Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oy, My Eyes!

I spent the first part of the week planning out on graph paper a few motifs that I thought might work well on the lace panel.  I realized after the second sketch that I wasn't going to get the soft imagery I was hoping for.  Whether I am too constrained by the stitch requirements or whether I am lacking imagination is up for discussion.  Regardless, all my motifs took on a hard, geometric line.

So, I did what I did best for TAST.  I showed up at the canvas and started stitching, in the hope that my needle would transport me to the desired destination.  I was hoping the destination would be an interesting hand-made lace that looked at first glance like it came off a machine.

All of the lace samples I purchased had a border, so I started with a simple chicken scratch line across the top of the panel.  By the time I got to the end of the row, I thought my eyeballs would fall out.  There were over 200 individual stitches making up the tiny cross stitched stars and it was no picnic trying to stitch with the tulle overlay.  I was beginning to rethink the "delicate lace" concept.

But not being one to throw in the towel quite so soon, I worked a row of one of the motifs I had developed to use in the border.  About half-way through, I decided to split the panel into two sub-panels and altered the motif slightly.  I finished up with some larger stitches on the first sub-panel, and stopped there to consider where to go next.

Here's the panel so far:

I had planned to develop some kind of flower motif, since all of the lace samples I have use flowers (generally roses or primroses) as the principle design element.  But I am beginning to rethink this objective.  Why do I have to use flowers?  If contemporary embroidery incorporates dead leaves, rocks, and ephemera and is done on burlap, paper, and denim, why should I stick with flowers for my lace panel?

So, before next Friday evening, I have to come up with either a justification for continuing with the flower concept or I have to come up with an alternative inspiration.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Depression Lace?

I don't think anyone can argue that Sharon's choice of "Depression lace" for the first Explorer challenge  wasn't appropriate.     We are all, across the globe, economically depressed right now.   Plus cross stitch is so versatile that I think all of the participants will be able to come up with some novel ways to handle the assignment, so I am anxiously awaiting my fellow stitchers' reports.

Sharon was generous with the examples she provided.  Apparently the cross stitch variation got its name because it looked like lace?  I wasn't seeing it.  Tatted and crocheted laces are beautiful but don't have an elegant quality about them, although I am sure there are others out there in Explorer land who would disagree about the elegant part.  Knitted lace is fine for shawls and scarves, but still not really lace in my mind.  No, lace is that ostentatious stuff on wedding gowns.  Lace has flowers and a satiny feel when you rub your fingers across the bumps that outline the flowers.  It can be appliqued onto a fabric to create drama and richness.

So I decided the effect I wanted to create with "chicken scratch" (what a horrible name for a stitch that can be so beautiful) was actual lace.

So I went to the House of Fabrics in Columbia to see if I could get some inspiration.  Now, the House of Fabrics never fails to inspire me somehow.  It caters to the theater folks and to bridal dress designers.  Quilters need not stop here, although I have occasionally found some fabulous cottons at outrageously low prices.  The House of Fabrics is just across the street from where I work, so it's wonderfully convenient.

Anyway, I shopped their huge selection of laces, and I did have to amend a few of my earlier opinions.  Some of the cotton laces were lovely and certainly could have been selected to provide ideas for my own Depression lace.  And they were elegant - okay, I relent.  But I stuck to my original path and chose three traditional bridal laces.

When I got them home and studied them, one thing I noticed, being machine made and all, was that they were embroidered onto a foundation of tulle or netting.  Since I wanted my Depression lace to look as much like bridal lace as possible, I decided to use a foundation of tulle, hoping (dreaming?) that my finished panel would look like commercial lace.

Here is one of the three inspiration laces.

And here are the other two, set against the tulle.

Thankfully, the tulle almost disappears.  This was important because, in order to work the canvas I had prepared, I had to be able to see the weave of the underlying Aida cloth.

And finally, here is the canvas with the tulle laid across it.  I've stitched the tulle down with a basting stitch and I have spent the last three days or so trying to develop a design that looks like lace.  I am not sure how successful this will be, but the problem sure is stretching my puny brain.  I have a few motifs drawn on graph paper, but I fear they all look a bit modern - too geometric.  I am trying to figure out a way to soften them up a bit before I dive in with my needle.  I will use a single strand of DMC embroidery floss for the stitching to give as fine a feel as possible to the work.  If I'm lucky, I'll find an hour or so today to get at least one row completed.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year Plans

In looking back on the past year, I feel pretty good about completing 80% of the Take It Further challenges on time.  I had a few personal criteria: the projects couldn't cost a lot and I had to have fun doing them.  I also wanted to try different techniques across a number of different crafts, and I wanted the monthly projects to be useful in some way if possible.

I can definitely attest to the having fun part.   The only two challenges I didn't complete came at the end of the year when I had some family issues to deal with.  As a result, not much of anything was fun, so I just set aside the final two TIFs for a later date.  I plan to do them - just not in the timeframe of the 2008 challenge.

Most of the projects used both stash and new materials, so on average over the year, I didn't spend much more than the $10 I allowed myself at the start of the challenge.  The exception was the fabric and batting I needed for the Elvis quilt.

The best project from someone else's point of view:  the Barbie clothes that resulted from the January TIF and the Elvis quilt (September).  The most personally wrenching:  the Alzheimer's clutch purse and bracelet from the February challenge and "Fear of Pretending" (April).   The most fulfilling from a design and execution point of view:  the fabric book pages I completed for the challenges in March, May, June, and July.

Only one TIF challenge didn't work out the way I had planned.  It was the teapot block in October.  I eventually ripped about half of the block and re-stitched it to coordinate it with another larger project.  I also haven't done anything with the fabric book pages.  I am thinking that I need to get some color cohesion going, so I'm setting them aside until I determine how best to put the book together.  

I've joined the 2009 Explorer project, and it comes as a relief actually.  I can concentrate on embroidery again and I have decided to make a companion piece to the 2007 TAST sampler.  It will be the same size as the 2007 piece, and the plan is to have 12 panels - one for each month of the project.  I've mounted and blocked out the 14-count Aida canvas and gotten my supplies together so I'm ready to go when Sharon gives us the first assignment.  I've even found the remaining Moleskine notebooks, so I'll record the sampler progress the same way I did for TAST.

My personal goal for this challenge is to be less constrained by how a stitch was used in the past.  I want to explore and experiment more.   I am going to use the panel size as a suggestion and see how each assignment develops as I work the stitches.   To help me get my mind ready, I'm reading Constance Howard's "Inspiration for Embroidery" (Anchor Press: Tiptree, Essex, Great Britain, 1976; first published 1966).  There are so many great examples of how to use stitches in designs that it's definitely getting me in the mood to get down to business and play!