Archive for October, 2011

Stage 6 done

as much as it ever will be.

It’s not pretty (“breathtakingly awful” and “no redeeming qualities” are in my jotted notes), the process wasn’t pretty, the detritus in my work room isn’t pretty – but “done” sounds very pretty.

The yarn wrapping went smoothly. I’ve done lots of wrappings for weaving and it makes sense – expand in direct proportion to wind the warp. Weft and structure as well as sett, skill etc will have a big impact, but the wrapping gives a good general indication.

For stitching I’m not so sure – there are hugely more variables. Still the process was pleasant, I used a mix of made-en and bought-en yarns, and I was generally pleased with the result (although the mid-to-dark section looks a bit flat and dull).

On the left is the stitched end result – you can click on it for large if you really feel the need, but I’m not recommending it! The original photo is on the right.
What went wrong? I started at the top using some of the homemade yarns posted here and just didn’t like the look – colour, texture or shape.  I forced forward, then got to the foreground and started piling things on the fabric to build it up.

At this point I realised I was panicking and walked away for a while, reminded myself that texture and colour proportions were the point, definitely not reproducing an image and not something in deep 3D. The assignment asked for a sample, not a finished piece of work. What I had was just a pile of stuff plonked roughly in a circle. I pulled out the sketchbook and tried to draw lines and shapes that might balance the stitching a bit, treating it as a textured but flat design. Then I slept on it.

This afternoon I did battle again, and declare it enough.

What have I learnt? I already knew I have a long way to go with design, and with stitching if I make that part of my ongoing work, but I have been confirmed in that. The areas with tulle and silk tissue laid over the base fabric helped calm things down and give a place for the eye to rest. Couching with a strip of tulle over the “sewn snippets yarn” I made worked quite well. I don’t like working with strips of pantyhose and don’t like the effect I got from it. Almost the last things I did were the stem stitch around the border on the left, to unify and contain things a bit, and the couched bundle of threads (3-step machine zigzagged) that goes diagonally up from right to left and a few other places. I think both helped pull things together at least a little, although really it’s still just an ugly bunch of stuff.

Finally, my image editing software (gimp) has a colour value histogram function (which I found after all the palaver on values I went through). On the left is a comparison of the original photo and a photo of the stitching, which I think is a decent match.

Next steps are write a review of project 2, write a short reflective commentary on the whole assignment, and package everything up to post to my tutor. That will be my focus the next few evenings after the day job.

Stage 6 – Using threads & yarns to create texture

This stage has a few parts to it: experiment in making my own yarns; select a drawing looking at texture and colour effects/proportion; select yarns and threads and make a wrapping in the same proportion; work a sample.

I seem to have got a bit stuck so have decided to push on through, drawing various lines and saying “good enough”. So this post is progress to date and by the end of the weekend I will post the end.

Rather than using a drawing, I decided to work from a photo taken during my recent Western Australia trip. I’d been very conscious while travelling of building up a library of colour and texture photos in three categories – rust, botanical (especially bark) and rocks – and really wanted to start using them. So far I’ve created new sketchbook pages for rust and botanical.

Initially I looked for dark and intense colours, but couldn’t find a photo that fit – there was just too much light. Eventually I selected this photo of a salt lake near the town of Lake Grace. There is lots of texture, crunchy and jagged. There is also a range of colours, generally earthy (I cropped out the green fields at the top), and values. I thought it could be interesting to develop lots of textured layers with couching, so I planned to use my experimentation in creating yarns to build up a stash of candidates to be couched in the stitch sample.

The next step was figuring out what colours were in the photo, to direct the yarn creation. My first attempt using inktense pencils was disappointing but useful – there was much less yellow and orange than I first thought. I was much happier with my second attempt, shown in the thumbnail, which used water colour and a heavy structure gel.

Still not satisfied, I tried a computer auto-generated palette and manually picking colours to create a little bubble picture. By this stage I was perhaps losing the plot. I decided to investigate proportions – by putting a grid of 100 rectangles over the photo, selecting a “representative” colour from each, putting a rectangle of that in a new image, printing it out, cutting it up, rearranging the colours roughly by value, glueing them onto another page.

