Project 6 Stage 4 – gathering

Stage 4 focuses on raised and structured surface techniques, giving a long list and the instruction to “try out … as many as you can”. These tasks are so open!

I did have one constraint – the hand stitching in the final part of Stage 3 (here) had left me with a sore and swollen knuckle on my right hand middle finger. I’m going to be doing lots of hand-stitching at a workshop this weekend and wanted to rest the finger and give it a chance to heal. I looked for ways to progress using the sewing machine as the main tool. In addition I decided to do a similar set of transformations on a variety of materials, to explore their different properties. I also stayed with light, undyed fabrics as I was interested in looking for shadows and at the effect of layering.

The photos of the work include some unusual lighting and angles to highlight the dimensionality of my results. I think the work is going to suffer badly in the post – 4 times for some work, as it goes to the UK and back for tutor review, and again for final assessment – so want to capture what might be lost.

This is a mid-weight cotton, and this overview shot shows my basic approach. On the right is a strip of fabric on-grain. One side is cut and the other torn (on later fabrics I changed this to one side straight cut or torn and the other side a sawtooth cut using pinking shears and/or a shaped rotary cutting blade). On the left is a strip cut on the bias – one side straight, the other sawtooth. I did a row of machine stitching down the centre of each strip, using the longest stitch length available. I used that thread to gather the cloth, then machine stitched it to a base of the same material.  I tried to vary the amount of gathering as I went.

The cotton gave quite crisp and firm results, and some good height especially on the tight curve at the end of the bias cut strip. The fabric is fairly opaque, so no real layering effect – just frilly stuff on top of a flat base. It’s not exciting, but it provided some useful experience for my approach to the rest of the samples.

Next up was hessian. This is fast becoming one of my favourite materials. Unfortunately my stock is running low and the I’m having trouble finding more in this nice unbleached cream.

The gathers are firm and I think will cope reasonably well with travelling. There is some nice lift and movement, especially in the bias-cut strip.

I particularly like the effect of the tight gathering of the bias strip. I think it would work very well to suggest the centre of flowers.

It looks good back-lit too. I really like the crossing lines in the weave and the different densities of light.

This cheesecloth looks very light and delicate. After the effort of gathering up the hessian I was surprised by how easily the cheesecloth compacted, and strips were finished before I attempted a tight turn.

The frayed edges of the straight-cut strip have a kind of delicate wireiness which I find delightful. It wouldn’t cope with heavy use or laundering, but in the right application it could give a lovely sense of fragility or possibly age.

The cloth is quite transparent, and the back-lit view is attractive too.

The gathering doesn’t have a great deal of height. I think it may actually travel quite well. Although it will squash I think it would regain as much height as ever with just a shake-out. We’ll see.

This delicate confection definitely will crush easily and I think will be very difficult to iron or restore to its current form.

This is the very light paj silk which is so nice in felting. It’s almost transparent flat (an aside – Mary Louise got a really interesting effect shown here, stitching on newsprint and tracing paper. I wonder if the paj would work for a textile variant – or perhaps organza would be better…).

It has a beautiful shiny frothiness. Fraying is currently minimal – I don’t know how it will stand up to handling.

The backlit view is rather nice – reminiscent of an xray film I think.

This is the silk organza I was thinking of above – although this is 5.5 mm and maybe something a bit heavier would be more like the tracing paper.
It’s a very crisp froth, as you’d expect from organza. The sheen is perhaps more apparent in the photo than in life. I also see a little bug of some kind decided to join in on the photo shoot, although there’s no sign of it now. Silk organza is very meringues and wedding dresses, especially in this style of gathering, but like pretty much everything could be just what you need in a particular application.

Back-lighting really shows up both the transparency and the crisp character of this fabric. I like the tonal variation as the number of layers change in the gathering.

Another light silk – look at the beautiful flowing line of the edge of the ruffle!

This is tissue silk, 3.5 mm georgette, very light and airy and very easy to gather up to get that dense mass of fabric movement. The effect is very soft and gentle, not at all crisp. I’m very taken with the effect of the fraying, quite long threads that further soften the edges.
The same soft texture is apparent in the back-lit photo. I’m sure this fabric will also suffer in transit.
The three light silks – paj, organza and georgette – make an interesting combination of texture and lustre. I think there’s a lot of potential for playing off one against the others.

This sampling process could go on and on. I had some heavier and more texture silks out, plus wondered about the different effect I might get with synthetic versus silk sheers. In the end I have decided to finish my gathering exploration with just one more fabric.

What a contrast! Lots of showy shine but not perhaps elegance. This is crushed panne velvet, 100% polyester, knit. On this one I have no real concerns about travel survival.

As you can see I used three strips on this sample. The knit fabric has a quite different behaviour length-wise versus width-wise, so I cut strips of both in addition to a bias cut.

Each strip gave quite different results. I find the centre strip interesting, with a rounder kind of scooping effect. This is the lengthwise cut, with very little stretch in the material.

Altogether a satisfying set of results.

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Germination II
In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info fibresofbeing.wordpress.com

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