I have finally completed my winter birch landscape that I have been slowly working on. You can see the prior posts here if you missed them. I had about determined to skip adding any extra snow in the foreground but then I decided I should try a sample of needle felting the snow.
And, surprise, surprise, it worked better than I thought it would. So I added a bit of snow and then needed to figure out the distant red twig dogwood bushes. (You can see the snow in the final photo.)
First I tried using a marker on my sample to see if I could get away with something easy. The thinner marker made a very light line and the heavier marker was too heavy. Plus, using a marker on nuno felt gives a very uneven line. On to the next idea.
Next, I tried needling the wool thread into the sample background. It didn’t feel like there was much difference between the stitched bushes in the foreground compared to the needled line on the top left.
I decided I would try a cotton machine thread (30 weight). The stem stitched sample on the left shows two different colors. The redder color is straight off the spool but I wanted the thread to be a bit darker and variegated. So I colored the thread by hand with a black marker. The photo on the right shows the thread before it was darkened (left side) and the thread on the right side of the photo has been darkened with a black permanent marker. It worked perfectly although it’s a little messy on the fingers.
So here’s the finished landscape. I used the machine thread for the distant red twig dogwoods and you can see the small amounts of snow that I added. I’m happy with it but I will put it on the design wall to look at to make sure it’s finished. Then I will need to choose a “matte” fabric and get it ready for framing. I’m thinking of calling the piece “Winter Color”. Or I could stick with “Winter Birch”. Which do you prefer?
I’m always up for getting two things done with one piece. So I decided to create a winter themed tree picture that I could prepare to take to the gallery which has sold three of my pieces. (Yay!)
I found a piece of nuno felt in my pile of felted stuff that seemed perfect for a wintry background. Since I had just finished framing The First Leaf, I immediately thought of birch trees again since the years challenge is to create the same trees in different seasons. So birch trees it is.
I cut the birch trees from my remaining silk paper and got the placement how I wanted it. I need to make more silk paper for my spring and summer birch trees. But this seemed a little ho hum. The plan is to add branches with free motion machining but I still thought it needed more. The left background felt like perhaps there were some pine/evergreens in the distance. Perhaps I could enhance that?
So I added some layers of tulle in vague tree shapes on that side. But it wasn’t enough contrast and the tree shapes were getting lost. What to do?
Here’s the start of the next idea. Burn the tulle into tree shapes with a wood burning tool. This is just one of the colors of tulle I am planning on using. I will still be layering the tulle but hopefully, this will give a bit more emphasis to the shapes of the trees in the background without overwhelming the foreground trees. Once I have the evergreens worked out, then it’s on to some stitching.
Having run out of already felted nuno backgrounds, I decided to try a large landscape and create it in a mosaic type of nuno process as opposed to one piece of dyed silk. I got out my remaining already dyed silks to see what was available. After looking at what I had, I decided on a sunrise or sunset with the sky being around two thirds of the landscape.
I started with a large piece of white prefelt, fluffed it up with a brush to make sure it would felt more easily. Then I added a very light layer of merino in the colors of the landscape. I used short fiber merino hoping it would help “glue” the small pieces of silk. I then wet down the wool before applying any silk.
I started with the sky and continued to wet down all the silk pieces as they were laid out.
I kept working my way down trying to make sure that there weren’t any completely straight edges on the silk. I did add bits of wool underneath the silk if there was more than one layer of silk. Once the sky was finished, it was on to the mountains and the foreground.
I added silk for the mountains and the foreground. I decided to add some green wool on top for some pine trees and to soften the edges between the foreground and the more distant mountains. Then on to felting.
Here’s the piece after it is partially felted. It did require a lot of careful rubbing but most of the silk stayed in place and adhered to the wool.
Here is the piece after being completely felted. I decided for now to call this piece Montana Sunrise. I am going to add stitching and more detail to the foreground but that’s for another post. The finished size of the piece is approximately 16″ x 30″.
I have been working away on my nuno felt landscapes this winter. I always sell more work in the summertime, so it’s good to get ahead of the game and get work ready to be framed in the spring. So what to do with this background. I felt like the diagonal lines of color felt too “tie dyed” and needed to break them up. The colors reminded me of summer flowers so that’s where I decided to go with this background.
I played around with a variety of cotton fabric and cheesecloth and laid these out on the nuno background.
I added a small bud to the small, lower right hand flower.
I pinned the pieces in place and added interfacing to the back to provide support for the machine stitching. I could have fused them down but I find that I don’t like the way the fusing flattens the fabric and doesn’t allow “movement” of the fabric with stitching. This is a personal preference and it is easier to stitch if everything is fused in place but I prefer to pin or baste the pieces in place. I also was looking at possibly bringing some of the dark blue up into the area above the flowers. I tested this out by cutting some small bits of #5 perle cotton and laying it down to give the impression of blue flower stalks.
