Sunday, June 3, 2018

How to get started with a textile art project.

I was recently asked by a beginner textile artist how to get started on a piece so I thought I would share what I do.

Getting started is the hardest part. It is the same for many artists and is usually called the fear of the blank white page, aritist's block or similar. Sometimes you can sit and look at your materials without any idea of what to do. Normally I have an idea before I start but if not I will look through magazines or one of my inspiration journals. These are simple sketchbooks (from before the internet took off) where I paste anything I have seen in a magazine that I really like. Sometimes I write quotes in there too. I may also have a few techniques or samples in there of things I have seen and tried out. Most of these books were compiled when I was into paper crafts but I would still use them to inspire textiles, especially colours and colour palettes from paint swatches or the techniques that I may try out on fabric.

 It is the same thing as looking at Pinterest. The trouble with Pinterest is that you can waste hours on there looking at things and not actually doing anything because you are overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. If you do look at Pinterest then stop at the first thing you really like and think about what attracted you to that image. Was it the colour, technique or something else? Use that to start your textile.

Some other suggestions for themes or ideas are:
1. Colour themes. Pick a colour you wish to start with and go from there. Colour may make you think of  something like blue for the ocean or red for apple etc and that would be a starting point.
2. A storytelling theme may be something like: a day in the garden, an overseas holiday, first day of school, family reunion etc.
3. Image ideas: you may see an image or photo you want to recreate in fabric or will inspire from magazines, books or your own.
4. Technique based ideas. You may want to try out a technique you have seen. This is the inspiration I use the most because I love experimenting with new to me ideas.
5. Specific word themes like: nature, space, animals, abstract, traditional, circles or squares.
6. Materials. Sometimes you may have a specific type of material you wish to use and that will inspire a piece of art.
7. If you belong to a group you may have samples that you made and have not used for anything that can be used for a starting point.
8. Style of design is also a good inspiration. By this I mean a grid or circular etc design.

When I have some sort of idea I start collecting my materials on the table in a pile. This is when I decide what colours I will be using. I nearly always use a restricted colour palette. What I mean by this is that I will only use a maximum of about 5-8 colours in one piece. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule but in general it ties things together better if there are not too many colours competing for attention.  I put anything that is a similar colour in the pile. I even get paints etc out too if I am going to use them. I may not use everything but it stops me going to the cupboard later and choosing a wrong coloured object or paint.

I next decide what format I will use and what size it is going to be. By this I mean, wall hanging, framed picture, book page etc. If I am framing a piece I usually get the frame first and make the textile in a size that fits. Hard decisions are over and the fun begins.

I start with either the background or the focal image. For this piece I started with the owl silk screen. I painted it with all the colours then found a quote to go with my image. I Googled "wise quotes" and this one popped up. I decided to use a block style for my textile so then stitched the background together. I wanted to quilt this piece so I put my fabric on top of wadding, added a base fabric and machine stitched around each object. If I wasn't going to pad it I would probably make the textile on a base layer of felt or stiffened fabric (usually thick cotton with iron on interfacing on the back). If I want to do machine embroidery I always stiffen the fabric so I don't have to use a hoop for tension.
If I have chosen a technique as inspiration then I would make something with that technique and add it to a background. If it is a background technique then I would make the background and find something to put on it. Circles and squares are good additions for an abstract look. Adding beads or buttons can also enhance your work.

When I have finished I always neaten the edges, either with binding, satin stitch or folding the edges to the back and stitching a backing on. This depends on the format I have chosen and whether the back will be seen. For framed work I only zigzag the edges so it can be laced into the frame. I don't use staples that may rust onto the fabric.

Recently I decided to do the 100 day project. You can choose any creative pursuit you want and agree to do it every day for 100 days. This is how I started. I decided on little stitched squares I could do quickly and would later compile them into one gridded textile. Grids are a great way to tie different items together. I gathered a lot of leftovers from other textiles and cut them to size. I then gathered buttons and charms from my stash, beads and threads I thought I might use. I did not use a limited palette here but I used the same threads on a lot of the squares so it helps to blend it together. I put all these in a box near my chair where I watch tv with hubby. I started doing 1 a night, in any style or technique I fancied but soon decided I wanted to do more. My 100 day project became my 100 project. When I finished my squares, around day 50, I stitched them to a white background to show off the colours. I had too many for 1 page in my next fabric book so now I have two pages of them. I finished off the edges and my project was complete.

