Thursday, 31 May 2007

Byzantium postcard

When I washed off the soluble paper, this is what the stitched surface looked like. I chose the deep orange because that colour is the background on a couple of Byzantine icons I really liked.

I used the soldering iron to distress the surface fabric. I had hoped it would melt and allow the brown underneath fabric to show through. But it didn't quite go to plan. The weft fabrics melted but the warp ones didn't. They happen to be vertical on the postcard, so it gave me an interesting worn fabric look. I actually quite like it, as it makes the textile look worn but it wasn't actually the look I was aiming for. I chose the high areas of the surface, as being the ones most likely to show wear.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Slow week

This week I've fallen into a slump. Partly physical, partly a lack of time, and partly reaching the moment of frustration that I usually reach at some point, when I really don't like what I've done so far and wonder if it will ever be worth finishing. I'll press on, because I know I usually end up liking what I've done at the end, but it's frustrating.

OK, this is what I did on the weekend:

Cute, aren't they? The big one is my baby, the little one is grandchild number 1, administering a very sloppy kiss. It was great to visit them and see how the grandkids have grown in the short time since I last saw them.

And this is what I did this week on Rites of Passage - coming along nicely:

I've made the colours very intense and rich, so it's recognisable as a Polynesian island scene but also looks a little bit strange and unrealistic. Well, that's the plan....

And this is the postcard I'm making for the Sailing to Byzantium challenge on Design Bytes Down Under.

Postcard 6in x 4in

It's a motif on a pier in the church of St Polyeuktos from ancient Byzantium. I looked at lots of photos of Byzantine art, and decided the things I liked best were the architectural motifs. I played around with a lot of different motifs, and finally decided on this one. This is the line drawing printed onto soluble paper and stitched with dark navy thread. Tomorrow, I'll show you what it looks like with the paper removed (right now it's still wet so the colours are deeper than normal). I still have a few things to do tomorrow. The motif is stitched onto two layers of fabric, backed with Timtex for stiffening. The bottom layer is silk, the upper layer a synthetic fabric, in colours that reminded me of Byzantine icons. Tomorrow, I plan to burn back the synthetic a little with a soldering iron, to give the distressed look that the icons have from so much fervent handling during 1000-1500 years of worship. Hopefully, the underlying silk will show through. I want to brush on some gold highlights too. Hurry, hurry, it's due the end of the month!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Progress on all fronts

I haven't had as much time in the workroom as I'd like but I have made progress on all three pieces in the last few days. Like Honey from the Rock has more of its purple added and I rectified a few areas where shadows weren't quite right. I still have a couple more places like that to fix, and a lot more stitching to add.

Like Honey from the Rock 18in x 12in

Rites of Passage is assembled, and I began stitching it today. I'm actually finding this one a bit of a challenge to get just the right colours. I want to brighten the colours, so the scene looks a little alien, but not so much that it stops looking like a real place.

Rites of Passage 6in x 6in

Mistrise has had wadding added and I've started stitching. This one will have a lot less intensive stitching than the other two, and it's quite hard to remember that I'm doing something a lot more like traditional machine quilting and a lot less like embroidery! I don't want to lose the ethereal effect in the clouds, so I don't want to have to stitch them heavily to balance heavy stitching on the hills. The stitching isn't that clear in the photograph - I've only done a little on the nearer hills so far.

Mistrise 18in x 12in

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

And just in case you thought I'd been slacking...

Here is Like Honey from the Rock. I haven't bothered to update it every day - how boring! But it's gradually getting where I want it to go.

The balance is way too yellow at present, but I still have a lot of purple to stitch.

Susan's Quilt Meme

Susan started this meme over on her blog. What you've done in bold, what you want to do in italic, the rest plain.

