Archive for September, 2011

Project 2 Stage 3 – A Sample

In this stage I was asked to choose a drawing with stong linear qualities, not too complicated and with variety.

Inspiration drawing

Canson 160g/m2 recycled paper

I chose the section above, part of Project 1, Stage 1, Exercise 3. I was attracted by the variety of lines and textures and the general liveliness. In the circular format it looks like lots of little life forms swimming under a microscope. I decided to stay with that shape – partly for that reason and partly so I could see the whole thing at once.

Selection, sampling

Next was selecting fabric and yarns. Calico made a good base – the colour and texture fitted with the original paper. I like the reduced palette, so stayed with that with a selection of black perle cotton together various silk threads and fabrics  plus some nylon net that I’ve dyed in the past.

I started stitching with the black lines. They seem to give the overall shape and also looked the most unforgiving to form. I was originally going to use stem stitch for the tails, but was glad to switch to couching  to get the scale right. The “bodies” are satin stitch and french knots (a couple surrounded by a detached chain stitch or two to get the size I wanted. I basically stitched in order “closest next”, but with hindsight it could be useful to leave things like the little separate dots until later, using them to finetune balance. Next I used a light weight fusable (Misty Fuse) to add netting for light areas of colour and some habotai silk for a few strong bits of the purple.

The rest of the stitching was variations of cretan and straight stitches.

Project 2 Stage 3 - A Sample

The result stayed fairly close to the original inspiration – a few changes and simplifications. I think I was able to keep a fair amount of the liveliness and energy that attracted me. The netting is a bit too dark and intrusive. Possibly a paint wash would have been closer, but I didn’t want to repeat the original technique. Some of the stitch marks don’t work well when considered individually, but are OK as part of the whole. I particularly like the layered area in the top right – net, number of layers of open cretan in purple, and just a small amount of blue straight stitch showing at the right edge and a snippet of the habotai at the left.
Overall I’m happy with the result, given my current level of development. I’m sure there are things that will make me wince when I look back (assuming I’m able to continue to develop), but I feel it’s a reasonable step in the learning process.

Project 2 Stage 2 – Exploring marks and lines through stitch techniques

This stage’s requirement was to use a line stitch and range of threads, exploring the textures and patterns and how surfaces can be developed and intensified. A neutral background and yarns of similar colour help focus.

Chain stitch

My first attempt used chain stitch. My camera had some difficulty with this (blaming the equipment!) – the base fabric is definitely black, not blue.
I was very excited to start, but was frustrated by my slow pace and fumble fingers. On the plus side, I definitely improved in the course of doing the sampler. I particularly like the little globules of the detached chain in fine silk towards the right. The graphic square scroll at the top looked great on the hoop, but shifted quite a bit when tension was released and as it relaxed. Left of middle was an attempt at contrast – the matt 2 ply wool with lovely plump shapes and the shiny 2 ply silk sitting very long and thin. This particular combination didn’t work – I think a greater difference in the grist of the yarns would help, plus perhaps variation in stitch length.
I like the thick wool boucle and was surprised by how easy it was to stitch – until the recent reading I hadn’t realised that the needle should be large enough to make the right size hole for the thread to go through. One of those things that are obvious once you know.

Straight stitch sample

Now this is more my thing. Straight stitch – simple to form, very direct, endlessly variable to use. I found I could relax and focus on the mark rather than on forming the stitch. After the blocky separation of the previous sample I tried to create a more flowing and unified piece.

The major thing that doesn’t work for me goes right through the middle – the rows of running stitch in fine silk. Wrong yarn/fabric combination and wrong place. There’s a part near the top left where the small stitches in perle cotton get close which I like. The pattern formed looks almost like a twill line and I think it could be interesting to stitch some more complex weave patterns. Maybe some of the overshot coverlet type patterns as a starting point – a kind of foundation – and then change it up. Hmm – it would need either to be on grid (not going to happen with me stitching!) or clearly not intended to be. The fat stitches around the bottom are in a strip of silk organza and have some knots too (just a simple overhand knot) and I like them in person, although in the photo it’s all very flat.

