Hand of the Artist

I was at Art Quilt Tahoe last week taking a class with Lorie McCown. Lorie is a fiber artist and a painter so she brings a lot to the table. She is keen on creating work that reveals the hand of the artist. Her work is created by layering fabric which is held together with some machine stitches, but primarily hand stitches. She and I share an interest in how we create the quilt line in our work — I felt there was something to learn from Lorie.

Right away I was out of my comfort zone. Lorie uses a scissors for some cutting work but never a rotary cutter and mat and usually she snips and tears fabric. So, okay, I’m there to learn, so I dove in, snipping and tearing fabric and placing it on a background. Then I caved a bit, placed tulle on top of the 2 layers of fabric, batting and backing, and quilted the entire surface. This provided a nice flat surface to begin layering a design.

Here is where I dove into my box of threads: embroidery floss, yarn, hand-dyed collections from Oliver Twists and more. I was ready for the comfort of hand work. I started by couching down some hand-dyed ribbon, then moved on to other designs, working back and forth between hand stitching and hand-cutting leaves that I stitched onto the surface by hand. Lorie shared her method for leaf construction — it creates a leaf with real dimension.

Leaf detailI got to a certain point and knew that I had gone as far as I could: the next step needed beads and I didn’t have any with me. I was so in the moment that I completely forgot to take progressive photographs of the process. Here is the completed piece (Click on the image for a larger view):

Hand of the ArtistHand of the Artist measures 14 3/4″ x 15 3/4″. The list of materials is very long for this small piece: commercial and hand-dyed cotton, hand-dyed and silk-screened silk, hand-painted cheese cloth, tulle; commercial cotton embroidery thread, hand-dyed cotton embroidery thread, yarn; beads.

The bead leaves are heavy and thick and getting them to remain where I stitched them turned into quite a puzzle. I stitched several on using what I always use for beads: size D nymo thread. I didn’t like the thread showing and it allowed the beads to twirl. Off they came. I had to use a method that would keep them secure, no matter the orientation I placed them in. Aha! I said. Embroidery stitches. This allowed me to use some of Els van Baarle‘s hand-dyed embroidery thread (She was teaching at AQT and I bought several hanks of her thread.).

Els van Baarle embroidery-threadI used 2 strands of thread and a small embroidery needle. I came up through the hole in the bead, took a stitch to the right of the base, catching the top 2 layers of material and batting, coming up an equal distance to the other side of the base, then down through the hole to the back. Needle back up through the hole again, I created a double Colonial Knot (I stacked 2 Colonial Knot stitches on top of one another to create the depth I needed using a light-weight embroidery thread.) and tied it off on the back. I prefer the Colonial Knot to the French Knot because the Colonial Knot will stay upright and stationary wherever it is stitched — no falling over on its side like the French Knot. I first tried a single Colonial Knot but when I pulled the thread snug to the back of the quilt the knot slid through the hole — a double knot was necessary.

Hand of the Artist, detailThe leaf beads look as though they are wearing a necklace. Kind of charming. Most important, though, is that the stitches are intentional, serve their purpose and look good. Success!

This post is linked to Off the Wall Friday. Check out what other fiber artists are up to there.




21 replies
    • Franki Kohler
      Franki Kohler says:

      And you will! I took a piece of my grandmothers work with me. I’ve been wanting to use it in a new art quilt. This class helped me to see how I can do that. I’m very excited about it.

  1. 379christy
    379christy says:

    OMG! You actually came home with a finished product. Now that’s an inspiring instructor for you.

    Beautiful work, Franki, and I love seeing those leaf beads. They have been around for awhile.

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