Monthly Archives: March 2016

Module 3 Chapter 4

Decorate with stitchery

Hand stitchery

I enjoyed having the opportunity to try a variety of different hand and machine stitchery techniques in this chapter, and to indulge some of my stitchy inclinations with regard to methods and materials.

The sample in image 1 was stitched with a variety of threads in analogous colours on hand-dyed cotton shirting.  The running stitch spirals produce an effect somewhat like Kantha embroidery.  I like the textured surface which results.

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The image 2 sample was inspired by one of my architectural photographs.  It consists of three parallel lines of chain stitch in tints and shades of one hue, with seeding.  I was trying to make it look sculptural.

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The sample in image 3 was an absolute pain to stitch.  It’s shadow embroidery in silk and rayon threads on random-dyed chiffon.  The thing which made it problematic was the chiffon is so fine that I couldn’t see the threads.  Once I hooped it, put it in a floor frame and began stitching two-handed under a maggy lamp, though, it all came together.  I think it looks like invertebrate fossils.

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I really had to make a spiral galaxy sample.  I began the image 4 sample by Vliesofixing chopped chiffon to a dyed cotton shirting background.  The stitching is random cross-stitch in strongly contrasting threads.

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The image 5 sample really was an indulgence.  The background was made by weaving strips of dyed and monoprinted silks together.  I fixed the strips in place to a cotton background by tacking around the edges and also tacking the intersection points.  It’s really a sampler rather than an integrated design, and I wanted to make it quite sparkly.  The top left-hand spirals are damascene circles with some or nué couching for colour.  The top right is an attempt at a stylised acanthus spiral, with couched gimp, detached chain and fly stitches.  At the lower left is a spiral with seeding stitches in lime green silk and another with couched purls (silver and violet) and in the lower right corner is one of the wrought iron images in couched pink twist.

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I think the image 6 sample is probably the most successful.  It’s an attempt at representing a spiral staircase with the step treads suggested with bullion stitch in violet, the edges of the stair treads in lime stem stitch, and some lime running stitch in a matching but heavier silk thread for elements of the balustrades.  The aspects of this that I like are the sense of movement (I think this comes from the eccentric composition and the choice of limited stitch and colour palettes) and the sense of being drawn into a vortex.

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Machine stitching in spirals

I’m not new to free motion machine embroidery but have a new machine, so did need to get used to the settings, and particularly needed to work out how (and how much) to alter the bobbin case tension for cable stitch.  I backed each of these samples with a tear-away stabiliser.

The sample in image 7 is a large and continuous spiral in cable stitch, beginning at the centre each time with a different colour and a different weight of thread.  Most of the heavier threads are pearl cotton.

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The image 8 sample consists of a lot of overlapping lines of spirals like the telephone curly cord, stitched on a monoprinted fabric with a similarly curly design.  The lines of spirals are in cable stitch, worked in analogous colours, including some variegated threads, at varying angles to each other.

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The next sample, image 9, consists of a variety of small overlapping spirals in a variety of threads, including a thick fluffy single-ply thread, a boucle and various variegated threads, in cable stitch and whip stitch.  I particularly like the effect of the whip stitch in variegated pearl cotton.

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Image 10 shows a technique I haven’t tried before.  The inner part of the design is made of three spiralling shapes (out of the six which would have formed a circle) worked in thread painting using tints and shades of violet (the threads are a redder hue of violet in reality).  The surrounding circle is in granite stitch, emphasising the tiny circles created by the stitch.  The lightest tint of violet in the middle of the spiralling shapes is a metallic machine thread but the glitter doesn’t really show on the photograph.

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Module 3 Chapter 3

Fabrics and threads

Colour scheme

For the fabrics and threads in this chapter, I used Procion MX dyes in colours which I mixed to suit my colour scheme.  The colours used were: lemon yellow 8MXG and turquoise MXG (to make various hues of lime green) and magenta red MXB and ultramarine (to make various hues of violet).

Fabrics

I used a mixture of cotton and silk ready-to-dye fabrics which I obtained from Kraftkolour.  The fabrics were: cotton shirting, habutai 10 momme, tissue silk (chiffon) 3.5 momme, and I also bought some mulberry silk tops, some habutai ribbon and pongee silk string.

Threads

I had various threads in my collection which were potentially useful in terms of my colour scheme, but also bought some machine threads (silk, cotton, rayon and polyester).  Because I wanted to dye some threads, I also bought a couple of skeins of Oliver Twists Silk One-Offs in a natural (off-white) colour, and used some white pearl cotton in the dye bath.

