Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Embroidering Blind Contour Drawings: The Sister Shirt

Blind contour drawings

Blind contour drawings are a fun, relaxing art exercise that supposedly improve your observation skills and hand-eye coordination. They can also make for some hilarious sessions with fellow artists. We've done several rounds of blind contour drawings on Zoom over the past few years since my sister and I formed a weekly maker group with her granddaughters during the pandemic. 

In our sessions, each of us chooses another person on the Zoom screen without telling anyone who we've chosen. We then start our drawing with the following rules: Don't lift your pen off the paper from start to finish; don't look down at what you are doing, just keep your eyes on the screen. After a set time period (about two minutes) we each show our drawings and the others guess the identity of the portrait subject.

The sister shirt (front)

During a gloomy interlude this winter featuring dark skies, damp chill, and atmospheric rivers, I searched through my closet for likely upcycling candidates and found this bright green linen thrift store find. Originally a long and frankly blah tunic with no pockets, the shirt was first transformed by cutting off a sizable portion of the bottom and converting those scraps into generous pockets. Vintage buttons from my collection embellished the piece.

Vintage buttons

Shirt back

The next step was to get my sometimes-hopelessly-spaced-out grandnieces and sister to send me their blind contour drawings. Once in hand I sorted through, picked out four, and transferred the drawings onto the shirt using carbon paper. The final step was stitching over the transferred drawings, adding "tethers" that extend to the bottom of the shirt so the heads look life floating balloons.

Blind drawing of Aleida by Nana

Blind drawing of Cici by Nana

Blind drawing of me by Nana

Blind drawing of Nana by Nana

You will note that all of the blind drawings used for the shirt were by the artist known as "Nana," my sister Judy, who has firmly and repeatedly identified herself as a non-artist. Blind contour drawing eliminates judgments and labels and allows everyone, no matter how they identify, to have big time fun. Nana's drawings were selected for this project because they simply suited the design best. The shirt is called the Sister Shirt because it depicts two sets of sisters, two generations apart.

A fun project from beginning to end.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Eco-Dyeing: A Lake Merritt Quilt

Lake Merritt Eco-dyed Quilt

When in doubt or the the throws of depression: eco-dye! This project, a hand-stitched, eco-dyed quilt, involved days of foraging along the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. The fabric is flour-sack Lito linen towels that I order in bulk from Amazon for both the quality and affordability. The leaves include eucalyptus, Japanese Maple, and rose.


Leaf journal

But first, a word about tools and techniques. I have been using a blank journal — one of many given to me over the years by people who felt the need to proffer a gift but had no idea what to give. I am sure that you, too, have one lying around the house unused. This one has the advantage of a strong elastic cord attached to the journal that keeps it firmly closed when not in use. As I was starting this project I noticed just how unlovely the commercially-designed cover of the journal was. I used Modgepodge, a brown paper bag, and gold paint to transform the unlovely object. It turns out that if you generously slather on the Modgepodge, you can decoupage a leaf collage onto the surface that will endure rough handling.

Journal innards

By keeping a leaf journal, you are able to forage at random all year long, press the leaves, and tap this rich resource whenever the mood for eco-dyeing strikes you.

Now back to the quilt:

The quilt is comprised of two layers of linen. While the top layer features eco-dyed panels, the flip side employs a variety of patterns using bits of raw turmeric root tied or stitched into the cloth, boiled, and removed.

Turmeric panels

In the past I have used long rows of vertical stitching to hold the two sides of a quilt like this together. This time I experimented with stitching around some of the eco-dyed leaves on the top side of the quilt, which produces stitched ghost outlines of leaves on the turmeric-dyed side.

Stitched leaf silhouette

Look closely to see stitched border on leaves

Making a quilt like this — from the ambling walks to forage for leaves to the slow, mesmerizing practice of hand-stitching — is one of the best ways I know to tune in to the universe and be here now.
Related Posts with Thumbnails