Wendy's Note: I do know that there are more than 100 squares! I thought I might lose some along the way so I did extra and didn't lose any. Isn't that always the way it goes?

Monday, May 21, 2018

A variety of textiles

I have been busy designing workshops for my textile group and also completing the challenge we have going. I can't share those until later in the year but I can share the work I have completed for the WOWbook.

A cardboard creation from one of the lessons in the December WOWbook
I have mentioned previously that I was doing the Workshop on the Web program with Maggie Grey in England. It has now been changed to a published book. The book contains a lot of features and 5 or 6 workshops. After you buy the book you will be given access to the members club where there are another lot of workshops and articles to easily keep you inspired for 6 months.  I have done quite a few of them now but still haven't done all the ones I want to. I can't share the techniques here but I am able to share my creations.

 This was part of the same lesson as the first picture. It is done on Decovil which is a stiff flocked textile. It was the first time I used it and incredibly fun.

This piece was made from some of the left overs of the house workshop. I got the idea from some of the members in the facebook group who thought my first little village looked like beach huts. That is another fantastic feature of the book. There is a private FB group that is very active and even more ideas flow through from all the eager members.

Stencilled gesso that I have done before but this was a little different. I love when someone shares a different way of using something.

 This picture was also the stencilled gesso workshop but I cut my sample to pieces and made a finished page for my next fabric journal.
The final piece in the gesso workshop. I cut a stencil for the eucalyptus leaves and gum blossoms. The frame is made from silk cocoons.

 Lynda Monk did a lesson using tyvek. It was a lot of fun and I had to stop myself making too many samples until I have a specific project in mind.

 This page was one of my favourites from this current book. It was a Maggie Grey lesson and I really loved the surface we made to work on using paper and tissue. The design is my own.

Another version of the paper and tissue lesson using the same tree design.
 A new book will be published in June which is great for me as I will have loads of free time by then. I may even become more regular here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Using a die cutting machine for textiles

This month my textile group was experimenting with a die cut machine for textiles. I own a 10 year old Cuttlebug machine but got to try out a big shot. If I was buying a new one I would probably get a big shot as it is larger and more stable than the Cuttlebug. Either machine will cut fabric.

We used the machines to cut different fabrics, emboss a variety of items and generally play around. It was a lot of fun. I found that it cut fabric better if I laid a piece of paper on the top of the fabric. Some thin fabrics needed a bit of extra card in the sandwich to make the die cut all the way through. This will make sense if you have a machine.

Different fabrics I tried were sheers, leather, felt, silk and cottons. Other items I cut were: metal shims, drink cans, foils, cellophane and foam.
Some of the items I embossed with the machine were: thin metals, drink cans, plastic folders, leather, cellophane (didn't work), lurex type of fabric, fabric that had iron on vinyl on the back, foam, vinyl and paper.

At the end of the day I had a variety of samples and thought I needed to do something with them so I would have a record of what we did. As always I made a couple of pages for future fabric art journals. This first page has a lot of the flowers I cut out. I added some purple metallic cellophane (gift wrap) that has been ironed to make bubbles as well. I did try to emboss it but it didn't work so I melted it instead.

This page has an embossed flower image for the focal point. I embossed the flowers on metal tape then used Prisme fantasy paints for colour. I think there are a lot of possibilities with this technique.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fabric art Journal pages, close up.

Today I am sharing the pages of my last hand stitched fabric art journal. Some have been shown before so they are smaller and have a link to the original page with more details. As always with this blog, click on any of the photos to see them larger.

Zipper cover. Original page with details:
A fabric art journal

Inside Cover. This was an old cross stitch cushion. I removed the back and added some extra stitching on the borders for interest.

