Wednesday, February 28, 2007

And now for something completely different

Two postings in one week! No hi-jinx this time not even knitting. I just wanted to talk about some of my other projects. This installment: Embroidery

I have been doing some kind of needlework off an on for most of my life, needlepoint, plastic canvas work, embroidery and cross stitch during my university & professional theatre years. I like intricate work (perhaps that's why I was drawn to lace patterns in knitting) so even my cross stitch started right away in 28 count and usually used at least one more strand than directions called for. I never liked the look of X's and found this method gave me neat little squares. It was a good relaxing past time that, while creative, didn't demand too much of me. But those days are long gone and have been replaced by days spent in front of the computer. So a few years ago I decided to pick up my embroidery needle and start again but this time something more demanding. I thus embarked on this new project. Much more creative than anything I had previously done, it combined my needlework knowledge, painting, general craft techniques and a whole lot of imaginations It's still not finished and I am hoping that writing about it and hearing your thoughts will spur me on. Remember to click on the picture to see it in full size (Ctrl + Click will open a new window!)

Here ismy country garden, about 3/4 of the way to completion. The bottom layer was a picture I found and had ironed on to a piece of muslin. I then picked out the bits I liked and embroidered over them. Sometimes I changed the color and in at least one place I changed the flower type completely. I then took another piece of muslin, cut an oval in the center and painted a continuation. On that piece I added more trees in the background, extended the path and added more flowers. The continuation shows a less cultivated extension of the garden.

Here is a close up of the rose arbor (sorry about the blurriness!). I wrapped a piece of thick wire and then wove in and out of the fabric in a couple of places. The leaves are all tiny lazy daisy stitches and the roses are french knots. As with much of the work in this piece, the roses are often mixed strands of color to give more dimension. The cluster of red flowers below are all single color but there are about 8 different shades.

This close up shows off the fuzzy bushes, the lupine to its right, the lavender to its left, and some of the leafy vegetation. First the bushes. This was done with a series of well secured loops. I started on the right hand side with 4 strands of a dark green as I worked to the left I introduced lighter strands mixed in. This gives it a nice shaded look. I then took my scissors and shaved down the tops, the frayed ends fuzzed up nicely. I used the same shading technique with the lupine using french knots and introducing some green into the stems. The lavender is 4 single shades using a bullion knot. The leaves are made up of woven picots.

Here are some more of the woven picots, seed stitch gravel, and a few free standing wildflowers.

Here are more of those free standing wildflowers. I made them by tying off singles strands of green with knotted heads of yellow, white and a few with purple, and coating them with Plaid Stiffy (the stuff used for stiffening ribbons.) I then sewed them on individually. The heads got bent a little but many people have said they love the look, it seems like they are blowing in the breeze. Above the flowers you can see a bit of my attempt at painting.

Here is a close up the gladiolas (or a larger version of lupine?) I used the multi stranded shading method and bullion knots. Just to the right of top right flower you can see a full gravel square. I used a seed stitch and 5-6 shades of neutrals and browns. In the top left corner you can see pansies. I used a single contrasting strand with the main color in each to give a striped look. These were made using woven circles and have a bead in the center for the dark head.

When it comes to true originality, this is my favorite part! I used a standard technique to make the trunk and branches of the trees. Wrapping craft wire with the floss. So that the trees wouldn't look flat I painted them a bit to give some depth. But it is the leaves that I claim originality on. I didn't have the time or inclination to make the leaves solely from needlework but had no idea what to do. And then finally, inspiration struck! I bought some plain batting and painted tufts of it in different shades of green. I then took very small amounts of different shades and fixed them to the canvas with different stitches (no glue involved!) I continued in this manner, layering the work to give it more depth. What I love is the realistic look of all the layers and that you can still see the sky through it.

The final touch will be these pieces which I add when the work is completed. The bird bath and the gladiola are both made using bullion knots on water soluble fabric. (The glad then has a wire wrapped in floss hot glued to the back so that is strong enough to be angled out from the picture.) This stuff looks like thick plastic wrap and you must work with care. After you finish the needle work you simply put it in cold water and the fabric disappears. Keep an eye on this process because if you leave it in too long all the fabric will be gone. By removing it before that point you get some gluey goodness to help hold the thing together.

If you are interested in this kind of work I recommend Sue Newhouse's Creative Hand Embroidery and Hand Embroidered Country Scenes. I have been asked more than once if I would teach a class in embroidery or general needlework. I would love to so if you know anyone who is interested let me know...


Orlop =) said...

Very Impressive, never since cross sts like it before.
Would also love to hear about your professional theatre years.

Anonymous said...

Hi jinx? Nary a one! Madcap adventures? Bring em on!

Devine said...

This embroidery is really amazing and beautiful. I have never seen anything like it!