18 December 2010

Chapter 3 - Tonal Effects in Machine Stitchery (Part 2)

Machined Stitched Strips

(Puffer Fish)

Working on machine stitched strips. First, I chose the puffer fish with a cable stitch. An exercise in frustration (live and learn ;-). This machine doesn't do curves, so lifting up the foot every other stitch was, well, inconvenient. I liked the way it turned out, although you can't touch it because the stitches will come undone. But it has a neat kind of pattern to it (3.6 [1] below).

3.6 Four samples of stitched strips

(Eurasian Jay)

Next, I tried the Eurasian Jay with as close to a whip stitch as my machine would go. Varied the top tension button on each row (6-7 for dark, 0-1 for light) to get the varieties of shading. Pleased with the results (but 5 hours for 2 strips?!?!?!) - 3.6 [2] above.

(Sparrow Feathers)

Then worked on Sparrow Feathers. Used the cable stitch for the feathers' central shafts, then turn the strip over and filled in next to each shaft with whip stitches in wide zigzag and then triple stitch zigzag. Interesting effect - 3.6 [3] above.

(Wet Cheetah Fur)

Finally attempted "Wet Cheetah Fur" as the basis for the next strip - 3.6 [4] above. Used a zigzag back and forth to fill in a small patch, leaving the threads on the front hanging. Found that it was best not to have too orderly a pattern - random worked better. Like this effect very much, but again, 5 hours for 2 strips???!

3.7 Machined strips based on animal patterns

Finally, to see what it would look like on a black background, I make three more strips, using white thread, stitching in layers of different directions.

The first strip, 3.7 [1] above uses the spider web as inspiration. In 3.7 [2] above I was using an image of elephant skin as the pattern. 3.7 [3] above is based on the pattern of a giraffe.

(giraffe, elephant, spider web)

OBSERVATIONS on this Chapter....

Although this chapter took many months to complete due to interruptions in "life", I was happy to learn 1) it is possible to manipulate a sewing machine to achieve a variety of effects, 2) on a machine, thread can be used like charcoal - using it in different ways (thicknesses, densities, stitch types) to produce shades, 3) understanding how these different techniques work allows you to interpret textures in a wider variety of ways.

Some of the methods were tedious and time-consuming, yet often yielded the best results, I felt. Also, even a very simple sewing machine can produce quite a variety of effects. I'm sure there are more that I did not even consider.

However, at some point, I would like to learn how to manipulate the length of stitches and to see what effects can be produced with a greater variety of stitch styles.

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Total hours Chapter 3: 15

Chapter 3 - Tonal Effects in Machine Stitchery (Part 1)

Hello Blog. Long time no see...

Sometime back in June or July, I started Chapter 3. Frustrated that my machine only has 7 stitch types and no length adjustment to speak of.

Made several samples like the ones in the course guide, and they came out so-so, I guess. See 3.1 below:

a --> medium zigzag
b --> small zigzag
c --> another attempt at medium zigzag
d --> straight stitch in non-parallel rows
e --> straight stitch in parallel rows

3.1 Varieties of stitching and spacing

3.2 below - stitches fanning outward (or inward?):

f --> small zigzag
g --> medium zigzag
h --> hem stitch
i --> short straight stitch
j --> medium zigzag stitched in different directions

3.2 Varieties of stitching and spacing (cont'd)

Then experimented with other things - squares in different intensities or with different spacings. A bit more interesting...

3.3 below:

k --> zigzag stitches (small, narrow at bottom, medium in middle, large toward top)
l --> hem stitch circling in (or out)

3.3 Varieties of stitching and spacing (cont'd)

Finding it a little limiting with my machine and my limited creativity. How is it that some people can see things that could be and turn out the most exquisite pieces with very basic resources? Poetry with ten or fifteen words, etc.

Oh, well. Maybe it can be learned. Forge ahead.

"Whip Stitch" Effect

I found the screw on the bobbin!! Yea! Even though there is no control knob to adjust stitch length on my machine, I was able to change the top tension and achieve some subtle changes - not many, but a few. 

