Category Archives: PART 2 Building a visual vocabulary – Colour, design, printing and painting

Assignment Two – Reflective Commentary


In Project 3 – Colour I initially reprised work on the colour wheel and mixing and matching that I had done on my previous textile course which made me feel comfortable beginning this section.  I found using colour to express emotions initially very difficult but managed to find a way to put my ideas down in a simple but effective way using collages and sketching with paint and crayons.  I found I was more successful using acrylic paints rather than watercolours for the exercises.  With the stiching part of this project I got very bogged down with the time-consuming nature of the exercises but I think I found a way through in the end that showed a good example of colour mixing.

In Project 4 “making space move” was a new concept to me but I understand it is about developing a good design sense and enjoyed using this later in the section.  I produced some interesting sketch work in this section and was motivated to keep working because I was producing to a brief.  I find sketch book work difficult to initiate because I don’t see end point.  I had a lot of fun using the computer to help me produce some digitally manipulated designs and can see this is a very useful tool.

By the time I got to Project 5 I felt I had a lot of good source material to make choices from for further development and although my materials were limited I think I produced some good examples of different techniques and samples which will be very useful later on.  I used a good variety of fabrics to print and paint on and find myself drawn to the more natural fabrics.  I like the inherent qualities of natural cotton, linen and silk, although I did find a sythetic organza fabric was very effective in some of my experiments.

I would have liked to spend more time trying out more permutations of some of the designs I developed.  I really like printing and it is a pity I was constrained by the cost of materials and time here.  I felt the final larger sample was quite successful and ticks most of the boxes or design criteria.  The repeat pattern worked well and I think I got the scale right.  The interesting motif gives the design motion and the colours I used brought it all together.

Project 5 – Stage 4 A larger sample


I really enjoyed working on the “eye” motif from the previous stage and decided to  develop this for the larger sample.

I made the original printing block using some thin foam stuck to cardboard which was fine for the experimental stages but I felt I needed something more durable to continue with. This time I used two layers of foam stuck to a plywood base.  I also thought it would be interesting to develop the idea further by making another smaller version of the eye motif to use in the space formed by the position of the prints.

Another version I considered was to make two blocks so that the outer lashes of the eye could be printed separately to the eyelid and pupil section.  This would mean I could print them in different colours.  Then I realised that I should use the eye section to fill the space in the design, rather than producing another block.  So I made two new printing blocks.  These worked very well but have not proved as durable as I had hoped.


I wanted to experiment with printing on some more different fabric samples before making a final choice.  Here I have printed on some natural cotton canvas type fabric on the first sample and a dense black wool crepe for the second.

I used a pale inky blue for the outer eyelash motif and shades of mauve and a purple for the eyes.  With this version I have tessellated the prints which works very well.

Here I have printed an opaque light blue and mauve colour onto a dense black wool fabric that has a very slight natural stretch.  The eyelash sections have been printed squarely which leaves a gap between the prints big enough for the eye-ball-only print.  This photograph seems to make the prints look quite bold but the colours are actually a little more muted than this and work well together.

I also wanted to see if an overprint, slightly off register would make for more interest.  Here I have printed on to some nylon organza.  I love the effect of the bright colours with the shear fabric. This looks great when lying in folds. I am not sure about the charcoal overprint of the central eye.  It might work better in a different colour.

Next I felt  needed to work on the background for more texture.  In this sample I have used a lustrous organza scrap.  I sponged on background colour in white and red with a scrunched up plastic carrier bag, the really thin type.  This seems to work well but the background colour doesn’t go well with the blue prints.

I experimented further with giving the background some texture and some of the samples are better than others.
These three were made using a pad I made from wrapping a ball of scrunched up carrier bag inside a plastic garlic net.  I printed on to scarf silk and, although you can’t see very well from the photographs the subtlety of the colour is good.

These three were all printed on a slightly heavier silk using a block I made from sticking a piece of upholstery hessian on to card.  I like the effect given by the hessian as I varied the orientation of the prints.  I used a very dilute colour for the first one which gives a varied effect.  On the last one I overprinted with some white using a scrunched up carrier bag.

This sample came out well.  I made the background with the plastic bag technique and I am not sure whether I prefer the white background or the pink.  I then overprinted wth my original cardboard eye block in variations of blue.  I really like this effect and need to try it on some different fabrics to see how it works on lighter or shearer, as well as some lumpier and hairer fabrics I have assembled.

