Trying to be Productive

It has been a little painful here in blogland. I'm sorry for posting so irregularly, my last five readers are going to give up on me I'm sure. But take heart, January is almost over, the fog that has been smothering Vancouver has lifted, and Heather has started a new piece.

I thought I should document my process, such as it is. I work with quotes quite often. This is not simply a post-modernist strategy lingering from my art school days. I actually trained originally in graphic design, back in the days when it was hands on cut and paste. (Sample interview question circa 1982: Can you render 4 pt type with a brush?) I worked in the fields of advertising and publishing, so I can say I come by my love of typography honestly.

I started here with a quote from Dag Hammerskjold, the first secretary general of the UN. I treat it like a bit of poetry, where the breaking of the lines is important to the rhythm of the piece. I use the word processor function of the computer to try various fonts until I find the one that seems right. I print it out to use as a template.

My choice of fabric involves, at the moment (since all my stuff is in boxes), going through my half dozen bins of cloth searching for "the one". I will often audition several pieces, always including my first choice and a sure fire loser so that it will feel like I am making a decision. Here, I ended up with a lovely chunk of cloth from a quilting store in Nara, Japan. This piece is not old, but has a handwoven quality and mellowness that helps it read subconsciously (I hope) as "cloth", not "pattern" or "1990's". I like working with materials that seem timeless, that embody an emotional or sensory affect.

Usually,I trace the text onto the cloth by taping the computer printout onto a brightly lit window, then taping the cloth over it. This time, I found that I had given myself a problem with the handwoven-ness of the cloth - it was so loosely woven, and had two different weights of thread, that reading the text through it was impossible. I ended up using dressmaker's tracing paper to trace it off in the usual way, then went over it with a Pigma Micron pen to render the image permanently. (The chalk would have dusted off in no time.)

Then, I actually tried mounting it on a roller frame, following the instructions from Needle and Thread (find it over on the links sidebar). Once I had done so, however, I found that my cloth was too fine and needed a backing, so I had to cut it off and baste on some fine muslin. At that point I didn't feel remounting it on the frame was worth the time, so I have started stitching just using a hoop. I am using a very pale yellow DMC floss, and satin stitch for the letters. I have a vague vision of adding areas of netting stitch after, or maybe something pictoral. This is my concession to spontaneity!

You can tell from this process that I am quite a control freak. I adore the work of people who can work more freely and intuitively, and I recognise that my need to control this 18x20 inch scrap of cloth is probably pathological. My rationale is that this will be the third piece in the series I am doing, and it's now apparent that I have backed myself into a bit of a corner, stylewise. Text, of a solemn and poetic nature; cloth, muted, natural and handmade.

I would love to say that I anticipate whipping this one off in a matter of weeks - and I just might. But I have several other projects on the go: Knitty's Frankensocks, a pair of curling sweaters, a batch of pillows, a counted cross stitch. I'll just be juggling quietly over in the corner, and let you know how things are progressing on a regular basis. I promise!


  1. nice to see something in process. my new project is exactly about the fog that has just lifted over there.

  2. Anonymous3:35 PM

    I am hanging in with the visits, Heather. This is a great post, learning so much about the process.
    Love your work, it is so un-Jude.
    Love Jude's work, it is so un-Heather.
    Cheers Jan

  3. Anonymous3:11 PM

    One question.... How did you find the quote? Do you have a collection of textile related quotes like your collection of cloth? Jean-Pierre


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