3.4 below:

m --> first try:  a variety of stitches just to see what they looked like.
n --> zigzag stitch: white thread on top, 0 top tension at top of sample, top tension set at 7 for next section to middle. Bottom half small zigzag with top tension set at 7, bottom of sample is small zigzag stitch with top tension set at 0.
o --> medium zigzag stitch, top: top tension set at 2, gradually changing top tension to 9 and then back to 0 toward bottom.
p --> triple zigzag, top tension set at 2, changed to 0, then to 8.
q --> change in stitch direction - triple zigzag stitch, top tension set at 0 for stitching toward top of sample, higher setting for stitches toward middle and bottom of sample.

3.4 Varieties of stitching and spacing

3.5 Whip Stitch and Cable Stitch samples

3.5 r (above) shows an additional sample of whip stitch, fanning outwards, with varying top tensions.

"Cable Stitch" Effect

3.5 s (above) shows a sample using a rather thick black thread in the bobbin, medium zigzag stitch in white thread on top, with straight stitches at top and bottom of sample.

3.5 t (above) shows an additional sample of cable stitch, straight stitch with varying widths between each row. 

22 September 2010

Chapter 2 - Tonal Columns

Finally getting time to upload Chapter 2, which I finished back in June but never uploaded.


2.1 Tonal column in stitchery

(13 May) 
Using 10-ct needlepoint canvas, made a gradation, black to white, with cross stitch (2.1 above). It came out okay. I think I could have added more white to the black to make the transition to gray in the center section. As with the previous chapter, planning ahead isn't always easy... getting a smooth transition is tricky. I assume that 1) you can go back over it afterwards and add threads, and 2) you get better with practice ;-)


2.2 Tonal effects - Blackwork on paper 
(click on image to enlarge)

(23 May) 
Using graph paper (2.2 above) played with two directions, 1) taking away lines and 2) adding lines. Both are interesting to work with. The more you play with them, the more patterns you can see and develop. There seems to be no end to the possibilities of shape/line combinations. This would be fun to do on the subway to work in the morning!

2.3 Blackwork tonal columns

(11 Jun) 
These samples (B1, 2, 3, in image 2.3 above) were a lot of fun to do.

B1 uses pattern development to gradually increase darkness of the tone.
B2 uses spacing of the stitches.
B3 uses thickness of thread.

B1 should have been a bit better planned. It seems to jump suddenly from the lighter tone at the left to the second, darker one with not enough contrast between the second and third sections. Fewer lines would have been better between the first and section patterns.

B2 Spacing is off. It doesn't give a smooth transition (good to remember when a smooth transition isn't what you want... do it this way ;-)

B3 This one turned out best of all, in my opinion. The lighter threads, a simple pattern, a fairly even transition, produced quite a good sample.

+ - + - + - + - + - + - +
= | = | = | = | = | = | = | =
+ - + - + - + - + - + - +
= | = | = | = | = | = | = | =
(uh-oh, now seeing these patterns everywhere ;-)

Total time Chapter 2: 22 hours

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16 May 2010

Module 2 - Chapter 1: The Study of Tone

Using short strips of white paper, applied black ink with various materials I had handy...


1.1 top: shredded cardboard, second row: felt marker, 3rd: stiff card, bottom: bubble wrap


1.2 top: crumpled copy machine master paper, second row: porous sponge, third: black pastel rubbing of wicker basket: bottom: magazine photo


1.3 top: hole punch (this hole punch makes holes in the shape of a quarter note. I used the punched out notes as the "paint" for the top sample).

1.3 middle is a black sheet of paper with white paper pieces on the left, pieces of copy machine master paper next, white pastel and white correction tape, white pastel

1.3 bottom is a white sketchbook piece of card with black ink at left, next are pieces of the black strip that runs at the end of the copy machine master paper, then a photocopied photo, then a base of watercolor black which turned out too dark, so I cut out cartoon faces for this strip along the center, next to that is the black watercolor background with the word "meow" photocopied and cut out, glued on to lighten that strip of the card, next is Fabrico black fabric ink, next is a 1.0 felt marker, and finally pencil.

In the bottom sample, it was interesting that if a section was too dark, it was possible to lighten it by placing slightly lighter pieces on top (in this case, the comic book faces). This let some of the darker background through, but helped to lighten that section just a bit. Looking at it now, I think it could have been even lighter, and overall, the transition seems to go from dark to midway, to darker again, then midway and on to light and lightest.

