Friday, August 17, 2012

Raising the Canopy

(Above: The Canopy. It is UP! Click on this and any other image in this blog post for an enlargement.)

I didn't keep track of the hours of hand-stitching involved in creating my 10' x 18' canopy. Whatever number it was can't compare to the number of hours put in by the anonymous makers of all the doilies, runners, and lace trim! It is, however, hard to believe that I managed this project, from design to installation, in twelve days. (Okay, an art residency does allow one to put in 12 - 14 hour days and I did just that ... a combination of sheer fear and total excitement. It is more than a little risky taking on a project for which a reception time is already scheduled before work is attempted!)

(Above: Stitching chiffon tubes to the reverse of the canopy.)

Help with hoisting the giant canopy was available. I didn't ask for help though. I couldn't imagine how I would direct such a venture when I wasn't exactly sure how it was all going to work out! But ... first ... let me back up a bit.

(Above: The giant canopy on the floor with my Bernina 1630 in place ... midway through stitching one of five chiffon tubes to the reverse.)

In order to hoist this canopy, I brought 1" in diameter PVC pipes. They come in ten foot lengths ... which certainly won't fit into my car and aren't exactly an optimal length for shipping should this piece have opportunities to be installed elsewhere (which I hope is the case!) I had the five pipes cut into halves and purchase t-connectors for them. My plan was to create chiffon tubes and stitch them onto the reverse of the canopy. The PVC pipes were to be slid into these chiffon tubes. Extra strong wire was purchased and brought to run through the PVC pipes and hoist the canopy into the air ... wire secured from the ceiling.

(Above: Stitching the chiffon tubes to the reverse of the canopy.)

I used chiffon leftover from my Decision and Epitaph banners. Making them was easy. Attaching them wasn't so easy! There was no better place to do this than on the floor. The center tube required, of course, half the canopy to squish through the space between the needle and the arm of the machine. I had a long extension cord in use and also had to continuously move the machine backwards every few feet. Naturally, each tube required ten feet of pinning and at least two passes with the machine. Now this is definitely "contemporary" stitching!

(Above: The canopy with the PVC installed inside the chiffon tubes.)

I cut "holes" in the centers of each tube to allow space for the t-connector. Each leg of PVC was slid into the tube from the outside and fit into the t-connector in the middle.

(Above: Chiffon tubes and PVC pipes.)

Because the canopy is fairly fragile, I wanted the tubes to be stitched on both sides to the reverse.

(Above: Center chiffon tube and PVC.)

The chiffon is sheer enough not to detract from the canopy but strong enough to really hold the PVC pipes.

(Above: Getting ready to hoist the canopy.)

So ... now to hoist the thing! It seemed wise to place the canopy as far off the floor as safely possible in order to minimize the lifting required. I placed the nice, very heavy table under the center PVC pipe and got out the really big ladder.

Next, I positioned the two PVC pipes directly beside the center one on the table ... making sure the canopy wasn't "stuck" under any of the pipes. I ran the wire through the center pipe. (By the way ... because the overhead pipes were narrower than ten feet, I also inserted 10' metal electrical pipes inside the PVC to prevent sagging. Screwing in perfectly placed hooks wasn't an option; this is an antique tin ceiling!)

I dragged the ladder from side to side ... securing the wire on a pipe on one side, hoisting from the other as far as I could, returning to the other side to straighten out the pipe, re-returning to hoist some more, etc.

I set my camera up on a tripod and snapped a delayed photo ... just for scale. I'm a little afraid of heights but this ladder was really stable and I did simply "take my time" and "tried to enjoy" the adventure!

Soon, the center PVC pipe was raised and fairly level and at the point where the next two pipes would come off the table. Hoist!

One at a time, the next two PVC pipes were fitted with wire and raised off the table.

This allowed me the first peak at what the canopy would look like. I got excited and the rest of the work really was easier than I'd feared. It was wonderful seeing each pull on the wires bring a vision into a reality.

By the time the three center pipes were up, the final two, end pipes were just dangling ... waiting to for wire and "elbow grease" to pull them into place.

Of course, the two end pipes had "something special". This is where I attached the fiber bed posts!

At this point I was really thrilled and took a photo with my phone to send to Steve back in Columbia. I had to share what I knew would be "success"!

Soon afterwards, all four fiber bedposts were up. The canopy was in place!

Of course, it was nearly 11 PM at night. I knew I'd have to return this morning for better images ... without the gallery lights. I did manage to sleep despite the relief and happiness. Below are the photos from this morning in no particular order. The reception for this work is next Friday, August 24th from 6 - 8. I have plenty of time to finish the public sock art quilt project (which is nearly done!) and perhaps to create the 56 feet of "fringe" I've been thinking about making to dangle from the perimeter of the canopy. Wouldn't that be pretty?


deanna7trees said... the images with the light shining through. magnificent.

Melissa said...

Stunning work, as always, Susan!

Roberta said...

It looks like a giant Chuppah! Lovely.

Judy said...

It's gorgeous Susan! What a lot of work.
yes - love the images where the light shines through!

xo said...

This is quite beautiful.

Sally said...

Absolutely lovely!! I cannot imagine the work that went into this!

Rayna said...

Susan - it is drop-dead gorgeous. It is indeed a chuppah (albeit unintended) - and lucky would be the couple to be married under it.

Gayle said...

You and your art amaze me as always. Just thinking about sewing those chiffon tubes on and getting them all straight and not puckered makes me cringe. I can't believe you did this in such a small amount of time. I think you must have elves that come in during the night. It's a beautiful piece Susan.

liniecat said...

It must look magical!

Anonymous said...

It's just lovely. Congratulations!

SAZ said...

Amazing work! Can't wait to see more.

SAZ said...

Amazing Susan! I can't wait to see more.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely stunning. What a tribute to all those whose handiwork meant nothing to their families when they passed on. I hope when I'm gone that my needlework ends up with someone like you! Grovenore

Ann Hite said...

I'm in awe and inspired, Susan. I dreamed about the canopy the other night. Speechless. Ann

lindacreates said...

Amazing woman!!!!!!!!!!! I wish we could can and sell your energy! Congratulations on an amazing job well done!

Margaret said...


What an amazing piece of work! If you hadn't documented your doing this alone, I wouldn't have believe you hoisted the whole thing. And it is simply beautiful! I can see requests for weddings beneath it, let alone additional art installations...

Jennifer said...

Wow! Your canopy is GORGEOUS! Congratulations.

Kelly said...

I agree with the Chuppah observation. It was what I was thinking as I looked at the process. I really hope you find a place for that in Columbia so I can see it in person (of course I'd probably make a trek to see it too). Beautiful, and what a tribute to all of those folks (women) who made the doilies in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Quite moving, taking everyday, ordinary household items and giving them new life in a beautiful work of art! I've collected some pieces like those, have wanted to do something that would respect the work and love behind them. You've done that. Thank you for sharing. Gretchen

Lynn said...

You are a GENIUS! I wish I could use larger font here I'd make it HUGE! GENIUS!!!!!!! That is YOU!

I wish I were getting married, maybe I could talk my dear husband into renewing our vows of 34 years. I would love to be married under this chuppa. That is what it looks like to my Jewish heart.

How you did the hoisting all by yourself is beyond me; but I should no longer be surprised of what you are capable of doing. You just DO IT! You amaze!

I won't even begin to ask my questions of how it is able to stay up there, that sheer fabric so strong. Stronger than pipes! Amazing.

Hugs Susan, You definitely do ROCK!

I can't say enough how beautiful this work is. Beyond words. You did all those women who crafted the small pieces proud AND you did YOURSELF PROUD!

Get some rest you deserve it.

Hugs from me. xoxo

Kaija said...

This is absolutely amazing! I'm thrilled to find your blog and to see this gorgeous canopy. I love how you did the hoisting alone - I'm exactly the same, do it alone if it looks impossible to be done alone , I really don't know why...

Linda M said...

Awe-inspiring. What an amazing project. Cogratulations

Wanda said... is absolutely magnificant. So majestic and royal and yet, so personal and loving. It never ceases to amaze me how you think of something, an idea forms in your mind and you make it happen.

Peg Howard said...

Breath taken away- as a home for many fiber outcasts- my heart sees the connection and the love you have for the time others put in to the beginning of this piece.

Thank you for sharing the process of construction and installation.

Martha said...

This canopy is unbelievable, and to see you sitting on the floor stitching the tubes across is one of the most charming photos I've ever seen! When your knees and hips get past the point of doing this, you'll have photo proof that you once could get on the floor (and back up). I remember seeing your grave rubbing pieces, and I love how your work honors those women who came before us to stitch and create opportunities for us who came later.
Martha Ginn

Lorri Flint said...

The Canopy is incredible and what a fantastic way to showcase the intricate vintage handwork. I have a box of family handwork and while I probably won't make a canopy, you've opened my eyes to possiblity - thanks for the inspiration!

Lorri Flint
Art Camp for Women

Julie said...

I am late to the party and it has all been said here! My heart was in my mouth reading your account of how you have installed this beautiful canopy single-handedly. Steve must be very proud of you and you deserve every ounce of self congratulation. What an amazing achievement and tribute to all those women before you, to have come out of the heat of those days when you began constructing this very moving work of art.

Els said...

O My Goodness ! Susan ! You did it !
Though, to be totally honest with you, I don't believe you ! although I think you are an honest person .....!
I think: ... you just send all your helpers out of sight, took the pictures, and then continued the work ! How else ....? You don't really think that we believe all you just told us ????????
Ahhhh no Susan, just kidding: you did one hell of a job (or rather: one heaven of a job ha, ha) Not only máking this wonderful piece of art, but hanging it in the right place (on your own) as well !!! Congrats and I hope it travels to other places as well (despite the hanging problems ;-) !!!)
One of the best pictures is the one where the light shines through !
Must be great to wake up on a sunny morning in a bed like this and look up at the canopy : heaven !

lynda howells said...

what every one else has sid and!

Sarah Ann Smith said...

Totally COOL! Wish I could see it in person!

Misty said...

This is quite an engineering project! I love it, gorgeous. To me a canopy bed was something beyond reality. It was something I always wanted, but my family was very poor and I knew even as a very young child that I would never be able to have one. Only the richest of the rich girls could have them.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...


Cheryl Rezendes said...

A fabulous installation!

Elizabeth said...

You continue to amaze and delight me!! Stitching all of those glorious story filled bits together is a herculean feat and sitting on the floor!! the canopy is stunning and exquisite . the whole concept is brilliant and magical!!!
Love It Love IT Love IT!!!!!

Elizabeth said...

The Fringe is an amazing touch and I am amazed at the amount of hand work you were able to collect in just a year. I guess your auction Guy helped there. Did the doilies and runners whisper stories to you as you stitched. What an incredible honor you have given these hand worked pieces!!!!
I did always dream of a canopy bed when I was little. It was seen as too frivolous by my Swedish practical mother. I often dreamt of being able to cocoon away from family discord in a soft embracing place where I could not be found and would be protected from the strife and tension that seemed to consume our house hold. When I married one of the things that Tom and I did with some wedding money was to buy a four poster shaker bed, in New England and tom made top poles for it and I made curtains!!! the curtains hang for a while and then come down and then get rehung depending on my mood. I also think of the protective environment provided by the canopy of a forest and the environments created and protected and nourished by that immense covering of nature.

Suella said...

Thank you so much for talking us through the construction of this complicated and unusual installation. The canopy and the ideas behind this are delightful as well.

I'm so glad I have discovered your blog. Your generosity in sharing is particularly inspirational.

Many thanks from England,