Saturday, 8 December 2012

Functional 3D Embroidered Item : First Thoughts

My first instinct on reading the details of this task was to design a collar, something soft, possibly transparent in some way.  During my photographic course some years ago now we were asked to produce some work using layers in Photoshop.  I took some very imperfect self-portraits -- can such a thing ever be satisfactory? -- then took images of hat veiling, my own wedding veil and a piece of garden fleece and married the two. The notion of something half-seen is enticing.  The photographic work, a love of fashion and some dressmaking experience seemed to come together.

So, with the optimism of all new projects, here goes . . .

Now to some analysis of how to achieve what's in my mind's eye.

1) What will the collar be attached to?
Possibly a soft tweed dress (greyscale) or a black v-neck cardigan.  I might need to make the former, the latter I have already.

2) What sort of fabric should the collar be made of?
 I wrote hat veiling on the sketch above and thought I might embroider it in some way, however, I don't think the skills I've been practising in this module will be compatible.  Sian mentioned silk organza and I've been trying out organza seams alongside those for Chapter 8.

Sample 1 above
Seam on the left stitched with thread matching fabric and pressed to one side.
Seam on right with invisible thread and pressed to one side.
Centre seam shows organza overlapped, stitched with invisible thread and frayed.

Sample 2 above:
Seam is stitched with invisible thread and pressed open.

Sample 3 above:
Seam overlapped with organza strip inserted, all four edges are frayed.

Comment: The invisible thread will work best as it disappears into the organza and will not distract from any embroidery.  I like the pressed open seams with inserted and frayed strips; it's a subtle way of seaming.

3) Collar shape?
My sketch is only a hint of how it will look, some reference here to fish fins and tails.  It does not show how the edge is to be achieved or finished, nor as importantly how it is to be attached to the dress or cardigan neckline.  For illustrations of collar shapes generally I looked at the Victoria and Albert online archive. With regard to the practical elements of making the collar -- the shape of the fabric pieces and how it is to be attached I'm referring Janet Arnold's books "Patterns of Fashion" and considering gathering, pleating and smocking.

 Sample 4 Gathering
 Sample 5 Pleating
Samples 6 Smocking

Comment: All three samples have been tried on a piece of organza 20cm x 20cm and all three techniques can reduce  the fabric width by the same amount.  The samples have been made on a rectangle, however, the fabric shape will be curved to fit the garment neckline when I make the collar.  At this point I think gathering or pleating will allow more flexibility in shaping the fabric.  

4) Now colour?
Do I leave the organza its lovely soft white or dye it using Shibori methods.  There's the interplay of colour and pattern with gathering, pleating and smocking to consider.


Samples 7 above:
A range of different stitch treatments with Dylon Black Velvet dye.

Comments: As a result of the dyeing process the feel of the organza is less crisp; it's lighter and softer.  The organza takes the dye well and is a really deep black.  To make the collar I will need to dye about a metre of fabric. Matching the marks along the seams will need careful attention so that the seams are lost in the design.

5) And embellishments?
Do I add machine embroidery?  I would like to include words, but what of blackwork and hand-stitching?  How about some delicate beading along the edge?

 Samples 8 above:
Overlapping frayed seam over-stitched words in fine machine thread.
Overlapping frayed seam over-stitched with radiating lines of zigzag in embroidery and metallic thread.  The reverse of this sample is below.

Comment: The embroidered samples show how effective embroidery can be on organza whether it's with fine and thick thread.

Next Steps:
a) Seam samples using Shibori organza.
b) Embroidered samples on Shibori organza using light as well as dark tones.
c) Samples to explore seaming and embroidery with gathering, pleating and smocking.


  1. This looks beautiful and so elegant, can't wait to see how it pans out.
    Funnily enough I've also decided upon a collar but its totally different from yours; it'll be intriguing to see how we both progress.


  2. I love your plan for a collar. Can't wait to see it.