As well as renovating the house we're also putting our stamp on the garden. Having been here for a few months now we're starting to get a feel for it and for the changes we want to make. There are lots of trees and as they've grown over the years some have begun to cramp others. I don't much like pine trees either so this one was top of the list for the chop. Now it's gone the space has opened up beautifully and the bonus is we have a pile of logs that should keep us going for quite a while once they've seasoned.
Surveying the task in hand...
Making a start...
All in all, excellent entertainment, especially if you're 18 months old.
Linda and I had a fun afternoon at the SVP headquarters, the home of Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff sewing machines. Talk about kids in a sweet shop! We'd been invited to take a look at their new machines in particular to put the new Pfaff Powerquilter 16 through it's paces.
It's a longarm type machine which you can see comes mounted into it's own table. There's the option of stitch regulation if you want it, although we prefer non-regulated, I suppose because that's what we've always been used to with our Gammill. It's got a double capacity bobbin which is a great timesaver and it whizzes away with 1500 stitches per minute! I'm not sure I could keep up, but it's easy to slow the motor down and go at your own pace too.
If you'd like to come and see it in action we'll have one on our stand at Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch at the NEC later this month where I'll be demonstrating freehand quilting. In the meantime you can find out more on the Pfaff website.
I promised work and here it is. This is a small piece from a series of new things I'm working on. There are charcoal drawings, digital drawing (iPad), digital prints, hand prints, collage etc. This one is a digital print of an iPad drawing onto cotton with a very simple hand print technique worked on top to add the spots. I'm stitching it now by hand.
There seems to be quite a vogue at the moment for a lot of very complex layered printing with motif on top of motif, colour on top of colour. Seems to me that it's a bit like being in a room with a load of people and everyone's shouting over each other to be heard. I'm more in favour of the school of simplicity where every element is allowed to take it's turn and some only need to whisper rather than to yell.
I haven't decided yet on how I'll finish the edges of this piece. But as it's small I will probably surface mount it and frame it and so might leave the edges trimmed just as they are. I got my Don't Go quilt back from a US quilt show last week. On the judge's comments it was noted that "corner of mitred binding should be sewn shut". Good grief.
Judging by the naff displays in all the card shop windows this morning, Mother's Day must be soon. I'd much rather receive what I was given today wouldn't you?
It is at least an improvement on the muddy clump of moss I was presented with yesterday and the worm the previous day. As you can tell by the state of our windowsill, the new house is something of a renovation project. It's the third one we've done in a row and in many ways, much more straightforward than some, but made massively daunting by the thought that this is 'the one', the house we might stay in for a while at least. Now the decisions are more important to be right and there's little time for research, browsing showrooms and reading brochures. I've made snap decisions on bathroom fittings and just hope that they'll be gorgeous once fitted rather than an expensive mistake! While progress on my work is slow I can at least report that renovations are moving along. The upstairs is re-wired and we have nice new ceiling lighting and provision for some wall lights that I plan to make. (Grand ideas but nothing done about it yet!). And the loft is now knee-deep in lovely cosy sheep wool insulation. That should put pay to any cold weather for the foreseeable, that and the snow boots I've bought for Amelie.
Thanks for dropping by, more work next time I promise!
We're enjoying discovering the first colour in our new garden. Well the first colour if you don't count grey, brown and green! The grass is scattered with bulbs. Crocus and snowdrops are the first to show themselves, but what looks like daffodils, maybe scilla, and others that I have no idea about are following thick and fast.
I added to my tree photo collection with these. Not taken in the garden this time, but at a nearby arboretum.
I had a good day in the studio yesterday, catching up with the more mundane tasks of cutting print samples and organising this week's printing schedule, but also moving some work on to the next stage. It's obviously tempting with digital print to let the print do all the work, but I like to keep a balance between the digital and manual layering of processes.
I had printed large scale photos of orchids to cotton poplin. I'd not erased out any of the background in Photoshop beforehand knowing that I'd want to get rid of it more creatively. The previous piece in this series got the gold leaf treatment and I gilded the entire background. This time I'm painting it out using white paint.
It's not particularly opaque unless several coats are applied, but I quite like the brush mark quality which contrasts nicely with the print.
Back in the summer I ran a couple of workshops, one of which looked at how designs can be developed using collage techniques for digital printing. I had a lovely group of students join me and they painted, printed, cut and collaged all day to create collections of designs on paper that we then digitally printed to cotton fabric back here at Fingerprint. The fabrics were then posted out to the students and that was the last I've seen of some, but I'm always delighted when I get a chance to follow up and see how the fabrics have been used.
Elizabeth used her printed fabrics for cushions which she's machine quilted. Aren't they just a riot of colour and pattern?
This week Judy Fairless sent me images of the two quilts that she's completed both using Fingerprint digitally printed fabric. These are both wholecloth, the first was a collage design using Judy's gorgeous painted papers and the second a photograph that she'd altered.
Both quilts will be on display as part of 'Connection' a new exhibition by Cwilt Cymru at the Needle Museum in Redditch from 11th February to 9th March.
I just spotted the binding on the quilts - it works a treat don't you think?
What if I print the iPad drawings to fabric? This was just a quick experiment to see how drawings done on the iPad would translate to digital prints on fabric, to see if the quality was there, the marks translated, the tone was deep.
