Category Archives: Project 10 A design project

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.

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

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

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resist-dyed dupion silk with couched lurex thread

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roughly tacked torn and folded voile

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couched embroidery silk produce the thicker lines

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I debated whether to cut the slits in the middle curtain

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trying to show the layers

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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

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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 Focusing on your theme book – Entrance


The preamble to this project suggests having in mind an end product textile, whether it be a complete item or part of a larger piece of work.  At the same time we are recommended not to focus too heavily on this too early on to allow for creativity to flow.  This leads me to feel on the one hand that I should be seeking to plan for a particular end product, whilst on the other hand I should allow for changes in direction.  The whole thing is a slightly daunting prospect but one I am willing to tackle full on and see where it gets me!

So far I have been inspired by images from my immediate environment of gates and doorways, and also by the more colourful entrances from the mediterranean and other locations where the strong sunlight is complemented by strong brightly coloured paintwork and decoration.  I have  compiled a Pinterest board full of vibrant images of doorways that have captured my imagination and would like to use them as inspiration for colour development.

I have been drawn to use the word “entrance” as a starting point for my theme project and so far I have compiled a small sketchbook with cuttings, photographs and some sketches inspired by this word directly.  I have found that researching into the use of the word itself has produced some very useful avenues of further investigation but that it was very easy to get side-tracked and a little too focused on one particular idea so I have tried to keep things open and varied up to this point.

An initial idea for an end product that was formed early on came from looking at doorways and the concept that the opening was similar to the opening of the front of a coat.  I could see that a person wearing a large overcoat, perhaps left unbuttoned, was like a head coming through a low doorway.  The collar might be the pediment or lintel over the doorway, the open coat front like the door opening and the sleeves the door frame, etc.  So this line of development is immediately obvious and could have a strong end product, even if I only made part of the coat as a final piece.

final piece inspiration

At the same time as developing this idea I was also thinking about the word “entrance” in the way that you might “make an entrance”, the more nebulous concept of entry such as debutantes entering into society, babies entering the world, and the feelings this might evoke.  This led me to think about my own personal experience of entering the world, homes, society, work, other peoples lives.  I thought about all the places I had entered then I began to compile a list of the places I had lived in since birth.  I found I needed to specify that these should be proper homes and not just holiday visits.  I decided that a stay of two weeks or more would be more home than holiday and came up with a list of 15 locations that fitted this criteria.  Looking at the list in chronological order I realised that there was one location where I have lived more than once, entered into innumerable times that, although not officially my own home, I feel was most like home to me.

St Peters Cott

This is my maternal grandparent’s home, an old stone terraced house in a village in the Somerset Mendips.  This was the place my parents brought me after we came home from the hospital in London where I was born.  My mother and I stayed for a good few months whilst my father found work and a place of our own to live.  This was the place I came to stay for Christmas and Easter holidays every year and many weekends in between to spend time with my English grandparents, my only other close family living in this country, other than my parents, having no brothers or sisters nor aunts, uncles or cousins as both my parents were also only children.

Aged 4 + Honey

As a young woman this was the place I stayed to help my grandfather look after my dying grandmother to give my mum a break.  Then, when I got married and we started our own family this was the place we came to visit my grandfather when he lived there on his own.  Later, when my grandfather went to live in a care home in the village and my parents took on the cottage, we would come and visit Mum and Dad and look in on my grandfather.  This was the place where I brought my own little family to stay for several months when we had just sold our own cottage and had to have somewhere to stay whilst waiting for completion on our next house and the arrival of our second child.  For a few years more this was the place we came to visit “Granny and Grandpa” with the children until renovations were finished and the house was sold.

Although I have properly lived a lot longer in my own last house, my Grandparents’ cottage is the one place I would look back on and say it was a real home.  Of course this has more to do with the people and the memories than the bricks and mortar but the memories are very strongly linked with this house and the comings and goings through the old front door.

So perhaps, rather than “entrance”, my theme should be re-named “home”.  What do you think?

This progression of my theme seems a lot less strong at this stage but at the same time it means a lot more to me because of the personal interest.  Also, I have only a vague idea of an end product – some kind of ceiling-hung panel or panels representing a doorway is how I visualise it at the moment.  But when it comes to materials or techniques the only idea I have currently is that the fabric should be transparent in some way, giving the impression of memories of past times.