Friday 14 June 2019

Botanical Textile Art

I'm so excited to be part of the Colourcraft Design Team. As a textile and mixed media artist, fabric and/or thread are involved in most of my projects, but not always. My first blog shows how I have coloured fabric to create a Botanical fabric picture.

I just love seeing all the flowers in my garden right now. On a sunny day, I’m even tempted to take my sewing machine outdoors, but usually, our climate is such it’s safer to just take hand sewing outside so you can quickly move inside in if it clouds over. This piece involves both machine stitch and hand stitch for the flowers, so we are good whatever the weather.

The first stage is to prepare the canvas.
For a vintage feel, I took three floral pieces from my fabric stash and joined them together.
It is worth remembering the golden ratio. This rule of thirds states that if you divide any composition into thirds, vertically and horizontally, then place the key elements of your image either along these lines or at the junctions of them, you’ll achieve a more pleasing arrangement and more interesting and dynamic compositions.
So I didn’t have any of my patchwork divisions in the centre (vertically or horizontally) and the botanical focus of my final composition is in the is about two thirds up and left. I include a pattern to print and use if you wish.

Once I had my fabric patchwork piece, I wanted a more subtle floral vintage background so painted on white gesso.
To avoid brush marks, and for speedy application, I used a foam brush

Gesso is an excellent base coat primer and is non-yellowing and non-cracking. One coat is enough and dries quickly. Previously I have tried building up the effect I wanted with diluted leftover white matt emulsion paint, but this wasn’t as quick to apply or to dry.

The bonus of the primer is that it stiffens the patchwork too so you don’t need to use an embroidery hoop when sewing. As long as you haven’t got a fine needle in your sewing machine, it works just fine.

If you want a distressed look you can scratch away some of the dry primer with either a piece of sandpaper or a metal pot scourer.

For the flower petals I used some old cotton lining. (just wash new cotton fabric well if you are using new) and after laying it on a plastic sheet I sprayed it with water and then sprinkled on my chosen Brusho colours. Spraying with some more water created the mottled hydrangea petal effect I was wanting. Hydrangeas are more blue or pink depending on the soil but with art, you can choose to have both.
You could use the BrushoMist Sprays instead in violet, rose red, ultramarine for example.

I dried and ironed my cloth ready for the later stage of creating the flower head.

Draw out your composition or print my design. The final design will be a mirror image.
I traced the design onto Stitch N Tear, although because of the primer, you don’t really need the stabilising properties and could use paper. I find it easier to tear away than paper though. 

Having the design on the wrong side, I did my first machine stitching along the outline of the vase on the wrong side. I chose to do this with grey thread (top and bobbin) and without the feed dogs. I love the freedom of this free machine embroidery but it is worth practising if you are new to this technique. I do run workshops in South Yorkshire if you are interested.

I then turned the canvas over and repeated stitching the vase, using my first stitching as a guide.
I chose to add a couple of light highlights to the vase to create the reflection on the glass. I used a light variegated blue, white yellow thread and a satin stitch.
You could use paint to create these instead.
I used a watered down blue Brusho to fill the bottom of my vase with water.

The next stage was to add flower stems and leaves.
These can be made from fabric (trace onto Bondaweb and apply to the wrong side), by stitching the outline (as I did for the vase), or by printing the leaf onto the canvas (with a stamp).

More free machine stitching adds vein details to the leaves.

The hydrangea flower head was next. I poked a few pins through from the wrong side, using the pattern to guide where the flower head would be.
Having applied some Bondaweb to the reverse of my petal fabric and removed the paper, I cut 1.5cm squares.
These were placed face up (Bondaweb down) on the right side of the canvas in the marked flower head area. I left areas of canvas showing through my overlapped square arrangement. Placing baking parchment over, I ironed these in place with my mini iron.

On the wrong side of my canvas, I stitched around the hydrangea heads. This is easiest done as two figure of eights returning to the centre. I used a variegated thread ( top and bobbin) in hydrangea colours. The idea of this bottom layer is to give the impression of depth of the flower head, and you will find that the flowers don’t match up with the squares, but that is fine because there is a top layer to add.

For the top layer, I cut 2cm squares from my fabric (no Bondaweb this time). I folded each square in four and then held the smaller square at the point where each fold meets, to cut away either side making a curved petal shape. When you let go, you have a four-pointed flower shape. I saved my offcuts as I think they will be great for a future buddleia botanical project!

Using my cut out flowers and my variegated (purple, blue, pink) thread, I sewed the top layer of flowers on by hand with a cross in the centre and further stitches in between. I added beads too for further dimension. There are some lovely hydrangea Indian beads for this. I also used the white beads and green embroidery thread for the gypsophila stem. It’s great when the weather obliges and I can sit and hand stitch in the garden, but whatever the weather, I can get a flower fix by botanical textile art. A great feel good kick!

I tried out several frames for the hydrangea and used this silvery Ikea frame. You can use a frame you have and add a metallic finish as I did recently for a recent felted project.

I would love to see any floral projects you have been doing, please share them.

Here’s to time in the garden

Helen x

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