Green Woman #6 – Background Piecing!

February 25, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

I said I’d be a while, but it turns out it took me just over a month to do the sewing, which is not too bad in terms of project speed.

Here’s what I started with:

Green Woman #5 - background fabrics

Sewing the pieces together was a highly technical exercise, since every single one of the seams is curved. I relearnt what works best with this kind of piecing. Note to self for next time: Tight curves are much easier if sewn in two halves, which means half as many pins to stick yourself with at one time. Additionally, it’s much less likely that the fabric on the bottom will bunch up and end up under the needle of the sewing machine when it shouldn’t have.

So, here’s the result of all that sewing and ironing:

Green Woman - pieced background

I think she looks pretty put together already. I’ll add the fine details and some shading with the quilting, I think, which will fit the original line drawing. But first, I need to get the white foreground and the various vines sorted out. This will take some experimenting, so I’ll probably show you the result of those experiments next time.

Green Woman #5 – Colouring the Background

January 19, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

The next step is both the fun and the hard part in the category “Playing with fabrics”. Starting with the finished face on top of the pattern, I needed to choose the right fabric for every piece in the background, and make everything fit together somehow. Here’s the pattern again:

GreenWoman - first and second draft of background

The right version is approximately what I ended up with at full size. And this is what it looks like after colouring in the spaces:

Green Woman #5 - background fabrics

Just to make sure that nothing is jumping out too badly in terms of contrast, I converted the image to black and white:

Green Woman #5 - background black/white

The face sticks out clearly, and the hair on top of her head has the lightest colours, as intended. You will see a big difference if you compare with a black and white version of the original, though:

Green Woman #5 - original black/white

If you look just at the background, ignoring the white foreground, you see that there’s much less contrast in general between the different areas than in the fabric version. I think the main reason for that difference is the choice of medium: coloured pencils versus fabric. I started filling in the background with all those light greens at the top of her head, but soon realized that doing the background in all those relatively light colours wouldn’t work. For the rest of the background I went much bolder in my fabric choices, trying to keep to the general colour schema as well as ensuring local contrast similar to the original. Another thing is that lots of the dark fabrics at the edges will be covered by the white foreground, so there will be much less of the darks visible at the end.

The next step will be sewing all this together, so I end up with a single piece of fabric for the background. I think I’ll be a while, I’ll let you know when I’m there.

Green Woman #4 – She’s got eyes!

January 6, 2020 at 10:56 am | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 2 Comments

Last time I ended up with a face that had an important feature missing: the eyes.

GreenWoman - Pieced Face

I was going to fix that next. The plan was to reverse-appliqué some bits of white fabric into the eye-sockets, but first I had to deal with the irises. Initially I was thinking of hand-embroidering them, but then I decided to try playing around with free machine embroidery. It’s something I always wanted to explore more, and might use again in different parts of this quilt.

Here’s my first try:

Green Woman - sample for eye

I layered the white fabric with a bit of water-soluble embroidery stabilizer, which I also drew the pattern on. I choose a dark red and an even darker reddish-brown embroidery thread, which fits the original colours well. I was quite happy with the first try, but did manage to turn the design the wrong way round when adding the second colour. So two more eyes it was.

I’ve made a little slide show to show you the steps for putting one of the eyes in:

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And here she is, and I think I got her likeness pretty well:

Green Woman - Finished Face

That’s as far as I can take the face right now, onto the background next. There’s lots of hair to add!


Green Woman #3 – Sewing the Face

December 31, 2019 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 1 Comment

Last time I decided to sew the face first, because the colours there will definitely influence whatever I’m doing for the hair. So, here’s what I did:

Step 1: copy the lines of the face to the shiny side of some freezer paper. The shiny side because it will be ironed onto the back of the pieces of fabric, and I don’t want to end up with a mirror image. You’ll need a permanent marker that writes and stays on plastics for that.

Green Woman - copying the face onto freezer paper

The letters are short for the different colours, and the tick marks will be used to pin the pieces precisely for sewing – particularly important for curves.

Step 2: Cut the pieces apart and iron them onto the fabric. The shiny side will stick onto the fabric when heat is applied, but not very strongly so it can be easily removed later.

Green Woman - pieces of the face

Step 3: Trace around the pieces and add the tick marks. Here’s a detail shot on how that looks like:

Green Woman - tracing around the freezer paper

Step 4: Cut all the pieces out, adding a seam allowance. Arrange in correct order for sewing:

Green Woman - pieces for face

You can see in the light green that the freezer paper is still attached to the back of the pieces at this point. Since my lines are curvy, I do need to remove it before starting to sew.