Perhaps time for a bad pun about losing and finding proportion. I eventually decided values were roughly 30% light; 30% light-to-mid; 30% mid-to-dark; 10% dark. I later found some functions in the software (gimp) that assist in this sort of analysis. On one hand I feel I need to trust my eyes to do this; on the other, the exercise was probably good training, and why not use the tools you have available? Draw line. Move on.

The next step was experimenting with creating yarns. Given the plan was to sample couching I didn’t have to worry about the practicalities of pulling my creations through fabric.

From top to bottom:

Row 1 – The plastic outer covering of an electrical cable. There’s an interesting ridged texture, but I don’t like the plastic look. Possibly cut into thinner strips it would be more usable.

Row 2 – one of the wires in the cable with parts of the plastic coating cut away to expose the wire. I like the bumps and flashes of colour achieved, but sharp ends scratching and catching got old quickly.

Row 3 – some tissue paper torn into strips then twisted using a spinning wheel. I was thinking of shifu – woven paper – and the work by Wang Lei , knitted “imperial robes” made with yarn spun from Chinese-English dictionaries, that I saw at White Rabbit Gallery earlier this year. Technique-wise I have work to do. For the current purpose I like the crunchiness and angles but the colours didn’t mix up as much as I hoped.

Row 3 – A number of fancy yarns stitched together on the machine. I have a beading foot, which helped keep things together and used a three step zigzag which makes the yarns separate in rather a nice, lively way. I was hoping lighter colours would calm down the pink more. Possibilities include overstitching some more (but losing texture) or possibly knocking back the colour by overlaying with an organza while stitching.

Photo 2, top to bottom.

Row 1 – A bundle of cotolin threads oversewn with (ordinary) zigzag. I was looking at the top part of the salt lake image which looks almost like a light pink stream, and trying to create a lightly textured, lightly coloured yarn. On its own it looks rather bland, but it could work well in the sample.

Row 2 – This was based on the bottom part of the salt lake image where there is a lot of colour variation in the rocky texture. I gathered a pile of snippets and offcuts in the colour range, then machine stitched them onto a strip of tulle. I was thinking of gorilla yarn, where you card a bunch of “stuff” together then spin a lumpy, colourful yarn. I ran out of time to do that and thought this could be a quick substitute. On its own it’s too bitsy, but I think this could work if integrated a bit better while couching, for example by couching with another strip of tulle, or overlaying with layers of tulle or organza before stitching.

Row 3 – cut up pantyhose. I tried to add some texture and interest with knots. It would be interesting to combine this with the stitched snippets idea of the previous sample.

Row 4 – A braid (12-Z-ridged-spiral) made with cotolin. I wanted to try this even though I thought it would be too formal in appearance for the particular application. My highly variable tension makes it less formal, but still not right for the sample. I got the instructions from Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise of Braids VI and would like to try mixing it up with the Braid-in-Braid idea, where an earlier braid is carried up the middle, then brought out and wrapped around every once in a while. Perhaps one could use individual yarns rather than a braid inside, and swap in and out colours, or try using textured yarns. I do like the way the colours work in the sample.

There were a couple of other little bits, but somehow they missed the photo shoot. Line. Move.

Next steps are the yarn wrapping and actual sample. It’s Friday evening and the clock is ticking.

Reading and looking

Penny Leaver Green is a new-to-me textile artist, highlighted in a post on the Mr X Stitch blog. She asks that her images and words not be used without permission, so you need to follow this link to learn more about her approach to using stitch and fabrics to explore ideas and create meaning. I find the images draw me in, I get a sense of space and thoughtful consideration. This doesn’t mean the subject matter is easy, for example recent work explores aspects of the Japanese tsunami – a map, growing sunflowers to absorb radiation, another map of radiation levels.  Penny has produced a series of work on button phobia, and seems to use buttons and circles in a lot of her work – in particular an appliqued circle with a cross stitched over, seen in the colour pictures (like tests for colour blindness) and placemarkers on maps. Maps also recur in her work, some made by her, some collected.

Another chance find yesterday (it was raining, so I did my lunchtime walk in a bookshop!) was Textiles: The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon. The author herself admits it could seem grandiose to attempt the full story of textiles, their importance today and in history, in myth and ritual, in all cultures, physical, spiritual, emotional… (of course we already know the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything). I’ve only just started reading, but already know this is a wonderful book that will change and deepen my understanding and love of textiles. I like the personal, warm, intimate style of writing – this is someone who loves her subject and wants to share with us all. I like the broad focus and the perspective given, and already feel as if things half-perceived are being put into focus. I find her storytelling engaging, beautifully and relevantly illustrated. I feel like my little hobby is part of an incredibly bigger whole – coming from a maths/science background there’s almost a sense of validation that this isn’t a soft diversion, that textiles are fundamental to human existence (not that I’ve been wanting or needing validation, still…). Even the paper of the book feels nice, a tactile pleasure.