I think they've turned out quite well. I printed the landscapes at two different sizes, one quite small and then the other much larger to see how much enlargement it could take. Maybe it's because of the sketchy quality of the drawing, but the enlargements worked well.
The poppy's going on one side for another time, the landscape's have been layered up with wadding and backing, and added to the pile that awaits the arrival of the quilting fairies. They are coming aren't they? I hope so.
Another day, another iPad drawing. The beauty of working with the iPad is that you can do a 'charcoal' drawing late at night on the sofa without making a mess!
I saw in the comments the question about which app. I'm experimenting with a few including Brushes and Artrage and they all seem to have something to commend them so I guess the answer is just to try out a couple and see which suits you best.
I've been experimenting with drawing - charcoal and digital. The one above is the traditional charcoal on paper. The one below a digital drawing on iPad. I think it's easy to tell which is which but it's interesting to compare. Both took about 10 minutes but I'm still getting to grips with the iPad app so it's not quite as intuitive yet as having a stick of burnt wood in your hand. Loads of potential though. I think I have a new addiction.
The studio will undergo major renovations before I can even think about the possibility of running workshops there, but for now we're starting with a few simple jobs. The first was to smash out carefully remove the existing fireplace. There's no way we want an open fire in the studio, we'd never light it and it was taking up valuable space.
So after a few minutes with a hammer and a dustpan and brush we were left with this lovely empty space.
Space needed for this!
A late night purchase on eBay which I'm really excited about. It's an original set of haberdashery or drapers drawers.
They must have come from a sports shop!
Luckily I had help to give them the once over with a duster.
And now I can enjoy the task of folding all our Fingerprint fabrics and arranging them in the drawers. At last we'll have a system!
Of course there's never just one way to tackle the quilting of any quilt. Here's a bit of info about how I approached 'I'll be Waiting'.
It's a digital print on cotton, wholecloth, no piecing, no appliqué, everything you see is part of the print. The artwork was put together in Photoshop, but more about that another time.
It's backed with cotton fabric and the wadding is cotton/polyester blend. The whole thing is quilted freehand on a Gammill longarm, but it's just the same technique as free motion quilting on a regular sewing machine.
I took a few photos as I worked:
Above: Here's the fabric being printed. The grey blur is the printhead whizzing side to side. After the printing the fabric is steamed, rinsed, washed and pressed.
If I hadn't been working on a longarm I would have begun by quilting the face which not only happens to be near the centre of the work (it's usually a good idea to work from the middle out), but I reckon the success of the quilt probably hinges on the face. If I bodged the face then no amount of nice background quilting would have saved it.
But, working on a longarm dictates quilting from top to bottom so I began with the sky and hedge. These hedgy spikes were originally drawn with charcoal on paper, don't you just love how authentically the digital print captures that? Rather than outlining the spikes I've quilted the background up to them. This area of fabric is white and I've used a soft white thread to make the stitching almost disappear. The quilting here is closely worked back and forth to have the effect of flattening the background to the point that the spikes look as though they might be trapunto.
Moving down the quilt the next area is the cage section which is filled with small birds. These have a discreet peachy colour and again instead of outlining, I've quilted the background voiding them. This angular vermicelli quilting is closely spaced - look at how much fullness there is in the area still to do. It just goes to show how lots of quilting shrinks a piece!
The next stage was to do the hair. Quite a quick section to do, quilting fast simply following the flow of the hair working in sections.
Next it was my favourite section to do, the face.
I usually begin with doing the eyes. They are one part of the face where you have a real outline, everything else is not so clearly defined. I select a range of threads in shades of blue greys, I can't recall exactly, but at least 10 different ones to achieve the colour matching needed. You learn to rethread the machine really fast with this sort of quilting!
I draw with the needle to reinforce the lines of the eye. This is an opportunity to add clarity or to modify lines in the print. I find it best to jump about quilting the darkest areas of the face first. Then switch to the palest thread in the selection to quilt the highlights and then work through all of the values in between. Essentially it's just a case of trying to match the colour of the thread to the fabric below so that the stitching buries into the surface and blends.
I use contour quilting for faces and arrange the contours so as to describe the form of the face changing direction for example on the nose compared to the forehead.
While the quilt is figurative, when working at a largish scale like this, when you get up close many areas such as the shirt, scarf and hedge have abstract qualities. When it comes to quilting again it was just a case of matching the colour and value of the thread to the fabric. The scarf only required about 4 changes. I used contour quilting again to mimic the fluidity of the folds of the scarf.
I had purposely worn a stripey shirt for the photos used in the creation of the original artwork as I knew it would give me something more interesting to quilt than a plain one. Here I'm following the stripes with closely space very linear quilting. I interrupt the contours wherever there's a ripple in the shirt to reinforce the illusion that it's a 3D bit of fabric curving and draping over a body.
The hands were amongst the final things to be done. Contour quilting is ideal for the palms of hands and I love stitching so as to suggest fingerprints on the tips of the fingers.
Once the hands were finished the bird was finally stitched and completed with the addition of a tiny bit of colour using Derwent Inktense pencils.
And it was done! A fun piece to quilt with lots of different areas to do which always helps keep it interesting to work on.