ginkgo for memory

may 18

I love the texture of ginkgo leaves – the way the veins are long and hardly branch, the way it looks very basic and very old. I emulated the texture entirely with thread, using very long stitches. While I am delighted with this side, I think I like the back even better. Which tells me that I shouldn't have used the variegated thread when I wanted the thread texture to carry the piece.

Here's the back:

may 18 back

You can see how the energy of the thread is more visible without the varied color to distract the eye.

I also had a minor epiphany this morning. I wanted different greens than I had in either of a pair of  variegated green threads. One was too dark, with black that I didn't need. The other had a grass green in it that was not at all what I had in mind for pine trees. Alice was home today, keeping me company, sorting the markers into rainbow order when I borrowed two dark greens and started coloring the spool of thread. It worked beautifully!! The marker subdued the bright green and gave more depth and texture to the middle colors. It only soaked into the top layer on the spool, so once I've used that up I have the original color back.

It makes me wonder if I should just start with white thread and color it as I go… Except I like all the threads I have. So probably not.

home, and memory

may 6

Three leaves from a copper beech tree outside the place my dad is being taken care of.

As we went north, we traveled backwards through spring. The leaves shrunk and shrivelled, and collapsed into buds, the blooms turned from aged and browning to tiny and brilliant in golds and greens and pinks. The beech tree was perfct for climbing. Alice had limited tolerance for sitting beside a bed, so she'd go out and climb and read, and come back and check on us.

I love the squiggly center line of the leaves at the top; that will straighten out as the leaves age and harden.

These are real leaves, held in place with silk organza and fusible web. I think part of the piece is about aging and change, as much as the leaf itself, and the circle. I'll keep this one pinned to the wall and watch it change.

May Day!

may 1

And a very happy first of May to you!

I morris danced at various times in my life, and today I was grateful I was not dancing in the May at dawn because it was raining and cold and miserable. But I still sang some maying songs, and I admired my work that is hanging at the Cup and Top Cafe for the next two months (yesterday was very busy).

Circles for the month of May will be individual leaves. I've looked at landscapes, and trees and forests, and I'd like to look smaller. I think I can recognize 31 different plants and make something from a leaf of each. I'd like to focus on trees, but I might run out.

This leave was coated with paint from an oil paint stick (think oil paint in fat crayon form) and then ironed onto silk. The heat of the iron melts the paint onto the fabric and dries it, and cooks the leaf too. The whole process smells lovely. There are other ways to get details of an individual leaf onto fabric: crayon rubbings, printing them with paint or ink, using them as a stencil so the outline is visible but no interior features. I plan to try then all.

March inspiration and March 3

March black and white landscapes

What I didn't expect when I laid out my plans for the year in January was a snowstorm on March first, followed by gorgeous atmospheric weather and all the colors I've been thinking about. I'm not one to pass up inspiration when it whacks me on the head and gives everyone a snow day, so for a while you'll be seing small black and white landscapes in circles, inspired by the ones seen above. 

And the first of those is here. 

march 3

The advantage to driving a particular path routinely is watching things change across the seasons. I have a particular fondness for this field – the curve of it into the horizon defined by the woods at the edge, the lines of the rows of corn, as they grown green and are harvested. The cut corn stalks make particularly elegant hash marks against new snow. 

February feather

feb 6

I know it looks like a leaf, but I was thinking feather when I was constructing it. I think felt, with its lack of grain and structure, is harder to make a feather from than something that is woven and can be unravelled in interesting and effective ways. But I could be wrong. 

The base for this is unsupported felt – I just started running the machine through some mixed layers of green until it started to solidify into actual fabric. I didn't stitch cobbling into the background, and I think maybe I should the next time. It adds coherence to the background, and is an opportunity for additional color and texture. 

felted stitched leaf

feb 4

This one I worked in layers. For the base layer, I felted a fine layer of light pink over some green wool I'd fulled in the washing machine. I stitched a pebbled pattern onto it. The leaf started as a thin layer of darker pink wool felted without any backing in the felting machine. That gave me an airy, open fabric to work with. I cut out an oak leaf shape, and stitched that down onto the base. 

I have a critique for it: I think the leaf is a good beginning, but it could be even whispier. I like the stitching on the leaf, but the stitch colors could stand out more. Two layers attached with stitch makes a stronger statement than the previous circles. 

I'll try this again, with a thinner leaf, more contrast between the leaf and the veining colors, possibly more weight contrast in the thread used as well, and a background I like better. 

My best news today is that my sewing machine is home!!!! I am so pleased. While Timna's machine worked like a champ, I have spent the last long while improving my skills and rapport with my machine. 

Feb 2 and a hideous green

feb 2

It looks much more yellow here than in the box! The thread I used (Sulky rayon machine embroidery) is that awful bronzey yellowy green that shows up before spring really gets started. It does not show up so well in the deeper texture of the machine needle felted fabric. I'll try using some heavier thread on the next one. I do have a layer of iron-on stabilizer on the back because without it the stitches go right through the felt. 

I wonder, too, what I really need for a base layer. I was told to use basic craft felt for most work. I don't like the looks of that, and I can make huge amounts of topography in it by overworking particular areas. I have some wool jersey that I felted (on purpose!) that is a little heavier. I could try not using anything, and letting the wool felt to itself. Wet felting relies on the wool felting to itself, and containing any non-felting inclusions. I don't know if dry felting does that. 

So, I have some experiments to try. 

I will leave you with a picture from Family Circus: 

Family circus pyramid

I like Alice just hanging out on my back, holding Aerin's foot.