Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Certificate Module 3 Chapter 9 A Resolved Sample: a little bit of stitching

I sat down this afternoon to start making a series of little samples to explore stitching that I might add to the printed fabric for the outside surface of my scroll.  As Sian pointed out, I would need to be careful in choosing the colour and weight of the thread I used (and indeed, would need to consider whether stitching was needed at all).  With shibori-dyed fabric and printed ammonites on top, it would be easy to make the fabric too busy, so competing with the inside instead of being a quiet contrast to it.

The cotton fabric needed something to add stiffness and body to it.  This could be done with an iron-on stiffening, but I thought first I'd try making a sandwich with two layers of cotton with some felt in between.  I thought of wadding to start with, but I didn't want a quilted puffed up effect, just a bit of body added to the piece.  I decided to use free-machine embroidery in a toning thread to stitch along the spaces between the printed lines in each ammonite.  This was the idea I'd had in my head from the first.  I stitched one ammonite in this way.

3.9.AS 1 (The stitched ammonite is bottom right.)

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this gave exactly the effect I had in mind, without adding too much to the busy-ness of the print.  It also gave a very slight 3-D effect without making it too puffy and quilted.

3.9.AS 2  a close up

Better still, it gave just the right stiffness to the fabric - enough to give it some body but leave it soft enough to roll easily.  (I'll have to be careful that the inside ammonites don't add too much to the stiffness.)

3.9.SA 3  the little sample rolled up
Now I have a dilemma.  Do I just go ahead with this, since I've been lucky enough to hit on just exactly what I have in my head, or do I go ahead with trying other ideas in case there is an absolutely stunning, fabulous, unbelievably wonderful idea just waiting to be discovered?  ...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Certificate Module 3 Chapter 9 Resolved Sample Diary

For the scroll which I'd planned for my resolved sample, I decided to start by making the outside of the scroll.  This I wanted to be a subtle colour with a very faint print with minimal stitching.  By contrast, the inside will be colourful and bold.

First, I needed to dye some fabric.  I was thinking of a pale-ish dusty aqua colour with printed ammonites in a very similar colour but a shade or tint just a fraction different from the base.  I bought some Dylon cold water dye, mainly because I needed plenty to experiment with and I can buy it in our village, without a lengthy trip to town.  I chose "Ocean Blue", expecting, from the name and the illustration on the packet, that it would be a turquoise blue.  I also mixed up a dye of "Terracotta" to dye some fabric in a complementary colour (to be handy - one dyeing session).  To my surprise, the Ocean Blue was purple!!  I thought, "there's no colour I can add to purple to get turquoise!" but decided to try adding some of the terracotta dye to the dye bath to see if it would turn it into a greyish brown.  To my delight it did exactly that.  I had re-visited Module 2 with one long length of cloth, gathering it up along the shorter side and tying it every 2 inches or so.  This sample turned out particularly well, since the longer time in the blue dye meant the blue seeped through to the inside, so that the finished result had both blue and brown on it.  Once rinsed and dried, the blue was much less purple and so I thought I could use it.

3.9. 18oct.1 The results of my dyeing

3.9.18oct.2  The tie dye sample

On Saturday 18th October, I had the chance to use a printing press since our local art society has the use of one twice a month.  I thought it would be interesting to compare with the printing I'd done at home by hand.  Most of the printing I'd done had been with plates I'd made by cutting ammonite shapes out of Fab Foam and sticking it onto a card backing then marking details with an old ballpoint pen.  I didn't think this plate would be strong enough to stand up to the pressure of the printing press, so first of all this morning I made a lino plate using an A4 sheet of Easy Cut and lino cutting tools.

3.9.18oct.3  The little ammonite printing plate

At first I tried printing with acrylic paint mixed with a retarder gel to try to keep the paint workable for longer and some acrylic fabric painting medium.  The results weren't very good as the paint was too thin and I also found it difficult to get the press set to the right pressure for printing on fabric.  When I tried using normal water based printing ink, the results were much better.

3.9.18oct.4  Prints on paper using the printing press

3.9.18oct.5  Prints on fabric using the printing press

There were some interesting and striking effects, but I decided none of them was what I was looking for. The results were very hard-edged and precise, not the effect I wanted.  An interesting morning however.

