Category Archives: PART 5 A piece of your own

Assignment 5 – Reflective commentary


By the time I got to start on this assignment I understood completely how the rest of the course prepared me for the process of the final project and that the discipline of progressing through conceiving an idea, developing and then making is going to stand me in excellent stead for continuing my studies.  Until I was actually working on my theme book, sketching and making notes using a multitude of resources, I had not realised how much potential development work I could have from this little collection of bits and pieces.  I am really looking forward to the next project, now I understand how stimulating this way of working can be.  With my theme book I found that once there was a personal connection, a way of putting part of myself into the project, even if only a tiny part, this made a huge difference to how I felt about the work and how motivated I became.

I found I did take a lot of time to think about the initial development, once I had decided on an end “product”.  I think this helped to avoid too many big changes of course as I had pretty much made up my mind about how I wanted the piece to look.  I also restricted myself to a handful of fabrics and threads with a neutral colour scheme, apart from the odd accent of colour and I believe this went a long way to help make sure I wasn’t going to keep changing my mind and waste time and materials.

I used a fair proportion of recycled fabric that I re-purposed, using tea and onion skin dye and resist techniques to provide texture and colour.  I endeavour to tread lightly on our earth in my life in general and, even though it might mean I am restricting myself in the materials I have access to, I firmly believe that I will be able to source most things that I need in an environmentally aware way.  As long as I can be ingenious with the resources that I have I intend to keep this environmental focus uppermost during my studies, as I do in the rest of my life.  As my final piece incorporated my ideas of memories, ageing and time I believe I achieved an effective result using my “pre-loved” fabrics.  In the end the only item I purchased for the final project was the ivory voile fabric.  All the threads and the rest of the fabrics were already in my collection, either remnants from other projects, gifts and charity shop finds.

I could not have anticipated chosing to produce a curtain-style hanging final piece when I started out this project and that has been one of the joys of this particular exercise.  Once I started on the journey of design from initial idea to final product there was a real feeling of excitement in exploring all the avenues of possibility, like travelling to new countries and finding nuggets of treasure on my way to add to my collection.  I was also surprised at the feelings of attachment I found I had to the project once I had made the journey a personal one, looking at my family environment and my own development into an adult.  I feel more prepared to explore my skills in textile art, rather than textile purely as a craft, now I have got to this point of the course.



Project 10 A design project – Stage 4 Making your textile piece


By the time I got to this stage of the project I was quite confident that I had a much better idea of what I wanted to produce.  The computer manipulated versions of my collaged image had plenty of texture and the general proportions of the image seemed to work well.


I used this image, along with the original collage as my guide when placing the fabric and embroidering the final piece.  The piece is unfinished – I completed the “grandparents” and “me” layers, and the middle “doorway” layer is missing the right side of the door but I think there is enough here to get a good idea of the project.

2013-08-13 13.41.53

pleated resist-dyed cotton fabric, running stitch with machine sewing cotton thread

2013-08-13 13.41.45

2013-08-13 13.41.41

kantha-style running stitches in machine cotton and couched embroidery silk

2013-08-13 14.06.15

resist-dyed dupion silk with couched lurex thread

2013-08-13 13.48.57

roughly tacked torn and folded voile

2013-08-13 13.48.49

couched embroidery silk produce the thicker lines

2013-08-13 14.04.54

I debated whether to cut the slits in the middle curtain

2013-08-13 14.05.04

trying to show the layers

2013-08-13 14.05.13

the sunlight from the window behind is a big part of how I wanted the final piece to look when on display – inspiration from the Lost in Lace exhibition, Birmingham Gas Hall

2013-08-13 14.05.23

2013-08-13 14.04.46


For the last part of this stage we are asked to consider:

  • Can you see a continuous thread of development from your original drawings and samples to the final designs?

I was initially uncertain as to how to develop the ideas from my theme book into a more coherent idea for a textile.  This became easier as I forged on once I had focused on my final idea.  From then it was easier to produce specific drawings and samples as I had a definite idea of an end product.  I think there is definitely a thread of development from my initial theme to my final design.  It would have been easy, though, to be pulled off track as I found a lot of resources for further development once I had started.  I think I found once I had a personal connection with the project that made it much more enjoyable and easier to progress.

  • Do you feel you made the right decisions at each stage of the design process?  If not, what changes would you make?

I don’t believe there is a huge line between right or wrong when you are designing for a piece for yourself.  Obviously, if I had been given a detailed brief from a client then I would have had to be careful to make sure I produced everything that was asked for.  As it stands if I were to be critical it might be that I could have produced some more drawings and experimented with more different fabrics.  Also, I think I made a mistake with my measurements and the final piece isn’t quite in proportion with the original design but I do not think it impairs the result enough to be a huge problem.  I did debate whether to cut into the middle “doorway” curtain and make the slits either side of the opening.  I also pondered whether to cut the whole inside of the doorway away altogether but I decided not to as I wanted to have that extra layer of fabric to view the first layer through.  Looking at my photographs of the piece in situ I think I could have made more of the wall area outside the doorway denser and less transparent so that the focus was concentrated on the area inside the doorway lit by the natural light.