Back of straight stitch

There are some areas on the back I find interesting- for example where the fabric scraps have been sewn down.

Chain stitch ideas

I’ve got a lot of stitching books around my work area at the moment and was finding them helpful but somewhat overwhelming. I started using my sketchbook to help me to focus and to see what would be useful to me right now. A click on the thumbnail photo will take you to that section of the sketchbook – scroll down from there to see a few more tries.

Sketching in "straight stitch"

Having done this a couple of times encouraged me to try “sketching in straight stitch”.  I ventured into the (neglected) back yard today and am quite pleased with the result – some interesting shapes.

Starting to stitch

Project 2 is Developing your marks. We go from making marks on paper to making marks with stitches and threads on fabrics.

Stage 1 is preparation – getting materials organised and trying out some fabrics, threads and stitches. I have reached the stage of somewhat organised, which I have deemed good enough to continue. One major task was sorting thrums into a form that will be convenient to use for stitching. Many are already a good length and I’m keen to see if they’ll make the jump from weaving to stitching use. I now have a series of bags, the major sort being by colour (red, orange, yellow etc, then neutrals and multicolours) and then by type (fabric, yarns, and snippets – little bits that may come in handy to build a background, couch down, whatever).

Variety of stitches on calico

Here is my first sample, worked on calico in perle cotton while I got a grip on the stitches. Most are the base set given in the OCA notes, with a couple added from Claire’s class that I wrote about here. (Have I mentioned that Claire is the person who told me about OCA and enrolled on the same day? Her learning blog is TactualTextiles).

With each stitch I tried to start out “properly”, then move into a free-er interpretation. I’ve dabbled in stitching now and then, but never consistently. While working on this I found myself getting home from work and all I wanted to do was stitch! From bottom to top (and sometimes right to left) in the photo the stitches are: running, stem, chain, satin, herringbone, open cretan, cretan, cross stitch, blanket, couching, seeding, french knots, raised chain band, colonial knots and detached chain. I took the photos outside this afternoon and I like the shadows that were captured – it makes the chain stitch look nice and plump and shows the height of the stem stitch.

Overall I found traditional and neat difficult, and sometimes painful as my hands cramped in the effort to control. The wonky-fied were pretty much all fun and I like the different textures and marks I was able to achieve even in this first attempt.

Sample 2 - variety of threads on voile

The second sample is on light cotton voile, with a range of threads but limited to herringbone stitch and french knots. I started using thrums – in particular my “go-to” yarns 20/2 silk and 22/2 cottolin. Everything looked good while I was working with the voile stretched in a hoop but I’m not so keen now it’s off. The fabric just looks limp and lifeless. I could mount it on something, but then what would be the point of using a light-weight material? Maybe it will be just right for some future project.

Various yarns on hessian

My third “preparation” sample was on natural coloured hessian. I liked the smell of the fabric when I was cutting it, I enjoyed stitching on it and I find the results really interesting (not the “interesting” which means you don’t like something). I actually worked from the bottom up, but for ease of reference I’ll give the yarn types going clockwise from the top: bendigo 2 ply wool; rug wool; a fancy textured silk; 22/2 cottolin; 20/2/ silk (some in tripled strands); perle cotton size 5; perle cotton size 3; a 2 ply silk merino; stranded embroidery cotton (3 strands); 6 nel linen; raffia (I think).

I started with the finer perle cotton and that is one of the least successful and gave the most trouble. Not a good match of fabric and yarn in scale I think. The french knots kept popping through to the back, so I experimented with raised chain band, and a sort of detached version of it.

I was surprised to like the cottolin. Usually I like shine, but the yarn sits so comfortably and at home on the hessian. I think it makes it easier to see the spaces, as well as the stitches.