Two strong, multiple-thumbs-up recommendations.

Stage 5 – small samples of texture

In stage 5 was the suggestion of working a small sample relating some of the stitch texture effects to drawings. I packed a small set of supplies on holiday and found stitching a restful end to the days spent in Perth.

I decided to try variations of chain stitch. The section on the left was based on rust. I’d taken a series of photos while we were travellings (a few are on my new Rust sketchbook page), and based on them attempted a couple of small, woeful sketches (here). Time to move on to stitch – but I was rather pleased to find myself sketching out a rough plan first.

I wanted a layered and crusty effect, so started by scrunching up and overlaying some scraps of orange and brown silk organza. I couched these down with a series of threads of various weights – wool, silk and cotton. There’s chain stitch, detached chain and twisted chain. The stitches are worked over and around each other, trying for an uneven surface and a mix of colour. Some stitches were worked quite loosely, to get a flakey, peeling effect.

I don’t think the result looks like rust, although if I explain it people go “Oh, OK – I can see that”. I like the varying density of stitches, sometimes deeply layered, sometimes quite sparse and allowing the organza to show through. I also think chain stitch was a good choice for the spotty appearance common in rust. However I think there is too much orange and also too much shine from some of the threads. I’m not sure how this would work in an actual piece – there’s no focus or real movement, but it’s probably a bit too busy for a background.

The sample on the righthand side doesn’t have a specific image source. I was thinking of callistemon (photos on this website) and also wanted to try layers of raised chain band based on an illustration on page 137 of Stitch Magic (Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn). The base stitches are in cotolin, the rest is mostly perle cotton and silk. I built up layers of stitch going from browns through various greens, working very loosely and both up and down to get a random, wild effect. The flowers have a base of orange 20/2 silk, then doubled perle cotton using a higher tension than the leaves. I’m happy with the result. The different weights and working of the leaf and flower stitches, combined with the contrasting colours, are in my eyes strongly reminiscent of the plants. I also like the shine and liveliness – like seeing the callistemon on a bright sunny day. I think the least successful part is the transition from the heavy stitching to the background fabric. The overall shape isn’t right.

I find the two sections together interesting. I had a very limited set of threads and fabric, kept to one basic stitch, but got quite different effects.

Machine stitching

A few years ago I did a full week class “Optical Colour Mixing” tutored by Ken Smith. It was my very first Orange Textile Fibre Forum, close to my first free machine stitching, and I remember working very hard! Just before my recent holiday I went to look through some old journals – the very first one I picked up opened at my class notes (23 April 2006).

I haven’t done much since then, so have been trying to refresh my mind and hands and reproduce some of the effects Ken taught. So there was lots of play with both top and bobbin tension, and bits of moss and granite stitch, feather stitch, whip stitch and near the bottom just a little cable with a boucle silk in the bobbin.

My sewing machine behaved beautifully – zero broken threads and needles, little if any tangling or malformed stitches. Mostly I used rayon threads and the result is overall flat and uninteresting – I was very jerky in my movements and possibly that means the threads aren’t lying as smoothly as they could. In particular the ribbon effect on the left doesn’t have the gloss of my 2006 sample.

I think the most interesting parts are where I had 2 threads in the needle (red and orange), blue in the bobbin, all the colours showing and stitches overlapping to give some texture. The feather stitch between 11 and 12 o’clock is the clearest example. The cable stitch (6 to 7 o’clock) using the heavy silk is also effective.

The first sample doesn’t fit neatly into the Project Stages, given I was more interested in reviewing my old notes. There’s some general preparation and familiarisation (stage 1), some mark-making and lines (stage 2) and some texture (stage 5). So I started a second sample, following more closely the Stage 2 suggestions. I used a lime green rayon thread, and in the photo the back of the work is showing because when I came back from holiday I accidentally started working on the other side! Oops.

