Decades ago, I was encouraged to teach my very first textile class. My kind mentor, Denise Kavanagh, suggested a two-day workshop at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Students created a kimono-like jacket similar to those I made and sold in boutiques throughout the country. Thus began my teaching career!
I no longer teach there but am exhibiting artwork at the Fine Line Kavanagh Gallery. Two of my hand embroideries, Bluebird with Happiness #1 and Bluebird with Happiness #2, are part of the Bird on the Wing exhibit that extends through August 10. I hope you can see it.
This regional arts center has classes in ceramics, jewelry and paper making, dyeing, weaving, glass blowing, and even blacksmithing. You name the art or craft, and the Fine Line has a class for it. It is also a warm and welcoming venue that nurtures artists and beginners like me!
Ever start something and think, “What was I thinking?” To fill in the background of this free-form embroidery, I happily stitch a series of small arcs to build an ogee pattern. The curved lines are made with a stem stitch and a size 12 Forget Me Nots thread.
And then I realize there is a lot of background to fill in! Hours and hours later, the purple felted wool is finally covered with an ocean of ogees. And just like childbirth, I get to experience the happy part once it’s over.
Lingering in my stack of felt is this circle of lime green felt. I choose it because the complementary green color sets off the purple fabric shape and repeats the greens found in the bird and apple. It is meant to be!
After attaching the purple wool to the green, I trim the green felt with a pinking blade and tack it to a turquoise circle of felt. To balance out the texture of the piece, I fill in the green fabric by adding branches of stem stitches surrounded by jolly lazy daisy stitches. That’s a size 12 Green Grass thread making the branches.
To finish the edges, I trim the turquoise felt with the pinking blade. Then fly stitches travel around the pinked edges of the green along with smart little French knots in size 8 Butter thread inserted into each pinked peak.
I had no idea what the final design would be when creating this reimagined embroidery. But it gives me great joy, so I’ve named it Bluebird with Happiness #2.
It’s dye week in my new workspace, and I’m thrilled to be back in the studio! Isn’t it pretty? But I soon discover that the habit of years of dyeing fabric and thread in this space needs to be adjusted. First, I need to be cleaner.
I really want to keep the floors and cabinets free of dye stains. A patchwork of old towels covers my cute penny tiles on the floor. The tabletop is draped with layers of plastic, the old canvas from my previous worktable, and gussied up with a fresh cotton drop cloth.
All my dye equipment is taken out of storage, and I begin by mixing dye stock. The dyes are Procion MX fiber reactive dyes, perfect for dyeing cotton fabrics and threads. My method is to weigh the dye powder (30 grams), measure the water (1000 mils), and mix them in a blender. Using this formula, I can get repeatable color and recreate the colorways of fabric and thread you see in the Artfabrik Store.
These plastic bottles are just the right size to hold the dye stock. (Yes, we drink a lot of orange juice.) Today I’m mixing colors ranging from lemon yellow to bright blue to fuchsia and beyond. This dye stock will last about a week and hopefully with be enough color to replenish the Artfabrik thread colorways.
One more thing.
I always wear protection.
More of dye week coming up. Be prepared to get messy!
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