The fancy silk works in a different way, especially the french knots. It has enough personality to stand out against the hessian, with a different texture.

The orange linen is full of character, both the herringbone and the french knots. That bit of stiffness gives it a feisty look.

The raffia is a standout in terms of texture – look at those shadows! I’d like to try it on some black hessian – maybe fairly formal stitch forms to contrast with all the texture and the scale. I thought I might have trouble stitching with this – breaking or shredding – but it behaved rather well, with just a bit of distortion of the weave.

One thing I’d like to try is leaving long ends in weaving and stitching back into the finished cloth with them. I’m thinking of something exploring colour mixing, swapping in and out weft and warp threads and using them to continue blending or contrasting.

I found this preparation stage very useful. I expected to find it somewhat slow, possibly meditative, maybe enjoyable. In practise some parts didn’t work for me, but a lot I found exciting. I can also recognise myself developing preferences. I feel ready to move onto Stage 2 – Exploring marks and lines through stitch techniques.

Preserving crafts

I’ve been working on this post a while now and it’s still not finished. I’ve been thinking about the future of craftsmanship and particularly handcrafts, the relationships between design and craft and designers and craftspeople, what authenticity means… .

Recently I posted here about a lecture given by Amanda Talbot at the Powerhouse Museum. Titled “Preserving the Past to Make Our Future Happen”, the blurb on the website  points to the need to learn from the past, rediscover lost skills and secure the knowledge of “the final generation with specialist craft skills”. To me a lot of what she said was about opportunities for designers – to find and use crafts and craftspeople, to engage with consumers. This was as advertised, but not what I was looking for – which was more about craftspeople preserving skills and knowledge, and the challenges of making a living through their craft if that’s what they choose to do.

drop spindle in the foreground, technology in the background

A couple of weeks ago at the Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild of NSW we had our first simulcast meeting, reaching out to members many kilometres from Sydney.

I love this photo – our President, Ann Beatty, in the foreground busy spindling while listening to committee member Ann Jackson (techo and spindle queen) introducing the new facilities.

This for me is the essence of preserving handcrafts – individuals building and passing on skills, learning and sharing, bringing in new ideas and materials but also valuing the traditional. People working with their own hands, creating, is the core. The object created is important. Good design is important. Building understanding and appreciation among consumers of handcrafted goods enriches the lives of those buying and those selling. Projects to provide opportunities and a market, to empower people or communities through trade  – very worthy. Globalisation of production – I concede some points but there are issues.

Back to the Guild simulcast. It was very impressive. The smooth running is a testament to the effort and preparation of the organisers, who had tested connections, found alternatives, rehearsed presentations, addressed issues of privacy and copyright… The focus is on members who can’t get to meetings and potential members around the state – but for me an immediate benefit for the “locals” was having the detail of a demonstration displayed up on the screen. The main presentation was about Ravelry. While I’m a member I’ve explored very little of it, and it was really interesting to see some of the possibilities. I hope the distance participants found it a satisfying experience and that this venture continues.

A demo of Facebook was also planned, but didn’t go ahead partly on time but also with the comment – “there’s no point after looking at Ravelry. That is the future of social networking – linking people with shared interests.” Which brings me back on topic – if craftmanship is about people and my concerns about preserving and sharing skills – how fabulous is the internet? As well as Ravelry there’s weavolution and blogs and ventures like P2P2 and of course YouTube… Incredible rich resources.

I’m beginning to collect quite a few bits of discussion on developments in handcrafts and consumer perceptions and values. I haven’t done any conscious research yet, but suspect this will be an ongoing area of interest for me (and maybe others), so below am listing some of what I’ve found so far. There’s rather a lot and undigested – no conclusions – so you are warned!

Continue reading ‘Preserving crafts’

Weaving content!!!

None of it my work – it’s been a happy week of weaving vicariously.

