what the back looks like


What does the back look like and why do I care? 

The back generally looks like a thin, dark version of the front. All that bobbin thread, made visible against the plain white substrate. 

I look at the back for the same reason an artist might squinch their eyes, or look at a picture upside down or in a mirror. It works to check on the balance of the piece. From the back, I can see if the picture has unintended empty spaces or overly busy places. I can make sure I am working to the edges of the piece. It helps me check my work without the detail on the front distracting me. 

The only real problem with this check is when I am working from the back, using heavier decorative threads in the bobbin. Then I have to rely on mirrors to help me see compositional problems. 

pines with thread

pines with thread

Like a commenter said yesterday – do something every day, even if it is only five minutes. So I did five minutes, and got the pine trees textures and ready for green needles and some embroidering. 

We also got a LOT of glow sticks in packaging that included two hubs. The results were amusing, and produced a ball that works in the dark. So we instigated a spirited game of catch in the dark, followed by some glowsticks around the origami hanging off the ceiling. It looked like this: 

spinning glowstick ball

a little closer

larger bare trees

I thought I was too tired to work on this today, because I rode two horses. The big gray horse is back from his summer on the island, and needing riding on Fridays and random other days. So I had my lesson on Nuada, which was fun and different. 

But I am worried about finishing things in time, so I came up and started working on the tiny twiggy trees in the mid-background, and then worked on cutting out the larger bare trees, getting closer to the foreground. And when I checked my watch because I was really tired – it had been a couple hours, and it was completely reasonable to be tired. 

winter is icumen in

tiny pointy trees

Tiny pointy trees in the background. They are making me happy. Also, they feel cold… brrr. 

There are three layers of medium, muddy greens making up the trees, one hand dyed, one hand painted, and one commercial. The interesting thing is how the thread works to consolidate them – even though I used four different threads, singly and in pairs.  

fall pond, finished

fall pond

I have to call this done. I can't do anything else to it without breaking it, I don't think. So I declare it finished. 

Now I get to start the winter woods at the edge of the same pond. That image has been haunting me all the time I've ben working on this one. I am fickle! 

water and reflections

water and reflections

Two layers of silk organza make the pond. The top layer is dyed all black, the underneath layer has a strip of blue across the bottom, to add some depth and imply sky reflections. 

I helped offload a wagon of hay into the barn, and I am coated with a fine layer of hay and horse dust, glued on with sweat. 

lots of thread

process: lots and lots of thread

You can see a lot of process here. The layers are thread trees, small snips of fabric creating edges and depth, and then stitching over the snips to consolidate it. 

I look at it and think "that's a lot of thread" and then I think "yeah, that's a lot of leaves too". 

a layer of small trees

tiny naked trees

The next layer is more stitching. The saplings are stitched from the back using heavy thread in the bobbin. I can see what I'm stitching on the back of the piece, but it is still kind of magical to flip the piece over and find trees. You can see the edges of some more shrubbery (which always makes think of Monty Python) and the bottoms of some pine tree branches. This section is about 3×4" – the whole piece is 12×16" 

I broke two needles in three minutes so I stopped. I wear glasses, so I'm less worried about getting stabbed, but it makes me jump every time. My nerves can only take so much! 

next layer

next layer

And here is a tiny part of the center of the piece, showing all kinds of thing!

A distant tree is sketched in with just thread, and leaves stitched in. A pine tree is in the next plane (if you will) and waiting for stitching in the needles. In front of that is a tree with yellow leaves; some fabric bulks out each branch and stitching is used to imply leaves and blend the edges into something softer. And in the very foreground of this picture (but not the ultimate foreground of the piece) is the beginnings of a birch tree. 

I feel like I'm showing you the underpainting – it is crucial for me, but I'm not sure how interesting or important it is to the you-the-viewer. 

We are headed to see Cirque de Soleil's Quidam tonight at UMass. It is always odd to see these big, older shows in an arena rather than a tent. It… lacks something. Probably it lacks the tent, and the whole ambience that goes with being sort-of outside, but I can't be any more specific than that. I'll see if I cna describe it any better after tonight. 

rich in thread

rich in thread

I ordered a lot of new threads because I was feeling the need for something different. I love variegated threads because the changing colors help the piece work, and add depth without quite so many spool changes. These are various Valdani threads. (Aren't they lovely?) I've heard from friends that they are slubby and break, but I have enough other issues with needles and breakage I'm not sure I can attribute it to anything other than my own bad behavior.

These are leaf, pine tree and mossy greens, and a set of the Most Gorgeous Blues. I don't know yet what I'll use them on, but it will be something wonderful. 

And I started the next piece. It doesn't look like much yet, but you can see the sky, and the hillside the tres are on, and the puddles of fallen leaves under the trees. It will become clear! 

fall pond beginning