The Roman Archaeology Waistcoat by Jackie Wills
About two years ago I was contacted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. The request was to commission a long waistcoat. I was sent images of artifacts found and equipment used on a Roman excavation dig/site. These included a piece of Roman samian pottery and coins dating back 2000 years. Also coins, a plum line, Roman broach, buckles, geofizz equipment, trowels, metal detector.
The brief was to put all these items onto denim. I was given complete artistic freedom. The sort of challenge I adore.
First of all I created some samples, I particularly liked the Samian pottery and 2000 year old coin. Have to say it took ages transferring the design onto denim but the result was realistic and pleasing. Intricate machine embroidery using Husqvarna Lily sewing machine was applied with great effect.
The next challenge was to balance all these items on the blank canvas, this being cut fabric pattern of the garment . The thing is painting on denim, once it paint hits the fabric it is more or less irreversible. So it has to be done with extreme care and with precise movement. Acrylic paint is not very forgiving, once the item placement has been decided, and the paint hits that area it cannot be removed. I hasten to add if you get it wrong it means a new start. Best bit of advice I can give is to practice on a scrap bit of denim to get your colours right on the brush, then go straight to the master work. I work very quickly and tend not to think too much. I do not do pre-sketches. I do make sure that I have a clear head, and that I am in the "right mood" to work and get it right. I do not like interruptions whilst I am painting.
The work has to be balanced. After the items are painted on, denim is left to dry, preferably in an airing cupboard for a few days. Then the real work of embroidery begins. Its a bit like the paint. I do not think too much, I go through by thread box and pick out suitable colours and machine embroider until I am happy with the result. I do not pre-sketch or mark where the embroidery is to go on the fabric. Its all done whilst the fabric is under the sewing machine foot. I love couching wool onto fabric, specially textured wool as it seems to bring work to life. Unpicking is not an option, so having a clear head is important. Also make sure that your sewing machine is working properly. New needle, clean of lint, and make sure you are working in good light.
Happy with the result, the garment was then sewn together.