Stage 6 – Combining textures and colour effects

Racing along, no time to dawdle. I really wanted to extend some of this colour work with felting – pretty much infinite flexibility in proportions of colour in the mix, and you can’t get finer mixing than individual fibres. But if I do that I’ll either fall behind my preferred schedule or have to skimp on something else. Darn.

Onwards. At this point the course notes suggest looking at the work of Seurat and the technique of pointillism. One of the colour books I’ve been reading recently is “The art of colour” by Itten. As well as the now-standard illustration of colour theory using squares of colour etc, this book has the really nice feature of large colour plates of works of art accompanied by comments on colour use and design. It includes (pp 112-113) Un Dimanche à la Grande Jette; preliminary study by Georges Seurat. Itten points out the use of dots of pure colour, the importance of complementaries, and the balance of light and shade. “The individual colour areas are resolved into restlessly vibrating modulations of contrasting tones”.

John Gage in “Colour in Art” includes a detail from A Sunday on La Grande Jette (using the title given in the book), in addition to other works by Seurat. Gage also highlights Seurat’s interest in tone in addition to the luminosity provided by optical colour mixing (pages 54-55). In particular, the comment “Seurat must have been impressed by Blanc’s description of Delacroix’s hatchings of pink and bright green in the flesh painting of the cupola…” (page 53) influenced one of my choices in the samples below.

I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned in a previous post how important the concept of optical colour mixing can be for a weaver. If they are of different colours, the crossing of warp and weft creates many dots of colour, and understanding and taking advantage of this is one of the basics of weave design. It’s very common to weave colour “gamps”, precisely to explore colour interaction. I did a detailed study earlier this year of the interactions of just three particular dye colours, culminating in a colour gamp shawl. Click on the thumbnail to go to the final post on that. The shawl itself doesn’t work as a colour design, but as an information source it is fantastic – over 1,000 colour combinations!

The requirements for this stage are all stitch, not weaving (which I’m really missing), and I went back to hand stitching to form dots of textile colour.

Exercise 1

My stitching went a bit crooked, but this first sample is meant to be two rows of work, each with colonial knots placed widely, then closer, then very closely.

Size 5 perle cotton was used in the first row. The apparent colour lightens and brightens as the knots move closer together. The shine and texture of the thread shows clearly and attractively against the matt black fabric (a moderately heavy cotton twill – I call it “drill”, but am not sure if that’s correct).

The second row has the same perle cotton (shiny), plus a mohair/wool/alpaca yarn (“mirage” from Bendigo Woollen Mills – larger and hairy), cottolin (matt), silk ribbon (some sheen, larger), and a fine silk thread – in a range of reds. In the wider-spaced area the differences in colour, size and texture are very apparent. Overall the effect is quite dull. The central section appears lighter and brighter. On the dark, dull background the differences in yarn size have reduced impact. It would be interesting to compare the result on a lighter fabric which could show shadow more. The differences in colour seem greater. In the closely stitched area I spaced the larger yarns fairly evenly, but worked the smaller ones in little clumps or rivers. As I was working this seemed to let each individual type of yarn keep some of its individuality, while still forming a cohesive whole. It also seemed to make it easier to include and still see the very small silk thread knots. I like the result, although I think it has a more formal and traditional appearance than I would normally prefer. The different sizes and textures of the yarns produce an interesting surface and combine with the variation in colour to give a rich surface.

The second sample uses some of the Lunatic Fringe 10/2 cotton. I chose the colours – 10-red purple and 5-green – thinking of the quote above about cross-hatching in pink and green to produce flesh tones. Straight lines were again a challenge, but in theory there are three rows of stitching, moving from bottom left up to the right. The sample is small – the circle of fabric is around 11 cm diameter.

First are patches of the two base colours, using the thread doubled.

The second row is a series of 50-50 mixes of the two colours. Going from left to right and down, there are clear bands of colour then an even mix (both sets with yarn doubled). I wasn’t getting much optical blending, so I tried the two colours together in the needle – effectively the same total grist, but very mixed colour. In the fourth patch I used the threads separately and undoubled – back to the even mix, but smaller knots.

