my hand stitching obsession

Lately, much of my work on various pieces in progress has been hand stitching. Big stitches, little stitches. Attaching stitches, enhancing stitches. Contrasting stitches, blending stitches. Heavy thread, skinny thread.

I don't know why. Except that, at least right now, it's the only way to get the look I want.

When I discovered free motion machine stitching, I leapt to it whole-heartedly. Anything to make my visions become reality faster. The stitching was one of my least favorite parts of the process, and this got me through it with minimum effort (discounting the sore shoulders from hunching over my machine)(I know, posture, posture).

But I started noticing that every one of my pieces was heavily stitched, and flattened by that stitching. And so are a lot of other people's pieces in the art quilt/fiber art world. I like the look, but I also grew tired of it.

And once I start machine quilting a piece, I can't stop with big open spaces. I just don't like the look when the little, regular, solid stitches march across my piece here and there.

Hand stitching celebrates the sense of depth resulting from using a layer of batting in the first place. I can be random with my stitches, imperfect with them, space them widely in some spots and narrowly in others. I feel like I have more control.

And hand stitching becomes more meditative. I do it sitting down at my cutting table (partly because I hate to baste), with my piece spread out before me. Today I stitched a small circle of silk to a piece with contrasting thread, going around and around to get the stitch density right. It felt right and good.

I still use my machine for other parts of the process, but for right now, look for me with a needle in my hand.


what to do, what to do

Once again, my reach exceeds my grasp. I know what I want to do, I can't decide how to do it. Maybe the problem is I don't know the minutiae of what I want to do, just the general outline. Maybe I am too enamored of this particular piece of fabric to just dive in and not worry about the consequences. Maybe there are too many choices. Maybe none of the choices I have tried are the right one. Maybe I'm just dithering for the sake of dithering.

The problem:
I want to use a piece of hand dyed cheesecloth (great texture, some change of feel in the piece when it's there) in front of a piece of disperse transfer dyed polyester. My choices:

1. Sew it on somehow:

b. (Yep, I know I started out numbering--I'm a CarTalk groupie). Use wonder under, of which I have a bunch. Used a piece of parchment paper thanks to a comment on my previous post:

3. Use black misty fuse, of which I don't have very much, again with parchment paper:

This time the problem isn't extra shininess as much as it is you can just see the excess webbing in the spaces between threads of the cheesecloth. The black is definitely better in that the parts of the webbing you see look like black lines, maybe intentional lines. But there are still places that you can see glints on the edges of the threads.

But the stitched parts leave me a little meh, too. There the cheesecloth becomes more of the center of attention than just a part of a unified whole. The version of stitching I like best is done with machine thread but hand stitched--but I wonder if, over time, the parts between the lines of stitching would sag and call attention to themselves.

So, what to do, what to do. I have to consider that my reluctance to jump into any of these alternatives is my inner voice saying 'whoa, none of these is what you want'. But it could just be I'm stuck in dither world.


making lemonade...I hope

I quilted the last piece of the big dye. It seemed kind of meh. I discharged some barbed wire on it, that helped a little. I decided I wanted birds sitting on the wires, but kind of ghostly birds, more the idea of birds. So I cut some bird shapes out of black Misty Fuse and fused them on:

Kind of what I was looking for, but I disliked the sheen of the fusible--maybe at that point I should have tried to just remove the fusing. I didn't. I just kept plowing on down the row:

Fusible web, meet fake metal foil. In one way I liked them, but they were kind of gaudy. Bold, distracting, shiny. Move on to black paint to dull the surface:

That black line along the left isn't a shadow. It's where the paint bled out onto the surface. Oops.

Next came a pause of a couple of days coming up with other options. One of them, which seems to have won the day, is this:

Don't like it? Cut it out, finish the edges. Actually, this is an improvement. But if I leave it an open space, I'm dependent upon the color of the wall the piece is hanging on. Not a good option. So I added some black scrim:

Nice. But why stop there (btw, my inner voice seems to be strangely silent these days; perhaps she's still on vacation), keep on digging into the hole. I put Paper Solvy behind the hole, and started stitching away with various threads:

I've now removed the paper, and the piece is still wet so it doesn't photograph well. But I think it might work. Still have 6 other birds to do if I go for it, but at the moment I have no idea where this piece is going.

I still retain one of my other options, cutting into several smaller pieces...


too much snow...

Snow dyeing seems to be the current rage, at least among certain online circles. I was ahead of the curve, trying it last winter, dabbling a little this year. But I'm kind of over it.

And I've been trying to figure out why. My current thinking is that while I like the results, the pieces of cloth that result are fairly complete in and of themselves--I'm not always sure how I can improve them. Stitch them, sure. Cut them up and sew them back together, not so easy.

And there's the fact that much of what happens in the snow dyeing process to produce such attractive cloth is an accident. A happy one, to be sure, but out of the artist's control. Her hand is in it with the color choices and fabric arrangement, but it's mostly happenstance.

Watercolorists take advantage of these happy accidents gladly. I embrace them when I can. But to have the main focus of a piece be the result of serendipity, I just. Can't. Go. There.

So even though there's plenty of snow to be had out my back door, I'm leaving it be this year. I still have hopes of using the pieces I've already made, and the technique is one I'll keep in my repository of techniques. Just not now.