Saturday, 16 May 2020

An Inefficient Way to Make Progress

Chapter 6: Needle weaving

A note or two before I start on needle weaving.  Firstly about fabric.  The work on Chapter 4 was done on even weave linen, a piece from stock as I commented at the time.  It was lovely and crisp and dyed well, but pulling threads was not easy and when I couldn't source more I switched to scrim with it's looser weave.  However the stuff I sourced was brown.  On Sian's advice I bleached it and redyed it and it works so well: it's slubby and easy to pull.

Now for threads: all the blue threads and fabric strips I've dyed, usually in a batch when I dyed the fabric.  It's interesting to see the subtle colour range and how beautifully they work with the fabric.

This sampler doesn't seem to have the same orderly beauty of the previous one.  Instead it turned out to be a conversation with myself: what would that pattern look like in a larger scale? with a thicker thread? with a thread that varies in thickness along its length? with something that doesn't count as  thread at all?


I wrote these few paragraphs before a pause of over a year.  It's been a time of relinquishing stuff, moving house, having work done, visiting our daughter in America and very gradually restabilising.  We now live in a second floor apartment looking out on beautiful trees and some distance beyond, the sea.  As we say every morning, lucky ducks!

Back to needle weaving, to which I've added over the last few days and yes it is a jumble of experiments now added to with more careful attention paid to the chapter requirements.  Below are a series of photographs giving close-ups of the stitches.

Wrapping different lengths of warp threads using background thread, boucle and sari silk.

Buttonhole stitch, wrapping at intervals and a version of tapered shapes.

Ribbon weaving, plastic thread weaving, a band of multi-thread weaving and finally zigzag multi-thread weaving.

These samples were all done with the fabric stretched on a frame, and it seems to me that tension is the key to success when working on drawn threads -- tension and spacing and proportion.

As I read Moira McNeil's book on Drawn Thread Work the idea that fabric could be made fragile and lace-like was very appealing.   She suggests that the thread used to make these designs is a little heavier than the background fabric.  I found this unsuccessful, so below is a tentative experiment using the same thread and I wonder if this is worth exploring further?


Sunday, 24 June 2018

Chapter 6: Drawn Thread Work Stitchery

I've uploaded this image in extra large.  I am so excited by the results possible with what initially seemed to be such a restrained technique.  I love the rhythms that are created and the expressiveness that comes from using a range of unlikely "threads" giving depth and texture to the work.  All this in just blue and white.


Of course the journey to produce this piece was not wholly joyful.  My first experiments were with ribbons simply woven through the drawn threads, but the results seemed dull and I'm still not completely happy with the first row, made with a thick silk thread and rayon tape using herringbone stitch, the initial 5cm or so embellished with ties of withdrawn threads.

Row 2: a narrow band of drawn threads stitched and woven with white using tiny spiders webs across 3 threads.
Row 3: a broader band of drawn threads blue thread wrapped round 10 threads and beaded.
Row 4: a narrow band of drawn threads tied with multipurpose twine in polypropylene across 11 threads.
Row 5: a broader band of drawn threads woven and looped with a narrow linen strip across 6 threads, alternating with 6 vertical threads.
Row 6: as above with twisted chain over 10 threads.
Row 7: as above using withdrawn threads knotted over 10 threads alternating top and bottom, with tufts cut.
Row 8: three broad bands of withdrawn threads, 2 horizontal threads between, one row looped with thread of varied thickness, the second with sari strip, cross threads holding the loops in place.
Row 9: a broad band of withdrawn threads, thin string knotted and looped above and below.
Row 10: a narrow band of drawn threads interwoven with blue-grey ribbon over 10 threads, small slips of garlic paper are tucked underneath,
Row 11: a broader band of drawn thread, each 10 threads are twisted round with silk veiling angle cut then fixed with twisted chain stitch.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Chapter 5: Drawn Thread Work

Making a Start

My initial attempts at the first exercises of this chapter were made using window cleaning scrim.  Although the weave is loose and ideal from this point of view, the colour is dull and my attempt at dyeing it duller still.

 However there was enough in these images to show me just how delicate and attractive the end result could be.  I searched through my various storage places -- I am trying to search these before rushing out to find the perfect thing -- and discovered a smallish piece of white linen even weave which I cut into three 12cm wide strips.  It's always a dilemma deciding what size something needs to be for a sample.  This in fact turned out to be just right.

I experimented with dyes, using Ocean Blue (a Dylon dye I had in stock) adding a very little black to take away its purple edge.  I planned to use just blue and white, which I thought had the potential to be lovely, though I realise there are limitations in losing the mixed colour shown in the course material, where blue, orange and brown featured in the colour palette.  In the first dyeing session I painted horizontal stripes, later diagonal ones.

Exercises 1 and 2

And below are the photographs of both the first and second exercises using the horizontally and diagonally striped linen.  The visual effects are very pleasing and versatile.  I liked the results from pulling threads in two directions (5:5) and  because I have images of the sea in my mind (see Overstrand Beach below) I thought the technique gave a suggestion of waves and ripples. The fabric's qualities worked well with the technique shown in 5:4, producing increasing lightness and transparency as more and more threads were withdrawn.

Overstrand Beach



Image 5:6 shows threads displaced both horizontally and vertically with lines of loops and threads which have been stitched back into the fabric.