However that’s the work I find most interesting. A parcel was waiting when I got back from holiday – the complete Tubular Spectrum Plus kit from Lunatic Fringe Yarns. This is 20 colours plus white, black and 5 shades of grey in 10/2 mercerized cotton. Lunatic Fringe focus on weavers and I don’t know how to translate that into stitching terms – it looks to me about half the width of #5 perle cotton.

On the top and right of the sample is the machine stitched 10/2 cotton – used through the needle and the thread coming directly from the cone. I took it fairly slowly and used a 130N needle which has a nice big eye. The needle threader couldn’t cope and the fancy stitch pattern about 2 o’clock was challenging, but apart from that the machine continued to work smoothly. At the top I experimented with stitch length, then lines different widths apart, crossing, and some rayon lines for contrast. The solid area at the right is the 7 tubular spectrum colours from yellow to blue-green. Top and bottom tension is pretty much balanced and just tiny flecks of the lime green rayon in the bobbin show through. Tiny flecks of the 10/2 cotton show on the back too, and there is definite potential there. There is some distortion of the cotton fabric – a heavier cotton could help.

Emboldened by this success at the bottom of the sample I tried Bendigo Mills 2 ply wool in the needle, direct from the cone. Threading was tricky, but achieved with some Thread Heaven. There was some looping at the back, but raising the top tension helped – at the price of losing some of the loft of the yarn. Zigzag was tricky tension-wise, but I think has potential for some interesting effects playing with bobbin colour. I went very slowly to let the stitches form, but there were no actual breaks. I think it has definite potential to provide cover and contrast of texture in the right situation.

This second sample also sits somewhere between stages 1, 2 and 5. I would need to practise a lot if I want to use these techniques in actual work. I found using the hoop very annoying. In Ken Smith’s class we layered up fabrics with interfacing so didn’t need that support. Maybe I could explore some alternatives to escape the hoop without introducing stiffness from a permanent interfacing.

I’m now looking at my weaving yarns with changed eyes. They were already fair game for hand stitching and couching or cabling on the machine, but it opens up a lot of possibilities, flexibility and ease of use if they can also be machine stitched through the needle.

Western Australia

Some very brief notes on a great though brief visit to WA with my mother.

The map (based on maps from shows the tiny part of the state we reached.

After a 5 hour flight west from Sydney to Perth we immediately drove east 4+ hours to Hyden.

The attraction of this small country town is Wave Rock, which we discovered is only one small part of Hyden Rock. The thumbnail gives an idea of the scale of the rock face. Much of the colour is from lichens on the granite, and the strange structure you may be able to see on the top is a wall built decades ago to redirect water runoff into a dam.

We had a full day to explore, climbing up by the dam, around the base to Hippo’s Yawn, a walk through the surrounding country (complete with the often-cited “carpet of wildflowers”, birds, lizards and many, many flies) and a short drive to Mulka’s Cave to view the Rock Art.

Next day we drove south, past the amazing colours and textures of the salt lakes around Lake Grace. This crusty desolate-looking landscape was only metres from wheatfields on just slightly higher land.
In the township of Lake Grace we visited the Australian Inland Mission Hospital Museum, then on through the Stirling Range to the port of Albany where we arrived in time for a dusk walk around the old parts of the town.
The highlight of the next day was the Valley of the Giants near Walpole. The link has a video which gives an idea of the 40 metre high pathway among the trees – you can see its shadow on the ground below in my photo.
The second part of the walk took us down and around the trees, where mum and I posed for the obligatory photo.
Driving on, we had our picnic lunch at a lookout over the Great Australian Bight towards the Southern Ocean, then reached Bunbury in time for dinner watching sunset over the Indian Ocean.
In the morning we drove on to Perth in time for midday ringing at the Bell Tower. No photos, so follow the link or even better, go visit when you’re in Perth. My mother, who has been ringing since 1940-something, was really excited to be able to watch the bells swinging – normally we just see ropes vanishing through holes in a ceiling, but here you can go up to the level of the bells and see it all happen (with very effective soundproof glass so you can still have a conversation). It was really fun to chat with visitors and explain some of the finer points of our usually invisible but highly audible craft. The rest of the day was a stroll through Perth followed by collapsing in our apartment.
Morning coffee with mum’s god-daughter was followed by a sobering visit to the Katta Djinoong gallery at the Western Australian Museum, learning about the history and culture of Aboriginal peoples of Western Australia. Harsh and all too common stories. The gallery name means “see and understand us” and perhaps I was able to, at least a little.
The afternoon, in total contrast, we spent at the Princely Treasures exhibition at the Art Gallery. The beautiful, opulent pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum were magnificent, but rather cold and impersonal after the morning’s experience. It was all about flaunting power and prestige – which is not to say I didn’t admire the beauty and craftsmanship displayed, in particular a bed cover and a table top spinning wheel.
The next day we spent in Fremantle where I indulged my fascination with rust, but our primary focus was the Shipwreck Galleries, part of the Western Australian Museum, and in particular the Batavia (wrecked in 1629). The large exhibit was timbers from the ship that have been reconstructed on a steel frame, but for me the most exciting were actual textile fragments – lace (and lace bobbins), twill, and knit. The lace was found in concretion and there was sufficient for Rosemary Shepherd to produce a pattern.
Our final day was spent in Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Great views over Perth and an amazing variety of plants.