Other items

There were various things in my collection – herringbone tape (which went into the dye bath), enamelled copper wire, purls, metallic twists, beads, and I bought some undyed wooden beads as well, to paint.  Image 1 (dyed one colour and then overdyed) show how the beads turned out.  Because they were varnished (it’s impossible to buy raw timber beads) I figured it might make sense to use glass paint, and this worked, although the beads tend to stick together.

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Colouring fabrics

I used the method in Dyeing in Plastic Bags by Helen Deighan to dye my fabrics and threads.  This made it much easier than the dye pot method I used for Module 2, and produced much more saturated colours in my dyed fabrics.  Image 2 shows a bird’s eye view of some of my fabrics and threads drying on the airer, and image 3 shows the finished, washed and ironed fabrics in batches of analogous hues of both my colours.  Interestingly, the cotton fabrics tended to take up the blue elements of the mixed dyes more than the silk fabrics.

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I tried both the dip dyeing and random dyeing techniques.  Image 4 shows work in progress.

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The lower left photograph shows the silk tops brewing.  I’m planning to make some silk paper from these later on.

Image 5 shows dip-dyed and random dyed fabrics and threads drying on the airer, and image 6, some of these pieces after washing (with Synthrapol) and ironing.

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The dyed threads and silk tops are shown in Image 7, and Image 8 shows them sorted out and wound on dolly pegs (to keep them out of trouble), together with some hanks of dyed silk string.  The violet silk tops look like boysenberry ripple ice cream.

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Image 9 shows other threads withdrawn from stock, or purchased.

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Monoprinting onto fabrics

To make monoprints on fabric, I used acrylic paints mixed with Liquitex fabric medium.  The method I used was as for Chapter 2, and the prints very obviously belong to the same family as the prints on paper.  It is, though, quite challenging to lower the fabric onto the gelli plate without smudging the print or ending up with the fabric hanging halfway off the plate.  As with the paper prints, I cut stencils from paper – the process is shown in image 10.

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Images 11 to 17 show the other monoprinted fabrics.

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Module 3 Chapter 2

design work: spiral ‘warm-up’ exercises

Colour

I decided to go with a lime green-red violet colour scheme because I really like the Romanesco broccoli (image 2 in Chapter 1) and some of the more reddish-violets in the basket and in one of the Andromeda photographs.

Papers

Image 1 shows a variety of papers (cartridge and tissue papers) coloured in the range of my lime and violet colour scheme.  I used Art Spectrum acrylic ink to colour the paper – it gives good, dense colour, is relatively affordable and I can buy it locally.

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I tried to make these as interesting as possible by:

  • mixing colours on the sheet using a sponge;
  • saturating the sponge to leave areas with bubbles of excess ink which dried very dark;
  • painting slightly darker spirals onto sheets I had already coloured using a foam brush;
  • creating a resist using an oil pastel in either the self-colour or the complementary colour before painting the sheet with ink.

Since making the coloured papers for this chapter I have discovered Tissuetex (abaca tissue) which had high wet strength relative to ordinary tissue so I’ll use some next time.  I did find, however, that if I plastered the tissue paper to a plastic freezer bag with the ink, then left it to dry before removing it, that I could avoid making coloured pulp instead of coloured tissue.

Simple two dimensional shapes

For this section, I began by interpreting the observed spirals in my research images, then found that the paper designs which emerged were creating their own inspiration, so some of these shapes are a generation or two removed from the observed images.  I’ve photographed these in twos and threes, so will write about them a page at a time.

Image 2 – the left-hand spiral represents a bird’s eye view of Queen Victoria’s dog’s spiral.  The bottom spiral is similar but the violet pieces are based on a smaller circle, exploded and cut into to imitate the acanthus leaves.  In the right hand example, I have displaced the spiral off-centre and have rotated the spiralling shapes relative to each other.

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Image 3 – the left-hand sample has spiralling arms made of squares of crimped lime-green paper arranged by size.  The right hand sample is based on the first sample in image 2 but with a greater degree of ‘swirl’ and with some sections of the spiral removed so that the violet background appears to swirl too.

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Image 4 – the left hand spiral is a further development of the acanthus idea, with a balance between the violet and lime colours.  The lower spiral is based on the lower spiral in image 2 (without the teeth) but I have reversed the orientation of the violet spiral elements so the centre is now at the edge of the circle.  The right hand spiral was inspired by the Romanesco broccoli – I wanted to see what would happen if I cut spiralling lines in each direction with the number of lines as consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci series.  It doesn’t look much like broccoli but it does have a bit of movement.

