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:
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!
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.