“Pricked: Extreme Embroidery”

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(“Death of Blinded Philosopher” (2006), embroidery on silk shantung, by Angelo Filomeno.)

Perusing the New York Times this morning and came upon this: Needling More Than the Feminist Consciousness

I am always amazed by artists who push boundaries like this.  I feel something turning in my brain…I often feel that we as ID dressmakers make wearable art.  A client and I were just talking about this…we make gorgeous, over-the-top, fanciful creations that no one in their right mind would wear…except to DANCE in front of a judge!  Every once in a while, the bizarreness of ID costuming spins my head around.

I love it.

More interesting reviews: Village Voice, Whipup (lots of pics here),

The exhibit is the second one in the textile vein.  The first was last year’s Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting.

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New ID School Dresses: Design, Digitizing, & Finding Fabric

Susan and I have been working with an existing ID school to create new dresses.  I have really been enjoying those process.  Good folks.

We sent them first to read these two posts: ID School Dress Design  Chapter 1 & Chapter 2.  I don’t think I have ever finished organizing the info, but the process is there.

So far, the focus has been on getting a new design.  Lots of talking, critiquing, tweaking, and then the design is ready for me to digitize it.

I am not going to use the actual design here (don’t want to steal the school’s thunder for the unveiling day), but I can still talk about my approach using Dana’s design from her tunic dress.  Dana’s design was digitized with the same stitch ideas in mind that we are using for this school.

Here is Dana’s finished bodice.  We used a satin-look step stitch for the black and then a narrow satin-stitch for the silver.

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In a nutshell, I get the design from Susan in either a jpg format or as vector graphics.  We have experimented with the vector graphics format to see if the auto-digitizing function would work to make things go faster, but I have NEVER been happy with that function.  The logic of it on complicated designs like this one is NOT logical, and I spend so much time cleaning it up that I might as well have done it by hand in the first place.  Vector graphics can be a cleaner pic to follow, but these days I have gotten good enough at this that clear lines are no longer mandatory in the pics.

Susan has always sized the designs correctly, but sometimes in the translation from her computer, thru email to mine and then opening them in my software the dimensions have changed.  I re-check dimensions and re-size the graphics accordingly.

In the past, I have whined until Susan has put in tremendous time to show all of the overs and unders.  Again, because I have gotten pretty good at this, this time I told her I really did not care if it was drawn correctly, just indicate!  So she indicated!

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Then, I choose a starting point and get busy.  Here is the finished design.  (The lavender stitches making the box outline are basting stitches to hold the fabric in place since I use sticky stabilizer more than I actually hoop the fabric.  More about that here: Embroidery placement.)

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Not really interested in going through my whole approach to digitizing something like this, but I will say that making the overs and unders true overs and unders is important to me.  When the auto digitizer is used, this does not happen…lines just butt up against one another with weird gaps and even stitches filling angles in odd ways.  What I do takes time, but the end result is worth it to me.  This pic shows a close-up of the end result.
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My process for the new school dresses will be the same.  A big part of this process is doing test stitch-outs to see if it looks the way I want, to check thread tension, coverage, and any consequent pulling, puckering, tunnelling, or drilling.  I am expecting a full round of stitch tests on this new design because the fabric is completely different than Dana’s even though the stitch combination is the same.

Once the initial middle-range size is digitized, then I create files for each size dress.  Time-consuming, but once it is done we are set!!!

During all this time, I have also been researching fabric sources to find not only the kind of fabric we want (durable and washable), but also the quantity.  Since this is a new dress for an established school, we have many, many dresses to make.  And, another consideration for a source is that they will have this same fabric far into the future.  Heading off to JoAnn’s or Hancocks is not the solution this time.  Even my favorite online stores cannot be counted on for this kind of reliability.  But, Susan suggested Raymond’s Textiles, and I think I am set!

Susan is also creating a custom set of patterns for this school because the skirt is a bit different than the regular three panel.

So now I am doing a few wash tests to see how the fabrics react.  If all goes well, then the prototype dress made for the school director is the next step.

Dana’s Tunic Dress

We at Feisdress (Susan and I) have been contemplating a different approach to making Irish dance dresses for a while now. As I have said before, I love making 2 piece dresses for a variety of reasons (ease of skirt attachment onto soft cotton bodice, ease of dealing with dropped waist look, dancer can remove jacket in between dances to avoid stinking it up!!!), so this was part of thinking about a different dress. Susan and I both wanted to try a soft skirt but were not interested in ruffles or tulle (brings back the horror of making a tutu for me!). And we were both interested in maintaining that slimming, wonderful drop waist look and combining it with a narrower silhouette…but of course you need dancers who want to try this with you!

Well, we found not one but two dancers who were game to go on this journey with us!

The first was Dana.  She is in the “& Overs” and wanted a dress made just for her.

Here it is: the 21 panel!
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The 10 top black panels are part of the black tunic.  There is no waist seam.  The 11 pink panels that were a particular challenge to attach so that they moved freely but were also secure in the correct hang angle…I attached one of those buggers 6 times before I got it to behave!!!!

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This is the totally separate, totally soft underskirt.  I am particularly enamored of this pic…I call it “Skirt with Tail.”Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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This is a pic of the dress before the pink panels were attached.  This works, too!

