Exercise 3.2: Translation through yarn

The aims of this exercise are to:

  • work on ways of interpreting colour and colour proportions from a 2D image through yarn and material selection and placement
  • extract, explore and present a palette of colours.

The first task was to select a good quality postcard of an Old Master’s painting. The painting I selected was Diego Velázquez’s The Toilet of Venus (1647-51) and the postcard was produced by The National Gallery, London.

The next step was to find “appropriate yarns, threads, ribbons, trims and any other materials in linear form to represent the colours and the qualities of the colours in the chosen image”. The materials I collected are shown below.

Which I have grouped to represent the various sections of the painting as follows:

The final part of this exercise was to create ‘yarn wraps’ to represent different aspects of the Velázquez painting.

The first of the ‘yarn wraps’ was the same width as the postcard and 5cm high as suggested in the course notes. I attempted to insert the colours in the order they appear in the painting and the yarns used (from left to right) were:

  • Neilston Knotless No 50 Shade 658 (inherited spool)
  • Coat’s Moon thread M0084
  • Coat’s Moon thread M0082
  • A single ply from a chunky grey yarn – exact shade and brand unknown as it is a remnant from a knitting project
  • Coat’s Moon thread M0085
  • Sylko Supreme cotton covered polyester – Mid Blue Slate 77
  • Sylko Mercerised Cotton – Deep Brown D.217
  • Gütermann 100% polyester – Col. 815
  • Two strands from a 4-ply cream yarn – exact shade and brand unknown as it is a remnant from a knitting project
  • Gütermann 100% polyester – Col. 662
  • Pink satin ribbon
  • Pink organza ribbon (double layered)
  • Black matt ribbon (scrap that used to be inside a top to hold it onto a hanger)
  • Single strand of embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • White organza ribbon
  • Sylko Three Shells Machine Twist 36 Colour D.101
  • Two strands from a 4-ply cream yarn – exact shade and brand unknown as it is a remnant from a knitting project
  • Cream organza ribbon (double layered)
  • Sylko Three Shells Machine Twist 40 Colour D.364 Silver Sand
  • Single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 926 combined with a single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 3768
  • Single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 926 combined with a single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 3768 plus a single strand of dark grey embroidery thread – colour and brand unknown as remnant from old cross stitch kit
  • Gütermann 100% polyester – Col. 815
  • Single strand of dark grey/green embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • Sylko Green – unknown shade (this is a vintage ‘three shells machine twist 40’ reel inherited from my grandmother)
  • Green overlocker thread – Colour no. 262
  • Sylko Hair Brown – D. 98 (this is another inherited vintage mercerised cotton reel)

The second yarn wrap I created focussed on the distinctive green of the background wall. This wrap was much smaller than the previous one as it is made up of very fine threads and I attempted to create the blending from light to dark using the following threads (shown left to right):

  • Single strand of dark grey/green embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • Sylko Green – unknown shade (this is a vintage ‘three shells machine twist 40’ reel inherited from my grandmother)
  • Green overlocker thread – Colour no. 262
  • Sylko Hair Brown – D. 98 (this is another inherited vintage mercerised cotton reel)

The third yarn wrap I attempted focussed on the angels wing and the blue ribbon sash. This time I created blocks of colour to suggest the larger brushstrokes and more textured effect of the feathers. The yarns used are (from left to right)

  • Coat’s Moon thread M0084
  • A single ply from a chunky grey yarn – exact shade and brand unknown as it is a remnant from a knitting project
  • Coat’s Moon thread M0082
  • Single strand of embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • Two strands from a 4-ply cream yarn – exact shade and brand unknown as it is a remnant from a knitting project
  • Coat’s Moon thread M0085
  • Sylko Supreme cotton covered polyester – Mid Blue Slate 77

I created a fourth yarn wrap based on the white and blue textiles that the woman is lying on. The yarns used from left to right are:

  • White organza ribbon (slightly overlapped to give a variety of depths)
  • Single strand of pale grey green embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • Single strand of pale grey green embroidery thread combined with single strand of slightly darker grey green embroidery thread – unknown brand/shade as it is a remnant from a cross stitch kit from years ago.
  • Single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 926 combined with a single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 3768
  • Single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 926 combined with a single strand of DMC embroidery thread Colour 3768 plus a single strand of dark grey green embroidery thread – colour and brand unknown as remnant from old cross stitch kit (Note that this blend is slightly different to the one in the first wrap as I felt the slightly greener tone of the grey matched this section better when focussing on the two textiles alone.)

Below are all the yarn wraps next to their respective sections of the painting.

Reflections

For the most part this was a fairly straightforward exercise however there were certain colours, in particular the skin colours and the blue of the textile that the woman is lying on, that were particularly hard to find. In the end I created the blue of the fabric from two different shades of embroidery thread and placing them next to one another (optical mixing). Although this is mentioned in the course notes, I have seen this done before in cross stitch patterns to blend one shade to another so it felt familiar.

Initially I wasn’t too enthused by the task however as I got into completing each wrapping, I became absorbed in the challenge of blending colours and representing shades and even textures with a linear medium. It has also been interesting to see how a colour’s appearance can change subtly depending on which colour is placed next to it. It also drew my attention to the way that Velázquez used particular shades to complement one another and create a sumptuous overall colour palette. I noticed in the first yarn wrap that there were colours that were repeated across the painting which helped to bring cohesion to the work (for instance the hair of Venus and the angel are similar colours but are placed on opposite sides of the painting and are adjacent to different background colours).

Material source list:

Coats Moon spools – Lydia’s Fabrics, Worthing £1 each
Ribbons – Hobbycraft 50-70p/m
DMC embroidery threads – Hobbycraft £0.95/8m
All other supplies are from inherited or acquired surplus from previous projects.

2 thoughts on “Exercise 3.2: Translation through yarn

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