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Middleton Wolds

 

The Wolds.

Chalk upland. Mix of arable and pasture, characterised by steep, dry valleys, scattered with small, isolated villages.

Never told me about the nosey cows.  The wind.  Wild flowers and small, high speed, unidentified squeaky things.

What was a little walk became 8 miles and took forever! Loved it.

I have been struggling with a piece over the last few weeks  based on this landscape, still trying to redefine how I work and use colour  for these very different hills.

Trouble is I have got so used to the Moors and Dales, the sparse often gnarly hills, the subdued colour, the spaces.  I saw these hills in bright flat sunshine, there was no depth in the shadows,  I was half way up one side of a tight dry valley, couldn’t see the bottom and even the tops were rolling away from me.  I sat for ages just soaking it up until I stopped looking analytically and just absorbed. It became patterns,  the linear qualities dissolved. The movement of the wind through the barley on the hill tops became more important than the shape of the trees. It waved and rippled and then broke into squares and diamonds and back again.  The light was so unforgiving that the barley shone as brightly as the sky and the whole sparkled with reflected colour.

In this piece I set up a flat perspective, tried creating definition and depth with blocks of fabric before stitching. The grand stitching plan was little  down to lots, again trying to push the tops away and bring out the foreground with denser stitch patterns . And again with the colour – lighter and subtle  down to brighter,  mixed and contrasting. Having made friends with purple, now it may be time to work on orange.

It all made sense but it was the result was flat and as unexciting as an elderly Jaffa cake ( found some in the cupboard – very disappointing). Too safe and too considered, where was the personal narrative, the fun, the unexpected elements?

Since finishing (1st time) the piece has been attacked with the demon tweezers, the horizon has been broken up, sections of land turned into sky and the land pattern quilted up into the sky  trying to blur that boundary.  The diagonal of the path up the face of the hill was too strong,  a lot of fabric has been pulled out  and re coloured to soften that. The trees are upside down, colour stitched onto roughly dyed green fabric, spot the orange. Rather than tone the stitch patterns show the differences in the hedgerow. The darkest tone was a deep blue/green put on the second bank of trees and worked as a single colour.   The foreground is stitched vertically with small inclusions to break it up.middleton wolds nearly done

Since finishing (2nd time)  This has been festering, on the wall, under the table, at work, in a bag. Working in perspective lines would have been so easy, but so predictable, so safe.  So…. demon tweezers – the rematch,  soften the horizon even more. Draw the attention away – bright yellow stalks crossing foreground/middle ground boundary, contrast detail colour shouting  about that same boundary – red on green was the loudest option.  P1170439

Has it worked? Does the  piece have more life? Does the simplistic composition give rather than take? Has the colour and pattern compensated  for the narrower tonal range? Do I want to make the trees to the right more distinct- or is that old thinking?

middleton wolds machine embroidery

And this is now finish 3. This has been difficult, but happier now. Not entirely convinced still…..   time to move on.

Okay may be give it a day before the really official declaration of Finishedness.

Don’t forget – Summer Salon exhibition in Knaresborough from next weekend and there opportunities still available this month to come and join a Stitchy Day  workshop.

Lustre Saga Concludes.

Short version –  not sure.

Longer version – umm

Not even sure I got that the right way round.freehnd machine work

Test piece –  not complete but enough done to show –  The shadows are polyester and cotton threads. There is a depth and richness to The canopy I under sewed in yellow to lift the finer thread but this  area and grass are mostly  40wt rayons over silk fabrics. . Do  you notice the difference?  Annoyed at the grass – but will show on a close up.

 

 

sunlight garden test detaill 1

Spot the bright green to the left of the tree trunk? That colour is all the way through the grass area. In the horizontal it just does not show!  This could a major pain – I rely on directional stitching to give definition and form. These horizontal rows  I did with the normal machine settings – and it did not like it. The top tension ended up looser than when I drop the feed dogs, actually had to re-tighten for scribbling in the grass at the base of the trunk. You can see tiny pinpricks of dark across all the grass, that is the bobbinfil pulled up from below. Nice visual texture – would have preferred to plan it.detail from test piece

The canopy to the shadow is a better contrast, although the shiniest bits are the fibres from the  silk  scraps underneath!  Does work well against the 30wt variegated cotton used on the trunk.

