Lynne Stone

Fibre Artist - Botanical Embroidery

 

Embroidery techniques

 

 

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After selling my Computer business in the mid-1990s, I enrolled at Box Hill TAFE in "Certificate of Art & Design (Embroidery). This was a 2 year course, one day per week plus as much homework as you cared to undertake.

 

Early in the second year the Tutor was talking us through the requirements for our first major project for the year. Into my head popped an image of a branch of pink eucalypt blossoms. I was going to make that branch. Why? How? Who knows, but since that moment I have been focussed on making 3 dimensional models of Australian native plants.

 

It took a lot of work to get to the first acceptable shapes - I house-sat in Marysville, working all the daylight hours every day, and after 10 days I had managed to produce one useable gumnut! But that was a major breakthrough, and successes followed until I had my first branch of Euclayptus leucoxylon ready for consideration in the half-year assessment.

 

I put it into the Embroiderers' Guild Annual Exhibition in Melbourne and was immediately commissioned to create a smaller piece to be taken to New York as a wedding present. With encouragement like that, no wonder I became serious about the subject.

 

I didn't want to go back to the computer industry, so I sold my house with the intention of moving to the country, where house prices were cheaper .... but I found I didn't want to be tied to another house and garden. Instead, I bought a Toyota Coaster bus, had it fitted out as a motorhome with solar panels to run the sewing machine, and took off to explore Australia.  After 10 years living in the bus I added a land-base for use during the warmer months.  This didn't quite work out, as the 2009 bushfires burnt down the house and incinerated the bus.  The next few years were spent rebuilding instead of travelling and stitching.

 

My techniques have developed over the years since the TAFE course. I wore out my old sewing machine and replaced it with a top-of-the-line Pfaff, which allowed me to do both normal sewing and to stitch out shapes that I can programme on my computer. This let me achieve much fine detail that would be impossible freehand.  I have recently added a semi-industrial embroidery machine for even greater accuracy.

 

I've explored lots of possibilities for threads for stamens. For fine stamens I have found Guttermann Skala to be good. It doesn't have a twist, so it looks good. Serafil, from 20 to 200 gauge fills in for the flowers that are not suitable for Skala. Its got a twist, but is sometimes more "lively" than Skala. These are synthetic threads, so I dye them using Disperse Dyes, which need heat and pressure to get good colour (ie, a hot iron), When travelling, I didn't have the electricity to run the iron so I heated up my cast iron frying pan, using greaseproof paper to keep the work clean.

 

All the other bits are made of Viscose Rayon in its various forms. To dye these I use Fibre Reactive Dyes, Procion or Remazol. Setting these is improved by keeping the work in a warm, moist environment. In the bus I found that rather than using up gas on steaming (and getting hot in the process), I could pop the pieces into a plastic bag and keep it on the dashboard in the sun for a day or two. The perfect "solar steamer".

 

The stems are made of wire, I have experimented with lots of different types. Cake wire was somewhat clumsy, copper wire was too soft, brass was difficult to find except by unwinding picture wire, harpsichord strings are brittle, guitar strings rust .. etc, etc. In Hanoi, Vietnam I discovered shops selling wire for electrical use, and bought Nickel/Chromium, which is strong and flexible and suitable for most pieces. I know it is available in Australia but ít is far more fun to use it as an excuse to go back to Vietnam every few years.

 

In 2007 I discovered that fly fishers use faux furs in some of their creations.  Some experiments established that it makes excellent fluffy balls for wattles, but somewhat lacking sheen.  Then I chanced upon a huge reel of carpet fibre that had been donated to Territory Craft in Alice Spings.  Apparently all the locals had taken what they could use, and still the roll was huge and getting in the way, so they gave it to me.  Thanks to Territory Craft, Alice Springs, I could put that little bit of sparkle to add life to my new-style wattle blossoms.  That reel went in the bushfires in 2009, and I am eternally grateful to Godfrey Hirst Carpets of Melbourne who arranged a replacement at short notice so that I could re-make the commission for the National Botanic Gardens which was nearly finished when the fires hit.  The new fibre is of superior quality and softness, which proves there is a silver lining to every cloud.

 

 

 

Updated 1st September 2014
 

 

 

 

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