 Image 5:7 shows two contrasting ideas.  On the left rows of vertical threads have been withdrawn on a diagonal then restitched into the fabric creating loops of diminishing sizes.  I am attracted to this idea: it creates lightness and movement echoing the lively foaming quality of the Overstrand foreshore.  This technique also uses the linen's crispness and slub-like nature to good effect.
On the right horizontal rows of threads have been withdrawn then woven back into the fabric creating loose folds.  The threads have then been knotted.  This technique does not create such a light look as the one on the left but it would be interesting to see what effect could be achieved by making
many such folds.

Below in image 5:8 the qualities of the linen can again be appreciated: a crisp wiryness and an inclination by each thread to go its own way.



Above in image 5:9 the threads have been loosely twisted and knotted into the grid.  The natural spring of the warp and weft threads is almost impossible to control.  I put machine stitching on hold whilst I thought about it, feeling that the firm regularity of the machine stitching was at odds with the linen fibre's behaviour.  As I write this I realise that a more varied approach to machine stitching is needed and in 5:10 I have tried varying the density of both the white and variegated blue threads. The wing needle was a great help here. Perhaps the addition of hand embroidered stitching would be good too. I'll have to try this out.  Another opinion and some guidance would be helpful.



  • weaving threads and other materials into left-hand technique in 5:7 eg slub-like silk threads from dupion and thin strips of cellophane 
  • on samples such as 5:10 further experimentation with machine stitching using thicker threads or creating buildups of stitching with thinner threads, also handstitching

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Exhibition Visit

The most gorgeous day today.  The brightest spring sunshine growing in warmth as the day progressed; the oil seed rape leaping out of the ground and by our return many more lemon-yellow flowers danced in the field.

We were setting off for Ely to visit the Babylon Gallery down by the Waterside to see "Reflections and Revelations".  This is an exhibition of Helen Terry and Sally Tyrie's work, the result of a two year collaboration on Wicken Fen on the southern edge of Cambridge.

The work was wall mounted both as individual pieces and complementary pairs and groups, some framed in white, larger textile pieces by Helen Terry unframed.  Some black and white or sepiaed photographic work by both artists was wall mounted in a large block displayed in box lids. Tiny art books and other small works were boxed, the slip cases partially revealing their contents: all the work united by an attention to light and tranquility.

Sally Tyrie's wall displayed work was constructed from strips of subtly coloured and textured papers machined together some hide-like areas punctuating the soft colours and adding movement. Sally's work involves multi-layered mark making together with photography and print making to convey this lambent and lovely place.

Helen Terry is attracted to the "views from hides and reflections in the water" and uses silkscreen, mono-print, collage and drawing on dyed antique linen, acrylic and lens tissue which are then layered and hand stitched.  Elements, such a reeds, are echoed and reflected in a palette of carefully dyed neutrals.  We talked about her attention to colour and her choice of materials at a Meet the Artists session on the last day of the exhibition.  She stressed the importance of techniques serving the artist, so that what she noticed was conveyed directly to the viewer. She also talked about the challenge of bringing work to exhibition standard.  Both artists felt their collaboration had been a positive experience and one from which they had learned much.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Making Letters

Below are three letters created from paper pulp.  They needed very careful easing from the mesh, worth the care though with their attractive deckle edges.


Embedding and Laminating

A collection of embedded samples.  First of all snippings of thread arranged to look like oriental writing.  Some of the threads have come off leaving shallow indentations.  In sample 4:4:28 similar designs have been sandwiched between sheets of paper: the lower is slightly thicker, the upper made with tissue paper allowing the threads to show through.



The sample below shows letters made from thick tracing paper.  Here I was trying to replicate the glue sample 4: 2:14 made with Brusho over glue.  The white on white, however, is less successful and the piece poorly pressed.


Samples 4:4:30 and 4:4:31 show letters formed from magazine shard-like cuttings.



Ideas Running Ahead of Skills

Looking at Pinterest, as I'm sure we all do, I've been very taken with the idea of writing with paper pulp.  I'd assumed that I would be able to make my paper pulp, coloured or otherwise, fairly fine and by limiting the amount of water in the mix would put it in a turkey baster or plastic bottle with a nozzle which would enable me to pipe with it as I might on a birthday cake. I envisaged trying out some of the exercises tried in Chapter 2. As I described in my previous post the water separated from the pulp and trying to squeeze it through a nozzle resulted in the pulp blocking the baster and bottle nozzle.

I haven't been able to resolve this problem by Goggling it; no imaged of what I wanted to try were accompanied by any explanation or instructions.  However, I emailed Jean Hart who had taken me through my first steps in paper making.  Although she has not tried to do this herself she suggested using cotton linters instead of recycled paper and adding PVA to this.  I plan on trying her ideas out but would welcome any other advice.

My other lovely idea was to try making paper lace.  I stretch the fine knitted grid over a frame and dipped it in the pulp in the same way I would make a sheet of paper.  It wasn't possible to release the paper pulp from the grid, but I allowed it to dry on the net and tried easing it off.  No easy matter, and Sample 4:4:26 shows the fragments I managed to make.  Again a question: is this possible?  If so advice please about how to achieve a more successful result.