May 10, 2015

Changing course


I decided to try something else – I wasn't happy with how the first solution looked, with all three layers of the organdy smashed together and the wooden stretcher showing through, disrupting the image.  So I unstretched the piece and began thinking about other ways of finishing it. After sifting through some of my reference books, I got excited about a technique I had never tried before called reverse applique.

With reverse applique, I could isolate the image through a layer of fabric, cutting and sewing whatever shape I wanted through the top fabric layer to reveal the image behind it. Genius, I thought and plunged ahead. 

Determining the circle placement

Checking the circle placement on the underside 

Reverse applique is exactly what it sounds like – instead of cutting out shapes of different fabrics and then applying them to your piece, you stitch and cut the shapes out of your fabric to reveal whatever fabric (or in my case, three painted layers of organdy) is behind it. This will make more sense hopefully in a minute. 

The underside, after stitching the circle the first time 

The most nerve-wracking part of the process – cutting into the piece

Trying to clean up the rough edges with a second round of stitches

Tacking the piece to a larger stretcher

All stretched and tacked down

First I pinned all three organdy panels together, exactly how I wanted them. Then, using one of my paper circle templates, I figured out the exact placement of the circle and traced it onto the back of my fabric using a silver pencil. Next, I pinned my organdy sandwich face-down to a piece of white Irish linen. Now came the tricky part – stitching a perfect circle with my sewing machine.

The most nerve-wracking part of the process, after attempting to sew a perfect circle, was cutting away the linen from the inside of my circle to reveal the layers of organdy behind it. I did this very slowly, using my smallest and sharpest scissors. My reference manual led me to believe that I could do this so perfectly that the result would be a very clean edge. Well, that is not what happened. Not even close! I trimmed and trimmed, but still ended up with a jaggedly cut circle [Have any of you tried this technique before? I'd love to get some advice in the comments section!]. I did another round of stitches to try to cover up the edge of the fabric, but it didn't totally work (see above). 

So now I had a new and different problem to solve, cleaning up the circle's edge.

Thinking about how to tidy up the rough edge

Laying down the cotton rope

Beginning to wrap the rope with thread, like a large version of couching

After several hours of stitching

The view from above

And from the side

I don't know if there is an official name for this stitch, but I think of it as couching. Just couching with a very thick piece of rope instead of a strand or two of thread. I laid down a piece of cotton rope to form  a circle and then began to tack it into place with thread, wrapping it very tightly. The rope is maybe a bit too large for the scale of the piece, but it was the only size I had laying around the studio. And it did the trick too, totally covering up the raggedy cut edge of the circle. 

Now just about ten more hours of stitching to go (you wouldn't know it from simply looking at the above photos, but there's several hours stitching in there to just get one quarter of the way around the circle) and this test piece should be finished. 

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