Thursday, 18 August 2022

Chapter 7 : Tactile Contrasts

 So here's an opportunity to take another look at my photographs and develop and extend ideas the from the previous few chapters.  It will be interesting to see how multiples of an idea might look, in some cases as a network, in others how they might appear layered.  This is just what I've already noticed countless times in my field.

So, my plan is to show all sixteen samples on my Sampler and then in pairs briefly describe what I was trying to do and how successfully the idea worked.  I have included quite a number of techniques from Caroline Bartlett's Workshop.  Individual samples are shown from left to right, top to bottom.


Row One:



 Here are spirals in different sizes to create an undulating surface.  As the threads are pulled up creases appear within and between the circles.  The threads are left to lie over them.  Below that sample is a narrower and more tightly spiralled version of an edge idea and unlike the version above the elements are detatched.


The first example using ideas from Caroline Bartlett's Workshop.  Beads have been wrapped with thread in silk organza, then steamed.  After the beads were removed each bubble was stitched on top with  running stitches between the bubbles. Further stitching would have created a more interesting as well as a greater contrast between bubbles and the background surface.


Here is an illusion of extreme flatness, the thread and fabric being stretched diagonally.

Row Two:


Another CB experiment and one I felt was a great success.  Triangles of silk organdie are wrapped round plastic tubing threaded with wire and curved into shape.  Steaming again fixes them and delightful translucent pods are the result.


A further CB idea: organdie tucked and stitched at varying intervals
 and gather to create a different undulating surface. The separate pods contrast with the integrated surface.


Still a surface, but this time opaque, pleated and densely stitched, the holes possibly imitating the light through the hedge bottom.


Here is "cracked ice": stiff, transparent, plastic the seams arranging themselves in mountain folds.

Row Three:


7:11 b

 This sample is the one that has caused me the most trouble.  I became fixated on trying to create my hedgerow by folding the fabric, drawing from my sketches and then cutting round them.  Whether in Vilene (b) or, organdie and organza (a), it still looks as if I'm in a fairytale wood with the proportions all wrong.

This, though pleated as in 7:11, is dense with no apertures.


Here are flakes of chiffon cut using a soldering iron, light, translucent with irregular frayed edges -- a barely there feel to the surface.


Here in contrast is the ground, dense, nearly opaque, patterned: undulating scrim looped through with silk.


Row Four:

Long stretched out, soft fabric rolled,wrapped in thread and knotted.  Here are a cluster of individual shapes.  They stretch between and beyond each other


Muslin randomly stitched and drawn into a soft puff -- more CB.  Another version of soft, cloud-like rather than insidious.


Strips of organza wrapped round cocktail sticks ( CB again) cut to length like blackthorn stems and spikes: hard, unrelenting in their threat and reaching out.


And finally, a translucent tucked and seamed landscape.  Instead of stretching upwards. like the black thorn it lies along the ground.

*     *     *

Scanning my samples I can see a good range of tactile qualities: the soft and the crisp , the hard and the cushiony, the smooth and the rough, the delicate and the strong, the concentrated and the thinned.  I think a tactile quality is the result of what the fingers feel and the eyes see, not feel alone.  Furthermore, it is how light inter-plays with any material used: its transparency, translucency and opaqueness, and how the light is reflected, or not, by that material.

These tactile samples try to evoke the qualities of landscape, understood in terms of a sense of dimension:how the samples appear to lie along, be vertical, have depth.  They have life and movement, seeming to twine round, enclose, open up, push through. A sense of place is challenging to create, close looking  and careful attention to materials are necessary to do just that.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Chapter 6: Tucks, Pleats and Gathers

 Tucks: I've chosen cotton organdie for this first series of technical samples.  The fabric is crisp with body helping it keep a fold well.  It's also transparent which shows the layers really well.

In Sample 6:1 I've been experimenting with the width of tucks and their spacing.  Pressing these to one side creates some nice sculptural effects, b) looks almost like a clump of blades of grass.

