Archive for February 9th, 2013

Project 10 Stage 4 – part 1

This Stage involves making all or representative part of the designed textile. I should be able to complete my piece in an amount of time appropriate to the assignment – fortunate since it would be difficult to isolate a representative part!

I started by making the figure – the most critical element and also the one most technically challenging and beyond my existing experience and skillset.
figureconstruction01First up was the head, which you might be able to see middle left in the photo – a core of the purple merino, then a “skin” of the blend I chose in the earlier colour mixing process in Stage 3 (posted 28-Jan-2013). Next the torso, needle-felting using Border Leicester wool. At this stage I didn’t incorporate the wire frame, thinking that it could cause broken needles and also repeated flexing of the wire could weaken it.

figureconstruction02Inserting the wire proved difficult, but after some tense moments not impossible. There is one wire running from the head, through the torso to the right foot – a spine. A second wire forms the arms, with a twist around the spine. A third wire is the left leg, one end twisted around the spine. Most of the mass of wool above the shoulders was cut off later.

figureconstruction03Some additional pieces of wool were added to give some additional shape to the torso. The mouth has been cut, revealing the purple interior. I intended to make the figure slightly larger than the plasticine model, but at this stage was concerned at just how much bigger the figure was becoming.

figureconstruction04A merino skin has been added to the torso. This photo shows the process of wet-felting the arms and legs. There are four layers of merino, long but just one fibre-length wide. The dark blue “veins” are only in the final layer. I’d been thinking of trying to keep a wrinkly look to the skin, or perhaps that falling away from the bone affect from loss of weight and muscle, but found it too tricky at this scale.

figureconstruction05The basic figure pretty much finished – and much larger than the plasticine model. That’s a 30 cm / 12 inch ruler on the left. There were some technical issues getting to this point.

shape_sample_05I had wanted to get a wrinkly neck like the earlier sample (posted 6-Jan-2013), but while putting it on decided that could only have been done by starting at the head, because the torso was pretty much fixed and I couldn’t move it to compress the felt.

I then partly proved this wrong by changing the way the head was attached. Relying on the strength of the felt alone seemed dangerous given all the travelling this figure is going to do. Eventually I put the wire entirely through the head and bent the end at an angle (covered by a needle-felted “toupĂ©e”), plus a dot of hot glue at the base of the head.

The big concern at this point is that the figure looks like a puppet alien in a low-budget movie.

figureconstruction06Next a dress was created, first shaped and slightly attached to the body using the felting needle. This worked well in terms of shaping, basically breaking down and softening the structure of the cotton fabric so it conformed quite well to the torso shape. I snipped away unneeded material as I went. It wasn’t well attached, so after some experimentation I used a dilute glue, painted all over the fitted fabric.

figureconstruction07This is almost the finished figure. The arms and legs are unfinished because I wanted to do some dry-fitting in the container, see what shapes could be created, before making a final decision. I’ve also put a few stitches in the skirt of the dress, hoping to hold it in place while travelling, plus couched some black yarn winding its way up one leg. Those details can wait for the final “reveal”.

Overall making the figure went well. A few details didn’t go as planned, but given I was taking multiple leaps in dark, unfamiliar territory it went better than I expected. On a more sombre and real note, the greatest difficulty during the making of the figure was a health challenge for Nancy last weekend – probably a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) from what one of the nurses said. I was visiting her at the time. Without going into detail it was very disturbing to witness and I was relieved later to find that she has no memory of it – just woke from a little nap to find I had vanished and nurses were bustling around her with an oxygen tank. One of the hardest parts was trying to understand or know what Nancy wanted. I know she’s refused medical or hospital assistance in the past, that she not infrequently says she hopes that each day, each night, will be the one she dies. At one point early in the attack she was trying to say something but was incomprehensible. Did she want help? I couldn’t sit there passive. I went and got the nurses. I feel a hypocrite and that I failed her, but more important is what Nancy is feeling – and that’s unbearable to think about.

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February 2013

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