Over the past few months I have been feeling like doing some sewing, but I couldn’t get a good fix on just what that might entail.
Functional sewing, such as shirts or other clothing? Pieced quilts? Applique? Painted fabric/stitching wall hangings? I could not focus.
So, I spent some time just looking at fabric work in books and online. I learned some great techniques for making a T-shirt pattern based on your own shirts (I may still try that). I reviewed my ideas about quilting and tried out some things and realized I still don’t like piecing fabric. Along those lines, I read about improvisational art quilting which, to be honest, still sounded like too much planning for me.
I enjoyed reading about making clothes without a paper pattern (reminded me of how my mother made me some gathered skirts in junior high requiring a length of cloth and a waistband; I loved them). But I don’t really need a gathered skirt or even any other kinds of clothing.
I even read up on making drapes and shades though I have no intention of ever making window coverings again (in a previous house, a Victorian with tons of windows, I made curtains for 53, yes, 53, separate windows. Enough.)
In the end, I was back where I started from. Really, I just like to slap down some fabric on a backing, run a lot of machine stitching over it, and then see if I can make it into some kind of imagery. I really enjoy just humming along with the stitches reeling out. I especially like free-motion stitching. I like drawing with the lines of stitching. I like tiny pieces of fabric and sticking them on to other pieces of fabric. I don’t like making large things, I like making small pictures. I like painting on fabric and then stitching to go along with it. Or over it.
So I’m just going to stick with this stitching idea and see where it goes.
Here are a couple of little guys I made in August 2022. Maybe they are pointing the way for me.
Since my vision problems began in August, 2021, they have affected my artwork, but not the same way for each medium I do. For some reason, I have not found it difficult to manage fabric work (on the sewing machine). Maybe it is because I am manipulating the pieces with my hands and have time to adjust things, and I also think it could be because the pieces are larger (meaning, not tiny pen strokes), my inability to see detail does not matter so much.
And, since I have been sewing for 50+ years, some things your hands know how to do without your eyes, such as threading a sewing machine (luckily my machine has a device that puts the thread through the eye of the needle or I might be saying something different here).
Anyway, I was sifting through some fabric scraps one day in September and thinking about sewing, but what? I decided to just sew the scraps together and see what came out.
I ended up making this small (@ 19″ x 27″) quilt for my little granddaughter. In homage to my eyesight I did not try to make anything straight if it didn’t want to be.
I quilted it using the Claudia version of free motion stitching (drive the fabric all over the place and hope the needle keeps up and who cares about a pattern or whatever???) using a very thin batting.
I mailed it to my granddaughter and I figured it could be a blankie for one of her toys or else a nice set of farm fields for her farm animal play set.
As you may remember, I have been having some eye issues over the past three months and they continue to go on. I am getting closer to finding out what may be causing my vision loss and hope to know more very soon as to what the next course of treatment will be and what I might expect in the way of stabilization of my vision.
But, as part of the process, I have been doing intensive rehab of my corneas and eyelids. As part of this I take a LOT of eye drops. I use the single use vials because they have no preservatives, but that means there are a lot of plastic vials to be disposed of.
What to do? Well, when I first saw the shape of the vials I thought they looked like small people figures, somewhat like worry dolls. Immediately I knew I would be making tiny dolls, and what they decided to do for their careers, well, that was up to them – solve worries, live in tiny dollhouses, drive small cars, relax in the lush jungle foliage of a potted fern…
So let’s get going and I’ll tell you how I make them.
Here is a used vial. I take the lids off and let them sit a few days to dry out. Note – You will notice that in the following samples I didn’t do this, since when I wanted to make the demo photos I did not have any vials-in-waiting that were quite ready. But in general I save up a group and make quite a few dolls at a time.
Here are my supplies.
You may be wondering about the pliers. I have two sets – both from my jewelry class. They were very inexpensive.
I take the heads off the dolls while I am putting on their arms.
Then, I untwist a paper clip (I like the larger, stronger ones) and push it through the plastic “body”). This takes a little effort but it gets done.
Then I use the clipping area on the yellow pliers (close up to the hinge there is a sharp part to cut wire) to even up the “arms”. I then use the rounded pliers to form twirls for hands. I don’t try to make a pose with the arms at this time – I wait until the doll is finished.
Next, I get out my assortment of tiny fabric scraps and threads. I think you could also use paper or yarn as well, if you wanted to.
I make these women (they are all always female. Like every other figurine I make) with two basic outfit styles: wrapped thread skirt and wrapped cloth top, or cloth skirt and wrapped cloth top. You might come up with other ideas, it is up to you. For the thread skirt lady, I put some glue on the vial and wrap a lot of thread around and around until I cover up the glue.
For the cloth skirt ladies, I put glue on the vial and stick on a tiny piece of fabric so that it covers the whole bottom section. It doesn’t take much. Here are the two figures with their skirts done.
And, notice that they both have their arms in the air. I flip them to this position while dressing the figures because it gives me more room to work. It also makes me smile to see these tiny figures flexing their muscles or high-fiving me!
Next, the tops. I take a strip of fabric (and it doesn’t have to be very wide at all):
I put a line of glue on the front and back of the figure and begin to wrap the fabric in a figure-8 configuration – around the body, up to the shoulder, around the neck, back down, around the body to the other side and over the other shoulder in the same way. I add dots of glue as I go along to secure layers. Sometimes I don’t have a long enough strip so I just glue on another piece of fabric and keep going.
When the tops are done, the figures are dressed:
But sometimes I want to add more to the outfits. Maybe another fabric detail, or sometimes I use thread to wrap around the bodies in a decorative way. I gave this lady a couple of sashes.