Sample b) in 6:2 really sits best with the 6:1 samples.  It's a double tuck, a narrow one centred on top of a wider one.  There is a formality about it and it gives a really nice raised surface.  Later, I randomly cross-stitched over them to disturb the formality but I wasn't really very happy with the result.

a) Edge Stitched   b) 1cm wide   c) 1cm wide, but at greater intervals
d) 1cm wide grouped

Below in 6:2 Sample a) shows off set darts and this makes for an irregular surface.  Sample c) is even more irregular.  This is made up of short lengths of tuck at random angles which also causes the fabric in between to crumple.  These could be stuffed.


Below in 6:3 are three further samples: far left random edge-stitched fine tucks, in the middle tucks made with a zigzag stitch where the width has been varied throughout its length. In the next variant this idea has been extended by using thick embroidery thread in the bobbin.  In both the second and the third samples the needle holes have really contributed to the tucks' appearance.


Finally in 6:4 are two samples, where the tucks have been repeatedly over-stitched using a zig zag -- the predominance of needle holes is again a feature.  On the right are very simple tucks which have been threaded with raffia and snipped along their length to expose the stuffing material.


Combination Tucks:  I found using non-fabrics for these samples really interesting, and was surprised how well they stitched.

First is 6:5 bubble pack, where tucks have been machined the full length of the material, then cut through diagonally, re-positioned and re-machined.  Jagged edges are produces and the off-set pieces catch the light in an interesting way.


Below in 6:6 plastic sheeting has been pin-tucked and edge stitched, cut at right angles to those tucks then re-seamed with some tucks uppermost and others facing downwards.  There is scope to use this idea more imaginatively by making the cuts less uniform and re-stitching to form more unpredictable lines in the landscape.


In 6:7 I've used plastic sheeting again (old envelopes from my Selvedge magazine).  Here the material has machine stitched tucks which have been threaded with several strands of thick wool.  This has been drawn up so that the plastic sheeting gathers creating soft pleats between each tuck.  The surface is nicely raised and remains translucent.



The final sample of these combination tucks is made with stiff clear plastic seamed and cut diagonally, then pieced together with some seams above, some below (the same technique as 6:6).  The effect is like cracked ice on a puddle, the facets are off-set and reflect the light.

Gathers:   Below are three samples of gathers using man-made (net curtain) and natural fibres (muslin).

 In 6:9 radiating gathers from a corner of the net curtain fabric which created a spider's web of soft folds


In 6:10 muslin has been stitched in diagonal lines in two directions creating a soft bubbling, puffy effect.


Then in 6:11 spirals have been stitched close together on a piece of muslin.  I had to pull these shapes from both ends to create this interestingly pleated surface and gradually ease the fabric along the thread: the pleats are both within and between the spirals.


Since the wonderful Summer School with Caroline Bartlett the world of manipulating fabric and other materials has opened still further and I'm  thoroughly enjoying experimenting with so many interesting ideas.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Chapter 5 : Wadded, Shaped and Padded : Corded Quilting

 Having spent very regular time in my field throughout the last year I've had ample time to look at branches, stems and stalks: the straight and stiff their surfaces reeded, like docks.

Other growth  may be curved or arcing studded with thorns or a covering of hairiness.  Then there are branches: thick, branching with the roughness of many year's pruning.

Softer is the long sinuous growth that wraps round everything it meets.  And later in the spring there are dandelion stems, soft tubular affairs.

I'm drawing these things to mind because any cords I use in the future may well need to have this range . . . Firstly, a sort through my Module 3 cords to see what might work..

I'd say I've really just played with the idea in this final section.  Sample 5:21 shows curved quite substantial cords stitched into cotton organdie using zigzag stitch.  Though I played with the stitch tension the results hardly show the cord, which is what I'd hoped to achieve, though it's interesting to see the tucks and slight pleats created by the curved cord.


