Third Plus Revisited – and More

Purple Rhododendron coming into flower in our front garden.

Hi Everybody,

Signs of Spring have come to western Scotland at last. It’s feeling warmer and, although it is still disappointedly wet, there is so much colour appearing the garden.

Much of my time has been taken up caring for my new family of ducks over this winter. I had no idea they would be such hard work, not so much the ducks themselves, but being outside every day cleaning a pen and pond in all weather, the snow and the constant rain being the most challenging.

This pond was fresh, clear water only hours before. Hard to believe!

I can’t wait for drier weather when I am not sliding around in mud and my ducks return to being pure white again.

Yuk Yuk

I have been working on my ‘Third Plus’ experiment that I spoke about in my last post. However,  it has not been as successful as I had hoped.  I began by deciding to try using a wash away appliqué sheet,  as I had been given some for Christmas and had not tried them out.

I cut the face shape I wanted out of one of the sheets which, thankfully, was thin enough for me to trace my pattern through it. I then cut out the shape and covered it in fabric, folding the edges over the shape and gluing them down using a Sewline fabric glue stick.

The appliqué sheets are fusible on the shiny side. I chose to fuse the shape to the background fabric afterwards to stop the shape moving rather than fuse the wrapped fabric to the shape. Next time I might try it the other way around.

I thought the seam around the face looked ugly so I decided to cover it with stem stitch, using a variegated blue thread. I cut a boat out of paper to help me decide where I might place it,  though later I made it smaller. I wanted it to look a bit like a boat and a bit like a hat. You can see some puckering beginning at this stage. I have not had this happen when I have used ordinary paper inside a shape, though it could be just that I pulled my stitches too tight. I probably should have stopped and investigated but I thought it might iron out eventually. It didn’t.

This is the embroidery and appliqué completed. If I was pleased with it I probably would have added more to improve the shape of the lips and brows. The puckering seems worse now but it is possible that it will improve when it is quilted with some wavy lines. We’ll have to see. I haven’t washed out the appliqué sheet inside the face yet either and I wonder if that will make any difference. Apparently you can choose to leave it in, which may give the shape some depth, though it feels a bit hard and inflexible. This doesn’t really matter for a picture but it might matter if you were using it on a cushion, for example.

Although it is not finished as yet, I put the project in a frame to give you an idea of how it would look, proportion wise, but it was after five in the evening and so the picture looks quite dark. You’ll get the idea, though.  I do like the idea of a two-tone background, so I will definitely try that again.

‘Lady of the Lake’ 8 x 8 inches

The only other thing I’ve completed this week is ‘Farm in the Hills’, which has been equally disappointing.  I thought tossed cows in the ‘fields’ around the farm would be fun but now realise I should have fussy cut them all the same way up. Most of them look upside down. So, I’m not very happy about this one either. I can’t believe I finished it before I even noticed!

‘Farm in the Hills’ 8 x 8 inches

I ran over my index finger with my rotary cutter as well, so I was sewing wearing two plasters and a surgical glove so that I wouldn’t bleed on anything.  Not a great week for sewing, then.

In progress, despite all this, is ‘All Roads Lead Home’, which looks a bit more promising.

‘Al Roads Lead Home’ 12 x 12 inches

I have yet to add a window, perhaps  some vertical lines on the roof to suggest slates, and I want to put some hens or geese or something suggesting movement in the bottom, right hand, square. Then there is the quilting and binding to do.

As soon as the weather changes I shall be taking a break to go out in the garden as there  is stacks to do before everything  leafs up, explodes into flower, and the grass starts growing again. I also have to embroider something special for a friend’s birthday in April.

Next post? I have the embroidery bug at the moment, so I am thinking of attempting some Paisley Birds as a complete change from appliqué and design guides, though my Scottish themed EPP quilts will be chugging along, in between, as usual.

So, until next time, take a moment to enjoy the flowers….

A pink Camelia bud in the back garden.

‘Third Plus’ A Design Guide

Chenomeles, not often put in a vase and yet it looks lovely.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a start. You wonder how to begin to organise a design on your blank canvas, whether it’s paper or fabric.  But help is at hand. Deborah Boschert has taken traditional elements and principles of design and condensed them into a series of eight Design Guides, that go a long way to help us with that process in a friendly, non-academic, way.

‘Sketching with Silk’ by Ellen Linder.

You may remember that several posts ago ( October 2017: ‘Design, Composition and Play’) we looked at another of Deborah’s design guides: “One Amazing Line” and  I made an English Paper Pieced snake with some embroidered ladders. Here is another, much more proficient, example of  what a simple line can do, ‘Sketching with Silk’, a 9 x 36 ” piece  by Ellen Linder.

