Project 3: Experimenting & Taking Risks

The aim of project 3 is to translate the qualities in my drawings from project 1 into material and stitch explorations and to further develop the textile and yarn concepts from project 2 into textile results.

Following on from the yarn sample in the previous blog post, I used the cut tops of silk cocoons as the basis of the “pill” shape to create another form of prescription tablet strip. I have a complicated medical regime and the only way that I can keep on top of whether I have taken my necessary medications is for them to be dispensed into boxes which are separated into days and times. I thought it would be fun to play around with the idea of enforcing this weekly structure in a more simplified way. I discovered I could stitch through the silk cocoons (although they are quite stiff and this is relatively difficult to do) and so hand stitched lettering for the days of the week. I did more than seven to represent the fact that the medical regime is a way of life that often blurs into one infinite sense of repetition.

Silk cocoons are very similar in shape to some tablets and so I used silk dyes to dye them in purple which was one of the colours from the collection’s colour scheme. I had beads and moon thread in similar tones and decided to create this concept yarn with the idea that it when hung they give the impression of pills spilling their contents.

I like the juxtaposition between the idea of medications being a life saving necessity and the fact that this concept yarn being made from silk cocoons and seed beads which are usually seen as luxury items. This is one of my favourite yarn concepts and although it is very time consuming to create, I think it could look great as an installation similar to the installation below as posted by Selvedge Magazine on Instagram:

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A manga-inspired print of Frida Kahlo in The Oval Office and an immersive installation created from hundreds of fabric flowers are among the works created by the artists shortlisted for the 2019 Young Masters Art Prize. Twenty contemporary artists from all of the world have been shortlisted for the £1,500 Young Masters Art Prize, with an exhibition of their work at La Galleria in the Royal Opera Arcade in central London. This international art prize, initiated by The Cynthia Corbett Gallery in 2009, celebrates contemporary artists whose work responds to art from the past. Featured here, shortlisted work by Amanda McCavour who works with stitch to create large-scale embroidered installations. She is interested in thread’s assumed vulnerability, its ability to unravel, and its strength when it is sewn together. Read the full story on our blog, which can be found on the Community tab. @youngmastersartprize @cynthiacorbettgallery #youngmastersartprize #art #artprize #textiles #selvedgemagazine #cynthiacorbettgallery #gallery #contemporary art #embroidery #stitch #fabricflower

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I really liked the simplicity of the print created on one of my medication patient information leaflets as part of project 1. I decided to attempt to reproduce this in stitch using simple backstitching and french knots in embroidery thread. This continues the idea of contrasting necessary medications with the luxury of techniques such as embroidery.

Inspired by Susie Freeman’s technique of creating pockets in which to place items, I experimented with crochet. The less successful attempts are in my sketchbook but I did manage to come up with a way of making individual “pockets” within the crochet which could be filled and sealed. Although this yarn fit the colour scheme, it created a fabric which is still rather dense and so the items couldn’t be seen very clearly through it.

It is possible that with further experiments with invisible thread for example that the idea could work more effectively. The result using an invisible thread would probably not be too dissimilar to that obtained by Susie Freeman in her latest work:


When I was developing textile concepts I had noticed the similarity in construction between chain stitch and a crochet chain. I wanted to play with this further and rather than working the spiral inwards, I started with a seed bead in the centre (to give the idea of luxury) and then chain stitched outwards. When I had completed a couple of rotations, I switched to using the thread to create a crochet chain stitch and had a vague idea about creating a garment where these loose crocheted ends could be woven together to form the bottom half of the garment (the concept sketch is in my sketchbook).

Following on from the textile constructed from the fabric printed with mathematical symbols, I used the same technique with a plain white fabric and inserted crochet chains into the centres of the “flowers” created. I found that when a single colour fabric is used the emphasis is on the three dimensional texture rather than the “floral” design. I added the crochet element to suggest the vines of the passionflower and wanted to experiment with how they could be woven together but haven’t figured out how this technique could be used to best effect yet.

This was a further experiment with changing directions of the spirals as it reminded me of how health problems can make you feel as though you are going in circles or of being unsure which direction to head in. The use of variegated thread added colour interest whilst making it simple to continue sewing without repeatedly changing the thread in your needle.

As I had been playing around with techniques inspired by Alabama Chanin when I was developing textile concepts, I was curious as to what would happen if, after cutting away the top layer in the centre of the flower, seed beads were densely applied. I discovered that the bottom jersey layer distorts and stretches to accommodate the beading and so creates a three dimensional effect. This sample was created on some offcuts from an old jersey t-shirt and I also added some other stitching such stem stitch to suggest leaves and stems however I think I prefer a more abstract and less figurative approach to the image.

