Friday, 16 July 2010

OK, change of plan...

For weeks now, while working on the Spirograph I and II pieces, I've been referring to them as hangings.  That was the intention, but they're now going to be panels instead.

I first became concerned when I took Spirograph I off the frame, and some of the couched lines looked a bit wobbly.  They'd been fine while under tension, but take that tension away, and all of a sudden they weren't as straight any more.  This would be fine in many cases, but the Spirograph designs need clean, precise lines to work (for me, anyway), and so this was a problem.

A problem I tried to ignore by stashing it in a cupboard and getting on with the next one, but when that was finished too, I decided it was time to face up to it and make my mind up what to do.  While Spirograph III didn't suffer from the same problem, or not to the same extent, whatever I decided would need to be for all three as they should work together as well as separately.

Damp stretching helped a great deal, but I was still worried that hangings wouldn't have the degree of rigidity needed to keep the goldwork in the correct state.  It needed to be kept taught.  So that was that then: they need to be stretched round board and mounted as panels, not hangings.  Phew, a decision!

I got some hardboard cut to size at my local Homebase, and cut some polyester wadding to the same size, and using 505 spray glue for fabrics, stuck it to the board.  This will cushion the fabric slightly, and give it a more opulent feel than stretching it straight over the board would.  I then placed this upside down on the back of the fabric:

When I marked up the design on the back I'd included the lines of the edges, so that when I came to make it up, everything would be straight and the right size.  This was meant to be for the interlining of the hanging, but it's just as useful for the board for a panel!  (And sorry about the determinedly unpeelable price sticker on the board; I gave up trying to get it off.  At least it's on the back.)

Using drawing pins, I temporarily held the fabric in place on the board, by pinning through the edges of the board itself.  This allows me to check that the positioning is right, and realign it if necessary.

Next, I mitre the corners, folding them over the board and ladder stitching them down:

I use a long thread for this, and after stitching the first corner, take this thread diagonally across the board to the next one.  When I've done all four, I'm left with an 'X' of thread across the board:

This helps pull the corners in and hold the fabric in position enough for me to take the drawing pins out, though by this time half of them were falling out anyway!

I should add that I've used a cotton crochet thread for this, as it's strong and easy to work with.  Linen thread is good too.

I then take a very long length of the thread, and starting from the centre of the short edge, take it to the opposite edge and take a back stitch, herringbone stitch-style, before heading back again.  Even with long lengths of thread, I only managed two or three passes before running out, as the panel is 1.2m (almost 4 feet) long.  I should also note that such long lengths are very prone to tangling; I must have spent as long sorting out the tangles as actually doing the lacing!

Working from the centre to the edges, I got all the lacing in place from short edge to short edge:

And finally, the same again, from long edge to long edge:

That's a lot of lacing!  It's worth doing, though, as it gives an even tension to the stretched fabric, and a good finish to the final panel.

At this point I should show you what it looks like from the front, which I'm very pleased with, but I want to take some photos in better light, so I'm afraid you're going to have to wait for a day or two.  Check back here soon!


  1. Hi Ruth, I'm sure that this will be a much better solution for the wobbly lines. That would bug me too, so I am glad that you made the decision to create a solution!

    However, it worries me that you have attached them to wood... Being a tree product, wood has acid in it, and in time that will attack your stitching. Are these not meant to be long-term pieces and therefore it doesn't matter?

    Looking forward to seeing the front!

  2. Ah, I am glad that you decided to mount the spiral hangings. I think goldwork looks best under tension; this is when it really shines. And your lovely designs deserve to shine.

  3. Yvette: that's a fair point, and one that does concern me. With a piece this size, acid-free mount board (which I've used for smaller items) isn't strong enough to take the tension required for stretching, so it has to be a wood-based board.

    I'm hoping that the wadding and the linen will act as buffers and prevent any acid from reaching the silk and goldwork, but if there's any hint of a problem, or if I find a better solution, the fabric is just laced onto the board, not stuck, so it's a simple matter to take it off and mount it onto something else.

    If anyone knows of an acid-free equivalent of hardboard, I would be very interested in hearing from them!