Tag Archives: Textile

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 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 Paint.net 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.

Bath Spa University School of Art and Design degree show


My two arty girls and I met my Mum yesterday at the Sion Hill campus of Bath Spa University to take a look around their degree show exhibitions.  Both Mum and I are former alumni of the University in it’s former incarnation as Bath College of Higher Education and it was interesting to see how things have changed since I was last there for a visit more than 20 years ago.

There was a huge amount of work to look at, mainly fine art and mixed media at this site, but we also ventured across town to the other venue in Oldfield Park.  Dartmouth Avenue Studios is sited in a council depot so I can see why they don’t feature it at all on the University website but, again, there was plenty of space full of interesting work and a lot more textile pieces seemed to be here.  I didn’t see any fashion or clothing items, apart from one or two costume pieces that were interspersed with other work.  We were all intrigued by the monochrome Bob Marley inspired WC interior …

I didn’t take a lot of photographs, as I learned from an unfortunate incident at Winchester Art College in my younger student days, that some students can get quite uncomfortable with this.

Highlights included some extremely well executed woven pieces from Emily Moore, exquisite layered cutwork from Helen Muir, stage costume from Kym Gribble and humorous contemporary iconography from Polly Hughes.

I did sneak a few shots of Amy Rapley’s painted wall hangings because there was some interesting layered work which was relevant to my theme project:

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I could see paint, cut and applied papers, pencil drawings, cut outs, gold leaf and much more.   An incredible amount of detail.

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I was sorry not to have seen any of the fashion students’ work and we also missed the MA exhibition but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next show as the majority of work was, in my opinion, of a very high standard.

This blog has images showing work from the 2013 textiles graduates but we did not see many of these on our visit.  I am wondering if they had a separate location or perhaps we missed the dates.

Stroud International Textiles and Site Festival May 2013


Recently a fellow OCA Textiles student and I visited Stroud to take a look at some of the exhibitions and open studios during Stroud International Textiles Spring Select.

I left my camera-phone in the car.   Major fail.  Typical.

However, that did not prevent us from having a great time looking at some wonderful textile and art work.

First stop was Stroud College where the SIT weaving symposium was in full swing in one of the lecture rooms.  We had a look at the books for sale in the foyer and I have now put Hand Stitch, Perspectives by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating on my Amazon wishlist.  Also on display here was a small collection of very well executed recent work by fashion and textiles students at the college.

We then went along to the Museum in the Park where we found:

  • tapestries by Hillu Liebelt – my favorite was Chasing the Summer (2011), a bold, blue and red, large, horizontal panel in silk, rayon, cotton and bamboo fibre.
  • a hand dyed and woven paper piece specially commissioned for the site by Japanese artist Seiko Kinoshita English Summer Fields Soundscape: Sound of weaving.
  • Mother Love by Ingrid Hesling and Jenni Dutton – two artists’ interpretations of the relationships between mother and daughter using traditional techniques in an unusual way.  Jenni Dutton was observing her mother over the time she was suffering with dementia and produced The Dementia Darnings, a series of large portraits of her mother, some reproduced from family photographs and all made using tapestry wool and other yarns through fine net fabric.  Close up you can see how the artist has blended the yarns to produce the required colours, very similar to the work of Cayce Zavaglia who uses stitch in a painterly way.  Ingrid Hesling’s work A Stitch in Time incorporates embroidery on vintage linens that the artist found after the death of her mother.  She explores her complicated and sometimes difficult relationship with her mother in a series of embroideries that also incorporate photographic images.

Brunel Broderers exhibition Suited was at the Lansdown Hall and Gallery.  Hobbs tailors abandoned their shop some years ago and then recently offered access to the Broderers who used the fabrics, haberdashery and notions to inspire their work for this show.  Tailoring techniques and luxury woollen and silk fabrics are used in novel ways.  Of particular interest to me were the artist’s sketchbooks which are available for visitors to view.

We went on to look around the Studio Seven textile workshop at Stroud Valleys Artspace open studios where we found work by Francesca Chalk, Sarah Jenner, Anne Rogers, Kathryn Clarke, Corinne Hockley, Jenny Bicat and Liz Lippiatt.  I especially enjoyed Corinne Hockley’s theatrical costume pieces and the gorgeously coloured devore prints by Liz Lippiatt.  Also at SVA we saw Zoe Heath‘s beautiful, intricate books and small scale artworks made from found objects.

Later we found ourselves at The Weaving Shed where Sally Hampson, artist and weaver occupies a disused shop in Stroud High Street, a residency assisted by SVA, and engages with visitors in the process of weaving.  Looms are available ready set up for introduction to weaving workshops where students learn to experiment with techniques, yarns and fabrics.

On the way home we stopped off at Frogmarsh Mill in South Woodchester where more artists work was on display as part of the open studios event.  Cleo Mussi‘s colourful and quirky mosaics feature old ceramics and found objects to make wall plaques.  We also saw Fiona Hesketh’s delicate jewellery, Annie Hewitt’s glowing cobalt decorated earthenware tableware and Jacqueline Kroft’s fair trade hand knitted clothing.  Finally we chatted with Jennifer Whiskerd, artist and printmaker who has also been an OCA tutor, and enjoyed looking at her woodcut prints based on the antics of the local wildlife.

Project 9 – Stage 3 – Experimenting with different materials


In this exercise we are asked to work freely and try out different materials in a new woven sample.  I chose to use a range of fibres and other materials from my “yellow” colour box.  This includes natural colours as well as brights.

DSC_0044I warped up with the same dish cloth cotton as before and wove a few rows in some tapestry wool.  To start I experimented with soumak using some chunky hemp string then went on to use some plastic gift wrap string – the type that you can unwind to make big bows.  I flattened it out a bit before weaving and it looked good on the loom but after it was released from the tension of the loom the plastic looks like it is trying to curl up again, an interesting effect in itself.

I then went back to some more soumak using some yellow sisal string which is stiff so loops quite loosely around the warp threads.  I should try again with something even more stiff to see the effect that gives.  Then I tried again with the thick hemp string to experiment with a darker and lighter background.  The chunky string obsures the plain rows a lot but the different coloured backgrounds give a subtle effect.  More experimentation needed again here.

DSC_0045Here I have tried some more curved shapes using a variety of materials including sari silk waste yarn on the bottom left, orange plastic fruit nets making the thick orange lines, yellow fruit nets making the yellow area to the right, gold chenille yarn on the left and some strips of plastic carrier bag, kept flat whilst weaving, making the light area at the top of the image.

DSC_0046In this section I have combined the plastic carrier bag strips with some variegated woollen yarn in the same pick which makes an interesting dotty line texture.

DSC_0047Here I just had a bit of fun with strips of Tunnocks Caramel wafer biscuit wrapper which I had heated previously with an iron giving the bobbly texture.  It works well for a novelty image but the plastic is quite fragile in the narrower strips.  Also, because of the nature of the image you have to leave the ends free at the selvedge so I had to use some sticky tape across the back to stop them falling off the edge of the warp.  If you wanted to see more of the original image you could use a Nylon thread for a warp instead.

DSC_0048For these rows I have combined materials within the picks, using strips of knit fabrics along with woollen yarns.  Plain yellow shetland wool sweater with some brown chunky wool that has coloured slubs to the bottom of the image.  Then some 1960s Nylon jersey in a gold and tan print is combined with some red/brown wool. Finally I cut inch wide strips of a black and gold lame jersey fabric and stretched them out a bit.  The strips start to curl when stretched and I layed some pure undyed wool pencil rovings inside the curl and wove these.  The effect is interesting but I didn’t have enough space to weave many rows.

DSC_0049Here I have used Ghiordes knots to weave some strips of yellow jersey lycra fabric which gives a good shaggy effect and between the knotted rows I wove a couple of plain rows using strips of cream coloured tights.  Finally I combined a variety of cream and yellow woollen threads for a couple more rows of Ghiordes knots and finished with some plain weave rows of cream silk threads.

In between experimenting with different effects I have woven some plain rows using natural raffia and hessian threads which seem to work well.  I also like the effect made on the back of the work by the soumak, it is like short vertical lines and might come in useful later.

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.