Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February challenge progress

I bandied about several approaches to working with June's painting, but try as I did to break from the landscape image, I ended up right back with my photo-manipulated landscapey designs. Above you see the one I chose (printed in grey scale at full size) along with the fabric I chose for the "sky." I wanted to render the rays with thread painting, and since I planned to do this with the feed dogs up, I reasoned that starching the fabric and pinning it to a starched piece of muslin would be sufficient stabilization.

Here I'm auditioning fabrics that might go in the lower portion as well as threads for the rays. If you click on the picture, you might be able to make out the soapstone markings to guide my stitching.

I used just three colors of thread for my rays - the pink is an Oliver Twist hand-dyed cotton; the other two are King Tut variegated cotton thread. As you can see, I was wrong about the starching and muslin foundation being enough stabilization.
In retrospect, I'm not sure why I thought it would be. I only know that I didn't want to back this with a heavy interfacing as has become my habit, or use a tearaway or water soluble stabilizer. There's quite a bit of distortion and pulling up that I was unable to press out, even with steam. But I still think it is salvageable.

Time to move on to the lower portion. I'm trying a collage approach (or at least, that's how I'm thinking of it) to avoid using fusible web. To get the shapes, I'm using a take-off on a Suzanne Marshall applique method she dubs "takeaway applique." Your pattern is traced or printed onto ordinary paper and one section cut out. Trace around the paper section-turned-template placed on the appropriate fabric and cut out. By placing the uncut portion of the pattern into place, it is easy to position the applique shape by lining it up in the place where the pattern was "taken away." Hope that made some sense - it's really a handy lining up method.

The rust fabric is my base but in the center of my design there's a different color. Here you see that I've cut a rectangle of that different fabric and positioned the applique shapes on it so that I can deal with this as a separate unit. I stitched along the inner curve of the applique with invisible thread, then trimmed away the plum batik close to the stitching. I have to admit that I'm struggling with this color palette, at least as it was presented in the photo manipulation. and may or may not be represented in my fabric stash. I kept wanting to tend toward more peachy tones and had to remind myself that I didn't have to stay true to the printout. I knew I needed to darken the value of the side triangles and it was on the third time through my stash that this plum batik emerged as a possibility. There's hints of it in the rust batik. I think I need to incorporate some of the darker purple (on the right) with it to get the right balance. It actually looks like it works much better in real life than the way the camera presents it.

But first, it's time to finish up the bottom portion. Once my center unit was prepared, I decided to break from my careful positioning of the other pieces and work from the center out. Plus I decided I liked the back side of the rust batik better. Using my original printout as a visual guide, I eyeballed the placements and pinned them down. I'd intended to use a straight stitch in invisible thread along the raw edges, but opted for a narrow zigzag instead. Had all my fabrics been the tightly woven batiks, the straight stitch would have been ok, but the browns are a looser weave and I could see fraying was going to be a problem. Yes, one minute I can loosen up, the next I'm back to my normal up-tightness. Once everything was stitched down, I could cut away the excess base batik on the upper left and right.

Enough for today. This has been much more work than I'd anticipated. My brain doesn't seem to be on board with this project and I'm thinking hard when confronted with fabric and technique choices. It is not flowing, it is not going quickly, and at each step I see more that will have to be done or resolved in order for this to be effective and really work. I hope I can get there.

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