At home in the afternoon, I decided to try using the SoftCut plate, but using it as a stamp, printing by hand.  I cut the long tie dyed piece in half along its length so I could try it out and still had the other half if it was a disaster.  It was hard finding somewhere long enough in my tiny cottage so I could lay out the length but I managed it.  I used a very pale blue acrylic paint (Martha Stewart's Craft Multi Surface satin in Sea Lavender).  It gave exactly the effect I wanted, being so subtle that it almost melted into the fabric in places.  

3.9.18oct.6   Printed tie dye piece
3.9.18oct.7  Detail of printed tie dye piece

I like the layered effect of the printed pattern overlaid on the tie dye pattern.  The length is longer than I will need, so I'll have enough fabric to try out what sort of stitching (if any) I want to do on it.  It could be that stitching will add another interesting layer, but it could make it too busy and I want this side to be quiet, to contrast with the inside.

I am enjoying this project, in fact this Module, more than anything else I've done.  Part of the happiness it is giving me is that I have time to spend on it.  I do miss Auntie Dodie, my oldest friend and Godmother, who died in May, aged 99 years, but it is only now that I realise, how caring for her was taking up so much of my time and energy.  I read the other day that "every loss has a small freedom"  - how true.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Certificate Module 3 Chapter 9 A Resolved Sample - Initial Thoughts

For my resolved sample, I wanted to do something other than just a rectangle to hang on the wall.  I played around with a few fabric samples to interpret some of my paper ideas, but then life got in the way with more work to be done to settle my late aunt's estate, a trip to the far north to visit friends in Caithness and a most unpleasant tummy bug which laid me low for almost a fortnight.  To my surprise, I found the idea ready made inside my head - having worked on itself at the back of my mind in the midst of all the busy-ness!

I decided I would like my sample to take the form of a scroll, rolled up and fastened with a hand-made button or toggle and a made cord.  The outside would be fairly subtle, the fabric in a cool aqua colour, printed with ammonite shapes in a slightly different tone of the same colour and with minimum linear stitching.  I like Sian's phrase "fragility of line" which I would aim for here.

3.9.RS1 Initial idea

I looked online to do some more research on ammonites to see if there were any fresh ideas to help me.  I found that the nearest relative to the pre-historic ammonites is the chambered nautilus and I found a copyright free image of one.

3.9.RS2 Chambered Nautilus

I liked the look of the tentacles coming out of the end of the shell and thought a fringe on the bottom of the scroll would be an interesting idea, since once rolled up, it would form a tassel.  This fringe could be formed of machine wrapped cords or beaded.  I didn't want to make too many rigid design decisions at this stage, since I wanted to leave the freedom to take some design decisions during the making process.  To see what it might look like, I rolled up my beadwork sampler and photographed it.

3.9.RS3 possible treatment for fringe

On the inside of the scroll, I would like to make 7 large ammonite shapes, each one having a different treatment, for example beadwork, pure stitch, shadow applique, cut-away applique etc.  Again, the decision could be taken as the work is done.  (The number 7 was chosen simply because it is a number I like and I often find myself designing motifs in sevens.)

I did a few samples to try out various ideas for the inside ammonite shapes.

3.9.RS4 ammonite sample using French knots

3.9.RS5 ammonite sample using free machine embroidery

3.9.RS6 ammonite sample using shadow trapunto
3.9.RS7 ammonite sample using cut-away applique done by machine

3.9.RS8 another ammonite sample using shadow trapunto, this time cutting open bubbles in bubble wrap and stuffing each bubble with thread, fabric beads, paper etc.  I like the idea of replacing one element (air) with another.  It makes me think of how the ammonite could control its buoyancy by emptying or filling the chambers in its shell.

I initially thought of each separate ammonite as being applied as a slip as in historical crewel work embroidery, but then I came across an old, unfinished piece of embroidery I had done where I had cut out circles and moved them around.  This follows the idea of replacing one element with another and also re-visits a technique from Module 1, that of inlay applique.