At the same time as trying out printing in different colours and fabrics I have been combining this will different arrangements of the blocks.  I do keep coming back to the two same arrangements in the end.

In this one I tried turning the block around but I felt it wasn’t a comfortable shape.  Also the yellow, although complementary to the blue, did not work well here.  This sample was printed on to a rather uncomfortable looking wool-mix suiting fabric.

This arrangement on a beige cotton canvas worked better and I love the combination of diagonal lines in the rainbow colours, it really sings.  At the same time as liking it a lot I felt other versions were better.

Final Larger Sample

I finally came back to the original 4 square positioning of the block with the eyeball-only in the space left by the design.  This larger sample is the result of all my experimentation in this stage and is a repeating print of the whole eye interlaced with the eyeball.  I didn’t feel this design really needed anything in the background in the end, especially since I was printing on to a fabric with some natural texture.

To me the blue colour is important for this final piece because it echoes the design’s origin in the delftware dish.  It also reminds me of blue ink on school shirts!  In this version I printed using the fabric paints onto a natural cotton canvas that I had not scoured beforehand.  As I was pressed for time I had not washed any of my samples after printing to see if this changed them in any way, although most of my fabrics had been pre-washed.  I thought it would be interesting to wash the fabric after printing to see what effect that might add to the piece.  That is why you can see the gridlines I made with tailors chalk to guide my prints.  In the prints with lashes I have printed the eyeball in a mauve colour and the eyeball only prints are in a very dark blue/black.  I like the way all the colours harmonise in this final piece.

This is the final piece after hand washing in very hot water.  I tried to press it with a hot iron but, being cotton, it is not co-operating and I should have left it a little more damp before ironing.  The colours seem to have faded very slightly but I like this effect.  The whole piece has shrunk by about 10 percent.

I think this design works well for several reasons.  The original design is unusual and captures the attention immediately.  The curves of the eyeball are in contrast with the straight lines of the eyelashes and I think this is what gives the design a lot of movement.  I have kept the printing block the same size as my original samples but I like the idea of developing the design further and think it would also be very successful as a very large print, say 20 cm or more across.

Project 4 – Experiments with Printing and Painting


I have gathered together a selection of fabric paints. Colourcraft “Opaques” fabric paint appears to be quite thick and although called “Opaques” doesn’t perform at all well on darker fabrics.

Dylon fabric paint is a bit more liquid but performs well and I have used it mixed with the Colourcraft paint successfully.

Derwent “Inktense blocks” are good for printing if you sponge on the colour and recommended for fabric painting although I found it difficult to get a consistent cover.

I also found a couple of very old Stencilitis stencil sticks in scarlet and yellow, which are very old and I think came from a home decorating magazine in the 1980s but being oil based they are still soft under the crust and work well with a simple cardboard stencil.  They blend well with a brush.  I have no idea if these are colour fast.  Also, even though they look like Markal I have decided not to use them for any of the further work as I only have the two colours.

These samples using the stencil sticks are drawn on to a beige cotton canvas.

I made myself a printing surface which works very well.  I made printing blocks using what I had around the house, kids craft foam, stiff card, plywood and polystyrene.  Some of these have been more successful than others.  I also made stencils from card and transparent sticky backed plastic and both these materials worked very well.

To apply the colours I have mostly used a sponge directly on to the block.  This allows for variation of density of colour and applying different colours to the block to print at the same time.  I looked at the instructions on making a printing pad but I was not sure how to use it so I did not take that any further at this time.

I tried some hand painting directly on to silk fabric and I felt this was not successful for various reasons.  I found it difficult to get a good consistency of colour that did not bleed and make the whole design wet.  I have painted on silk in the past but with a wax resist which makes the whole thing a lot easier to manage.

Due to time constraints I have had to experiment whilst working on Project 5.  I know this means that I won’t have produced nearly enough samples but I need to press on with this now.

Project 5 – Stage 3 Printing and painting on fabric



For this sample I reproduced the eye design developed from a sketch of a delftware dish and wanted to try to capture the cobalt blue of the designs on the glaze, always one of my favorite ceramic colours.  I remember at primary school being shown how ground up metal oxides were transformed by the heat of the kiln into the most amazing, often irridescent tones.  I made a printing block using sheet foam stuck to some stiff cardboard.  I diluted some Colourcraft Opaque fabric paint, a mixture of cyan and violet and printed directly on to an ivory linen-mix fabric.

Completely by accident I was able to tesselate the print because of the general diamond shape of the block.  The print was not entirely clean but I don’t mind this, I think it adds to the effect.  I tried one print on the bottom edge without re-loading the block with paint but I realised that there was not enough colour left to give a good print.  I could experiment more by alternating darker and lighter prints.  Also, I had to position the prints entirely by eye so some of them are closer than others but overall I think it works really well.

These next two prints were made on a cream hessian-type fabric.  I started off with a basic print, half the block black and half indigo (which doesn’t show well in this photograph), using Derwent Inktense blocks and a sponge to apply the colour.

With this sample I filled in the gap with another print which overlapped on the eyelash areas but I think it still works quite well; the “eye” part of the print is still dominant.

On this version I brought in some bright colour with the scarlet squares which is a good contrast.

I thought it would be interesting to try making a block with the reverse technique so I took some more foam sheet and this time I drew into it with a kebab stick, using the same eye design as inpsiration but simiplified.  The block outline is a bit uneven but again, I like that it gives a less formal feel to the finished print.  I have printed in coloumns of bright colours using Inktense blocks, the ink applied to the printing block with a sponge. The fabric is simple bleached butter muslin.

I like the result as is but I could add embellishment in the spaces by painting by hand.  I am ever mindful of time constraints with this exercise.  It is easy to get really absorbed with multiple permuations of one design and then have no time to explore others so I will move on to the next design.


For the next set of samples I was inspired by the variations on the wall image that I produced using some image manipultion software.  One of them resulted in a version where the blocks in the wall were quite zingy colours but disappeared slightly into the dark background.  I made a simple stencil using clear sticky backed plastic, making the “mortar” area wider than in the original image, purely for practicality.  I thought the stencil would last a bit longer if there was more plastic between the spaces.  I sponged the Colourcraft fabric paint I used previously on to 100% wool worsted cloth.

Here I experimented with a magenta colour on the left but I could see as I was printing that the colour was not going to show up against the fabric.  On the right I tried again by mixing in some white acrylic paint (I did not have any white fabric paint in the starter pack I purchased) to the magenta I had left, producing an opaque pale pink – too much white!  I realise that although the label of the fabric paint describes the colours as “Opaques” this does not describe how the colours turn out.

In this sample I played around with using variations on the pink colour I used earlier and like the effect made by the colour not mixing together completely.  Also, the sponging makes a good textural pattern too.

Here again, the sponge application of the paint into the stencil makes for an intersting texture within the bricks but this time I have used a variety of bright colours, more akin to the source image


I initially considered using this image to develop a design either by using a resist technique or painting on coloured fabric using bleach.  Then, after deliberating further I realised this was a good opportunity to practise hand painting on fabric.

This image was made using Derwent Inktense blocks diluted with water painted on an ivory pure silk twill, scarf weight fabric.

I am not very happy with the way this sample has turned out.  I could not find a good enough brush and it was very difficult to control the colour when it was diluted as it just soaked into the fabric.  You can see where I have used a less dilute colour in some of the wheels which looks a little better but it was difficult getting the right proportions.  If the ink was too dry you could not paint it on, if too wet it just ran.  With the Inktense colour you are supposed to be able to paint over your work when dry so I tried going over a portion of this again using a better brush to try to get some more definition in the wheel outlines but this did not provide a noticeably better finish.

I tried using a different brush but I still had trouble with gettting the consistency right for painting a god line.  I used a dry brush technique going over the background but this was not particularly interesting on this sample.  Also, with this sample I originally taped the fabric to my printing surface with masking tape but the second time around I used an embroidery frame to stretch the silk, again with little improvement.

For this sample I have used a cotton shirting stretched over an embroidery frame.  I diluted some Colourcraft fabric paints and sponged over the fabric to give an all over background in magenta pink.  Then I made a stencil, drawing circles freehand and sponging more colour into the shapes.  I tried outlining the circles with the segment design in bleach but it did not take at all which is useful to know.  Lastly I went over the circles with the grey outline.  This is quite a jolly design but I think it needs more refinement, perhaps by making the circles more geometrically accurate and having a second stencil to go over the shapes with the segment outline, again more accurately.  This would, of course have a completely different feel to the original inspiration which was very free in style but I think perhaps the bold colours need a more constrained approach.


