Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spirograph I - and now the third

Things are coming along nicely with the first of the Spirograph hangings - I've now finished the third of the goldwork spirals. This photo's at a bit of a funny angle, but it should give you some idea of how they're all working together:

I've finally remembered to measure them, to give you some context, so the second spiral is 17cm (6.5"), and third one is a little larger, at 18cm (7"). There are two more to go, both of which are larger, and so are going to take rather longer to do.

I can get bored with a project if I'm doing the same thing all the time, so I did wonder how I would get on with these hangings, but I must admit I'm really enjoying working on them so far. Maybe it's because I'm pleased with how they're turning out!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Spirograph I - second spiral

I've completed the second Spirograph spiral on the first of the hangings, and here it is:

As I'm using the same basic design but repeated in different sizes, you could be forgiven for thinking I'm just showing you the first spiral again, but I'm not, honestly! To prove it, here they both are together:

I didn't have any particular plan in mind when I started the first one, but I seem to be stitching them in ascending order of size; the next one is a bit larger than the second one (I forgot to measure it again - I'll try and remember for next time), but not that much, the fourth one is bigger again, and the final one is quite a lot bigger than any of them. That's still a long way in the future, though!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Kate's Crow: back from the blacksmith!

I've got Kate's Crow back! I'd heard from Brian Russell at Little Newsham Forge a little while ago to tell me that they'd started on the fire screen and it was coming along nicely, but it was still a surprise to hear from him to say it was finished and ready to be delivered. A very nice surprise, though, as I'm thrilled with what they've done:

Seen slightly from the side, you can see the feet better:

I know nothing whatsoever about metalwork, so I have no idea how difficult this was to achieve, but if you compare what they've done to the design sketch I sent, it is absolutely identical. I can't believe how accurately they've done it!

It isn't Kate's birthday for ages yet; I've said she can look at it once and then it's being put away until the big day. I hope she still likes it by the time she finally gets it!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spirograph I - finished the first spiral

The first spiral is finished, and here it is:

I'll have to try and take some photos in sunlight, assuming we ever get any, as it really does look better in real life - the fabric looks grey here, and it isn't, it's a sandy colour.

Anyway, that's the smallest of the spirals in this design, at almost 12cm (about 4.5") diameter. The other, larger, ones should be a bit less fiddly to do, as there'll be more space between the overlapping threads. That's the theory, anyhow!

The centre section is quite raised, with all the threads going over one another, which gives depth to the design, and casts some interesting shadows. It also has a basketwork look, though it isn't actually woven, which I like very much. All in all, and though I say so myself, I think it looks good.

I've made a start on the next one; this is larger, though I forgot to measure it (I'll try and remember next time). Seeing it next to the completed one gives it some scale, if you can make it out:

It'll be clearer next time, when I've got some of the gold couching done.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spirograph I - the first spiral

With the design transferred to the lining fabric and everything set up on my big frame, I'm all ready to go!

Starting with the smallest, and fiddliest, of the spirals first, I went over the first part of the design in small running stitches in a terracotta sewing thread.

Spirograph patterns look as though they're one continuous line, and very often they are, but by no means always; this pattern has the same looped seven-pointed star repeated five times (a nerve-wracking process involving moving the cog along the correct number of little teeth each time,as I recall!). This means that doing the design in stages works out quite nicely - one star at a time.

So, here's the first star stitched through to the front:

I then couched two imitation Jap gold passing threads over the top.

You may recall that I was planning on using 'invisible' nylon thread for this, and was complaining bitterly about it. Elizabeth B made the excellent suggestion that I use a fine gold thread such as a blending filament instead, as it should be easier to work with and I'll be able to see what I'm doing. What a good idea that was! I hunted out some gold Sulky; it's not really meant for hand sewing, but it's still a whole lot easier to use than the nylon stuff. What's more, it's a great match for the passing thread, so the couching stitches still can't be seen. See if you can spot them!

This is exactly the effect I wanted, so I'm very pleased indeed how it's turned out. Thanks Elizabeth!

Now it's just a case of repeating these stages for each of the other stars. I've just done one more so far, but it gives an idea of where the pattern is heading.

I should have the finished spiral to show you next time. There's still a long way to go after that, though...

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Spirograph I - setting up

With the design and tracing paper taped as best I could to the table, I traced the design with a transfer pencil, including marking the edge of the design with a dotted line. This will help me when I come to make up the hanging.

I cut a piece of linen a bit larger than the design, and tacked the transfer to it, pencil side down. As the transfer is so large, I was worried about the transfer shifting when I ironed it, so as well as tacking round the edge, I also tacked around the spiral shapes, to keep them as static as possible.

This photos shows the rather wobbly lines of the transfer in some places - it's a good job it's going on the back!

I then cut out the silk matka the same size as the linen, stitched them together, and neatened the edges. I find that oversewing the edges with an overlocker strengthens them for stretching onto a frame.

It was the stretching that came next. I'm using my biggest frame, but it's still not quite wide enough for all the design to be visible in one go. I'll do as much as I can here, then I'll need to unlace the sides, wind it on, and lace it up again. The stitching isn't going to be raised so this isn't a problem, but if I was using any padding on a design, wrapping it round one of the stretcher bars would squash it and could catch on the top fabric rolled on top of it, so it wouldn't really be an option. As it is, my main worry was that some of the top fabric would be rolled against the transfer, which might rub off; to prevent this, I cut a piece of muslin and put this between the two, to protect the silk.

A clean slate!

With the frame turned over, you can see the transferred design, ready for stitching through to the front.

Seen closer up, you can see a very good reason why the transfer is on the back and not the front: no matter what I do, it still smudges.

In case you're wondering why I don't trace the design directly onto the fabric using a lightbox, I prefer to get the whole design on in one go, in case I go wrong somewhere and don't get things lined up correctly.

