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Module 3 Chapter 10 – Part 2

The next thinking stage

I knew at the time I posted the first part of Chapter 10 that the thinking around placement of yellow spiral shapes on the hat form (both 2-D and 3-D shapes) was underdone and I’m grateful to Siân for some wise advice about thoughts to try out.

The larger, 3-D spirals

Siân suggested that the composition works best where the spirals echo the rhythm and direction of the purple spiral.  I realised when I was playing with yellow-green corrugated spiral shapes that I had my spirals running in the wrong direction to make this work properly (counter-clockwise rather than clockwise) and that, if I cut them the other way, I could arrange them so the curved edge of the curled-up spiral would be parallel to the large curve on the purple form.  In the photographs in the next section it is possible to see how this arrangement works – with fewer spirals, arranged so the curved edges are parallel and so that the ends of the spirals themselves are stepped to echo the curvature of the back edge of the purple hat shape.  There are four on the front surface of the hat and two on the back surface at the moment – I’m reserving judgment as to how many I end up with until I’m working with the ‘real life’ hat.  I’ve also added wire spirals to the pointy ends of the curled corrugated shapes to replace the beaded wires running from the pointy purple bit in the previous iteration of the design – these will be beaded on the ‘real life’ hat.

The 2-d stitched spirals

During my first pass through Chapter 10, I was tending towards using radial straight stitches for the stitched spirals (see the top sample, image 1, reproduced from the previous post).



The thinking was that the spirals would be stitched either on the outside or the inside of the hat form but would not appear on both sides.  It’s likely that the purple form will be built from three layers of sinamay – it is possible to see stitching on the first layer from the other side of the third layer if three pieces of sinamay are stacked together.  I’m now tending to do for the middle sample for two reasons:  first, I think, having represented the spirals with paper cut-outs on the cardboard mock-ups in the images which follow, it might be preferable not to have the spirals so densely stitched and second, it is far easier to get a neat result on the back of the stitching with the running stitch spirals than with the radial straight stitches and, if the spirals are going to show through, they need to be tidy.

Siân suggested that I consider some options for placement of the stitched spirals: to accentuate the larger, purple form by placing the stitched spirals along the edges; to cluster them in the depths, becoming sparser as they move towards the edges and points, or other ideas.  Having played with the painted paper cut-outs which are standing in for the stitched spirals on the model, one thing I decided was that the stitching would not be an all-over design but strategically placed on the higher parts of the form, on the outer curve of the hat, and running up towards the highest, curved part of the purple spiral where the 3-D spirals are.

Stitched spirals: first thoughts

Images 2 to 7 show the purple cardboard form with 3-D spirals placed on the curve, and ‘stitched’ spirals towards the lower parts of the hat form.

2. Front view


3. Front again, from a higher vantage point


4. Right hand side


5. From the rear


6. Left hand side, looking down


7. Left hand side again, showing outside of hat


The 3-D spirals were unfurling a bit by the time I got to the last photograph.

Stitched spirals: second thoughts

These stitched spirals are too big!  The next set of images show a further attempt at stitched-spirals-in-the-depths but with smaller spirals, more size variation, and smaller spirals further away from the base of the hat.

8. From the front


9. Right hand side (3-D spirals unfurling again – grrr!)


10.  The back, with the stitched spirals climbing up towards the 3-D ones


11. The right hand side, with the stitched spirals spiralling upwards


I was much happier with this version and thought that placement of the spirals made more sense in echoing the large purple spiral.

Stitched spirals: third thoughts

The next set of images show the spirals defining the edges of the purple form.  Again, there’s some size variation; this time, with smaller spirals further from the edge.

12. From the front


13. An elevated front view



14. Right hand side


15. The back


16. From the back again, but showing the 3-D spirals (sorry it’s a bit gloomy)


16. From the left – that’s a lot of uninterrupted purple!


Decision time

For me, I think it’s the second version with smaller spirals mainly in the depths; variation in spiral size, and spirals climbing from the depths towards the 3-D spirals.  I’m still not sure at this stage whether the stitched spirals will be expressed on both sides of the 3-layer purple spiral form – this will require a bit of experimentation once I get to the sinamay.  One thing I am planning to do, though, is to smooth out the re-entrant angle near the 3D spirals – image 17.  That will make the grosgrain ribbon binding work better, too.




Module 3 Chapter 10

design an accessory

Select a design idea to develop

As I foreshadowed in Chapter 9, I thought it might be fun to revisit the corrugated cardboard sample from Chapter 2 (shown in image 1)



This is simply a 3 dimensional, curled-up version of the basic spiral in image 2, which divides a circle into six equal-sized spiralling sectors using the smallest (and most curvaceous) French curve.



