Friday, 17 August 2012

Mr X Stitch Article

Very proud to be featured by the fabulous Mr X.

This reminded me....has it really been a year since the monster of a patchwork quilt I exhibited at NEC Birmingham last year? Wow, the progress I've made since then! And luckily, at this point in time one year on, my hands aren't shaking from excessive caffeine consumption as I frantically get the quilt hemmed and packaged up in time for the show.

You can also find me featured on the front cover of the Royal School of Needlework's 140th anniversary edition of their newsletter - click here for more details.

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Monday, 13 August 2012

Stella Artois goldwork label WIP

Lettering, logos, and if you spend long enough staring at something – I think it starts to creep into your subconscious. Something about the elaborate design of the Stella Artois logo must have appealed to me the day I dragged the bottle back from the pub and sat it on the side in my studio, where it’s waited patiently for a good month now, awaiting its inspirational purpose. Being relatively uninventive I decided to replicate the logo entirely in or nue, a task made more challenging by the swirling gold detailing and the slight drop-shadow of the lettering itself that demanded accurate capturing.

I fully recommend surrounding yourself with inspirational items and allowing them to infiltrate your creative headspace (and I’m not simply referring to the contents of said bottle.)

(life-size: 9x10xcm)
I start by drawing out the design onto the background fabric. The couching thread here’s going to be silver, which means any other areas of colour (including all the red) must be ‘coloured in’ with dense rows of stitches. By colouring in the background in the corresponding colour, not only does it give you an accurate ‘colour by numbers’ to work from, it helps disguise any minor discrepancies: deviations where the thread doesn’t couch down quite parallel, and a tiny glimpse of background is left uncovered. Threads can pass along the back of the work but I wouldn’t recommend having them loose in this manner for more than an inch or so.

After the design has been worked, the ends are plunged through to the back: potentially the trickiest section, here. After the gold band of edging, the ideal is for the silver ends to disappear exactly where the gold stitches securing them stop, for otherwise you’ll be left with nasty silver highlights at the ends of rows where they don’t belong. There are two tricks to ensure this doesn’t happen. One: when working the edges, make them as accurate and the gold curves in as smooth a line as possible. Two: a great deal of patience in needle placement when the silver is threaded up and actually plunged.

This label isn’t finished: next stage, it requires the fine black outlining around the gold leafy swirls and the trumpet. These are far too narrow to have been worked as part of the or nue, so will be added later in backstitch over the top. Then I intend to cut out and hem the entire logo, and attatch it inconspicuously to the side of the bottle. The end result shall be a bottle that at a glance looks perfectly normal, but actually has an exquisitely embroidered label that shimmers when the curve of the bottle catches the light.
And then I’m possibly going to go and drink one to celebrate.

Goldwork Script WIP

I have a real interest in text going on at the moment. If you look back to my earlier experiments in lettering (see see earlier post) you will recall I was especially interested in capturing the delicacy and detail of letters through goldwork couching and the technique of or nue.

Current experimentation follows in this train of thought, since I find myself captivated by logos in particular. The choice of font is important: in order for me to want to stitch it, it has to be at least a certain thickness (bold, thick lettering preferable over spindly characters) and – even better – a ‘drop shadow’ behind it, which adds another challenge to execute in stitch. Once you start looking around you can’t help but notice just how many signs and labels actually do have this 3D-effect to their lettering. But I digress.


To start with, here’s the Krispy Kreme doughnut logo: the challenge here – can I keep it at this relatively small scale, and still fit in enough detail to make the letters ‘flow’ without looking square-edged and step-like? (remember that each row’s height is dictated by the width of the silver thread you’re couching over, meaning that subtle curves are limited. Over a block ten rows deep, for instance, you can only achieve ten gradations of where you place the edge of the letter.) I think I succeeded.

The next phase of this will be to hem the edges and integrate this logo into part of a larger piece of work (a chunk of fabric worked separately and re-applied like this is called a slip.) The bigger piece shall depict a doughnut or something equally appropriate, possibly worked in Berlin wool-work velvet stitch, and this logo could feature on the napkin it’s placed on. I’m not quite decided yet.

Secondly, (9x9.5cm – the actual size on the side of the can)

The ever-recognisable Coca-Cola logo. I’m not as pleased with this one: since my red couching thread was considerably thinner than the above silver, I decided to use it two rows at a time (this would save me half the time not having to work each row individually, a luxury I couldn’t really afford if I wanted to work the entire area of the sample.) Traditionally, goldwork couching was usually done this way, holding down two strands at once to couch over: personally, I’ve always thought this just limits the scope for detail. It’s true that if I had worked one strand at a time, the curves of the letters would flow a lot smoother: but still, it’s passable.

Although the fabric is obviously stiffened by the application of all the metallic thread, it’s still fairly pliable: this logo could then be applied over a raised or padded background, moving something currently flat into 3D – an area I am very eager to explore. It’s time for or nue to start breaking some boundaries.