A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Unconscious Side

Mags Ramsay here again.  

 Last Sunday I was acting as  steward at the Knit and Stitch  show at Olympia for a display  of 70  contemporary quilts. So many people could not resist the temptation to touch the quilts and in particular to look at the backs. That's where I came in with my white gloves, and when it was quiet, I took the opportunity to look on my own account! Some were disappointing -especially when they'd put another layer on the back to cover things up  but there were some delightful surprises!
Ever since reading Roberta Horton's book 'The Fabric Makes the Quilt'  ( still one of my favourites),  I've tried to 'up-the ante' for backs.  When I made  my quilt ' Creation Myth'  following a lot of her principles, I used the  black and white  fabrics and prints that didn't quite make the front in the backing cloth  ( above). I love the excitement of the random placement of stitches when seen from the back.  
Likewise in my most recent piece 'Red Remnants' (below) I like the sculptural quality of the red 'darning' marks on the rough twill backing fabric,  looking almost like a roadmap.

 The  'marks' I most use are  lines of parallel vertical stitches  (as seen in detail of 'Indigo Mine'  above) - made by coming up close to where the needle is pushed in rather than by taking a long stitch at the back.   It uses far less thread and creates a different texture ( less obvious ridges).  I find it easier  to vary the length  and spacing of the stitch . It probably a  proper name that the embroiderers among you will know!

When I  was attempting daily art projects last year using  used colour catchers,  stitching into them then taking rubbings of them,  you can see clearly how the stitch is made as the rubbings show front and back at the same time.
 As several  people have already said, the 'blind stitching' exercise carried out in Dorothy Caldwell's 'Human Marks'  was a very valuable  experience, the marks made while blindfolded exciting and energetic. In itself the product was pretty ugly so I didn't want to put it in the book I made in the class but wanted to have some record of it included. So again I did rubbings with crayons  on colour catchers and cotton organza and capturing  the stitches on the back as well , a different picture again.  
 The trouble is , the  more you stitch, the more even and accomplished your stitching is.  It becomes increasingly difficult to make a random unconscious stitch even on the back.  I don't notice that much difference between the front and back of the kantha stitching I did in that class

 So I'm continuing to  try different methods and threads to see if I can increase the variety of my stitching . Like sewing on paper, analysing the marks made with a pen ,then trying to copy that  in stitch. Or working with very thick threads and seeing what they do. More on expanding the repertoire in my last post.


  1. Stitching on paper, right on the side of your marks, I think is an excellent idea. I like your stitches very much. they are really expressive.

  2. Lots of inspiration here, Mags, and it's interesting to see the patterns and marks made by rubbing over the stitched lines. I didn't expect that you would get that sinuous line with the intermediate curves.


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