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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Wired Leaves

Wired leaves and petals are one of the basics of modern stumpwork. The use of wire to edge stitched areas that will later be attached to the final piece allows for bendable, three-dimensional realism. To see what I mean, check out this piece from Jane Nicholas!

It would be a bit much for me to call this post an official "How To" tutorial, since I've never actually finished a piece with wired leaves. I have however, started three - all from classes or GCCs:

Here's a picture of some of the wired leaves in process for Fantasy Remembered. The process for making wired leaves is really pretty simple, but it takes a bit of time. It starts with a ground fabric like batiste or muslin. This can be white, or if you don't want to worry too much about the ground showing through, a colored ground can be used, like the green for these leaves. The pattern for the shape needed is traced onto the fabric. The fabric is mounted in a small hoop. Then, a thin wire (like 28 gauge floral wire), either covered or uncovered (two classes specified uncovered, one used fabric-covered wire), is couched over the outline. The couching stitches can be seen on two of the leaf forms in the picture.

After the shape is in place, the entire edge is worked in buttonhole stitch (or blanket stitch, to be precise). This takes a lot of time, especially if a single strand of floss is used, because the stitches have to be so close together that the wire does not show through. This is where using green fabric covered wire is an advantage for leaves! I usually stagger the base of the buttonhole stitches, as can be seen in the picture, so that the ground fabric does not become weakened by many closely-spaced stitches piercing the fabric in a row.

The leaf filling can be done in a variety of stitches. For Fantasy Remembered, outline stitch is used (right). Kathy Fenchel used satin stitch for the sunflower leaves, and long-and-short is used for the petals on Rose's Pyramid (below).

After the stitching is done on all the leaves in the hoop, very small sharp scissors are used to CAREFULLY cut the fabric around the leaves, leaving the wire ends attached to the leaves. I haven't made it to that point yet on any of mine, but hopefully I'll finish these first three leaves within the next week, and I'll write up any difficulties I find!

These detached elements are attached to the main piece of fabric as the last stage of the stumpwork piece. The wire ends are pushed through the fabric and whip-stitched to the back to hold the leaves in place.

If anybody can add details I might have missed (since I haven't actually finished one of these pieces yet!) or has questions, please feel free to comment!


Susan said...

Wow-that is just stunning! I don't know if I would have the courage to start such a project-you are doing a great job! Looking forward to seeing more.

Jeanne said...

Of course you could have the courage! Remember my motto: It's just string! What's to be afraid of? (OK, in this case, it's string and wire!)