Further Design Exercises leading to fabric samples
For this section of the chapter, I used a combination of my decorated papers (printed from scans so I had enough), and black and white bond paper. I’ve taken the examples in the chapter notes as a starting point.
The first set of blocks (images 1 to 6) show a tonal column, then extremes of tone in large areas, using parallel strips.
Images 7 to 9, again using parallel strips, group dark, light and mid-toned strips together. With these samples, it is the type of mark-making, rather than the variation in tone, that creates the contrast.
Image 10 consists of strips of paper with bubble wrap designs made using three different techniques: monoprinting, use of the bubble wrap as a stamp, and application of bleach with bubble wrap. The effect here is created by keeping the marks consistent (although using positive and negative images) and varying tone.
Images 11 to 13 show strips arranged in a tonal column, separated by (respectively) mid-toned, black and white strips. Although the patterned strips are consistent from sample to sample, varying the separating strips produces very different effects. The block in image 11 works best of the three as a tonal column, I think, although the visual impact of the marks on the separating strips is quite strong. The blocks with black and white separating strips are quite dramatic in comparison. The solid strips (especially the white ones) stop the eye in its tracks as it tries to make sense of the gradation in tone. Different effects would result from making the separating strips narrower. One of the things that is interesting about these blocks is how dominant the commercially produced black bond paper is. The samples in which I have used the darkest tones of my decorated papers are far more subtle than those where contrast is provided by the very dead black of the commercial paper. I’ll have to remember this when I come to the fabric samples – the plain black I dyed myself could be much more useful than the commercially dyed black homespun I purchased.
The next set (images 14 to 17 ) are also simple blocks, this time using papers cut at oblique angles. The first (image 14) is a simple tonal column running from top to bottom; image 15 shows darker tones coming in from the right; image 16, a radial ‘sunburst’ design again using bubble wrap-marked papers; and image 17, another ‘sunburst’ using mainly mid-tones.
The blocks become more complex from here. Images 18 and 19 show tonal columns arranged in the ratios of the Fibonacci series one way (18) and two ways (19).
Images 20 to 28 show a variety of parallel strips cut straight, at oblique angles; obliquely cut strips and triangles arranged in various ways, mostly experiments inspired by the designs in the notes. Even thought these blocks are more or less a ‘family’, and very closely related to the notes, it’s amazing just how varied the blocks look depending upon the type of marks on the decorated papers. I thought long and hard about which papers to use for each design, and then how to arrange the strips. I’m thinking now that random selections could have been equally interesting. Images 25, 26 and 27 look like animal markings in cages – maybe a way of interpreting a zoo?
More complex blocks
The next set of images (29 to 45) show blocks inspired by the more complex designs in the notes (page 47) with more departures and sideways adventures. By the time I got to this point I realised that it’s possible to do almost anything with a set of varied decorated papers and some fairly simple geometry. I was also beginning to see that papers which appeared quite uniform in large sheets (for example, the bleached paper designs) have quite particular patterning when seen in small pieces interspersed with other types of mark. Some of the marks in the next set of samples look intriguingly like sections of image cut from old sepia photographs.
I’m a bower bird so rather than throw scraps of paper into the recycling bin I made a collage from postage stamp-sized bits of various papers to use – ‘blacks and whites … mixed up in tiny fragments’. The sample in image 46 is made from scraps and trimmings. Unsubtle but virtuous.
The blocks in images 47 and 48 are just a couple of other things I decided to try. Image 47 shows an image made from very narrow strips, and appears to me to have a lot of movement, perhaps because of the oblique lines and the bits of sepia. Image 48 shows a block inspired by what we used to call ‘windmills’ when we were children.
‘Stack and whack’
The remaining blocks were made by the ‘stack and whack’ method – the block in image 49 made using a limited palette of four papers; the one in image 50 more complex, and using papers with designs at different scales; and the block in image 51 more complex again, using an equilateral triangle as my basic shape with pieces cut from various striped blocks and also from my scrap collage.
Interlude: some more fabric experiments
There were two things I wanted to try after Chapter 6 and, realising that I might want some darker-toned fabrics for the next section, I made two experiments, the results of which appear below.
Shibori with bleach
Images 52 to 55 show the results of use of shibori resist techniques on black fabric, with bleach instead of dye. I tried this with commercially dyed fabric, and also with some fabric I dyed myself. The results are quite different, with my dyed fabrics bleaching to a beige colour, and the commercially dyed fabrics, to a coppery colour. One set was pole-wrapped; the other, accordion-pleated and clamped.