Here's mine. I can't believe how many of these things I've actually done!
nine patch

log cabin

curved piecing by hand

curved piecing by machine

hand applique [ needle turned ]

hand applique tacked edges

hand applique with fusible / blanket stitch

reverse applique [ hand or machine ]

Afro-American improvisational style quilt


machine applique


whole cloth

english paper piecing by hand (and I hated it with a passion and am never doing that again!)

american piecing by hand

american piecing by machine

strip or string piecing

kaleidoscope or mandala [ not stack and whack]

stencilled quilt

hand quilting

machine quilting


quilted commercially with a longarm machine

3D folded flowers

made a quilt on commission

sold a quilt other than a commission piece

taught quilting at any level

stack and whack

stack and slash

Anjii's Angles

embellished with embroidery, beads, etc

celtic applique / bias work

Amish style quilt

Cathedral Windows

stained glass quilt [ any method ]

had an original design published

written a quilt book (does editing count?)

scrap quilt

baltimore applique

sampler quilt

japanese design

foundation piecing

crazy patchwork

silk fabrics

cotton fabrics

woollen fabrics


row by row

1930s or feedsack fabric

1880s reproduction fabric

tea cosy

item for an animal

hand dyed fabric [ yours or someone else's]

round robin


non-traditional quilt

traditional quilt


full sized bed quilt





patchwork or quilted clothing


christmas themed, [ quilt, wallhanging, stocking, etc ]

medallion quilt (underway anyway)

raffle quilt [ all or part ]


baby quilt

landscape quilt

participated in a group challenge

exhibited a quilt overseas

made a prize winning quilt

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Rites of Passage

I didn't get time to stitch today, but I did do some more planning work on the Rites of Passage piece. Like everything else, it's due on 2 Jun. I'd already decided on the image of the fale, to represent our time living in Samoa. It's such an archetypical Polynesian image! But I wanted to do more to represent how living in that country changed me, and why this image is representative of a rite of passage. I played with adding words and adapting the image in various ways, but I wasn't happy with anything I came up with. Finally, I had a brain wave. The Samoan image does not have to be the whole 6in square. Incredible! I had adapted the original 6in x 4in image to a square, but I could use overlays, strips, anything around it. (Sometimes things are so obvious, once you've gone all round the gardens!)

I finally decided I wanted to emphasise the sense of passage, of change, which is what the time in Samoa means to me. Doorways! But what kind of doorway? There are practical difficulties, as most everyday doorways are tall and skinny. I'll need a special sort of doorway, then. I hunted through our photos (and with two photographers in the family, these are not few), until I found this image of an archway in Richmond Castle in England.

I cropped and played with the image in PhotoPaint, to leave me just the archway. I superimposed the result onto my fale image.

I like the juxtaposition of a very European doorway on an island scene, which expresses some of the dissonance I felt living in a third world country, in an alien culture. It's hard to set aside your assumptions, that western worldview, and see what is really happening around you. At the same time, instead of being in the dominant cultural tradition as you are at home, you are the outsider, the palagi. It gave me a huge understanding of what it is like to be the outsider, the migrant, the one who is different, in our own culture.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Like Honey from the Rock

I've done more stitching on this piece today and it's starting to come together. I've added a quite intense purple red, which is starting to bring it more towards the purple end of the spectrum. It's interesting that it still looks so brown! Most of the colours to come are purples, moving towards pink.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Heartland postcard

I knew I had a better example of the Heartland postcards! This was what the ones I swapped looked like:

It's deceptively glitzy because the organza catches the light so much, and you can't really see the frayed "grass" as clearly.

Like Honey from the Rock

I finally started stitching this piece yesterday. On Monday, I attached a fairly lightweight cotton wadding with basting spray, and added soluble Vilene, to give it some substance for stitching. I attached the mineral images with basting spray too, instead of fusible webbing, to cut down the thickness but I think perhaps I was a little light with the spray as they don't seem very firmly attached, and I even had to touch up one section with a glue stick to make it hold.

By Tuesday night, I had added most of the darkest darks in the foreground and it looked like this:

Today I added some of the lighter darks and mediums. At this stage, it's still quite brown in the photo but the colours are quite purple and the medium values will be more purple again. I want the yellow of the veins in the rock to stand out vividly from the surrounding rock.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Heartland pieces

Postcard from the Heartland 3/14 6in x 4in

I was talking to Carol today about these pieces, so I decided to share them here. They are quite old now, as I made them in 2005. The postcard above was for a swap with friends, so I used it to try out ideas for the Up Over Down Under piece. Up Over Down Under was a joint exhibition between ATASDA and the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. The remit was to make a textile art piece that was no bigger than 12in x 12in (x 12in deep). One Square Foot of Heartland didn't make the cut for Pittsburgh, but was shown here in Australia in the Overflow exhibition. It was inspired by photos I took in the background of my parents' house in Broken Hill, during my dad's last illness.

