Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Pause, record, reflect, move on…

… is the subtitle of chapter 1 in “Creating sketchbooks: for embroiderers and textile artists” by Kay Greenlees. It’s one of the key texts for the textiles course – one I already owned but hadn’t properly used.

Now it’s become a bit of a mantra for me, in sampling and exercises as well as the sketchbook. I see it as a reminder to do the best I can with each task, but keep it in proportion – one step in a process.

First some eye candy – but you have to click here to go to Debby Kirby’s website. “Debby has worked as a silk weaver since 1984, after completing a degree in woven textiles at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design” (quoting from the site). Some lovely fine work (up to 100 epi) and use of colour. I’m particularly impressed by the level of detail of finish – hand wound silk tassels on cushions, beading and machine stitching and embroidery on accessories – and by her technique of silk and paper weaving.

I was led to Debby’s site from here, the site of Penny Cameron who is also doing the OCA course but many months ahead. I find it really interesting to look at the work of other students, but it can also be a bit of a trap and despondent-making. Reminder to self – the point of the course is to develop my skills and work from whatever level they are to whatever level I can get to, irrespective of other’s work.

So, today’s pause and reflect – on progress with Stage 5: Stitches to create texture.

Here is my first sample. Underneath it (if I can get wordpress to play nice) is another photo of the same sample. One of the tasks of this stage is to observe the impact of changing the direction of stitching, the different reflection of light changing the apparent colour of the threads with some appearing lighter, some darker than their actual colour.

I can now agree that it does – look at the two little blocks of yellow-green towards the top left (cottolin, cretan stitch). However look at the impact of lighting in the two photos – both taken on the same rainy day in natural light, one inside the glass backdoor, one a few minutes later just outside and turned 90 degrees.

I use a worklight on my table – a Daylight Company 18 watt compact flourescent lamp according to the label. I actually got a shock when looking at the work in progress while on a break. The worklight was off and the sample looked quite different. If one was working on an exhibition piece, there’s no control at all of how (or if) it will be lit. I guess the point is that the direction of stitch makes it look different. I wouldn’t want the success of the piece to rely on looking lighter (or darker) in particular.

The tiny sections of satin stitch at the top provide me with 2 lessons. First, it really does make a difference whether one stitches around and around (taking the thread back under the cloth so each stitch starts on the right and finishes on the left (or vice versa)), or else stitches to the left, takes a tiny stitch under the fabric and stitches to the right. I’ve always thought this was humbug. If a thread is Z twist the ply will sit pointing down to the right whichever way the stitch is done, and if the thread is S twist it will sit pointing down to the left. How can the light reflection change? Just a few stitches – the 3rd set – showed the difference. The whole stitch sits differently. With satin stitch you get a nice plump look and it’s sort of crisp where the thread bends under the cloth. With the little catch stitch thing the thread goes somehow pigeon-toed, the threads seem to splay out as if magnetically repulsed.

Second lesson: I really dislike doing satin stitch. It’s really hard to work it closely to cover the background without feeling the need to be neat and proper and get things lined up. Which I can’t and don’t really want to. How can one be uninhibited in satin stitch? Straight stitch, yes. Satin stitch…

Cretan stitch was better, and with the silk fabric strip better again, but I finally realised – I don’t want to cover the background cloth. My focus for the past few years has been making cloth. I want to enhance it, not to hide it. Adding texture makes sense. Covering it up doesn’t (… unless in specific bits that adds to what isn’t covered). Yes, I need to be open to new things plus I need to do things for the purposes of the course which won’t necessarily be part of my life’s work. Still…

I do like the mass of stitches bottom right. It’s stitched with 20/2 silk thrums and I think would be a fabulous accent on some weaving, really contrasting with the grid. It could also work for the yellow scratching in wax crayon texture I posted about yesterday. I dug out a piece of felt that I think would make a good base to stitch on. I’ll have to see how time goes.


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October 2011

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