Friday, March 26, 2010

Susan Avila Workshop

I attended a workshop,Building a Three-dimensional surface with Solvy & Stitching, at UNL this week, as I mentioned before. The presenter was Susan Taber Avila. You can see her above showing us the digitally-printed chiffon behind her piece, Garden Metaphors. The top layer is the negative pieces left after cutting out the leaves for the largest work in the show, Garden Wall.

We didn't get quite so conceptual in our samples, but I was surprised how many of us found ourselves telling a little story in our work.

The main technique she discussed and demonstrated was creating a 'fabric' of thread and scraps using Solvy as a medium to keep it all together until the stitching is done.

She suggests drawing a grid on the solvy and stitching it over a few times, then beginning to attach your 'stuff'. You can use literally anything that can stand getting wet (since you will be dissolving the Solvy in water). That included paper, thread, serger trimmings, dryer lint, etc. She said she almost literally never throws anything away, and many of her large projects are done with materials that someone was going to throw away.

We each were sent home with a large piece of Solvy, and told to create 3 identical 8"x8" pieces, and bring them back.

The range was very wide since there were no other instructions. Just to use your machine, the solvy and whatever else you wanted, probably with free-motion stitching, although in one case, that didn't happen, and the result was quite nice, and not noticeably different from the rest in that respect.

Technically, it was hard to stitch the grid without its drawing up and getting smaller. Stitching in a hoop made that easier, but of course it's easier and faster to stitch without a hoop. It turns out that those of us who had to 'patch' our Solvy anywhere with an extra layer, found out that 2 layers (or more) made it much easier to stitch in general.

Once the grid was done, attaching things was easier for the most part. Susan makes a point that perfect tension is not nearly as interesting or desirable as 'bad' tension. This is a definite plus when you're new to this, and if, as in my case, it's been a long time since you did any free-motion stitching. Even some quilters in attendance who do free-motion stitching all the time with ease had trouble with this. I think it has a lot to do with the single-layer you're stitching on a lot of the time. A machine guy told me once that machines are not made to sew on a single layer and don't do it well because there's nowhere for the stitch to form. It usually takes place between the layers, and there isn't any between here.

Once you're all done, you dip it in water of any temperature, and the solvy dissolves. Then we blocked the pieces to the required 8".

Back in class last night we took time to view and discuss everyone's work, and then we passed one of our pieces to the people on either side of us, and took one each of theirs. We had to merge all 3 pieces into a pleasing whole. We had about an hour to do this.

Susan taking photos of the finished work.

It was not as easy as you might think to come up with a good idea quickly enough to have time to work on it. It was a little intimidating to realize that you were possibly going to have to cut up your own or someone else's work, too.

Here are the 3 pieces I had to work with. My original 'creation' is in the center. The next photo shows you what I finally ended up with when I put them all together,

Mine is the one about in the center. I cut my original piece into a long, garland-like piece and used it around the outside of the heavier piece on the right of the first photo. It was made of upholstery fabric and was quite heavy. The center lines are very thin copper foil. The piece with the black lace around it was also cut up, but more into groups of 4 squares that I then stitched onto the base. I cut the upholstery base in a few places and stitched them back together giving it a bit of 'elevation'. It doesn't lie flat anymore, and that's what we wanted.

This was a very fun workshop, and I enjoyed very much the cutting up and putting back together, which surprised me, although I've always thought that one of the interesting parts of quilting was the piecing and then cutting up to get something completely different. I think this was a little like that in effect. One of the nicest things about the class was the people taking it. Everyone was great fun to get to know a little bit, and there's always shared experience when you're with a group for a specific niche purpose.

Here are a few more finished (3 part) pieces from the group.

Tonight it's the opera. I'm going to Hansel & Gretel at Nebraska Wesleyan University (my alma mater) with 2 good friends. It should be fun.


gwensews said...

That's very interesting. I love artsy type sewing. One thing it does is make you stretch yourself. And you never know when you get an astonhishing embellishment!

Anonymous said...

The class sounds like it was wonderfully exciting! The process seems like it provided a nice challenge. I wish something like that would be offered near me. Thank you for the explanation of the process and I LOVE your final piece. Sally

sdBev said...


Ann Rowley said...

What fun! Great idea to have to use stuff created by someone else.

Using a "Solvy-sandwich" can help with the final stitching - I keep all my machine embroidery thread ends and periodically make a new fabric with them - it also stops the bits getting tangled up in the machine's foot.


Stash said...

What a fun adventure. You are so lucky to have classes like that near by. ;-) The class format sounds very interesting...a great way to learn.

I love all the pieces in the pictures. ;-)