Amanda's Project Report

First a lovely surprise in the mail – Amanda sent me a copy of her P2P2 Project Report, including a sample of the actual fabric. You can read all about her work on her blog here. I really enjoy the blog, but it was amazing to see in person. For a start I’m impressed by the page itself and the detailed, valuable information Amanda has recorded. What an incredible resource to create! Plus I fully support her comments on the feel of the fabric – beautifully soft, and beautifully woven. Thank you so much Amanda – I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

Susan's runner

Also this week was a get-together of Liz Calnan’s weaving group at the Guild. We’ve all studied with Liz in the past, and while formal lessons are finished it’s always great to get together, hear about what everyone’s been doing, learn a bit more from Liz and generally have a good, weaverly time. I managed to get a few photos between chatting. Susan brough in the table runner she made for the recent Guild Open Day Challenge. The photo doesn’t give an idea of the scale, but the floats are long but very stable due to the careful level of fulling/felting she got in wet finishing. The runner is a really happy mix of colours, and I like the short-cut bobbly non-fringe – again good and stable due to the finishing.

Liz's silk scarves

Liz showed us some of her recent work. Liz is a very skillful dyer as well as weaver, and her multi-coloured warps are always gorgeous. She is able to manage warp colour variations, weft colour and drafts to create a lot of variety.

Liz's mixed yarn shawl

Liz has a Serious Stash of yarn – lots of silk and wools, and also lots of novelty yarns. She has a gift in combining them – thick, thin, textured, multiple colours – all together in one warp. Somehow she puts it all together into a single, cohesive whole that drapes beautifully and is full of visual interest. Liz has explained her process and makes it sound easy (well, not incredibly hard) – but I think the key is her skill and eye for colour.
Liz also brought some of her double weave, another of her specialities, but unfortunately my photos were particularly ordinary so I won’t include them.
No weaving for me at the moment – I’m having somewhat unexpected fun, stitching. A subject for another post.

Review: Project 1 – Making marks

I’ve finished Project 1 of my OCA course! An overview/introduction is here and photos of the actual work can be seen here.

I’ve taken a week longer than I hoped, but given it’s all new and my hopes were pretty high that’s not too bad – I just need to be careful about over-runs accumulating.

Meg left some really helpful comments that made me stop and question myself . First up, the complexity I’ve added to the blog structure. Yes, it’s a bit awkward – I’ll have to think about some fine-tuning. Given what I’m doing has changed it makes sense that the blog will change – at the moment it’s not quite one thing or another. Second, my volume of work. So far I’ve photographed and loaded every last piece of work. Partly because the images may be useful fodder for computer manipulation, partly because I want to ask my tutor if the quantity/variety of work is enough – which means I have to show the quantity and variety 🙂 I’m going to have to do some editing when I formally present work. Meg also commented about a fear of an unpretty sketchbook. It’s more the opposite for me – it was only yesterday I noticed just how messy my pages are. Another thing to check with my tutor, but I suspect I’ll need to be a bit more ship-shape in the future.

There are some formal review questions, which I’ve answered below. Next up is working in stitches – pretty much as foreign to me as working in chalk, paint and ink!

Have you ever thought about drawing in this way before?


I have done very little drawing, certainly not with the idea of “mark-making” – in fact I did some web-surfing to find what “mark-making” meant.

Were you able to be inventive about the range of marks you made?

I feel I’ve tried a lot of things – in fact I’m quite impressed with the pile of output. I took some time in my sketchbook at one point to play with different brushes and different ways of using them. However I feel I’ve only scratched the surface – in fact I’m really pleased that with many of the samples I feel I have lots of variations I’d like to try. In the context of the project I needed to keep moving, and I’m looking forward to ongoing sketchbook work to explore further.

I was able to borrow ArtEffects by Jean Drysdale Green last week – using that is obviously not me being inventive, but it was very useful to help me see a little of what is possible.

Did you explore a wide range of media?

