The following 4-minute video shows what it is like to stitch details into this work in progress. And, in case you're wondering, no, I did not sew through my fingers.
Here's what my version of the USS Floyd B. Parks looks like as of Sunday. I've made some major progress and it is really starting to look like a ship. Below are some closeup views of the details.
This day's progress on the USS Floyd B. Parks consisted of a few shapes and several lines. The gif below shows the progress. There were quite a few detail lines such as the antenna and the railings. I had to carefully draw the lines in and then even more carefully stitch them. I often joke that I can't draw a straight line. I think I am now going to have to amend that statement to include that I CAN draw a straight line with my sewing machine.
Here's a close up view of today's efforts. And yes, all of those lines were done freehand.
There is so much going on in this image, especially at the stern of the ship. Much of my time working on this piece right now is spent staring at the image trying to figure out what goes where and what is in front and what is behind. Below is a rundown of this day's progress.
Here's what the ship looks like at this point. It still looks kinda weird. But it is starting to come together. The images below shows the progress.
The tiny details are the most difficult part of the process. Each bit of color is made up of a piece of fabric that I cut out and then stitch down. Some of these pieces are minuscule. One of the problems with using this particular image is that the details in the stern of the ship are off in the distance and therefore much smaller. For this kind of art, smaller means more difficult.
In the 3 1/2 minute video below you can see a little of the process, including the mistake. (I made the hatch about 1/16" too wide.) This is what I have to do for each tiny piece of fabric (preferably without any mistakes). The video ended about 3 seconds too early. All it's missing is me ironing down the piece shown in the above image. Next the piece is stitched with an appropriate thread color or colors.
It doesn't look like much right now, but this is the beginnings of several days of detail work. That little piece of gray fabric that doesn't have any thread on it yet is the deck. It will be covered by lots of things after I stitch it down.
Here's the first two objects to be added to the deck. I don't know their purpose and so far my research has not provided any information. It seems that much of the time spent on the piece is going to be searching the internet to find information about the section I am working on. That, and staring at the photo to figure out the technical issues with creating this piece.
And speaking of technical issues... We had a couple of very humid days. Humidity can wreak havoc on fabrics and especially the rayon thread that I like to use. The humidity warped the piece. To remedy the situation I poured some water on the back and ironed it as I stretched it out. That got rid of most of the puckers. The rest will either come out as I add more stitching or it will get worse. Maybe I need to invest in a carpet stretcher.
Here's the hull laid and ready to stitch. Right now the hull looks like a bunch of separate pieces of fabric. I'll use the thread to blend the colors.
Here is my palette of thread colors. I may or may not use all of them. We'll see what the piece needs. I'll be using light to medium gray's for the hull. The video below shows the beginning of stitching the hull with a medium gray thread. Unfortunately, this thread tends to break as happens as the end of the video.
And here is the hull all stitched.
Now that the sky and the ocean background is all done, it's time to actually start work on the ship. I started by printing out the ship to the exact size of the piece. I will be using this for reference over the course of creating the piece.
After staring at the photo for quite a while, I determined that I could start by laying the hull. Each of the fabrics shown in the photo will be used in the ship. For the hull I needed medium to light grays. I started by ironing a heat-activated glue to the back of each of the fabrics. The glue is attached to a paper. I will be using this paper later on.
In the first part of this time-lapse video, I cut out all of the pieces of the hull. I start by carefully peeling off the paper being careful not to separate the glue from the fabric. Then I trace the shape using the full size photo as a template. After that, I iron the paper back onto the fabric and glue combo and then cut out the shape.
Once all the shapes are cut out, I carefully remove the paper backing and discard it. This is where things get a little tricky. I first had to pin the full size photo to the artwork. This is so that I can place all of the pieces in the correct spot. For each of the pieces of the hull, I stuck to pins along the line of the deck through the photo and into the artwork. As I carefully lift the photo I can see the placement points as shown by the location of the pins. This will make more sense as you watch me doing this at the end of the video. Once in place, I iron the piece of fabric to activate the glue.
When all of the hull pieces have been ironed down, I will stitch over the entire hull with probably 3 or 4 shades of gray thread.
I decided to go with three different thread colors: a medium gray, a slightly darker medium gray, and the steel blue.
The top couple of inches is the lighter gray. The next inch or so is the slightly darker gray. Right about this time is when the following happened...
My thread tension was messed up. I spent the next hour or so ripping out thread. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the problem soon enough. One of the hazards of working at an art show, there is so much ambient noise that it is hard to hear when something isn't quite right. Much of what is in that previous image had to be ripped out.
Once the thread tension problem was solved I was able to continue. Here's the two gray threads. I'm only about halfway done with the slightly darker gray at this point.
Here's all the ocean all stitched with the three colors of thread.
I don't usually show this, but here is what a portion of the back looks like. Notice that the top part has very straight stitching while the bottom has a lot of curves. I do the random curved stitching to give more wavelike movement to the water. Below is a brief video showing how I get that curved stitching.
Next I start work on the ship!
Fiber Artist and Author, Loretta Alvarado