Archive for September 7th, 2012

Project 8 Stage 1 – Exploring the qualities of yarn

This stage introduces the student to the different properties of yarns, looking at the three main categories of fibre – natural fibres, man-made fibres and regenerated fibres.

Step one was to group my yarns by colour. I’ve never won a conversation about stash size. I’ve met a couple of people who keep to a very small stash. Mine isn’t small. It isn’t large either – I know lots of people with much bigger stashes. It has until now been mostly sorted by yarn content and size or by purpose – for example Bendigo 2 ply wool (a great weaver’s starter yarn), or various sock yarns (knitting keeps the fingers busy when the brain is tired or otherwise occupied).

I am gradually learning to trust the OCA course and process, so I gulped a few times and did it! I sorted by colour. The photo above shows a 50 litre tub of blue. I have six colour tubs (yellow, orange, red…), one white and light neutrals, one black and dark neutrals, and one mixed colours.

I didn’t entirely let go. My hand-dyed 20/2 silk stayed in its little trolley and skeins of undyed silks of various types are safe in a cupboard. Still, so far I’m liking it. After all, it’s easy to go through and pick out all the cottolins if I need to, and it certainly made the last exercise on colour matching and yarn winding (blogged this morning) easier.

As well as collections of particular yarn types for weaving I’m a gatherer and hoarder – so there are bits and pieces picked up at sales, at clearouts by other fibre people, big cones of fine cottons (a machine knitters meeting I wandered into), mill ends, lots of anonymous stuff. I spent some time going through the blue tub and made up some little cards with samples where I knew the fibre composition.

There’s another card with some basics which I don’t have in blue – linen, paper, raffia – plus things I’ve picked up in the past from the hardware store.

The tricky thing with all this is that I tend to think I know these yarns, at least some of their properties, what they can do, how to work with them… In one sense I do, in another I’m in a new situation and doing new things, so what I used to know isn’t relevant. I’ve never done tapestry weaving. I have tried to go from visual source to finished object (particularly in Meg‘s P2P2 challenge – my project here), but I need to take it to a whole new level. That’s why I’m doing this course, after all!

I want to force myself out of any comfort zone, so I went to Reverse Garbage looking for weaving materials. This co-operative takes industrial discards and sells them to the public – landfill diverted. On the left are my gleanings – some sacks that previously held coffee beans ( I can cut strips like rag weaving, or take out individual threads), some shredded silver paper, and some very odd synthetic things – I have no idea of their original purpose. Not super exciting.

Next outing was to Feeling Inspired, who sell beading, jewellery and craft supplies. My friend Des had used some of their neoprene tubing at the weaving week with Liz Williamson (blog post 14-Jan-2012 – if you click on the link you can see her work on the right in the top photo).

I now have a couple of diametres of neoprene, some fine wire, what I think is waxed cotton cord, various colours of something labelled “strong and stretchy” and a whole heap of anonymous somethings. I don’t know their properties and potential and I can’t read it up. I’m going to have to feel, experiment, and figure it out. Excellent!

Assignment 4 – Analysing colour, texture and proportion

Visual sources – their colour, texture, proportion, pattern, composition – can spark ideas for raw materials and structures in creating textile structures. In this exercise I needed to choose sources of inspiration, looking particularly at colour and texture. I then needed to analyse the colours carefully and match them using paints or crayons. Finally I needed to select yarns trying to match texture and surface qualities of the source in addition to colour, and make a winding onto cards to interpret those qualities.

A calendar photo by Frans Lanting was my first source. Just some of the challenges:

* My recent sketchbook work (here) had been working with watercolours,  colour mixing and combinations based on Jeanne Dobie’s book Making Color Sing: practical lessons in color and design. Based on this I approached the exercise with a certain level of confidence which turned out to be entirely misplaced! It took me a couple of long sessions to admit that watercolours were not the right choice of medium for this exercise, and to make the move to gouache.

* Light source. The course notes recommend good daylight – not possible for me in practice. I consoled myself with the thought that Sydney winter daylight is different to London summer daylight, so matches wouldn’t necessarily translate well. I have a couple of lamps with what are meant to be “daylight” fluorescents, so  they had to be good enough.

* The colour in this photo is really complex and there is a lot of optical colour mixing happening when you look at it. Selecting and matching a specific, individual colour was difficult and even misleading overall.

* I started working with words, jotting down an initial analysis of the colours, then remembered I’m trying to work more visually and intuitively. Doing a quick sketch and focusing on smaller areas helped.

I am pleased with my results for both colour and texture. The plant area uses yarns with angora and mohair components, as well as a fancy acrylic bobble effect, providing the texture. These were alternated with other yarns (cottolin, a wool/nylon sock yarn, and anonymous secondhand cone ends), which adjusted colour.

In the background greenery I used a couple of old handspun experiments, one a green mohair, the other a blend of green wools plus a pale purple silk – not a colour I found in the photo, but it is subtle enough to enhance the flickering light effect without impacting on colour. These gave an underlying element of texture and some 2 ply wools gave additional colour and depth.

For the sky, relatively smooth cottolins (a cotton/linen blend) echo the smooth colour transition across the top. I used four different blues and in a larger work would be able to smooth the move from colour to colour. In the winding the limited number of wraps led to more abrupt changes.

My second source was a photo of Saddle bags in sumak technique, c 1880 from the southern Caucasus. The colour in this photo is more distinct, less blended, although there is still a lot of variation at the detail level (for example, how many reds???). I continued with the gouache paints, with reasonable results (looking at the photo now, I’m not convinced by that mustard yellow – it looks better in person).

I mostly used Bendigo Mills 2 ply wool in the wrapping. I assume the original Saddle bags used wool, and certainly it can combine a subdued lustre, depth and variation in colour, in a basically flat field. I had to supplement with a couple of other wools and wool blends to get the colour range.

The wrapping doesn’t have good proportions. I wanted to create a structure based on narrower dividing stripes (the navy outline and black/white chequerboard) and wider stripes of varied colour combinations. The main colours of the individual medallions are not clear enough in the yarn wrapping. I tried again in a computer simulation, but it still isn’t right.

The final example is based on a painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, “Woman in a hat”. I saw the original in the Mad Square exhibition at the Art Gallery last year. It was in the first room of the exhibition, and I remember spending some time with it each time I visited – partly I admit because some other images in the early rooms were very challenging, but mainly because of the complex, riveting, unusual, beautiful colour. Unfortunately I remember the emotion more clearly than the colour detail. Darn.

There a four general blocks of colour – skin/face/hands; dress and hat; chair or bed; wall. On the wrapping I think I’ve given a bit too much space to the wall. The face/skin area is also over-represented, but I found there were a few colours I need to include (eg the blue shadows) which was difficult to scale.

Most of the yarn on the dress and hat is 20/2 silk. I thought the smooth glow was a good textural match. For the bed/chair I used a wider variety of yarns in order to get colour matches. There is silk, plus rayon, a bamboo yarn and a soysilk. I haven’t actually used these in the past – they’ve been sitting in the stash, waiting for the right project. The wall is mainly silks, plus a viscose/cotton mix which brings in some texture which I think works. The colour is too light, which I have tried to modify by wrapping it with darker colours.

The course notes suggest developing this exercise into regular sketchbook work, and I think that would be of benefit for me. I found the process a struggle, although I am moderately satisfied with my results.


Dobie, J. (1986) Making Color Sing: practical lessons in color and design New York: Watson-Guptill Publications


No Instagram images were found.

Calendar of Posts

September 2012

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.