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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Novice Thread Painting/ July 12 x 12 Challenge

My July 2007 12 x 12 Challenge piece has been hanging behind my sewing machine for several months because it needed free motion thread painting to complete it. I made a trip to Colorado Springs to order a free motion foot for my Bernette and since it arrived I've been too petrified to try using it. I tend to subscribe to the old adage, "If you can't do it well, don't do it!" which isn't a help when what I need is "If you can't do it well, do it poorly until you learn to do it well."

I finally got up the nerve to install the foot on the machine and started experimenting. Naturally, my first efforts were pitiful. But, I began to get a hint of the idea of what I was supposed to be doing. When I took up the 10 minutes a day in March Challenge I needed to change back to my regular foot so I took a deep breath and started thread painting the July quilt.

This quilt is called "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" and was inspired by my trip to the hospital, which lead to having an echo cardiogram, the week after I came home from my high altitude July 4th camping trip to my beloved Snowblind Camp Ground in the Gunnison National Forest. The doctors decided that my problem was the result of the stress of high altitude followed by 100 degree weather at home.

Seeing my own heart beating, with the valves opening and closing, and then the brilliant colors of the doppler effect flashing on and off, impressed me so much that I realized that I had to use that image in one of my quilts. I wan't able to get a copy of my own echo cardiogram but I copied one from the internet and printed it onto fabric, which I cut into a hexagon shape and fused onto one of my photos of Snowblind which was also printed onto a prepared cotton fabric sheet. Since my printer will only print up to 8 x 12 inches I had to do some creative patchwork to make the image fill the 12 x 12 inch quilt.

I then printed the same photo of the campground onto a silk organza prepared sheet and fused it, with Misty Sheer along the edges, over the cotton fabric photo, so that the center was not attached. The organza was then slit into wedges to open, with the points fused down, to show the echo cardiogram as if it were breaking through the scenery. The front and back were sandwiched with cotton batting and finished envelope fashion and top stitched around the edge.

The Aspen trunks were outlined with pale gray thread on the sun side and dark gray thread on the shadowed sides for added definition. To give the effect of the quaking Aspen leaves twinkling in the sun I thread painted them with tight circular squiggles ("technical quilt language") of iridescent Sulky thread. A bright green thread was used to paint the spiky clumps of grass in the foreground.

I am still struggling with balancing out the stitching speed with the hands moving the fabric in a controlled fashion. I also havn't figured out how to begin and end the stitches so I don't have ugly bunches of thread on the back side. But, I'm glad I did it because I can see what it can add to a quilt's effect, and I will certainly be continuing to experiment. I really do need to find a class where I can actually watch how it should be done. When I started stitching I was scared that I would ruin the quilt but I think that it did come out fairly well for Kindergarten.

I wasn't able to get a photo that showed the stitching well, although I took photos with and without flash, etc. The organza refracts the light in a strange way and looks fuzzy. You can get a better view by clicking to enlarge the photos.

Debra, this quilt is the result of the photo quilt of a seagull on Coreopsis flowers at ocean cliffs that we saw and discussed at the Denver show. It took me long enough to try it, but I'll definitely be doing more of this type of quilt. "Sitting Pretty" by Barbara Merrick McKie.

I'm glad I finished this yesterday because today (more cold, light snow) I am feeling yucky with a cold, runny nose and coughing, so I have reclined, wrapped in a down throw. Too bad I didn't have any bon bons to nibble.


Quiltnbee said...

Wow! Awesome, Fran!

Deb H said...

Interesting images Fran.That must have been frightening.

In answer to your thread balls at the start, do you pull your bobbin thread to the top & hold the tails to start? That should take care of the beginning nest. The end nest is probably doing too many stitches in one spot.

For my beginner thread painting students, I have them do some 'coloring' to warm up. Take a piece of fabric with a simple image on it, like a flower with 3 colors, & color it with thread. Place it in a hoop with an iron on stabilizer on the back of the fabric, & color your flower with stitches,starting with the smallest color first. Do both straight & zig-zag. That'll get you comfortable, from there you can paint anything.

Rian said...

That's a pretty cool piece! Very interesting.

Allison Ann Aller said...

Original, brave, and successful! You should be very proud of yourself for jumping into thread painting this way.
Your willingness to take on very personal subjects is inspiring. That is something I have trouble doing...

The Carolina Quilter said...

You'll quickly get the hang of the free motion work and do take care of your heart. I love Colorado and have been privileged to visit friends who live in Buena Vista twice. We would love to go back but having one headed to college, another who wants a car and turns 16 Sunday, a third which speaks for itself and the usual list of debts, I don't know when we may get back out there. Take it easy and I love your art quilt--or should I say, he-art quilt?!

Kay said...

Good for you for plunging in! Somewhere I heard 100 hours of practice for free motion quilting. Thread painting should be a bit easier because of size and the hoop to hold, but still--you should be pleased with the first attempt. It's a very creative piece.

diva of quilts said...

It's a very lovely and interesting piece. I kept wondering what that was in the middle until I actually read the post. I hope you're feeling better.

Samantha said...

WOW! How wonderful a piece, and even more wonderful that you braved a new technique- that can be very hard for me!

McIrish Annie said...

Fran this looks great! I love how the organza toned down your background to let the echogram shine through. Thread painting is addictive and you will get better the more you practice.

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