General conclusion – not life changing but nice enough.  Will I buy more?  As a treat, and use as a top dressing over other threads/textures. Still haven’t forgiven them for the incredible vanishing colour trick.   “Why don’t you just turn it round?” said an ex-friend –  if  my lawn was vertical there would be even less chance of me mowing it!

Life beyond The Lustre Saga has continued –  These are happy few about to be launched upon the unsuspecting world next week in Knaresborough. All just about this year’s vintage-  the dancing trees is a revision with violence , but I see a shift towards colour and  now pattern is happening.  Not exactly subtle.  I blame purple.P1170426

Also check out the website  if you fancy owning a piece of this insanity – I have just put a load  ( 5 or 6!) of samples and small  test bits on the sales page.

Lustres

Well I have used the Wonderfil, and I have not used Wonderfil. Was there a real difference? Did the work suddenly shine seductively in the afternoon sunlight? Was the work enhanced?

 

June BarleyI took a selection to an art event at Sledmere House on Sunday, set it all out and waited. And waited. And waited. Lots of very flattering  comments, ego definitely swelled, lots of interest, some very knowledgeable visitors and plenty of enthusiasm.  But no one  rushed impetuously across the room crying ” ooooh what a lovely lustre! ”

Folk wanted to  understand how the images were  built, and insisted on telling me how long they must have taken, but most common was are they really stitched? Not actually asked  why? but…..

So  either they were so well used and integrated that they looked so right that comment was not necessary, or, they had sunk without trace.  I am finding this difficult to judge. I am still finding the degree of lustre stops me seeing the colours with clarity. See what I mean? thread painting lustreThis should be zinging with acidy greens, yellows, pale purple.  Spot the difference between this and the mostly cotton threads on this one-Moor Path thread painting I think I will have to find a different approach to using these threads.  Umm.

At the moment I am thinking of them as an indulgence, and a greedy one . I need them to be in the spool box, potential and limitations understood, waiting to be used.

So thought shift – how about this as a start point?  As part of the sunlight in the garden series? Use them for the light, contrast against the deeper colours of the matt threads working the shadows. Probably need a warm, strong ground colour to lift them. Oh er, that could be this week sorted then!

ouch

New Toys!

More like tools than toys really.  The choices of thread colour, thickness and quality are a major part of the vocabulary I use to build an image.

In the last creative spurt I have cleaned out a lot of thread, especially the nice, useful, basic colours and some of the fancies. I decided it was splurge time so went for a coordinated set to try out with….  I have not dealt with this brand before, nor have I seen it in my usual suppliers but was feeling brave, so,  thanks to the magic of the internet, these new babies came knocking, courtesy of Wonderfil ( and Mr Paypal).

First impressions – ooooh.  Shiny. Thin. Pretty. Want to stroke them……P1170407

The main local competition is Sulky/Gutermann Rayon ( can buy from local shops((big tick)) or Madeira Rayon, outlet in Ripon (20 odd miles away, boo) or online.  All claim to be 40wt and Rayon, and all want me to use them for machine embroidery.

dancing detail 3

The blue/green is Sulky, the green across it is W’fil. Spot the difference.

 

Visually the Wonderfil looks finer and with a less noticeable twist. The colours and lustre are soft, less strident than the remnants of Sulky and Madeira that I have left. Worked out to about £1.40 per 100m, but the really big question is how would the machine take to it? How would it sew? becomes expensive if it is not used.

dancing detail

The white is Madeira, the others are cotton or polyester. The pale olive is W’fil.