In Sample 5:22 silk net is wrapped around a cord, herringbone stitch is used to secure it.  The stitch has become looped and the thread is rather too thick for my liking. It looks heavy handed.


Sample 5:23 is more successful.  It uses the same net and cord, but this time the net is loosely gathered around the cord and stitched in place with white.  I added zigzag stitching by hand with a toning space dyed thread; it seemed to need it.  I like this sample very much.  It has a quality of a leaf skeleton about it.  It's really interesting to see the way in which crumpled silk net can support the weight of the cords.


For Sample 5:24 I'm back on the sewing machine trying out a twin needle and playing with stitch length and tension.  The results are random and beautifully unexpected.  These are yet more old stock cords on smooth cotton organdie.

In Sample 5:25 a very different combination with a different effect: this time twisted space-dyed sari silk on toweling.  I'm working on the back of both samples, so each time the result is a surprise. I twist the sari silk as it goes through the machine. It's not as hard as cord and because the toweling has a pile the sari silk ceases to have a clear edge and becomes embedded. Some escapes the stitching entirely, which is pleasing too. On either side are twin stitching directly onto the toweling, another attractive effect.
I had hoped to use some of my lovely space-dyed silk threads but for the machine to accommodate these I need to tweak the tension further.



These two ideas in combination might create an interesting surface.


And here in 5:26 a little more experimenting.  The colours are a little bolder: I'm using what I have in stock and I've managed to solve the tension problem. I was also able to include other twin-stitched thread and try overlaying several rows of stitching.  My preference is the more subtle 5:25 which I think is less about pattern, more about mood.  If I use this technique in the future I need to buy some King Tut in neutral shades. Interestingly the density of stitching stiffens the piece and makes it almost free standing.

Then finally, a technique I found in "Machine Embroidery Stitch Techniques" by Valerie Campbell-Harding and Pamela Watts.  It just appealed, though again the threads might  benefit from being more subtle.  Rows of multi-thread linen are zigzagged down on very thick linen in short runs.  The gaps between are cut and the multi-threads partially separated creating splayed tufts.  5:28 is the reverse of this piece.



Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Chapter 5 : Quilting, Padding and Stuffing -- Padded Quilting

When I read the instructions for padded quilting I imagined there would be great potential in the technique: I thought I'd be able to realise some lovely effects, translating a whole variety of plant shapes and surfaces. I've been disappointed by my results. My machine tension (how I do agree with those posting on facebook who fear getting their machine out), the tools for drawing designs on fabric and stuffing techniques, all of these are factors.  Then I pressed my work on the reverse and I have wrinkles spoiling it.  Oh the disappointment; oh the time taken.

 Dandelion is first in this set, with calico on top and scrim beneath.  I used a pencil used to mark out the design, a poor choice as the marks remained. The shape is complex with points and narrow areas and I tried both cotton wool and polyester fibre fill as padding.  Pointed scissors were best for moving the padding through.  The scrim side could also be used on top with random stitches to draw the slits together.


The following four samples feature docks, lovely straight stems with branches sprinkled with seeds.  I used yarn, some thick, some thin to pad the stems with fibre fill for the seed heads.

I've achieved some delicacy in the drawing of docks, which improved as I practised: 5:15 and 5:16 are freehand machining with no initial drawing. The seedheads, however, are too bulbous.  I used lawn on top and scrim below and, a confession, no frame which explains the seedheads.


5:16 has cotton organdie above and fine wool below.  I have better control over the machine, but the seedheads this time are too small to pad.


For 5:17 I used an Adger Chako Ace Pen, which only partially faded on the cotton lawn. The bottom layer is muslin. 5:18 is again freehand and probably the most successful outline, with the dock stems and seedheads in proportion..

5:17 and 5:18

Now for different subject matter: for 5:19 I used a tracing of one of my charcoal hedge drawings.  Whilst the drawing has potential I'm not sure whether the technique is appropriate. Silk organdie is the top layer, with muslin beneath. The machine stitching is poor, a mismatch in top and bottom threads -- in summary, more practise needed.