Possible accessories which immediately spring to mind are a cocktail hat and a brooch.  There is a huge number of photographs of cocktail hats bearing spirals on the web and only a slightly smaller proliferation of brooches – some examples appear in images 3 and 4, respectively.


18740063_2009558279267712_3295867312677702178_nSJ329Balenciage_SpiralHat_V&AAlisha hat Sheriff

Clockwise from top left: hats by Claire HedleyBalenciaga (in the V&A collection), Lilly Lewis,   Kirsten Fletcher, Vivien Sheriff and Susie Kenna.


dscn7598il_570xN.1089738623_5x7j turn-turn-broochCool Jewel Ruffle Brooch

Brooches by Alex Hall, Barbara Spence, Elise Winters and Shelly Shen.

I think there may well be more scope with the hat idea so will work on it for a while and see where it takes me.  I’m wondering whether I might be able to combine the 2-D spiral in image 2 with the 3-D shapes in image 1 to create an interesting design.

We had a trip to Sydney during which I went shopping (!) just at the beginning of the spring racing season.  David Jones, our premium department store, has a wonderful collection of hats so I dropped in to the accessories department to inspect some of their cocktail hats and fascinators to borrow some ideas about construction methods.  Many of the hats were constructed from sinamay, generally from two or three layers with the grain aligned at varying angles (not parallel).  I learned that pretty much all the DJ’s cocktail hats are constructed with an Alice band to secure them to the wearer’s head.  Some of these were covered with fabric; others were plain black plastic.  There were a number of different ways of attaching these to the hats: the neatest, I thought, was to pass the band through a short sleeve sewn onto the underside of the hat in the same material as the hat itself.  I also went to a millinery supplies shop, Hatters Millinery, at Rozelle, to see whether I, as a complete millinery novice, might co-opt some traditional millinery materials for my design.  I came away with a bag of interesting goodies to experiment with – some Fosshape, a metre of purple sinamay, grosgrain ribbon, covered millinery wire which I am told I can colour with a Sharpie pen, some veiling and a couple of plain, inexpensive cocktail hat bases, one of which is a very small, round, flat one with a comb attached.

The questions I am asking myself after my shopping expedition are:

  • Can I stitch into the sinamay to decorate the material with spirals?
  • If I do so, would I still be able to shape it using steam/water/heat in any combination to reproduce one of the spiral shapes I have in mind?
  • Will I make a base out of sinamay to build my hat on or will I use the smaller, purchased base and perhaps cover it with some of my dyed silk jersey?  Or make a base out of the Fosshape and cover that?  I might be able to use my tailor’s ham in place of a hat block.
  • If I decide to do cover the purchased base can I make a spiralling shape using the purple and green together?  Can I arrange the hat so that it shows? Does it really matter if it shows or not if I know it is there (a hat with a secret feature)?
  • Alice band or comb? (Hint: Go with the majority opinion in DJ’s hat department)
  • How can I make my 2D shapes (image 2) into 3D shapes which will be different from the original 3D shapes (image 1) so that I can use them as the structure of the hat and use the original 3D shapes as decoration? Am I confused yet?
  • Would the 3D shape in image 1 work better as a hat decoration if the spirals are rolled in different directions (i.e. break the 6 curled shapes apart and rearrange them)?
  • Do I want to make these shapes from the same material as the hat structure or shall I do something completely different – such as free-motion embroidery on soluble fabric, possibly wired and rolled?
  • Can I add some thin, self-supporting spirals, perhaps in beaded wire or wired cords?
  • To veil or not to veil?
  • What other ways might I add some beading or further embellishment to the hat, and really push the boat out?
Development of design idea

Since I wrote the first section of this post design development has proceeded on a number of fronts: essentially, experimentation and decision-making about the base of the hat, the form of the main part of the hat which will sit on the base, and decoration of the hat.  Contrary to what the form of this blog post might suggest, this has not been a linear process – I’ve been working on all three at once and there has been a lot of cross-fertilisation of design thinking as experimentation for each of the three elements has fed into the other two.

Base of the hat

Having looked at the purchased bases I bought from Hatter’s, I decided that although either would do the job, it might be more interesting (and more fun) to try working with the Fosshape 600.  This is a thermo-plastic, heat-activated moulding material which is used extensively by milliners, costumiers and makers of theatrical props.  In its raw state it looks like thick, slightly loose white felt or thin, slightly dense quilt wadding.  The ready-made hat bases I bought from Hatter’s were both round but I decided to make an oval base from the Fosshape (since human heads are generally oval in plan, I figured).  I took a pattern from the top of a hat (image 5) which I know fits me (I have a large, rather chaotic-looking head)  then cut two ovals of Fosshape (one for the top of the hat form and one for the lining) which I then shaped, one end at a time, by pinning over the smaller end of my tailor’s ham and then using an iron on a Cotton setting with a Teflon cloth to prevent the iron soleplate from becoming yucky.  Images 5 to 8 show the process.