Here are the two figures, all ready to go…
I could stop here, but I think they need faces. This is hard for me to do given my eyesight, so I take my time and if I make a mistake, I wipe the ink off ASAP before it dries and try again. What writing utensil do I use? After trying various pens and so on, I have settled on my cheapie acrylic paint pens.
They are used for painting rocks, and they write on anything, and once they are dry, their marks adhere well to the plastic surface, in my experience. Here are the twosome from above, now with faces:
Now, here are some shots of figures I have made. I have given some away and I’d be happy for anyone who wants three (always at least three, so they do not get lonesome) to let me know and we can work out sending some, maybe.
Or, you could make your own. Look around and see what materials could work for you. If you don’t have eye drops vials, how about twigs or even rolled up paper? No fabric – try paper. Glue? I bet you have glue!
In the last month, July 2021, or so I’ve had a lot of ins and outs with family situations and my mind has been scattered. Well, life has its twists and turns. For some reason I found myself in my art work area one afternoon, confronting three bottles of fabric paint and some white cotton yardage.
I had originally bought the white fabric to make mask interiors. I’ve got a big collection now so this fabric is just hanging around. It’s maybe 44″ x 30″? 24″? I didn’t measure it. I just laid it out on the table and started painting. Did I mention that my fabric paints were black and white? Not enough scope of color for me, so I grabbed some of my acrylics paints. And, I have some acrylic paint markers – supposed to work on all surfaces, so things should be fine.
I started working at random, starting in the lower left corner. Now I have this image.
Next, I am going to decide what its next stage should be (I believe it will involve sewing). I showed it to a friend and she has some ideas. I’d welcome anyone’s suggestions here, too.Then one afternoon I will find myself in the basement again…what will happen this time?
Here is a small fabric piece made in August, 2020. It is about 6″ x 6″.
Just for fun, here is a photo of the back of the piece. You can see the stitching and you can also see where in my careless haste to keep moving along I sewed scraps of fabric to the back. No idea I did that until I looked, later.
You may remember that I recently wrote about doing some fabric art, in a return to a medium I worked in 20 years ago or so. (Look here if you want to see that post.) I’ve tried out a bigger work, roughly 24″ x 24″, and I’ll show it to you today and discuss its composition.
All right. Here is the fabric art. It’s called “Mother Nature Greets You”. You will notice its edges are still raw – I have not yet decided how I will finish it, or how it should be displayed. But I can discuss that later. First, take a look.
Here’s how I constructed the piece. It’s the same method I used in making the many fabric wall hangings I created and sold in the 1990’s-eaerly 2000’s.
I take a piece of lightweight canvas (in this case I cut it to about 24″ x 24″). I compose the image as I go – I don’t usually draw anything out or make plans. In this case, I chose a selection of fabrics and started off on the right side of the image. At that point I didn’t have an idea for how it would end up – in fact, my plan was to sew a little area, then see what it was looking like, and then sew some more.
I lay the fabric pieces on the backing, making sure there is overlap with adjoining pieces, and then I pin them. I know there are adhesives and so on for this purpose these days, but I used pins in the past, and I am comfortable with them. Also, I do not want additives or stiffening or anything of that nature in the piece – just fabric and thread. That’s just how I feel about it.
Next, using the regular machine stitching settings, I sew around the fabrics, catching all of them just enough to keep them in place. I choose thread color as the idea strikes me – sometimes I match the fabrics and sometimes I contrast and sometimes I just choose a color I like. I remove pins as I go.
Jumping ahead, after I have the entire piece laid out and sewn this way, I then move on to free-motion stitching. Here is a close-up of how that looks:
All right. Back to the process of making this particular piece. I sewed down the fabric you saw in the earlier photos, and I meant to progress slowly through the image, thinking the idea for what it would be would come along sometime. But, as it was, I got an inspiration and I did an area much bigger than I planned:
And then I just went on from there… I think I did the rest of the piece all at once, after this point.
It’s awkward to handle a piece of this size with all the pins and so on, but… I just move on and handle things as they happen. If gaps appear between fabrics or there are other glitches, I just stick on more fabric or sew down the folds or whatever it takes. It all ends up ok.
It’s interesting to take a look at the back. For the bobbin threads, I usually use white or black, but I don’t really care. At the moment, after having reviewed my thread collection which was based on projects I did in the past (a more muted color time in my life!) I am using the “ugly” colors as bobbin thread.
Look, you can see the ghost image of the face in thread.
Which brings me to a design point. I think that some open areas in the composition are essential – in this piece the face is my example. I also considered using a closely-spaced zig-zag stitch to outline the face and hands, but decided not to, as I wanted them to emerge from the chaos of colors and shapes rather than to be set apart.
The point I’m making is – the type of stitching is as much as design element as the fabric placement.
After finishing the entire image, I let it rest for a few days, and I made some adjustments and revisions by adding fabric as needed. For example, if you compare the earlier photo of the face with the finished on, you can see I changed it to achieve a different expression. It’s very much a collage process that I go through.
Finally I think I have an image I like. Here it is with its edges cropped.
I am not sure how I want complete the piece now. In the past, I would simply add a backing by sewing a piece of fabric to the image, right sides together, and flipping it (like making a simple pillow) – then topstitching around the piece and adding a hanging sleeve.
Somehow I’m not wanting to do that anymore. The smaller pieces I made, shown in the earlier post – I sewed a piece of watercolor paper to the back with a machine stitch all the way around it. That method will not work with this piece, too large.
I’ll give it some thought. In the meantime, here are some more detail shots. Thank for reading and going along this process with me