Red is not a color I typically wear or decorate with, but it is making a big splash in my stitched art. The first pieces where red started was the vintage linen tiles with vintage silk scraps and perle cotton thread keeping it all in place.
The red feels like a crisp contrast to the creamy linen with its slightly coarse texture. Slow stitching gives me a place to meditate, hands working gently to snip and stitch, it is soothing and methodical. Mudita is my 2018 meditation. Sharing the joy of others, mudita, is so vital for us as a collective. We build strength together by shouting in resounding joy–even if its silent in our meditations–like the Grinch our hearts grow and grow.
It can easily come to us to feel left out, neglected, slighted, emotionally bereft and ignored with so much clamoring for attention in the world of unease and war. How do we find a path of peace and the gift of kindness? 2017 was my year for Metta meditation–sending loving kindness to all the sentient beings of the world. Sending love isn’t too difficult until one thinks of sending it to someone who deeply hurt us. Then Metta takes on new meanings. Mudita, sharing in others joy is similar. We might be happy for those we already like or feel good about. But what about when we are confronted with the good news of competitors or those who harmed us?
To open one’s heart for others good news is not so simple when we feel badly. But changing our meditation to open ourselves to hear others good news and feel genuinely happy for them is critical for personal growth and to further peacefulness. Sharing in others Joy is my goal for this year–to stitch, paint and meditate on joy for all sentient beings.
Each of the red works are about 7 or 8 inches and will be appliquéd onto a larger cloth and then machine quilted. I am a fan of combining several techniques and am open to what might happen yet. As this piece progresses or is completed I will share it. The name filtered to me as I was deep in stitching and with mind open, it seems it wanted to be called Roundhouse Blues.
Painting the last swipe on the canvas I’m exhausted. overtired. Eyes are dry from staring for so long, resisting blinking, absorbing the colors in front of me beyond the feeling of almost madness.
The large square canvas must cure overnight. I shirk off my robe and wash up. Looking down at my hands every finger tip on my right hand is a pale turquoise mixed with white. Brushes clean up easily, reshaped, they are left to dry.
Outside my eyes adjust and my mind enters the parking lot, I begin to see reality again. Looking at my hand holding the key….a splotch of bright red has dried on the back of the palm. A little paint is evident.
The paint colors and shapes in my brain is still there. Lingering. Stroking the nerves barely sheathed with the silence of the drive home. Walking in my home I’m greeted by dogs and my mom. Adjusting to normalcy is what I need. I hit my bed to let the flow of shapes run out of my ears. I rise and make dinner.
When machine stitching I end up with a lot of extra threads on the front surface of the fabric. Its commonplace and happens to everyone. I’m often asked how to resolve this problem. You could choose to snip them closely but the ends fuzz up and look mussed. Instead of snipping I choose to pull them through to the back. When presented with thread ends too short to pass through a needle eye the solution is an easy to thread needle.
Once I started to use the calyx eye needle it became my preferred choice for all thread pulling.
This needle is commonly known as an easy threading needle. It is made with a small slit above the eye so you can pull the thread through the top. By inserting the needle in the fabric first you can pull the thread through to the back with ease. See the step-by-step tutorial below.
Choose a thread that needs to be pulled to the back:
Insert the calyx eye needle as close as possible to where the thread comes out of the fabric.
Pull thread firmly down into the eye.
Push the needle through to the back: pulling the thread through with it.
Repeat until all the excess threads are pulled through to the wrong side of fabric.
Once finished the right side looks smooth without clipped threads.
Lately I’ve been admiring reverse appliqué and thought it might work for a piece of fiber art I am planning.
You see this piece of fiber art exists loosely in my mind, it sort of has a little film attached to it that I play often. The colors change. The fabrics change. But the foundation of the work is essentially the same. It consists of many modular pieces that are similar in size and hue. The black square below is an example.
I’m eager to get the work started and get the film in my head into real world action. This Saturday past I started playing with reverse appliqué sewing. After several pieces were finished the results were different than expected.
About midnight – my creative witching moment happened. Cleaning up the perle cottons and re-organizing threads, dropping scissors into their cases, needles neatly arranged in the drawer…I passed by the stack of recently completed art quilt studies.
The studies are of my beloved Pennsylvania farmlands which are rapidly disappearing.
New housing and commercial structures are chowing down the land for 3 solid meals daily.
I know this land. Its of my people, my youth, my later adulthood. I’ve come back to the gentle hills that my grandfather held in reverence.
No reference photos are needed. I’ve walked the dusty dirt roads by the farms with my dogs, rode my horses through the brown-green-gold fields, tilled the ground with my hands to plant native species and cut flower gardens. Moonlit nights resplendent with fireflies, moths and bats while seated behind the farmhouse in the deep of night are treasured moments for me.
As I passed by the studies I saw the round shape I have been slow stitching for weeks.
The familiar round moons or suns are exactly what I’ve been planning but I couldn’t know that. Instead of the reverse appliqué, this embroidered style that has been my meditative practice for weeks is it!
The search over, the technique was in my hands all along.
Finally the unveiling. I wrapped up yards of silk with flowers from the garden and wildflowers and tree nuts found on the ground. The colors are marvelous, rich, subtle and enchanting! They need to be ironed after they dry and then we will see what we can make with the fabrics.
Deadheading annuals and perennials is no longer such a chore, now I look forward to gleaning the spent blooms to eco-dye fabrics that I can use to create intentionally embroidered objects.
Sunday I bundled a dozen silk fabrics with zinnias, hibiscus, maple leaves and some native Pennsylvania wildflower heads, with various tea leaves and spices, rolled them up tightly, wound into spirals and wrapped rightly with copper wire. Placing them into zipper bags with vinegar and then into a small washtub to wait…2 – 3 weeks before removing them and drying the fabrics which will then be ironed.
Its a hedgewitchy-alchemical process, the gathering, crushing the flowers, making these brews and the waiting. Its a slow process. And much slower than opening a tube of paint and squirting it out, blending and brushing it onto a canvas. It is spontaneous though and allows for much experimentation which I appreciate.
Wrapped Rose Petals
Red Cabbage Rose Hips
Locust Tree Nut Shells and Spices
Turmeric and Zinnias
A Dozen Working
This is part of an evolution that I am in—-slowing down—-making the art slowly, mentally absorbing the process documenting it. The waiting, wondering which blends will be favored and successful. When I woke this morning, I checked them first, as they reside in my bathtub, packed into a small red washtub, the aroma of flowers and spices hit me full in the face. What a pleasant way to make art.
Spirals are making their way into my work again, aboriginal and abstract, the essence of life, they are an image that seems to be often found in my art.