Project 2: Building a Response – Developing Textile Concepts

The aim of this part of the project is to use the drawings from Project 1 as a source of inspiration to develop a series of textile concepts, using papers and other surfaces to develop material ideas, textures and structures. We are also encouraged to begin to explore ideas of material manipulation in conjunction with the possibilities of stitch.

I started this section by microwave dyeing small silk samples to match the colour scheme created in the previous post as this was a process that I am very familiar with. Whilst this was primarily done as a warm up to build confidence, I am learning to embrace the unpredictable results that you can get from this method of dyeing as I feel that it also reflects the unpredictable nature of my (and many other) medical conditions. You can put the same starting colours and proportions in however the results are never the same on two separate occasions.

As much of my work has been very two dimensional in this module I wanted to attempt to create a few textiles that were much more three dimensional. I used paper to create the three samples below. I found the first one very eye catching and interesting but have thus far struggled to work out how to convert this to utilise a different type of textile.

I think there may be a use this technique with a strong fabric as the base (ie felt) however it would take very accurate stitching and careful consideration to create. If each sections of the fabric was pre marked and decorated with embroidery etc, the resulting fabric may make a good sound insulating wall covering whilst being highly decorative akin to those created by Anne Kyyrö Quinn. I initially discovered Anne Kyyrö Quinn as a sample of her designs can be found in Textile Designers: At the Cutting Edge by Bradley Quinn (p168). Another artist that makes exciting three dimensional artworks is Sandra Meech such as her “Off the wall” collection which can be found here.

This second paper sample is much more reminiscent of pleating in fabric however I realised that the ratio of the length and width are important as this sample was not long enough to allow me to stick the side edges together to form a circle. This would then have been reminiscent of the stamens and geometric patterns seen in some of my visual research.

This sample was inspired by the wavy lines formed by the stems of many of the plants in my sketches from project 1.

The image below shows a fabric I created based on the paper sample above. I used a twin needle to create pin tucks which give a similar undulating effect to the textile. It should be noted that I used different colours in each needle so that I could understand how the twin needle works more clearly.

The sample below was created from layers of card, tissue paper, cut pieces of polystyrene packing pieces and pieced them back together in shapes reminiscent of the passionflowers whose petals are a similar colour to the packing. I found there was a mental association between the protective property of the packing pieces and the medicinal properties of the passionflowers.

The stitching on the left hand side of the photograph below is a machine stitch that I tested as I thought it would be reminiscent of the stamen of a passionflower but decided in retrospect that the pattern was too dense. The right side shows felt strips machine sewn freehand using a straight stitch to replicate the coiled nature of passionflower tendrils.

Below are needle felted tablets that I created to replicate some of the pills that I take every day. These were the kind of objects that would be interesting to suspend in pockets of some form akin to Susie Freeman (particularly as patients cannot use their real medications in artworks both from the point of view of the drugs keeping them well/alive/conditions managed and also that many drugs have a restricted classification for the public due to addictive properties etc).

One of the fashion companies whose work that I find fascinating is Alabama Chanin. Many of their techniques are based on appliqué or reverse appliqué using jersey as it does not fray when cut. The sample below was a random mix of shapes inspired by my sketches and an attempt at couching.

The photo below shows other stitching samples that I created as a way of testing the sewing machine which was funded for Purple Iris by the National Lottery Community Fund. I focussed on stitches that were reminiscent of marks made in the sketches during project 1.

The fabric sample on the left was my first attempt at using a twin needle in a sewing machine and I used with two different coloured spools for clarity. The stitches tried were (from left to right) zigzag stitch, blanket stitch and satin scallop stitch.

The fabric sample on the right was created using fagoting stitches which are (from left to right) called Ladder stitch (option 74), Fagoting cross stitch (option 47) and Feather stitch (option 46).

