Stitching, embroidery and telling stories with thread

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Stitch is a gentle and impactful manner to tell stories, create imagery, and spend time. 

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Take, for instance this graffiti, a snapshot taken while in Barcelona, Spain, just over five years ago. I love birds, and am smitten with the quick, illegal stroke of the graffiti artists’ hand. Combine the two, and I definitely feel the need to snap a photo and go on to figure out how to use it in my own work!

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While most of the imagery I use in my work is drawn by myself, I don’t really feel badly about recreating a graffiti drawings in my work. I receive graffiti as an issue of the public domain, perhaps I am wrong in my thinking, I do not know. Beside which, I will not be selling any work with that bird in it, it is for my own enjoyment and personal use.

That trip to Spain was quite pivotal to me as an artist. I saw some graffiti that bowled me over and made me seriously embrace upon how to go about multicolor printing. That trip caused me to change course artistically.

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It made me start using stitch differently too. I began to use stitch as a means to journal, to use cloth as a place to store memories, thread as a medium to impart color, to draw and even to write. It made me start thinking of stitch as my own personal form of graffiti. Even if I am not doing it illicitly. 🙂

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It feels good to settle back into embroidery and stitch. In the next month or so, I will be creating content for my newly renovated teaching web site, The Clever Guild (there have been some behind the scenes updates and I am still fiddling with the particulars-but it is coming together, finally). I will be working with the idea of Journal Stitching and hope you might be interested in taking a class with me.

In the meantime, please read my rambles about the process here!

Gathering, an introspection.

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When sewing on the go, it is necessary to have a project bag. This bag, for me, serves a function. It serves as a place to embroidery reminders, occurrences, important dates, I love a project bag! It should be -just- big enough for a project, and a few choice supplies.

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The Gather your Sew-plies purse ought to contain, a thimble, a small array of hand and embroidery needles, an embroidery scissor, spool of sewing thread-I love Aurifil, each of my Gather your Sew-plies purses are kitted with it. The #12 cotton?? A gorgeous hand sewing and embroidery thread. Capital -L- Like.

And it dyes beautifully!!!

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Ok. Here is a debate that rolls around in my head. I like the Pilot Frixion Ball Erasable Black Gel Ink Pens for their immediacy, and when embroidering words onto cloth, it imparts a realistic look. But. 

Ok, wait.

The Frixion Pen can be ironed, which ‘erases’ the original mark.

BUT!!!

With cold, the mark will return. Cold as in, stored for an extended period in color storage or left on a metal tabletop over a few days time. I do not know if washing the item will have an effect in either direction, further study is needed.

But, I am using it in the meantime. It has advantages that I appreciate.

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 More to come on the Gather your Sew-plies Sew-along!!

And expect a Paris romp o photos! The graffiti? Awesome.

Learning to quilt again

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 I have finally gotten to the point where I am using the cloth I have been printing all year long. I am very excited about this for several reasons. The most surprising of which is, I forgot how very much I like piecing and quilting. For years I have been ‘art quilting’, using thickened dye to create one of a kind wall art in a figurative style, as I wrote about in Inspired to Quilt . Over the years, I stopped making surface designed cloth for the fun of it, while looking at my storage bins and wondering for what or why I should keep them. Now, I look at those bins and I see potential. I want to tear through these bins and make throw quilts. I want a stack of throws, folded, stacked, pretty and ready for use! 

The photos you see here are the back of a quilt. I like two sided quilts and I think the backs should be as fun as the fronts, although I think backs should also be quick and easy.MellyQuiltsBernina

Because I have been focusing on multicolor printing this year, I have a criteria for what I would like to accomplish while piecing and quilting my cloth. I want the cloth and my designs to really show themselves off, it takes commitment and time to print cloth and I want my quilts to really show my cloth off to its best advantage. I am exploring different quilt blocks and settings to do this. Right now I think it is a good idea for me to work with bigger blocks of a simple nature, like 6″ half square triangles, 1000 Pyramids. I bet as I cut, piece and quilt the throws I am working on now that I will begin to see my way through the quilt block forrest a little better.

I am oh-so-happy to say, today I am heading over to Victoria Findlay-Wolfe‘s house for a day long class in 15 Minutes of Play . This book has been following me around for weeks, if not months. Victoria uses a technique she calls Made-Cloth, where she sews cloth together improvisationally, and figures out how to use it later. For my part, this is useful in that, because I have printed all of my own cloth, I want to use every last bit of it. Many of my multicolor printed cloth pieces are quite small, so I have been making Made-Cloth with it, but I am sticking with the same prints and colors, rather than using many prints in one Made-Cloth piece. Brilliant.

I will post and let you know about what I have learned in Victoria’s class. I look forward to meeting quilters, I can’t wait to see the synapse connections I make. I love learning.IMG_2583I uploaded this image because I like the hash marks. I also really like graffiti and poster art, so there! Enjoy.

 

Dots, Patterns, Quilts and Inspiration

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I have been seeing pattern and dots everywhere. I love them. It started because I bought a copy of Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s book 15 minutes of Play, and I fell in love with one of the quilts displayed in her book. The quilt is called Dot Calm, and was made by Karen Griska

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I have been seeing dots everywhere! Today while traveling the subway, I saw a man wearing a printed purple dots in an irregular pattern and then I saw a woman wearing dotted tights! And being a Mad Men fan, I have to say, Season 6, Episode 5 had Peggy wearing a red polka dot pattern seen here (scroll down). I have been daydreaming about those dots since I first saw them.

Anyway, dots are all the rage in the land of Melanie Testa.

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This graffiti could be considered a dot. I know it is a stretch, but as I said, I have dots on my mind. Lots and lots of dots. This week, I strolled the aisles of Mood and I saw more dots. 

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So, I have been printing dots, and have begun to sew and quilt while using them. I have not honestly quilted in years. I love to seam and piece. I love sewing a scant quarter inch seam. I love the meticulous nature of wanting to do a good job, of compensating of a short seam, I love trimming the cloth and ironing the seams open. I love the smell of the iron, even more I love the smell of the sewing machine after hours of having it on-it smells like warmed oil. I love piecing. I forgot all of this.

I have been visiting The City Quilter and hesitantly looking at the newest books on the market. Books with a modern quilting flair. I am hesitant because I do not want to be too heavily influence in the direction of another persons style. I would like my own style to emerge and formulate. The overarching current day method, from what I can tell, is improvisational. So, I embrace dabbling and trying this block, that stripe, a little bit of solids, lots of printed cloth.

After printing so much cloth over the years, I find using the cloth to be invigorating and inspirational. I remember printing each piece, the studio I used to print it in, I track the learning progression from one piece to the next. I am wowed. My brain is quiet. This is good.

SpainGraffitiI am putting this image back up on the blog. I took it while we were in Barcelona, Spain. This image has changed the trajectory of my creative life. This helped me to see the possibility of multicolor printing and I am forever grateful to have seen it, had a camera and to have taken a photograph of it.