At this scale the bands and large even mix remain two distinct colours, which look marginally more intense to me. The two colours in one needle produced the most mixing of colour, but is a bit dull and uninteresting. The smaller scale section is the most successful in blending colour but retaining some individuality and liveliness.

Top right are two 80-20 mixes, both in single-thread knots. The colours don’t really blend or shift, but I like the extra pop that the contrasting colour provides.

Exercise 2

The course notes asked for pastel colours, mixing for a gradual colour movement across the sample. I decided to use some of the 20/2 silk I dyed back in January (seen here), at 1% depth of shade and in particular the run from Red 2 B to Navy R (lanaset dyes). Feeling the black background had drabbed down the earlier stitching I moved to a creamy fabric which I think is a cotton-hemp mix.

I started with the bar on the left, using three different colours – 100% Red 2B, 80% Red 2B/20% Navy R, and 60% Red 2B/40% Navy R. I think I was quite successful in gradually introducing each new yarn, but the work was very slow. I dropped my original intention of using the full run of 6 colours.

Instead I decided to try a less densely stitched sample with the colour change radiating out from the centre. Wanting to complete the Project by the end of the weekend (that didn’t happen obviously!) I decided to limit myself to one length of each colour (that is, one “needle full”) and one hour (which turned into one and a quarter). I think the colour movement combined with the decreasing density of stitching creates an interesting but harmonious starburst.

For the final section of work I went totally off the requirement. It started with a simple mis-reading of the notes, which called for “a drawing with pastel colours to develop in terms of image making”. Looking back at the context, this clearly means pastel colours. I read it as pastels the medium, and found this page done in September in Project 1. I was really attracted to the lively mixing of colour, and especially the idea of doing some lively freeform cross-stitch – No More Knots!! I didn’t want a flat overall mix of colour, and had the idea of using some of my recent sketchbook work.

Earlier this month I did a colour study of a work by Monet – “Yacht Races at Argenteuil” (Kapas, page 48). I got very excited about the idea of doing some stitching using lively overlapping cross-stitches of colour, based on the design and colours of the Monet work. I got out the sketchbook to plan it out, referred back to the course notes to check what I needed to do – and realised my error. These were certainly not pastel colours.

Some pacing around the room later I decided I didn’t care. The Plan was relevant to the material being covered in the course, I wanted to try it – the course would just have to bend a little.

I used tracing paper over the plate in the book to get the basic shapes of the image. I didn’t want to reproduce it in any sense, just to get some blocks of colour mixing happening. Next came a quick tryout of the idea using coloured pencils. The result was very muddled and it looked like I would have some trouble with level of detail and scale of work. However I was feeling very committed to the idea and wanted to give it a go.

I decided to use the same creamy cotton-hemp fabric as a base. Threads chosen were all my hand-dyed 20/2 silk.

Here is the result. It’s not finished and it never will be – I’ve run past my (personal) deadline, I need to build up the colours differently (starting bolder and refining with later layers), the scale and detail is challenging (no surprise there!), and if I were going to do a finished piece I would want to start with my own design.

Regardless of all that, I really enjoyed the work and I like it  – or at least the potential of the idea. It’s hard to see in the photo, but where the stitches are layered (particularly the building and greenery middle right) it is starting to get that lively complex mixing of colour. I keep insisting that I’m not a stitcher, but I really hope I get back to developing something like this in the future.

Well, this has turned into a very long post, and Tuesday evening instead of Sunday – but the project is pretty much done. A final overview and I’ll be on to Project 4 – Developing design ideas.

Kapas, M. (ed) (1991) The Impressionists: A retrospective (Beaux Arts Editions)

Gage, J. (2006) Colour in art, Thames & Hudson

Itten, J. (1973 english edition) The art of color: the subjective experience and objective rationale of color, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company

2 Responses to “Stage 6 – Combining textures and colour effects”


  1. 1 Jane December 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    love the Monet


  1. 1 UA1-WA:P2-p4-Research Point – Seurat | Fibres of Being Trackback on November 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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