Saturday, 16 May 2015

My First Portrait

This week marked 11 years since Pooch and I first met. Last year's present was the EPP Death Star. This year I wanted to see if I could top that. Pooch has always said his likeness should be captured and given to the Nation so I decided on a portrait. Here is how it came out:
Pooch Portrait in Fabric

I had been thinking about portraits in fabric since seeing this quilt in Yokohama last year.
Detail from Duck Face by Hiroko and Masanobu Miyama
Man, that was a good quilt show. All the photos are here. I knew I wouldn't be producing anything like the little girl but I thought I could try the technique out and make it my own. I started with a favourite photo of mine of Pooch in Tokyo, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a bowl of Ramen.
Process to create the Pooch Portrait
There were several steps I took in going from photo to portrait so I've captured them in the photo above and labelled them 1-5.

1. I opened the photo in an editing program (just the one installed on my windows laptop), cropped it to just the face and changed it from colour to black and white. I also played around with the light levels to make it clearer where the lightest and darkest places of the image were.

2. Using my portable lightbox (i.e. the window on a bright day) I traced the outline of the face and features and where, through the top sheet of paper, it appeared that the tones of grey changed. Laying the original and the tracing side-by-side I then added a few extra lines here and there to complete it. I photocopied this to give me the sheet to use for the next part.
Pooch Portrait in Fabric
3. This stage happened in two parts. First I spent a bit of time studying my black and white print out and decided which of my areas were the same shade of grey and which were lightest, light, dark, darkest and so on. I also decided to use one colour family for the skin, another for the hair and a third for the glasses. For the skin I ended up with S1 for the lightest part of skin, S2 for the next lightest and so on. Hair was H1 etc and the glasses were one colour so I left it at that. I then photocopied my labelled drawing onto a piece of freezer paper - that stuff with wax on one side that you can use for applique. I then went back to my original and coloured in all of the S1 shapes the same colour. I proceeded to do the same with S2, H1 etc so I now had a visual guide to what was what.

4. I had my freezer paper and now it was time to cut out what would become a huge jigsaw with some very tiny pieces. I cut out all the pieces and put them in small plastic bags - like the ones you use for jewellery findings - so that they couldn't blow away. All the S1's went in one bag, S2's in another etc. It was only at this point that I chose the fabric! Greens for skin, blue for hair, brown for glasses and a perfect equation print for the background. Looking at the plastic bags I judged how much fabric I needed for each of H1, H2 etc. In most cases it was only a postcard or less of each. I cut some bondaweb to the same size as the fabric and ironed that to the wrong side. Then I ironed the cut out pieces to the right side. I proceeded to cut out the pieces and assemble them on the backing fabric, ironing as I went. Once it was complete I added some plain white fabric for the eyes.
Pooch Portrait in Fabric
5. I was very nervous about ruining it at this point with hand or machine embroidery (I hadn't decided which to do) so I photocopied the fabric jigsaw and doodled on the top of the photocopy in red (hence the demonic look of 5). I made a few copies and tried different doodles before deciding to hand embroider the pupils. I then took the whole thing over to my sewing machine and freehand embroidered over the top with the machine's dogs down.
Pooch Portrait in Fabric
And that's it! The hair is my favourite bit. I showed the finished portrait to my sister and ickle niece via Skype. My sister said "Wow...can I have one?" which I thought was pretty much the best reaction you can have to something you've made. Then my ickle niece (two years old this week!) kept asking to see it again and again during the call and I realised that actually that was the best reaction you can have!

Has anyone else made a fabric portrait? I'd love to see it if you have so please leave me a link in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Thinking of Andy Warhol

Two very different occurrences took place this week and both led me to think of Andy Warhol - something I can't say I often do. But having begun to think of him I found myself combining everything I had heard about him into a big cloud and finding that is contained more than raindrop sized holes. I went so far as to download a biography of him just to check if the two instances I am going to relate were true - and by god, when I read that book I'll certainly come back and tell you. The Japanese have a word -  tsundoku - for buying books and then not reading them. I have a tendency to do that although even that I've tried to curb which links in nicely to my first instance. 

