Sunday, 28 June 2020

Combining Hand and Machine Stitching 1

I found this piece a challenge, because I over-complicated matters. Having machine stitched the grid  I decided to weave a range of material strips into the lower half.  In addition to fabric and yarn I wanted to embellish two additional materials: plastic stitched with an empty needle and organza stitched with words, reaquainting myself with the skills to do these things.  I also wanted to create texture by looping and twisting these strips in and out of the grid. I soon realised that they wouldn't stay put without being held in place in some way or they would slip and slide through the grid losing their expressive feel. Initially I thought decorative over-stitching with finer threads might resolve the problem, but the needle I needed for the job was too thick and pulled the woven strips out of position.  Also, because this section is thickly textured, the stitches could hardly be seen and therefore added nothing to the piece. Needless to say the experience was frustrating and unsuccessful, so I pulled everything out and started again. 


For my second attempt (image 4:6:20) I used the same materials as before (soft opaque white plastic, net, overly washed cotton from my mother's old blouse as well as clumps of withdrawn threads) this time cutting the strips narrower and not fussing about any embellishment.  Several narrower strips are woven individually within a line of spaces and they hold each other in place.  Though this aspect has now been resolved I think I should have left more empty spaces in the woven section so that the wrapping and zigzag hand-stitching has room to snake its way from bottom to top and links the two.


After some more reflection I took out the dominant bits of weaving so that there was more space.  Then removed the heavier looking stitching in the top portion and replaced that with something lighter looking -- finer threads of white and blue.  It's better, and with a little more guidance I could well do more.  What I suppose I'm saying is that I want to embroider some irregular fly stitch over the top whereas I feel I should be practising Module 4 stitches!

I should also add that the sides were neatened by wrapping them with clumps of withdrawn threads.  Finally I knotted the bottom fringe.  This looks attractive with the colour wash moving from soft blue to white.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Machine Stitched Grid

Again the same range of soft blues and whites in this machine stitched grid. The contrasts are subtle. I used two threads, one soft white the other variegated blues. I used them in two ways.  Firstly by way of emphasis -- blue on blue, white on white. Secondly as a contrast, blue on white, white on blue and this was most noticeable on the withdrawn threads.  


I do like the way the variegated blue thread works on this cloth.  Every now and again I think the colour scheme is too subtle though it does have a surprising range of tints and shades within it.  The variegated thread enables me to extend this colour range and is especially effective where the deepest shade randomly outlines part of the squares., though the image below also shows imperfections in the stitching.


Monday, 15 June 2020

More Zigzagging

Below are the right side and reverse of the zigzag machine stitched sample.  4:6:16 has near white and a variegated thread in soft blues.  The reverse shows all whites and looks almost frosted.

As with any machine stitched task balancing thread and tension and smooth flow of fabric under the needle is needed to get a good finish. My first experiments were rather awkward looking so I tried some stabilising film thinking it might resolve the problem.  Instead it prevented the wide wing needle from doing its job of pushing and  pulling the threads around under the machine.  The zigzag was at its widest setting.

The lacey effect is beautiful but also leaves spaces through which threads or fabric strips can wrapped or woven.  As to the choice of thread and the fabric it would need to have the same lightness of colour,  texture and weight.



Wednesday, 10 June 2020



What a glorious thing to do!  A great froth of loops and lines of variegated zig-zag stitching.  I can see what a wonderful edge this would make.

 Whilst this technique produces some really attractive results my colour scheme is possibly a bit too subtle.  This is the result of having such a narrow colour range and it might be worth trying to develop a more intense and complex blue so that there's a greater contrast between the blue and the white.

Machine Zig-zag Stitching and Flotsam and Jetsam

Feed dogs down, darning foot and wing needle in place, zig-zag set at 5 and tension adjusted and I'm ready to stitch.  I'm using one of the rectangular DoubleTrouble frames which will only fit under my needle and darning foot if I remove both and reapply them.  The frame is too deep and consequently gets in the way, however it does give me a better shaped area in which to machine stitch.

