Monthly Archives: February 2014

Module 1 Chapter 10

making ripples

Chenille or Slashed Reverse Appliqué

Time to explore another of the asymmetrical designs from Chapter 4, I thought.  Here is the one I chose, in image 1:



I tried several versions of stripes with this basic outline, as image 2 shows:


Scan0038 Scan0022

I decided to stick with asymmetry, so went with the fourth pattern.

My stack of fabrics consisted of a turquoise cotton base layer, with seven layers of assorted cotton, bemsilk, glass organza, crystal organza, dupion silk, and finishing with a top layer of printed blue silk chiffon.  I wanted something printed on top, so experimented with a number of printed fabrics to see whether I could get them to fray before selecting the chiffon.  The paint is not very dense on this piece and I found I could tease threads out quite easily.  The other samples were difficult to fray.  I placed the top layer over some teal bemsilk as I wanted something blue-green on top.  On the very bottom, I had white cotton lawn, on which I had traced the design.  I have been using white lawn as the base layer on these samples fairly consistently for two reasons: first, it is easy to trace designs onto; and second, it gives me a layer to anchor threads for hand stitching.  However, it wasn’t such a good idea for this sample.

Being back home, I had access to my Husqvarna machine which does produce a neat zigzag stitch, so I stitched all the design lines, having tacked over the traced design, in a narrow satin stitch: orange to outline the shape, and turquoise for the stripes.  Image 3 shows the sample at this stage.



Then the slashing began.  This is where the white base layer turned out not to be so helpful.  I used a razor sharp pair of embroidery scissors to cut the slashes.  I could feel approximately where the point of the scissors was in relation to the layers in the pile with the fingers of my non-cutting hand under the bottom of the heap but, in a couple of places, I went through the turquoise layer to expose white at the bottom.  It didn’t particularly matter because the fluff hides it but I wouldn’t do it this way again.  Then, having cut into the corners, I raised the pile with an old (clean) toothbrush.  Where the top layer was a bit reluctant to fray, I found I could distress the edge by raking it with the tip of my scissors.  The result is shown in image 4.  I had to photograph this one as the scanner flattened the pile.  I need to get a tripod.




This was very interesting indeed.  Test 1, shown in image 5, involved setting up strips of six fabrics: crystal organza, georgette, a chiffon scarf, some bemsilk, glass organza, and sparkly tulle, in that order:


I wasn’t sure what the composition of the second fabric was – turns out it is silk (it had to be either silk or polyester), and did not melt.  All the other fabrics melted well.  I thought the bemsilk may not, being a cellulose fibre, but I had no problem with it.  In some places, I managed to scorch the cotton fabric backing – clearly something to be wary of.  I worked outdoors under the pergola to avoid being gassed, used a ceramic tile under my work, which I held with a pair of long handled kitchen tongs, and used an upturned flower pot as a soldering iron stand.  I set up very close to the outdoor power point, with the electrical lead running over the back of my work table.

Test 2 produced some interesting results.  My stack was backed with some blue cotton, and contained layers of all the meltable fabrics from test 1, in some different colours.  Image 6 shows the result:



The top two layers were teal bemsilk with some fine gold tulle over it.  The linear designs produce a result similar to carving or etching.  The shapes were fun to make – especially the divided shapes where I could peel down to different layers in the stack in each quadrant.

I decided to keep the same surface layers for my final design for this chapter, and to go with a variation of the design I used for the chenille sample.  This time, I used different striped patterns inside and outside of the outline.  Image 7 shows the result:



Outside the shape, the stitched stripes all contain single lines of melted fabrics.  The colour visible in the melted lines is a layer of orange bemsilk.  Within the shape, I melted pairs of parallel lines (or three lines, in some places) and found I could remove melted material down to differing depths.  The fabrics revealed in this process are mostly orange and rust bemsilk, and the base layer of turquoise cotton.  I really like this technique and will use it again.

I did try a further experiment which was not a success.  I remember reading many years ago that acetate is soluble in acetone.    Bemsilk is supposed to be acetate, so I thought I’d see whether I could selectively dissolve bits of bemsilk in nail polish remover, which contains acetone.  The idea was to dip a nib in nail polish remover and draw designs on some of the bemsilk.  Alas, the nail polish remover had no effect whatsoever on the bemsilk.  This can mean one of three things: bemsilk is not acetate (or is not the right sort of acetate); my nail polish remover had gone off or had insufficient acetone in it; or Judith was making it up all along.  Quel swiz!

composite page

Image 8 shows my composite page for work so far on Module 1.