It was more a middling than a wide range. I already had a small collection of media and bought a few more bits and pieces. Apart from cost issues I feel I had enough to do learning about what I have, let alone so many other wonderful products available. I now have a base and can continue adding according to need and whim.

Are you pleased with what you’ve done? Will it help you to approach drawing more confidently?

Overall I am very pleased and enjoyed the tasks set. I was very stiff and awkward at first and had to keep stopping to stretch my shoulders, but gradually loosened up. I am now much more confident and expect to continue improving. It’s helpful that this is not drawing for its own sake – it is part of a larger process and a “failure” is just new information.

There are some samples that were total failures, and a lot more where there’s a big gap between what was in my head and what ended on the page – particularly in the later exercises which were using developing skills to a particular end. I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, but that’s with the recognition of my starting point.

Which exercise did you enjoy most? Why?

Simple mark-making exploring different media was my favourite. I find it very absorbing and relaxing. Generally I am very tired at the end of the workday and used to feel unable to do much of anything, but I find working on mark-making uses other parts of my brain and refreshes rather than drains. Most of the exercises are good from that point of view, but simple exploration has no expectations or right answers – experimenting and seeing/thinking about what happens is enough.

Which media did you most enjoy working with? Why?

Ink – both with brush and with pen & nib. The flow of ink felt very free and easy – I’ve done some silk painting in the past and it felt reminiscient of that. I like the huge range of marks. I like the scratch of the pen on paper (in the first couple of years of school, mid sixties, we were taught to write italic letters with pen and ink (cartrige) – a positive memory). I also like the fine detail and control that is possible.

I found two areas very challenging. The first was looking at artists’ mark-making. My original interpretation of the requirement was to try to reproduce their marks, and the attempt made me feel ridiculous. There is a depth of talent, knowledge and skill, a fluency, energy, intention that a beginner like me  – well, I don’t think I clearly see the marks, let alone understanding or replicating them. Once I reframed the requirement as “looking at wonderful works to expand just a little my own mark-making” it sounded and felt more approachable – I’m not trying to imitate, only to get a few ideas, make a few cracks in my own boundaries. In the end I made a few marks based on Dobell, van Gogh and Picasso, plus spent time examining prints of works by Klee and Dufy.

The second challenging area was Stage 4 and understanding what was required. Details, including how I resolved it at least enough to keep moving, are with the rest of my work here.

What other forms of mark-making could you try?

There are lots of other media to try – alcohol inks for example. I also worked mainly on cartridge paper except in the exercise which specified exploration of other options. Most exercises I stopped due to time and the need to keep moving, rather than that I had explored all my ideas.

The biggest area I haven’t yet touched is computer manipulation of marks. That’s one of the reasons I have photographed everthing I’ve done – to use as a basis for later computer work. I’ve used gimp for photo manipulation in the past, and would like to try it in a mark-making frame of mind.

How will these exercises enrich your textile work in the future?

There is a general feeling that being more observant and aware is A Good Thing. It is easy to see such marks applied to stitching. Given my focus for some years has been weaving (and not tapestry), the link seems more tenuous. One possibility is to work back into weaving with stitching and I’ve started to note ideas around that. There are various forms of weaving that support imagery – the “Imagery in Woven Fabric” class I did with Kay Faulkner last year explored quite a few, and I’m building up a list of other ideas on that too. Other than that, it could be a good way to start projects such as the recent P2P2 challenge (various bits posted including the reveal here).

Apart from the direct benefits, there are general life benefits. I quite often visit galleries (especially NSW Art Gallery) and have noticed that I am looking at works differently. Finally, this project has assisted me in developing study routines  – note-taking, life balance, time-keeping etc – which will be of ongoing benefit through the course.

I’ve been hestitating a while over publishing this post. I feel there’s so much I haven’t said, so many improvements I could make, probably so many mistakes I could fix (verb tenses anyone?) Deep breath – it’s far from perfect, but for now, I hope, it’s enough. Jump!