I have already removed a fair amount of threads, both horizontal and vertical second guessing how I might replace them -- in waves, tufts and knots, looping, twisting, spiralling, plaiting and wrapping.  As I work the activity becomes organic more threads are removed as needed and though not quite all are replaced I decide to stop.


As this piece evolved I was reminded of the flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline and how debris clings to the more permanent structures, such as steps and groynes.  It's also reminiscent of the wear and tear suffered by things like the lobster pot below: the rope becomes too frayed and then it needs repairing.

Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship's load.  (



Sunday, 7 June 2020

Straights and Diagonals

I'm not sure whether this fulfills the brief of diagonal stitching on the crossovers, maybe it's simply some free expression.  I've also used needle weaving on this sample.  What I was trying to explore was the letter shapes in the word ENCODED (4:2:19).  These were sharp and angular and definitely diagonal, but without crossing the empty squares it wasn't possible to recreate them.  Only the fine needle weaving seemed to achieve those shapes successfully.

In preparation for this piece I tried out some fine needle weaving on a small 8 x 8 grid (not posted).  The letter shapes were achieved by snaking the fine thread across the intersections and the effect seemed insignificant and not really what I was being asked to do.  So on a walk by the sea my mind played with scale: this sample nearly becoming rug sized!  It is in fact 25 x 20 cm.  Though I was able to use a thicker range of threads on the larger piece of fabric the letter shape issue remained the same.  I do realise that these letters are only a vehicle for the stitching and don't have to be literally letters, but I would like to achieve some sense of these shapes. Hopefully though I've managed to make stitch marks that are rhythmic, even if they are not the shapes I would like to achieve.

Colour balance was another thing I tried to work on and double wrapping some bands of drawn threads helped soften some of the colours and integrate the scheme more.

So what do I especially like?  That the sample is like a mended net and the way the tufted threads stick out randomly.  Also the way thick clumps of withdrawn threads are wrapped round those remaining.

Finally, having commented about photographing grids against a white background, I've taken an image of this "net" against the wax resist work I did in Chapter 2 (4:2:29).  I do like this idea of layering with small glimpses of what lies beneath showing through holes in the top layer.



Friday, 5 June 2020

Hardanger and Russian Drawn Threadwork

Withdrawn threads in a grid with stitching on the bars using two techniques: Hardanger and Russian Drawn Threadwork.

The first thing I notice in this photograph is the square spaces. The white table makes the work seem insipid rather than emphasising the patterns made by the mainly lustrous threads.

As I've just commented most of the threads selected have a sheen and spring.  This spring doesn't make them easy to control: the wrapping has that handstitched quality that marks out handwriting from using a computer font. Where I've simply wrapped the thread singly round the horizontals and verticals it loops expressively, but not regularly and would need tying to remain in place.  The same can be said for the two odd-men-out: the linen thread and the raffia.  Needle weaving is a different matter, it's fixed and looks almost like seeding.


A new batch of dyed fabric.  I've included an image of this so that the surprising range of soft blues and mauves that resulted can be seen.


Different tones of fabric need different shades of thread.  Luckily I've build up quite a collection.


I decided to try the Hardanger again this time using matte threads with less spring and pulling them more tightly.

Below are some examples of Russian Drawn Groundwork.  Whether the thread is self-coloured or variegated it makes a very lovely textured finish.

Just glimpsed are the withdrawn threads woven into the surrounding area and this is an idea I can consider using again.



Finally this set of samples has machine stitching on the drawn thread grid.  I've used a wing needle here with a range of threads.  The thickest are wound on the bobbin with a finer one on top.  Although I practised beforehand the thick thread shows the imperfections in the stitching.  It's difficult to control when working upside down and I probably need to be clearer in my own mind about how I'm moving the fabric under the needle.

I commented both at the beginning of this post and about the machine sample 4:6:10 about the uncontrolability of certain threads, perhaps this is not the right way to think about the matter.  It is instead knowing your materials and techniques and matching the right ones to suit your purpose.