Monday, 24 June 2013

Assignment 3 - Stage 4: Raised and Structured Surface Textures

For this stage we are asked to try as many techniques as we can involving gathering, folding, pleating, tucking, tearing, fraying, slashing, quilting, raised shapes and moulding before developing drawings from stage 2 to create a final sample.  As someone who finds the freedom of the experimental stages liberating and enjoyable, I was very enthusiastic about this stage, if a bit doubtful about the 4 hours suggested to complete it!  

Pulling threads and gathering

This was originally a very stiff piece of open weave fabric that I thought was linen with some sort of coating.  It could be cut quite precisely and would hold a fold. However, when I dyed it, it became very fluid with soft, fluffy frayed edges. I pulled rows of threads out, and in some areas pulled and knotted the ends to gather the fabric. (I later stuffed some of the shapes created and incorporated it into my final sample.)  I like how the fabric becomes semi-opaque when the threads are removed, gradually revealing the background colour. There are subtle differences in the colour depending on the direction of the removed threads because of how the light hits. This is a good technique for grids but maybe I could create curves by removing the threads from just part of the row, starting and ending in different places? I'd could also try weaving different textured threads back in.

Folding and gathering

I've added this flower, something I made at the Embroiderer's Guild this month, as it involved gathering.  I folded a square of fabric into a triangle twice and made small running stitches along the raw edge.  Pulling the thread gathered the fabric into a petal shape which was held in place with a small back stitch. The petal could be manipulated to make it either concave or convex and I was careful to keep the folded edges going in the same direction. The thread snapped a couple of times which was really frustrating so I'd use something stronger than a normal sewing thread in future for gathers.

Origami folding
I found some simple origami twist patterns and practised on paper before trying them out on calico, cotton organdie and a cotton print.  Cotton organdie behaved almost like paper, holding the folds beautifully without the need for stitches and I liked the variation in opacity depending on the thickness.  I thought it would be really interesting to draw, paint, print or stitch onto it, then fold to distort the image. I've since re-visited Whaley's in Bradford to buy some more and had a look through their sample books for other stiff fabrics that might be suitable.  I've bought some tarlatan cotton which has an open weave and have small sample pieces of millinery net and buckram.
The printed fabric was brought home from a trip to South Africa years ago but I'd never used it as I dislike the drab shades. They feel very far removed from the bright, clear colours of my holiday memories, so I was quite happy to use it to experiment with. In hindsight, I'm disappointed with my choice as I think the colours and shapes are not contrasting and crisp enough to get a real sense of distortion after the twist has been made. Maybe I could have picked out some of the shapes in a contrasting thread before twisting?
Connecting printed square twists 

I made more twists to try patching them together. I like the idea that this technique is unique to fabric - you wouldn't join paper pieces in this way. I tried the completed squares in various positions to get a good balance of shape and colour. Interesting windmill shapes were created where the four corners met, which I liked as they make the sample feel quite dynamic. Perhaps the effect could be emphasised by fraying the raw edges of the 'windmill' arms? I imagine with more repeats and another fabric choice the effect could be better still, particularly if each square was from an identical area of the print and positioned the same way. There are so many variations that I'd practise on paper and scan in to try different repeats.

Windmill shape created when connected

Recently, I'd read an article about mola work - a reverse applique technique with layering used in the Kuna Indian culture. I was interested to have a go. I used a small zig-zag stitch to stop the fabric fraying when I cut out the simple triangle shapes, whereas in traditional mola work the cut away edge would be turned under and painstakingly hemmed with tiny invisible hand stitches. Mine had just two layers but mola work can have up to seven with extremely intricate designs, often animals or plants in a labyrinth style.  Holding my simple design up to the light, it reminded me of windows.  I looked up at my stained glass and began work out in my head how the central part of the design might translate to mola.  I also thought about the sun prints I made last month from my Roman glass vessel design.  I could cut out central dark blue spaces and by leaving a border, it would look like an extra layer.  

Layering - simple reverse applique and chenille square before washing
Could this translate well into mola work with black as the uppermost layer
Sun printed fabric for cheats mola work or more fabric twists?