Module 2 - Introduction

Welcome to Module 2 :-)

The following photos (intro 1 & 2) were taken from the National Geographic web site:

intro 1               intro 2

Wrote a list of words that describe each pattern/animal. Using the lists interpreted them using various implements (corrugated paper, crumpled plastic, crumpled paper, etc.) and black acrylic paint. (intro 3) Top (boa constrictor): salty, strong, bumpy, undulating, hard, rhythmic, orderly, lonely.  Bottom (web): tender, slight, anticipation, durable, springy, territory, guarded.

intro 3

07 April 2010

Additional Information

Certificate Module One
Health and Safety Rules Observed

Make it a habit to:

• turn off the iron after each use
• put scissors and other sharp tools back in protective pockets away from cat and self
• put away items being worked on so as to keep them in good shape
• keep workspace relatively organized and uncluttered (prevents accidents, tripping, etc.)
• keep ink/paint/marker lids & caps well sealed when not in use
• wipe all brushes of excess paint before washing (less waste material to wash down the drain and eventually into rivers)
• keep electrical / computer cords off the floor and out of working areas
• work in a well-lit area


Please see Expense Sheet at:


Total hours for...

Chapter 1: (approx) 13

Chapter 2: (approx) 15

Chapter 3: 35
Chapter 4: 10
Chapter 5: 4
Chapter 6: 13
Chapter 7: 18
Chapter 8: 21
Chapter 9: 16
Chapter 10: 37
Chapter 11: 34.5
Chapter 12: 1.5


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Chapter 12 - Study of an Artist: M.C. Escher (1898-1972t

Study of an Artist: M.C. Escher (1898-1972)                                                                                                                    

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He was not a keen student and, with the exception of a weekly drawing class, found school a nightmare. He later enrolled in the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem to study architecture. A graphic arts teacher at the school, Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita, recognized the youth’s talent and encouraged the young Escher to switch his course of study to graphic arts.

  • Disintegration: the process of losing cohesion; the process of coming to pieces.
  • Transformation: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
  • Metamorphosis: the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.

I am intrigued by the method of disintegration featured is this module. Contemplating the idea of disintegration, I considered the work of Escher. It could be argued that Escher’s Metamorphosis (below) is based on transformation rather than on disintegration. However, it is the gradual breakdown of forms that allow new forms to develop. The disintegration in Escher’s work is a controlled chaos instead of an organic chaos.

Metamorphosis II (1940) Escher’s second version of the theme of metamorphosis.
In 1926 Escher made his first trip to la Alhambra de Granada in Spain. The rhythmic structure of the Islamic tiles influenced much of his later work in lithographs and woodcuts.
Metamorphosis II - M.C. Escher (1940)

Another fascinating feature of Escher’s work is the use of positive and negative shapes. For example, in Day and Night, he uses negative-aspect bird shapes flying in daylight toward the left (and white birds become the daylight sky background), while geometrically equal mirrored positive bird images in white fly through the night sky (of black bird shapes) toward the right.

Day and Night - M.C.Escher (1938) 


Ernst, Bruno. El Espejo Magico de M.C. Escher. 1978. Taschen Publishing, Germany.

National Gallery of Art.
http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/ggescher/ggescher-54213.html  (Accessed 23 Feb, 2010).

Official Website of M.C.Escher. http://www.mcescher.com/  (Accessed 23 Feb, 2010).

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Chapter 11 - Growth and Disintegration - Resolved Sample

In this chapter I had wanted to experiment with decay/disintegration as it applies to paper/fabric materials as well as to light.

First, I randomly sewed a piece of stiff paper, then took it outside and beat it between two rough rocks. The areas that were beaten longer had more holes/gashes. The holes from the sewing stitches also allowed more light through (image 11.1).

[Safety note: Keep your fingers out of the way when pounding! ;-) ]

11.1 stitched and pounded paper

Next, with another piece of stiff paper, I used a variety of needles and punched holes in the paper. Different spacing and frequency affected the amount of light that seeped through, as did the size of the holes. Finally, using a piercing tool, I was able to get quite large holes. If these are densely packed, the paper is torn apart (image 11.2).