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I love this design.  It was a particular challenge to digitize this one.  There were several test stitch-outs of the pieces and parts until I found just the right way.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.
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More later if there are questions.  One more dress to put up, but must go to the hometown Christmas Parade!

Shaylah’s Dress

Since all are at the Oireachtas is Atlanta now, I can start posting pics of the dresses we have been working on.  Busy, busy, but thankfully not as stressed as last year…even though I put in many, many hours on each project because I am so picky, I do now have a sense for how long it will take me for the most part…sort of…maybe…well, maybe NOT!!!!

Anyway, Gina said I can post some pics of Shaylah’s dress…I will post pics of the dancers in full regalia when I get them.

So, to recap, here are the pieces of Shaylah’s dress with the design that I digitized and embroidered:

This is one side of the back skirt…it will have a reversed pleat. There will be panels on the front of the dress, each one with one of these embroideries on it.
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Here are the 2 crowns.
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And the rest…

The bodice.
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The sleeves.
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And here is Gina’s diva Shaylah putting on the crystals:
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You can see a bit more of the skirt here…I believe :
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And, ta-da!
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Beautiful dress for a beautiful girl!

Basting Boxes

 Rebecca left a question for me on IDD:

 Ann,
I was looking at your blog, and studying your work. I have a question. Why do you sew rectangles around the embroidery? It looks like it’s machine sewn. What does it accomplish?
 
Rebecca

Those are basting stitches. 
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Because Gina sent me pieces to be embroidered, I did not hoop the fabric pieces.  Instead I attach sticky stabilizer directly onto the inner hoop, put a good tear-away behind that and then put both into the hoop ring that tightens.  Then, part of my design is a set of placement stitches that get sewn onto the hooped stabilizers…I remove the hoop from the machine and then, using lines that I have drawn on the back of the stabilized fabric pieces that correspond to the digitized placement lines, I line up the fabric piece.  The next thing to get stitched out is a long basting stitch around the design area.  This ensures that the fabric will not move or pull or come away from the sticky stabilizer.  I have also found that it helps eliminate any puckering.

Here is a pic of the digitizing…you can see the dark blue placement lines in the middle…this only gets sewn onto the stabilizer in the hoop or even just punched in with no thread.  I have marked the same lines on the back of the fabric.
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I very rarely actually hoop fabric anymore.  I am so freaking picky about puckering that I use this method for just about everything.

For a rather intense look at doing this so I can use my hoop-it-all for a long project, click here: Embroidering in the Hoop-it-all

…and Embroidery

Here you go, Gina! Shipped off this morning.

This is one side of the back skirt…it will have a reversed pleat. There will be panels on the front of the dress, each one with one of these embroideries on it.
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Here are the 2 crowns.
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And the rest…

The bodice.
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The sleeves.
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Now, back to the dungeon…

Commercial Embroidery Machine

I have gotten some very nice compliments on the embroidery for Shaylah…and a couple of questions, observations, and a bit of advice that I am going to explore.  I have tried to answer some of the questions in the comments.

Marlene wrote:

Hi, Anne.  I always enjoy looking at your work and creativity.  Your new design is gorgeous – as usual.  *-)

And am I hearing the kching of “how can I afford my own commercial machine” bouncing through your head?  ROFL 

With regard to your statement under the last picture about underlay issues (and a decision to back off the underlay), have you tried using both edge run together with double zigzag?  The edge run would reduce the push/pull factor of the satin stitches, keeping the columns uniform, and the double zigzag would help lift the satin stitches off the fabric.  If you’ve not tried that combination before, it might be worth looking into.  A closer density of the double zigzag stitching may allow you to lessen the density of the
satin stitches and still achieve great coverage.  Keep up the good work!

She’s got me!  How I would love to have this machine!!!  My hermithood would be complete!  Hermit Extraordinaire!!

And I am going to explore the the idea of the double zig-zag…I included this here for other digitizers exploring their craft.  Thank you very much, Marlene.

My friend’s commercial machine is a Toyota…info for this next comment.

What size hoop did you use? Have you seen the Toyota machine with the 1.2m x 0.45m hoop? I’m fascinated by that possibility (just not by the pricetag….), after sitting for many hours over the Bernina megahoop shifting it up and down the notches, not to mention rehooping! I’ve heard the Toyota actually stitches slower than the Bernina, just doen’t need all the thread changes, rehooping etc. How did you think they compared? Though it sounds like you need the Toyota like me!!!

All the best

Mary

The hoop I used was the 14×19.5 inches… this is the biggest sewing field that this machine has.  A wide center front panel might still require one re-hooping, but this would be cake on this machine!  This Toyota machine stitches MUCH faster than the Bernina…I have the 200E…I love it dearly and the test stitch out for Shaylah’s design looked just as good as the Toyota.  BUT, my Bernina can in no way compete with the speed…if I get anywhere near this speed on the Bernina, the threads break constantly, the machine bounces, and the motor gets way too hot. 

I actually dreamed last night that I had one of these machines in my dungeon…in my own space…shower not needed for operation.  Aahh.

Yeah, well…

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