One disappointment was the very nice shop, Aspects of Kings Park. I made a point of going in to see Shirley Treasure‘s weaving. Her work didn’t disappoint and there were other talented textile artists represented – but I felt the manner of “display” did them a grave disservice. Work was stored in large drawers, in a general jumble. Bits were trailing out higgledy-piggledy, very difficult to see and appreciate – and I was making a conscious effort! Another issue for me came up when browsing the jewellery, where many of the artists came from interstate. I would have preferred that the gallery did more editing of their artists and concentrate on those of Western Australia and presenting them really well, rather than cramming in so much.

We had a wonderful holiday. We ticked off everything on our “must do” list and were left wanting more time to explore everywhere we went. On the flight home I re-read all my OCA course notes from the beginning – and was left feeling I’ve strayed from the path in the latest exercises. I did do a little sketching and stitching while away, plus take heaps of photos of texture – rust, rocks, bark, flowers… But that’s a topic for another day.

Surfing for stitch

Some stitch-related websites I’ve found interesting lately:

Takashi Iwasaki, Pinapinatamashiihasukozuchi Embroidery floss and fabric (hand embroidered) 45.5cm x 45.5cm 2009

Takashi Iwasaki uses a range of media to create his artwork including hand embroidery. His statement explains “hand embroidering is the most time-consuming and painstaking method of art-making which in turn engages my thinking process differently from the other methods I use, such as collage making, drawing, painting, printmaking, and other graphic/web-design-related creations. Working with various kinds of media is very important for me to keep my thoughts and ideas fluid and flexible.”

I like the playful and colourful work. The main stitch used seems to be satin stitch, and flattened down in a photo is visually very close to his painting in acrylic in particular. It seems to me his interest is in the process of the hand stitching, rather than exploring the range of marks and textures that stitch offers.

Shona Skinner, Towards North Unst, 19 x 17 cm

Shona Skinner lives in Shetland and her work is full of images of the sea and nature that surrounds her. Shona works from her drawings and in her Studio photos you can see a little of how she develops her images. Shona fuses fabrics together, then free machine embroidery. In some of the works I think I see a little hand stitching too. The images are beautiful and peaceful. I like the use of cloth as an integral part of the final piece (for instance in the skies), not just a somewhat anonymous base for stitching.

Alice Kettle, Camille, 52 x 32 cm, 2004

Alice Kettle has an emotional connection with her work and the tactile qualities are important. There is such an incredible amount of feeling expressed. Alice has put very high resolution images on her website, and if you zoom right in you can see every stitch, the different qualities of yarn, the layering – fascinating.

All three of these artists come from a formal training in fine arts and they each use stitch quite differently.

I also read a book review on the Textile Arts Center blog about Hoopla: the art of unexpected embroidery. Then followed some of the links on that page to various artists… you can spend a lot of time surfing!

Pause, record, reflect, move on…

… is the subtitle of chapter 1 in “Creating sketchbooks: for embroiderers and textile artists” by Kay Greenlees. It’s one of the key texts for the textiles course – one I already owned but hadn’t properly used.

Now it’s become a bit of a mantra for me, in sampling and exercises as well as the sketchbook. I see it as a reminder to do the best I can with each task, but keep it in proportion – one step in a process.

