Category Archives: PART 3 Creating shapes and three-dimensional forms

Project 7 Your theme book – images of gates and doors


I have an idea for my final assignment and I have been thinking a lot about researching images and where to look for useful inspiration.  I took a couple of photos on my way to work this morning.  I have been driving past these gates for over a year now and I think it was the field gate in the first image that was the initial idea that got me on to my theme.  It has an interesting design in the panels made up by the geometric placing of the cross pieces and I had not seen one like it before.  This morning was bright and crisp and the light was fabulous for taking photos but I was facing the wrong way for a really good shot.

metal field gate, West Compton

wooden field gate, West Compton

Just now I was browsing on Etsy and a gorgeous photograph of a door popped up on the suggestions feed.  I love the photos of rustic doors Etsy seller Glennis Siverson has got for sale here.

I enjoy the regular shapes, and shapes within shapes, you get with field gates.  The panels remind me directly of the geometric designs of patchwork, like log cabin and nine patch blocks.  These patterns, with different areas delineated by the structural elements of the gates themselves, seem to offer themselves to textile design.  The hard manmade structure of the gate against the softness of the natural landscape beyond is also full of possibilities …

More images from my environment:

2013-01-03 14.12.51

lych gate at the burial ground, Evercreech

2013-01-03 14.14.43

simple, beautifully wrought kissing gate, Evercreech


stile, Evercreech

snow garden

one of my garden gates

Hobbit House

front door, Evercreech

Gate Kilver 2Gate Kilver 1

two iron gates, Kilver Court

Field gate 2Field gate 1

more metal field gates


chapel annexe, Evercreech


Assignment Three – Reflective Commentary


First of all, I really enjoyed the projects in this assignment and I was very lucky to have been able to take a fabric manipulation workshop locally which complemented the raised and structured surfaces stage perfectly.  Also, I am comfortable working in the medium of fabric more than I am with drawing and painting so I was able to work quickly and efficiently without the self-doubt that inevitably takes over when I try to achieve something with a pencil or a paint brush.

The research point at the beginning of this part was challenging as I have accumulated a mass of textiles and yarns over nearly 40 years and I was interested to find that, although I am surrounded at home by a pretty traditional taste in soft furnishings, that my personal preference veers towards more Scandinavian and folksy influenced design.  I am very grateful to be able to use the furniture and accessories that my husband and I have been given over the years by our families but it would be nice to be able to afford to choose furnishings that reflect my taste and preferences a bit more.

The Developing ideas stage was initially challenging but once I had chosen 6 initial images I got quite carried away with using computer software to manipulate some of the images and found some amazing textures and colour variations.  I used sketch book work in combination with software and found some effects that will be very useful in future work.  I have begun to be more aware of shapes and textures around me, finding I had to stop a film I was watching to sketch a shape I saw because it was so inspiring.

Appliqué is something I have already tried and enjoyed a lot.  I like the way you can alter the surface of a fabric in a simple way by adding layers or even taking them away and I prefer using the sewing machine to stitch with for this technique, although I do enjoy embellishing with hand embroidery.  When making my large appliqué sample I experiemented with heating plastics and this is something I am definitely going to do further work on.  It is very addictive and I can’t stop saving chocolate biscuit and crisp wrappers to experiment on!

I was able to produce a good variety of samples for future reference and most enjoyed producing samples inspired by contemporary Indian fashion design at the fabric manipulation workshop I was able to attend.  I recommend trying Indian gathering.

I was quite happy with my final sample from this stage.  The tucks took a long time to do as, although I did them by machine, I was using an old hand crank machine so it took longer to finish the ends as I couldn’t reverse by pressing a button in the modern way and there were a lot of ends to finish!  The result was effective and I would like to do some more of this type of work, incoporating colour and pattern for more interest.  I have just now been given a new sewing machine for my birthday, which will make the task all the more enjoyable.

Part 3 Research Point – Style and design of textiles


In the 21st century with the technology for instant communication across the globe and a seemingly unquenchable appetite for the aquisition of consumable items there is an infinite choice of fabrics with which to decorate ourselves and our homes.  This is fuelled by the fashion industry and the media with the constant flow of new “must-have” designs at the latest cat-walk shows and home exhibitions.