3.9.RS9 inlay applique
I'm now feeling quite excited about this resolved sample.  I have included several techniques from this module (beadwork, cords, tassels and buttons) as well as re-visiting some from other modules (cut-away applique, inlaid applique) and have used some of the initial qualities of the ammonite which had interested me most (replacing one element with another, fairly plain on the outside, but rich and colourful inside, adapability).  I feel I have enough plans to know what to do next, while still leaving myself enough freedom to take some design decisions during the making of the sample.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Certificate Module 3 Chapter 9 A Resolved Sample - First Steps


When I looked back at my sketchbook, I found that I wasn't particularly inspired by any of my images, except the ammonite.  By chance, just before starting on this chapter, I visited a local jewellery/crystal shop, fittingly called "Treasures".  I found my treasure in the shape of a beautiful little pair of ammonites.  I couldn't resist buying them, justifying the expense by telling myself I needed them for my work!

3.9.1  The ammonites

While shopping I treated myself to a coffee and sat in the cafe looking at my treasures and jotting down ideas inspired by them.

  • Over thousands of years, the original organic matter had been replaced by stone.  This made me think of myths and stories about people being turned to stone, or pillars of salt, or gold.  It gave me the idea of replacing one element by another.
  • The dullness of the outside gave no hint as to how rich and interesting the inside was.  It could be interesting to try to use this somehow in a design.
  • The shop assistant told me that the actual living creature lived just inside the entrance of the shell.  the remaining chambers remained empty, the ammonite being able to fill them with water or air, to adjust its buoyancy.  It made me think of adaptability, changing according to circumstances, another interesting concept to play with.
  • The outside of the shell reminded me of gathered fabric, drawn up more at one side and formed into a spiral.  Mmm, another idea to play with.
  • The shell provided a safe, protected place for the creature.  I find this idea very interesting too.
Well, I definitely had plenty of ideas to be going on with.

To start with, I pulled out some rather dull, uninteresting prints to see if I could develop them into something more interesting.  At the workshop which Alison King gave last week as part of the Aboyne and Deeside festival, she encouraged us to develop our prints in several ways:

  • flood the print with diluted paint.  The thicker paint used in the print, once dry, will resist the diluted paint with interesting results.
  • overprint
  • emphasise one part of the design
  • cut it up and re-assemble it
I tried all of the above ideas.

3.9.2   Cutting up and collaging elements

Once I had finished tearing up some dyed paper to make the red blobs in the image above, I was left with little rectangles of paper, which I found interesting to arrange in a spiral shape.


3.9.4  A rather faint image overprinted and then enhanced by working into it with coloured pencils
3.9.5  Overprinting again - I don't think it has rescued this print

3.9.6   Flooding helped this rather wishy washy print, but not enough so I cut it up and re-assembled it as shown below

3.9.7  cutting up and re-assembling
3.9.8  I had enough pieces left over to make another collage, arranging the pieces in a partial spiral

I scanned a photograph of the ammonite into my computer and played around a little with Photoshop, using reflection by flipping the image both horizontally and vertically, applying filters, and using the magic eraser to distress the image (using the idea of disintegration from Module 1)

3.9.9  The ammonite photo, converted to greyscale, posterised and distressed by erasing portions

3.9.10  The ammonite photo with colour added, arrange in a half-drop pattern on a coloured background.  It looks like little yellow birds against a blue sky.

3.9.11  The original photo coloured in various ways, with the background erased to clear, flipped horizontally and vertically and applied in layers to make a busy pattern.  I'm surprised how much like flowers this looks.

3.9.12   Following a link in a magazine, I tried free photo editing by Pixlr.  It has a fascinating filter "kaleidoscope" which made a very interesting image.  I'll play with it some more when I've time.
I used a print of the distressed outside of the ammonite to make a print block.  I used a piece of easy-cut polymer block.  I drew the ammonite freehand first with a soft pencil then marked with a permanent black marker the areas to keep.  I then cut away the rest with lino cutting tools, checking as I went along by doing a rubbing on thin paper using a graphite stick.  

3.9.13 print block

Once cut, I tried printing with the block, both positive images, printing directly from the block and negative images, by using the block to remove paint from a Gelli-plate.

3.9.14  Negative image with print block used to remove paint from Gelli plate

3.9.15 Positive image, printing directly from the print block
I was using some pale pastel colours and I found some of the prints a bit pale and indistinct and so I tried working into them with watercolour pens and coloured pencils to enhance the image.

