Endeavourers Reveal Day 6 – Raindrops

It is time for the reveal day of the online group The Endeavourers.  This time our theme was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

I love rainy days because I can stay inside and work on art projects with no guilt. Here in the Houston area, we get plenty of rain, on average about 50 inches a year (about 1260 mm).

But occasionally, as with Hurricane Harvey, we can get that much rain in one week!  And, as this part of Texas is very flat, and subjected to a lot of urban sprawl, when we get a lot of rain in a short amount of time, it has nowhere to go, and the flooding is horrible.

I have helped to clean up after floods about six times, and it has made me really cognizant of the importance of digitizing and uploading photos.  I finished that with my own family photos about a decade ago, but, in July 2017, I got boxes and boxes of photos from my husband’s family, when his mom moved out of her flood-prone house.  And just in time, because Harvey hit about six weeks later.  Some of the photos had already been through a flood or two, and if I hadn’t taken them home, they probably would have been lost forever.

And that would have been a tragedy.  There are so many great ones that call me to tell their stories — war-time street scenes and vehicles that were works of art and famous and not-so-famous entertainers and so many more.

So for this theme, I decided to portray my favorite rainy-day activity of scanning and editing photos.

old photos and computer editing screen

A rainy day task.

From a big box of pictures, I pull a handful to work on and place them in a bowl.  (I will not let myself look at any other pictures until these are scanned, edited, labeled, and stored.)  These were in Aunt Millie’s photo albums until they went through one flood and my mother-in-law pulled them off the old pulp paper.  She saved them, but the captions have all been lost.  I love how they curl up and reveal their backs, stained and shaded from the albums.

Some of them are only an inch square.  I scan them at 300-600 dpi, and use Photoshop® to fix their contrast as much as possible.  Then I assign them a number and place them in proper photo pockets.  (When I get them all done, I think I will have a better idea as to their chronology.)

So for this piece, I wanted to portray the old photos, the window with photo thumbnails, the screen with some of my favorites, the color histogram, and then, one photo that I would bring back to life as a thread-sketched portrait.

These three ladies jumped out at me as the ones to include.  I have worked with them so long, I feel like I know their names.

First we have “Kate,”  who reminds me very much of Kate Chiconi with her big hat.  🙂  (If you don’t know Kate, go to her website and scroll down until you see her profile picture in her comments, and you will see the resemblance, I hope!)

old photo of a woman in a big hat


Next we have “Emmeline Octavia,” who appealed to me with her air of quiet dignity.

old photo of older woman

“Emmeline Octavia”

And then we have the undisputed star of the show, the tragic actress “Margot,”  who has suffered much in life through being saddled with the given name of Mary Sophronia, and not being allowed to have her hair bobbed, resulting in having to put it up in a faux bob.  Today she is Margot, but next week she may be Evangeline or Paloma.

old photo of girl's profile


art quilt of computer screen and old photos

“Rainy Day Recall, ” for The Endeavourers “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” challenge.

This piece was one of the most fun I have ever worked on.  However, it doesn’t photograph that well, so let’s tour the details.

You can see the “old photos” in the blue and rust batiks in the bottom left corner, and then the “thumbnail window” above them.  I stamped textile paints onto white cloth to make the little photo thumbnails.

Then I wanted to show that two of the portraits were suggesting ideas to me, rising up like little ghosts on the screen.  I purposely left them as just thread sketches.

thread sketch

Thread sketch of Emmeline.

thread sketch of woman with hat

Thread sketch of Kate.

machine-embroidered lines

Some colorful lines to represent the histogram.

And then there is Margot’s portrait, which is really a free standing piece.

Thread sketched portrait from a vintage photo.

Portrait of Margot.

At first I printed her out on an iron-on fabric sheet, but I couldn’t sew through that.  I didn’t have any printer cotton, but I did have some Lutradur.  That worked wonderfully!  The printer ink tinted it lightly, so I could see where to do the thread-sketching, and it was crisp and lovely to sew through.

It turns out I need to add very pale threads to my collection, and I should not have outlined her head with the green background thread, but overall she looks pretty good.  I have not done any thread-sketching of people before, so I was pretty happy with her.

detail of thread-sketched portrait


Some of the threads and trims I used on her portrait are from Aunt Millie’s huge collection of notions, so it felt fitting to use them.

Okay, so on to my biggest problem and how I solved it.

To represent the old photos as they look on the computer screen, I had printed the three of them on a silk printer sheet.  In the overall composition,  the light colors of the thumbnail window and of Margot’s portrait were on the sides, with Margot looking dead center at that silk print.  And it looked way too boring to be the focal point, and the silk just did not blend in with all the cottons.  It was like looking at a TV screen.

Also, poor Emmeline in the top left corner was barely visible.

art quilt intermediate step

That central piece of silk doesn’t really have anything interesting going on.

I tried moving the white around, by adding buttons for the task bar icons, and white belt buckles to suggest the perforation on those old film strips, but it didn’t help.  Then I tried plain Lutradur, cut into shapes to emphasize different areas of the old photos.  It looked okay, but it didn’t blend in nicely.

Lutradur shape overlays

Positive shapes overlaid.

Lutradur frame overlaid.

Negative shapes overlaid.

So I reprinted that combination photo onto Lutradur, cut it up, and glued it on.  The glue (Elmer’s Craft Bond) made the printer ink blur a little, but in interesting ways, I thought.

printed Lutradur and glue layers on silk

Printed Lutradur and glue layers on the printed silk.

Although sadly, Emmeline’s photo still didn’t gain much definition.  And then the printer showed an error message that it was not going to work any more, so I couldn’t keep experimenting.

Here is the final piece again:

art quilt of computer and old photos

“Rainy Day Recall”

I really enjoyed working on this piece, and combining my loves of photo restoration and art quilts!  I am thinking of it as an introduction to a series, and planning to do a lot more of the thread-sketched portraits.

I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else came up with.  You can see the results here, and since most people do two posts about each entry, one on The Endeavourers, and one on their home blog, here is a list of the participants:

Catherine – http://www.knottedcotton.com
Janine – https://rainbowhare.com/
Nancy – http://www.patchworkbreeze.blogspot.com/
Carol – http://beadsandbirds.blogspot.com/
Ruth – http://benandcharlyscorner.blogspot.co.uk/
Gwen – https://textileranger.com/
Martha – www.weekenddoings.com
Maureen – https://josephinaballerina.com/
Kay – http://thecraftyyak.wordpress.com
Fiona – http://celticthistlestitches.blogspot.co.uk/
Paula – https://paulabquilts.com/
Wendy – http://www.piecefulthoughts.com/

Janie – https://crazyvictoriana.blogspot.com/