Sunday, June 29, 2014

Swap Parcel: Recieved

A little while back I shared the stitchery I made for the Places swap at &Stitches, and today I'm back to share the lovely parcel sent to me by my partner Emily.  In addition to her piece, she sent me a really nice long letter telling me all about the place she depicted as well as other areas where she lives.  It's really wonderful to hear about a new place from someone to whom it's so important.

She currently lives in Brighton, on the southern coast of England and says:  "...but in the end I went with somewhere out of town a bit and more in the countryside: The South Downs, or more specifically the Seven Sisters.  The South Downs are a collection of chalk hills which extend all the way to Brighton (I can see them from my house) but depicted in my embroidery are specifically the chalk cliffs on the coast that make up the Seven Sisters.  In the foreground also depicted are the coastguards' cottages.  I chose this scene in the end not only because of their fame and beauty, but also because I feel a scene depicting nature is more connected to who I am and what I like to draw/embroider."

I looked up some pictures of the Seven Sisters, and it looks like an absolutely gorgeous place to live.  How wonderful to have that as a view.  No wonder Emily wanted to embroider it and share it with me.  I was super impressed with her tiny even stitches and ability to capture the feel of the place.

One final coincidence:  I just finished a quilt based on the seven sisters quilt block, so it's especially fun that she embroidered the real Seven Sisters for me!

Thank you so much Emily, you were a great swap partner!

Friday, June 13, 2014

New Project and Jane Sassaman Class

Back in April my mom and I went to a five day Empty Spools seminar with Jane Sassaman.  Her class was really fabulous, all about abstracting from nature, and it was wonderful to learn her design approach.  Her graphic abstract floral quilts are really outstanding and seeing them in person was remarkable.  We spent the first day and a half just drawing, sketching, and abstracting from our drawings.  Drawing has never been one of my strengths, so forcing myself through the exercise and acknowledging how much I learned from the process reminds me that it can really be a valuable tool for understanding what I see.

Of course we were all working on our own designs, and the plant/flower I chose was the yucca. Going in I wanted to work with metallics, and I thought the gold/warm feeling of the desert and yuccas would really go well with that idea.  Jane's design process (which we were learning in the class) is much more organic than mine usually is- definitely not a draw-out-the-whole-composition-at-the-beginning approach.  Here are a few in progress shots of what I was working on.

That backing fabric is some sort of soft shimmery polyester looking light brown fabric with wrinkles part of the fabric itself.  I love the texture it has.  Metallic fabric in general is so hard to photograph, I included the shot above because you can really see the glow from the gold lame accent leaves.

I've spent a bunch of time in the last few months auditioning different arrangements, and recently settled on what you see below (which I then stitched down).  The top isn't quite finished, there are a few more flower buds to be added at the tops of each stem.

The funny bubbles in the background are where the fabric isn't quite stuck to the interfacing.  They won't be there after quilting.  One of my biggest struggles with this project was the appliqueing.  I usually use raw edge applique or a sort of appli-piecing combo I learned from Caryl Fallert. Jane appliques all her pieces (some raw edge some turned) with a satin or decorative stitch, and all her work is so perfect!  Lots of my satin stitch really looks terrible- not smooth and even. Alas, I'm not sure I can do anything about it, so it may just have to be a practice-practice-practice or a different-technique-next-time situation.

One of Jane's working guidelines for abstracting from nature is "Twice as big, half as many" which I had a really hard time with, but I did try!

Let me know if you have any thoughts on the overall composition, its something I really struggled with and am not opposed to continuing to work on if anyone has any great suggestions.

Linking up with Nina-Marie as always!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

&Stitches Embroidery Swap

I'm a big fan of Carina from Carina's craftblog and &Stitches so when the &Stitches team organized an embroidery swap I had to sign up.  It could be any type of hand embroidery, and the theme was places.  Of course one of my very favorite places is my home mountain, Sierra Blanca, which you may remember from this quilt.  I'm also a big fan of Judith Baker Montano's fabulous free-form embroidery, and since I have her book I thought I'd try out some of her techniques.  I didn't have time for anything nearly as intricate and layered as her work, but I think this was a nice first try!

Since I knew I wouldn't be able to fill in the whole canvas, I started with a picture taken during a summer hike to Sierra Blanca peak.  I think it was my birthday weekend of 2003.  This shot was snapped right before the push up the last little part, after hiking to the top of the ski area.

I printed it out on a transparency and then monoprinted it on interfacing-backed muslin as I described here.  It gives a pleasingly imperfect look, quite different from that which you get printing directly on fabric with the printer (although I do that too).  For this project, where I was going to embroider over some but not all, I wanted the more textured look which comes from the monoprinting.
After monoprinting, before stitching.

Then I just started embroidering away!  It isn't completely filled in but I had lots of fun.  I used regular embroidery floss, perle cotton, and wool, and several different stitches.

To finish, I layered it around matboard (with a single layer of supporting batting to fill it out a bit) and popped it into a frame.  The back has a label telling about it and the picture.

I'm really a novice embroiderer, so I had no idea what would be expected for this swap, but I like the way this turned out and I hope my partner does too!

Sierra Blanca, 2014, Shannon Conley, 9x12