Making a resolved sample
Having looked back through work for this module, I decided that the image I wanted use as the basis to design my resolved sample from was the spiral staircase in image 1.
1. Spiral staircase
The oblique view down the centre of the spiral creates movement for me (not to mention a touch of vertigo). Then, I went back to the coloured samples in Chapter 2 to see what there was that related somehow to the staircase and also represented movement in some way. The samples which seemed interesting to me in this regard are shown in image 2; all three are various forms of representation of the steps spiralling away from the central axis of the stairs.
The first of these samples is a simple arrangement of spiral elements cut from a circle. In the second sample, the same spiral elements are cut but the spiral and the circle on which it is pasted do not have the same centre. This appears to me to have more movement than the first sample. The third sample uses elements of the same spiral as the first one but has other spiral elements in purple reversed and interwoven with the first spiral. I think this may have the best potential as the basis for the resolved sample. The stitched samples both contain elements which could usefully be incorporated. In terms of how to arrange the colours, I am drawn to the samples with the darker (purple) shapes on the lighter (green) background – possibly more drama, and therefore more movement. I am still also intrigued by one of my corrugated cardboard samples from Chapter 2 which was based on the first sample in image 2 but was three-dimensional, with the spiralling elements curled (image 3) – but I may save this idea for my fashion accessory.
Could I adapt a design based on this type of spiral using the Fibonacci series to place spirals relative to each other or to scale spirals of different sizes which could be placed on a Fibonacci series grid? Then I could interweave the spiralling arms.
I decided to resolve the geometry first, and to work with tone to isolate the geometrical ideas before reintroducing colour to the design process – really, just because I was feeling the need to work with one idea at a time. I’m fortunate to be able to do this because my colour scheme has so much tonal contrast – this approach may not work so well with red and green with similar levels of saturation, for example. Images 4 and 5 show the grid points and the Fibonacci-scaled spirals, and Image 6, some experiments with placement.
Some of these have all the ‘arms’ spiralling in the same direction; some have arms spiralling both ways. Having tried several possible arrangements, I wasn’t particularly happy with this approach. For one thing, they tended to look chaotic – no focal point as such and my eye was wandering over them looking for a place to rest. Then, I was having difficulty working out how these designs would translate to textiles. The elements were too fragmented to make much sense as covered core shapes, and this is what I had in mind for the resolved sample.
Next, I wondered whether it would work if the curves in the spiral arms were converted to straight lines, cut and rearranged. Image 7 shows the evolution of one such attempt.
This was potentially interesting but still too static, and it was clear by this stage that this was a result of the design being too symmetrical.
At this point, a return to the second and third designs in image 2 seemed like a good idea. What if I were to take just one spiral shape, make it eccentric and attempt different arrangements of the arms? Image 8 shows how I drew it and image 9 shows some of the results.
By the time I arrived at the fourth spiral in image 9 I had begun to play with the idea of superimposing a linear spiral running in the opposite direction and using it as the basis for slicing the original spiral.
I decided to run with the fourth example – one eccentric spiral with large, flat shapes and one concentric one with linear elements (but not with rotational symmetry), with two defined but separate foci. Image 11 shows how it turned out as a paper mock-up. For this, I made a printing block from a rubber sheet to print the purple paper in a mixture of purple and silver paint. The background has spiral shapes drawn on for visual interest, and the cords are made from tissue paper and glue.
The design of this sample has been quite iterative. At this point I decided to play with the paper image using Micrografx Picture Publisher to experiment with the way in which it might sit on the ‘page’. Images 12 to 14 show a progression of ideas with the design area trimmed back to the shapes and cords, the lime background cut back on two sides with the shapes and cords overhanging, and the background cut back on four sides, respectively.
The third option is the one I like – this will mean that the lime-green background, laced over a piece of backing board, will need to be attached to a larger plain (black? purple?) background fabric, laced over a larger board. I think I need to see the green and purple elements complete before deciding what to use as the background and whether the sense of movement is stronger if the piece is attached at an oblique angle rather than square.
How to make it?
There may have been other possibilities but the techniques which stood out for me were to make covered and wrapped core shapes and slice them with machined cords. For the background I liked the idea of an all-over spiral pattern in free-motion machine stitching but was also wondering whether it might work if I superimposed some larger spirals using reverse appliqué (as in Module 1).
