Archive for the 'Braiding' Category

Stage 6 – Using threads & yarns to create texture

This stage has a few parts to it: experiment in making my own yarns; select a drawing looking at texture and colour effects/proportion; select yarns and threads and make a wrapping in the same proportion; work a sample.

I seem to have got a bit stuck so have decided to push on through, drawing various lines and saying “good enough”. So this post is progress to date and by the end of the weekend I will post the end.

Rather than using a drawing, I decided to work from a photo taken during my recent Western Australia trip. I’d been very conscious while travelling of building up a library of colour and texture photos in three categories – rust, botanical (especially bark) and rocks – and really wanted to start using them. So far I’ve created new sketchbook pages for rust and botanical.

Initially I looked for dark and intense colours, but couldn’t find a photo that fit – there was just too much light. Eventually I selected this photo of a salt lake near the town of Lake Grace. There is lots of texture, crunchy and jagged. There is also a range of colours, generally earthy (I cropped out the green fields at the top), and values. I thought it could be interesting to develop lots of textured layers with couching, so I planned to use my experimentation in creating yarns to build up a stash of candidates to be couched in the stitch sample.

The next step was figuring out what colours were in the photo, to direct the yarn creation. My first attempt using inktense pencils was disappointing but useful – there was much less yellow and orange than I first thought. I was much happier with my second attempt, shown in the thumbnail, which used water colour and a heavy structure gel.

Still not satisfied, I tried a computer auto-generated palette and manually picking colours to create a little bubble picture. By this stage I was perhaps losing the plot. I decided to investigate proportions – by putting a grid of 100 rectangles over the photo, selecting a “representative” colour from each, putting a rectangle of that in a new image, printing it out, cutting it up, rearranging the colours roughly by value, glueing them onto another page.

Perhaps time for a bad pun about losing and finding proportion. I eventually decided values were roughly 30% light; 30% light-to-mid; 30% mid-to-dark; 10% dark. I later found some functions in the software (gimp) that assist in this sort of analysis. On one hand I feel I need to trust my eyes to do this; on the other, the exercise was probably good training, and why not use the tools you have available? Draw line. Move on.

The next step was experimenting with creating yarns. Given the plan was to sample couching I didn’t have to worry about the practicalities of pulling my creations through fabric.

From top to bottom:

Row 1 – The plastic outer covering of an electrical cable. There’s an interesting ridged texture, but I don’t like the plastic look. Possibly cut into thinner strips it would be more usable.

Row 2 – one of the wires in the cable with parts of the plastic coating cut away to expose the wire. I like the bumps and flashes of colour achieved, but sharp ends scratching and catching got old quickly.

Row 3 – some tissue paper torn into strips then twisted using a spinning wheel. I was thinking of shifu – woven paper – and the work by Wang Lei , knitted “imperial robes” made with yarn spun from Chinese-English dictionaries, that I saw at White Rabbit Gallery earlier this year. Technique-wise I have work to do. For the current purpose I like the crunchiness and angles but the colours didn’t mix up as much as I hoped.

Row 3 – A number of fancy yarns stitched together on the machine. I have a beading foot, which helped keep things together and used a three step zigzag which makes the yarns separate in rather a nice, lively way. I was hoping lighter colours would calm down the pink more. Possibilities include overstitching some more (but losing texture) or possibly knocking back the colour by overlaying with an organza while stitching.

Photo 2, top to bottom.

Row 1 – A bundle of cotolin threads oversewn with (ordinary) zigzag. I was looking at the top part of the salt lake image which looks almost like a light pink stream, and trying to create a lightly textured, lightly coloured yarn. On its own it looks rather bland, but it could work well in the sample.

Row 2 – This was based on the bottom part of the salt lake image where there is a lot of colour variation in the rocky texture. I gathered a pile of snippets and offcuts in the colour range, then machine stitched them onto a strip of tulle. I was thinking of gorilla yarn, where you card a bunch of “stuff” together then spin a lumpy, colourful yarn. I ran out of time to do that and thought this could be a quick substitute. On its own it’s too bitsy, but I think this could work if integrated a bit better while couching, for example by couching with another strip of tulle, or overlaying with layers of tulle or organza before stitching.

Row 3 – cut up pantyhose. I tried to add some texture and interest with knots. It would be interesting to combine this with the stitched snippets idea of the previous sample.