I was told that Fosshape is able to be coloured with paint or dye but decided for the purposes of experimentation during the design phase to cover mine with some of the silk jersey I dyed for Chapter 9.  The lining of the hat form was easy – I just cut an oval of jersey slightly larger than the Fosshape form, ran a gathering thread around the edge and pulled it up on the hat form so that the concave side of the form was covered.  I then machine-stitched the jersey to the form making a spiral pattern, leaving space to attach a loop for an Alice-band.  Images 9 to 12 show the process.









For the top section of the hat form I decided to go with one of the arrangements shown in image 13.



Half and half would have been easier to sew, perhaps, but since I was thinking, by this stage, about using either two or four segments of the circle for the form of the main part of the hat (see below) I decided to go for a 4:2 ratio for the base.  Also, I was trying not to make any part of the hat too symmetrical, so I offset the oval which I cut out rather than centring it on the circle (in reality, this didn’t make much difference).  I then pinned, tacked and machined the purple and lime sections of the cover together, clipped and pressed the seams flat and gathered the resulting oval over the top of the hat base, then edge-stitched through the cover and the Fosshape.   Images 14 to 16 show the process.

14. Pattern


15. Tacked, ready to machine


16. Machined; curves clipped and seams pressed


I then gathered the edge over the second Fosshape form and edge-stitched through the form (image 17).



The plan is, should I decided to use this as the base for the final hat (and at this stage I think I will), to bind the top and lining of the base together with grosgrain ribbon to neaten the edge.  I wouldn’t be able to do that, though, until the main part of the hat is attached to the top of the base as I would need to stitch it through the base without it showing on the hat base lining.

Main part of the hat

The plan is to make the main part of the hat from sinamay, and to develop the form from part of the circle shown in image 2.  I began playing with shapes (from one to five of the spiralling segments cut from the circle – see image 13)) to see how I could express these in three dimensional forms by folding, rolling and cutting.  I quickly realised that if I wished to compare the possibilities of each of these shapes as a hat I would need to have all of them the same size – not in terms of overall dimensions but by making what would be the curved base of the folded, rolled or cut form roughly the same length in each case, so I drew a line on the 4-segment shape, measured it, calculated some ratios and resorted to the photocopier.  The five shapes which resulted after some experimentation are shown, stacked, in image 18 – the photograph shows I’ve already been playing with some of these.



Each of these had a notional linear base measurement of 22 cm to be arranged and glued onto a base circle with an 8 cm diameter, as shown in images 19 to 25.

19. One curving segment


20. Two segments


21.  Three segments


22. Four segments


23. Five segments – the flying saucer version …


24. … and with a chunk cut out …


25. … and rearranged.


What do I think about these?  The one-segment shape is rather squat and looks a bit like a US Navy sailor’s hat.  Perhaps not.  The two-segment shape is one I like – the upswept pointy end is quite elegant, although it may be too tall when constructed to size.  I would like to continue the pointy end of my final hat with some beaded spirals (see below) so this could be an issue.  I think that if I wore the three-segment hat I would feel the constant urge to be shooting apples off people’s heads with an arrow, so perhaps not.  The four-segment hat has its pointy end inserted through a slit near the wide end of the shape.  I like its more complex shape, and the fact that the bottom of it naturally forms an oval rather than a circle could be useful too.  There are also some obvious locations for ornamentation.  The five-segment hat is really too close to a full circle to be useful.  I played with this one for a while and ended up cutting a slot along the length of the shape, and slicing through the wide end, so I could roll it.  The fact that this one turned into a horrid, gluey mess tends to suggest it’s not really an option.  It was a pain to arrange and looks to convoluted and fussy for my liking.  It could also be quite difficult to construct from sinamay, so I’m going to abandon it.  My favourites, then are the two- and four-segment hats, and I’m tending to favour the four-segment one.  Having got this far, I was also thinking further about how to decorate the hat.


I have made a few samples to test out some of the ideas in the ‘questions to self’ list above.  First, I wanted to see what embroidered sinamay would look like.  Image 26 shows stitch samples on the sinamay I’m planning to use for the main part of the hat.