The sample below was particularly inspired by Susie Freeman and her idea of enclosing items within fabrics. Although she uses a knitting technique I decided to experiment with two thin layers of organza (this was an off-white offcut that I had left over from a previous project). Before placing the two layers under the sewing machine I added a layer of Solvy Ultra to stabilise the fabrics. The machine I have been using for some of these samples is a machine that was purchased with the lottery grant for the not-for-profit Purple Iris that I set up last year. These samples have been a good way for me to test out what the new machine is capable of doing. This sample used an alternative font that the machine can create that is more cursive and when I used the pale green/blue thread created an almost dreamlike impression.

The problem that I had with this technique came when I wanted to remove the Solvy as it dissolves in water and I had not thought far enough ahead in that I did not want to get the dried flowers wet. I managed to remove the Solvy by carefully only applying water to the lettering sections but this was far more time consuming and not ideal.

The technique I have used to enclose the dried flowers is very similar to the way that we make weighted blankets for those with disabilities or anxiety disorders. Again I like how there is a juxtaposition between the luxurious look of the font and the sectioning technique that is used to help those with medical needs. The word that is repeated is “Amitriptyline” as it is a muscle relaxant and is one of the drugs that is prescribed to me to try to help minimise muscle spasms and help me sleep. In higher doses it can be used as an antidepressant and so I tried to use a thread colour that matches one of the tones from the passionflower (which has natural antidepressant qualities). Although it would have been interesting to have captured dried passionflowers, they tend only to open for a single day and so I decided to dry and enclose a species of petunia called “Night Sky” as this seemed to fit the theme of health problems interfering with sleep (and being awake deep into the night) as well matching the colour scheme.

I have added a photograph of the open petunia flowers below which can be seen to have a distinctive dark purple colour which matches my colour scheme but also has been bred to have tiny white spots on the petals reminiscent of stars. The photo also includes a pewter pendant that I made using cuttlefish casting but reminds me of a galaxy.

Inspired by the flowers used above I had a play with microwave dyeing silk offcuts in similar colours and used Setacolor fabric paint to create the silver, mottled effect.

Using another offcut of fabric that contained similar colours I used a puff gathering design outlined in The Art of Fabric Manipulation (p25) to create texture and play with variations of puffs.

As mentioned in my previous post on developing textile concepts I decided to retry shell tucking in a grid worked onto a piece of fabric which was square cut but on the bias of the fabric. As I had hoped the fabric retained the square shape and an unexpected benefit of creating this textile in this manner is that although there is strength in the reinforcement of the tucking, the fabric was surprisingly malleable and could be a useful technique to create a comfortable bodice.

I used procion dye to colour a cotton muslin fabric in tones that matched the collection’s colour scheme and attempted to use textile transfer medium to apply text to the surface of material. I did realise that due to the method of application, for the text to be readable, the images/text have to be printed as a mirror image of the intended outcome. This intuition proved to be correct however I discovered that muslin seems to be far too fine a fabric to absorb the ink. I think this is because the low density of the weave means that the thread count doesn’t give much surface area for the ink to transfer onto. The result was that I couldn’t remove too much of the paper backing without removing all the text.

To make use of the failed muslin sample I decided to stem stitch lines that were reminiscent of the colouring and shapes formed by the large sketch of the mint in project 1. The finished stitching also reminded me of the nerve pain influence in the stitching of Exercise 4.1.

To continue my experiments I used a much more dense cotton fabric and after dyeing and applying the text using the textile transfer medium, the resulting fabric was far closer to my original intention.

When the echinacea bloomed I was struck by the fact that the seed head of the flower was highly textured. I used the technique of furrowing as described in The Art of Fabric Manipulation (p9) to experiment with how textured I could make the muslin. Each of the examples in the photo below was created from a circle of roughly 8 inches in diameter but I attached them to the base fabric to make increasingly smaller finished samples. It can be seen from the image below that the depth of the furrows increases as the differential between the size of the circle added and the finished result increases. The resulting samples were also firmer when furrowed into a smaller end product.

All the examples of furrowing below are of different types of fabric of the same starting (cut) size and finished size. All have been sewn to the same piece of raw silk to see how the colours of the voile/organza fabrics combine or contrast with the base colour of the raw silk.

I didn’t get chance to try but I would have liked to attempt weaving “petals” made from jersey with examples of these furrowed fabrics placed at intervals, perhaps even beading the furrowed fabrics to add further texture to the “flower centres”. There is a rough sketch of this idea in my sketchbook.

I created the following pair of small weavings using commercial wools in tones that fit with the colour scheme and created geometric angles to suggest the stamens and other linear features of the sketches from my visual research. Although these are relatively small I did think that they may make interesting pockets as a detail on a garment.

Following on from the geometric weaving above, I tried to weave a form of the the barcodes that I had created in my exploration of colour. The first version is in black and white for clarity (a colour scheme which also has an association with my genetic condition, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, as the awareness ribbon is black and white striped or sometimes rainbow striped). The second weaving was my first attempt at creating a longer weaving using the new simple loom I had acquired as I had to work out how to make a weaving that was longer than the length of the wooden frame. To keep things simple for both of these weavings I used commercial yarns and completed each barcode unit in a single colour before changing the contrasting colour.

[All links accessed on 7/9/19]

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