Another layering technique I'd been wanting to try following Claire Tinsley's 'Bonded Impressions' workshop was chenille.  I cut out seven layers of cotton fabric, pinned them together and stitched across diagonally.  Next I cut the top six layers between the stitching lines and put the sample in the washing machine.  Mine didn't quite come out with the lovely rippled effect of Claire quilts - I probably should have consulted some tutorials first. I had tried varying the spacing of the stitching lines and found the lines closest together worked much better.  They'd benefit from being even closer though. I also found by running my thumbnail across the raw edges I could increase the textural effect.  I've only ever seen chenille on diagonal and zig-zag lines as the cuts need to be made on the bias.  Presumably the layers would just lay mostly flat if you stitch curves, though maybe worth a try as well as varying the fabric type.

Chenille after washing.  Stitches need to be slightly closer.

Overlapping and folding ribbon
For the sample above I didn't worry too much about colour. I was attempting to create the impression of bamboo stalks by overlapping and folding ribbon.  I can imagine recreating this a dark background with chiffon and satin ribbons in unusual colour combinations, like different shades of red and purple, enhanced by stitching to introduce light and shadow.    
Moulding a 3-d shape over a wire frame
My slashing experiment was more like snipping.  I looked to my shell collection and cut small holes in the cotton organdie (it barely frays) and laid it over the same African fabric used for the origami twists.  Something wasn't quite right so I sandwiched fine fruit netting between the two and was pleased with the colour representation. Then I decided to try and mould a 3-D shape so constructed a wire frame , cut circles of fabric and stitched them down under each rib. 

My final sample, was inspired by the coral and underwater plants I'd seen at half term in the Scarborough Sea Life Centre.  My kids weren't about to let me stop and draw after the hour long queue we'd stood in (in the rain) and even if they had, my hands were numb from the cold and there were so many people in there, we had to shuffle about. Therefore back home I chose fabric and painted from memory and my imagination. I used disperse dyes to paint and print images, which I then transferred by ironing onto pelmet vilene for a background. I tried different techniques on separate pieces of vilene to make it easier to work with, then attached them together and embellished further.
On this area, I painted onto tumble dryer sheets with fabric paint, used a heat gun to create the holey texture and stitched down over pelmet vilene.  The tumble sheets have tiny holes in already that add to the effect and I like how these edges look quite hard and scratchy like the sort of rock or coral that might hurt your foot.    

Heat gun applied to painted tumble dryer sheets to make holes. 
This was layered over transfer printed vilene and stitched.
I painted a piece of silk then tore it into strips and attached it onto the vilene.  I like the watery sheerness and how the the fluidity of the silk and the soft raw edges that seem to billow like fronds on underwater plants. 

Painted silk torn into strips, edges left raw

The silk area looked OK on it's own but a bit wishy-washy when I placed it next to the tumble sheet area so I tried cutting up strips of old dyed jersey t-shirt.  I liked the contrast of the white stitching which hadn't taken on the dye and the ribbing of the edges so decided to use these in a playful way. 
Dyed jersey strips

I rolled some of the strips and used small stitches to hold them in place.  I attached them in different ways: tightly coiled with raw edge hidden they are like a closed bud and the opposite way up with stitches showing, they are more like an emerging flower.  Bits of curled thread that escape from the overlock stitch here and there make them feel more organic.  
Next I tried ironing the discharge dyes onto some synthetic sheer fabric.  The image was very blurred but I loved the subtle painterly effect.  I pulled and knotted some of the loose fibres to slightly gather and teased out more fibres from the top, making them as long as possible to increase the floaty effect.

Discharge dye ironed onto synthetic sheer fabric
I had a piece of calico that I had tried and failed to batik a while back, but the colours were ideal.  The wax had made the fabric stiff so it wasn't easy to tear but this also meant it stopped fraying when I wanted it to and the holes I punched through with my bradawl stayed looking like holes without collapsing back flat.

Holes punched and edges frayed on dyed calico

I stitched the three areas together and added some embellishments like stuffed shapes,  netting and an elasticated waistband from one of my daughters' old skirts which ruffled beautifully.  I overlapped these over the three areas to make it more cohesive and not obviously three different sections.  From the parts of my chenille sample which had not worked, I cut off strips and attached these using the thread to manipulate the shapes to make them meander slightly. I also tried snipping
Sections just added together
Final sample

Holding my sample up to the window (as I always seem to do now), the vilene was an ideal background.  It was easy to stitch through, paint and cut and lets some light through.  I love the combination of all the different fabrics and variation in the textures and transparency like the holes of the red net over the smaller holes of the tumble sheet.  I like how the sample evolved from being experimental rather than being over-planned which is I think why I found it so enjoyable.    



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