For some reason I’ve always loved and been fascinated by lattice tops on pies. I don’t mean one woven with strips of pastry, but the ones which have a slashed sheet of pastry eased open. I decided to try the same thing with fabric, slashing and stretching one piece then sewing it down on another piece of the same material. In my initial experiments this split into two versions – in the first version, the bottom (unslashed) piece of fabric would be as undistorted as I could manage in the process. In the second version, the top (slashed) piece would be undistorted and the bottom piece would protrude through the slashes.
Pictures (lots of pictures!) are coming, but first to explain the photo setup. In previous posts I’ve talked about the differing numbers of layers of cloth and the effect of lighting, but I often take photos of work at night (just the way timing works out – why “waste” daylight hours). Yesterday was a beautiful, clear, sunny winter’s day in Sydney and I decided to show more clearly just how wonderfully light interacts with the samples.
This is the window of my workroom (formerly known as the dining room). The “curtains” are unhemmed lengths of cheesecloth, a bit finer than the one in the current experiment set. The four hanging structures on the right are from the class with Liz Williamson in January (blogged 14 Jan ’12, here). If not the beginning, certainly that class is a major contributor to my fascination with light and the beauty and interest of contrasting textures in undyed fibres. Actually three of those structures include strips of hessian as weft. On the left of the photo, held up by an improvised system of fishing line and pins, is the first slashing sample (the very same hessian).
It’s hard to pick out in the big photo, so on the right is the same shot with the stitching points in red. I just anchored the fabrics together at the pivot points (the reason for that will be more obvious on other samples).
Clearly my cutting and slashes were freehand and unmeasured, the stitching points uneven, edges are raw, threads hang where they will. The overall effect is one I like, but this is just one of many options.
On the right is a diagram showing the lines of stitching I did to stabilise the edges of each slash and the protruding fabric. A side effect I didn’t expect is that this arrangement is actually like a series of gussets, leading to more play and experimentation holding the sample in hand.
The back fabric is around about triple the width and twice the height of the slashed fabric. Since the hessian is so bulky I did the gathering tucks around the edge before putting the fabrics together. For the other fabrics in the sample set I did some rough pinning then sewed the edges of the fabrics together, gathering in the backing fabric as I went.
In my eyes, both of the samples are beautiful. Both have lines with rhythm and variability. Version one offers complexity of colour (or at least value) and texture. Version two has a great relief effect which is quite stable. There is lovely play of light on the surface and through the piece. All the pockets and folds offer opportunities to stuff or fill or hide… something.
I like this very much.
The hessian was the last sample I worked with. This cotton was the first. As you can see from the side view on the left, the slashed fabric on the top bulges out rather than sitting neatly on the surface of the background, and that’s the reason I only sewed the pivot points on this version of the study. If I tried to force a full, flat lattice on the top layer, the bottom layer couldn’t hold it without distorting. If the bottom was to be flat (a criterion I had set myself), the top had to bulge. Perhaps some of the bulges could be used to support … dangles (ie something unspecified). I probably wouldn’t want to use all – you’d lose the effect of the lattice and the height and things are pulled down by the weight (assuming anything but very light dangles).
Version 2 of the cotton (top undistorted, bottom pushed through), in a straight front view. The lines of stitching are more visible, and the unevenness of my tucking/gathering both at the edges and through the slashes. My eye finds it difficult to interpret this photo. It looks mysterious and complex.
I wonder if you could get a flower effect in the shadowing if you had just one slash and swirled the fabric underneath. Maybe it would look like a tornado – or from the bottom like a whirlpool.
A material that didn’t work so well in this application was the paj silk. One of its major characteristics is that lovely shine, and that was totally lost in the back-lit photos. For the final one above I switched on the floor lamp for front lighting, which brought out at least a little of the fabric’s individuality. In a previous post I was very keen on the use of the paj to provide textural interest and contrast, but it’s not as straightforward as I thought. The particular application and expected lighting would need to be considered to bring out the best of the fabric(s).
