TRANSLATING THE LAYERED DESIGNS INTO EMBROIDERY
Decorative ways of stitching lines
Image 1 shows a trial sample I worked to experiment with a few of the different ideas identified in the learning materials before I began experimenting in earnest on my formal samples.
I was trying to find out which approaches emphasise the edge and which make it blend into the background. Stitches which cross the edge will tend to make the edge blend in – of course, with the cutwork method, this will not happen unless stitching is added after the initial stitch-and-cut process. I thought the ‘running stitch in contrast thread’ samples are particularly effective, so there are a few of these in my formal samples.
Image 2 shows the first formal sample I worked, based on a simplified version of one of my paper samples from Chapter 4:
For this one I used a cotton homespun fabric for the background layer, acetate lining for the cross, and orange crystal organza for the star. The scan doesn’t show the sparkle on the top (very orange) layer very well. The stacked running stitch on the middle layer gives almost a quilted effect on the shiny fabric. Use of matching (or almost matching) threads has resulted in the eye being drawn to the shapes, rather than the edges.
Image 3, also based upon one of my folded paper designs, is perhaps more visually interesting.
The background is the same turquoise cotton as in Image 2. The middle layer is orange cotton which I sponge-printed with red paint (although it’s difficult to see in the scan), and the top layer is teal-coloured acetate lining fabric. This time, I have stayed with running stitch, but used contrasting colours. The thread in the middle layer is an aqua-coloured stranded silk (soie d’Alger) and, in the top layer, a very shiny tangerine-coloured pearl silk (looks purplish on the scan).
At about this time, I realised that I was spending rather a lot of time unpicking because the stitches weren’t perfectly straight, all the same length, and so on, and then moving the stitch by precisely one fabric thread. I remember attending a workshop a while back with Effie Mitrofanis, at which Effie said: “… it’s for fun, it doesn’t matter how the back looks, don’t be precious, don’t unpick, relax and enjoy.” It occurred to me that I may just be being precious. So I decided to try making some samples which are a bit bolder, with some different stitches. It partly worked.
I also decided at this point to go with the suggestion in the notes about working the same design in different colour and texture variations. The design I used for the samples in Images 4 to 9 is a composite of two of my paper designs from Chapter 4.
Image 4 follows the suggestion of using a shot fabric in two of the layers, with the grain in each at right angles to the other. I used a gold-coloured silk dupion which has a carmine warp and a golden-yellow in the weft. The overall effect is a very rich red-gold. The lower layer is stitched with running stitch in a thick, space-dyed rayon thread from my Oliver Twists bundle. For the upper layer, I decided to emphasise the edge more, so I threaded string through a space-dyed tubular rayon knitted thread (to bulk it up), then couched it down with another shiny thread. When the two layers appeared not to have a great deal of contrast I added seeding in the same rayon twist thread. The backing is the same teal acetate fabric as in the top layer in Image 3.
I realised at this point that all my backgrounds are the turquoise-teal colour, and thought I had better try the warm, reddy-orange colour in the bottom layer. I think I was instinctively using the cool colour for the bottom layer because it tends to recede. Image 5 shows the first sample I stitched with orange on the bottom.
The background is orange cotton homespun with a layer of red chiffon scarf, treated as a single fabric. I added the chiffon scarf to make the background a little more coral-c0loured rather than bright orange. In the scan, it looks red. The photograph in Image 6 gives a more realistic impression of colour; the teal is fine, but the other colours are somewhere between the red above and the orange below (more a tangerine or coral colour):
I am becoming frustrated with the problem of obtaining true colours both from scans and from photographs. My scanner is still not coping well with reds and oranges – I may need to look at upgrading it. My colours are, in the main, reddy-orange, teal and turquoise, and on the original samples, they are clearly complementary colours. Too many of the scans make it appear as though I am using red and blue. I’ll have to keep working on this.
I used herringbone stitch in orange Danish flower thread on the middle layer, which is a teal-coloured dupion. Herringbone stitch is a fave of mine. The upper layer is a metallic orange organza which shimmers in the light. It is stitched on with a combination straight stitch-cross stitch combination in a teal lurex thread. I like the contrast of the very glitzy top layer with the more matt layers underneath. It’s interesting to see how much more prominent a warm-coloured background is in this sample and in the one in Image 7:
This sample has a rust-coloured acetate background, teal acetate first layer with blanket stitch in a toning (but lighter) thread, a second layer cut from one of my printed fabrics (red on orange; difficult to see on the scan but see Image 8 below, a photograph rather than a scan) with a combination parallel and perpendicular stitch in a toning colour, and a top layer of space-dyed gauze stitched in running stitch and frayed back. The teal layer would recede but for the contrasting thread. I like the effect of the frayed gauze in the top layer. The stitching for this layer is visible only where it intersects the centre of the orange cross.
Image 8 shows a photograph (rather than a scan) of the same sample.
Image 9 shows the final sample in this ‘family’. The background is turquoise cotton, the middle layer, rust-coloured dupion silk and the upper layer, teal acetate printed with red. I have used pearl cotton in toning colours for all the stitching, so the edge treatment depends on the boldness of the stitches rather than on color for emphasis. The second layer uses a negative version of the shape. This one, I think, has a bit of drama as a result of using the painted sample.
The one thing I still wanted to try was using the same shape twice, but twisting the shape around, especially as I had not used any of my asymmetrical designs so far (see Image 10).
The background in this sample is more blue than turquoise, so I went with two orange layers for contrast. The shape is my compass rose from Chapter 1. I wanted to see if I could create a shadow effect, so used crystal organza for the middle layer – a slightly larger shape than for the top layer, rotated and cropped to my 10 cm design outline. This I stitched on in running stitch with orange Danish Flower Thread. The top layer is orange acetate topped with red chiffon scarf (treated as a single fabric), stitched with coral-coloured fine pearl silk. I thought afterwards that it may have been preferable not to crop the shape in the middle layer – but on the other hand, it was meant to be an abstraction …
I tacked all my shapes before stitching. It made the whole package quite easy to handle. I love the process of cutting away the excess fabric on the front – the moment the design is revealed can be quite exciting. Image 11 shows a photograph of the seven samples as a group: