Assignment Two: Stitching – Placed and Spaced. The Base Samples

The aims of this assignment are to:

  • consolidate my exploration so far by creating a series of stitched textiles
  • employ observational and compositional skills as well as material and technique handling in the creation of stitched textiles.

Brief

Based on my earlier drawings and stitched paper explorations, I need to develop a series of three stitched pieces showing:

  • a sense of repetition
  • variety of scale
  • a placement design
Reviewing previous work

When I read the brief for this assignment and looked at all the work I have produced so far, I immediately knew that I wanted to develop pieces inspired by the pyrography sketches and the stitched pieces I created:

Although a couple of these pieces were inspired by different drawings I can see how the techniques could be utilised in bigger pieces. I was frustrated using paper in that I couldn’t affect the texture of the paper samples with stitch in the way that it is possible to with fabric and want to explore that in this assignment.

My thoughts may change in the process of making these pieces but my current idea is to take three of the sketches (the bud on the bottom left, the flower in bloom above and one of the more wilted flowers) and create each of these on a different textile background. Ideally the properties of the textile chosen will reproduce the solidity/rigidity of the sketch being represented. I decided to start by producing some samples of possible textile bases. I have a stash of free fabric that was destined for landfill in shades of white which I intend to complement with yarn in similar tones to create a cohesive collection of samples from as I am keen on reusing or repurposing anything that would otherwise be discarded.

Choosing qualities to stitch

Imagery and marks: I have narrowed down the imagery that intrigued me the most above. I chose a combination of the original sketches and stitched paper samples as there were elements of the sketches that could better represented using textiles and techniques used in the paper samples that I would like to try using fabric.

Surface qualities: I want to translate some of the repetitive marks into a fabric itself and so have chosen to try to create similar patterns through weaving. I would like to attempt to recreate the creased paper sample in textiles though recreating the 3D structure may be more tricky as fabric tends to have more drape than paper. I am unsure whether permanent creases are possible in polyblend fabrics (which is what most of the scrap fabric is) and so may have to resort to using a cotton. I also want to recreate the intermittent nature of the pyrography lines in a textile which would also give a sense of decay present in the original sketch.

Stitch qualities: I was intrigued by stitching through the creased tracing paper and would like to explore how straight running stitch could be used to emphasise the texture of fabric. In particular I am intrigued to see whether I could manipulate the fabric in a slightly more extreme manner (compared to the paper) and the effect light could play when shadows are cast by the dark threads. Perhaps this could be used to create a multiplicity of lines (akin to veins in a petal) from one stitch with a change in lighting?

Colour and yarn: I intend to stay within the same monochromatic colour palette of predominantly white (perhaps beige) and black. This way I can focus of the texture of the textiles and the stitch qualities rather than have the eye distracted by bolder colour choices. I want to use black for stitching to allow me to play with cast shadows etc.

The Base Samples

For the bud I wanted a textile that would be relatively rigid on which to work. I decided to try to weave my own base fabric from leftover yarns in tones to match the collection of white fabrics that I have. The small sample I produced measures approximately 13x13cm.

It can be seen that my tension is not entirely even as the earlier rows are looser woven than those at the top. Part of the problem is that I was using a silk frame as my weaving frame (necessity being the mother of invention) and so it has a tendency to bend under pressure as it is made of plastic.

I read Sharon Kearley’s Woven Textiles: A Designer’s Guide to obtain some pointers such as using a cotton based warp as it has less stretch than wool or acrylic. I also tried a variety of lifting patterns described in the book to create different textures. These texture were plain weave alternating with (from bottom to top) soumack weave (The Weaving Loom Website), 2/2 twill, entwining twill, five/three-end rib over 8 shafts, horizontal herringbone and honeycomb 8-end/10-pick.

On reflection I decided that the beige yarn which was a 4-ply instead of a double knit is too thin to weave alongside the double knit to obtain the look I want. I like the way that the different textures were emphasised when I used slightly different tones of white of the same thickness for the pattern and the plain weave. The patterns where more warps are missed such as the five/three-end rib over 8 shafts and honeycomb 8-end/10-pick are too loose here and the distinctive pattern that they should form seems lost amongst the plain weave and perhaps are better suited to looser weaves with finer yarn? I did also like the way that different patterns mimicked some of the textural lines in my sketches.

Inspired by the layered paper piece I created in Exercise 2.3 I wanted to create layered textile samples from a combination of the large variety of scrap fabrics. There are many ways of turning fabric ‘confetti’ into yardage so I decided I would try a few different methods to see what the difference in outcome is.

  1. Cotton backing and fabric ‘confetti’ sewn on using water soluble fabric over the top and washed off.
  2. Fabric ‘confetti’ sewn between two layers of water soluble fabric before dissolving.
  3. Fabric ‘confetti’ heat fused to interfacing (very fine) with free motion embroidery over the top – necessary as the interfacing didn’t stick very well to the heavier fabrics and the edges needed securing.
1. Cotton backing with fabric ‘confetti’
2. Fabric ‘confetti’
3. Fabric ‘confetti’ free motion embroidered onto fusible interfacing

Things I learnt creating these samples:

  • backing underneath the ‘confetti’ creates a firmer drape
  • trying to free motion over ‘confetti’ without the water soluble fabric on top is very frustrating as bits of fabric slip over the foot and get sewn down inside the free motion foot and jam your machine! Scissors were very necessary!
  • it appears (might need to create another sample to test the theory) that free motion embroidery rather than straight line stitching creates a softer drape in the finished fabric.

One technique I couldn’t try very easily with the paper samples was reverse appliqué so I took scraps of jersey (which doesn’t fray much when cut) and attempted to free motion the shape from flower. The two sandwiches were of jersey over satin and the other of jersey over velvet:

On first impression, the satin worked better and the underlay and created more defined reverse appliqué but when a relative noticed the samples they commented that they liked “the one over velvet as where the jersey has become creased and distorted, it reminds [them] of the way petals wilt and become crumpled.”

Attempt at making base from fabric ‘confetti’ part II. In this sample I used a free motion darning foot to stitch the fabric scraps between two pieces of water soluble fabric. I purposely did not create straight lines of stitching and also did not stitch too densely, only enough to hold the pieces together. The resulting base textile had much greater drape than the earlier samples and had the decaying effect that I was hoping for.

I wanted to recreate the twisted and crumpled texture of the paper samples and so tested a variety of fabrics from my collection. Each was cut to approximately 12cmx12cm, soaked and twisted before being put into the microwave to dry it out (this is following a method for contortion pleating as described in The Art of Manipulating Fabric). The samples after being manipulated are shown below:

It appears that the thicker (more densely woven) fabrics hold the creases better. The fine mulmul fabric seems to be dropping with time. There are some interesting textures formed and I decided to experiment to see whether if I used fabric paint in white and then crease the fabric would create cracking and further texture.

I used Setacolour opaque white and shimmer opaque pearl with a stencil cut from scrap wallpaper to create two layers of dots reminiscent of seeds. I was able to fix the paint and then steam creases into the fabric however I decided that the final sample was too rigid to work as part of the series.

I tried nuno felting a variety of white fabrics which can be seen below:

Whilst these gave an interesting texture, I definitely was too frugal with the roving and the felting wasn’t particularly successful. I decided that the wool felting texture wasn’t going to work as part of this series so I didn’t redo these samples.

By this point I was struggling to work out what to do for the middle piece in the series so stared at the woven and free motion embroidered samples for a while. I decided to try weaving samples of fabric used in the free motion sample and yarn from the woven sample together.

I chose to order the fabric strips from densest to finest and included some fraying yarn to help the transition from sample one to sample three. I used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine but increased the stitch width and length as I moved across the piece to echo the transition. It can be seen in the photo below that this sample appears to complete the series

The next step will be to create larger versions of these samples and to stitch into them.

References

https://www.theweavingloom.com/weaving-techniques-the-soumak-weave-braid-weave/

Kearley, S. (2014) Woven Textiles: A Designer’s Guide Ramsbury: The Crowood Press Ltd

Wolff, C. (1996) The Art of Manipulating Fabric Radnor, Pennsylvania: Chilton Book Company

[All links accessed on 30/12/18]

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