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.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Chapter 8 : Not What it Seams

The gestation period for this chapter has been long, but with the arrival of my glasses a month ago I've now been able to get on with close work.  Not only have I finished Chapter 8 but I've also made a start on my ideas for the functional three-dimensional embroidered item.  This is to be a collar made of organza, more of which very soon . . .

I don't want you to think that complete idleness has taken over during the last few months.  Oh no, a project of surprising complexity and disruption has been taking place: the removal of my computer and photographic equipment from dear husband's study downstairs and into my workroom upstairs where some superfluous furniture (my son's bed -- he's now 31 and married) needed removing.  The plan as I outlined it sounded simple enough and was agreed in principle.  Moving from concept to action is not always easily achieved,  however, a game of golf gave me time and there was no going back.

We live in an old house; the walls are thick and the internet needed much coaxing and Netgear to function in its new location.  The rooms stripped out clearly needed decorating, a carpet replaced, an extraordinarily large collection of books reduced and sorted, sewing kit centralised and so on and so on.  And now?  We have two beautiful and serene work spaces.  And yes, it was worth it, for us both.

Very restrained decorations in subtle shades of soft navy.  There's almost an Oriental feel to these examples and the insertions relate well to the surface pattern.

The top sample is again quite restrained.  The knots introduce another tone to the sample (mid-grey) and white may have worked better.

The second sample uses loops of a white torn strip of fabric.  They were applied like a line of handwriting loops along the seam.

In this sample two pieces of fabric have been bonded to each other and then laced through holes made with a stiletto.  The lacing tones with the lines of metallic thread on the fabric.

Two samples where stitching decorates the seams. At the top rows of darning stitch are applied by hand criss crossing the seam.  Below machine zig-zags follow the seam, echoing the shibori design on the fabric.

In both these samples bonded fabric has been used.  During my tutorial Sian emphasised how successful relating the type of insertion to the fabric's surface pattern could be. 

In the top sample two sizes of sequins have been trimmed into irregular shapes and applied across the seam.

In the second sample irregular holes of differing sizes have been cut into the seam and the shapes turned over and appliqued on to and overlapping the seam.

Here two layers of net have been cut in a jagged strip and inserted allowing the fabric below to be seen.

Again following an idea discussed with Sian I made fish stitched and stuffed with cotton wool and given bead eyes.  In reality the sample is much more 3D than can be seen here.  The sample might be more successful with more fish of varying sizes to link seam and the piece of fabric together.

Simple Ideas for Trimming

Below are a range of ribbons, cords and toggles.  Once my imagination was fired I had no shortage of ideas and as I post this blog I have further thoughts still simmering in my mind.  I've tried to be flexible in my interpretation of ribbons, cords and toggles and used fabrics beyond those I had collected and dyed.  It was useful to go back to Chapter 4: Drawing Patterns, to look again at the mackerel, herring and trout.  I deliberately set out to use untried techniques, inspired by the books of Valerie Campbell-Harding and Janet Edmonds, whose structured approach and clear prose is always so helpful.
Ribbon - a long narrow strip of fabric used for tying something or for decoration.

Ribbons described from top to bottom:
1. Strip of hand-dyed fabric printed with acrylic paint using corrugated card, edges zigzagged and pinked.
2. Strip of the above fabric, silk threads bonded under organza and over-stitched along the edges.
3. Strip of the above fabric, sequined and mounted on a strip of black fringed fabric,
4. As above and zigzagged with hand-dyed cotton rayon slub.
5. Strips of three different scale and width spotted fabrics layered.

6. Interwoven lines of script, edges zigzagged.
7. Narrow strip of fabric hemmed, thin wire inserted and zigzagged in place.  Caution, where the needle catches the wire it puls through the fabric.
8.Narrow strip of fabric, stitched with a zigzag design along its length, hemmed and beaded.
9. Length of gathered black net stitched along a length of hand-dyed fabric, the edges pinked.
10. Strip of spotted fabric stitched along a length of wider black fabric and over-stitched.

11.Two wide strips of hand-dyed fabric sprinkled with black fabric scraps and over-stitched both width ways and length ways using Vilene Soluweb to stabilize during the process.  After washing through the edges are stitched with a decorative stitch.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Cord -- long thin string or rope made from several twisted strands.

The cords are described from left to right:
1. Fine strand of cotton perle corded with black machine thread.
2. Strip of brown-black velvet corded with silver-black metallic thread.  The fabric was threaded through the cording foot pile side down so that the pile showed.
3. Strips of black sari waste and black and white gingham corded with silver-black metallic thread.
4. Three single strands of thin grey wool corded with silver-black metallic thread and plaited.
5. A twist of three cords -- white knitting tape corded with black and two cords of Narvik wool corded with silver-black metallic thread.
6. Tube of grey-black dupion threaded with several strands of thin wool and gathered.

