Sunday & Seurat: Making Parasols

This is part of a series of “behind the scenes” posts about my Sunday & Seurat designs for the Guthrie Store. Click here to see all of the posts in this series or see a gallery of the collection.


Another iconic shape in the  Sunday on the Isle painting is parasols. There are many people sitting and standing in the scene holding a parasol. I liked this one where you could see the contrasting color on the inside, so I decided to make one like that. My original paper design for this one was very much larger than the finished design. Making it larger was just an easy way to make sure that it had all of the detail I wanted with shapes and shadows added with colored pencil. It’s much easier to cut something out with scissors than it is to have to make tiny things with an exacto knife. It was easy to re-scale it after I had scanned it. I was designing this specifically for bow ties, so I wanted something simple that would make sense when it was scaled down to bow tie size.

Parasols. Fabric detail.

I kept the bright turquoise blue of the original and recolored another one to be almost the same deeper blue as the one in the painting. Lots of people wear blue, black or grey and I thought this made a print that would look nice with any of those. I created a geometric pattern by alternating them, which I also thought for a bow tie would give a print that was super wearable, while still being a little fun and quirky when you looked at it closely. This design was also built up of layers of pointillist-style dots and transparent colors.

Sunday & Seurat: Gone to the dogs

This is part of a series of “behind the scenes” posts about my Sunday & Seurat designs for the Guthrie. Click here to see all of the posts in this series.


If you look closely at the Sunday on the Isle painting, you will find a black dog whuffling in the grass. Those of you that know me know that I have a fondness for black dogs.

This is Chester and Leo. They are my black lab mutts. Brothers from the same litter. 3 yrs old.

So, I had to use the black dog as the inspiration for a design. When we were talking about what kinds of pieces we wanted for this collection, I felt like there should be something that wasn’t necessarily a kids item, but something that would appeal to kids. And there are a lot of people who love dogs. So this one seemed like it would be pretty popular. (Turns out we were right, but more about that in a minute.)

I made two versions of the dog from cut paper and I added a little colored pencil shading to them. I scanned the cut paper designs and layered together with a painted background that was just a swirl of different colors. And I added the paintbrush from the Red Yellow Blue design as if the dog is holding up his paw to be painted.

That turned in to this, which I call Brush to Paw. I printed it on eco-canvas. The hidden “easter egg” in this print is that the dogs have a different colored collar on each side of the bag, which match my dogs (red for Chester and turquoise for Leo).

And when you sew it together, it makes a little bag that looks like this. I use these as travel bags and keep my phone charger, jewelry, bandaids and those kinds of odds & ends.

 

We quickly realized that this little guy was going to be a hit, so we added a piece to the collection and I gave him a place on a tea towel as well. I just got this fabric yesterday and I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon hemming and making some linen/cotton tea towels which should be in the Guthrie shop very soon.

It always catches me off-guard but one question I get asked all the time is “Who does your sewing? Or where do you get them made?” The answer is: Me at my dining room table.

That part is just as important to me as the design is. I have no interest in designing things to send off and have mass produced overseas.

The fabric for all of these is printed by my friends at Spoonflower in Durham NC. They are friends and I have been to Spoonflower HQ and have seen my fabric coming off of their printers. I can’t own the kinds of machines that they have (They cost more than my first house did.) so I am thrilled I am able to work with them to make my designs happen.

Part of the cost of making these is paying myself a fair wage for the time spent sewing them. I work hard to make that part as efficient as I can because I don’t want to spend 24 hours a day sewing, but I can be confident that they are the quality that I want and that the person sewing them isn’t working in a sweatshop. This week I have been drinking tea and watching the Great British Baking Show as I sew. I can’t complain about my job this week.

Sunday & Seurat: A Collaboration

I am so excited to finally be able to talk about my collaboration with the Guthrie Theater Store. In February, I was approached by the manager of the gift shop for the Guthrie Theater. Their summer musical was Sunday in the Park with George and she wondered if I would like to work with them to make some exclusive pieces for the shop that were inspired by the show.

Sunday in the Park with George is loosely based on the life of Georges Seurat and his painting Sunday on the Isle of la Grande Jatte. I first saw the show about 15 years ago and soon after that we visited the Art Institute in Chicago and were able to see the painting. It was the first time that I can remember seeing a painting and literally gasping. I came around a corner and there it was. Part of the beautiful visual story of the show is that the actors recreate the painting on stage and the characters move in and out of that scene.

Image courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago

The show is a love note to artists. Seurat struggles with getting the image that he sees in his head on to the page and the struggle filling up the blank canvas. He is famous for the pointillist style, where the image is made up of dots of colors that your eye blends together. When I thought about what to design, I thought of the song “Color and Light” from the show, where Georges repeats the names of colors in a rhythmic pattern like his dots on the page. So that was one of the first designs I created.

Red Yellow Blue

Making the design Red Yellow Blue

I started many of the designs in this collection from paper. The grid (representing a paint palette) and the paint brush are both illustrations made from cut paper; the paint splatters were watercolor. The paintbrush was shaded with colored pencils to add some texture. I scanned all of those pieces so that I could manipulate them digitally but preserve the texture and hand-cut or hand-painted quality of them.

There is a filter in Photoshop called “pointillism”, which seemed like a logical choice to make the design look Seurat-like, but it didn’t give me the effect I wanted at all. So I read a little more about Seurat’s painting and that gave me some ideas.

The artist worked on the painting in several campaigns, beginning in 1884 with a layer of small horizontal brushstrokes of complementary colors. He later added small dots, also in complementary colors, that appear as solid and luminous forms when seen from a distance.

