reverse appliquÉ – traditional and contemporary methods
This was very interesting as, having read ahead in this module, I had managed to obtain very affordable used copies of two of Herta Puls’s books about Molas from one of the second-hand book dealers who retail online through AbeBooks. I had been leafing through these with great interest, marvelling at the lively designs and the precise technique, and so have been very much looking forward to this chapter.
Image 1 shows my paper design for the traditional appliqué design. I used one of my black on white cut paper designs from Chapter 4 as inspiration (also shown).
Image 2 shows the completed reverse appliqué sample. I enjoyed stitching this – the technique was a little like cathedral window patchwork (I’m not a quilter but have made a couple of cathedral window cushions).
I tried to keep my stitches as small and inconspicuous as possible. The thing I found quite challenging about this was getting sharp corners. I more or less got the hang of it by the time I came to turn under and stitch the edges on the printed turquoise layer. I chose to add some black to my colour scheme because I wanted a bit of dramatic contrast between the orange and top layers. I used cotton fabric throughout, and found it easy to control. If I had used bemsilk, for example, it would have been quite a handful. The cotton fabrics I have (homespun) are a bit thicker than I would like – I’m bemoaning the demise of cheap, colourful Chinese lawn. On the whole, I was quite happy with this sample, dodgy corners aside.
Contemporary methods using machine stitching
I went back to the design I’ve been using fairly frequently for these samples. These really were a lot of fun to make, and it’s very exciting to remove the last section of the final layer to see the full effect. For the first sample (image 3) I stitched the outside shape first and cut away inside the stitching on each layer. The background fabric is a greeny-blue cotton (same one as in image 2), and the other three layers are all bemsilk, finishing with a printed layer on top. Probably not a wildly exciting sample, although it does have a bit of glitzy thread on the teal layer.
The sample in image 4 is much more fun. For this one, I stitched the inside shape first, then cut away outside the stitching on each layer. The top layer is turquoise cotton printed with a design in turquoise and teal. It’s stitched with teal pearl cotton in running stitch which I have whipped with a lurex thread. The second layer is hand-painted cotton gauze and orange crystal organza which I have handled together. I have stitched the outline with chain stitch in orange Danish Flower Thread, and then frayed both fabrics back to the stitching. The fringe is a bit directional – the crystal organza is shot, so either the warp or the weft (not sure which) threads are quite bold and shiny. The third layer is dark teal dupion silk which I herringbone stitched with quite thick lurex thread. The idea was that the stitching would peep through the fringe formed by the layer above. The base layer is a boldly printed reddy-orange cotton (the printing is teal but it looks almost black). It’s interesting just how much contrast there is between the machine-stitched and hand-stitched samples. In the image 3 sample, it’s all about the fabric. Had I used more interesting fabrics, or perhaps used machine stitches other than a straight stitch the sample would have been more exciting. I used three different stitches for the layers in the image 4 sample, and the stitches are a feature of the piece.
Multi-coloured ripple or contour effect
For this sample, I chose one of the asymmetrical ‘window’ designs from chapter 4, as shown in image 5:
I thought I would achieve a more interesting result if I cut back the black background around the central shape back to give a linear design.
It would be easier to list the fabrics which were not in the stack than those which were. The background is turquoise cotton; the top layer is orange cotton and, in between, there are various layers and part-layers of cotton in other colours, dupion silk, metallic organza, bemsilk lining …
I also used different contrasting threads to stitch around the layers; all shiny rayon machine threads. I worked on this chapter while in Sydney. Image 6 shows this sample, part-complete, on my Sydney sewing machine. It’s a 1960 vintage Singer 222K Featherlight, made in Scotland, which used to belong to my Mother (thanks, Mum!). I’ve had it since last year; had it overhauled (it hadn’t been used for a couple of decades), and it mostly produces a beautiful stitch. It doesn’t do anything other than straight stitch, and doesn’t much like corners (see below – I stitched the orange layer from the bottom, with the red thread in the bobbin) but it does have droppable feed dogs, so I’m intending to try free motion embroidery on it when time permits.
As I was working my way through the layers, I wasn’t quite sure whether I like this technique. As I got towards the end, I decided I love it. Here is my finished sample, in image 7. I was going to leave the top layer (wide orange lines) alone but couldn’t resist cutting into it. The final result looks quite graphic – to me, it appears to have something in common with lino printing – maybe the quality of the lines?
Siân suggested that I try a couple of other experiments for this chapter – probably things I should have thought of in the first place! Image 9 shows the same stack of fabrics as in image 3, above, stacked in the same order, but with the direction of cutting reversed – so image 3 shows the design cut away from the outside (largest shape) inwards, and image 8 shows it cut away from the inside (smallest shape) outwards.
As Siân predicted, the effect is startlingly different. It would be interesting to use this approach in a counterchange design.
Siân’s other suggestion related to my comments above, again in relation to image 3, about the relative lack of visual interest in the stitching compared to image 4. Image 9 shows the same fabric stack as image 3, cut in the same order, but with multiple rows of machine stitching in contrasting colours. It certainly produces a far more exciting sample, with more visual weight to the lines, and a more decorative effect.