Saturday, March 31, 2012

Work in Progress Continued

I have been working furiously in my studio over the last week and have achieved quite a lot.

When I wrote my last post I had just finished the red ridges and white geometric areas (representing the peaks above the snow line and the snow capped mountains below of the Turpan Depression).  This week I softened the white area by interspersing the white shapes with directional seed stitches.  Then I went about defining the next section, first with raised ridges of palestrina stitch, followed by thinner, less raised lines of stem stitch and finally finer lines of stem stitch to provide directionality.

Here's how the entire piece looked after all the solid lines were stitched in.

In this photo you can see the seed stitches in between the white rectangles.  (Don't forget you can see a larger photo by clicking on the image).

Here you can clearly see the three levels of linear stitching.

And in mega mega close up showing the row of tiny knots formed by palestrina stitch.  To give you some idea of how fine the stitching is, the ground fabric is 24mm silk habotai with a very fine dense weave.  

I love the way the close up photos show the myriad fine, shiny silk strands that together form a single thread.

Today I proceeded to fill in the linear areas with directional seed stitches.

Notice how the colour of the dyed fabric is brighter than the thread used for the seed stitches on top, thus enlivening the image and giving greater textural and directional definition to the seed stitches.

By my calculation it will probably take me another day and a half perhaps (about 10 hours) to finish the seed stitching.  Then it's onto the water way in the middle that will be the focus of the entire work.  I will need to do some thinking and contemplation to find a way to meaningfully represent this area of the work.  I love the puzzle solving stage and the meditational act of stitching afterwards.  Stay tuned for more updates.

By the way, have you checked out my facebook page yet?  If you haven't you're missing out on lots of great stuff.  Inspiring images and links to other blogs and websites.  Why not take a minute to "like" my page and then receive updates via your facebook account?

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Friday, March 23, 2012

New Work in Progress

This week I started on a new work and it is large and ambitious!  The dimensions are 70 cm x 48 cm.  That might not sound all that large, but when nearly the entire surface needs to be covered in stitches it starts to seem very daunting.  My source image is a satellite photograph of the Turpan Depression, a mountainous region spanning from Tadjikistan to China.  The image inspired me because of the fabulous textures and contrasts.

(Remember to click on the photos if you want to see larger images).

Dyeing the ground fabric was a challenge.  I usually have no trouble matching my dye colours to my original conception, but somehow, every colour I mixed came out brighter than what I wanted.  In the end I decided to go with what I had.  I figured if these are the colours that my brain wants to use, then I should just go with it. When it came to dyeing my threads I was able to achieve colours closer to my original conception.  I think the contrast of the muted colours of the threads against the brighter colours of the ground fabric will make the work more vibrant.

The central area is crucial to the cohesion of the whole piece so I began by laying down the whisper silk.  I then embroidered a couple of small areas just to mark out the proportions I would be working with later.

I then started stitching the area representing the highest mountain peaks that lie above the snow line.  I knew that if I could make this work then I was going to be able to pull the work off as a whole.  I started by stitching in the mountain ridges using long armed palestrina stitch.  I then defined the valleys with lines of stem stitch.  The intervening areas were worked in fern stitch and oriented so as to give the impression of a descent into a valley.

This is a close up of the palestrina stitch showing the lovely ridge of knots that is characteristic of this stitch.

Yesterday I added the snow capped mountain regions.  I wanted it to be well contrasted with the areas surrounding it, so I worked it in short sections of closed feather stitch.  The bold geometry of the white stitching works well against the more organic red area.

Today I will finish the white area by stitching in brown thread between the white sections.  This will make it a little less stark and link it to the next section

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Indigo Dyeing Weekend.

I've been a bit slow getting up my photos from my weekend away at Jacky's Marsh, largely due to being incapacitated by a severe migraine induced by sitting in the sun, breathing the fumes from the natural dye baths and forgetting to eat and drink during the workshop.  Anyway, the picture below gives you an idea of just how spectacular the views were.

Shelter that can double as an outdoor kitchen with some early removals from the natural dye pots hanging on the line.

Ralf and Mahdi pull the first samples out of the weld pot.  (Weld is an English plant that dyes in yellow shades.  It grows as a weed along many roadsides in Tasmania.  Nice to know that a noxious feral plant has some use at least.)

Mahdi's weld parcel........

and after opening.

Silk dyes very readily when using eucalyptus cordata.

Early samples from the indigo pot

This was the best piece I managed to dye all weekend.  It's a piece of habotai silk that I underdyed using bright orange and pink colours.  I then simply tied the silk at regular intervals (the fabric was scrunched rather than folded before tying).

The close up shots show some of the gorgeous markings.......

and parts where the underdyed colour showed through.  I liked it so much I decided to use it as a curtain for the end of my hallway.  It was a great relief to replace the hideous match stick blind that I have been living with for the last 6 years.

Here's how the curtain looks during the day.  Of course the hallway is much brighter during the day, but I had to adjust the lighting effects to capture how the sun shines through the silk.

Here's how the curtain looks at night.

Before I got that lovely piece of habotai out of the pot everything I had dyed looked revolting.  These homespun cotton samples were underdyed in the weld, cordata and the wattle bark.  Cotton does not take natural dyes very well.  As a result what I pulled out of the vats looked like dirty polishing cloths.  YUK!

After doing some shibori and overdyeing in the indigo I got some ok results.  I'll use these for wrapping presents.

This is a crinkle chiffon scarf that I dyed red and then resisted with rubber bands.

Here's how it looked straight out of the indigo........

and after removing the resist bands and drying.  I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for solid red circles, although now I realise that to get that effect I would have had to sew them, which would have taken a couple of days work, time I didn't have.

This is the scarf that I showed in a previous post which I spent 6 hours stitching.  Unfortunately the scarf was in the indigo too long and I lost most of the colour of the underdye.  However,  the alternating pattern of folds is as I was hoping.  I intend to not iron it so that the folds remain.  It'll make a great scarf this winter.

Overall a lovely weekend (despite the monster migraine) and I learned heaps, which is, after all the point of it all.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Indigo Dyeing Workshop

Today I'm heading off to a 2 day indigo dyeing workshop.  I started preparing some fabrics yesterday.  One is a long scarf that took me 6 hours to stitch!

I dyed some scarf lengths so that I'd have a few pieces that were a little more interesting than just the basic blue and white.  The red and green are crinkle chiffon, the pink/orange piece is a very fine dupioni silk.

Don't you just love these colours?

This scarf is a heavy weight habotai so it should hold the shibori well after drying.  The purple is a little brighter although overall I was a bit disappointed in the dyeing of this piece.  Once it has been overdyed with indigo it will either look subtle and sophisticated or (dread) just muddy.  We will see.  You can see how much stitching was involved.

Here's the scarf with the stitching pulled tight.  I've done an alternating pattern of small stitches and larger stitches so there will be some variation in how the dye is taken up and in the final texture of the scarf.

I do love the way it looks at this stage.
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My apologies to anyone who has tried to leave a comment and has been unable to do so.  There was a setting in my comments section that I was unaware of that was blocking most people's attempts to leave a message.  I have now sorted that out and you should be able to leave a comment if you wish.

Thanks to Maria from Magic Moon Musings  for bringing this to my attention. Pin It

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Hi guys, have you taken the time to check out my facebook page yet?  Do head on over as there is lots of stuff there that you won't find on my blog.  I pretty much try to post something there every day.  Sometimes it's just an image that caught my eye, sometimes a link that I think might be of interest.  And, I always post a link when I write a new blog entry.  So head on over to facebook for some eye candy and the occasional laugh. Pin It

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Work on Paper

Last week I was off work sick because one side of my face swelled up after having a retained tooth root extracted.  I was fine if I was sitting (the pain was there, but happy drugs made it less intense), but if I stood up I would instantly get dizzy.  My vision out of my left eye was a blurred I presume because the swelling was pressing on my tear duct.  Anyway, on a positive note, I was able to complete 3 works on paper.  The first 2 I have already blogged about and here is the third.  Don't forget to click on the images if you want to see a larger image.

First I drew the green background using my inktense pencils blended with a wash.  I then glued down the beautiful silk lace paper.  (This paper was really expensive but is so beautiful I'm very glad I made the investment.  Mind you, I almost lost it when it caught fire on the scented candle I burn in my studio!  Fortunately it only burnt an area of about 10 cm diameter.  I'm thinking of a way to incorporate the burnt edge into another paper work).

I then stitched around some of the "holes" in the silk lace paper, starting with white down the bottom and ending up with a variegated blue/green/gold thread at the top.

The large floating circles give the piece its main focus and draw together the silk paper area and the painted area at the top.

In close up you can see the lovely fine fibres that make up the gossamer silk paper.

I like the white thread at the bottom.  The effect is tonally subtle, but very textural.

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