We are also able to experience the fashions of the past and those of other cultures with access to personal collections acquired by museums and heritage organisations and the ease of air travel.  These, in turn, provide inspiration for new designs and the cycle of consumption continues.

These days there is almost too much choice when looking for fabric in the sample books at an upholstery supplier.  You can go down the traditional route with your safe Sanderson floral:

Abingdon by Sanderson

or stripe:

Netherfield Stripe by Sanderson

You can look back at designers from the past who still influence interior design fashion today, like William Morris:

Acanthus tapestry

or you can look forward to see how technology inspires designers like these modern fabrics, Braille, Blink and Molecular by the Danish company Unika Vaev:

Some of my favourite fabrics are inspired by world cultures and vintage designs, like these from Alexander Henry:

Roping – images of American rodeo horsemanship

Shinto – oriental graphics and a subdued palette

Skullduggery – Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ imagery

and others are produced to comply with environmental briefs, like these sustainable fabrics from Instyle of Australia:

Recycled Polyester

Polyeurethane fabrics that have a less environmental impact than conventional vinyl fabrics

There appear to be as many different fashions in interior fabric design as there are designers and obviously consumers are going to be drawn to a variety of designs, depending on their personal style, aspirations and pocket.  Where you live is also going to be a factor but it is my impression that high street interior style in fabrics at the moment is still quite traditional with floral or geometric designs but with bolder colours, scale of pattern and more of a sense of fun.

I would say one of the most influential arbiters of high street interior design is Ikea.  A quick flick through House Beautiful, Real Homes, Living Etc and similar magazines indicates that many people enjoy living in light, airy rooms with light-coloured, modern furniture incorporating colourful fabrics such as this room set furnished in Orla Kiely’s designs:

Scandinavian style has been on trend now for some time but I think it will endure because of the clean and fresh look it gives.  Some of my favourites are:

The Seablanket by Vík Prjónsdóttir made from Icelandic sheep’s wool

Mello by Spira inspired by the ric rac braid used to decorate traditional scandinavian costume

Unikko by Marimekko – originally designed by Maija Isola in 1964

There is a definite swing towards natural fibres with cotton, linen and wool available and affordable, like this 100% wool blanket from Ikea decorated in polyester thread embroidery:

Birgit throw, Ikea

Millwood Yellow linen rich upholstery fabric by Laura Ashley

Verapaz Mantaro Berry – a large scale multicoloured check design on a woven linen and cotton voile from Designers Guild

I have to say I am much more drawn to the more traditional fabrics made from natural fibres.  I also like the bold colours and fun patterns of Scandinavian style and when window shopping during my lunch break I would often linger at Shannon in Walcot Street in Bath where I would covet the PVC Marimekko table cloth fabric, stroke the Klippan Moose throws and chuckle at the Moomin products, remembering my own childhood enjoyment of the stories and then of reading them to my own children.


Project 6 – Stage 4 Raised and structured surface textures – part 2



For the next two samples I used the same core materials: a piece of blue silk for the top, plain white handkerchief cotton for the backing and some cotton bump curtain interlining for the wadding.

Here I laid the plain blue silk over some self patterned mauve silk and then quilted with free machine embroidery in a contrasting colour thread.I then cut out portions of the top layer of fabric to reveal the mauve underneath.

I have slashed the top layer in one place and frayed the edges.  This is not particularly effective with this silk and I have not allowed enough fabric between the slash and the stitching for the frayed effect to show.

Where I have formed circles in the machine stitching, the fabric has made some nice rounded bubbles which are raised because of the wadding layer being pulled in slightly with the stitches.

With this sample I have overlaid a ruby sheer organza over the same blue silk base and trapped some fabric pieces, sparkly lurex off cuts and some space dyed banana yarn between the layers.  I then quilted by hand using running stitches, similar to Kantha work in one area.  Enclosing the yarn between the layers and then fastening it in place with running stitches all the way around is very similar to traditional trapunto quilting where wool or fibre was stuffed in between the stitches as the piece was quilted, but I believe this method involved stuffing the design from behind.

