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From Design To Fabric

From Design to Fabric

If you’ve been following my progress on my latest piece, you know that it has been giving me some trouble.  The piece honors Florence Verdurmen Chittenden – the woman who taught me everything I know about coaching Special Olympics gymnastics and so much more!
My post last week outlined the evolution of the design and the thought progress that brought me to the final design.  Now I’m ready to show you how the design morphed a little as it moved to fabric.
Painting - First AttemptI started with the background fabric and, since I couldn’t find an orange to yellow ombre, that meant painting.  I found a subtle yellow print and was excited to paint fabric for the first time in the new place.  I actually have a basement and a table, so no more painting on the living room floor!  What I found, however was that while a table has the advantage of being easier to work on, it also has size limitations.  I wanted the final piece to be 40″ x 30″ and the table is 30″ wide.  For my first attempt, I placed one corner of the fabric on the corner of the table and started painting the ombre effect.  It wasn’t until I returned the next day to complete the piece that I realized the edge of the table made a harsh line where the fabric hung over.
Painting Take 2So the options were (1) make the piece smaller or (2) paint another piece.  Since I already had the images printed based on the size I had in mind, it was time to paint another piece of fabric. This time, I draped some fabric over both sides and knew that I would simply use the lines created as a guide for the height of the piece.  This might mean it will be about an inch smaller than intended, but that’s ok.
With the paint dry and ironed to heat set, I layered the piece with cotton batting and more of the yellow fabric for the backing.  (Thankfully I bought far more of that fabric than I thought I’d need!)  Now the fun part – quilting!  I decided on a variegated thread and a fun free-motion design that fits Florence’s vibrant personality and created movement from the bottom left to the top right which is how the story will unfold in the piece.

Next, I cut out all of the pictures I had printed on fabric and placed them on the background to create a story of Florence’s life (below left).  Now, the design called for a sheer fabric over the whole piece on which I would write the words of Florence’s story.  However, when I tried out a couple samples for this concept, the sheer and words blocked out too much of the quilting and images (below right).
So on to Plan G or H (I lost count how many different plans there have been)…  Instead of writing the words of her story on sheer fabric, I decided to write them directly on the quilted fabric around the images and words that friends and family used to describe her.  But before I knew where to write excerpts from her story, I needed to create and place the descriptive words.
It’s been a while since I’ve said this, so it’s worth repeating: I love my sewing machine and my parents who gave it to me!  The machine has an embroidery attachment, so I connected it to my computer, typed in the words, chose a font and let the machine embroider the words onto sheer yellow fabric.  (Ok, it was a little more complicated than that, but it’s still intensely cool to watch the machine stitch the words!)  Once they were done, I decided on the placement and then finished the edges of the sheer fabric around the words using a soldering iron.  I’ve never used this technique before, but it seemed to work pretty well.  And it’s fun to use a soldering iron!
Soldering2 finished word
Before sewing these words in place, it was time to write out excerpts from Florence’s story.  (I wanted to hand write the story before sewing the descriptive words down in case some of the story needed to go behind the sheer.)  How to decide where the story excerpts went?  Tracing paper!  I placed large sheets of tracing paper over the piece and, using pencil, wrote out the quotes again moving from bottom left to top right.
Tracing paper Tracing Paper detail
Once I was happy with the layout, it was time to (very carefully) use the fabric marker to write the words on the actual piece and then sew down the sheer words.
Almost Done
DetailNow all that’s left is to finish the edges and add a label and hanging sleeve.  I’ll admit that this is not one of my favorite pieces, but I hope it is a fitting tribute to this strong, caring, amazing woman!

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I think what this piece reflects is the strength of the subject and the innovative and thoughtful creativity of the artist – fabulous combo! Give it time, it may yet become a favorite and perhaps not only in the areas of skill building and intrepidity (printing by hand in indelible marker – no small amount of courage!!!.
    I can’t see the story – but the piece itself has a lovely flow.

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