First some eye candy – but you have to click here to go to Debby Kirby’s website. “Debby has worked as a silk weaver since 1984, after completing a degree in woven textiles at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design” (quoting from the site). Some lovely fine work (up to 100 epi) and use of colour. I’m particularly impressed by the level of detail of finish – hand wound silk tassels on cushions, beading and machine stitching and embroidery on accessories – and by her technique of silk and paper weaving.

I was led to Debby’s site from here, the site of Penny Cameron who is also doing the OCA course but many months ahead. I find it really interesting to look at the work of other students, but it can also be a bit of a trap and despondent-making. Reminder to self – the point of the course is to develop my skills and work from whatever level they are to whatever level I can get to, irrespective of other’s work.

So, today’s pause and reflect – on progress with Stage 5: Stitches to create texture.

Here is my first sample. Underneath it (if I can get wordpress to play nice) is another photo of the same sample. One of the tasks of this stage is to observe the impact of changing the direction of stitching, the different reflection of light changing the apparent colour of the threads with some appearing lighter, some darker than their actual colour.

I can now agree that it does – look at the two little blocks of yellow-green towards the top left (cottolin, cretan stitch). However look at the impact of lighting in the two photos – both taken on the same rainy day in natural light, one inside the glass backdoor, one a few minutes later just outside and turned 90 degrees.

I use a worklight on my table – a Daylight Company 18 watt compact flourescent lamp according to the label. I actually got a shock when looking at the work in progress while on a break. The worklight was off and the sample looked quite different. If one was working on an exhibition piece, there’s no control at all of how (or if) it will be lit. I guess the point is that the direction of stitch makes it look different. I wouldn’t want the success of the piece to rely on looking lighter (or darker) in particular.

The tiny sections of satin stitch at the top provide me with 2 lessons. First, it really does make a difference whether one stitches around and around (taking the thread back under the cloth so each stitch starts on the right and finishes on the left (or vice versa)), or else stitches to the left, takes a tiny stitch under the fabric and stitches to the right. I’ve always thought this was humbug. If a thread is Z twist the ply will sit pointing down to the right whichever way the stitch is done, and if the thread is S twist it will sit pointing down to the left. How can the light reflection change? Just a few stitches – the 3rd set – showed the difference. The whole stitch sits differently. With satin stitch you get a nice plump look and it’s sort of crisp where the thread bends under the cloth. With the little catch stitch thing the thread goes somehow pigeon-toed, the threads seem to splay out as if magnetically repulsed.

Second lesson: I really dislike doing satin stitch. It’s really hard to work it closely to cover the background without feeling the need to be neat and proper and get things lined up. Which I can’t and don’t really want to. How can one be uninhibited in satin stitch? Straight stitch, yes. Satin stitch…

Cretan stitch was better, and with the silk fabric strip better again, but I finally realised – I don’t want to cover the background cloth. My focus for the past few years has been making cloth. I want to enhance it, not to hide it. Adding texture makes sense. Covering it up doesn’t (… unless in specific bits that adds to what isn’t covered). Yes, I need to be open to new things plus I need to do things for the purposes of the course which won’t necessarily be part of my life’s work. Still…

I do like the mass of stitches bottom right. It’s stitched with 20/2 silk thrums and I think would be a fabulous accent on some weaving, really contrasting with the grid. It could also work for the yellow scratching in wax crayon texture I posted about yesterday. I dug out a piece of felt that I think would make a good base to stitch on. I’ll have to see how time goes.

Project 2 Stage 4 – Preparing to create texture

I’ve read through the instructions a few times and think I understand: look at some of the textures created in project 1 and the sketchbook; describe the textures found; think of them in textile terms – yarns, fabrics, stitches, embellishments…; select yarns etc that match the textural qualities seen; plan the techniques, materials, colours to use to express the effect wanted; but (and this is the bit I’ve checked and rechecked) don’t actually do any of the stitching/sampling/beading/whatever-ing. There are two more stages in the project but an actual sample is an optional extra if there is time. There are exercises to do, but focused on building blocks and general experimentation.

The first oddity was how difficult I found it to come up with words that describe texture. Weird. So that was the first research step and this site helped me past my momentary aphasia (perversely that word came to me without a fight).

oat texture in collaged painted tissue paper

Texture 1: rolled oats.
First seen here

Rough, matt, flakey, soft, fluttery, dusty.