I then did several line drawings of the inside of the ammonite, "learning my lines".  I finally did my best drawing in a fine drawing pen. 

3.9.21 (Sorry, numbers out of order, but haven't time to re-caption all of them.)

 I made several photocopies so I could work on it in the future.  I used that drawing to trace onto some Fab Foam to make a print block.  It was quite hard to cut out the little pieces.  I had some card ready as a base and, as I cut out each piece, I stuck it onto the card so I could have both negative and positive images to print from.  

3.9.17 The print blocks, rather interesting in their own right, so I didn't clean off the paint.

3.9.18 A positive print (on top of a faint print which didn't really work but makes an interesting faint background)

3.9.19  A print of the negative spaces.  (The background is the paper left over from some painted Bondaweb.)

3.9.20  Yet another attempt to make this dull print interesting.  Maybe I need to cut it up and re-assemble it!

Finally, I cut some windows in thin card to use to isolate parts of my drawing.  I found that the two shapes that worked best were a circle and the shape obtained by drawing around the ammonite.

3.9.22  Circular compositions

3.9.23  Coloured in

3.9.24  Ammonite-shaped compositions - they look like little paisley motifs.

3.9.25  "Paisley Patterns" coloured in.

I have been completely in heaven these few days working on the first part of this chapter.  I am really in my element here.  I have  enjoyed experimenting and going off in lots of different directions to give myself plenty of material to work with.  I now have to take time to reflect, narrow down my choices and be selective in which images I choose to continue with my resolved sample.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Certificate Module 3, chapter 8 beads



This has been a most enjoyable chapter to work on.  I had never much fancied beadwork and so had never tried it and it was a very pleasant surprise to discover how pleasing it was to sit peacefully stitching away and enjoying the effects.


(Note: I’m sometimes confused by other blogs, but here the caption is below each picture.)



3.8.1 The completed bead sampler


I’ve taken close-up pictures of the various areas, which I’ll post in the order of the suggestions in the instructions.



3.8.2 a compact area of one type of bead sewn on randomly



3.8.3 a compact areas using more than one type of bead


D lightly sprinkled random more than one type of bead

3.8.4 as above but lightly sprinkled


E one kind of bead formed into lines

3.8.5 forming beads into lines



I pattern formed by more than one type of bead

3.8.6 forming lines with more than one type of bead  (I used sequins with a small bead in the centre alternated with the little plastic things you buy from hardware stores for securing wiring to a skirting board.)


G forming a pattern with one type of bead

3.8.7 forming a pattern with one type of bead


H forming a pattern with more than one type of bead

3.8.8a forming a pattern with more than one type of bead


J forming a pattern with more than one type of bead 2 3D spiral

3.8.8b forming a pattern with more than one type of bead


K Threading multiples onto one long stitch

3.8.9 threading multiples onto one long stitch


N beads trapped beneath fabric 1

3.8.10a trapping beads beneath fabric


O beads trapped beneath fabric 2

3.8.10b trapping beads beneath fabric


P beads trapped with stitching 1

3.8.11a beads trapped by stitches (washers secured by buttonhole stitch with small beads added around the edge


Q beads trapped with stitching 2 shisha

3.8.11b traditional shisha – an Indian technique of securing mirrored glass using a special shisha stitch.  Real shisha glass is hard to find now.  It is made from hand blown glass, silvered and then cut into pieces by hand.  (These are the last 3 pieces that I have left after buying some at an Indian embroidery class I went to several decades ago.  I was really surprised at being able to find them after so long!  Maybe I’m not so untidy as I thought!!)


R decorative stitching on top of a line of beads

3.8.12 a line of beads with a decorative stitch on top  (This is out of sequence.  It should be earlier, but Windows Live Writer is behaving itself today and I don’t want to risk spoiling it by changing things!!


S beads as edging bottom fringe

3.8.13a beads as edging – bottom edge


T beads as edging left hand edge

3.8.13b beads as edging – left hand edge


U  beads as edging right hand edge

3.8.13c beads as edging – right hand edge


V beads as edging top edge

3.8.13d beads as edging – top edge