For over a year now, I've had this idea about layers. About a base cloth with a layer that is a repeat pattern - or fragments of one - stitched over top, or made in a reverse applique fashion. And for some reason, this idea has stuck. And for some reason, in my mind, the form of this layer is like a scrolling flourish and also somewhere between a kind of baroque pattern and a middle eastern tile-styled pattern. And I can't see the exact design yet (unless it's going to develop from one of those shown in the image below). But the idea stays with me.
Sketch book scraps.
And for some reason, I have a feeling that it needs to be constructed with a very thin cloth, because it also needs to be light and floaty.
And I'm sat here looking at all of my recent indigo dye results (note that there are more today) and wondering if this is it. Because these are long, narrow, strips of muslin that would make great scarves, or at least, a great scarf.
My layer on the top of these indigo patterns could be in white, subtle as a ghost. Or in black, which would probably make a pretty bold design statement. Or, perhaps it would be more interesting to use one of these as the base cloth and another one as the top layer, so you hardly even noticed at first. And maybe I could do kantha stitch only over the layered part?... Now that idea has me thinking about ways to add texture to what would be for all intensive purposes a virtually invisible pattern!
Now there's an idea!
Not that I have any time to embark on such an extravagant journey of exploration! Because, lord knows, the kind of thing I have in mind, would be intricate and probably require months and months to piece together, and just as long to stitch!
The last time I was here at the farm, I decided to try my hand with indigo again. The first time I tried this - almost a year ago to the day - wasn't very successful. The cloth turned blue, a pale forget-me-not blue. It was pretty. But not what I'd hoped for.
I only have a few ounces of indigo powder, so my vat is limited. A glass specimen jar. With not even enough dye to sufficiently cover the small pieces of cloth that I'm adding. And I know that's not how it's supposed to be done. Particularly with indigo. But there.
This time, I added a secret ingredient ;) I prepared a couple of pieces of seconded muslin and popped them in. Then I went away for 3 weeks. And here are the results.
I really like the one on the right.
Now I know that I can get indigo to do something for me at least, I'm going to try and improve my techniques. But first of all, I will have to find a way to get more indigo powder and enough muslin to keep at with!
There's something exquisite about small hands making.
A first try on a cardboard loom. Something about a Southern Cross to this one.
Using a makeshift loom (an old quilting frame with 1cm notches cut) I tied some cords as a guide and wove columns of calico.
I thought the cords would make it easier, but in the end I'm not sure how accurate the thought was.
Once columns and then rows had been woven I cut the cords and pulled them through, releasing this cloth.
I like it alot! It's so soft, that it actually feels wooly. Have to leave for town soon. Back to the construction work. Now there's a stark contrast! Sad that there's no time left to try stitching on this cloth.
Last Sunday, I worked a little while on my latest cloth. The "bird habitat" cloth. Trying to keep it simple.
Just a layer of gauzy muslin, with a hand stitched outline. Perhaps too simple?
Don't know what I think of it. Whether to let it sit, or keep going, or simply forget about it and move on?
Originally, I had the idea to draw the outlines using a special pencil that, supposedly, transfers the design onto cloth by ironing. That didn't work at all. I tried steam ironing it on. I tried ironing it onto damp cloth. Either the design did not tranfer complete, or the pencil bled. So, back to the drawing board on how to get the design onto the cloth without drawing it out by hand again.
It's all about learning and process. Some things work and some things just don't work! For example, weaving with pure layers of indigo denim, looks and feels wondeful, but is murderously hard to stitch, because of the density of the layers that are created. I broke two quilting needles on the first row.... lesson learned!
On the way back to the farm yesterday evening (the first time I've managed to get home in 5 weeks!) I spotted this bloom on the roadside. How's that for an explosion of color. Brownea macrophylla (?) a member of the family Fabaceae. Makes a perfect center piece for the table.
By contrast, before we came home we stopped off at Playa Colibre (Hummingbird beach). I haven't been to the beach for over a year, even though we live on the coast. It was a bra and knickers affair, since I hadn't been expecting to go there. We swam in the Golf, in the cool of the late afternoon, and the water was very salty and very warm. At one point a turtle bobbed in the water a few meters behind where we were. And on the way back to the car I found this shell. I've never seen anything quite like it. Pale, and thinner than paper. I wonder how it survived the journey from ocean to shore?
While still playing with the experimental cloth that I started in the New Year, I had an interesting accident. I was stitching a diamond motif in black thread on a fairly heavily woven, hand dyed linen. But half way through, I decided that it wasn't working out the way I had envisaged. So in order to remove this section from the backing cloth, I took the scissors and cut through the topside of the stitches and accidentally cut a chunk in the cloth as well.