I blogged about this circle here:
A textile experiment...

For this book I added the background then used the same colour thread as the circle to make the two more harmonious.

This is an experimental technique I learned from the Workshop on the Web course run by Maggie Grey. It used lutrador, stamping and water soluble paper.

I previously blogged about this page here:

Using journal pages as inspiration for textiles

This page uses art mediums for texture on textiles. I am planning to make this my next video technique so I will explain more then.

I previously blogged this page here:

2017 fabric art journal

The technique for this one is monoprinting on fabric and will be a future blog post with more details then.

I added embroidery and also circles of various textiles that I had experimented with. The raised circles are Dorset Buttons. You can find many examples of these on the internet.

 This page started out as two rectangles with 2 flower images as the focal point. I decided to do two different colour schemes for the flower images so they ended up on two pages instead. The focus for this page was the original silk screened image and various coloured pieces of textiles including green painted dress making pattern tissue.  I added a lot of lace and sheer fabrics on the white background. There is a lot of hand stitching on this page.

This textile collage was based around the bird postcard I did for a swap last year. I made two so I could keep one. The background is crinkled, painted satin. I will explain the technique in full later in the year.

Previously explained here:

2017 fabric art journal


 Previously explained here:

2017 fabric art journal

  Previously explained here:

Using journal pages as inspiration for textiles

 Another textured textile that will be further explained in the next technique video.

The page I made to display this previously shared (Fibres West) machine embroidery. I kept it simple to highlight the embroidery.

Another page of machine embroidery that was shared here:

Fibres West

The second rectangle based textile. I used another silk screened flower image as the focal point then added a lot of similar colours. This one is mostly machine stitched and has a patched background. The original rectangle was placed in the center this time.

Previously explained here:

Using journal pages as inspiration for textiles

The back inside cover is another cross stitch no longer needed as a cushion. One of the reasons I use these old embroideries in my new books is to show how I first started in textiles, using other peoples patterns. 

I meant to put this one at the front of the book but messed it up when stitching the book together. I always try to put my name inside the front cover so it won't be stolen if left on display somewhere.

I hope you have enjoyed this close up look into my journal and are inspired to make one of your own. As you can see I don't pick a theme or stick to one technique. I use the books as a way to contain all of my experiments.  It would look great if you did want to pick a theme and do a book based on one idea like photos you took on a trip, or family. Maybe I should try that too....

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hand stitching a fabric art journal together.

Last year I wanted to make a larger fabric art journal. I knew it wouldn't fit under my sewing machine arm when I was going to put it together so it had to be hand stitched together. I thought that it would take a long time to stitch but it didn't because a simple running stitch or ladder stitch was all it needed to hold strongly together.

I have made a video that you can watch here or view a larger size on YouTube by clicking the YouTube name at the bottom of the video screen.

1. The steps are basically the same as the machine stitched art journal. I made all the pages I wanted to include, then I began by hand stitching with running stitch the joining strips between two pages.

 2. I used ladder stitch to join each pair of pages to the next one making sure the outside edges were even.

3. You should end up with a stack of pages and a flap of fabric at each side of the spine to join the front and back covers to.

4. Attach the front cover and inside cover page to the flap. Your book should now be held together well and it is time for the finishing touches.

5. The final elements are to cover the spine and attach binding around the edges if you want. I did machine stitch the binding on because I was able to put the edge under my machine arm but you could hand stitch it on if you want.

I will share some close ups of the pages later this week when I have a chance to photograph them. Some pages have already been shared on the blog previously:
journal pages as inspiration for textiles
fabric art journal

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More mixed media textiles

This is the second post using the same mixed media textile background I have previously created and shared. When I did my fabric background I used a piece of fabric that was about a metre (yard) square so I could experiment with a few ideas. I have shared the first three I did and now I have two more to share.

I used the same piece of fabric from before. I only used part of this long strip to make the grid design. I had already stamped and painted the background and then arranged and glued the pieces of fabric and media to it. I turned the fabric over and used a template to draw circles all over the back. I tried to put them as close as possible to get the most out of the fabric as I could. 

