‘Piecing’ – A method of cutting and seaming
For this exercise, I thought I’d better have a system, so I decided to start with the first and second stages as in the module notes, then make three versions of the third stage (one with vertical, one with horizontal and one with diagonal cuts) and then, for each of the three third stage variations, make two fourth stage samples (one with horizontal or vertical cuts and one with oblique cuts) and make two fifth stage samples from each of these (again, one with horizontal or vertical cuts and one with oblique cuts), and then see whether anything interesting had emerged. This gave me twelve designs, all more or less animal.
Rather than cutting and pasting the original arrangements, I cut up the photocopies – largely to prevent the paper arrangements becoming too bulky. There were advantages and disadvantages. Our photocopier (like most, I suspect) tends to distort images slightly, diagonally, so there is an element of oblique play in the arrangements by the time the fifth stage is reached. This is not necessarily a problem, and probably adds a bit of interest to the patterns produced.
Image 1 shows the first set of blocks. This pattern involved vertical cuts and rearrangement of the pattern to produce a chequerboard and, for the fifth stage, making horizontal cuts, flipping some of the pieces and offsetting them by half the width of a fourth stage piece to make a pattern of broken vertical stripes – good for camouflage in the long grass! I like the optical illusion of oblique or crooked horizontal lines.
The sample in image 2 was constructed as for image 1 to the fourth stage, then for the fifth stage, I made angled cuts, and displaced the pieces along the angle of the cut to break up the pattern.
The image 3 sample is as for images 1 and 2 to the third stage but for the fourth stage, the pieces have been cut on the diagonal, and flipped to make a pattern of triangles and parallelograms. The triangular corners on these blocks don’t quite work – it’s just an artefact of the geometry. The fifth stage involves vertical cuts, with pieces flipped to make an interesting (I think) barley twist sort of pattern.
The sample in image 4 is as for the image 3 sample, except that the fifth stage has been made by cutting diagonally, then flipping and swapping pieces to make a more interesting, almost speckled pattern of triangles and squares.
The samples in the next set of four were made by cutting the second stage block horizontally rather than vertically. I think these are my favourites.
The sample in image 5 involved horizontal cuts and flipping of pieces to produce the third and fourth stages; for the fifth stage, I cut the block vertically and displaced each slice by half a stripe. This sample works well as an interpretation of animal markings, I think – the wandering stripes could be a geometrical zebra.
The image 6 sample is as for image 5, except that for the fifth stage, I cut strips diagonally then arranged these as vertical pieces, offset from each other by the diagonal dimension of the stripe. It doesn’t necessarily look particularly ‘animal’ but I like the repeating abstract pattern of black and white bowties and broken diagonal stripes.
For the image 7 sample I took the same block to the third stage, then cut it obliquely and offset alternate strips by half the width of a stripe along the angled line (fourth stage). I then made vertical cuts and flipped and swapped strips to obtain a repeating abstract pattern. When I look at some of the more abstract patterns, I think back to the introductory chapter for this module, where we wrote words we associated with the animals we selected. I can see now that some of these patterns relate to the thoughts and feelings the animals evoke rather than being strict representations of the markings on the animals themselves. Spiky. Barbed. Scaly. Spines. Claws. That’s a bit of a light bulb moment for me.
The sample in image 8 is constructed similarly, except that for the fifth stage, I sliced oblique strips at an angle which is the mirror image of the angle in the third stage, and again offset alternate strips. This looks a bit starfishy, or perhaps relates to my cone snails (predators with barbed harpoons).
The samples in the next set of four were made by cutting the second stage block diagonally.
The image 9 sample was made by cutting the second stage block diagonally through the corners and flipping and rearranging them. Vertical cuts were made and the pieces flipped and rearranged to make the fourth stage which was then cut horizontally and rearranged to make a block which almost (but not quite) has rotational symmetry. The interesting thing with the third stage block is that the diagonally cut pieces cannot be arranged so that the pattern of triangles repeats all the way along (it would work with an odd number of squares, I suspect), and this has introduced some variation into all of the fifth stage samples in this set.
The sample in image 10 is as for image 9 to the fourth stage, but then I have cut the block diagonally and rearranged the strips to form a (mostly) regular geometrical pattern. This doesn’t look particularly animal, but I like the optical illusion effect – the black right-angles make it appear a bit three-dimensional, not unlike tumbling blocks.
The image 11 sample was made by cutting the third stage block at an angle through the corners and then flipping and rearranging them. This produced a block with distinct top and bottom halves. I then cut horizontal strips in the proportions of the Fibonacci series and flipped alternate strips to add randomness to the design.
The final sample, in image 12, is as for sample 11 to the fourth stage. For the fifth stage, I cut oblique strips, then reversed and offset alternate strips. I like the spiky feel of this sample.
For the fabric version of this exercise I chose the paper designs in images 5 and 6. I realised it would be necessary to factor in seam allowances when cutting strips for the samples. My calculations are shown in image 13.
So far, so good. But I obviously didn’t think hard enough about this. It was all very well calculating seam allowances, but once I got underway I found out the hard way that the order of piecing was not the same as for the paper samples, and I needed to think this out (sequence in images 14 to 18).
18. Oops! What happens now?
What happened then was that I gave up in disgust, having caught myself out trying to be too clever.
The next day, I began again, and it all went well, once I realised that what I really should have begun with was this (image 19):
The first sample turned out to be all I could reasonably have hoped for. Images 20 and 21 show the front and back, respectively.
The result is very similar to the paper design in image 5. The back has a more interesting texture, but not very much more interesting than the front because all the seams are either horizontal or vertical. The whole piece is distorted slightly obliquely– I think it must make a difference if all the seams are sewn in the same direction, as I did for this piece. I’m quite happy with this – if I unfocus my eyes, I can see the same wandering zebra stripes as in the paper sample.
The second fabric sample, based on the paper design in image 6 and shown in images 22 and 23, is more complex and more interesting.
The pattern is not as regular as in the paper sample, but the irregularity adds interest. I particularly like the side with the seam allowances (which I’ll call the front) because of the way the shapes are fragmented. I also like the jagged edges. Odd bits of trapped seam allowances add further interest to the texture and shape. I could have produced a regular pattern as in the paper sample if I had expended more time and effort working out where the seams needed to go, but think I prefer this one.
Images 24, 25 and 26 show my mosaic pattern, front and back, with a detail of the textured section (a photograph, so as not to squash the texture). I worked on this in Sydney, on the vintage Singer, which is remarkably tolerant of sewing through very thick layers. The textured piece is much narrower than the shaded section and the smaller section.
This was tremendous fun – I tormented the seams of the textured section with an old (clean) toothbrush to see whether I could fray the seam allowances a bit, and this worked well, although I had to stop when fragments of seam allowance began parting company with the sample. The bumpy, furry surface could conceivably belong to an animal.