Today I wanted to talk briefly about another of Deborah’s Design Guides, one that she calls ‘Third Plus’ and to see what I can make of it with some simple EPP and appliqué.

Moda ‘Grunge’ fabrics

Her first directions is to “fill one third of the space with one fabric and the remaining two thirds with another fabric.” I chose an 8 x 8 inch space and two shades of fabric that complemented each other, for a sea theme.

These are Moda Grunge fabrics ‘Crystal Sea’ (the lighter fabric on left) and ‘Cabana’ (the darker fabric on right) which are perfect for background interest. They come in a HUGE range of colours and shades.

The next step is to put ” something interesting” on the line dividing the two fabrics. You can put this slightly above, below, to the right, or the left of the line, whichever suits your idea better; and this is a composition that works in portrait or in landscape, which is another thing worth exploring.

The “something interesting” that you add can be a shape, like a cloud; or a symbol, like a plus sign; it can be a line that works across the composition; or an arrangement of small things, like flowers or sea shells. You can play with texture and colour, too. So, there are stacks  of options that can take your initial idea different ways.

As I am an English Paper Piecer, I begin with paper shapes, so I drew my design out and placed my “something interesting”, a face, just  a squeak below the centre of the line. I drew it out as a grid first because I considered a patchwork background, but changed my mind and stuck with simply joining the two pieces of fabric.

‘Third Plus’ design sketch

The item of interest that you add to your line doesn’t have to be an appliquéd piece, like mine. Yours might be embroidered on, or  you might have a series of patches worked into the centre. My plan is to appliqué the face on the background, then embroider it (perhaps adding a little paint). After that I will embroider on the hair as a series of rolling waves and then appliqué a small boat riding the waves. I want to call my composition ‘Lady of the Lake'( though as I am in Scotland, perhaps I should be calling it the Lady of the Loch !

So here we go. The first step is to tack each background piece and then sew them together.  It will look something like this (without those horrible tacking stitches of course!)

‘Third Plus’ background shapes.

As the face is going to take me a while to complete, I need to leave you here and show you the finished item in the next post, where I will talk about any changes I make, and  about the surface embellishment.

Recommended Reading!

In the meantime, you have all the information you need here to make a start on your own Third Plus project and I will gladly post pictures if you send them to me. You may also want to check out Deborah Boschert’s book online. it is called ‘Art Quilt Collage :  a creative journey in fabric paint and stitch’. I can’t recommend it enough for when you want to take that next step into something more ‘arty’.

I also wanted to say something briefly about copying, today. I see that in the UK, copying is something very much frowned upon. As I see it,  here  we are encouraged  to separate ourselves from others and create something unique.  I grew up in the Far East where copying is encouraged and you would be thought very arrogant indeed to think that, as a beginner, you could just go off and do your own thing.  I attended Chinese Brush Painting classes where students would watch while the painting master created a painting in front of their eyes and then copy it.

‘Paddy Birds’

One day, after several years of copying, my painting master paid me the highest compliment (actually the only one he ever paid me). “Just like mine,” he said. Of course it wasn’t but it was his way of telling me that I was nearly ready to create my own compositions. The painting was Paddy birds (from the paddy fields), in a tree.

I agree that copying work and passing it off as your own is not acceptable but there are advantages to copying work as a learning exercise and I don’t think we should be afraid to embrace that. After all, didn’t Picasso say something like it took him a couple of years to learn to paint like Rembrandt and then the rest of his life to learn to paint like a child ?

The original ‘Antique Fair’ basket by Merumo at pleasantreeus.blogspot.com

We can learn things from copying that lead us to a better execution of our own ideas in the future. I often copy designs I am drawn to on Pinterest. Here is an example.

I copied this little quilt because it allowed me to try some small appliquéd shapes for the first time as complete something fairly quickly. Sometimes I adapt designs to suit myself. Here I changed the shape of the basket  because I liked this one better. I also added a tail and some whiskers to the rabbit. I am quite happy to say it is not my own design, or that I have improvised on top of someone else’s. It still makes me smile whenever I look at it.

My copy, ‘Spring Basket’

In copying I can inhabit the shoes of the maker, understanding a little of what it took to make that design, or use those stitches. Copying helps us experiment, gives us something specific to focus on: What would it be like to make a primitive design like one person, an embroidered landscape like another? Though copying we learn about what we most enjoy and want to go on and develop. Some people are so talented they can create something unique from scratch. Most of us have to learn slowly by trying out different things in a bid to find our own unique take on the world. Copying is a good way to start out. What’s not to like, as they say?

After ‘ Lady of the Lake’  is complete, I will return to some more Scottish themed ideas that are already in progress, with one or two especially for Spring. If  Deborah’s Design Guides give you useful food for thought, we could try out some more of them……let me know, ok?

Till next time…