[Safety note: Keep focused and pay extra attention to where the needles, etc. are going. I used a felt making tool and the brush base to make this paper sample.]

11.2 differently-sized holes punched in paper

Turning the paper over (above picture), there is a variety of textures from something like a soft sandpaper to a rough surface.

Using a piece of blue origami, I folded and folded, scrunched, rumpled, straightened, and finally used my fingernail to scrape the color away. Using another rock-beaten light blue paper, I doused it with water, crumpled it several times which resulted in even greater disintegration. Used the tips of scissors to scrape stiff paper and also tried slashing it (orange sample below) (image 11.3). 

11.3 Three samples of 
paper disintegration techniques

Used light blue and orange origami and an 8-pt star shape. Four squares starting with same 8-pt star, but each square breaks down a little more. Rather simple way to "disintegrate" by being torn to pieces (image 11.4).

11.4 Tearing apart paper

Wanted to do one more paper breakdown. Thought of things that disintegrate - stars! Well, not stars exactly, although they do over millennia, but a faster evolution is a comet. Chose a simple sun star shape, cut 7 copies of it and slowly cut them with a craft knife, glued the red pieces onto a light blue background, and showed the comet breaking up (image 11.5).

11.5 Comet disintegrating

Took a kind of washi in a turquoise, machine stitched (no thread) holes in the shapes of 5-pt stars. Each star gradually gets more and more holes and bigger ones. Set this paper against orange background. Against background light it looks like this (video clip 11.6):

11.6 video clip: stars with holes backlit

Moving along to trying using fabric to show modes of disintegration...
Using the ideas on p. 40 of the manual, folded and cut fabric and then frayed the inside/outside edges. Tried that with a couple of earlier star shapes, a snowflake, and some branches of a snowflake (image 11.7).

11.7 Cut shapes with frayed edges

Then made a simple 5-pt star shape appear to get smaller by increasing the numbers of rows of stitching and decreasing the hole size of the star. Also tried to make the shape disappear by adding more decorative boding pieces in red on blue against a red background (image 11.8).

11.8 Diminishing star (left); fading star (right)

Then attempted different sizes of one star shape using decoratively bonded felt pieces in ever decreasing sizes (1/quadrant, 4/quadrant, 16/quadrant, 64/quadrant). Interesting contrast. I see now that there are many, many ways to do this. I like the colors I chose, especially against the dark blue background. The shape was difficult to work with though, the 64 shapes quadrant in particular (image 11.9).

11.9 Star disintegration based on size

Finally, made a couple of sample paper layouts for the resolved sample. the first, a simple 8-pt star disintegrating outwards (image 11.10).

11.10 First paper sample for Resolved Sample

For several weeks I have been mentally tossing around the idea of doing something with a mosaic pattern I created on a web site [http://www.cgl.uwaterloo.ca/%7Ecsk/washington//taprats/] . I had thought of including light as a feature as well in the mosaic pattern, having light play from left to right as a representation of growth/disintegration (image 11.11).

11.11 Beginning of a paper sample
 based on mosaic pattern

The third sample followed more closely the sample on p. 45 of the course manual. I used a series of 8-pt stars in various stages of disintegration (image 11.12).

11.12  Repeated pattern of 8-pt stars

It was this final paper sample I chose for my Resolved Sample in fabric. The flow goes from the center orange star, right, then down right and clockwise up to the final star at the top right.

11.13 Resolved Sample

I was very disappointed with the results for two main reasons. First, I think I opted for this because it was the easiest to put together. It wasn't thought out well enough in advance. In addition, I had wanted to play with light as an additional element of growth and disintegration. As it is, this piece only shows a moon in on of the star shapes, slashes in one star which are meant to show ripples on the water, and in the dark sky a few stars (and a black hole in the next-to-last star ;-). A stereotypical view. Boring.

I think I'm still stuck in fear of branching out. What if I don't do it the "right" way? (Assuming there is a right answer.) I know I'll get beyond this at some point, but on this final piece, that hesitation kept me from making a decision on the design, starting on it, and seeing it through.