Getting everything set up is always the worst part, but it's absolutely necessary to take time over it and get it right, or your embroidery will never work out properly.

Stitching next!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

AV Festival 10: Energy

The International Festival of Electronic Arts, Music and Moving Image - the AV Festival - is currently running at venues across North East England, and last night I went to the AV Late & Live event. This was a chance to see all the exhibitions running in Sunderland as part of the Festival in one packed evening, and it was really fun. Some things I thought were better than others, inevitably, I suppose. The one I’d particularly wanted to see was really good, as expected, but a different one was unexpectedly terrific, and the hit of the night as far as I was concerned.

It was very well attended, and what must have been almost a hundred of us were loaded onto buses and taken to the first venue, the Reg Vardy Gallery, to see The Jump Films by Mark Neville. According to the artist statement, these short films 'explore the relationship between performance art and documentation that survives it', but I'm afraid I didn't get it: to me, it was a man throwing himself in a pond.

I got on better with the next exhibition, at the National Glass Centre. This also features videos, in this case one of workers in a glass factory in the 1970s, a retired glass worker talking about his life recorded in the 1980s (I ran out of time and didn’t watch that one), and my favourite, a new piece entitled Glass Struggle, a silent black and white film in which the artist, Mat Fleming, made a glass hammer and sickle.

The resulting items were also on display, and whatever your political leanings, they did look beautiful.

We then headed back to the city centre, and a sound and video sculpture based on wind turbines, Wind Phase, by the American artist Bill Fontana at The Place. I attended a talk he gave last summer where he discussed his work and gave hints about this new piece, so it was good to find out how it ended.

Next to the highlight of the evening, in the semi-derelict Athenaeum Building, above the Pilgrim pub. This was entitled Incandescent, by an artist collective called SDNA, and consisted of a ring of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

This was equipped with sensors, so how many of the bulbs lit up depended on how close people got; the closer we went, the more lit up. If we got too close, a bulb fell down a chute in the centre and smashed, while a brief video of bulbs suddenly played in the background. This may not sound much, but it was great! It was really effective in the space, and I l0ved it, as I think did everyone else. There was a cheer every time a bulb smashed!

We then went to the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, and the Semiconductor video installation, which is what I’d mainly gone for. I do like their work, and I wasn’t disappointed; they were showing Magnetic Movie, my favourite of their short films, and which I’ve only seen in a low-res online version before, so it was good to see it in a decent setting.

Finally, to the Winter Gardens, for Buddha Machines, by Simon Fisher Turner. This is a series of small music players concealed amongst the plants in the Gardens, playing musical and ambient sound loops.

I think this could have been very effective, but unfortunately there was a lot of talking over the top of it, which spoiled the effect somewhat, which was a shame.

It was a terrific evening, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you're in the area and would like to see any of these events or any of the others in the Festival you need to be quick: it's on until this Sunday, 14 March.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spirograph I - materials

Before we go any further, here's the materials I'll be using:

Looking at the fabrics first, this is the same linen sheet as I used for Kate's Crow, which will be used to line the top fabric and give it support, and the silk matka that I'll be using as the top.

The matka manages to look two completely different colours in these photos, but it really is the same stuff! The colour in the second photo is probably closer to the real thing. It's actually paler and slightly pinkier in tone than I was expecting; I ordered it over the phone from Hansson of Guildford, though in fairness to them I should say that I was going from quite on old swatch and hadn't thought to get a newer one, which I'm sure would have shown the difference. Having said that, I actually like the new colour better, I think. It's lighter than the fabric I had before and a softer shade; it also should show the design transfer tacking stitches more clearly than the more yellow one that I was using for the test, so that has to be good!

Now for the threads:

A very limited range, as you can see, and in fact only one of them, the gold, will actually form the design. This is no. 8 Japanese gold passing thread, from Golden Threads. The terracotta sewing thread will be used to transfer the design from the back of the fabric to the front, and will be oversewn, while the horrible nylon 'invisible' thread will be used to couch down the gold passing thread, assuming I can stand it and don't give it up for something easier to work with.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Spirograph I - starting the transfer

I got the Spirograph wall hanging designs printed out full size at a copy shop round the corner from work. I dropped the disc off, and came back to collect them just in time to see the chap in the shop trimming them to size. I'd much have preferred them left with some paper round the edge to tape them down, but never mind; I'll remember to ask for that next time. Still, having them trimmed does give a nice suggestion of what the final things should look like (all being well!).

Now I have the full-size designs, I can make the transfer for the first of the hangings. I think this will be easier if I can get round all sides, so I've temporarily moved operations into the dining room. Here's the design taped to the table:

I can't find any tracing paper big enough to cover this, and using lots of sheets stuck or stitched together could end up in a mess, so I'm trying kitchen greaseproof paper. This still isn't wide enough, so I've tacked two lengths together.

Unfortunately, it's also masking tape-proof; it just won't stick to it at all. I've used Sellotape to stick it to the table, which is a bit better, but it's still not that well anchored. I'll need to be careful about this when I'm tracing the designs, in case it shifts.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Save 6 Music!

Nothing to do with embroidery, and mostly for UK readers, but please, please show your support for 6 Music. You never know, maybe even the BBC's upper management may listen to sense.

If you're not familiar with it, 6 Music is a BBC (i.e. public service broadcasting) radio station that plays alternative and indie music from all eras, and is the best way I know of to find out about and hear new bands. I listen to it all the time when I'm sewing, and like many others have gone on to buy a lot of music that I first heard there, so it directly supports those areas of the creative industries you won't find in the mainstream.

If you want to become part of the popular protest, you can:
Let's make them know they can't rob us of our radio. Keep the faith!