Possible approach: lots of snippets of chiffon in various shades of golden yellow and orange brown (staying with what was created, rather than the original bland rolled oats colour). Raw edges slightly unravelling would help the soft feel, or cut on the bias and stretch edges to get more movement. Couch down the snippets using a detached chain stitch in a matt fibre – possibly a wool – in various shades of the fabric colours. Leave edges free to move.


Texture 2: Monoprint
First seen here
Grainy, faint, mottled, indistinct, uneven, patchy, fragmented. Could be seen as flakey, like peeling paint. Is the white on top or underneath??
Possible approach: The coloured parts actually have a lot of small amounts of different colours. That could be wool felted with a layer of tissue silk (offwhite) or some kind of gauze like crepe bandage on top – a sort of nuno felt. The wool fibres could be blended to give the different colours that would work through the fabric surface. The result would be cut roughly, spread apart, then stitched onto an offwhite background – I’d try a synthetic felt or maybe a boiled wool fabric to get a very matt, understated effect. Some very careful straight stitches in a matt yarn could add some shading without changing the texture already achieved.

Amethyst crystal

Texture 3: Amethyst crystal.
First seen here.
Crystalline, fractured, jagged, hard, sharp breaks, sparkling sheen. The real thing is glossy, but not this sample.
Possible approach: A good base fabric could be a medium weight silk – possibly dupioni, which has a sheen and some slubby texture which I think fits with the exercise sample although not so much the original crystals. Arashi shibori dyeing could give suitably jagged lines – either a paler purple fabric dyed with a darker, or a darker fabric discharged could be good. I’d like to try lots of straight machine stitching in glossy rayon, being careful to keep all the lines in the same direction as the lines of dyeing. Some areas of heavy beading could be added. Depending on scale bugle beads, or else some hex cut or twist hex cut could catch the light and give a hard glitter.

Scratches in layers of wax crayon

Texture 4: Scratch marks.
First seen here.
Contrast – mottled ground and sharp, hard scratches. Discordant, jarring, prickly.
Possible approach: A yellow yarn in different thicknesses is needed. A rayon used in a sewing machine could work, but I think raised lines of couching are worth a try, possibly using different colours of fine thread to hold the yellow down. Perle cotton has a sheen, but the twist of the fibres would detract. Something like synthetic fishing line or whipper snipper cord would be better, although it could be difficult to get the sharp changes of direction needed. The base cloth could be very heavily machined using granite stitch in a number of colours of rayon to get an overall mix of colour with a subdued gleam, although taking this approach could force machine application (couching or maybe bobbin work) of the yellow since it would probably resist hand stitching. Otherwise possibly some kind of matt vinyl or synthetic leather – I wonder if disperse dyes would work on that – although the same stitching constraints could apply.

Texture 5: Stoney driveway
First seen here.
No detail selected. On a number of the other images I have been pulled between the different textures of original source and my markmaking interpretation, but with this set I simply can’t settle on one. It feels like a tug-of-war been the mind and what I know about the texture versus the visual of the various interpretations I attempted – all of which have aspects that I like and dislike. I think in practice I would try to use parts of all of them.
Hard, lumpy, uneven, soft/fuzzy areas (moss), hard waxy areas (berries).
Possible approach: Layering of synthetic organza could give depth of colour and some hardness – I have a shiny grey that could be good Some initial disperse dyeing could introduce more colour variation. Machine granite stitch the background of low-relief pebbles, avoiding the stones which would puff out by comparison (some wadding underneath might help this). An alternative would be seeding by hand, but that would be a lengthy process. Add colour and texture using hand stitching on the stones – long straight stitches or a very uneven herringbone. Soft moss could be rumpled tissue silk couched onto the surface at the edges of stones and in a few places on the stone, adding shape as if a fissure by using varying tension of stitches. Red wooden beads could be added to suggest the berries (glass beads would be too glossy).

Detail of scrapped pastel

Texture 6: Flecks
First seen here
Powdery, layered, swirling, fizzy, sparkly
Possible approach: Loads and loads of seeding, with perhaps some french knots. Some of the depth could be added by a paint or dye wash of the base fabric before starting. A white crystal synthetic organza would give a good sparkly start – which would mean disperse dyes could be used to give the colour base. Stranded embroidery cotton yarns, using varying numbers of strands together would be used for the stitching. Clusters of seed beads would add sparkle and depth.


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October 2011

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