I think hand stitching works better than the machined spirals and, of the two, I’m tending to  favour the radial stitches over the running stitch – the spirals are more emphatic and it will be easier to conceal thread beginnings and endings.  I could do both but am conscious that I don’t want to have so much going on that the hat begins to look chaotic.  Most of the sinamay hats I have seen have two or three layers of the fabric with the grain not matched, with the edge bound with grosgrain ribbon, and so if I were to make my hat this way then I could have the stitching expressed on one side only – this is worth considering when I come to planning the embroidery.

Going back to the corrugated cardboard sample in image 1, I also gave some thought to how to use elements of this form as decoration.  Image 27 shows a few experiments with paper, intended to explore whether I should use all six segments together, break the form up a but, perhaps arrange the spiralling elements in different directions.


IMG_1765 IMG_1768IMG_1766 IMG_1771IMG_1767  IMG_1770

The decision at the moment is to keep the axis of the spiralling shapes parallel but that breaking up the shape may be worth pursuing.  I then tried a couple of different approaches to recreating these in free-motion machine embroidery on soluble fabric.  Images 28 to 32 show the process, and images 33 and 34 show the resulting samples.

28. First sample – note hoop and embroidery foot


29. First sample stitched


30. Holding the samples up to the light – no unattached threads


31. Working on second sample – wiring the edge


32. Pinned to foam before washing out the Vilene 541


33. The finished samples – top side …


34. … and bottom side


The difference is that the top sample has contrasting spirals and a wired edge.  I love millinery wire!!  It’s fantastic for wiring the edges of stitched shapes and can be coloured with a pen to match (or contrast with) the stitching.  I’ll consider these further when I come to making a full-scale model of the hat design – how many? the full rosette or break it apart or both? where to put them?  My inclination at the moment is to go with the two-toned spiral (perhaps knock the purple back a bit) so that the rosette/rosette elements don’t look plonked on, since every other element of the hat will contain both colours in my colour scheme.

The third set of samples is a couple of ideas for free-standing spirals to extend the narrow end of the hat form.  The upper sample in image 35 is simply some millinery wire coloured, passed through a paper crimping gadget to texture it a bit then with beads which just pass over the wire threaded on, then the beaded wire wound around a paintbrush handle.  The lower sample is a machine made cord made from silk threads in my colour scheme, metallic thread and more milliner’s wire, this time coloured purple.  After I had made the wired cord I threaded beads on Nymo thread a couple of inches at a time, then stitched into the cord, then more beads and more stitching.  When I coiled the cord I found that the beaded sections of thread formed their own, separate spirals which I rather like.  I may use both of these ideas and add a few spirals (three or five in all – it’s the gardener coming out) which would extend from the pointy end of the shape (stitched into the grosgrain ribbon edging).



Model of the hat, to natural scale

Having painted a sheet of cardboard purple with Brusho, I now need to work out how to scale up the four-segment shape.  Image 36 shows the pattern, with the fold line marked on.



I then made cardboard models of the base and the main part of the hat.  Unfortunately, I became so carried away with making the model that I completely forgot to take a photograph of it prior to adding decoration.  The decorations are much as shown above – three-dimensional spirals cut from painted, corrugated cardboard, spiralling wired cords simulated with coloured cake decorating wire, and embroidered spirals suggested using oil pastels.  It took a while to find an arrangement of the corrugated spirals I was happy with – it does work out best if the axis of all the spirals runs in the same direction, and also if the 3-D forms are clustered in one area of the hat.  The main rosette is on the highest section of the hat form, with single elements fluttering away from it and a half-rosette on the back.  The ‘embroidery’ is located in three places on the outside of the hat form.  Images 37 to 47 show a voyage around the hat, which is sitting on the tailor’s ham, beginning at the front and working around clockwise (i.e. right hand side next).























I did ask Cliff to take some photographs of the hat model on my head – it didn’t look great (because of the head, not the hat).  I wasn’t going to publish any of these but here’s a rear view (image 48).  Cliff said it looks like a pirate hat.



Seriously, the one piece of useful information I got from the hat-on-head experiment was that the main part of the hat is not angled forward as far as I thought it would be.  I won’t know until I make the ‘real’ hat whether this is going to be a problem or not but feel pretty sure that if it is, I will be able to rectify it by adjusting the hat base with a wedge of covered Fosshape at the back.

Have I answered the questions I posed above?  Yes, all except for the ‘veil’ question.  I think at this point that a veil may be superfluous but will try it out on the final hat, just to be sure.

Module 3 Chapter 9

Making a resolved sample

Design influences

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.


simple spiral off centre spiral overlapped spiral DSC02637DSC02653

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.



First thoughts

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.






IMG_1589  IMG_1588IMG_1590 IMG_1593

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.

Second thoughts

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.

Third thoughts

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.




IMG_1597IMG_1601IMG_1599 IMG_1608

Fourth thoughts


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.


