Sunday, October 27, 2013

Color Play

During the last few weeks, I've been away from home more than not. I carry some portable project(s) with me so that I can make a few stitches here and there. A way to meditate in public.

These three projects form a sort of triptych, playing with solid colors and reverse applique.

Back in August I posted the first one, in progress. Even then I was trying to learn to create an effect that I've enjoyed seeing over at multicoloredpieces. This fiber artist lives and works in Tunisia, posting art from nature, art from fiber, art from the heart. Her applique *wings* are just wonderful. Oh, to be able to create such gorgeous pieces!

I have not been able to recreate her work. And, as it turns out, that is a good thing. If I attempt to copy a technique from someone else, I tend to change some aspect of it, not deliberately, not even consciously. It is an organic adaptation (or creation) into what works for me. I modify the technique (as I understand it) to fit my skills, as well as my interests.

The author of multicoloredpieces posts works-in-progress, but I cannot figure out exactly how she does what she does. Being a lifetime student and academic, I'd love for her to post a tutorial. Cut right to the chase. But I do learn more this way. And perhaps it becomes mine in some sense.

That said, here are some of my attempts. I'm not sure where they will go, but I think they will go together.

I have completed the reverse applique on this first one. I've basted it to cotton flannel and begun to add decorative or sashiko-style stitching. I tried layering some other solid colored fabrics on top but found the result to be jarring.

The above is the second one. The reverse applique is complete and I'm ready to add some batting or other layer to support some decorative stitching. The blue tones are pretty close, so I hope the stitching will give it more character and interest.

This third one is applique-in-progress and my technique is (perhaps) easy to see. In case it's not, here is what I have done. I used Jude Hill's (see her wonderful blog here) invisible baste to attach two pieces of fabric, wrong side of the top one next to right side of the bottom one. Then I use sharp scissors to cut the top layer only for several inches. After creating this opening in the top fabric, I use the tip of my finger to turn the raw edge under and applique it in place. I cut several inches, stitch parts down, and cut some more, and repeat.

This is pretty standard reverse applique. The only difference is that I am not following a pattern. Instead, I start with a blank slate formed by the top layer of fabric. Then I peal away the design. It is as close as I can come to what I understand happens with a sculptor. I am definitely not a sculptor, but it is fun to imagine that my design is organically revealing itself within the two layers of fabric.

Here is a detail picture of the third one. You can see the raw edge right in the middle next to where I have pins holding the raw edge under, as I approach it with my threaded needle. Much of the surrounding area is already appliqued in place. 

I am home for a while (I hope), I am continuing to enjoy this play with fabric, thread, and color. I'm trying another way to introduce additional fabrics into an applique piece. I want the design to emerge as I stitch. I don't want to plan too much. So much more interesting to me.

I hope you are enjoying color in your world.


  1. Martha - your applique is so unusual and beautiful, as is the work of the artist that you linked to, who inspired your own adaptation... Today I enjoyed the color of a particularly exquisite sunset, with huge chunky clouds dark in the middle and vivid reds around the edges against a much lighter sky. Of course, I had left my camera at home....

  2. Ah, yes, very lovely. The point is, of course, that you develop the needle-turn appliqué to create your own visual language. I would suggest a no. 7 milliner's needle with which to stitch. This type of needle is long enough to turn under the fabric as you go instead of using your fingers. Thanks for mentioning my blog. Beautiful designs!

    1. Thank you. I will give this needle a try. And I will continue to enjoy seeing your work online.

  3. These are beautiful, Martha! I especially like the blue and brown piece.

  4. Martha, these pieces are so beautiful! It must be a revelation as you peel the top layer back as it speaks to you. I find the process of creating to be so satisfying. For me, the journey is as self-revealing as is the destination. Really nice work. I'm looking forward to seeing the completed threesome!

  5. What an interesting and engaging project! Lovely!

  6. Interesting work Martha...and to compare it to sculpture is very interesting. I'm intrigued.

  7. I stumbled across this post again this morning and I am still in awe of this. Just beautiful!