Again fro left to right:
1. Strip of black and white spotted fabric, rough edges turned in and knotted.
2. Strip of organza which has been dyed using a Shibori technique and knotted.  The result is very light and insubstatial.
3. Sari waste and knitting tape corded separately and then together with silver-black metallic thread and knotted at close intervals -- a very attractive cord with weight.
4. Sari waste corded yet again with silver-black metallic thread, then again to attach short strips of the sari waste.
5. Corded brown-black velvet with the addition of short lengths of raffia dyed with black ink and fine silver wire spirals.  This time the fabric was threaded through the cording foot pile side uppermost so that the pile did not show.
A toggle -- a narrow piece of wood or plastic attached to a garment, pushed through a loop to act as a fastener. 

The toggles are grouped and described clockwise from top left:
1. Rolled paper, printed on the white cartridge paper, or painted black and a range of threads or fine   beading wire wound on.  The ends are wound with a narrow strip of paper, again painted black as are the ends.
2. Elongated triangles of printed paper rolled to make a  rounded shape rather than the cylinders above.  Both groups one and two could be attached by threading a strip of fabric through the bead.
3. Long strips of fabric (dyed cotton and net) bound with thread and then coiled.  The smaller toggle is firm to the touch and the addition of a sequin or button allows it to be attached to an item.  The net toggle is more of a rosette, though attractive not really practical as a fastening.
4. Padded white muslin beaded with tiny matte grey beads.  A rounded scrunched piece of black muslin fastened with crosses of thick linen thread.
5, More paper cylinders wrapped in threads, felt embroidered with fine lines and trimmed with tiny sequins or sari waste wrapped with fine beading wire, creating smooth and textured surfaces.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Looking with New Eyes

What a wonderful transition the last month has brought: new eyes.

I left Urchfont preoccupied, knowing that my first eye "procedure" (a not entirely relaxing euphemism) would take place the following morning.  Dear husband came to drive me home and offer moral support.  The hospital isn't far away, and is brand new thanks to a substantial gift.

I am taken in and processed.  Sitting amongst the elderly, the wheelchair bound, at sixty two I feel misplaced.  We move inexorably towards the operating room, drop by antiseptic and dilating drop, wrist named, now left eyebrow marked and checked yet again before blue-hatted, hand held, I meet the team in the white-lit operating room.

Now ten days later after my second op, a veteran, no cataracts, new lenses, my brain accustomed to this state of play, I am amazed.  I joke I have the eyes of a seventeen year old, since that was the time at which my eyes began to fail.  It is a curious thing though to see myself and others without the barrier of external lenses.  It is exciting to see the world so sharply.  However, and isn't there always an however, small print and threading needles remain a challenge uncorrected by the "procedure" and must wait -- for glasses!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Chapter 7 : Traditional Piecing Methods

 I've thoroughly enjoyed making both these paper and fabric Seminole samples, so different from the Log Cabin experience.  I felt better able to choose and compose both papers and fabrics, to see the sort of balance I wanted to achieve, adjust choices between the paper sample and the fabric one, even to predict the rotational effect of my embroidered strips.  Initially I was rather grudging about using these strips, I seemed to take so long to make them, but their use in the Seminole work is really effective and I'm unexpectedly thrilled with the results.  You may ask why I didn't use them and my profusion of dyed samples when it appears from the blog that I made the Log Cabins last; in fact I don't seem to work like that, my approach is more scatter gun ricocheting between ideas, materials and skills, eventually moving towards order.  This is where the blog, and later on the workbook I keep (yes, as well as my diary!), is so useful.  It enables me to stand back and see some of the things I've missed.  So below really is the conversation my paper samples had with the fabric ones.

Paper Samples 1 and 2, very simple ideas -- cutting at an angle, cutting straight.  I found I did quite a lot of playing with angles to get the right effect.  With the fabric samples I was always wishing I had a longer run of strips.  The moral of this is, and I say it particularly about the embroidered ones, always make more than you think you need.  But then you can't easily tell what and how much you'll need.
The second paper sample again makes use of bleached black tissue and printed cartridge paper., creating that Japanese feel.

Fabric sample 1 adjusted the first paper sample by making the two diamonds of the same fabric.  It remains an uncut border.

Fabric Sample 2 -- the choice of fabrics here produces an interesting effect.  The dyed mottled fabric makes explosive windows in the spotted fabric.  Such a pity that the images don't show the subtle blue-grey of the dyed fabric.

Paper Sample 3 -- bleached tissue and black created an Art Deco feel.

Fabric Sample 3 -- reversing alternate chevrons (though sadly not enough strips) and using dyed fabric and scribbly embroidered strip. (Please ignore the numbers on the samples.)

 Fabric Sample 4 -- dyed and embroidered strips together with a bought fabric.  I found an old book on my shelf "The Seminole Patchwork Book" by Cheryl Greider Bradkin which has a good sixty patterns,  This is my interpretation of one of them.  I like the impression of waves, again the interplay of the two spotted fabrics, enhanced by the random quality of the embroidered one.

Fabric Sample 5 -- again a working of arrows.  I'm less pleased with the fabric choices, an attempt to use paler tones, but it simply seems insipid.

Paper Sample 4 -- below a simple zig zag, above three strips making a zig zag.  I prefer the more complex sample which has an open book-like quality to it, complete with spines, and is interpreted in Fabric Sample 6 below.