I free motion machine stitched all the green first. I used two different shades of green to give a little depth to the stems and leaves.
I used three different shades of thread in the centers of the flowers and two colors on the petals. I decided to bring a bit of the burnt orange down into the petals to give a look of a bit of shadows near the centers. Last, I added dark brown to the bottom of the centers which definitely helped define the centers.
Lastly, I added blue French knots with #5 perle cotton thread. I then stitched it down to the background “matte” fabric and laced it on to card. So it’s ready to frame. I decided to call this one “Summer Fireworks”. I have run out of nuno felted backgrounds so I guess that will be my next project.
In my last post, I showed you this nuno felted background and asked for suggestions. Everyone’s ideas were so interesting and different than what I see in this randomly dyed piece. I loved hearing your suggestions but to me, this was definitely an autumn forest scene. I wanted to try and make it more abstract and less “real”. So I started off just adding some lines in free motion embroidery that were to symbolize tree trunks. I forgot to take any in process photos. Once I get started on the machine, I get engrossed in the process. Then I got to the stage of “really ugly”. Do you find when you’re working that you go through that stage of “this is awful and I should just toss it”? But I kept going and ended up going more realistic than planned but that was the only way forward that I could see that would work.
I added tamarack trees, a fallen trunk and some foreground leaves in the upper right corner. The small trunks in the back left were too white so I took a gray colored pencil to them so they wouldn’t stand out too much. I then hung the piece up on the wall so I could look at it from a distance and to see what else it needed. I decided to add more foreground leaves so they came down into the distant aspens in the lower right.
Here it is with more leaves added. That pushed the aspens back further into the distance and made the piece feel a bit more cohesive.
Here’s a couple of close ups of the free motion stitching. I don’t usually use the zigzag stitch when doing free motion but I liked the more abstract effect on the tamarack trees. If you don’t have tamaracks (also called larch) trees in your area, they look like pines/evergreens but their needles turn a bright yellow orange in the fall and then they shed all their needles. So they are a deciduous conifer. They are a gorgeous addition to the landscape in the fall.
I continued my new “habit” of finishing the piece at the time I made it. Here it is stitched down to a tan matting fabric and laced over matte board, another piece ready to frame. It does have some abstract qualities to it and I like the end result. Sometimes, you just have to keep pushing through and ignore that inner critic.
I showed you earlier the nuno backgrounds that I had created. I decided to try using the idea of the layered photos that I created in Photoshop Elements.
So instead of going with what the background suggested (pine trees), I thought I would try some fused machine applique over the nuno felt.
I printed out my service berry photo and got out my light box, tracing paper and a pencil. I completely ignored the background in the photo and just concentrated on the branch with berries and leaves. I simplified the design as I went.
Here’s the traced design that I came up with for my applique. Now I needed to choose a piece of fabric, get out my fusible (Wonder Under) and transfer the design to the fabric.
Here’s the piece of fabric that I chose on top of the nuno felt. The photo is not the best as the nuno felt looks black. I fused the Wonder Under to the back of the green fabric with my iron. It’s easy to do but if you haven’t used fusible before, make sure to read the instruction of the type that you have. All of them are a bit different.
Once I had the fusible in place, I transferred the pattern to the paper on the back of the fabric. I had to remember that the pattern would be reversed when cut out and applied to the background. I used the tracing paper to do this by flipping my drawing over on to the fusible paper and drawing on the backside of the tracing paper to transfer the pencil line. This works best if you enhance the original pencil line with a softer lead pencil, I used a 7B. Once the pattern was transferred, I cut it out with a pair of short, sharp scissors. I left the paper in place until after everything was cut out.
Then I applied the cut out fabric to the background by ironing it in place. The fusible melts and holds the fabric in place so that it’s easy to stitch down and add details.
Before I started stitching, I decided to add a little thickened water color to get a bit more definition and shading in the leaves and berries. Then on to the sewing machine.
Here it is after stitching (free motion) on the machine. I used three different greens and a couple of reddish brown threads. It’s hard to get an accurate color representation in the photos as the dark red seems to throw the camera off very easily. This was a fun project and different than most of my other nuno landscapes. Now to figure out what to do with the other backgrounds. More to come!
It’s amazing how my slow stitch project is moving along and almost complete. Twenty to thirty minutes of stitching per day definitely works for me and even though I have been working on this project for a long time, it has been a fulfilling project. I have enjoyed seeing the piece slowly fill in with thousands of stitches.
Here’s where I was the last time I showed you the piece in mid June.