For this sample I thought it would be interesting to try several techniques together.  I made a printing block and covered it with hessian.  I used this to give the background some texture.  I printed on to some raw cotton open weave fabric using diluted Colourcraft fabric paints in a golden colour.

I then used an old pencil to print the dark brown diagonal lines.  I should have made myself some guidelines to work from as it looks a little messy at the beginning.  I printed the other shapes using blocks made from cardboard and foam.  The foam is a little thin which means some of the prints have some messy bits around them but again, I like the effect as it adds to the texture.

Project 5 – Stage 2 Selecting your design ideas


I have been through my work from Stage 4 of Project 4 and chosen the following images to develop for the next stage of this project:

This eye design came from doodling and it seems to have taken on a life of it’s own.  I think this is an image I will be coming back to again and again.  It is reminiscent of Egyptian wall paintings and traditional “evil eye” symbols.  I have an idea of making a block print from this.

I enjoyed making this brick image and the variations on it using the computer.  I think a stencil technique would work well.

This image was originally producing using wax resist and watered down paint.  I could reproduce the resist idea by printing wax on with a block but I could also try hand painting bleach on a pink fabric to see if I could make a reverse version.

This collage looks like it lends itself to a combination of technques.  I might try printing a background colour with a relief block and then stencilling over it.

Project 5 – Stage 1 Reviewing your fabric collection


I have a huge collection of fabric that I have collected since my teens.  My mother taught textiles or “needlework” during the 1970s and 80s so I was picking up bits from her class room scrap bins.  Then later I started making my own clothes and had plenty over from cutting out the pattern pieces.  Whilst studying textiles the first time around I needed to purchase fabric for printing, dyeing and garment design projects.  Later I made outfits for our children and then costumes for their school plays.  I have laboured over soft furnishings for our home and other people’s.  The piles and bags full of carefully folded and often unused pieces of cloth are like a scrapbook of my journey of making.  Many projects never went further than an initial experiment.  Some pieces have been made up into a garment or cushion and later remade into a new bag or purse and then re-salvaged “just in case”.

In some ways this mass of fabric and fibre is a burden because I feel obliged to save everything, convinced that it will be useful at some point and it has piled up such that my workroom is completely full and will never be a completely calm place to operate.  Of course, taking this course feeds the obsession with all things fabric and I think at this stage of the game I am a hopeless case!

The upside is that I have a massive choice of bits of cloth to experiment with and have pulled out this array for my printing samples:

There is quite a range here.  Pure cottons, silks and natural hessian-type fabrics are vying for space with some poly-cottons and synthetic organzas.  Looking at this photo I think I will need to add some darker colours to the mix.

Because most of my fabrics were stored for a while in our old shed, when the weather was kinder I have had several massive scouring sessions.  I had lots of fun trying to untangle tiny matted scraps with my embroidery scissors but I have kept all the knotted dreadlocks of fibres for further projects.  I have an idea that I can incorporate them into woven samples or spin the bits together like the recently popular sari silk yarns.

Project 4 Stage 4 – Review

  • Did you manage to make space move?

Making space move was a new concept to me.  Using the black squares to focus the eye was a very simple but effective way to demonstrate this and I found that my mood greatly affected the formations I made in a completely subconscious way.  I would like to follow up this idea.

  • What are your thoughts about the drawings you did in Stage 3?

Stage 3 appeared to be all about selecting from a collection of drawings.  I queried this section with my tutor because I was not entirely clear if any drawing work was being asked for here.  I experimented with looking for shapes in Stage 2 and enjoyed using different techniques to find areas of interest in compositions.  I had a go at looking for negative space which I had not done before.

  • Were you able to use your drawings successfully as a basis for further work?  Are there any other things you would like to try?

I am really pleased with the way my design development drawings came out.  I especially like the digital manipulations and there is a lot more I could do on developing repeat patterns using this technique.  I would also like to make more of collage and mixed media drawings.

  • Now that you have a good working method, do you feel confident that you can carry on working in this way independently?

I think I have overcome a big hurdle I had with being confident that my sketch book work was good enough to be a starting point for this kind of development work.  The further I worked through this section the more I realised that I was making useful marks and that, even when an initial drawing seemed to be limited, I was able to use it for a starting point and a surprising amount of development work could be generated from a single sketch.