Staying home and escaping to the studio

Like many people these days, we’re staying home. We’re staying home, mesmerized and saddened by the heartbreaking news on the internet and trying to cope. We’re staying home and by doing so, we’re doing our bit by not getting ill. Which I think is pretty easy in comparison to all of those who are out on the front lines doing much more than that. We’re very grateful for everyone from healthcare staff to all of those working grocery stores and all the other essential services.

So we’re staying home and becoming quite creative with cooking and baking, making our groceries last to avoid going out. We’re staying home and doing a bit of gardening. Ok, maybe a bit too much of that all at once, got a back spasm and had to rest that for a while.

And we’re staying home, and escaping the news and seeking some meditative time by working in our studios. Will is working on lino cuts in his studio. I’m working on the latest free motion sewing and fabric collages. Hopefully, a lot of people are finding creative ways to cope with staying home in these very scary and difficult times.

So, I’m sharing my latest fabric collages, in bright and cheerful colours, paying forward the inspiration I’ve gotten from others and offering a bit of inspiration of my own on what to do with all that stash of material and perhaps a little antidote to the state of things.

These were all done with basically the same materials. This time, a bright red material caught my eye and with it I found other bits and pieces to create three different collages. Instead of a white background, I went for a very colourful backing. The first was also my first attempt at “couching” or applying a cord with stitching to the surface design. Couldn’t get quite the loops I wanted with just zig zag stitch but still I’m happy with the result.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell,

The next has my latest attempt at “couching” included. I don’t have the proper foot on my machine for this, so I’m faking it with an open toe free motion foot. I will admit to a bit of swearing.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell,

This one is the last in the series on the red background. The turquoise arcs in these are left over from a pattern cut out for neckline interfacing on a tunic I made. I never throw out anything and that’s handy when you’re into fabric collage. For my next pieces, I’m eyeing a rather lovely piece of orange satin as the base.

Fabric Collage on Red, by Helen Bushell,

Let’s all hope that there will soon be a happier end to this stressful time. I’ll be checking all the artists that I follow for inspiration on coping while staying home. In the meantime, take care.


Playing with Stitches and Scraps

I’m one of those people who keeps little bits and pieces, scraps that anyone else would probably toss. In each of these three compositions, there is a little scrap of dark periwinkle silk, which originally was the frayed and torn end of a favourite scarf that I mended. When I put them aside, I hadn’t even thought of making fabric collage. Hadn’t even heard of it yet.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell,

The other materials are just me snapping up scraps of remnants in colours that attract me, found at garage sales and thrifting. The orange and violet and purple just wanted to be arranged together. It doesn’t really show here, but except for the turquoise, it’s all very silky and sensual material.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell,

Those little scraps of turquoise are the best bits of a really old cotton square scarf. I think I used to wear it when I was painting walls in the house. Just love that texture in the black and turquoise.

Fabric collage, Helen Bushell,

So here they are, three new abstract collages. All about 8inches by 10 inches or 20 x 25 cm aprox. I’m quite liking working on a set of three at a time, using the same set of scraps and pushing them around until it feels right. And the stitching, well, that’s pretty well intuitive, as well, just letting it happen. And this was before I discovered “couching” cord into a design. That’s coming up next. So MUCH to learn yet. And I’m still pondering how to present them.


On the Value of Making Mistakes

Before I got my fancy new sewing machine with the capacity for doing free motion sewing, I’d already decided to try fabric collage. This is my first attempt, on my old machine, with just the ability to zig zag and sew in only slightly curving lines. Lots of colour and a bit of movement. I used some great material I found in Hawaii.

"Hawaii" Free Motion Fabric Collage by Helen Bushell,

When you are learning something new you have to be willing create something that is not perfect. Well, actually, I think perfection is over-rated anyway. In fact, most artists make use of “mistakes” and find a way to use them in the composition. So, when I decided to teach myself how to do free motion sewing, I was ready for “mistakes” and jumped right in to practice making lots of “mistakes”.

free motion thread side 1, Helen Bushell,

I think free motion sewing was actually meant to be used to make very controlled quilting lines on large quilts. In fact, I’m a great user of internet tutorials and most of them are really into making very controlled patterns, with no variations or “mistakes”. Of course, like many artists, I’m sort of in the camp of just using scribbly lines and being loose and free with it all, more of an “abstract random” you could say. I must admit, I do like some of the effects that “mistakes” like bad tension and random movements can make. I may use these somewhere, someday. Quite like them.

free motion thread side 2, Helen Bushell,

Anyway, here is one of my first attempts at free motion collage. Trying hard to get in lots of spiral, circular and scribble-y lines.

Free Motion Fabric collage by Helen Bushell,

Even the back is kind of interesting to me, with just the thread lines….

Free Free Motion Fabric collage underside threads, by Helen Bushell,

Meanderings in Creativity

I haven’t posted much on our blog for quite some time. My excuse is that I had to find out how to use the new blog editor on the website, and wouldn’t you know, it really wasn’t that difficult, once I finally , finally stopped procrastinating and dived in. Don’t you just love those youtube tutorials? Not posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been up to something in the meantime. No really.

If you check out my Pinterest boards, you’ll find I’m a great fan of Pinterest. Lots of boards and pins. I love it because I can visually bookmark things I find on the net and very often I also discover things that I may never have found any other way. So, I have been meandering and poking about in new areas of media to use.

I’ve always been quite interested in collage and have posted a bit of my paper collage work in the past. But, I’ve also done a bit of quilting and sewing in the past too and have quite a few bags of fabric stashed in various closets. Most of my fabric is in the form of old shirts I find at Thrift stores, a really thrifty way of collecting fabric for projects, by the way. One of my discoveries on Pinterest was “free motion sewing”. Now that’s a cool “rabbit hole” to wander down. I have discovered that you can actually, on some machines, put the “feed dogs” down and draw with thread. Too cool for an artist….so I treated myself to a sewing machine that has that ability. It’s not too fancy, not got all the bells and whistles that the expensive computerized machines have, but it has just enough to have some fun and hey, why not?

One of my first forays into free motion was creating jewelry with fabric. It started in the form of making a couple of cuffs from some lovely shiny bits and pieces in sort of a Boho style. The first one shown here, is just as I was piecing together the bits and stitching them in place… And the second image below shows it as finished piece.

Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell,
Floral Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell,

The next was a bit more jazzy and abstract, with bits of gold netting and lovely jewel tones again. I had a bit of fun playing with the zig zag on both as well.

Abstract Fabric Collage Cuff by Helen Bushell,

My next attempt was a necklace and cuff on beach theme. Most of the fabric came from a thrifty find of a men’s shirt with a Japanese fishing theme. The button on the cuff and the little dangling jewels on the necklace are actually little bits of beach pottery that we found on the beach in Sidney. A big thanks to Will for drilling holes in these little fiddly bits pottery for me. And did I mention he also created the driftwood hanger and the cording too?

"Beach" Free Motion Fabric collage Cuff and Necklace by Helen Bushell,

Still meandering and having fun, I then wandered off into taking my paper collage investigations and applying them to creating collage with fabric instead. That’s coming up next….