Thursday, March 15, 2012

March CQJP 2012 Block

This is the third in a series of landscapes I am doing for the CQJP 2012 project. I have entitled it Last Snow on the Prairie. The inspiration came from a recent snowfall that occured here in Colorado. Our prairie is actually high desert and the snow never hangs around. Instead, it blows around in the wind and disappears almost overnight most of the time. I wanted to capture that feeling of the rolling hills prairie dusted with snow and the newly greening century plants.

The mountains are cut from decorator upholstery fabrics and singed over a candle flame. They are stitched down using gold metallic Kreinik #4 fine braid. I am fond of the way these decorator fabrics give the impression of ridges and valleys. They frequently have different areas of texture and that always intrigues me...I am a texture junkie! The 'prairie' is a piece of drapery fabric from a sample book and it is covered with a piece of fine tulle lace curtain rescued from a thrift store. The sky is an old sheet I dyed and the patches of snow are motifs cut from yet another lace curtain and placed under the first overall piece of snow lace. I did purposefully leave some puckered up fabric in the center of the prairie to work around, hopefully it was going to simulate the little drifts of sand and dirt that are out on the grassland. I think it was fairly effective.

I used 3 different types of funky yarns for the tree line at the base of the mountains. The first is an olive green wooly type that I stretched out a bit and put down in about 3 places before covering it with the dark green chenille type fiber that simulates the pine tree that border a lot of our hills. I mostly used fly stitches to hold these fibers in place. The last fiber is a brown/tan/dark brown metallic blend that sets right underneath the dark green. It adds depth to the block and begins the sparkle of the snow. I also used a blending filament from Kreinik to randomly wrap and tack the tulle lace to the foundation. It doesn't show in the picture too well, in my opinion. But, it is sparkly like ice crystals in person, I promise, lol.

The gully grass is another funky fiber that is rather 'fringey' and grasslike. I used a double row closer to the middle and front of the block. I tapered it off to a single strand nearer to the mountains to show distance and perspective.

Several people have asked where I find these fibers. Most of them are purchased at yarn shops as specialty yarns on the ball. I have also then at needlework shops on long display cards. These cards usually have 6-7 different types of funky fibers wound on one card, in about 2-3 yard lengths, which is more than sufficient for several projects. However, I like to send these fibers out in Swaps with my sister stitchers so I usually buy the balls of fibers/yarn at the yarn shop so I have plenty to share. It is amazing the collection you can acquire through swaps and you can afford to be generous by sending along a couple of yards or more because you will never use up all that is on most of those balls! On occassion I have found these fibers at the thrift stores also - for pennies on the dollar. Also available at the thrift store are scarves already knit from these fibers and I have even been known to unravel some of the wonderfully soft scarves because I could get the scarf for 50 cents - $1 and there is a lot of funk in one scarf, ROFLOL.

The distant trees are perle cotton and/or DMC embroidery floss for the most part. They are done in feather stitch, chain stitch and wrapped chain or straight stitches. The main tree is a selection of about 6 funky fibers in browns, black, grey and tans. I believe there are some eyelash yarns, chenilles, silky ribbon types and some corded eyelash types in the mix. I also added in several pieces of #8 perle cotton. I nevercount the number of threads. I usually go for color and the size trunk I can twist with what I have pulled out. If it is too small for the project I add more. If it is too large I put a few back in the drawer. I twisted the fibers together a little like one would wring out a rag. I then pinned the trunk portion down to the block with straight pins and proceeded to splay the loose ends into roots and branches, always working the thicker threads backward into the branch or trunk when I needed to go forward with just the thinner fiber for the tapering brnaches. The outer branch/twig system is single strand overdyed embroidery floss in feather stitching. There are some things to consider when making a tree. For instance, nothing needs to be perfectly smooth because most barks are not, so feel free to tack the fibers down with strong stitches that will pull the fibers into nooks and crannies. Remember that the new growth at the end of the branches is tender and usually greener or lighter browns than the rest of the tree because they reflect the light more readily. Lastly, when adding the feather stitching try to add some along the side of the branch and not just at the ends. These would bcome next year's midsized branches.

The snow was added along the branches and into the V crevices by using tiny snippets of #12 and #8 white perle cotton couched down with white floss. In some cases, like the distant trees, I even used just floss in varying plies to add the snow to the trees. My husband suggested that the bark was rough and therefore, would catch snow in the crevices in the wind, so I added some to the trunk of the main tree and I think his suggestion was spot on. Generally, I do not stitch these snippets through the fabric bcause it wears on the fibers so much. I just snip them and couch them down and pierce them with embroidery floss to securely hold in place.

The century plants stay on the prarie year around here in Colorado. They are always in different stages of maturity. New growth is light green and as the plant ages the spike knife-like 'leaves' get darker and darker until they turn brown. The spike of white pod-like flowers are dried and turn toa woody brown by late summer. They stay dark brown throughout the winter, often falling off the plant in the wind. So, I added French knot 'pods' on a single spiked stem to some, but not all, of the plants. I also tried to make the plants seem more distant by making them decrease to a smaller size as they neared the mountains.

The finishing prairie elements are the rocks added to the gully and to the base of the tree. I began by making 3 stumpwork rocks from wadsof rust dyed cheesecloth. It was fun to stitch these in hand and then when attaching them to the block I took a couple of tight stitches on them to give them dimples/ridges. They are so small it doesn't show in the photo real well but in person, against the ultra smooth real rocks I stitched down. These cheesecloth rocks look very weathered and I really like them. I expect to use this technique again on future blocks.

The final step was to add some clear sequins and some seed beads to the snow patches to make them shine a bit like glistening snow. Again, the lighting when taking the photo, does not show this to the best effect but it is definitely there.

I enjoyed doing this block very much. I was stitching snow onto that tree all the way from Indiana to Kansas! Thank goodness DH stopped at the Russell Stover chocolate candy factory in Kansas. I got distracted and the block didn't get to looking like a blizzard had hit, lol. I think I must go get another piece from the box now.

Thanks to everyone for their kind comments regarding the series I am doing. Your support is a powerful motivator.

Hugs, Shari


Lins Artyblobs said...

This is a lovely block, the tree is gorgeous.

Terri's ThreadArt said...

Hi Shari! Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog ~ now I can read how you created your beautiful work and learn from you!This year long crazy quilt adventure is going to be a fun will be fun to share it with you!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I am so interested in how you achieve the your style of quilt art. Your techniques are so creative and you are so skillful in knowing just how to get the look you want. Thanks so much for sharing your process.

Faye said...

This block is a real picture... Lovely work Shari

Glenda said...

These blocks you're making are gorgeous, Shari. I really appreciate you explaining the process.


Nicki Lee said...

Hi Shari! Love love love each and every block - your techniques are so original and creative - I'd love to be sitting next to you while you stitch - WOW what I could learn.

This block reminds me of the Devils River in Texas. I spent 3 weeks there last summer and loved every minute - the desert certainly grabs your heart and makes you open your eyes. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful work!

Suztats said...

This is so beautiful. I love everything about it!

Smaranda said...

Votre arbre est une pure merveille!
J'adore la composition et les arbres!