Ellen Anne Eddy "Queen of Embellished Critters"

Pat Winter © 2005

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Some of the most beautiful embroidered creatures I have seen were created with machine embroidery by Ellen Anne Eddy. As I admire her work I can't help but want to feel the eyes because they look moist, the wispy wings of the dragonfly seem to want to take flight , the frogs are ready to jump, and the heron is contemplating her next meal which lies on a rock in the flowing water beneath her. Ellen does an amazing job of inviting you into her world just by viewing her work. I had the opportunity to interview Ellen hoping that you too can enjoy her magical and enchanting world of thread play.

PW How would you label your type of work?

EAE I've called it thread magic for a long time. It's a fusion of a lot of fiber techniques: hand-dyed cotton, direct and cut away applique, machine embroidery, thread painting, and fiber collage. I tend to define it differently for different groups. If I'm speaking to a group of quilters I tell them it's an embroidered applique. For fiber artists I'd tell them it's reconstructed fiber. For folk who really don't have any preconceived notions about fiber work, I tell them they're embroidered tapestries. Basically, I'm using a number of skills that all fall between the cracks to be something fairly unique. Words tend to fail me. But that's a fair description.

PW When did you start machine embellishing?

EAE When I fell in love with the machine stitching. I was working on a series of Amish quilts, and I had to somehow quilt them. I'm not a bad hand- quilter. I'm appalling. So I started to fill in the space with machine quilting with a walking foot. It wasn't long at all before I was doing birds and fish in the corners. It was too much fun.

PW What is your favorite "critter" to use in your work?

EAE I have a huge fondness for frogs. But I love herons, fish, and bugs and birds and lizards as well. They really aren't animals. Most of the time they tend to be people I know.

PW Where do you get your inspiration?

EAE Nature and nature images are a huge inspiration for me. I find there's an image that will resonate for me, and I have to work with it. In the process, it takes on it's own meaning. I don't have to understand it to do it. But I do need to listen to my inner self.

PW How many colors would you use in a single bug?

EAE How many colors are there? And how big is the bug?. In Twilight Time, I think I used 35 metallic colors of the read on the praying mantis.

In general, for a 3 inch bug, I'd have an outline, 3 shades of a base color ( light medium and dark), a shocker color and a shader. But often, there are whole ranges of that formula through a piece. That same process would go on first for the belly, then the head and thorax and then his shell. So that would make probably 18-20 colors. I never feel guilty about how much thread I use. No one ever told Monet, " No cadmium yellow today for you. You have to use up that yellow ocher."

PWFor a beginner, what are the basic materials needed?

EAE You need a sewing machine that sews straight and zigzag, and a darning foot. It's not about fancy machinery. Some of my favorite machines are almost 20 years old. But it's about having a good stitch.

Threads are vital, although different machines like different threads. I have a fondness for Madeira supertwists, Superior metallics, Madeira Poly Neon, Glamour, Candelight, Razzel Dazzel and hand dyed pearl cotton. As you can see, there's a lot of excellent embroidery thread out there. My best recommendation to students is try differing threads and see what works best for you.

As for fabrics, I've used my own hand dyed for backgrounds for years. I love having a built in light source. It makes it so much easier to build an environment.

I back my work with a window shade interfacing called Style a Shade. It's iron on, very stiff and comes in 45' wide. It makes a good stabilizer for intense embroidery.

PW Could you share a helpful tip for beginners?

EAE New project, new needle .It will save you endless headaches. And use a top stitching 90 needle. Topstitch needles have a big eye that helps abrade your thread less, and a sharp point to give a good clean straight line. They make everything much easier .The 90 is a size. They're a bit harder to find but worth the trouble. Any sewing store can order them for you . You can also order them through Quilter's Resource.

PW You are having a contest?

EAE Yes. Here's the information about it:

Ellen Anne Eddy's Thread Magic Garden Contest
A Garden Full of Possibilities!
Use your copy of Ellen Anne Eddy's Thread Magic Garden Patterns and win some of Ellen's hand-dyed light source fabric!
Use any of these scalable drawings from the Thread Magic Garden CD to create your own garden of possibilities in any fiber technique you would like. You can copy and paste them into any drawing program and flip, enlarge, and/or shrink them to use them for all kinds of craft purposes. Paint them, embroider them, fuse them, appliqué them, dye them or explore any other technique using fiber and fabric to create your entry. Explore new techniques and new materials to make the garden of your dreams. Entries can be any size or shape.
Entries will be judged from digital photography only. Send 2 photo files no larger than 400 k of your entry, full shot and detail. Entries will be judged on originality, artistry, and best usage. Entry should include a 300-500 word explanation of techniques and materials used.
All entries will remain the property of the artists. But Ellen will post the winning pieces on her web page. 4 winners will receive a special package of Ellen's hand-dyed fabric and threads in the colors of their choice. The judge's decisions will be final.
Entries have been extended to November 1st, 2005 to
Contest winners will be contacted and posted by December 1st 2005.

PW Thread Magic can be pre-ordered and will be autographed?

EAE We expect to have the first copies delivered to the printer late this July. If you wish to order Thread Magic or any of the other booklets or CD's, I'll personally sign your copies.

PW Could your critters be used 3-D and how?

EAE It's easy to make things 3-D. I couch crochet cotton around the edge and then just sew a tight zigzag stitch like a buttonhole around it. It makes a great finish for a quilt as well.

This is a wing Ellen machine embroidered on black lace as an example of how to make dimensional items for CQ projects.

PW Do you incorporate beads, fibers, and silk ribbons into your work?

EAE I've been accused of using macaroni. But it wasn't true. I will use beads, fibers, ribbons, novelty yarns and interesting objects, just because they work. It's too much fun not to.

Almost anything can be stitched on by machine with a bit of creativity. Textures are a part of work that's so important. If something adds spark, entertainment, fun and excitement, it's morally necessary.

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