Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Last weekend I took a wonderful workshop with Mary Ruth Smith. (Was it really just last weekend? It seems like so long ago.)

Mary Ruth set out several pieces of her work and books and magazines in which she's been published. Very inspiring. The piece on the left is 12 inches square and covered completely in French knots. Mary Ruth says it takes her two hours to do one square inch. She explained that she considers this "construction with stitch" because she is completely covering the base fabric and essentially creating a new fabric.

Here are a couple more of Mary Ruth's pieces -- the piece on the left is in progress. And a Quilt National catalog in which she is featured.
In the morning, we did lots of print making. Here are some of my results. Not particularly successful or inspiring, I think. Oh well. Good to add to the stash and maybe they will become more inspiring with age. Actually, it was this portion of the workshop that inspired the green circles on the Home Grown piece. A wonderful instant application of the technique.

In the afternoon, Mary Ruth demonstrated lots of stitching. She stretches muslin over stretcher bars -- no wimpy, plastic, embroidery hoop! The larger frame also allows her to rest one side of the frame on the table top and the other in her lap leaving both hands free to stitch. This means she can pull the floss through to the bottom with her right hand, then poke it back up and draw it through with her left hand. Very fast and efficient.

We didn't have time to get to stitching in the afternoon. Several of the students were continuing the next day, but I couldn't attend both days. Before I left, she suggested we divide our canvas into four sections and begin working on a sampler. We should incorporate stitches we discussed, layers of sheer fabrics and disperse dyed polyesters. In addition to "construction with stitch" we could consider stitch as embellishment and stitch as a tool for drawing.

Hmmm. That's a lot.

I did start with some French knots. You can't really keep one hand under the canvas for the French knot because you need two hands to wrap the floss around the needle. I wasn't too fast. It was a bit entracing, in a good way.

I went straight for the beloved leaf shape. And the green. And I resisted purple. The needle makes a productive snap when it goes through the canvas -- I loved that.

I'm not sure I'll spend hours and hours on this immediately, but it could easily be a project I would pull out when watching tv, or just wanting to keep my hands moving and the creative juices flowing.

There is an amazing big wide world of artists who use stitch as their main medium. Embroidery I suppose you could call it. But sometimes it could be classified as a quilt. Where might that discussion lead us?


kristin L said...

Ooh, I think I could totally get into a class like that! I could make french knots for hours (although I don't think I'd have the patience/discipline to stick to *only* french knots). I love having embroidery on hand while watching TV, or when I need something very portable. Embroidery, quilt, textile art.....I don't care what you call it, I just want to do it!!! Oh, and the not so sucessful printmaking is a total sucess because you've already found an application for what you learned. Woo hoo!

Gerrie said...

The French knot piece is amazing. I really love the look of hand stitching like this. Sounds like a good workshop.

dee said...

Oh Deborah this is mezmerizing. I could just sit and do this for a long time. I like the idea of the sampler as well and (ahem) since I need another project, I'll have to get out the threads and linen and see what happens. The end result is very lucious looking. Maybe little inchies in different patterns??

Karoda said...

This sounds like a class I'd like also...I just finished ironing disperse dyes to fabric. I don't know what I'm doing really just piddling with it.