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Image 5 – in the left hand sample, I have cut out right-handed (lime) and left-handed (violet) spiralling shapes and interwoven them before sticking them down, then have outlined the violet shapes with gold ‘stitches’ to make them stand out.  This is my favourite – the interweaving and the asymmetry lend it a bit more movement, I think.  The other one is based on a simplified spiral staircase.

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Image 6 – these are two quite similar samples, each with a single spiral made from small pieces of contrasting paper.  I like the spikiness of the one on the left.

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Having made a few circular samples with flat, cut paper, I was ready to try some rolling, folding and pleating.  Some of the elements in image 7 relate to my research images; others don’t, but it was interesting to get a bit more dimensionality into the shapes, and I like the tissue paper ‘string’ – it’s very versatile for making shapes.

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Simple three-dimensional shapes

For reasons I cannot fathom, ordinary grey-brown corrugated card is not so easy to obtain here, unless one wants a sheet 2 metres wide and 40 metres long.  Most of the cardboard used in packaging is double-faced.  I did manage to salvage a small amount from a parcel and have supplemented this with card with finer corrugations purchased from craft shops.  Some of this was a nice, natural brown; some was black or white, and some of the white I coloured with acrylic inks.  Consequently, the spiralled shapes in the images do not look particularly harmonious, but it was useful to be able to interleave some of the different colours to emphasise the form of some spirals.

Image 8 shows some rolled examples similar to those in the learning materials.  I like the looseness of the one on the right hand side.

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The image 9 spiral I really like.  I cut a circle, then cut it into six spiralling arms.  These are glued to the paper at the centre, then each arm was curved to suit the direction of the corrugations.  I’m keeping this idea for my accessory.

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Images 10 and 11 show a collection of spiralling shapes in various colours and combinations of colour.

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Designs using monoprinting method

For these monoprints, I used a gelli plate rather than glass, and have built up layers using the range of colours in my colour scheme.  For some of these prints, I made stencils from paper and placed them on the gelli plate before rolling out the paint, as well as drawing into the paint with foam brushes, Catalyst wedges, a paint shaper and my fingers, so there is a mixture of positive and negative shapes on some of these prints.  Images 12 to 23 show the results.

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A brief diversion (I)

Cutting stencils from paper for the monoprints gave me the idea to make a collagraph plate from spirals cut from various types of paper.  I have not tried this before so it seemed like a good opportunity.  Image 24 shows the collagraph plate.  I haven’t printed from it yet – it needs sealing first, so I’ll post images of the prints later.

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Spiral drawing using a computer paint programme

I did have a go at making spiral drawings using both Corel Draw and Micrografx Picture Publisher.  This was fun– each of these two programmes works quite differently, and the spirals are made by using specific effects in the software.  Images 25 to 32 show the results.  I rather wish I’d made notes while I was playing with these – there’s no way I could ever produce them again.  Some of them, while they appear to be spiralling, are actually circular designs.  Interesting.

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When I was young I had a spirograph.  It was tremendous fun and produced some great designs which would have been adaptable to stitch.  There are a few spirograph websites but the results aren’t very interesting so I haven’t reproduced any here.

Module 3 Chapter 1

Research for spirals – man-made and natural

It’s been a while since I posted – I had every intention of having Chapters 1 to 6 finished by the end of January.  What was that about good intentions and the road to somewhere-or-other?  Anyway, I have been beavering away at my coursework; just hadn’t got to the stage of preparing the blog posts.  So now for some binge blogging.

Siân suggested that, as I had done some development work with spiral-shaped sea shells for Module 2, I could concentrate on manufactured spirals rather than natural ones.  I had arranged these as eight sheets of images in MS Word and that is the way they appear below.  There are a few natural spirals in the montages (images 1 and 2) – I couldn’t resist Andromeda, the plant images and the Romanesco broccoli, in particular – but it was the spiral forms in architecture that really appealed; especially the acanthus stone carvings, the pargetry, spiral staircases and the wrought iron.

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Several of these images are from the Queen Victoria Building in central Sydney.  I love the way the designers adapted that acanthus frieze to design the carpet for the interior.  The stone spiral hemisphere (last photo in image 7), strange to say, adorns a monument to Queen Victoria’s dog.  The spiral staircases, I feel, have a lot of potential for stitch and, particularly, for suggesting movement.

Images 9 and 10 show simple drawings of a selection of the spirals; all architectural examples.  The sheet in image 10 consists entirely of line drawings of wrought iron, including some quirky freeform examples from Hobart. 

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