I like to try and limit the range of techniques that I use in my textile art. There are so many different and interesting things that I could try to incorporate, but I'm fairly certain that it's better for my creative endeavours to limit myself to a few. Just like it's sometimes creatively stimulating to stick to a limited colour palette or in a limited time frame. The saying that 'necessity is the mother of invention' comes to mind. There's a challenge in expressing what I want to express with the few techniques at hand, without reaching for new techniques. There's also a place for mastering several techniques well, rather than many techniques poorly. And of course, limiting the number of techniques and processes I use also helps to limit the range of equipment and supplies that I need.
Here are my five favourite techniques:
I began dyeing my own fabric even before I settled on machine-piecing as a signature technique. Initially, I had two reasons for this. Firstly, I figured it to be cheaper to dye my own range of colours than to try to source it from patchwork shops. Secondly, the range of colours generally available in fabric shops is quite limited. I like to have more than twenty assorted greens at my disposal when making a eucalyptus quilt. Another thing I really like about hand-dyed fabric is the unevenness of the colour. Commercial solid cottons are rather flat-looking by comparison.
Machine-piecing is what I consider to be my most important technique, if I can put it like that. It's what makes my work different to the work of many appliqué artists. It also imposes great limitations (or maybe challenge is the better term) on my artmaking. The physical challenge of piecing together very tiny or tightly-curved pieces of fabric limits how small my images can be, or the type images that I create. Sometimes that frustrates me, but it also forces me to extend myself, and to keep trying new ways to make the machine-piecing work for me (finer lines, tighter curves, smaller scale or alternative styles of drawing). Sometimes an image or idea is better portrayed with pieced outlines, as in Trike, and other times solid blocks of colour works better.
Machine-quilting doesn't hold quite the same excitement for me as the piecing does, although getting started is always the hardest part. Once I've started, it's usually an enjoyable process. I always start by ditch-stitching over all the seam lines. Then I decide where to add extra quilting in the form of doodling, pictures or text.
Not every artwork I make features screen-printing, but I always love it when I am able to incorporate this technique into my quilts. Like hand-dyeing, it is a surface design technique, allowing me to manipulate the fabric even before cutting and stitching. Where possible, I like to use designs that enhance the story of the quilt.
Of these five techniques, hand-embroidery is the one that I have most recently incorporated. When I don't machine quilt the whole quilt heavily, I often like to add some had stitching. Usually a simple running stitch, but other times, seed stitch, unconnected chain stitch, chicken scratches, crosses and more (pardon me for not knowing the official terminology!) I use stranded embroidery thread for this, and I love the interest and texture that it adds to the artworks
Do you have a go-to technique or set of techniques for your creative endeavours?
This is my slow-burner sewing project – a storybook quilt. If you followed this blog for a while it'll be no secret that I love children's books. I also love fabric, so this project is a combination of two loves! I started this several years ago. It's the perfect project for picking up when I feel like a bit of handwork, or a change from my art making. I'm not in any hurry to complete it, just enjoying the process.
As we awaited Jason this sumner, I wrapped up all my art projects so that I would feel more relaxed about taking it easy during the last few weeks. And this was the perfect project to pick up. I stitched outside in a lazy chair while Phil built us a water feature and the kids played cricket. I stitched inside with my feet up on the couch when it was too hot to be outside. I stitched by the river on Christmas Day while the rest of the family swam, and at the park while the kids played. And through many evenings of contractions. A perfect distraction.
I love a basic geometric quilt (squares, triangles or hexagons) for showcasing a collection of fabric. This quilt includes Spot, Maisy, Where the Wild Things Are, the Pigeon, Frog and Toad, Busytown, the Hungry Caterpillar, Little Nut Brown Hare, Alice in Wonderland, Miffy, Dr Seuss, the Saggy Baggy Elephant, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Peter and Jane.
I think I'm a bit over half way now, so don't expect to see the finished results any time soon!
Last year I was approached by John Wollaston Anglican Community School to create some banners for them. They provided me with a strong and sound concept for the banners which lended itself very well to the way I like to machine-piece my quilts.
I shared a few sneak peeks here along the way, but now that they've been 'unveiled' at the opening assembly this week, I can post the finished banners here.
This was a big project – five quilts! But I certainly enjoyed the process. Something that I learned with this project is how differently poly cotton behaves to cotton. More importantly, I learnt that hand-piecing the tricky bits got me over this hurdle, and that hand-piecing is a viable option for all future tricky pieces (especially hands and faces). It really doesn't take too much extra time, and the pieces of fabric tend to fit together a bit more smoothly.
I’m currently working on a set of five banners (four house banners and a school banners) for a local school. I love having a big project like this to get stuck into. Four banners are cut out, and I’ve started piecing the first one.
While I normally work with cotton homespun, I chose to work with cotton poplin. The banners will be used for events like sports carnival and may need to be dry-cleaned on occasion, so I figured the cotton poplin would be more suitable (less likely to fade and crease). What I didn’t realise until after I cut out all the banners is that cotton poplin behaves quite differently to pure cotton, when it comes to my piecing process. Cotton is a bit more forgiving and adaptable. With the cotton poplin, I was making way too many messy creases and gathers in my seam lines, at least on the tighter curves. And there are many tight curves in these banners.
So I pulled out my thimble and tried hand-stitching instead. And it’s working. All the pieces are fitting beautifully together, and it’s so much more relaxing than having to do every seam several times over! I must remember this for future ‘tricky bits’!
Last night I posted this on Facebook:
Murphy says that if I lay out the pieces for my next quilt on the dining table all ready for stitching together tomorrow, the baby will arrive during the night…
(I know it’s all in God’s hands, not Murphy’s so I’m about to get started on it…)