04 March 2008

Mixed Media Explorations, Week One, Step One

One of my Yahoo Groups, The Artist's Circle, is doing a four week workshop based on Beryl Taylor's book, Mixed Media Explorations: Blending Paper, Fabric and Embellishment to Create Inspired Designs. Elizabeth is our workshop leader; check out her blog for a couple of examples of what this is supposed to look like! Yesterday began Week One, stitching on hot-water soluble fabric, but I didn't begin until today. Basically, we were supposed to sew fibers, cords and fabric pieces on top of Solvy, making sure that our stich lines intersected so that everything would remain attached when the Solvy was washed away. Then, when done with the stitching, we wash the Solvy away in warm water and let the piece dry. Could it be that simple for me?

To begin with, to couch the fibers in, you need a machine with a zig-zag stitch and, as some of you know, my 60-some-odd-year-old sewing machine doesn't have a zig-zag stitch. But I really wanted to be able to do this, and to participate fully in all of the exercises, so I rented a machine from Redlands Sewing Center. I got a Bernette 320, a very basic machine, but it does do a zig-zag. At least, it did when I picked it up. After practicing couching a few fibers, because I'd never done that before, the tension on the zig-zag stitch got all wonky, and I never could get it straightened out. Oddly enough, the more complicated three-step zig-zag stitch works just fine, as does one other decorative stitch that I don't know the name of. It's just the regular zig-zag stitch that doesn't work right. So, I'll use the three-step zig-zap stitch, right?

Wrong. The machine hates the combination of Solvy and the three-step zig-zag stitch. I can't remember how many times I had to take the needle plate off and dig threads out of the feed dogs and bobbin case. It just keep eating the Solvy and the thread. When I switched to a straight stitch and sewed very slowly -- I swear, I could have hand-stitched as quickly -- it all seemed to work for me. Also, using one layer of Solvy instead of two made a big difference. I wonder if I could do the three-step zig-zag on one layer of Solvy? I'm just too tired to find out tonight.

Here are my presentable samples from tonight's sewing. The top two are just snippets of fabric sewed down to Solvy with intersecting threads. In theory, when I wash the Solvy off, the grid pattern should hold up. The bottom sample is some free-motion stitching on Solvy. I should just have a lacy pattern of threads when the Solvy dissolves. I have to wait until John gets home from work before I wash the Solvy off of these, because he wants to watch the process. He's always curious about my art, and one of my biggest supporters.

Did anyone notice the irony of the fact that what I ended up doing, I could have done with my old reliable, wonderful sewing machine? It didn't escape me.

Next week is working with Model Magic by Crayola. It's got to be easier and more fun!


Jillian said...

This is so above my artistic comfort zone! Congrats, Cindy, for tackling such an awesome project. It looks wonderful.

Kim said...

Oh I had to laugh at your frustrations w/the sewing machine! That's Exactly what I'm expecting! Sewing itself doesn't worry me , but the right thread for the fabric , the tension adjustments , threading the darn machine yadda yadda - that's going to make me insane , I know it!