IMG_1617IMG_1615 IMG_1616IMG_1618

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.


Exp 1

Fifth thoughts

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.


Exp 2


Exp 3


Exp 4

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)

IMG_1704 IMG_1705

19. Cable stitch added to both samples in random spirals

IMG_1706 IMG_1707

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.


IMG_1620 IMG_1621


IMG_1713 IMG_1710





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.




Module 3 Chapter 8


Bead Sampler

I’ve tried to get my bead sampler to reflect all the techniques identified in the learning materials (and then some), so I’ll cut to the chase.

First, I framed up some purple fabric I had dyed in Chapter 3 with calico backing in a rectangular frame using the method I generally use for metal thread embroidery.  Before doing so, I stitched a pleat into the fabric so that I could incorporate some beaded edgings as part of the sample.  In general, unless I was looking for decorative thread effects, I used black Nymo bead thread in a size 11 sharps needle (yes, almost microscopic.  For the life of me, I cannot make friends with a beading needle – I can’t get used to the length of it and keep stabbing my fingers.  I’ve been trying for years.)  I’ve generally stayed with my colour scheme, with a few pinky variations, plus gold, silver and black, and the look I was going for was opulent.

Once I finished making the sampler, I cut it from the frame and laced it over a piece of foamcore.  Image 1 shows the fabric ready to begin, image 2 shows the completed sampler, and image 3 is a key to the sections on the sampler.


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I’ve photographed this in sections to show a detail of each section in close-up.  Please ignore the descriptions if I’m stating the obvious/being tedious.  Image 4 shows sections 1, 2, 6 and 7.


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1. Seed beads sewn on singly, grading in density from the top left-hand corner;

2. Seed beads threaded in sixes then stitched on using fly stitch, carefully arranging the beads while forming the stitch;

6. Multiple sequins threaded on a long stitch using a contrasting silk thread;

7. Overlapping sequins stitched singly in a spiral, overlapping sequins to create a fish scale effect.

Inage 5: sections 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10.

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3. Seed beads and bugle beads, each in two colours, stitched singly in a grid pattern with seed beads at the centre of the grid squares;

4. This one is a bit difficult to see.  It’s a kind of free-floating fly stitch made from seed beads and bugle beads.  This would have made a good edging but I wanted to see how it worked as a space-filler;

5. Multiple seed beads threaded and stitched down in a branching feather stitch pattern – a bit like cypress foliage;

8. Sequins stitched in a grid, using a different arrangement of contrasting straight stitches for each sequin.  I think this has interesting possibilities for stitching coded messages only I could decipher – I could easily get to 26 different permutations if I tried;

9. Randomly applied sequins stitched on using French knots with long tails in contrasting silk;

10. A staggered pattern of purple and silver (not green) sequins stitched down with long gold bugle beads.

Image 6:  sections 11, 12, 16 and 17

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11. Groups of contrasting bugle beads stitched in blocks and in a herringbone pattern;

12. Long purple bugle beads with saucer shaped purple wooden beads threaded on them.  One end of each bugle bead sits close to the fabric; the other end is in the air and is tethered to the fabric with a row of seed beads threaded on the bead thread;

16. Enamelled copper wire in two colours wound around a long darning needle to make a sort of wire purl, cut into lengths and sewn down randomly;

17. Lime green glass beads and pairs of purple sequins arranged concave sides together threaded on a long bead thread and sewn on with a single, long stitch.

Image 7: sections 13, 14, 18 and 19.

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13.  Long purple bugle beads stitched on and then raised chain band worked in silk threads over the beads;

14. Layers of stacked bugle beads decorated with cross-stitches;

18. Very traditional – S-ing with spangles and purls;

19. Some of the wooden beads I painted in Chapter 3 on a long stitch.

Image 8: sections 15 and 20.

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15. Metal washers and bugle beads in a random pattern;

20. Large size heck purl and smooth purl chips randomly stitched.

Image 9: sections 21, 22, 26 and 27.

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Sections 21 and 22 are edgings, and they are mostly more or less self-explanatory.

26. Brass washers with a small piece of metallic silk chiffon arranged over the top, all stitched down with contrasting seed beads;

27.  Interesting square, flat beads I bought in Melbourne (there’s a fabulous bead shop in Smith Street, Collingwood for any Oz-based students) sewn on (they’ve got long, narrow holes through the bead) then shisha stitch worked around the edges.

Image 10: sections 23, 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30.