Raised shapes

The previous sample incorporated some yarn enclosed between the layers of fabric.  This time I have used plain calico and trapped some cotton cord inside a fold with hand stitching, as you might when making a piped edge for a cushion.  The top cord was straight until I stitched the next wavy line and this drew the fabric in and made the first one look curved.  The bottom line is some fine wire trapped and stitched into a fold in the fabric.  This is easily manipulated to form shapes, shown a little better in the photograph below.

Here I have sewn some curtain rings, buttons and wooden beads inside the calico to form raised shapes.  The items I have used are hard but you could use anything to form shapes and enclose them inside the fabric from soft, maleable stuffings and yarns to hard wire, bottles and plastic items.


I experimented with a strong pva solution and cotton sheeting over some cookie cutters and jar and bottle tops.  This sample is very stiff so I can see that this would be a very good method to use if you wanted to make the fabric support itself, but you would probably need some kind of internal frame if it were a large piece because of the weight of the fabric.

I also dampened some upholstery hessian and left it to dry around the balloon whisk for the Kenwood mixer.  There was enough size in the fabric from manufacture to preserve the folds which remain in the fabric, but this is a much less durable sample and the folds might well get squashed if stored with any weight on top of the sample, in contrast to the previous sample.

Final sample

I chose this image to work from to make a final sample:This was a sketch I made earlier from a photograph of the wood shed wall.  There are some interesting contrasts of texture here with the vertical lines between the curvy ragged edges that cross horizontally.  It is helpful that this sketch is monochrome because I am not distracted by colours that often stop me from visualising texture in images.  Straight away I can see tucks and folds in the design.

I have used plain white cotton sheeting which I have salvaged as I did not have any pieces of calico large enough.  I guessed that making lots of tucks would mean I would need to start with a piece of fabric at least twice as wide (if not more) than the required finished sample size of 30 x 30 cms.

I began with the horizontal tucks and secured them with a line of machine stitching.  Then I used the sewing machine to make the vertical pin tucks of various widths.  I finished by threading a strip of wadding through the horizontal tucks to pad them out.

Responses to this project

  • How does working with fabric in this way compare with working directly with stitch?

I have found manipulating the fabric to make shapes using the fabric itself much more effective than using purely stitch to imply a design or imitate an image.

  • Are you pleased with the shapes and movements that you have created in both appliqué and fabric manipulation?  What would you do differently?

I was very happy with the outcome of my appliqué sample.  I like the way you can use layers to give depth and that different materials can make a big difference in giving texture and movement to a piece of work.  I was especially intrigued by the results of heat treating plastic.  With the fabric manipulation you immediately see the possibilities of working in three dimensions rather than on a flat piece that you might use as a cushion cover or frame and hang on the wall.  Movement in my final fabric manipulation sample was created by filling some areas with wadding.  This gave the piece much more depth and a contrast appeared between the straight lines of the tucks and the wavy padded lines across them.  I would like to explore manipulating fabric on a much larger scale to see how size and weight of the materials might dictate the outcomes

  • How did the pieces work in relation to your drawings?  Were the final results very different from the drawings?  Did the fabric manipulation technique take over and dictate the final result?

With the appliqué sample I combined several images to produce the finished piece.  This meant that the result was bound to be different from the drawings but it is still evident where the inspiration comes from.  I think that any technique is going to influence the final result and sometimes it is easier to let the project flow and go the way it seems to want to go rather than try to hold back too much.  That way you are more likely to get an exciting, unexpected result.  This happened when I started ironing plastic sweet wrappers!  Sometimes a technique will limit an outcome and you have to look at the job in a different way, either accept the limitations and work with them or try to find a different technique that will work better.

  • Was it helpful to work from the drawings in the applied exercise?  Would you have preferred to play directly with cut shapes and materials?

