marks, and shading appear.
I hadn’t really achieved the “terracotta” range I was looking for after rinsing drying and ironing the initial dye run. Some of the fabrics were very brown, so I removed some of them, as well as the really vivid orange results. I soaked them thoroughly again in the soda solution, and over-dyed them with Procion magenta. This time I was delighted with the finished results. At the top of this photo, you may notice that I have also included some of the “unexpected grey/green results from the first batch of dyeing.
Some of these fabrics will now be used in the rest of Turvy III. I have given an explanantion of my choice of colours for this panel, which clearly illustrates my particula choice of colour for this session of dyeing!
I have given a great deal of thought to Turvy III, since my last Stitching News. Getting it out and reveiwing it a coupe of weeks ago, whetted my appetite for working on it again! I was also inspired by two friends, who are very talented textile artists to begin working on it sooner than later.
They don’t know each other, but during the last couple of weeks they had both independently told me that they had some hand sewing of hexagons on the go.
That really resonated with me and I thought that I might stitch Turvy III over papers. I am very fond of English piecing over paper templates. It is a great project to have as it is portable and easy to work with in the evenings. So I traced the top two rows onto freezer paper, ready to cut them up into templates, and I prepared and pieced the first couple of rows over a few evenings. My original design is here on the left.
I like to use freezer paper for my templates when working with small pieces, and fine fabric. The combination works well for me.
Here are the first two rows of paper piecing laid onto my master copy of the design. However, when I looked at them I could see that they were coming up a little larger. I understand that; it is due to the nature of folding the fabric over a template. But my main concern was that the technique was also looking very different to the other two panels, so after some consideration I decided to go back to machine piecing. The panels are in “series”…and as such I feel they should not look so different due to the technique!
Here is the fresh start of the piece now that I am machine piecing of the top three rows. I have completed three rows. you can see that I have drawn the straight grain of the fabric onto each template with a red crayon.
The row of templates will stay in place until the next row been sewn to this row. Only after the two are stitched together, will I take off the templates from the above row. The measurement of this piece, so far, is 8.5″ wide by 3.25″ in depth, (inclusive of seam allowances). I am much happier with the appearance now! I already have another plan for hand sewing in the evenings!
So, in both of the last two items I have discussed; the dyeing, and the piecing, it is evident that my initial efforts in both weren’t giving me what I was looking for. All the experimentation was invaluable, and I could make the changes I wanted with little fuss. The moral in all of this is not to “make do” with how things are going, if you feel uncomfortable, or disappointed with what is happening. Just have another go, and see if you can make it more to your satisfaction. Nothing is ever lost. Every part of the process is a learning curve for all of us; experienced sewers as well as beginners!
My colour palette for Turvy III is a muted palette of colours with a range of dark, medium and light tones, using the complementary colours of blue and orange. All the house roofs will be within the dark terracotta tones, with the body of the houses depicted within the warm medium and light tones. For the “background” I am using a range of soft blues, taupe and grey fabrics. Hence my colour choices for the dyeing exercise! I have an excellent range now for this and further work to compliment it.
So, onward and upward. I have plenty of Unit 3 work ahead of me. I wish you all well, with any projects that you are working on.
Until next time … Happy Stitching