Although it seems very unlikely that I'll ever be an embroiderer in the traditional sense and similarly unlikely that I'll be a thread-painter like Monika Kinner-Whalen, nevertheless, there are elements of each of these types of work that I'd like to incorporate in my own.
'Cuz, as it turns out I *do* like hand stitching (a no longer gasp-worthy statement although this time last year, it seemed more likely I'd fly to the moon); and I'd also like to incorporate some elements of other traditional kinds of embroidery: silk ribbon and tatting (pieces within the context of a larger piece), and I'm quite intrigued by blackwork and stumpwork (the former is particularly appealing).
... supposing I ever find the time to actually learn how to do any of these things, I'd like to incorporate this kind of handwork into the upcoming pieces I have planned for fall/winter 2013/14.
I mean, how much MORE awesome would Hiraeth have been with the kind of leaf detail "Last Fall, in Spring" had, or some silk ribbon grass and hand embroidered flowers?
But I'm also quite interested in seeing where variations on a simple straight stitch will take me. And that's something I can do without actually having to take time out to research, study, and get to Carnegie Hall.
However, there was a bit of a fly in the ointment. Much as I have been on a constant quest for the perfect batting for my ordinary work (you'll note that I've tried cotton, cotton blend, acrylic, fusible acrylic, bamboo and polyester battings, as well as a quick dip into flexifiber and, since January or so, I've been using polyester fleece.)
When it came to hand-stitching, everything I tried had the same problem. BEARDING. *duh duh DUH*
It wasn't so bad on the light coloured pieces, but I knew it would be a huge problem with Strange Fruit because of that solid red background. And I didn't fancy de-pilling it.
A couple of years back, I'd read on someone's blog (Betty Busby, maybe?) that she backed her art quilts with felt, so I thought I'd give that a go. Of course, I didn't actually have any on hand, but I DO have a LOT of felted wool, in the form of yards and yards and yards of red mouflon.
And THAT stitched beautifully. The needle just glided in and out, and there was zero bearding. Marvelous!
I have since gone out and bought yards and yards and yards of heavy white felt to use as batting in not only my hand-stitched pieces, but also my regular work.
I'll let you know how that works out. ;) But for now - the hand-stitching continues on that tree.
See you Monday!
For those who want still more detail about my experiments:
1. 100% cotton – wonderful for my regular art pieces, zero issues, occasional bearding depending on what kind of textiles are used, main problem cost. At $70/yard, the cost of cotton batting is prohibitive.
2. 50/50 Cotton/poly blend batting – similar properties and problems as with cotton. Cost: at $30/yard, not TOO bad, but I still hoped for a more economical choice.
3. Acrylic. Very inexpensive, no difference in hand, texture or weight, no bearding that I ever saw: biggest draw back –thins with heating. No stretching or bubbling, but was microscopically thin (barely existed) after use with a piece that had heavily fused elements.
4. Forget what it's called – but the kind made from recycled bottles. Weird hand. Stiff when quilted. Scorched easily with scorch marks showing through on light parts. Also melted. BADLY. lol
5. Fusible acrylic. Same properties as #3 – I LOVED it because it was the easiest to quilt – by far – but exact same melting into nothingness problem.
6. Bamboo. Worst. Batting. Ever. Hand is exactly the same as 100% cotton. But the BEARDING was unbelievable!!!! And my machine had to be professionally cleaned TWICE in three months (that's in addition to my own cleaning 3 times during that period.). Too bad though, because at $17/yard it was really economical.
7. Polyester batting. Only tried it once, didn't like the hand, and the resulting piece was too "fat" for an art piece. It really *was* like a mini quilt. And not in a good way!
8. Flexifiber. I really like flexifiber, but because it's so stiff, I could only use on quite small pieces – nothing bigger than 18 x 20 (and that would be pushing it) as it's *extremely* difficult to manoeuvre through the throat of your machine. And I have a pretty good sized throat as my machine is the Juki TLE 98Q.
9. Polyester fleece. Seemed perfect at first. Extremely economical ($6 a yard or so); quilted well, no bearding. Got a bit bubbly and stretchy with dense quilting, but I was actually able to "melt" it back into shape with careful application of water and an iron.
HOWEVER. The bigger the piece, the less manageable the bubbling and stretching became. It didn't deal well with constant wetting and ironing (as I first gesso my quilted background, then paint it, then add other wet and dry elements as well as fusing things on to them – my battings *really* need to stand up well to wet and heat) – and all the small problems I had were magnified times ten with large pieces. The bigger the piece, the worse the problems became. Polyester fleece for small pieces only from now on!