Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Embroidery Hoop Art - Phase 2 ("Oh we do like to be beside the Seaside!")

Back in November I joined my sister-in-law C for a day out drooling over the loveliness of everything at the "Country Living Christmas Fair". Whilst there I discovered the wonderful work of Poppy Treffy.  She specialises in free machine applique to produce pictures and to decorate everyday things with a wonderfully whimsical, summery feel mainly inspired by her Cornwall home.  I could have bought the whole shop had funds permitted but I contented myself with buying her book (which I will NOT lend anyone because she signed it for me!)

"Free and Easy Stitch Style" by Poppy Treffy
I loved her style and was torn with indecision between itching to have a go at free machine work and being terrified that I would muck it up.  I find that "free and easy" are not two words that usually apply to my work, much to my sorrow!

Ed (long suffering husband) and I love a seaside town called Southwold, near where his family home is in Suffolk.  It is a wonderful place, very like somewhere out of a Miss Marple mystery with a pier, promenade of beach huts for hire and Lighthouse right in the middle of town.  We have spent many happy days there wandering around and playing with the children on the beach, (I have even been in swimming there, Brrrrr!).  So I decided that an idealised version of the  sea front would make a perfect image to go in our gallery of hoop art and that the free machine applique would be the perfect style to do it in.  That was the easy bit!

I spent ages with my notebook drawing circles and trying to sketch a suitably emblematic scene of Southwold to put in my picture but I wasn't happy with any of them, they were too "tight" and rigid.  Then, at the end of the day, at work I picked up a ball point pen and scribbled on a bit of scrap paper in five minutes.  Unbelievably (and typically!) I had my image!

I used the hoop I wanted it to go in as a template and then drew out the design more heavily onto tracing paper in pencil.

I then invested in a transfer pencil and traced the design on the back of the drawing.  That bit was a pain in the posterior I can tell you.  The pencil I bought crumbled as soon as I put it to paper and kept crumbling every time.  I got a sharpener and I stuck with it but it took over half of my brand new pencil to even get some semblance of lines on the page, and they weren't that clear.  I stuck with it and then set up the iron to iron it onto the linen background I'd chosen to use.  That bit was easy enough but the results weren't great.  I got just barely visible lines that involved a lot of guess work.  I think I would definitely look for another way if I was to do it again.

Rather than  use the transfer pencil again I scanned my original picture and cut out sections of it to use as patterns whilst cutting the scraps of fabric for applique.  This was a bit fiddly but I wasn't sure what else I could do!

I chose and cut the scraps from my basket to size and then used "Heat and Bond: Lite" to bond each piece to the backing so that I could attempt free machining for the first time without have to worry about the fabric moving around.

The I took the foot off of my machine, dropped the feed dogs, threaded up a navy blue top thread (I thought black would be too harsh but I wanted a dark outline that would show up) and a yellow bottom thread (a la Poppy's advice for a unique look).  I took a deep breath and took the plunge in outlining stuff.

The outlining didn't go too badly so I tried a little bit of shading on the windows,

Then I tried a adding a few embellishments like the light beams and a seagull or two;

Finally, to finish off I edged the edge of the fabric to stop it fraying and put it in the hoop to test it out (yes, I know I still need to paint the hoop but it was raining hard all day today and I didn't fancy getting soaked whilst trying to find the right colour paint in out detached garage!)

I have to say that I really love it.  It's not perfect, the stitch tension is dodgy and the back is far from neat (hence no photos of that!) but I may just be addicted to free machining! Watch this space.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Russian Dolls and fallow spots

The last couple of weeks have been a bit....fallow really.  I have had loads of projects started but none at the point of being finished and no "aha!" moments for new ones. In short I haven't had a lot to talk about!

This left me feeling a bit disatisfied with my lot and desperate for something to move in the right direction.

Finally this week something clicked and things started moving forward again.  Funnily enough it was all down to me being a bit of a miser!

Over the last eighteen months I have collected loads of business cards, postcards and contact details from suppliers of various art and craft supplies that I want to keep for future reference (like when I make my first million maybe?)  Too lazy to write or type the details into something I wanted to glue the cards straight into a book.  So I looked around for a book and all the cute ones were £10.00 or more which I wasn't prepared to pay.  Hunting around at home for something to substitute I found a project book that I had bought to house my endless "To Do" lists whilst still teaching and never used.  It had dividers, it had a spiral binding and it was REALLY ugly!

So out came the felt and the cotton perle thread and off I went.   I measured around the outside of the cover with it shut so that I got the longest distance of felt that I would need with the book closed.  I then used fabric glue to glue a strip of felt inside the area where the spiral bound spine would go so that it wouldn't poke through the stretched felt.

I glued the edges of the inner sleeves into place and then stitched around in blanket stitch (which I really love) with cotton perle.  I think than cotton perle stands out more than stranded cotton and I find it easier to stitch with when using the full thickness of the thread.

During this time I had a bit of inspiration.  I know that Russian dolls are currently very trendy but I have always loved them and collect them so I figured why not put one on the front of my contact book?  I added a little stitched embellishment (I learnt those stitches in Primary School and was honestly amazed that I could still remember how to do them!)  I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Anyway, that seems to have restored some of my mojo (laughs sarcastically) because I have come up with a template for something new, original and exciting (well, at least to me) for my ongoing embroidery hoop gallery.  Here's a sneak peek...