Step 5: Sew. I’m leaving you with a link to Ruth B. McDowell’s “Piecing – Expanding the Basics” for detailed instructions and lots of inspirational pictures. Here’s what I ended up with after quite a bit of cursing (some of the curves are almost too tight for sewing):

GreenWoman - Pieced Face

The light green fabric is thinner and more tightly woven than standard quilting fabric, and it also doesn’t iron as well. This led to quite a few wrinkles in her face. I’m fine with this, since what’s a few wrinkles between friends? Also, I will be quilting things quite heavily and probably most of it will not be that obvious once I’m done.

This is a pretty flat image for the moment. Obviously the shading is missing, and I’ll need to add at least some of it, probably while quilting. But I did make heavy use of the one way I have to directly add some dimensionality, which is by controlling which way I ironed the seam allowances. I’ll strengthen that effect later with some strategic quilting.

By the way, did you notice that she’s looking ever so slightly to the left? I didn’t until I traced the face a couple of times and noted the differences. I love how this project makes me look closer at the original artwork!

The next step should be pretty obvious: Giving her some eyes. I have some ideas on how to do them, but there’ll probably some experimenting first.




Green Woman #2 – A Plan for the Background

December 20, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Patchwork | 3 Comments

Last time around I showed you what exactly it is I’m tackling with this project, and now there actually are some first steps! It’s all black ink on paper though, no fabric involved yet.

Green Woman - drafting the background

So, here’s an A3 copy of the black and white drawing, overlaid with drafting paper. For the background, I’m obviously ignoring the white foreground, pretending it isn’t there. I’m also ignoring all the detail that weaves in and out of the rest – the vines and thorns, the leaves and flowers, and the tight spirals of her hair. What I’m trying to do is to figure out what makes sense to be one piece of fabric – similar colour, similar structure etc. The colour printout helps with this. Here’s the result of my first try, with quite a few false starts included:

Green Woman - Background, first draft

A second version is in order, and already looks much better. Here’s both of them next to each other, so you can see the comparison:

GreenWoman - first and second draft of background

Next, finding the right fabric. I pulled all the greens I can see me using out to get an idea of what I have:

Green Woman - fabrics in all shades of green!

My original thought was to do the hair by couching lots of yarn on top of the sewn background. Looking at those lovely fabrics, I want to try to go a bit more abstract. For the moment, the only fabrics I have firmly selected are the solids for the face. Since whatever I do for the hair needs to work with the face, I’ve decided to sew the face first before making any other decision. But that’s an adventure for the next post.


Where I’m hanging out these days

March 27, 2019 at 7:37 pm | Posted in Fiber Art | 1 Comment

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing very few blog posts lately, but that isn’t because there’s nothing to write about. In fact, I’ve been writing quite a bit more in the past couple of months, I’m just doing it somewhere else. Since that particular project is very fiber-oriented, I think you might enjoy following along on my adventure, even if you’re not the intended audience.

Basically, I’m organizing and running a community art project for this year’s Worldcon, which is taking place in Dublin this August. We’re building a model of a small part of a fantasy world using fiber and thread:

The Raksura Colony Tree

If you do plan to come to Dublin for Worldcon this summer, I’d love to meet you and to get some contributions to the model. If not, you might get an idea or two for a project of your own. Here’s a teaser of what I’m working on:

Raksura Colony Tree - Sample Platform

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook

February 26, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Fiber Art | 10 Comments

Sometime last year, Anne Lawson and a few blogging friends came up with the idea to send one of her beautiful handmade sketchbooks around the world for artists of all kinds to add to it. I think I saw the call for volunteers over on Kate’s blog, and signed up immediately. This was just the kind of project I love to be a part of! Quite a few others from around the world liked the idea as well, and so the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook was born.

The sketchbook has been making a very leisurely trip around the world since then. You can read all about its adventures here. So, back at the end of January, when it was actually winter around here, the sketchbook arrived at my place. What a treasure to see!

After some thinking, I ended up taking my cue from the time of year for creating my contribution. I love how the trees look in winter, with snow on the grounds and the leaves all gone to reveal the complex structure of the branches. So this is what jumped out of my brain into the sketchbook:

Winter Tree - Travelling Sketchbook

On the facing page I added a little letter to my fellow sisters about the inspiration for my addition:

Page spread - Travelling Sketchbook

I’ve now sent the sketchbook on to its next stop on its travels around the world, and I hope everybody is going to enjoy it as much as I did!