I have used my original Toulouse Cross image from the web, cut paper exercises, then an example from each chapter where this design has appeared.  The original cross has been simplified and rotated through 45 degrees.  In putting together the composite page, I have tried to choose representative examples of each stage of design development which look balanced on the sheet.  I tried white and black backgrounds but the black made some of the samples look quite dead.  The samples are mounted on an A3 sheet with double sided tape.  I wasn’t sure whether to add captions or any other notation but decided in the end that it was better to allow the images to speak for themselves.  I did debate with myself whether to cut windows in a top sheet to show the samples more neatly but didn’t want to lose the edges of the designs, so have just trimmed as many of the ‘whiskers’ as possible from the edges of the samples.  I was also wondering whether to decorate the paper background with one of my stamps from Chapter 2 but didn’t really have enough white space to take the risk of the background fighting with the samples.  My scanner is an A4 model, so this is a photograph.  I think I’m going to find it helpful having compiled my composite page at this point as I will be able to use it to inform my thinking for the resolved sample.


Module 1 Chapter 9

reverse appliquÉ – traditional and contemporary methods

Traditional methods

This was very interesting as, having read ahead in this module, I had managed to obtain very affordable used copies of two of Herta Puls’s books about Molas from one of the second-hand book dealers who retail online through AbeBooks.  I had been leafing through these with great interest, marvelling at the lively designs and the precise technique, and so have been very much looking forward to this chapter.

Image 1 shows my paper design for the traditional appliqué design.  I used one of my black on white cut paper designs from Chapter 4 as inspiration (also shown).



Image 2 shows the completed reverse appliqué sample.  I enjoyed stitching this – the technique was a little like cathedral window patchwork (I’m not a quilter but have made a couple of cathedral window cushions).



I tried to keep my stitches as small and inconspicuous as possible.  The thing I found quite challenging about this was getting sharp corners.  I more or less got the hang of it by the time I came to turn under and stitch the edges on the printed turquoise layer.  I chose to add some black to my colour scheme because I wanted a bit of dramatic contrast between the orange and top layers.  I used cotton fabric throughout, and found it easy to control.  If I had used bemsilk, for example, it would have been quite a handful.  The cotton fabrics I have (homespun) are a bit thicker than I would like – I’m bemoaning the demise of cheap, colourful Chinese lawn.  On the whole, I was quite happy with this sample, dodgy corners aside.

Contemporary methods using machine stitching

I went back to the design I’ve been using fairly frequently for these samples.  These really were a lot of fun to make, and it’s very exciting to remove the last section of the final layer to see the full effect.  For the first sample (image 3) I stitched the outside shape first and cut away inside the stitching on each layer.  The background fabric is a greeny-blue cotton (same one as in image 2), and the other three layers are all bemsilk, finishing with a printed layer on top.  Probably not a wildly exciting sample, although it does have a bit of glitzy thread on the teal layer.



The sample in image 4 is much more fun.  For this one, I stitched the inside shape first, then cut away outside the stitching on each layer.  The top layer is turquoise cotton printed with a design in turquoise and teal.  It’s stitched with  teal pearl cotton in running stitch which I have whipped with a lurex thread.  The second layer is hand-painted cotton gauze and orange crystal organza which I have handled together.  I have stitched the outline with chain stitch in orange Danish Flower Thread, and then frayed both fabrics back to the stitching.  The fringe is a bit directional – the crystal organza is shot, so either the warp or the weft (not sure which) threads are quite bold and shiny.  The third layer is dark teal dupion silk which I herringbone stitched with quite thick lurex thread.  The idea was that the stitching would peep through the fringe formed by the layer above.  The base layer is a boldly printed reddy-orange cotton (the printing is teal but it looks almost black).  It’s interesting just how much contrast there is between the machine-stitched and hand-stitched samples.  In the image 3 sample, it’s all about the fabric.  Had I used more interesting fabrics, or perhaps used machine stitches other than a straight stitch the sample would have been more exciting.  I used three different stitches for the layers in the image 4 sample, and the stitches are a feature of the piece.



Multi-coloured ripple or contour effect

For this sample, I chose one of the asymmetrical ‘window’ designs from chapter 4, as shown in image 5:



I thought I would achieve a more interesting result if I cut back the black background around the central shape back to give a linear design. 

It would be easier to list the fabrics which were not in the stack than those which were.  The background is turquoise cotton; the top layer is orange cotton and, in between, there are various layers and part-layers of cotton in other colours, dupion silk, metallic organza, bemsilk lining …

I also used different contrasting threads to stitch around the layers; all shiny rayon machine threads.  I worked on this chapter while in Sydney.  Image 6 shows this sample, part-complete, on my Sydney sewing machine.  It’s a 1960 vintage Singer 222K Featherlight, made in Scotland, which used to belong to my Mother (thanks, Mum!).  I’ve had it since last year; had it overhauled (it hadn’t been used for a couple of decades), and it mostly produces a beautiful stitch.  It doesn’t do anything other than straight stitch, and doesn’t much like corners (see below – I stitched the orange layer from the bottom, with the red thread in the bobbin) but it does have droppable feed dogs, so I’m intending to try free motion embroidery on it when time permits.



