Saturday, October 20, 2007

A College Craft Class - Notes on Embroidering on Art Quilts

I substitute taught a college craft class this week. They were working on embellishing their completed batik paintings with embroidery, sequins, beads, etc. and on starting their first silk painting on a 12" hoop. These are some of my observations following the class - particularly as it pertains to embroidering as quilting...

Re: embroidery work
I noticed they are embroidering through the batik AND through batting. That is an extremely difficult and very time-consuming way to do it because the needles for embroidery are so large. Quilting needles are 10s - 12s - and extremely small. Nearly everyone I know that includes embroidery on their artquilts does the embroidery prior to sandwiching the batting and backing to the top for that very reason. Occasionally a simple, large stab stitch is used through all layers, but that is extremely rare, to my knowledge.

Another major reason for doing the embroidery on the top alone is to lessen the puckering the embroidery causes to piece. Doing solid stitching on any fabric greatly shrinks the embroidered fabric causing puckering. Doing embroidery with batting makes the problem much more difficult. Some of the puckering can be "fixed" with dampening the finished piece, stretching it square and taught over a heat-resistant, padded surface; and ironing it - and leaving it stretched for a day or more to dry thoroughly in the new shape.

An additional problem with embroidering through batting is that the batting comes through to the front, leaving little white pills on the surface. This is especially distracting on dark fabrics.

To add depth and texture, quilting stitches can be added by hand or machine once the piece is completely embroidered and sandwiched.

I also noticed that most of the students were selecting embroidery threads that matched their batik color. Since the embroidery is to accent the batik, it should be used as an accent - thus slightly different colors, either a few shades lighter or darker, will punch out the design better than identical colors. Outlining green with the same shade of green is redundant - unless it's done as a quilting stitch. Then embroidery isn't necessary... in my opinion.

In other words, I think some of the students will have to spend far too much time doing the projects they are working on simply because of the amount of embroidery AND the fact that they are going through batting with the embroidery needles. I strongly encouraged two students to simplify the rest of their planned embroidery... and tried to talk them into removing the rest of the batting until the embroidering was complete. None did, of course! ;-)

Re: silk painting on the hoops
The water-based gutta was quite runny, as you know. They had forgotten that they should suspend the hoops over their designs, so that caused a little consternation. I told them to deal with it and to stretch their creativity and remake the designs to accommodate the problem. They weren't to happy, of course, but some of them did exactly that. None of the hoops dried that were done with the water-based gutta - they are tucked in the plastic dyeing pans somewhat out of sight and danger.

One student used black & gold gutta rather than the water-based gutta. She discovered the bamboo brushes that came with the silk-painting set flare and carry the paint outside the gutta. The brushes appear to be of very poor quality - when I was cleaning one, the head popped right off the handle and could not be re-set. I put out other brushes from the art closet for them to use after that!

I had fun, of course, and I'd like to go back at the end of the semester to see their final presentations which will include all their projects for the term. If I go, I'll take photos and share!

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