Sun dye with a printed resist
This experiment was less successful. I wondered what would happen if I laser-printed some of my drawings and monoprints onto acetate overhead projector film and used it as a resist for sun printing. Images 56 and 57 show the results. The overhead projection film appears to be only slightly more light-opaque where it is printed than where there is no toner on the sheet. While the prints sat in the sunshine, condensation formed on the underside of the acetate sheets and this, too, appears on the prints. The darkest areas are those where the wet fabric was in direct contact with the acetate sheet. The pattern has printed, but quite faintly. I may still use small pieces of this where it seems to fit.
And one more experiment …
Image 58 shows a chiffon scarf sandwich with snippets of fabrics and threads caught between the layers. I’ve already used a bit of this in Chapter 8 and may try it again later.
Lines of machine stitching on bleached and monoprinted fabrics
It was fun working out which machine stitches would work best with the marks on the bleached and monoprinted fabrics, and how to place the stitching. Images 59 to 66 show the results.I’ve used machine threads and pearl cotton, in various combinations, and tried whip stitch and cable stitch variations. I’ve aimed to produce some stitched pieces across the tonal range of my decorated fabrics. Some of these will work better in larger pieces (the samples in images 60 and 65, for example).
Stitched fabric samples based on my designs
I’ve made four samples based on my paper designs, and collectively, the samples incorporate the ideas listed in the dot points on Page 49 of the notes.
The sample in image 67 is based on the paper block in image 49, one of the ‘stack and whack’ designs. The first stage of stitching has backwards-facing seams, then the second stage has forward-facing seams to make the squares stand out. I like the contrast of the oblique and rectilinear seams, and the stitched and dyed/printed surfaces. It looks better in ‘real life’, with the seam allowances standing up (the scanner squashes the seams and, if I try to scan with the lid held up a bit, the image loses definition).
Images 68 and 69 show the back and front, respectively, of a sample based on the design in image 43. In this one, the seams face backwards as I was trying to bring out the zigzag effect of the design, but the back is interesting too, as seams which combine vertical, horizontal and oblique elements often are.
The sample in image 70 is my windmill, based on the image 48 block. I’ve frayed the seam allowances in this one, to create fringed edges which meet at interesting angles.
The final sample in this set (image 71) is based on the block in image 28. For this one, I have mixed forward-facing and backward-facing seams, to emphasise the variation between simpler and more complex blocks. For the insertion-type seams which join the four blocks, I made a stitched fabric cord, then added lines of cable stitch to the edges of the blocks in three-step zigzag, with stitches hanging over the edge to be picked up when threading the cord through. There’s quite a bit going on in this sample. It’s quite large, so I have had to use the image stitching routine in my graphics package to join the scans. Again, in real life, the forward-facing seams stand up, as the slightly dodgy (colour-wise) photograph in image 72 shows.
It was interesting working out how to set this one up. I reasoned that, as I wasn’t working with two strips as in Chapter 10, I would need to plan how to cut the sample differently, while still using the ratios of the Fibonacci series. I decided to base this sample in the block in image 15, above, but I used 8 obliquely-cut strips, instead of the six in the paper block. Image 73 shows the block I started with, which measured 25.5 cm x 40 cm.
The seams on this sample are all forward-facing, and I altered the direction in which the seams allowances were stitched down to try to get them to stand up (two reasons: more interesting texture, and better visibility for the ever-decreasing bits of decorated fabrics). After drawing some options for dividing this sample into ratios of 1:2:3, I decided to unpick the centre seam, and use the height of half the sample (20 cm) as the baseline dimension for the finished sample, so all three pieces would be more or less the same width. Here (image 74) is the 1/6 of the sample I saved (height of one half by 1/3 of its width); the analogue of the dotted piece in Chapter 10. The next few images are quickie photographs, so quality isn’t great.
I cut the remaining 5/6 of the sample into strips of the same size and seamed them (image 75):
and then cut four oblique parallel lines and rearranged the strips (image 76):
The next step was to cut this in the ratio 2:3, remembering that the vertical dimension in the scan is the width of the final sample. The length of the piece was now 30 cm, so, after adding one more seam to make it more interesting I cut a 12 cm piece to keep, and a 18 cm piece to work on (the ‘to keep’ piece is in image 77).
I managed to get through the ‘four oblique cuts, rearrange and seam’ routine two more times before my machine began to baulk. The resulting piece is shown in images 78 (front) and 79 (back).
One of the things I really like about this technique is the pointy, triangular bits of seam allowance which detach themselves from the seams and hang shaggily. As I hoped, I managed to get away from the straight seams in image 75 as the cutting limes became more oblique. The completed sample appears in images 80 (front) and 81 (back).