 

The new-ish machine (Probably Malcolm) has been getting a crash course in don’t be fussy and shut up and get on with it approaches to stitching and is bearing up very well under the onslaught. Swapped the new stuff in, threaded it and stitched, no adjustments, no frills or favour. Sewed brilliantly. Considering it was Moon thread on the bobbin it took to the machine very well. I have had trouble with the Madeira 30wt  fraying on the needle in the past ( should really buy specialist needles but….)  but while this looked and felt just as soft, it has behaved with perfect manners. Even switched to bobbinfil without any hassles. This is my kind of sewing. Plug it in and go, no temperament, no fiddle.  The piece was a reworking of the Dancing Trees, so multiple rough, uneven layers of fabric, enough to test the stitch consistency of any set up.

dancing new season

See how the delicate lines merge in?

 

Concerns – It does sew very fine – I guess the 150ms won’t cover a huge amount of ground.  The sheen can be a distraction, the colour doesn’t work in the same way as a matt thread would and tends to show up  much lighter and not as rich in tone when in a rugby scrum of a mix. I do like it though and will certainly make use of the set. May be I should take a look at the rest of the threads Wonderfil do –  something a little thicker for the bigger pieces perhaps.

Does any one else use these?  Or any thing else?

My upcoming dates – 23rd July at Art@HomeFarm, Sledmere House, Yorkshire.

Summer Salon – August,  Feva Festival, Knaresborough.

Great North Art Show- September, Ripon Cathedral.

The Silver Birch fights back!

first sketch for the new silver birch embroideryJoy! From this to this!

I don’t feel any responsibility for it now. It can stand on its own and fight its own battles.hanging birch

 

Ok, so it may not be totally finished, as in finished, but I have been cutting those creative apron strings. In cycling terms it is off the stabilisers  and is pedalling away.

The last few stages are always the worst – there is more to lose with each decision,  but it is now in the last fester stage  of blocking, stretching and framing and the occasional tweak. One of the very worst is sorting the backing fabric – this stayed determinedly bright white so an attack of tea and dye took place!(Yep, an English Summer – outside in the rain) This can affect how the colours work against each other, I’d been judging and building against a white ground – and now it isn’t…….

 

7.30 this morning – want to get this done.

9/10s early there. Still WIP.

9/10s

Things to consider – the “white” trunk. Too short, too white (it is pale blue and grey, but it was a rayon thread so shows up cleaner and brighter than the matt finishes around it). Have already extended the trunk into the canopy but more required upwards and downwards.  Did too many height extensions on the tree – looks like Mr Whippy (soft icecream  before you get too excited) .  Not sure how it starts and finishes – I had wanted to leave the margins emptier and build the complexity toward the centre, just plain got carried away. Do I deconstruct or leave – do the margins look   deliberate or not? Asking the question is enough of a warning.

And so this it….. at the moment, perched in the garden while I have breakfast…..

nearly there......current final birch

And sorted.  single line suggestions for the cow parsley foliage, more density on their heads, grew the tree trunk, added more rayon to the tree top and attacked the ground line with the dread tweezers.

Hmmm.

Now the path looks stilted and “neat”. Tree looks like taking off,  cow parsley leaves have disappeared.

It will look different depending on the light. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  May never win.

How about reducing the size? or switching to larger stretcher? or just having some more toast….

It is much denser than last year’s work, why?  There is much more  of the worked textures but without that cavalier attitude to colour – is it less or is it just refined and redirected?  This feels heavy?  heavy can be fine, lunpen or clumsy is not. Is this just because it was later in the day and also later in the year? I do find mid summer woods oppressive.

More fester required!

The new Silver Birch

hThis is sat stillish at the moment – sorting out the nature of the background. Will prob go with the washed blue uneven dyed with texture.  The sample piece was the scrap used to wipe the surfaces clean after post-microwave ( oh it’s hot!!!!) minor spillage.  So currently diluting and re-dying with a touch more sky blue in the mix. And remembering that PING means hot. This has been quick to come together and simple to do, but of course I didn’t really enjoy it. It became mechanical, and the physical separation of the layers meant less experimentation and arguing with colours. A little tweaking and balancing was possible after washing out and more will happen as it is compiled but if too much is added then what was the point of the separate layers?