Project 1 Stage 2 done (pretty much)


Well, maybe not so much. But enough to be getting on with. I suspect that in this course there will always be more that could be done, but also the need to keep moving.

It may say too much about me that Angry is one of my favourite expressive efforts, possibly balanced by the need to express two kinds of happiness.

Happy (excited); Happy (contented)

Watercolour and ink wash over wax pencil, wax crayon and paintstik

I’ve done more drawing and painting in the last two weeks than in the rest of my life – and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that was literally, as well as figuratively, true. I had trouble figuring out the very first steps of painting with watercolour – like how to pick up paint with the brush, how to add water at different times and what difference it makes, even how to wash a brush. Thank goodness for youtube!
Continue reading ‘Project 1 Stage 2 done (pretty much)’

P2P2 reveal (late)

First, my apologies to Meg and all the participants in P2P2  for being late – poor management of time and energy yesterday. I’m really sorry.

This is my finished project together with the calendar reproduction of a John Bellany painting. Read here about the story I based on the picture and the idea of a scarf that blended in with the colours of the sea. There’s gruesome detail about the weaving structure here.

After sampling a series of wefts, and totally ignoring my previous statement that wool and mohair were too fluffy and warm for this project, I chose Fine Kid Veloute from anny blatt, 51% wool, 49% mohair, in a lightish blue-grey. The colour was perfect, the grip gave some needed stability to the structure, and the fuzz reminded me of a light mist over the water in the morning. The combination of the viscose/cotton warp, wool/mohair weft and leno structure has produced a light, softly draping scarf that feels lovely to wear and, I think, fits the watery theme.

This photo shows the status of the second P2P2 project I hoped to finish, plus part of the reason for the delay. In the background (how appropriate!) is the warp beamed but not threaded. In the foreground is a folding table I’ve put up to hold some of the overflow of tools and materials for my OCA course. On my main worktable (definitely not shown!) are more tools and A Space (many exclamation marks) for using them. I’m having a blast working on the course, but naturally time, as well as space, is at a premium.

So this is what I planned (and still intend) to do. I’ve previously blogged about this sample here and here, and my reactions to the inspiration photo here.

The draft is on the right and will require rather a lot of imagination.

First, ignore the bottom part with the squares of floats. That’s from Sandra Rude’s article “fulled merino scarves” in The best of Weaver’s: Fabrics That Go Bump. I’ve wanted to make it in this yarn for ages, so figured a threading and wound a warp to suit both. The top part shows a plain weave base in white cashmere/merino. The yellow stripes, evenly spaced and regimented, are a supplementary warp in shiny gold that will weave plain weave along with the base. You can see a hint of such a stripe near the right edge in the sample photo. The pink threads in the draft are a supplementary warp using Filatura di Crosa Luce yarn, a 40% rayon, 30% cotton, 15% kid mohair, 10% polyamide, 5% acylic blend that can be seen the third wriggle from the left in the sample. It’s threaded in groups of 3 – 2 – 1 – 1 (right to left), so regularity of a sort, sometimes aligning with a gold stripe sometimes not, but bobbling around all over the place.

I don’t know how it will look in practice – I think there’s a strong possibility that it’s lots of ideas that don’t work together as a design. The ideas are – free spirited, feathery spots of colour and texture, fiercely and exultantly individual (the multicoloured supplementary warp and the trombone guy). The base cloth is plain weave, very sensible and stable in a quality, even luxury, yarn, with regular stripes (clock-like regularity??) of gold (stashed in a bank account??) – being various aspects or caricatures of swiss people, products and facilities. The individual is experiencing freedom, but is actually one of a group (the band in the parade), working within a structure and constraints (swiss society and caught in plain weave even if it floats above). It seems very ponderous when I type it out.

Many thanks to Cally for a great set of photos and to Meg for making it all happen. I’ve really enjoyed being part of P2P2.


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Calendar of Posts

September 2011

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