For me it was more useful to have my drawings to work from because I have already done a bit of appliqué before and spent time ‘doodling’ this way.  I am enjoying this course because I can push myself to try things I haven’t before, move outside my comfort zone.  Because of this I am definitely getting more out of the course than I might have done had I chosen to continue to stick with something I already know.

  • How do you feel about working with stitch in general?  Is it an area you would like to pursue in more depth?  Do you find it limiting in any way?

I am comfortable working with stitch, either machine or hand.  I would like to explore more free machine embroidery techniques like using vanishing muslin or trying different threads but I will need a new machine before I can try anything more.  I have found during the course of this module of study that I am less excited by hand embroidery than I used to be.  This last project has made me want to try more fabric manipulation and construction techniques, rather than, as I have perceived them, embellishment or decorative techniques.

Project 6 – Stage 4 – Fun with with fabric manipulation


On Saturday I attended a workshop at Midsomer Quilting in Chilcompton.  The session was run by Bini Mistri and the object of the day was to produce samples using different fabric manipulation techniques.

Bini started by explaining her background in textiles.  She had been teaching textiles at a local senior school and then decided to quit and take some time to travel around India where her parents had come from and explore her roots.  She also brought along some books to inspire us – Contemporary Indian Fashion by Frederica Rocca was especially gorgeous, full of colourful photographs of creations by new Indian fashion designers.  Also Modern Fashion in Detail by Mendes and Wilcox, again with lovely colour photography showing techniques used to embellish contemporary garments.

I had not know quite what we would be doing at the workshop and was really pleased to discover how well the techniques fitted in with what I have been producing for this part of the course.

Here are some of the samples I made on the day:


We started with some simple gathering stitches.

This sample shows how two rows of gathering stitches, stitched on fabric with a grid pattern for regularity, can produce neat folds in the fabric, and on this particular fabric, an interesting effect at the selvedge edge.

The fan shape reminds me of the cockade embellishment used on traditional Indian turbans:

Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni wear turbans at the inauguration of a cricket academy, Pune. (

Here I have produced several lines of random stitching of different stitch lengths and with the rows at varying distances:

Pull up the stitches to gather the fabric and you get a much more textured effect than with the previous sample:

Traditional smocking uses this technique but using a regular grid for the gathering.


I could explore my sample further by embellishing it with less formal smocking stitches.

Many years ago I decorated my wedding jacket by smocking silk fabric I had appliqued with some vintage gold lace using the lattice smocking technique:

These two samples use gathering stitches which are in a particular pattern, a bit like the roof of a house, that is tricky to explain but hopefully the photograph is helpful:

The result is a pretty ‘petal’ edge which came out better in the slightly stiffer fabric in the lower sample.  You can achieve something similar by making running stitches in a regular zig zag and gathering up.

Folding and pleating

Here we cut out circles of fabric, folded them in half, then into quarters and stitched the points together to make a flower.

Using the same folding technique in butter muslin and stitching the folded circles on to a base fabric, I replicated an effect I had seen on a garment in the Mulberry factory shop next to where I work.

Here we made pleats in the fabric with the iron and then stitched them down with the machine.  Placing a contrasting fabric strip behind the apperture left by two opposing pleats gives it an interesting twist.

I am not sure if this next one is gathering or pleating or folding but we cut more circles of fabric, then cut out a smaller circle in the middle leaving a doughnut shape.  We then cut into it, opened it out, pulled the inner edge straight and stitched it to a backing fabric.

I have a purple cotton skirt decorated all over in mini flounces like this!

Raised shapes

I made running stitches in circles in this piece of silk and then gathered it up, trapping some stuffing inside the shape.

We learned that it is easier to start from the middle with this technique.  They look like little blue mushrooms!

We also learned about ‘Suffolk puffs’ or ‘yo-yos’ which are traditionally made into a type of quilt. The technique is simple.  Cut a circle of fabric and make running stitches into the outer folded over edge.  Gather up and pull tight until you have a flat disk with the gathering in the middle, and fasten off the stitches.  It looks like a mini shower cap.


The puff also looks interesting with a contrasting piece of fabric placed inside so that it just shows through the gap.