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23. This edging consists of two types of fringe: an oblong made from bugle beads with seed beads as ‘hinges’ with a straight dangly bit in the middle of each oblong;

24. This is based on the patterned edging on page 32 of the learning materials, with minor variations;

25. This edging incorporates sequins as well as beads – a seed bead holds each of the sequins on the thread;

28. Stacks of three wooden beads – largest at the bottom; the top bead is the stopper in each stack;

29. Pumpkin seeds dyed with acrylic ink then stitched on with straight stitches through a hole made with a stiletto;

30. I made a cage from some mesh I bought from The Thread Studio, and stitched it on around the edges.  The wooden beads (the painted ones from Chapter 3) are rattling around in the cage.

Phew.  That was exciting!


Module 3 Chapter 7

Simple Button Making

Siân suggested in her feedback on Chapter 5 that I consider working with a cooler blue, indigo type of purple together with the lime, as shown in some of my samples, rather than the warmer red-purple I had mainly been using to date and, as I look at these early chapters, I can see that my colour scheme was becoming a bit chaotic, so this chapter and the next represent a transition from the original colour scheme to the new one.  There are example of both here, since I started working on this chapter and Chapter 8 before I read Siân’s comments.  The refined colour scheme is certainly more individual and more contemporary, as Siân noted – by Chapter 9 I’ll have dyed some more fabrics and threads in the more bluey purple.  I’ve been having the usual problems with colour reproduction.  Regardless of what the photographs suggest, there is no royal blue and no banana yellow in the buttons.  They’re all various limes and purples.

Button ‘core’ shapes

Image 1 shows buttons made from a variety of core shapes wrapped with different fabrics and threads.


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Travelling down the columns from top left:

  • foamcore shape covered with cotton quilt batting, than with dyed cotton fabric with a free-motion spiral stitched onto it;
  • small button made from a strip of purple fabric wrapped round and round itself then wrapped with lurex thread;
  • another small button made from a polystyrene ball in a circle of crystal organza gathered around the edge with seed beads stitched randomly over the surface;
  • foamcore shape, again covered with batting, then with dyed cotton fabric with stitched with an all-over pattern of small spirals in lurex thread;
  • triangular foamcore shape covered with batting, then greeny-yellow silk fabric, wrapped with purple lurex threads (it isn’t banana-yellow in real life);
  • another foamcore shape covered in batting then silk fabric and wrapped with lurex threads;
  • a wine-bottle cork covered with nylon tights, then silk fabric and wrapped with purple (not blue) thread;
  • a foamcore shape covered with batting then silk fabric, wrapped with crystal organza strips (see image 2 for intermediate stage) then with different threads in two directions at right angles).


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I’ve generally tried to bias-cut the fabrics relative to the shape being covered to try to get them to mould better.  This was mostly successful except for the green shape with the purple spiral, and that was due to puckering from the stitching.

Dorset button structures

I’ve made a few of these, as Image 3 shows.


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The top left, bottom left and bottom right samples are all variations on the more conventional Dorset button, with buttonhole stitch, laying and weaving all done in pearl cotton over a purchased curtain ring.  The top right sample was made the same way, but I made a long wrapped cord, beginning at the centre, and laid and couched it in a spiral.  The centre top sample is made with herringbone tape I space-dyed wrapped around the curtain ring, then silk ribbon dyed in the same batch more or less randomly wrapped across and around the foundation.  The centre bottom sample, a bit more quirky, has an almost fluorescent lime green, shiny rat-tail braid wrapped over the curtain ring, then beaded using two sizes of seed beads right around the edge.  The laid centre was made from purple gimp, and looks a bit like the face panel from an old-fashioned diving suit.

Toggle buttons

The first set of these, in image 4, are simply fabric strips decorated in some way, wrapped and tied.


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From top to bottom, left side then right:

  • A graded strip of lime green cotton fabric bonded to a woven interfacing, edges decorated with zigzag machining using a purple lurex thread then rolled up;
  • a graded strip of purple silk fused to the same interfacing with edges turned in, then seed beads hand-sewn along the edges, rolled up and stitched (image 5 shows an intermediate stage with the beads sewn on – sorry, it’s a pretty dodgy photo with my shadow in the way);
  • a straight strip of lime (not banana yellow) silk fused to interfacing, edges turned in, rolled, then with a frayed strip of purple crystal organza added in and stitched at the end;
  • purple cotton fabric – a straight strip frayed, a narrower strip of interfacing added, rolled, then a trip of gold kid added and stitched in place at the ends;
  • some purple felt I printed as a collagraph (image 6 – more on this later) cut in a strip, rolled then end stitched in place;
  • another strip of purple cotton fabric I cut to varying widths, frayed, foiled with Vliesofix and gold foil, then rolled and wrapped along the centre with gold machine thread.


