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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Warning:Thread Sketched Nude on the Horizon

I joined Art Quilts Across the World and we displayed my first challenge in January 2013.   The challenge was to be a self-portrait.  I thought about what I wanted to do for my self-portrait.  First, I had wanted to try thread sketching for some time and thought this was the perfect opportunity.  Second, one of my goals this year is to accept the fact I will never be a size 8...or 10....or 12 or....  I'll stop there.  After spending years losing and regaining the same 50 lbs. I have decided I need to accept me.   So, I decided to use my art to come to terms with my body.

Step One
First I took (had my husband take) a picture of me which I downloaded to my computer and played with on Photoshop Essentials.  I am not an expert of the program so primarily that means I experimented till I got the effect I wanted. Thank goodness for the undo button!

Step Two
After getting a picture I liked, I printed it out and traced it on clear water-soluble stabilizer.

Step Three
I decided to use linen for my substrate due to the texture. I layered the linen onto felt.  I chose the felt rather than another batting for the stiffness of it.  This was never going to be a bed quilt and did not need to be soft and drapable. I secured the layers by spray basting them.  I pinned the stabiler onto the linen/felt sandwich.  Please note, I did not have a backing on the quilt sandwich at this point.

Step Four
 Now it was ready for the thread sketching.  I chose a thick cotton thread because I wanted the stitched lines to have some presence.  I turned the speed down on my machine and slowly went around the lines.  I wanted to stay on the lines. This was me and not a flower that could look good with exaggerated parts if I went off the lines.  It actually took me two days and two stitching sessions to get it finished.  It was a first attempt at thread sketching and I was quite apprehensive.

Step Five, Six, Seven, and Eight.
After washing out the stabilizer and letting the sandwich air dry, I machine appliqueed my shadow that I had previously pieced.  With the thread sketching part finished,  I put a back on the quilt sandwich and I quilted everything.  I did quilt the shadow but not me.  I didn't want any more cellulite or stretch marks on my body. To create a background that did not blend in with the neutral fabric of the body, I used diluted acrylic inks to  paint the fabric to create a backwall and a floor.

The back of the quilt looked okay so I decided to simply face.

Overall I am quite pleased with the resuls although I would prefer that my mother not see it.  Here is the link to my self portrait post.   You will need to go there to see the art quilt with the thread sketching of me.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thread painting examples

I have not had much time to try Karen's techniques with stabilizers, but have a couple of examples where I have used free-motion stitching on fused art quilts:
This is the photo I was using for my inspiration... note all the wonderful textures of the trees and grasses.

After I fused my fabrics to a foundation piece, I began creating the textures with various colored threads.

This project took quite awhile to finish, but I finally completed it.
Here it is framed, at the exhibit where it sold.  People were very curious about what media I had used, thinking it was colored pencil.  They were quite amazed to discover it was thread!  
I have since used this technique on another framed piece which hangs in my living room.  I love the details I can achieve using thread to 'sketch'.  It takes time and patience, and many thread changes, but it adds so much to the visual interest of the composition, that the time and effort is really worth it! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Look-out: thread-painting par excellence - the works of Alice Kettle

Odyssey, 2003

Alice Kettle's work has fascinated me for several years now. She creates huge, colourful, figurative wall hangings out of tiny stitches. The impact is that of the painted surface. She has a fine art education so the borders between fine arts and crafts are seems to dissolve.
In an interview she states: "I make figurative pieces. I think I am a maker, I love stitching. This doesn't mean that it is without intellect since every mark and thought require a creative response which articulates  my response to the world, to life and my particular aspirations."
Wisdom ond Lor', 2010
Alice Kettle finds her inspirations in history, people, stories, places, emotions, so her work has this extraordinary human aspect which catches my imagination and involves me immediately in the stories she is telling. But that is just the first step. On closer inspection her work offers so many layers and facettes, such an amazing richness, that I just would like to spend hours and hours discovering all the depths she has to offer. 
She builds up her pieces, layers upon layers, using a great variety of threads and so creating the impression of dimensionality. In an another interview she explains this process: "I do the background first, building up the stitches in different directions so the light falls in different ways. I use thicker threads and rayons to achieve luminosity. I also use a lot of metallic thread to create an undulating surface. The light responds to the different threads in different ways and you can also create areas of shadow. You can create three-dimensional effects by varying the tension in the cloth or ba keeping stitching in one small area so that the machine is forced to pound and mould that area into a specific raised form. I than go back and "draw" the figures."
Pause I, detail
I found this very recent video where she explains a her piece on her namesake, Alice Kettle, a mediaval witch.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thread painting - the freedom of motion