One Square Foot of Heartland 12in x 12in

They are both really hard to photograph because the organza overlay reflects the light. I painted fusible webbing with acrylic paints in the vivid orange-brown that is typical of the red soil country. I adhered it to a cotton background fabric that had some texture and shading, which appeared in places through the fusible webbing. I added the rocks in cotton fabric, and gently adhered a layer of organza over the top. I stitched the rocks very heavily, often using two top threads of different colours to get the speckled effects on some rocks. Then I burnt and cut back the organza over the rocks and in some other places with a soldering iron, which bonded some parts and left others free. I frayed the cut organza edges, to give the effect of fine grass in between the rocks. Finally, for the UODU piece, I constructed small plants like the ones in my photos. This was what interested me originally - the contrast of these tiny vivid green plants against the orange of the soil. They were stitched freehand onto Romeo, which was then washed away, and attached by hand stitching to the background.

When I look at these pieces now, I can see obvious problems with composition. But One Square Foot of Heartland was the first art piece I ever made specifically for an exhibition, and of course it's important to me because of the personal history attached too.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Happy 80th Auntie Pat!

No textile work today, because we were celebrating Auntie Pat's 80th birthday up in our beautiful Blue Mountains. I did take yet more photos of trees, which I'm interested in at present. Cousin Megan's garden has some beautiful blue gums and her neighbour has this spectacular red gum. (I won't bore you with the other tree pics!)

While I was painting yesterday, I decided to add a brown wash to Like Honey from the Rock, just on the section that was too light in tone. The painting browned it down quite a lot, which doesn't worry me, but it has also brought the tonal value closer to the other rocks. It will be partly covered by the mineral image, but I am happier that it won't be obviously lighter.

Friday, 11 May 2007

More painting

Hooray, the painting on Valley Mist is just about finished! Once I heat-set today's painting, I can wash out the masking medium and see what I actually have. It's tricky, because the paint goes on over the mask quite happily but, in an ideal world, doesn't adhere to the fabric. However, the masking medium dries clear, so it means you aren't quite sure exactly how thorough your coverage of the fabric has been, until you discover paint where you didn't want it!

All I did today was add the darkest tone, which is the foreground. I lightened that tone a little and used the resulting dark-medium tone to paint in some shadows on the other hills. I think I might need a little more of that before I start stitching. There are also a couple of areas that got masked that shouldn't have, so they will need painting once the medium comes out.

I'm really enjoying the process of this, but it doesn't help that the deadline for finished work is Jun 2!

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Like Honey from the Rock

This is how the background for this piece looks, stitched together. I haven't begun stitching on it yet, and you can see the noticeably lighter area I mentioned. I decided against a paint wash all over it, as I'd lose the lovely colours in the other rocks. I'm hoping once I've added stitch, the lightness will not be such an issue. If it is, I'll deal with it then!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


While I was painting yesterday, I managed to put a little more detail on this paint rag. The Love-in-a-Mist flowers are suitably spiky now and I added shadows to some of the flowers and the pot. It's really starting to look like I imagined! I think I might need to give this piece a bit more sustained attention, instead of just adding a bit when I have the appropriate colours mixed.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Winnie the Pooh

There is one reason why I might be heard humming the hums of Pooh*, and that reason is that I am busy. If I'm busy in a run-off-my-feet kind of way, I might be overheard humming, "the more it SNOWS, tiddley-pom, the more it GOES, tiddley pom, the more it GOES, tiddley pom, on snowing...". But when you hear me murmuring, "I could spend a happy morning being Pooh. For it doesn't seem to matter, if I don't get any fatter (and I don't get any fatter) what I do," it's a sign of much contented activity.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I have had a very happy day by myself, getting on with many different things.