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Then it became really interesting.  I had a variety of fabrics I thought would melt, so I painted some sheets of Tyvek with acrylic ink and also gathered some metallic coloured Lutradur, acrylic felt, tulle, crystal organza, metallic threads and wires.  Images 7, 8 and 9 show the resulting toggles before and after cooking.


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All the beads in this group were zapped with a heat gun.  From left:

  • tapered strip of purple acrylic felt and a wider strip of gold tulle rolled together then wrapped with gold DMC machine thread;
  • tapered strips of green and purple Tyvek rolled together and pinned;
  • tapered strip of purple felt rolled with wider strip of gold Lutradur and then wrapped with gold DMC machine thread;
  • tapered strip of green-painted Tyvek with a narrower strip of purple-painted Tyvek wrapped together and pinned;
  • purple Tyvek rolled then wrapped with enamelled wire with seed beads threaded on it.


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Again, all of these were zapped with a heat gun.  From left:

  • green Tyvek was rolled into a cylinder; purple Tyvek was then rolled around the outside then wrapped with gold DMC thread;
  • strips of green and purple Tyvek were rolled together and wrapped with some silver thread from my stash;
  • green Tyvek and purple Lutradur were rolled together then wrapped with purple lurex Gutermann machine thread;
  • I cut a fringe into the edges of strips of purple and green Tyvek of uneven widths; these were then rolled together, purple Lutradur rolled around the centre, and wrapped with enamelled wire ;
  • green Tyvek and a strip of purple crystal organza were rolled together then wrapped with a length of Madeira silver stranded thread.


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All of these were produced using a soldering iron to make patterns.  I attacked the ends first to secure the shape, and melted the seam.  From left:

  • green Tyvek and a piece cut from a purple chiffon scarf rolled together and pressed with the point of the soldering iron;
  • purple Tyvek with a spiral pattern drawn on it with a gold Sharpie, rolled with a strip of gold Lutradur then incised with a wave pattern;
  • purple felt with a strip of gold foil applied to it using Vliesofix and a not-too-hot iron, rolled then tiger strips drawn into the surface with the soldering iron;
  • green and purple Tyvek rolled together and a sort of check-plate pattern made by pressing the soldering iron into the surface at alternating angles;
  • purple felt and purple Lutradur rolled together, then a pattern of spirals and dots made with the soldering iron.

I did take all of these outdoors to do the ‘cooking’, just to avoid exposure to fumes.  The fabrics were, in order of meltability from greatest to least, tulle (I just had to show it the heat gun for it to disintegrate), Lutradur, chiffon scarf, crystal organza, felt, then Tyvek.  Because the Tyvek melted most slowly, it was possible to control the effect with more precision.  The ones with lots of thread wrapping certainly work better for melting with the heat gun than the ones without – a couple of the samples in image 7 look more like bird droppings than buttons (!).  I can’t say I like the effect of the tulle on the left-hand sample in image 7; it looks like manky old cobweb.  I do, though, like the samples in which the Tyvek has melted more deeply in spots, revealing concentric circles of colour – the sample with the seed beads in image 7, and the fringed sample and the one to the right of it in image 8.  I also like the wired samples where the Tyvek has shrunk away from the wire and left a ‘cage’ effect.  The Madeira silver thread (right hand sample in image 8) does not withstand the heat as well as the DMC machine threads; however, it has produced an interesting ‘antique’ appearance that I like.  I was happy with all the soldering iron samples in image 9.  It’s fascinating watching the metamorphosis, and these are techniques I’ll definitely use again.


Module 3 Chapter 6

Simple Tassels

Well, this chapter was an indulgence!  I love making tassels, and hadn’t done any for a while.  There are only two images for this chapter, showing six tassels each.


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From left to right: tassel made of strips of paper raffia, bound at the neck with silver lurex thread; a more modest sample made from variegated pearl cotton bound with lurex pearl cotton at the neck; tassel made from strips of dyed cotton fabric bound with pearl cotton; tassel with a plaited head – made by plaiting the centre section of a bundle of stranded cottons, then bending the bundle in half and making the neck with pearl cotton; a double-decker rosette tassels made by wrapping variegated cotton around a rectangular frame and stitching along the centre, then folding the strip and rolling it around a twisted cord; (this one’s hard to see) a more traditional tassel made from lurex knitting yarn with a pearl cotton neck and the head decorated with a mesh hood in buttonhole stitch using the same pearl cotton.


