Mother Nature Greets You

You may remember that I recently wrote about doing some fabric art, in a return to a medium I worked in 20 years ago or so. (Look here if you want to see that post.) I’ve tried out a bigger work, roughly 24″ x 24″, and I’ll show it to you today and discuss its composition.

All right. Here is the fabric art. It’s called “Mother Nature Greets You”. You will notice its edges are still raw – I have not yet decided how I will finish it, or how it should be displayed. But I can discuss that later. First, take a look.

Raw edged version

Here’s how I constructed the piece. It’s the same method I used in making the many fabric wall hangings I created and sold in the 1990’s-eaerly 2000’s.

I take a piece of lightweight canvas (in this case I cut it to about 24″ x 24″). I compose the image as I go – I don’t usually draw anything out or make plans. In this case, I chose a selection of fabrics and started off on the right side of the image. At that point I didn’t have an idea for how it would end up – in fact, my plan was to sew a little area, then see what it was looking like, and then sew some more.

I lay the fabric pieces on the backing, making sure there is overlap with adjoining pieces, and then I pin them. I know there are adhesives and so on for this purpose these days, but I used pins in the past, and I am comfortable with them. Also, I do not want additives or stiffening or anything of that nature in the piece – just fabric and thread. That’s just how I feel about it.

Next, using the regular machine stitching settings, I sew around the fabrics, catching all of them just enough to keep them in place. I choose thread color as the idea strikes me – sometimes I match the fabrics and sometimes I contrast and sometimes I just choose a color I like. I remove pins as I go.

Jumping ahead, after I have the entire piece laid out and sewn this way, I then move on to free-motion stitching. Here is a close-up of how that looks:

All right. Back to the process of making this particular piece. I sewed down the fabric you saw in the earlier photos, and I meant to progress slowly through the image, thinking the idea for what it would be would come along sometime. But, as it was, I got an inspiration and I did an area much bigger than I planned:

And then I just went on from there… I think I did the rest of the piece all at once, after this point.

It’s awkward to handle a piece of this size with all the pins and so on, but… I just move on and handle things as they happen. If gaps appear between fabrics or there are other glitches, I just stick on more fabric or sew down the folds or whatever it takes. It all ends up ok.

It’s interesting to take a look at the back. For the bobbin threads, I usually use white or black, but I don’t really care. At the moment, after having reviewed my thread collection which was based on projects I did in the past (a more muted color time in my life!) I am using the “ugly” colors as bobbin thread.

Look, you can see the ghost image of the face in thread.

Which brings me to a design point. I think that some open areas in the composition are essential – in this piece the face is my example. I also considered using a closely-spaced zig-zag stitch to outline the face and hands, but decided not to, as I wanted them to emerge from the chaos of colors and shapes rather than to be set apart.

The point I’m making is – the type of stitching is as much as design element as the fabric placement.

After finishing the entire image, I let it rest for a few days, and I made some adjustments and revisions by adding fabric as needed. For example, if you compare the earlier photo of the face with the finished on, you can see I changed it to achieve a different expression. It’s very much a collage process that I go through.

Finally I think I have an image I like. Here it is with its edges cropped.

Cropped edges

I am not sure how I want complete the piece now. In the past, I would simply add a backing by sewing a piece of fabric to the image, right sides together, and flipping it (like making a simple pillow) – then topstitching around the piece and adding a hanging sleeve.

Somehow I’m not wanting to do that anymore. The smaller pieces I made, shown in the earlier post – I sewed a piece of watercolor paper to the back with a machine stitch all the way around it. That method will not work with this piece, too large.

I’ll give it some thought. In the meantime, here are some more detail shots. Thank for reading and going along this process with me

18 thoughts on “Mother Nature Greets You

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    It is always fascinating to follow your process but even more so when you are using a medium I have absolutely no familiarity with. I love the way your textile work process has echos of the way you approach your mixed media paint pieces, intuitively and with a mixture of planning and just seeing where the piece goes.

  2. Claudia McGill Post author

    You’re welcome. I enjoy doing it, it reminds me of actually doing the piece again, how I went through it, kind of reliving the process, and I think that is fun.

  3. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I’m still letting things emerge with this fabric thing, no idea where it will go, but I find you just have to start in. Plus I needed to practice the sewing skills I have not used for a long time.

  4. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I am wondering myself where this medium will take me this time around, but I think this is a good start, and I practiced a lot of skills and work habits I have not used for 20 years or so.

  5. petrujviljoen

    I considered something similar recently. Needed a curtain and there was nothing in the shops I wanted … the cloth is still a blank page and it may stay that way! Sewing isn’t one of my strong points and that’s a fact.

  6. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I’ve used this sewing technique in the past one million times but I wondered if I could still manage it. I think it worked out fine and I feel confident I can keep going and see where this fabric thing ends up…

  7. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I had to reach back into the memory cave to grab the skills needed to construct it but luckly they were there in a not too dusty gray cell box…I enjoyed working with these materials again.

  8. Claudia McGill Post author

    Before I did painting and collage I made and sold fabric wall hangings for several years, and I had been sewing clothes since I was a child – so when I drew on those sewing skills when added to all the collage work I’ve done since then, it all came pretty naturally and easily. Now the challenge is to see where I want to go with it, I think.

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