I added a lot of foreground stitching. The bit on the top left shown here is still a little pale for me. It jumps forward in front of the foreground bush in my eye. So there will be a little more stitching there.
I added some running stitch in the distant trees with a “grey” thread. It leans very heavily to purple but really works well to give these tree trunks a bit more definition and to move them further into the distance.
Here is where I am now. It’s getting very close to finished. A few more areas of darkness perhaps. Lindsay asked me a while ago how I decide when it’s finished. What I do with a piece like this is to get to the point where I think it might be finished and then I hang it up on the wall in my studio so I can study it. I look at the piece from different distances and different angles. I give it some time to “rest” and then I add what I think is still needed based on the assessment I have done. Or I pronounce that it’s finished. What do you think?
I have been working on more nuno felt pieces to use as backgrounds for nuno felted landscapes. I usually create these and then decide how to move forward with stitching and embellishment.
Usually, I use white prefelt with dyed silk but I decided to use black prefelt with this one. I usually rotate and look at all possible ways to use the backgrounds. With the piece in this direction, I see pine trees. What do you see?
Here’s another background using black prefelt. I’m thinking about adding birch trees to this one but I haven’t made up my mind about any of these yet.
A lot of my landscapes end up being in the portrait orientation but this one is definitely in landscape orientation. It reminds me of the woods with pine trees and yellow flowers. The upper right hand corner looks like deciduous branches with leaves coming in from the side.
Green fields with flowers? Perhaps pine trees in the distance? What do you see?
Another floral landscape with bluebells and beargrass flowers? Perhaps the orange is bushes or trees with leaves turning colors in autumn? Or maybe it’s grasslands with flowers?
One way that I sometimes use to decide on a design is to put the background photo into Photoshop Elements and layer another photo on top of the background. This is the first background in this post with a photo of service berries and leaves layered over top.
And here’s the green background with a photo of a grass field with some white flowers in the foreground layered over top. I really like the “misty” feel of this one. But how to achieve this effect on the actual piece? Perhaps some layering of silk organza or sheer fabric?
So instead of my usual find a landscape in the background and enhance, this time I think I will try to use the layered photos as inspiration and work from that angle. It’s always good to try something new. I will show you my efforts in upcoming posts.
I recently sold several pieces of work at Bigfork Arts and Cultural Center in Bigfork, Montana and I took a new set of framed pieces down. But summer, the tourist season is upon us and I needed to stay ahead and create some new work. I found some pieces of hand dyed silk that I had in my stash and put a stack of prefelt and the silk together so they are ready to felt.
I started with this piece of silk which has been nunofelted to white prefelt. I fold over the edges and what doesn’t stick to the back with felting, I hand stitch in place so I have a nice edge. This piece is approximately 7″ x 11″. Once felted, I look at the piece from different angles and “find” my landscape.
Next up, I free motion machine stitched the background picking out the mountains in the background and some rocks in the foreground.
Next, I decided to add a foreground tree, my go to foreground. I used a variety of hand dyed cheesecloth layers for the main branches and trunk of the tree. But the result wasn’t what I wanted. The background didn’t have enough depth, I needed more change in value and contrast. So I peeled off the tree which luckily came up in one piece.
Then I used a thickened acrylic ink to add darker values and contrast to the landscape. That definitely adds more depth.
Now to look at the tree in place on the background. Much better! Now to stitch the tree. I tacked it down with hand stitching to keep the cheesecloth in place. You can skip that step but it is harder to keep the foot of the machine from moving the cheesecloth out of place. Once it was hand stitched and holding in place, I went back to the machine.
And here’s the finished piece. I am calling it Twilight as it reminds me of a sunset in the mountains. I’m happy with it and I’m glad that I took the time to add some depth to the background before I stitched the tree.
The last time I updated you back in early November about my slow stitching project, this is what it looked like. I had started adding some leaves to the foreground trees.
I have been continuing my slow stitching over the holidays and it has been nice to sit down for 15-20 minutes a day and just do detached chain stitch in different shades of yellow, yellow-orange and orange. Ignoring any drama of the holidays or other issues that arose for a few minutes, calmed my mind.
Here’s how the trees are looking. I think that I will be adding a bit more orange but than I’m going to go back to the yellow shades.
Here’s what the full piece looks like now. It is definitely taking shape as a landscape. As I look at it in a thumbnail format, I can see that it still needs more dark values for shadowed areas but I like the progression. It’s interesting to me how the slow progression makes me look at it more closely and how the different colors affect each other. It’s been an interesting project and I imagine it will continue through most of this year.
What are your thoughts on a slow moving project? Do you get a Zen feeling or perhaps you are impatient and want to move on to a different project?