I then flipped them back over to see what I had. This is the surprise part of the process. Some little pieces of fabric may need extra glue to hold them in place. I arranged the circles on my background which is more of the painted fabric. I cut some of the circles in two so they could be placed along the edge. I didn't like the stamped side with the circles on top so I flipped the background over to the back. This side had the paint and was a little plainer so the whole design didn't look too busy.

I decided this piece was going to be entirely hand stitched. I made a pile of laces, felts and ribbons to add to the squares as I stitched. I started stitching each circle adding the extra pieces to make them interesting paying attention to the colours as well. I used only thread to enhance the shapes this time, no beads or embellishments. 

When the stitching of each circle was done I then stitched them to the background using a variety of stitches. I am quite pleased with the way you can really change the look of a piece just with a few variations. I think the circles are my favourite in this series but then I really like the others too.  It is always hard to pick a favourite.

This last piece was made from a few extra squares I had left over when I cut the fabric up for the grid. This time I added charms and zipper teeth to the tiles. I added more stitching on these because there was only 6 to do. I have stitched them to a background for a journal cover at the end of the year. I am not sharing the background technique yet. That is part of a class later in the year and I will share more then.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my ramblings and I hope you enjoy having a go at one of the techniques.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mixed media textile

This month I am teaching a mixed media textile to the textile group I belong to. This is an idea of what we are going to do.

 I started with a large piece of medium weight white cotton fabric. It doesn't have to be cotton, that is just what I had.

 Next I used fabric paints, stamps and stencils to add pattern all over the base fabric. I didn't worry about perfect prints from the stamps. I wanted some of it to be lighter in different areas.


 After placing the fabric on plastic sheeting, use watered down acrylic paints to paint all over the fabric. I added a lot of water to the paint.

It will stiffen the fabric as it dries. It also tones down the first layer of pattern. Allow to dry completely.

While the paint is drying I gathered the materials I was going to add to my project. I went through my stash and picked out anything that was in the colour range I wanted to use. It is a good idea to choose something to stand out as the focus of the piece. I used the black flowers for my main focus. You could use a printed fabric that you can cut some images from too. I have sheer fabrics, some printed fabric, rusted fabric, lace, felt, sari fabric, plastic bag, ribbon, used dry tea bags and painted tissue paper (an old dress pattern).  You can also use old doilies, antique fabrics and old linens. This is mixed media so anything goes.

 I used a fabric marking pencil to outline the finished size of my piece so I knew how big an area I had to cover.  I tore everything into smaller pieces and laid them out on my background. I left areas of the background visible. I tried to overlap all the pieces a little.

 I find it helpful to cut a hole in white cardboard the size of the finished piece so I can see my design more clearly. I walk away from the work for a few minutes (coffee break) so when I come back I can see the layout with fresh eyes. When I am happy with the design I use a toothpick to apply a tiny amount of fabric glue to the corners of everything to hold it all in place. You could pin or tack it instead.

Now it is time to stitch the piece together. This can be done by hand or machine or both. I start with machine stitching then add hand work later.  I didn't outline all the objects, nor did I only use straight stitch. Anything goes.

 The finished art piece with a few extra embellishments. I added some beads and metal rings.

I also did a second piece using the exact same materials but doing strips of fabric instead of squares. I also added random short, uneven pieces on top of the joins in places. This breaks up the striped effect a bit. The horizontal stripes are wire that I flattened at the ends.

I also did a third piece using those same materials. I had a long piece of the background material left so I added all the other fabrics to it and glued them down as before. I then turned the piece over and used a rotary cutter to cut it into squares. It is best to do this from the back so you don't choose where to cut and it is truly random.

 I took some time to arrange all the squares into a pattern that was pleasing to my eye. You can see in the finished piece below I still changed things around a bit as I started stitching.

I stitched each square separately. Some are machine stitched and some are hand stitched. I added a lot of beads and some metal pieces. I also used Lumiere paints on three of the squares, just painting right over the top of the fabrics and lace.

I have more ideas for this technique that I will share shortly when I have finished them.