Hmmm... this small hole looked kind of interesting. What if I made the motif by cutting at intervals, instead of stitching?...
I made small folds in the cloth along the edge of the roughly sketched pattern and began snipping away (image courtesy of my 8 year old son, Nilo, as it was not possible to hold scissors, make fold and take photo at the same time). I like this idea, of creating pattern with what's not there.
And when you think about it, that's like lace.
And I suppose, more often, one would think about using this in ways which would emphasize the pattern. For example, using the way that the light passes through the spaces...
...or, using the way that the darkness does. But I wondered what would be the result if I ignored the pattern altogether, and so I set the cloth back on the backing cloth and just started stitching.
And although the outcome was nothing to sing and dance about in itself (should have thought to use a pale thread instead of black, didn't even finish what I'd started), I really like the way that an echo of the pattern remains, and the way in which it starts to become a textural pattern. Another idea to develop in the future!
The experimental cloth looked like this the last time it was seen. I just wasn't happy with it. So it went through several tearing up sessions, (maybe that's what I most needed to do at the time?) a funny little scrolling motif popped into my head...
And then it became this... for a brief time! Still not happy, this new cloth got torn into single sections. And that's where it stands. Four small cloths (aprox.18 x 23 cm). Each interesting in their way. But... honestly... what I am going to do with these?
The pale version of the "vine" applique got stitched and cut. I finished that part at least! I like this little cloth the most. But since I'm still asking myself "but what it is?", I feel disinclined to move forward with it in it's present incarnation. Maybe it belongs to some other cloth?... One that hasn't occurred to me yet. And, ultimately, maybe all of these will end up in pieces and as part of something else.
On a good day, that thought feels full of a sense of freedom, that one can just go on expanding on something, revising, changing, starting over. A Life cloth! But on a bad day, (and right now they seem to be the most dominant kind) that same idea has me throwing the cloth into a corner and asking "what's the bloody point!"
I know that all comes from being too mentally stressed, and too physically tired, (I came down with flu right before Christmas and it seems impossible to shrug off).
I know too that that's when I probably most need to make cloth (right?...) But pushing through that ridiculous barrier, of needing things to be simple and straight-forward and have a clearly defined purpose (a case of my professional work load colliding with my creative dreamtime) seems like the hardest thing to do right now.
I was excited when I last managed to get home to the farm (2 weeks ago) to discover in a corner of the garden behind a bunch of plants, 3 forgotten jars from last years solar dying experiments. It was hard to open them as the metal lids had oxidized, and when I finally managed to get them off, it was all pretty stinky. But after several washes and rinses, I ended up with some palely pleasing little cloths. One that had been wrapped around an avocado pit (top of image below). Ones that had been folded and placed in steaming water, with chile pepper and rosemary leaves,(pale and narrow panel left, and also pale cloth bottom) and some others, no longer possible to decipher what I had put in the jar originally.
Obviously, there are times when forgetting is the key!
I'm still strangely attached to circles (and still going 'round in them I feel). I want to make something of that.
I've been on the road these past couple of days. Took experimental cloth with me. Stitched on it some more. Left the camera cable at the town house. So still cannot show you how it's going just yet. But I'm enjoying the simplicity of it. Learning along the way.
This might give you a clue about my direction at the beginning of this year...
A digital bogolanfini cloth. Want to know more? Click here and create your own!
After thinking that 2011 would be a year of smallness for me... as in postage stamp size... cloth that I can manage... and manage to finish... yesterday, I came up with this base (aprox. 30 x 30 cm). I was thinking about golden. Not necessarily the shade itself. But, how, at around 3pm and onwards, things start to glow from within. As if they've managed to swallow chunks of the Sun's softer light.
This will be an experimental cloth. I have also been thinking again about cloth and thread traditions from different parts of the globe. I have no idea where this cloth is going next. It doesn't matter. It's an experiment! The base is a spin-off of the traditional 9-patch square, made up of several scraps of cloth that I created in previous experiments using natural dyes, as well as some recycled cottons and linens.
This morning, I began this section of reverse applique. A technique I've played around with abit over the past year, and really enjoy (although have still not perfected!) This section is made from a fairly thickly woven shot cotton (linen?). The darker shade being the right-side, the paler shade on the overlay (upper layer) being the reverse. Using both front and reverse of a cloth is usually a good way to achieve a relationship in tones. I like how this turned out, but it wasn't the easiest of cloths to use for this technique. I'm using a single strand of DCM embroidery thread and a simple buttonhole stitch to hold down the overlayed cloth before cutting into the pattern. I am trying to work loosely to gain a sense of folk tradition.
I'm not going to say anything else about this section, because I'm curious to hear your comments first. What does it make you think of?