In the interim this has been happening – imaginatively known as The New Silver Birch for the moment.    Early progress was quick, now working harder but  progress is only at breakneck tortoise pace. At the really slow and annoyingly intense stage – will be at this for a few more days yet.

Quick sketches- just to get started with – intend to keep returning to refresh the ideas each time gathering more and specific info. Unless it rains.

First layers – rich blue base colour and first stitch and fray to establish the central tree. Then building up the trees to the left, patterned silk for the lower and then mix of sheer and tufty silk pieces for the foliage. The pics show it as the fabric layers are built on.

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When I woke this morning the stitchy fairies had not arrived, so had to stitch again today. Below is today’s effort – working on the left section, fraying and stitching, and then beginning the foreground.

A good idea, looks good, but so time consuming. There is a coloured base then  thin silk which is loosely stitched, and then the bulk of the silk is pulled away.( Repeat. Sore fingers from some serious tweezering.)  Love the ghost patterns and textures but the surface is very soft so a lot of sewing to moan about is required.  At least now I can get a feel for the whole composition, it will continue to change as stronger colours are added and shapes and textures defined – maybe another week? Month. Lifetime?

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Close ups of the stitching,  just because,- crude, long, mostly straight. Just getting the fabrics and composition sorted ready for the finer top working.

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Will be putting July and August Workshops on the Me page here and on the facebook page in the next week. Only planning a few over the Summer, so…..

 

Back to the Woods

Weellll…..    the new creative burst began with an encounter with curious bullocks, dragonflies, two hares and a crazed cyclist ( his lycra must have been too tight).

At this time of year I like being up and doing early. I think my neighbour would object to sewing machines  before 6 am so I am going out sketching instead- just collecting ideas and options, (this did lead to the bullock encounter). P1060814

This morning was in the local woods and it was the little places, the ordinary ones that caught my imagination.  This was a simple view at the edge of the wood, the sun catching the birch tree on the fringe and it was glowing with light seen through the trunks and delicate foliage of the wood proper. A very quiet beauty. No great drama of composition or texture, or even colour, but…..  The sketch is crude and under developed but that view and idea was the one I thought about on the way home.

It is now beginning in stitch. To be honest it is at the questioning phase, so looks like nothing. Hopefully the questions will lead to answers and the whole may be resolved but it will take time.

P1060806Layer 1 the birch – worked on water soluble fabric.  When washed away the black lines  should also go leaving a lacy  web.  I quite fancy manipulating this to create differing densities and concentrations of colour and textures, so the overall shape may change. And it may need some blue for shadows. And….

 

 

 

 

Layer 2 – mid ground – tree trunks. The purple pen is air erasable so should have faded by morning. Used a heavier thread, and for the top set of branches worked over crewel wool to give it more body.

And then decided to add on foliage. This was delicate and almost silhouetted, so the first pass was a dark teal stitched in a stop start pattern. Added in purple for more density, then dark red for dark contrast, bright jade for light and a mid blue to fill in the holes. So the planned 3hrs sewing turned into 5. (Sorry hedge, may be we will get together with the trimmers tomorrow) And this is how is staying for the moment. At least until  tomorrow morning.P1060812

Questions –  What will happen when the fabric is washed out.   I am imagining adding a stitched layer to each of the floating layers as they are fixed down, or perhaps not. It will depend on how they wash out.   Also may need to add more colour  in each layer – again won’t know until the soluble is washed out.  Is there enough for the idea to work?  It may get washed out and then put straight back on another piece for more content to be added.

Do I put it on  a neutral background? or a colour or a worked ground? Or none at all?

And the foreground – how much/ how little? Inclination is to go very dark for strong contrast, but……   I don’t even know if the composition is going to work – will it have that little bit of magic that I saw?

Oh well. I will find out tomorrow, you may have to wait until next week.