I built up my design the same way with transparent and opaque layers, some with dots and some without and I digitally played with the luminosity in different ways. It took a lot of experimenting to get something that felt just right. It ended up being about four or five layers in total.

This design was intended to be a zipper bag, so I created the design to scale and not as a repeating pattern, which is more typical for fabric designs. It is printed on eco-canvas, which is made from 45% recycled polyester. The finished bag is about 5×8″, which is just the right size for your favorite pencils and art supplies.

Red Yellow Blue.


This is the first in a series of posts about the making of these Sunday & Seurat designs. I wanted to have the chance to talk a little more about the inspiration and process of making each one. They can be found for sale at the Guthrie Theater Store and you can see the whole collection in this virtual gallery.

Pop Up Class: Intro to Embroidery

Don’t wait to sign up! I have added a class for this summer and you are invited. I am partnering up with Knit & Bolt (formerly Crafty Planet) in NE Minneapolis to do a pop-up class. In three sessions, you will learn all you need to know about beginning hand embroidery. We will cover the basics of tools, threads, needles, and to hoop or not hoop. Each session we will focus on a group of related stitches, like variations on a theme. We will talk about how to stitch a pre-traced pattern as well as free-form embroidery, which is my favorite. I broke the class up so you will have time to practice between sessions and come back with questions. We will work in the awesome new classroom space at Knit & Bolt and you can get all of your materials there at the shop. (I will post the supply list here very soon and email it to you after you register.)

Intro to Embroidery
Tuesdays June 20, 27 and July 11 • 10:00 – 11:30 am
at Knit & Bolt

Open to ages 10 and up. No embroidery or hand sewing experience necessary.

THIS CLASS IS FULL. If you are interested in learning about future classes, please sign up for my email newsletter.


Supply list

All of these items are available at Knit & Bolt. You can pick them up ahead of time, or we can take a little time right at the beginning of class to get everyone set with supplies.

  • 1/4 – 1/2 yd of plain colored woven cotton fabric. I recommend RJR solids or Kona cotton. Choose any color.
  • 3-5 colors of six-stranded embroidery floss (thread). Choose any colors.
  • Embroidery needles. I recommend John James, assorted sizes 5/10.
  • One 9×12” rectangle of craft felt or wool felt. Choose any color.
  • One 5-7” embroidery hoop. Wooden or plastic is fine.

Bring a pair of scissors with you. You might want a pen and paper to take notes. You are welcome to take photos/video with your camera/phone as I demonstrate stitches.

A note about colors. If you don’t know what colors to choose, here are some suggestions.

  • Contrast is great. Choose white/charcoal/black as a fabric color and three bright colors like red, turquoise and green for your threads.
  • Think of a theme like “ice cream”. That doesn’t mean you are going to make a picture of ice cream, but it gives you a hint about colors.
    • Ice Cream: Vanilla background fabric, brown, pink and pale green threads.
    • Ocean: Pale blue background fabric, tan, turquoise, yellow threads.
    • Paris: Pale grey fabric, blue, red and pink threads.

Download this supply list.

I’ve been told it’s a little bit mesmerizing…

You have to remember to take a day off.

Because I am self-employed, I rarely work a regular 9-5 week. Last weekend I worked a show all weekend long. I have a class coming up on Saturday and a residency tonight, both outside of “work hours”. It’s easy to basically be working 12 hour days for days in a row and not notice it.

It’s been kind of a crazy week. It’s been raining and my hubby has been sick with a hacking cough and the dogs have been squirrely so I feel like I am a little discombobulated. So yesterday I settled in to work on a project I have, with a deadline fast approaching, and I just couldn’t get motivated. I checked Facebook and ordered supplies and dawdled around and finally just made myself get to work late in the afternoon. But my enthusiasm (and my brain) weren’t really in it.

So then I cut out about 8 pieces for this important project completely, totally, un-fixably wrong. I printed one specially to be cut out a certain way and then blithely cut it in half (wrong). I tore one with the grain only to find that it didn’t tear with the grain but left me with two edges about 2 inches different from one another. I measured something else incorrectly. Welcome to Amateur Hour! Sheesh. When I finally figured it out, there was no other solution but to give up and order the fabric again.

So I left it in a pile on the table and went off to a meeting last night. This morning, I pulled it out and remeasured to make sure it was really as bad as I thought it was and I started over with a rush order of new fabric. I have time to fix it. It’s not an emergency. And there is enough mis-cut fabric for me to make myself a couple of tank dresses if I am clever about cutting it out. It’s all going to work out in the end, but it’s not exactly the way I had it planned.

I posted a comment on Facebook a while back about feeling like I had a day where I was operating at about 50% power and my good friend Marjorie replied with a comment something like “Well, you usually are operating at 150%, so you probably just need some down time.” Smart woman. And she is totally right. I should have listened to my own listlessness yesterday, made a latte and sat on the porch with a good book.

I have a personal rule about never operating a sewing machine after 10pm no matter how “awake” I am feeling. It always ends in too many hours with the seam ripper. I think I need a new rule about listening to my brain when it says “Today is not a work day.” Powering through that feeling didn’t work out so well for me. So this afternoon, before I have to go be an “artist in residence” for a few hours this evening, I am going to make a pot of tea and let my brain reset. I’ll get my work day in; I’m just doing it in pieces.


Speaking of pieces, the paper pieced block shown above I made in about 2005. It’s from a site called Paper Panache and was part of her Mystery Blocks sew along. She gives you the paper pieced pattern and colors but no clues as to the subject of the block. I am not really a quilter, but I think these are great fun for using up scraps and this alarm clock was a favorite one that I created. Her design work is beautiful and they always go together so nicely.

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