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Some more baroque examples.  From left: a machine-made tassel using lurex knitting yarn for the skirt, with the head machine-stitched in shiny rayon machine thread to match the neck, suspended from a twisted cord; another machine-made tassel using silk string and silk ribbon for the skirt and lurex machine thread for the head; strips of dyed silk and shorter strips of crystal organza for the skirt with a beaded crystal necklace – for this one, I layered two strips of fabric, machined down the centre, then folded the piece of fabric in half lengthways, cut the ‘fringe’, and gathered the machine stitching then rolled it up.  The next one is made from purple stranded cotton with contrasting gimp wound over it, then having bound the neck, I tied knots in the gimp.  This one looks like neon tubing.  The next one is more simple, made from assorted lurex threads with a twisted cord as the head.  The last one is made from rat-tail braid and lurex knitting yarn with a contrasting neck, then a beaded overskirt added for fun.


Module 3 Chapter 5

Cord making

A. Machine Stitched Cords

I did acquire a cord making foot for my newish Bernina machine (the Husqvarna is now my Sydney machine), and it works well.  The samples in images 1 and 2 were made using various thread combinations top and bottom, with a variety of cores.


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From left to right: (first two) black double knitting as core with two variegated machine threads top and bobbin; yellow silk roving and black lurex knitting yarn as core, with machine thread (on top) and purl cotton (on bobbin); pink chenille and pearl cotton with metallic machine threads; gold lurex tubular ribbon stuffed with knitting yarn with magenta pearl cotton; strips of navy tights with variegated pearl cotton; enamelled copper wire with pearl cotton and machine thread.


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From right to left (first row): Strips of dark blue plastic shopping bag with variegated machine threads (very springy); black paper raffia with lurex machine threads (very stiff); strips of purple felt with variegated and lurex machine threads; lurex knitting yarn with metallic machine threads; (second row) torn fabric strips with variegated machine threads; yellow silk roving with metallic purpose machine thread; random-dyed silk string with variegated machine thread; mixed thread core (pearl cotton, gimp, metallic thread) with variegated machine thread.

Image 2 isn’t a very good photograph – image 3 gives a better impression of the variety of machine stitched cords, all coiled together.


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B. Twisted Cords

It was easier to introduce variety into the twisted cords, given the possibilities of making them in different weights.  Images 4 and 5 show a selection.


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From left to right: pearl cotton and metallic rayon in a lime green monochrome; a thicker cord with gimp and tubular ribbon twisted together; silk string, silk roving and silk bouclé; random dyed silk ribbon and gimp; all the stranded cottons in my colour scheme; textured yarns from a random pack from The Thread Studio; stranded cotton, lurex knitting yarn and silver thread.


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From left to right: torn dyed cotton fabric strips with machine cord; paper raffia, pearl cotton and silver thread; a continuous strip of felt (complete with corners) with metallic rayon thread.

C. Knotted, Plaited and Wrapped Methods

The first set of samples in this section, shown in image 6, are my attempts at the various knotted cord methods shown on page 22 of the learning materials.


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From left to right: simple knotted cord; two examples of looped braid edge or Pawnee braid; three examples of a continuous twist chain (the black sample is repeated half-knots, the lime and purple samples are square knots with different cores); double ridge hitching or alternate chaining using two contrasting cords.  Images 7 and 8 show some close-up detail.


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The Turk’s Head Knot was a challenge but eventually I got the hang of it.  Image 9 shows a handful of samples.


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From left to right: random-dyed silk string; rat-tail braid; a tiny one from cotton cooking twine; a large, flat one in rat-tail braid; another tiny one in gimp; and a rather odd one made from a twisted cord itself made from silk string.  It’s a skill I’m very glad to have acquired.

A selection of plaited cords appears in image 10.


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Left to right: simple three-cord plaits made from some of my machine cords; one machine cord with two lengths of rat-tail, three different dyed silk strings; rat-tail with two much finer threads; a three-cord plait in gimp with one of the cords pulled up tightly; two gimp cords with one of threaded seed-beads (my favourite),a six-cord plait of rat-tail braids in different colours; and paper raffia with two thin lurex threads.  Image 11 shows details of some of the more interesting samples..


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My wrapped cords are in image 12.  These were fun to do – it’s amazing the variety of effects available.


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Here we have: furry cord with a felt core with thin lurex thread tightly twisted through it; a twisted cord made of fabric strips with contrasting silk thread unevenly wrapped around it; machine-made cord with a tights core wrapped in both directions in gimp; a twisted cord in lurex knitting yarn wrapped unevenly with shiny rayon thread; and a wrapped cord using a method Effie Mitrofanis taught me – threads emerge from the core in turn, wrap the core tightly for a short distance, then return to a core when a different thread is removed to do the wrapping.  The threads used in this sample were gimp, stranded cotton, variegated pearl cotton, and Nymo with seed beads threaded on it.  Image 13 shows further detail of the ‘Effie’ cord, which I think is rather fun.


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