Paper Sample 5 -- a multi zig zag design using different width of strips.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

I really enjoyed making these.  Having grouped my papers into some sort of greyscale it was interesting to play with tonal effects in these samples.  I was especially surprised by how well the yellow bleached papers complimented the more starkly contrasting black and white papers.  The combination of colour and designs on the papers create an almost Japanese feel to the first sample.  All of the strips are the same width with dark and light on opposite sides of the square.

Sample 2 is made from the same width strips, but uses mid and dark tones.  It's interesting to see how the patterns randomly link with each other, creating surface disturbance, almost ripples.

Sample 3 uses a combination of wide and narrow strips.  I liked the intensity created by using narrow strips. Again the interplay of one truncated pattern against another is interesting.

Sample 4 is Courthouse Steps and to me, my choice of papers is least effective.  Rather than enhance the more formal design it seems to have made it more chaotic.

Sample 5 is Crazy Log Cabin, quite tricky to make everything fit, and the design gives a nice feeling of movement.  I think the paper choices would have worked better if I had graduated the size of the patterns.

And now for log cabin designs translated into fabric.  I've tried hard to decide why exactly I found this activity the least interesting of the chapter.  Probably I haven't done sufficient samples, and I will try to redress that, as I know these don't include any of my dyed and embroidered fabrics.  My fabric choices and the order in which I pieced them did improve over the three samples and the learning I've done her certainly made me feel more confident and happy with the Seminole strips.
Sample 1 below was an attempt to use some of my least favourite fabrics and is rather a hotch-potch.

In Sample 2 I seem to have gone to the other extreme, using all spotted fabrics.  What I do like about this piece is the way in which the spots are cut on the smallest pieces has such a distorting effect on the design.

Sample 3 is a more balanced piece with spots set against squares and stripes.  It would benefit from some overprinting on the outer soft grey strips which because they are plain seem a very stark contrast.

Why, oh why am I still doing samples from Chapter 3 when I'm really working on Chapters 7 and 8?  I suppose it's because ideas are still bouncing around in my head.  Not only that, but it's to do with my levels of skills: I'm continuing to work on getting to grips with my machine.  I sit there an idea in my mind and manual in my hand -- foot, thread, tension, a riffle through Valerie Campbell Harding's book, only to be distracted by yet another interesting idea.  Below then, both sides shown, is my first sample of textural free machining based on fish scales. The thread is brown-black thick rayon wound on to the bobbin and worked in long lines of circles which are traced back halfway before moving to the next.  The double layer of stitching produces a lovely irregular effect.  When magnified I can see just how jerky my machine stitching is, however, now I've achieved this I'm tempted to try making samples with other threads or strips of fabric.  And then, of course there's couching ....

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Chapter 3 Revisited

A few more embroidered strip samples.  The top sample uses thick embroidery thread in the bobbin and  ordinary machine thread on top, but this time I've stitched a phrase from a poem  which was one of my inspirations.  The wave patterns create simple fish outlines.

And below are both sides of another strip.  First the underside created by stitching back and forth in columns, below the columns are stitched in thick embroidery thread interspersed with metallic thread.
The underside is more effective, almost like a drawing of ripples on water.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Chapter 6 : Patterning Fabrics with Cold Water Dyes and Fabric Paints

Collect abstract patterned black and white cotton fabrics.
Pattern your own fabrics using Shibori and Monoprinting.
There is such a wonderful choice of black and white fabrics available.  This is just a small sample.

Some of the designs feature spots, others lines, all possibly with exception of the gingham, have a sense of movement about them.
A first step into the nearly unknown: setting up, mixing dye with the soda/salt solution as explained by Helen Deigham, and some simple folding experiments as the example above shows.  All the fabric is dry pre-washed  white cotton.

More folding with elastic bands, both horizontal and criss cross to hold the fabric.  In spite of putting more dye into the solution, when washed the colour is no deeper.  However, the markings are attractive, the lower image reminiscent of mackerel skins.

One drainpipe was tied with elastic bands the second with raffia.  Even though the raffia did not grip the cloth so tightly when it was pushed together the markings are attractive and only a little less defined than with elastic bands.

When released from from the bindings and drainpipe the dyed cotton fabric is crisp and almost sculptural in quality -- a shame to wash it.  

Fabric fastened round drainpipe with elastic bands.

Fabric fastened round drainpipe with raffia.

Below are samples which have been pinched and tied with elastic bands (bottom left) or hand or machine stitched. As with all the previous samples the fabric was dry before adding the dye.

After the stitching was unpicked, but before washing.

The samples below are after washing and ironing. 
The fabric above was pinched and tied with elastic bands.

Handstitched cross-hatching.

Rolled and criss-crossed with elastic bands.

Looking back over three days of experimentation (these are just examples of what was produced) whilst the patterns produced are attractive I have not managed to achieve a good range of tones.  Not only does the dye appear blue, but in spite of making a fresh batch of dye each time and increasing the strength of dye used there is little difference in the results achieved..