I needed to dye some purple fabric as stock I had from earlier in this module was a red-violet colour and I needed a cooler hue. This proved more difficult than it should have. I used some procion dyes which I had had mixed a while back, and dyed some cotton fabrics and some silk, including silk jersey which I wanted to use to cover the shapes (stretchy but lustrous, I thought). The silks came out a gorgeous shade of … magenta. It took three attempts overdyeing them with ultramarine to get the hue I wanted. I think it was partly because the dye was old but also because the silk appears to take up red elements of the dye selectively, in preference to blue. Then, to maximise the spiralling pattern, I printed them with my printing block using acrylic paint (purple and silver mixed, thinned with textile medium). The printing process is in image 15 and the resulting fabric once it dried is in image 16.
I made some samples for the background as in images 17 to 20.
17. Vliesofixed sandwich of dyed lime fabric, chopped fabric and threads and spooled rayon threads with dyed silk chiffon on top. I was trying to decide whether the background should have some purple in it or be all lime.
18. Dyed lime fabric on top, spirals stitched and cut down to the sandwich (I preferred the all-green by this point as the purple had been knocked back too much by the chiffon)
19. Cable stitch added to both samples in random spirals
The verdict at this stage: reverse appliqué spirals needed to be larger (and all lime green), cable stitch spirals needed to be much smaller and needed to be stitched before the reverse appliqué as it was blending in too much. Image 20 shows the next stage in experimentation:
There are three different threads used for the cable stitch in this sample: a lime pearl cotton mixed with a sparkly Gutermann machine thread towards the top; pearl cotton on its own in the middle, and a variegated rayon thread towards the bottom. I preferred the first option. Then, I thought it might work better if the top fabric were a slightly lighter shade of lime green than the background fabric. Images 21 and 22 show the final sandwich and top fabrics; image 23, the spirals marked and stitched on the back of the sandwich; and image 24, the final background with the reverse appliqué complete. The top layer of the sandwich was a lemon-coloured nylon chiffon scarf which worked better than my hand-dyed silk chiffon) and I incorporated some green sari silk waste with the chopped fabric and threads. The piece has calico strips attached to the sides so I could hoop it properly – I’ll use these when lacing the background to a backing. I did wonder whether to outline the reverse appliqué spirals with couched gimp but decided there was enough going on and any further emphasis was likely to detract from the shapes and cords once they were stitched on.
Then, I cut the spiral shapes for the top layer from foamcore (image 25, with the shapes trimmed to allow for the thickness of the covering), padded them with purple felt (image 26), covered each one with the dyed and printed silk jersey and wrapped each with silver DMC machine thread (images 27 and 28). It’s difficult to see the printed spirals on the purple jersey in the photographs – it does make more of an impression in real life.
At this point I transferred the design to my background by tacking through tissue paper with the outlines of the shapes and cords traced on. Image 29 shows some of the tacked outlines.
Next, for the cords. I want both purple and lime green in the cords to bring the whole sample together so am using silk string in both colours which I dyed to match my fabrics with some variegated gimp and some wire enamelled in a green as closely matched as possible to my colour scheme (so I can bend the cord to shape), variegated purple rayon thread in the bobbin and sparkly green thread through the needle. Image 30 shows the resulting cords couched in place. The ends of the cords are finished by binding with the same pearl cotton used to make the cords. I’m still considering how to finish the place the cords (almost) meet in the centre.
Now for the covered shapes. These were stitched on using small catch-stitches right around the edges, starting with the corners for correct placement (Image 31).
At this point I decided to attach some beads at the centre and make a small beaded tassel (image 32).
The next step was to mount the design on a piece of foamcore cut to the dimensions of the tacked outline. I glued a piece of cotton quilt batting over the front surface of the foamcore before lacing. Image 33 shows the back of the laced form (corners positioned and mitred first, getting the stitching as tight as possible, then lacing).
The intention was always to float-mount the resolved sample on a larger piece of covered foamcore. The decision remained as to background colour: should it be black or purple? Image 34 shows the alternatives.
Hmmm. The black rather deadens the composition – I choose purple. It’s a piece of cotton homespun I dyed at the same time as the silk and has some mottled variation for extra interest. I toyed with the idea of adding more spiral stitching but resisted at this point because I didn’t want the background to detract from the resolved sample itself, so I just laced the purple fabric to a larger piece of foamcore, again with batting glued over the top surface. I did try angling the sample relative to the mount but it looked like an unhappy accident so I desisted. I then carefully stitched the resolved sample on around all four edges using a curved needle to ensure the stitching would be concealed.
Image 35 shows the final resolved sample stitched to its mount. I’m quite pleased with the result. I think the eccentric composition and the fact that there are two foci add to the sense of movement. I was wondering whether the beaded tassel obscured this a bit but on reflection I don’t think so and also feel it gives the resolved sample a more finished appearance.