The sample below was created using an overlocker (again funded for Purple Iris by the National Lottery grant). Before the lottery grant was received I had never used an overlocker before so it has been a steep learning curve! I have now had some practice using the standard overlocking stitch so I am getting ready to start teaching others how to use one. In the sample below I wanted to experiment with the pin tucking ability or an overlocker and it can be seen that the results are quite different to the pin tucking created on a sewing machine with a twin needle.

The sample in the photograph below was my first attempt at creating a shell tuck stitch. What I didn’t appreciate when I first cut the fabric for the sample is that the shell tuck stitch has to be sewn on the bias of the fabric. I did realise that in future it may work better if I were to bias cut a square of fabric so that the shell tucking will be parallel to the edges of the fabric and hence run horizontally and vertically across the finished sample.

The fabric sample below was created from machine stitched lines medication names repeated. Each colour represents a different medication and the four colours were taken to be coordinate with the colour scheme.

The sample above was achieved on my third attempt. The previous failed attempts can be seen in the images below. For the first attempt I only used a lightweight Solvy as a base to stitch into. It can be seen that the stitching soon distorted and the text was illegible. For the second attempt I placed a paper backing behind the Solvy. It can be seen that this provided a more stable base and the text was legible, however once the Solvy was dissolved and I attempted to remove the paper two problems became apparent:

  1. the paper was incredibly difficult to remove
  2. the stitching was not self supporting.

I solved this issue by placing a fine organza type material behind a stronger/thicker form of Solvy so that the stitching remained legible as the base did not distort but the fine material remained once the Solvy was dissolved and supported the stitching.

The sample below was created from the jersey fabric shown beneath which was printed with mathematical symbols. The print resonated with me as I have a background in theoretical physics however the symbols also have a medical association. For instance the plus and minus symbols could represent the pros and cons of each medication prescribed (all medications tend to have side effects as well as the negative effects of not taking them). The multiplication and division symbols could also be interpreted as the need to make daily health management decisions; taking multiple medications can cause drug interactions and daily doses must be divided (not necessarily evenly) throughout the day in both measurement and time.

The textured sample shown immediately below was created by stitching within each square in such a way to create the impression of a floral motif.

The image below shows further experiments with felt. The one on the left is a stitch on the sewing machine which I used to appliqué felt which I then cut around. The second sample is also a decorative stitch on the machine which was reminiscent of the print on the patient information leaflet created when developing visual research. I overlapped the different coloured threads to create interest but realised that had I switched the order it would have more closely mimicked the colouring of the sketch. One the right hand side of the swatch below I played around with using straight stitching to create texture from felt strips which was loosely inspired by Anne Kyyrö Quinn’s work.

The sample below is created from a base of fabric paint applied randomly upon canvas to suggest abstract foliage. I then used variegated yarn to densely couch a 2-ply yarn made from white fabric offcuts. I intended the couched yarn to be reminiscent of the tendrils and stems of plants in my sketches. The couching did create a more prominent feature however to my mind the colours are unfortunately reminiscent of worms which was not my intention.

The sample shown in the image below was created using a chain stitch in a variegated embroidery thread on muslin. Whilst I was stitching through the relatively transparent fabric I noticed the similarity to a crocheted chain stitch. I managed to find a way to switch between sewing a chain stitch and creating crocheted sections so that it almost appears as though the stitching is “escaping” from the fabric. Perhaps this is expressing a subconscious desire to escape from the restrictive medical regime I am currently under whilst at the same time the freed stitches also appear more disorganised and perhaps represent the confusion and disorientation I feel whilst the prognosis is currently unclear.

The sample below was created by running tacks (the purple thread) in a relatively regular grid and then the threads pulled to encourage the fabric to form ruffles.

I wasn’t certain where I was going with this sample and whilst it produced a textured textile, I couldn’t help feeling that this method results in a significant amount of waste thread.


Quinn, B. (2009) Textile Designers: At the Cutting Edge London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd

[All links accessed on 8/9/19]

3 thoughts on “Project 2: Building a Response – Developing Textile Concepts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s