I was really pleased with my work and now have lots of useful samples as inspiration for future projects.  So many thanks to Bini for helping me along with my course work and, of course, for the scrumptious samosas!

Project 6 – Stage 4 Raised and structured surface textures – part 1


I have been experimenting with some of the techniques described in this section.

Gathering, tucking, folding and pleating, tearing, fraying and slashing are incorporated into samples of a variety of fabrics.

Click on an image to see my comments.

I happened across this slashed bias strip fabric tutorial at Sew Country Chick just now – a practical application of a simple fabric manipulation technique which gives a fun result.

Project 6 – Stage 3 Applied Fabric Techniques


I had been pleased with the results of quite a few of the images from the last stage.  I felt some had better colour dynamics and others more movement so I decided to combine these for the appliqué sample.

I have done some appliqué before, hand and machine.  I have also successfully used Bondaweb in appliqué projects, especially machine appliqué where I feel it gives a better finished look to the work.  I am limited in time and with money so I decided not to explore Tyvek as an appliqué medium, although I have enjoyed looking at artists’s work with modern materials as part of my background reading.

I experimented with layering, cutting away and trapping bits and pieces between the layers in these two samples that also incorporated quilting:

Stitch Dissolve Distort by Valerie Campbell-Harding and Maggie Grey (from the course reading list) is an excellent source for techniques using all sorts of stabilising, soluble and embellishing fabrics such as vanishing muslin and fusible webbing, along with foils, glues and powders.

I reserved a copy of Kim Tittichai’s Experimental Textiles a few weeks ago but it hasn’t arrived yet.  Instead I watched a YouTube video where she showed some interesting techniques using painted Tyvek heated with both a domestic flat iron and a heat gun which produced some lovely textured bubbles and lace.  My recycling-self was intrigued to hear that Tyvek is the fabric used to make disposable overalls, like the type employed by scenes of crime officers.  I now just need to make friends with a pathologist …

For the last sample in this page I drew inspiration from these images of the organic flower shape:

DSC_0007 DSC_0008-b

and played around with the stripes and colours a bit.

I had saved some chocolate, crisp and biscuit wrappers, a mixture of the type that are just plastic and some with a foil layer.  I had a bit of fun using a hot iron on this type of plastic instead (in between sheets of baking parchment to preserve my iron).  Some of the plastic wrappers melt very easily and some take longer, but it did not seem to depend on whether there was a foil layer, they all produced some very exciting bubbly texture eventually.  I laid the textured plastic on a plain fabric backing, then over the top I laid some ruby coloured shot organza.  I gingerly tacked the layers together around the edge as I did not want to leave holes in the plastic that might show up in the finished sample.

Next I set up the darning foot, dropped the feed dog and set the sewing machine off on a ramble across the layers of fabric.  I used a large needle and was a little worried that all the stitching would begin to rip the plastic, as it was stiffer and more brittle since ironing but it seemed to remain quite resiliant.  I cut out the organic flower shapes from woven stripey cottons, salvaged from a shirt and skirt from my 1980s wardrobe.  These I applied to the background with free machine stitching without bonding first with Bondaweb.  I was a little worried that more heat might change the plastic layer and I was also in a bit of a hurry (never a good thing).

I am not particularly impressed with my free machine stitching around the flowers, it is very wiggly but it was quite hard to manipulate the sample as the background fabric is so stiff and it kept bumping up against the sides of the machine and slowing me down.  I need some more practice to make this kind of stitching a bit more even.  I have tried some Poppy Treffry-style machine appliqué before, adding text to small projects and this has usually come out quite well but it was always on a small pliable piece of fabic.

Lastly, I further embellished the smaller flowers with some more free machine sqiggles in gold coloured thread and the larger applied shapes with some hand embroidered running stitches in red and French knots in a gold embroidery thread.

I like the finished piece a lot.  There is depth with the background bubbling, swirly texture, movement with the stripes against the curves, although I tried to line up the stripes in the flowers to make the piece more cohesive, and some pleasing colours with the red against the silver and grey and a pop of gold here and there.