Looking for a Flower Garden

June 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Lace, Museums and Exhibitions, Tatting | 3 Comments

Wandering around Greenwich on my trip to London a few weeks ago, I also ventured into Queen’s House, lured in by a poster that had of all things something fibery on it! And my eyes weren’t deceiving me. There’s currently an exhibit by Alice Kettle at Queen’s House, named The Garden of England. It’s still running till August 18, 2013, so if you’re in the area go ahead and have a look, it’s free! It’s a small exhibit, just four or five pieces, but it seems to have left an impression on me, since my mind has been wandering around making flowers lately.

Flowers have long been a favourite motif for all kinds of needlework, so I started to rummage in historical needlework books. First, my favourite source, Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf. Since I want to create free-standing flowers, to be applied to a larger piece later, I skipped the embroidery books and landed on the Bath Tatting Book. On closer inpection it turns out that the first three doilys presented there have a small flower as their basic unit. Just what I was looking for!

I then realized that my last tatting projects were long enough ago that I had forgotten how to make the knots. Another favourite to the rescue: the Encyclopedia of Needlework has the clearest tatting instructions I’ve ever come across. Half an hour later I was up and running. Here’s what I made:

Flowers from the Bath Tatting Book

What I did not expect just from looking at the pictures and a cursory readthrough of the instructions, was that the flowers are actually three-dimensional. I started with the rose shown in the middle. Here’s the doily it comes from:

Rose Doily from Bath Tatting Book

On the left there’s the cornflower from this doily:

Corn Flower Doily from Bath Tatting Book

On the right is the sorry attempt at the chrysanthemum from this doily:

Chrysanthemum doily from Bath Tatting Book

I’ve currently given up on that one. There’s a lot of picots and not many double knots holding them in place, so they tend to turn round or vanish when you’re not looking. Even after looking closely, in the current round I’m never quite sure if I’m tying to the correct loop, since those are loops I already tied to in the previous round. And there’s lots more of that kind of stuff coming when creating the spirals on the outer edge of the flower. I think the result would be stunning, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull it off. I may try to pick it up again in a few days or so.

Mathematical Knitting

March 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Fiber Art, Knitting | 1 Comment

The folks over at Botanica Mathematica have started an art project that’s right up my alley: illustrating mathematical concepts through needlework. I found them through Ravelry, where there’s a group to coordinate things.

One of the first projects: a knitted binary tree. Having spent too much time during my computer science degree dealing with the things, of course I had to play!

Binary Tree

Technically this is a perfect binary tree, since all the levels are completely filled. Of course there could be other versions, where not all branches are present. This would also be nearer to a natural growing tree, since nature tends to be messy. The important part so it stays a binary tree is that at each intersection, the branch splits in two.

Naturally other types of binary trees are knittable as well, but if you want the smallest branches to have always four stitches, calculating how many stitches to cast on and how to split can get a bit more interesting. To illustrate, I drew a few examples:

Types of binary trees

To the left is the perfect tree, this is the one described in the original instruction. The tree in the middle has three levels on the left side and four on the right. The tree on the right is even more sparse. You can easily calculate the number of stitches starting from the top: The last branch always gets the number “4”. When two branches meet, the branch below gets the sum of the stitches of the branches meeting. Repeat till you’re at the trunk, and you know how many stitches to cast on.

Those concepts are really fun to play with, I’m very tempted to do another one! As if I didn’t have enough projects on the go as is.

Temari, again

June 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Fiber Art | Leave a comment

I’ve been including something handmade by me in the birthday presents I’m sending my nieces each year for quite a while now. Problem is, the crazy quilt box wasn’t going to get finished for the ninth birthday of the younger one this month. There’s just too much work left on it, and I’m missing some inspiration for the remaining seam treatments for the sides of the box. So I needed to come up with something that I would be able to finish in a week of half and hour here and 15 minutes there every day. So I remembered temari. I made my first project over a year ago for the older one’s birthday, so it only fit that the younger one would get a temari ball this year.

I used a different pattern from the same book, Temari für Einsteiger, but this time I didn’t just use the colours suggested for the project, but came up with my own combination. The green background reminds me of a spring meadow with beautiful flowers growing on it:

Temari, Five-pointed Star

Temari, Five-pointed Star, Side View

I’m pleased with how the colours came out. The book uses a similar gradation for the foreground colours, but has a pale blue background instead of the green one I chose. This one feels like spring, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve! I hope my niece likes it as much as I do.

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