I used to find thread painting tedious several years ago. But about 4 years back I started to make monoprints and dye-painted wholecloth-quilts and I’ve realized, that intensive machine quilting was that, what I wanted on the surface. I’m still not quite sure where the definition machine quilting ends and where thread-painting starts but that is no matter for me.
As said, the first intensely quilted piece was this monoprint: Earth Lines #2. I used free motion quilting and Madeira thread.
 Earth Lines #2
A few months later I started to use Aurifil and has been with it since. I love the textures, the colours and I use them in different weights. I’m rather unorthodox in these things and do use them mixed.

These two monoprints are intensively quilted, but they mightn’t “qualify” as thread-painting. Though for me the definition has more to do with spontaneously sewn lines on the surface, just like drawing with a pencil. Moving around, drawing thin lines has the quality of sketching - looking for "the right line" with your pencil. Not each line is supposed to have a perfect sit, I can improvise and this gives me a kind of freedom I cheerish. 
Midsummernight's Dream

Leaves of Grass 
The last one I’d like to show is a dye-painted wholecloth-quilt called Long Shadows and I did it as the others, rather spontaneous, just “drawing with the machine.”
The last three ones are made with Aurifil.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Zentangle Example of Thread Sketching

It is not mine but a great example of thread sketching I found posted on Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Fridays.  Best of all, Carol walks you through the steps she took to make the art quilt.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Threadsketching, with little scraps

Thanks Karen for your nice tutorial and lots of 'need-to-know' and 'nice-to-know' advice.
I'd like to share an example of threadsketching I made a few months ago from a picture (typical dutch trees with cloudy weather by the way):

This was the original picture, I made during a sunday afternoon walk:

Just to get an idea, I looked at this picture through a filter in Photoshop to see the lines:

This drawing enlarged to 50x50 cm, and a few of the basic lines drawn onto a snowdyed piece of fabric:

Actually, I think I should have made some other choices in this stage. I love the emptiness and the role the fabric plays. But unfortunately I didn't realize that in time, AND I had to hide some dark lines (good lesson, never use a waterresistant marker...) so I made the grass with thread and scraps:

It still turned out as one of my favourite pieces. To finish it nicely, I sew a dark fabric strip around it and stretched the piece on a canvas:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oldies but goodies

These are some of the thread paintings I have done in the past. I am starting on a new series of thread painted portraits but in the meantime here are some of the pieces done in the past.

The 2 crow pieces were sketched with pencil onto soluble stabilizer and stitched from the back.

The ginkgo was done free motion with no pattern. I just winged it.

This is a bobbin sketch done from the back using a sketch on tissue paper which I picked off. I later did the crows with the soluble stabilizer - much easier.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thread and Samples

This is my first attempt at thread sketching.  I took a photo and traced an outline onto a piece of hand-dye from the "needs more" pile.

This is the back side -- I used a piece of Decor-Bond for stabilizer.  There are lots of issues with thread tension here -- I can't remember if it was the needle, tension, or just inexperience.  I used 50 wt Aurifil thread.

This is a self-portrait I did for another group.  I took a bit of Golden Threads paper and traced the outline from a photo with a Sharpie, then went over that with my machine.  I ripped off the paper and filled it in with more 50 wt Aurifil in gray.

I make samples for bigger pieces -- it's good to get the thread, needle, and tension issues out of the way on a sample.  For this one, I fused a piece of cotton on top of more cotton with a wool batt. I did exactly the same thing for my sample -- same fabrics, batt, and fusible web.  I auditioned the threads -- I had trouble deciding which colors to use and this made it much easier.