Version 2 of the paj sample also had problems. I found the fabric extremely difficult to control. Pins just fell out, everything slid around, and in the end fabric got caught in the wrong places at the back so the gussets/pockets aren’t formed correctly. An obvious response to this would have been more careful preparation, probably hand-tacking the fabric before sewing with the machine. I wasn’t in that mindset, I pushed on despite difficulties to see what would happen, and what happened was “a learning experience”. The big, floppy puffs of fabric still look good(more so when lit from the front), and the fabric is thin enough to show any contents quite well.
The cheesecloth is so soft, in version 1 it easily distorted to sit flat on the base fabric. The sewing machine stitch pattern I was using produced little diamonds in most of the fabrics, but the cheesecloth just collapsed to form what look like bodies for the butterfly wings of the lattice. Very light, airy and unstable. I think some random areas of this would look rather good on my cheesecloth curtains.
Version 2 in the cheesecloth is pretty spectacular too. The double layer and lines of stitching between the puffs give a little stability, and the open weave gives great visibility for any small treasures that might be stashed inside. I just tried it out with some brightly dyed silk cocoons. It’s night-time now so I can’t try the backlighting, but the gleaming colour and lovely shape of the cocoons showed clearly.
Above is a view from the back looking into a cheesecloth puff. I love the misty depths, although I have no idea at the moment of how it could be used. One positive is that it would probably post well, a major consideration in a distance course. It would flatten in transport, then just a little shake would refresh it. I wonder if it could work as a metaphor for an ageing mind, not so sharp any more, having trouble holding or grasping ideas and memories. I must put a photo and fabric snippet in my theme book.
Similarly, in version 2 the puffs of fabric stand proud of the surface. Both versions retain that wonderful organza transparency. Even with all that volume of fabric, when I lay the samples over a printed page I can still get glimpses of the text underneath. In fact I find myself moving my head and viewpoint, trying to see through and focus on what is beneath. This aspect reminds me of a work I saw recently at the Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art – still to be blogged, but I’ll try to remember to refer back. The point is that it was interesting how parts of the work became visible or in focus when you looked directly at them, but out of focus or misted over from an angle. Intriguing.
The back view of version 2 in organza has horizontal lines of shading where the fabric is folded, combined with finer verticals from the stitching and the voids of the slashes. The tucks of fabric seem to invite little inclusions slipped inside. The lines of stitching across top and bottom limit the sideways stretch or opening of the sample. On a larger piece I think you could play with height versus width to create further variations.
The tissue silk (version 1 above) looks very similar to the organza in these photos. The difference is apparent in person, where the very soft gleam and the slight texture of the weave is apparent. It’s more delicate, more likely to crush.
Version 2 front and back in tissue silk is above. I wonder if the soft, crushable nature of the fabric could be used as an advantage – deliberately iron it all flat, lose all the dimensionality that has been created but keep the texture. It would be interesting to put mistyfuse on at least one layer before starting, then iron at the end to create a new integrated fabric. I’m in the middle of a process doing something vaguely similar exploring pleating, so I won’t follow up that idea just now.
I didn’t play with cutting the fabric horizontally across the grain rather than vertically – as is always the case there are so many more possibilities to explore. At this point I’m wondering how to capture all the positives I can see in these photos. …
…During that pause I tried simply lying other fabrics like a veil over the velvet, just grabbing bits on the work table. Both organza and cheesecloth helped the panne velvet look pretty good, but the tissue silk – what a magical glow results! You lose most of the physical dimensionality. I wonder if the two fabrics could be laminated and processed together, without losing the attractive qualities of either. I feel in danger of disappearing in a labyrinth of endless possibilities in this study. Just try this little variation, then this one, then…
On the left, the lumpy mess of the back of panne velvet version 2. On the right – the amazing, intriguing back of panne velvet version 2. Wow. I don’t know how or when I’d be able to capture and use this effect, but it would be worth some effort.