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made with a thick silk thread and rayon tape using herringbone stitch, the initial 5cm or so embellished with ties of withdrawn threads.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Row 7: as above using withdrawn threads knotted over 10 threads alternating top and bottom, with tufts cut.
Row 8: three broad bands of withdrawn threads, 2 horizontal threads between, one row looped with thread of varied thickness, the second with sari strip, cross threads holding the loops in place.
Row 9: a broad band of withdrawn threads, thin string knotted and looped above and below.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.


Adding Colour to Paper Pulp

When I revived the two jars of paper pulp I decided to put the thicker paper into a paper-making bath and to colour the tissue pulp in a small bowl.  I used the black Brusho I'd used previously but at double strength in the hope of getting a deeper shade of blue and yes this was successful to a degree: the pulp is now a mid-denim blue, but lacks clarity.  Maybe it isn't possible to create a clear colour in this way, but only by applying diluted Brusho to a dried and finished piece of paper.

The experiments below show how I got on applying the coloured pulp with a spoon.  The results are rather blobby and I noticed that the water and paper pulp hadn't combined very well, also that I hadn't washed the dye out well enough resulting in blue shadows between the blue areas, so that there was no clear contast of blue and white.

Sample 4:4:22 is more interesting: I was able to add width to the first paper sheet by overlapping colour and white sections giving the appearance of disintegration as the blue paper pulp ran out.


The two samples above show writing in blue paper pulp on freshly made paper.  Sample 4:4:24 shows more controlled writing, both achieved by spooning the paper pulp.

Friday, 23 March 2018


 I learnt about workflow on my photography course. It's a way of  becoming more competent at using a technique so that the end result is predictable in form and quality, and is just what I did with dyeing threads and fabric.  Now this may sound the opposite of being creative -- not so. In fact it wasn't until I watched a Youtube film on paper-making that the penny dropped, and I could see the care and precision needed to ensure I didn't keep making the same errors and experiencing the same disappointments.

Normally I like some verbal explanation, but this film silently and repetitively demonstrated the processes involved in making a sheet of paper.  First place the frame on the deckle, stir the paper pulp in the water tank, scoop them, shake side to side, back and forth, drain, carefully remove the frame then allow the deckle, with its nascent sheet attache, to drain.  Meanwhile the newspaper is readied, the cloths made wet before the deckle is tipped over.  Sponge the back of the deckle, remove it and the paper is released onto the wet cloth.  A second wet cloth is placed on top, followed by more newspaper.  The process is then repeated.  I can do it in my head and this together with the press has led to more consistency, a consistency that allows me to experiment with embedding, embossing and many other ideas.  There is something almost meditative about the process -- workflow.


Thursday, 22 March 2018

Pandora's Box

In which it's not the evils and miseries of the world that are released, but so many wonderful curiosities are discovered that it's difficult to keep my mind on the main aim: doing everything I've been asked to do in Chapter 4.  This mindset is off course the result of a number of things -- a long lay-off and loss of momentum, paper making being newish ground (though the day spent paper making with Jean Hart Mould was invaluable), a predilection to enjoy one aspect of any new craft and loop round again and again exploring only that. In my defense I've been reading Helen Terry's blog in which she suggests doing "at least ten variations of an idea, working quickly and encouraging the ideas to flow".

As ever my tendency to leap forward to my resolved sample is present, but it is exciting with each chapter and each technique to catch glimpses of what might I might use for that sample.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this?

I also need to add a reminder that at the back of my mind is the watery world I explored in Module 2:  the patterning on fish and their movement through the water, the North Sea and in addition the world of herring girls.  So many thoughts: too many thoughts.

                                                           *                    *                    *

Looking back at my last blog I mention more embedding, making paper on a range of meshes and adding shapes to paper.  And yes I will come to them, but not yet: embossing is currently my thing. So what I've done is revive my tissue paper pulp which had been carefully stored in the fridge, washed it and made a new paper-making tank.


In February I cut pieces of cord-like string, I arranged them to create zigzags down the wet pulp- paper to create some rhythms reminiscent of the movements in water.  Though the imprint was clear and actually quite pleasing, the thickness of the string was such that the rest of the sheet of paper became distorted and other random ripples also appeared.  This too was the case with thinner cord more randomly sprinkled.  Two explanations occured to me: firstly the paper was too thin, secondly the pressing process was inadequate. Based on this second thought I set out to make a press with ply-board and four D-clamps.  Images 4:1 and 4:2 illustrate the difference when a paper press is used.


My first experiment with the press was to try embossing paper with a range of nets, both knitted in two different thicknesses of string and collected, for example fruit nets in plastic and man-made fibre.


Continuing the watery theme I looked out some samples from Module 2. Below are five machine embroidered samples: they all have raised surfaces created by using a range of thick and thin threads.



The embossing is really successful producing beautiful subtle and results on the delicate tissue paper however,  I wonder whether it will be possible to reuse the embroidered surfaces as the press will have flattened them considerably.

In another experiment I used stitched "fishy" patterns.  These designs are simple and stitched using upholstery thread.



In a further experiment I used a knitted string sample using the pattern on the left in Sample 4:4:14, a silk knitted tie and Module 2 ribbon made from gathered net.  These, however, were insufficiently well-defined or varied to make an interesting imprint, as are the two sizes of bubble pack in 4:4:17, though the smaller scale imprint works better.



More successful still were the letters which I'd stitched on canvas, again with upholstery string.


Reviewing the samples above a number of things occur to me: firstly that the surface being used to emboss the wet paper pulp needs to have sufficient interest that lights and shades are created by the pressing process; secondly, that screwing down the press too tightly is likely to compress the embossing surface too much thus removing the opportunity to create light and shade.  It does of course depend on how the paper will be used and much more experimentation is needed to be sure about how tightly the D-clamps should be screwed down.