Good Thread and Working Offline
I’m currently working on two pieces simultaneously, something I have ever done before. And another “first” for me: I am making both pieces for a specific event. I don’t normally like to do that. I like to work in the size, format and genre that I want. I don’t like being restricted to a certain size, theme or type of quilt.
But in this case I had two separate ideas that had been rolling around in my little head for a long time. And each fits into the requirements for an exhibit-lucky me! Both are part of my black and white grasses series so it’s pretty easy to go back and forth between them. I am really enjoying my grasses-it’s my job as an artist to help my viewer see the beauty in ordinary grasses.
My first piece is based on this rather ordinary photo. I visited my childhood home in North Central Illinois two summers ago and I snapped this shot of the grasses next to our hotel in Tuscola, Ill. The wind was blowing a gale and I liked all the different grasses/weeds submitting to the wind in different ways. I’ll be submitting this to a juried SAQA exhibition, so we’ll see if I jury in. No matter what, this was a piece I HAD to do and it will fit well into my trunk show.
The other piece I am working on is for the Brazilian exhibit. I’m invited, not juried, so my piece will definitely show. It is based on a drawing I did of a Stipa Gigantea head. It surprised me how beautifully composed a simple grass head can be when you isolate it just to show its organic elegance.
Both pieces are in the same format as my previous black and white pieces, so I’m using black Auriful thread (50 weight cotton) on the top and light gray Superior thread (Kimono silk) on the bobbin-a very challenging combination.
If you are using cotton thread, it needs to be high quality thread! This shows my bobbin case after probably 15-20 hours of stitching. Aurifil makes outstanding thread and look at the tiny bit of lint after hours of stitching! If I had used junk cotton, that lint would have been packed tightly in there after 15 hours-like this:
Let’s look at Aurifil and bargain bin cotton thread under a microscope:
This is beautiful, smooth, lovely Aurifil. Owen’s Olivia has an excellent blog and she wrote in detail about thread quality here
You do NOT want to put this stuff through your machine, ever! See all those little fuzzy guys? They are going to shear off in your tension discs and thread path and cause all sorts of pain and suffering.
My work for both of these pieces involves a lot of what I call “offline work”, meaning I practice and audition various attributes of my piece on a separate quilt sandwich.
This is just a portion of my offline work for these two pieces. I do this every single time I start or contemplate a piece. I take a sandwich that exactly replicates what I am working with the same fabrics, thread, batting, needle, etc. I play with whatever I want: batting, thread, thread color, motifs, scale, etc. Then I am more confident when I get to my actual quilt. Case in point:
I made this quilt in 2006. It was what I call my “breakthrough” quilt. I received FOUR ribbons from my home guild, the Folsom Quilt and Fiber Guild. This was the first time that I was outrageously excited about a quilt that I made.
As you can see, there is a lot of detail in this quilt. I really wanted to work that out before I started stitching on that silk!
So I first made sketches, lots of them. This is a tiny portion of what I did. I had to work that McTavishing out for myself. I’d seen how to long arm it, but that didn’t help me much on my little domestic machine.
This is where I first began to work offline. I layered up my silk dupioni, that $24/yd border fabric and wool batting. And quilted it all with silk thread top and bobbin.
I did this much work offline! That is about a 45″ x 60″ space there-I made a whole quilt before I made my quilt! But when I got to the real deal, I was confident and excited, well worth all the effort! It pays to work out the details offline.
I’ll be linking up with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall Friday, so you can see lots of great posts!
Well hats off to you for finding the patience to do the “off line” mock ups. I think its a great idea but usually I delve right in and THEN find out that – oh this might not work – LOL!!! As for thread – I don’t use a lot of cotton but when I do I’ve been using a 50 wt aurifil. I used to use an 40 wt A & E Egyptian cotton but the aurifil is easier to track down these days. Both aren’t too linty but then again I have a habit of cleaning every other bobbin while I sew.
Thanks Nina-Marie-maybe that’s just about different working styles. Sometimes I’m too excited to stop and work offline, but for a major project I will. I’ve ripped out too many times! We can’t get A&E here-haven’t heard of it but it must be good if it’s interchangeable with Aurifil.
Carol Mcdowell says
Thank you for reminding us of the importance of practice or offline pieces. I know I should and I do somewhat but not enough. I usually make little coasters or mug rugs just for myself with them with raw edges . What do you do with yours? They are good to keep for reference. BTW – great name If Diane met Karen ;-)
Oh Carol, I wish I knew what to do with those sandwiches! Yes, some I do use for references, but the ones I demo on in class… Some I give away to students, but sometimes no one wants them, which makes me wonder if students that take them are just being nice! They’re not nice enough for coasters really-they’re a hogpodge of ideas with gaps inbetween.
Roxane Lessa says
I have done this kind of work “offline” too and it does pay off! Your work is so gorgeous it really shows the love you put into it!
Thank you Roxane! Working offline is kinda like scratch paper me thinks.
LeeAnna Paylor says
you’re posts are so interesting. Well illustrated and full of info. Thanks girl! LeeAnna at not afraid of color
Awww, thank you LeeAnna! I enjoy your blog also-lots of color and your adorable Poodle!
Your work is always so meticulous you could be a poster child for preparation before the good piece. Yeah, I do some practice swatches, but then I seem to change my mind once I begin or find that what worked in practice doesn’t work on the full piece. I can’t wait to see your latest grasses. You capture the sway of them so well.
But I HATE being meticulous! It’s only through pain that I have become so-it is so unnatural:-/ I can’t wait to see my grasses done either!
Rebecca Grace says
It’s always interesting to read about your process, Jenny! I agree with you — grass is beautiful. I love seeing the whole plant with the seeds at the top when we go for walks along an unkempt stretch of sidewalks. My husband thinks I’m nuts; he only likes grass when it is mowed within an inch of death!
After reading your blog this long I am not surprised to find out you see the beauty in grasses also! I’m amused by your hubby’s comment-only natural that he would want to cut it into submission!