Overall, I'm rather disappointed with my resolved sample. I think I should have chosen one of the other two designs I made in paper. That said, from this I learned that the more conservative I was (in stars 1 - 5: i.e. center to bottom left), the less interesting the piece was. When I just tried anything, (stars 6-9; i.e. far left to top right), the piece took on more vitality and was more appealing.

I believe it does reflect the theme of "Growth and Disintegration" on a basic level in that the center star is the most solid, structured element, and each successive shape becomes more diffuse. In the final three shapes, the star shape becomes difficult to identify within the materials.

If I were to do this again, I would choose my original design which followed a mosaic structure, clearly-defined shapes running through the center, becoming less so toward the outer edges, combined with light (from behind) getting progressively darker toward the center. I think there would be much more play with light and materials than I produced in this Resolved Sample.

The only direction you can go from the bottom is... up!

Looks like I have a lot of growth ahead of me ;-)

Total hours Chapter 11: 34.5

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Chapter 10 - Supplemental

Thank you, Sian, for sending instructions on the plaited insertion stitch. Again (as with the first attempt at doing this), I got the spacing too tight. I understand the technique, now, but have to keep a wider space between the pieces so that the weave shows more space between the threads.

10.7 Supplemental

Plaited insertion stitch

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12 March 2010

Chapter 10 - Inlay Applique

10.1 insertion stitch sample

Made bonded felt pieces in reddish-orange and turquoise for the later interchange samples, and one small piece in dark blue. Used that to cut into six strips (image 10.1). Followed the ideas in the course guide to practice (top to bottom):
 - laced insertion stitch
 - beaded insertion stitch (I ran out of thread in the middle and couldn't figure out how to end the thread, so just added some beads and left them hanging.)
 - knotted buttonhole stitch
 - simple insertion stitch
 - machine zigzag stitch

Couldn't figure out how to do the plaited insertion stitch. I need to find directions on how to do that. In general, I think I made all of these stitches too tight. If I'd left them a little looser, it would be easier to see the intricacy of the stitches. This was a great exercise, though, and fun to see the results. There are a lot of possibilities for using this variety of stitches.

10.2 Simple counterchange sample 1a

10.3 Simple counterchange sample 1b

Then used the turquoise/orange pieces (10.2 and 10.3), drew a simple 5-pt star on both, cut out, switched inner stars and sewed seams with simple insertion stitch. 

10.4 Counterchange sample 2

(image 10.4) Using Design Sheet C, I took the 2-squares-slightly-skewed star pattern and reproduced it on four square piece of felt of different colours. I moved the pieces around until I was happy with the balance of the colors. Wanting to keep something "stable", I used the same colour of metallic thread in each quarter (same as the dominant outside colour in the opposite quarter) and used gold in the blanket stitch around the outside edges. Happy with this sample. It looks more interesting in a diamond shape rather than a square.

10.5 Counterchange sample 3a

10.6 Counterchange sample 3b

For the final interchange sample, I chose star shapes from Chapter 8. FIrst, I cut out the shapes and bonded them to orange and blue squares of felt. I then stitched the shapes to the felt - I think I made a mistake here. I don't think I understood the instructions correctly. I could have stitched around shapes after it was all bonded together. However, as it turned out, it adds some interesting detail. Then, from the back, I cut out a third star shape from each square (image 10.5)

I now had the negative images left over, I made four more squares, bonded them, stitched, and once again, cut out the third star shape from the back.

I now had eight squares. Within the original four (call it "set A") I swapped around the inner sections and then swapped the innermost crosses. However, the crosses ended up being bonded felt pieces and were not very distinguishable from the neighbouring pieces... So, I chose to swap the innermost cross pieces from Set B for those in Set A. The bonded cross pieces tend to stand out more in Set B this way as well because they are on a solid background (image 10.6). 

All of the squares were machine stitched with a zigzag stitch with the exception of one square in Set B.

Lesson learned: choose a simple pattern to work with. Lots of little pieces makes more work! (obviously ;-)

No play with light this time, but  noticed that the red felt showed up well against the light. Will keep this in mind - could explore bonding red felt in a certain way that would allow shapes between the felt and top layer to show through against the light.

[Total hours Chapter 10:  37]

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