  • Were you able to interpret your ideas well within the techniques and materials you chose to work with?

I was concerned, initially, that I might try to incorporate too many techniques and materials in my final piece, in an effort to show all that I had learned during the course.  I managed to get around this early on by limiting myself to only a few fabrics and a neutral (on the whole) colour palette.  This worked well – knowing I had only one drawer from my thread collection to work with and a handful of fabrics meant I was careful to make the most of these, especially since I was some recycled fabrics and it would have been difficult to obtain more.  My intention was to use the separate layers of curtain as a way to interpret time, ageing, transition and movement from one state to another.  I love the way the transparency of the fabric works so well with the natural daylight behind it.

  • How successful is your final design in terms of being inventive within the medium and coherent as a whole?

I surprised myself, fixing on a curtain as a final piece.  Having done a lot of dressmaking  in the past it would have been very easy to stick with a garment or even a hat as a final piece.  I am very glad I pushed out of my comfort zone and got closer to my idea of textile art than I thought I would be able to.  I have not used novel materials or techniques but the way I have used them is a bit more unusual.   I definitely like the look of the result.  I believe it works as a hanging piece of textile and it has come together pretty much as I had hoped.  I would have finished it by hanging the curtains separately on either copper pipe or inch dowels, ideally in a window so that the light provides that extra dimension.   My photographs of the final piece probably could have been better.  I took them into the light of the east-facing window in the afternoon, supported by some filament lamps, when I might have got better shots in the morning.

We are also asked to look back at the notes we made on how we felt at the beginning of the course and reflect on the journey.

On re-reading my notes after having an initial look at the course materials and after the first assignment I notice that I was concerned that my lack of skills as an artist would be a big hurdle to overcome.  The other main worry was that I would find time management an issue.  Over the course I have begun to find ways to interpret my ideas with mark making but this often takes the form of a collage, simple diagram or manipulation of photographs and other images using computer software.  I would like to get some help with learning to draw and paint but finances do not permit at the moment.  I definitely need to do more sketchbook work and I am slowly overcoming my fears of putting pencil to paper but I feel this will be a particularly long journey for me.  When it comes to time management I have definitely found this difficult.  This has not been helped by my work commitments and I am trying to change that but again, that will take time.  I have got used to observing that I have periods where motivation to do even the smallest coursework task is severely lacking.  There are a combination of reasons for this but since we have re-arranged our dining room which has the benefit of light from 3 sides, and the weather has been much improved, I have not had to struggle quite so hard.

I have enjoyed the course immensely and am really looking forward to my next module.

Project 10 A design project – Stage 3 Developing your design – sampling and a prototype


I have been using tea, coffee and onion skins to dye some sample fabrics.  I am planning to keep to mostly neutral shades for the final piece and to use fabric manipulation, embroidery and some resist dyeing techniques to give form and texture.  Base fabrics were a cream polyester voile, ivory dress net, recycled cream curtain lining and ivory dupion silk.  I wanted to knock back the bright colour of the original fabrics and introduce some texture with the stain.  I left some samples overnight in the dye bath.  I got some good results using the heat of our Aga stove, rather than a chemical mordant, to set the colour by putting the damp fabric scrunched up in a steel roasting pan (covered with a Pyrex plate to stop it touching the radiant sides of the oven) and leaving it in the roasting oven (approximately 180 – 200 degrees) for an hour.  I left some samples sitting on lid of the hot plates overnight, a gentler heat.  Samples were then washed by machine (approximately 30 degrees) with a little detergent and ironed dry.  I will be interested to see how long lived the dye is, especially as my final piece will be designed to stay in the light of a window or door but I like the idea of how the piece will age naturally.

sketchbook coffee

instant coffee – this worked well, the tone is slightly greyer than the tea

sketchbook onion

mostly brown onion skins but with a few bits of red – the result on the silk was a lot brighter than I had expected

sketchbook tea

tea – Co-Op 99 bags made up good and strong

I have also used some tie-dye techniques to give the fabric more texture.

unravelling shibori folds

lines of running stitch, random size and distance apart, pulled up tight before placing in the dye bath

fabric gathered

an interesting bark like effect of where the dye has concentraced in the folds.

shibori tie die

my version of a shibori resist using glass seed beeds dyed using onion skins.

fabric shibori

little circles of white with yellow centres, something to do with the bead touching the surface

I have hand stitched some further samples using the dyed fabrics to get an idea of layers and different stitches.  I definitely prefer hand embroidery for this project.

sketchbook stitch sample

layers of dyed silk on voile, stitched with cotton and silk threads

sketchbook applique

Here I have left the thread ends on the surface which make a feathery effect.  Base fabric is the tea stained voile, the left leaf shape is tea dyed silk and the bush on the right is onion skin dyed silk.  I have used mainly standard machine sewing thread with some heavier orange machine thread.

Next I tried using software effects and adjustments to alter the collaged image I made of the doorway. Collage versions using Paintdotnet

In many of the monochrome versions I like the way the stitching is highlighted, exactly the right effect for this project.

I made some preliminary sketches of how I wanted the layers to look; more of a plan than a design, then it was time to make a 3d model of the project.  As this piece is designed to hang in a window I have come up with a box frame (cardboard shoe box) to act as the window embrasure and to support the hanging rods (kebab sticks). I have used plastic film (plastic wallet) for the first front layer and transparent paper to represent the other two layers behind.  I used cut out, monochromes copies of one of the computer manipulated images give an impression of the final design and the scale is approximately 1:5.




showing frame

model 1

The paper is a bit more opaque than I believe the fabric will be so I think you may be able to perceive the figures in the background a little better in the final piece.

Project 10 A design project – Stage 3 Developing your design – layers


After further work on my theme of entrance I am at the stage where I keep coming back to the image of my grandparents’ front door and the concept of layers of family memories, rites of passage, and coming of age.

drawing 2

watercolour on cartridge paper

drawing 1

collage – wallpaper, brown paper, tea bags, machine stitching

I have made some drawings to illustrate the theme image but I am still developing my ideas on how to best translate this in to a full-sized piece.  Initially I envisaged a door curtain, or series of layers in a doorway but I am wavering whether to proceed with the design on the full doorway scale or perhaps cut it down to a more manageable window size.  This might make hanging a bit easier too.

I have also done some preliminary plan drawings to show how the layers might work but I need to get hold of some tracing paper or bleached greaseproof paper to develop the concept further and produce a full size cartoon.  I have also done a bit of sampling with some voile fabric to see how simple tucks, folds and layers might look with some light behind.

sample tucks

polyester voile folded and machine stitched

I think I need to do some more drawings, perhaps using more colour, although the neutral palette I seem to have kept to still appeals to me.  Something to do with the nostalgia of sepia photography, old linens and dusty memories.

Project 10 A design project – Stage 2 – techniques


The textile artist Miranda van Dijk uses an image transfer technique to make her exquisite Puur Anders collection of jewellery inspired by nature and memories.

Puur Anders jewellery

I like the idea of using images that inspire memories.  I have photos of my grandparents’ home and my grandparents themselves and would like to feature these somehow in the final piece.  I need to find a way to transfer larger images or break the process down into manageable parts.  At the moment I am still looking at producing a large hanging work, like the noren door curtains I have posted about earlier.

I am concerned that I must make sure to incorporate enough in the way of techniques that were sampled earlier in the course so that I am able to demonstrate the learning process but I must be careful not to overload the final piece with “bits and bobs” just for the sake of it.  Often, keeping things simple is much more effective.

Noren – Japanese door curtain


“Door curtain” might conjure up the image of one of those colourful plastic strip curtains hanging in the doorway to keep the flies out of the house during the summer.   Practical and lots of fun for children.  I am sure I remember being chided for pulling on the strips at a friend’s house.  You can still get these curtains on eBay!

plastic door curtain for sale on ebayBeaded door curtains are a decorative item typical of the 1970s and still available, especially in the “new age” gift shops in the nearby town of Glastonbury.  This version made of wooden and bamboo beads is for sale at Argos:

beaded door curtain

I am intrigued by the way you have a tantalising view of the room beyond with these door curtains.  There is a sense of mystery.  The barrier is representative rather than actual as the materials are insubstantial and the curtain moves as soon as it is touched.  They also make a sound in a breeze.  The plastic strips swish and the beads rattle, a bit like the sound of the wind in a bamboo hedge.

The Japanese hang Noren, a split door curtain, in their doorways to welcome guests.  Traditionally shops would hang them in the doorway as a protection against sun, wind and dust and they are used as an additional advertising space.  They indicate the shop is open and are taken down at the end of the working day.


Noren usually have one or more slits all the way from the bottom to nearly the top to allow for passage through the curtain.




I am thinking of using a form of this door curtain as a basis for my final piece but I would like to have more than one layer and use a more transparent fabric to allow forms to show through.  I am awaiting a consignment of voile fabric I ordered online yesterday to start experimenting with how colours and shapes might show through the layers.

Project 10 A design project – Stage 2 – liminality


I found an interesting blog post from Studio Inscape here on the concept of “liminality”, a term I have not come across before.   From the Latin limen, defines liminality as 1. “relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process”  and 2. “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold” which links in to my theme of entrance.

Developing on the concept I had for my final project piece using memories and images of my grandparent’s home, I can see how my feelings as a child growing up in this secure and caring family home matured subtly over time as a I became an adult and the dynamics of the family group changed as the older members passed away and my own children arrived.  This was a coming of age rite of passage that everyone must experience in some form.