This is a detail shot of the pelican that shows the finished threadwork.  I'm not sure whether this qualifies as painting or sketching.

And this is another example of sketching/painting -- I used 50 wt thread for the trees and leaves in the background and 40 wt variegated quilting thread for the fused tree -- the dark brown one on the right.

The fused tree was done first with batting only, then I layered the whole piece and finished the background.  This way, the fused tree stuck out from the rest of the piece.

The owl was done separately by hand, then attached after I finished the rest of the piece.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Threads and Needles and Stabilizers, Oh My

First, let's get the business out of the way.  I can tell you what I use, but I heartily encourage everyone to chime in with what works for them.

I like thin thread.  My favorite is Aurifil 50 weight.  I like it because it's thin, strong, and comes in any color I can dream.  My only problem with it is that it is in short supply in my small town and I have to acquire it at quilt shows or drive an hour or so to obtain it.  And I have done that drive.  More than once...  but I digress. I do use other manufacturers and weights but I like the thin thread because it's forgiving.  If I scribble-sew all over, mistakes aren't obvious.  With a thicker thread, it would be.  But thick thread has its place.  I like to cover things with thread because I think it gives an organic look.  My favorite subjects have hair or feathers.  But thick thread is really great for trees.  And for less organic things.

With my thin thread, I use small needles.  I like 75/11 or 80/12 sizes.  I usually use Schmetz jeans/denim or Microtex.  The shop where I purchased my machine suggested a new brand, Inspira.  I have been using their denim and Microtex and sometimes their titanium-coated needles and they seem to work pretty well- they're cheaper too.  I change my needles a lot.  When they make that popping noise, it's time for a change.  Sometimes I will notice nests or loops on the back -- time for a new or different needle.  I don't change my machine tension a lot after I make my sample.  Just the needle.  When using thicker thread, a larger needle is in order -- without a lot of blather about technical stuff, I suggest 90/14 Topstitch needles.

As for fabric, I use anything I can lay my hands on.  My favorite stuff to use is hand-dyed cotton, but I'm not proud.  I'll use anything that suits the project.

Which brings me to stabilizers.  I have been using Decor-Bond for a while now -- it's fairly lightweight and doesn't feel too crinkly inside of a quilted project.  A friend recommended Sulky Totally Stable recently, so I'm going to be experimenting with that this month.  I have a project that I abandoned because I didn't use any stabilizer before I started covering it with thread and it puckered.  I'm going to see if I can reclaim it with stabilizer.  Sometimes I use batting and sometimes I don't.  I like thin batts when I do use them.

And don't forget feet:  I use my freemotion foot with the feed dogs down.  Sometimes I forget and leave them up -- I usually don't notice until I remove the piece.  So I'm not sure it's all that important.

Next: thread-sketching and the value of making samples

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May: Sketching and Painting with Thread

I was at a quilt show a couple of years ago and in the little sign accompanying a certain quilt, one of the techniques given was "thread-painting."  My friend and I looked all over that quilt and didn't see anything we thought would qualify as thread-painting.  It was a modern art quilt, composed of beautiful hand-dyed fabrics and artfully quilted, but we just didn't see any actual thread-painting.

I am not enough full of myself to think that I can provide the definitive definition of thread-painting, but I think that a lot of what I do qualifies as such.  So this month, my month, I want to explore the art of painting on fabric with thread.  Because it's really just another form of my favorite thing: putting color on fabric.

Here are a couple of examples to get the creative juices flowing:

Ellen Anne Eddy does some fabulous work with thread.  Here is a link to her website: http://www.ellenanneeddy.com/   and her blog: http://www.ellenanneeddy.com/weblog/

Terry Aske has a nice portrait of a thread-painted dog here:

Shannon Conley has a nice thread-painted dog here:

and for those who are not necessarily fans of dogs, Quilting Arts is offering a free ebook on thread painting and sketching here:

Next up: the basics.  Threads, needles, fabrics and stabilizers, oh my...