Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ruminations on Plant-a-day

I did it - something every day for a month.  Here are all the plants together.

I have read somewhere, as I'm sure you have too, that if you do something for 21 days in a row it will become a habit.  I did these for 28 days in a row, but I don't think it is a habit, just something I committed to do.

Process:  Before the first day of this project, I cut up all the fabric and batting squares.  I chose a 6 x 6" square as the size in an effort to use up scraps of both.  Having 28 cut and ready to go made it much easier.

After I had decided on the theme, I looked at pictures I had taken of plants and did some sketches in my sketch book.  I did sketches of several different plants at one time so I wouldn't have to do this part of the process everyday.  Each day I would grab a square and my sketchbook, sit down at the machine and decide which sketch to use.  Once in a while I would draw another sketch just to practice the shape before doing the free motion stitching.  Below is one of the pages from my sketchbook.

After completing the stitching I would press the square, scan it and put it on the blog.  On average, it would take 15-30 minutes for me to do the stitching depending on the choice that day.  As I mentioned one day, there was one that took 45 minutes.

Intention:  I have been trying to decide exactly what my intention was for this exercise, or why the heck was I doing this?  I think the main thing was just to see if I could do something everyday for a month.  I also wanted it to be something art related that would help me practice something.  Originally, I thought about doing a pencil drawing a day because it is always good to practice that (and I don't do that much) but I wanted it to be more relative to fabric since that is my medium of choice right now.  So, fabric drawing it was.

I saw this as an exercise, not necessarily something to do to end up with a finished piece of artwork.  Although that was in my mind on many days and I just had to push it aside.  I also thought I could experiment with adding color later.

What I learned:  What did I learn?  I learned that drawing with free motion stitching is different than overall free motion stitching with patterns.  I started out doing more of a "coloring book" outline because I was thinking of filling in color later.  As the month progressed, the idea of doing the shading with stitching started working it's way into the squares.

I also tried to draw with one continuous line, as you do with the overall pattern stitching.  At first I would try to figure out how to draw without going over a line twice.  When that wasn't possible, I would go over a line two or three times which created a thicker, darker line and some nice variance, but it didn't necessarily end up in a place I'd want (but I didn't worry about it too much as it was just an exercise).

Looking at something repetitively really makes you notice things.  While sketching and stitching, I noticed the shapes of leaves and flowers and the lines of veins.  I noticed that I tended to have more interest in leaves than in flowers, but that could have been from my pictures.  Most of the pictures I used were some I had taken at the Missouri Botanical Gardens when I was there last fall.  When I was there, I noticed how many different types of leaves there were with different patterns on them. If I had been there during spring or summer when there were more things flowering, I might have noticed all the different types and shapes of flowers.

Since I didn't pre-draw anything on the fabric (I just looked at my sketch once in a while while I was stitching), I had some trouble ending up with a centered drawing or the scale was smaller than I wanted.  Part of what contributed to this problem was that it is hard to hold the fabric and still stitch right to the edges (I didn't use a hoop or anything).  If I did this again, I would cut bigger squares to have the extra fabric to hold onto if I wanted the design to be 6 x 6".

It is also harder to stitch the details on something that small.  I had to go slow and make fine movements which is not always easy to do on a sewing machine.

One day I had mostly straight lines and decided to use a straight stitch.  I didn't like that as much.  It didn't seem to have that hand drawn feel with those lines.  Even though it is hard to do a straight line in free motion, it gives it more expression.  I find straight lines are easier to do if you are pulling the fabric toward you as opposed to pushing it away.   Correction: I meant it is easier to do a straight line when pushing the fabric away as opposed to pulling it toward me.

Another thing I learned it that the fabric around the stitching would sometimes "puff" up because of the design and no background stitching around it.  If I want to finish these pieces, I think I need to go in and do some background stitching.

I already knew this, and it was evident several days over the month, but just because you commit to something doesn't always mean you are going to want to do it or enjoy it.  Several days I just wanted to get this thing done and I would pick a super easy design so that I could move on to something else.  I'm sure you can find those days in the picture above.

In addition, there are some drawings that I like better than others.  That's a given and that's why we practice and do these exercises.

Do you have any "days" that are favorites?  What would you do with all these squares?  Hope you didn't get too tired or bored with an entire month of plant-a-days.  Now, it's time to move on and I can start showing you some of the other things I have been working on.


Terry said...

I love these, Lisa! I would stitch them together as a long panel--4 wide by 7 long and hang for inspiration. I could not pick a favorite. I loved each one as you did them. Looking at the finished pieces, however, #4 jumps out at me. I love how it fills the space.

Zizophora said...

I'm delighted that you explained how you created these. They are much smaller than I imagined, which makes the detail that much more amazing. My favorite is the maple seeds. I love the idea of stitching them together as a panel.