Today I finally got to paint another layer on Valley Mist. Actually, it was two layers of darks. One more masking and I can paint the final darkest shades, and then wash out the masking medium to see what I have. I hope it's worth all the work! I know I'll have to add some little details at the end, before I can stitch it.

Valley Mist 18 1/2in x 13 1/2in

*If you have no idea what I am talking about, you have clearly had a deprived childhood and it's way past time to rediscover your inner child by reading A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Baby steps

I am so frustrated! I'm not getting much done just now - too many other things happening in my life. Nice things like sitting in my sunny family room sewing and chatting with friends, and going to the ATASDA Social Day. But no actual textile progress, except for:
* sewing one of the three patchwork friendship blocks I am making each month for friends - Secret Women's Business, so I can't share them here
* piecing together the sections of Like Honey From the Rock, which worked out well. Except one section of rock has printed out noticably paler than the others and I didn't really notice until it was too late. I need to find some time to put a colour wash over the lot to bring them closer together in colour, before I start stitching.
* masking Valley Mist ready for painting again
* sewing a little more on the jacket I have been making since February. I desperately need some winter clothes, so I need to get this jacket finished so I can move on.
* sewing together some of the last blocks on my son and daughter-in-law's quilt - they might actually get it one of these years!

The price of creativity

My daughter posted a comment on her blog from Jeanette Winterson about the price of creativity. It reminded me of comments by Rainer Maria Rilke,in his Letters on Cezanne.

He wrote, "Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no-one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity."

He also quotes Cezanne's last letter, Oct 21, 1906:
"I believe the best thing is work. I continue my studies."

How fantastic to be working at creation right to the end! (He died on October 22nd.)

Friday, 4 May 2007

Your computer as a tool

This topic came up on a list I belong to. So I thought I'd share some of the ways I manipulated the photo I used in the Forest piece. There are literally hundreds of ways to change a photo if you have access to Corel PhotoPaint (the program I use) or Photoshop or similar programs.

I showed you the original photo on 20 April and the finished piece on 30 April. Here are some ways I manipulated the photograph before deciding on one to print for stitch.

This one has used "dabble" to change the colour in the photo to dabs of colour, like paint strokes. (You might need to look at the larger image to see what I mean.) There are other paint-type changes in most programs, but I usually start with this one, because it basically tells you what's there. If you're not a painter, sometimes it's hard to see the colour changes in a photo. So this is a useful tool, regardless of what you're going to do later. You can use it as a basis for stitch, if you want a traditional look.

This one has changed the photo to a water marker image. It's also useful for seeing the colours that make up the image, but it generally makes the colours brighter, and that can be interesting too. Often, all I do with these images is look at them and see how the colours go together, where the shadows fall and so on.

Isn't this interesting? It's what happens when you use the invert function. Invert is useful in lots of ways. It tells you about the balance of a piece - you can see that the right hand tree trunk has gone white, so this indicates that, in the original, this is going to be a very dark area that might dominate the finished piece. But inverted images are also very interesting in their own right. I actually printed this one for stitching, because I loved the eerie feel it gave to the forest.

This version has had light effects added (under Render in Corel PhotoPaint). You can decide where you want the light to come from and how much light you want. I liked this one, which really feels like a full moon shining into the bush.

All the images so far have basically been representational - you can still see that it's a forest scene, since that's what I needed for the challenge. But while playing about with the image, I also saved this one. It's from Alchemy, smoke effects and isn't it interesting? Couldn't you do a lot with that by adding stitch, and maybe other media like paint, beading...?

And finally, this one. It's using an effect called Icecubes, also from Alchemy. I loved this one too, because it really reminds me of flowers and I just love the way the image has been transformed into something totally new.

I've hardly touched the surface of the possibilities and the best thing is to play with whatever software you have and see what is possible. It's amazing how a quite ordinary photo can be transformed by changing the light focus, or by turning it into something quite different! I've focused on single effects but of course, you can change a single image in multiple ways. And you can isolate small elements of an image and change them, use them as repeat images... whatever grabs your attention!