Archive for August 4th, 2012

Project 6 Stage 4 – Piping

First was gathering, then pintucks. This time piping, experimenting with the same seven undyed fabrics and the sewing machine.

As before I started with the white cotton, using the zip/piping foot on the machine and trying to go in a straight then curved line. Generally I think of piping in terms of an addition along a seam or edge, often in a different fabric or colour from the main body. This time I was creating a tuck in a single piece of fabric and experimenting with different stuffings.

From the left in the photo the first piping is over a fairly coarse string. This didn’t seem to create much of a bump or distortion, so in the second piping I used three lengths of the string. Next is the same tripled string, this time with knots of various sizes in it to form bumps. The final piping is 26 gauge artistic wire. I don’t particularly like the effect of the bumps. They were difficult to sew and just look lumpy and odd. Perhaps the idea would be more effective with repetition, something like rows of hills in a range, or ripples in sand. The wire was also disappointing – a heavier gauge would be better at holding its shape in this weight of cloth.

It was the second sample, tissue silk, where it started getting interesting. On the left is a smooth but fairly heavy cotton, then the same thread doubled, then the 26 gauge wire. This is where photos fail, because this sample just begs to be picked up and played with. I expected the wire to be effective in creating dimension and holding the soft fabric in place, and it does just that. What I hadn’t realised is how easy it is to use the piping to form gathers – particularly easy when the filling is smooth – say a nice cotton, or some wire. I got the fabric fairly tight over the cotton (too tight in one spot where a stitch catches it), which means little gathers spaced along the length keep their place quite well. Obviously this wouldn’t hold with much handling. The fabric moves more easily on the wire, but a little judicious bending contains it to some extent. The one thing I don’t really like is the doubled cotton. It’s harder to manage while sewing and it looks a bit flat.

On the cheescloth I used the smooth cotton yarn, the thicker and coarser string and the 26 gauge wire. Both the strings sit quite flat and give a nice strong line in the open cloth. The fabric gathers well and behaves nicely with the extra weight and stability. This could work very well in a hanging arrangement with light coming through. The wire is a bit of a star too, both strong and light enough to hold the fabric up without overwhelming it. In the photo above it looks to me like a line of surf, full of froth and foam.

Just sitting flat the organza looks bland, and my photo isn’t doing it any favours. The sewing machine wasn’t very happy with it either, and the thread got chewed up in a couple of spots. It’s a different thing when you hold the sample in your hands and start playing with it, manipulating it. It gathers so nicely…

…There was just a pause while I looked at the lovely shadows that it creates, the lines of piping and the different densities of gathered cloth. I’ve been thinking lately about the use of light in textiles – in weaving or applied later. Perhaps piping over light strips would provide opportunities – I don’t know what practical / technical / safety issues there would be.

The paj silk is, as always, shiny and pretty and a bit difficult to handle. Returning to my hanging and lighting thoughts above, the paj silk has the advantage of being more reflective and therefore opaque. It would give some nice contrast and a change of texture in combination with some of the other fabrics. It is delicate and crushes, so wouldn’t be appropriate in many applications, but in the right circumstances it could be stunning.

I wish I could like the panne velvet. I like the shine of the silk, so shouldn’t complain on that ground. Perhaps it’s a bit heavy and leaden-looking, especially in the rather harsh white. Perhaps it’s the volume of kid’s dress-up clothes I’ve sewn over the years.

In any case, the wire holds it pretty well, although a slightly heavier gauge would be better. It gathers nicely.

Working with it now, the two lines of piping interact interestingly depending on where I form gathers. You can get a lot of variety in a sort of cell structure, reminding me of some of the rock surfaces I saw while at Sculpture by the sea last year (blog post here) – although the shine doesn’t work for that.

Finally the hessian. Beautiful strong lines. I like the crispness and solidity of the piping contrasting with the open weave. There’s some slight but rather nice distortion in the weave where the lines of piping curve (not really apparent in the photo).

I started with the 26 gauge wire but couldn’t feel it as I was sewing so it didn’t get caught in the fold, plus it’s not really strong enough to resist the push of the cloth. I then went to 20 gauge. Lots of potential for 3D use.

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August 2012

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