As I was working my way through the layers, I wasn’t quite sure whether I like this technique.  As I got towards the end, I decided I love it.  Here is my finished sample, in image 7.  I was going to leave the top layer (wide orange lines) alone but couldn’t  resist cutting into it.  The final result looks quite graphic – to me, it appears to have something in common with lino printing – maybe the quality of the lines?




Siân suggested that I try a couple of other experiments for this chapter – probably things I should have thought of in the first place!  Image 9 shows the same stack of fabrics as in image 3, above, stacked in the same order, but with the direction of cutting reversed – so image 3 shows the design cut away from the outside (largest shape) inwards, and image 8 shows it cut away from the inside (smallest shape) outwards.



As Siân predicted, the effect is startlingly different.  It would be interesting to use this approach in a counterchange design.

Siân’s other suggestion related to my comments above, again in relation to image 3, about the relative lack of visual interest in the stitching compared to image 4.  Image 9 shows the same fabric stack as image 3, cut in the same order, but with multiple rows of machine stitching in contrasting colours.    It certainly produces a far more exciting sample, with more visual weight to the lines, and a more decorative effect.



Module 1 Chapter 8

complex samples

I made six complex samples.  The first three are based on the same design as in images 4 to 9 of Chapter 7.  Image 1 shows the first attempt.



The cross is teal-coloured bemsilk, bonded to orange cotton.  I machined around the edge with turquoise rayon machine embroidery thread (Scansilk), then added some long hand-stitches in coton à broder, in the same turquoise.  The diamond shape is machined in a number of different red, orange and gold rayon machine embroidery threads.  I then padded the centre of the shape.  The scanner has squished the padded centre, and the machine stitching of the embroidered shape has caused the whole piece to cockle a bit.  The scanner, unlike the camera, has no depth of field, so if the sections of the work closest to the platen are in focus, the bits a few millimetres away appear out of focus.  It may be easier to see the stitching on the photograph in image 7, below.

The second sample, in image 2, has a background of printed teal cotton, with the cross shape stitched on in long hand stitches (across) caught down with rows of machine stitching longitudinally to form an orange grid.  I have then cut the diamond shape from some of the bonded fabric with ‘bits’ I made in Chapter 6, and bonded it to the sample.



Once I had bonded it, I realised that the bonded diamond shape was too similar in colour to the background, so I picked out the edges with long running stitches in a toning lurex thread, then padded the small diamond-shaped ‘pips’ in the corners of the cross.  Again, the scanner has squished the padded shapes.  I like the orange grid, and the way it appears through the translucent top layer, but this is really not one of my better efforts, I think.

Image 3 shows the last of the three samples based upon this design. This is my favourite.



I wanted to incorporate some curved elements into this sample.  The background is dupion silk, gold shot with red, bonded to a muslin background to prevent the edges fraying.  To this I have bonded four shapes (two from orange crystal organza, two from fine, sparkly red tulle) in curved star shapes from one of the images of the Alhambra in my original collection of research images.  The diamond shape is a negative shape this time, delineated by a background stitched in a running stitch filling, using a variegated turquoise rayon from my Oliver Twists bundle.  The stitches are in rows, and the rows are sinuous curves.  Then, I have bonded a cross shape cut from turquoise glass organza, and this is decorated with long herringbone stitches in a lurex machine thread.  I like the transparent effect of the layers.

I hadn’t visited any of my asymmetrical designs for a while, so thought I’d experiment with some of these.  The next three designs show interpretations of some of the cut paper designs from Chapter 4 (m, n and a variation on p).  Here are the three paper designs (image 4):


 M1C4Design13 M1C4Design14 M1C4Design16

The design in image 5 has a background of orange cotton, with metallic orange organza (orange shot with gold metallic threads) bonded to it.  The asymmetrical cross shape is printed dupion silk.  I wanted to use dyed gauze for the linear shape in the top layer but knew that if I cut strips from it, they would disintegrate.  So – I cut an oversize square of the gauze, tacked it over the top of the piece, then machined the design lines in red rayon machine embroidery thread, then cut away the excess gauze, back to about 5 mm from the stitched lines.  I then frayed the edges.  I left the hairy ends when I trimmed back the excess fabric at the edges of the design.



The next design (image 6)  is another padded one.




The background is teal cotton, with the linear star design machine stitched in turquoise and dark greeny rayon thread.  Then, I tacked this onto a muslin backing, then bonded the small cross shape and larger negative cross shape (in orange bemsilk with a red printed design) to the teal cotton, over the stitching.  I outlined the negative area with orange silk running stitches to define a shape for padding, then added some long hand stitches in a radiating pattern to the printed areas, in red silk.  Then, I padded the teal shape.

The final sample for this chapter (image 7) has a turquoise cotton background with a linear star in blue chiffon bonded to it, then rows of machine stitching in shiny blue rayon thread added.  The top layer is a window design in a printed rust coloured bemsilk.  I have outlined the printed shapes with straight stitches perpendicular to the printed pattern, in red silk thread.



The last image (image 8) for this chapter is a photograph of all six samples together.  It’s a bit easier to see the effect of the padding.