And here below a second,  I've taken another hedge drawing, this time scaling it up to give slightly wider branches.  I've used silk noile in top with muslin beneath.
Machine tension is now correct and I free-machined the outline.  The work was in a frame, as it was for the photograph.  I'm still not happy with the result as the fabric is rippled round the shapes leaving them indistinct.  My conclusion remains that this technique is not a match for the subject matter!


Sunday, 3 April 2022

Chapter 5: Quilting, Padding and Stuffing -- Shaped Quilting

 Below are a series of shaped quilting samples, using a variety of fabrics (top and bottom), padding materials and stitches to hold the padding in place.

Calico, scrim, docks from my field and seed stitching.

Above is my favourite of these four samples.  I like the translucency of the scrim and the way its tone is deepened by the stitching.  Although the stitching is neutral I can see how further interest could be developed by using colours toning with the dock stalks, especially if the thread is space-dyed.

Calico, muslin, long slices of compostable 
                                                            packaging and blanket stitch.

Possibly the least successful of the four samples, although the blanket stitching does imitate the way grass and weeds grow around any rock, stone or other random item left in the field.

Calico, viscose, short slices of compostable
packaging and running stitch..

In this sample the background running stitch circles echo the circles of packaging and imitate the clusters of mushrooms which pop up after rainy weather.

                                                        Wool, velvet, wire and stem stitch.

The garden wire creates some interesting undulations in the surface and the pile within the stitched shapes has taken on a different tone.  I've also used three different threads resulting in other small differences eg how the light is caught and whether the thread and velvet merge together.

Chapter 5 : Quilting, Padding and Stuffing -- Wadded Quilting

 Wadded Quilting 

 So these first three samples are by way of "getting my eye in".  I've based the designs inevitably on my field.

The first uses a calico backing, lawn to and  man-made padding, with running stitch to quilt the layers.  It's very straight forward and effective.


The two images below show both sides of a quilting sandwich which uses scoured cotton and  scrim with the same man-made padding.  The running stitch shows the tree outline clearly on the scoured scrim, less so on the scrim where the stitching has pulled through the very lose weave.



Now for some more adventurous combinations:

Firstly, two versions using calico and netting with paper shreddings in between.

In 5:4 I used double lines of running stitch, which were very challenging to achieve and no where near as effective as the fly stitch on 5:5.  One point of difference between the two samples was the more careful sorting of the coloured shreddings.  Secondly, fly stitch seems a much better echo of the jumbled small strips of paper, though the sheen on the thread maybe works less well.  Net  really is an ideal fabric for showcasing both stitch and stuffing.



The next sample shows the same fabric combination, but with elongated curls of wood shavings.  Large, irregularly sized cross stitches in a wiry jute are used to hold the sandwich together.  A thicker fibre thread might be more obvious, but I do like the way it's visible at one moment, disappearing between the curves of the shavings the next.



In the second version jute knots have been used to secure the layers.  Again, the string used to tie the layers doesn't make the knots fully visible: the string's too thin and its tone too close to that of the shavings.  It's a question of finding something that will fit through a needle.  A solution for thicker string would be to use an empty needle to make a hole and push the string through -- fine for making knots, but not for an embroidery stitch.

Thinking about the hedgerow I've been studying, so much in nature has tones that are very similar, so maybe I'm being over critical. 

And next, calico, two-way stretch fabric (white tights) and wood shreddings ( another challenging padding) with lines of fly stitch.

What is particularly interesting about combining the two fabrics is that by pulling the stretch fabric quite tightly a curve can be created. I can see how interesting this can be, especially if a number of such pieces are attached to each other.


Then finally in this group 5:8, a calico, scrim and sawdust combination with lines of double crosses.

This really was a very impractical combination with the sawdust escaping its sandwich and failing to remain in place once stitched.  However, I do like that impression of something newly excavated!