Instance One

During a random google I discovered there was an organisation in the southern part of San Francisco called Quilt Works which, as well as a shop, has a community outreach kind of function. In fact while I was there they were cutting up a bolt of fleece to make blankets for foster children arriving at the hospital with no possessions. Which is nice. The shop advertised oodles of fabric at cheap prices so, it being a single bus ride away, I went down there - thus once again arriving in one of the neighbourhoods Pooch keeps telling me I should never go to by myself and which I inevitably seem to arrive in by accident. It was very nice. 
Quilt Works, San Francisco
The prices were not quite as low as had been advertised but still I didn't see anything above $10 a yard and most was about $8.50. It was all quilting cottons and all nicely displayed. 
Quilt Works, San Francisco
I ended up doing three circuits of the shop before I picked anything up because, as I thought about it, I couldn't think of anything I needed. My stash isn't huge - it fits in boxes under my sewing table - but I have fat quarters or off cuts in most colours and had no plans for a big new project. However, I did see a cat fabric I liked and a few fat quarters caught my eye AND they had this nice polka dot fabric in FQ bundles and you know what I'm like for dots so I did bring some home with me. 
I got back from the shop about lunchtime. Made some lunch, did some tidying, did some sewing, watched some wrestling and some myseteries and pottered about and then it was dinner time. I was making dinner when I spotted the fabric I had bought, still in my bag. 
Apparently (i.e. something I will check when/if I read the biography) when Andy Warhol died there were dozens of unopened shopping bags from designer clothes stores found in his apartment. I first heard/read/imagined this when I was at Art School in the late nineties and I've remembered it several times since then and it has always struck me as very sad, although sometimes I wonder whether it really is. Is it so wrong to get more enjoyment from the process than the final result? It's all up to the individual, but when you end up spending money on things you don't need, just to give you something to do, isn't that a bit sad? I suppose it depends on your financial position and also your storage space. If the task of finding a place for your stuff is stressing you, as I have found recently, then aimless acquisition is definitely a bad thing. If you're spending money that would be better spent on other things then that will inevitably stress you out too. If you acquire things you then have to get rid of, or that get spoilt by something like a flood or a fire, then that is a huge waste of time, space and money too. It is very handy to have a few supplies on hand for when inspiration strikes - but how many of us went way beyond that point some time ago and are still acquiring new things? 

In two minds about the whole issue, I unpacked the bag after dinner and assimilated it into my stash, much like the Borg assimilate new species into their collective. 

Instance Two

During the afternoon after my shopping trip I was chatting online with a friend who suggested I start vlogging. For those not in the know - this is like blogging but by video instead of in written posts. Vlogs tend to be on YouTube and there are now legions of "YouTube Artists" who are known purely for their online personas. In 1968 Andy Warhol wrote:

"In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

This is a quote I first used in a GCSE English class at the tender age of 14 and is something that has been much misuded and misquoted by practically everyone about people like Justin Bieber and that slutty one from that reality show - you know the one I mean. 

Many years ago I used to do a podcast and at its peak it would get 1000 downloads a week. I basically thought of that as my "15 minutes". Had I thought about making a video version? The quick answer was "um" and I did a bit more googling to see what the bright young things of today are doing. It turns out they're driving around in their cars, making videos of themselves checking their eyebrows in the rearview mirror before going to Walgreens for tweezers. The only craft one I could find was a woman showing what she'd bought in Michaels and it was a prime example of aimless acquisition since she clearly had nothing specific in mind for anything she had bought. Watching random examples was in many ways a rather depressing exercise. So, overall, I am probably not going to join the legions, but it has made me think again about turning my blog into more of a business. After all this is my tenth year of blogging (tenth!) during which time I've seen many other craft bloggers come and go.  

I'll be making plans over the next month or so about how to do this plus there surely must be a giveaway for a tenth anniversary! I'll be sure to update here as those plans develop. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Blue and White EPP Quilt - an Update

Way back in March 2014 my parents came to visit us in Tokyo. During that visit my Mum and I went to a fabric shop and picked out some fabrics for this quilt:
Mum's Quilt Diagram
It took a while but I finally made the few hundred hexagons and thousand or so diamonds and yesterday I finished assembling them into this.
Blue and White EPP quilt
One of the most remarkable things about it (for me, at least) is that it has come out as the right size. I just need to add a border (I'm thinking broderie anglais white with a plain blue underneath) and hand quilt the bugger - so give me another year and it should be done!

I designed the quilt to have three sections which would blend into each other. The tonal variation was something I added in later. First of all there was the bottom part - all hexagons.
Blue and White EPP quilt
Then the hexagons became separators between diamond stars.
Blue and White EPP quilt
And then finally, in the top part, the diamond stars became separated by other diamonds.
Blue and White EPP quilt
I didn't use any cut of fabric larger than a fat quarter so it is very scrappy. Maybe one day I'll take the time to work out how many different prints it contains.

For the quilting I am planning to quilt just inside the stars, hexagons and separating diamonds in a running stitch possibly using pearl cotton - although I'm not 100% on that yet. I *have* to have a sofa project for when I am watching WWE or whatever mystery show has currently got me hooked so it's nice that this quilt, having kept me company for most of the last year, will be sticking with me for another few months yet while that gets done.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Popping Out for Fabric

Saturday saw me hanging out (so American) with a friend who wanted to go fabric shopping. I thought I'd been pretty spoilt by the shops I'd seen so far so wasn't expecting much. Uh-huh? It was basically an aircraft hanger.
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
There were at least four aisles. My vision went blurry after a while. They had *everything* from a muppet STD...
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco. milk bottle tops on netting.
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
Random aside - aren't these colours amazing together? And the textures?
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
Mmmmm. And even Christian Grey would have been satisfied by their range of cords.
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
And where else can you get pompom trim in ten coloours and two sizes?
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco.
No wonder they had shopping trolleys at the start. And just when you find that ideal print...
Discount Fabric store in San Francisco. realise they have it as a complete colour range (?).
Unbelievably, I actually left the store empty handed. There was just too much to choose from. Plus, as you can imagine with a store that size, everything was just a little bit...
...dusty. Although I am sure I'll be back in the future. The prices were very good.

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