Row 4 – A braid (12-Z-ridged-spiral) made with cotolin. I wanted to try this even though I thought it would be too formal in appearance for the particular application. My highly variable tension makes it less formal, but still not right for the sample. I got the instructions from Makiko Tada’s Comprehensive Treatise of Braids VI and would like to try mixing it up with the Braid-in-Braid idea, where an earlier braid is carried up the middle, then brought out and wrapped around every once in a while. Perhaps one could use individual yarns rather than a braid inside, and swap in and out colours, or try using textured yarns. I do like the way the colours work in the sample.

There were a couple of other little bits, but somehow they missed the photo shoot. Line. Move.

Next steps are the yarn wrapping and actual sample. It’s Friday evening and the clock is ticking.


My Bag for All Seasons is done!!!

As you may tell from the profligate use of exclamation marks, I am pleased – with both the bag and that it’s done 🙂

Parts of it have been seen before on the blog. The feature fabric in the centre is “freestyle rosepath”, blogged here. It was initially intended as a very simple bag, similar to one I’ve done before (here). There was a certain amount of languishing and distraction, then I decided to use it in a class.

This meant more fabric was required and it was a fun and fast (for me) weave – read its story here.

The bag class with Helen MacRitchie was a very pleasant weekend. I posted about it here, and you can see some of Helen’s lovely work such as her award-winning bag pictured here and at the moment some in her etsy shop (including one with nunofelted silk georgette in a spiral fabric which I rather covet…).

At this point the bag could pose with others from the class and looked fairly complete – except for the vital detail of handles, plus how was I going to attach the tab closure artfully balanced for the photo shoot? The photo on the right shows some of the sampling done to answer those questions.

None of the commercial handles available worked with the bag so I decided to try braiding some, using the same cottolin that was the warp for both the fabrics used. The first attempt was the flat braid on the left, but it was too flimsy and stretchy. I decided to try a round braid with a commercial cord at the core to provide some extra strength.

This photo shows the setup. I used the warping wheel to wind the warps for the braid, and it also provided a very convenient way to hold the core cord while I was braiding. I wanted mixed colours – version one was too green, but I was happy with version two. (An aside – my original improvised tama seen here used plastic embroidery thread bobbins attached to metal washers. They weren’t really comfortable in the hand, so now I’m trying some door stops with more metal washers inside. A definite improvement).

The next issue was how to attach the braid handle to the bag. First idea was some kind of tab on the bag creating a channel – the braid goes through and is finished with a knot and tassel. Lots of problems with that.  On my bookshelf I found a copy of Stuart Gainger’s Creative ropecraft. In the photo above of samples you might be able to see the Turk’s Head knots on the practice braids. The idea was to sew the braid directly to the bag, working around the knots which would hide the join. I actually started on the bag doing this, but it was harder to do than I expected plus I worried that the weight of the bag on the small sewn area would tear out.

On the right of the sample photo is the final idea – a Prolong Knot, which Mr Grainger informs us is “a method of extending a flat three lead four bight Turk’s Head into a rectangular form”. The “rope” used is three strands of cottolin, twisted together very tightly (using an electric drill with a cuphook instead of a drillbit to hold the threads) then folded in half to form a two ply cord. At the bottom right of the photo is the knot, still loose. Above that is the same knot, with the lead doubled and everything tightened up. I have to admit it took me quite a few attempts to get the hang of this. It was only when I used my “weaver’s eye” to follow the developing interlacement that I got it. At the top of the photo is a version that has been extended by a lengthening/repeating process, which was no trouble at all (really – no sarcasm. By then I knew it followed our familiar over-under).

Here is a closeup of the result. I sewed on the braid, over a wider area than was possible with the earlier attempt. I used a tacky glue to attach the knots, reinforced by sewing around the edges (using more of the cottolin plus thread heaven). I’m hoping the combination of all this will distribute weight in use well enough. As you can see the knots also solved my closure attachment problem. I just kept extending the knot until it was long enough, then used the sew-on/glue-on/sew-on technique.

At one point I was going to wind some more cottolin cord over the central areas of the handles, as extra reinforcement where it will be held and to camouflage dirty/sweaty handmarks. But it didn’t look good, to be honest I’m a bit over the whole thing, and I can always add it later if necessary.

Here’s a final shot of the inside of the bag. Have I mentioned the attention to detail of Helen’s bags? Fully lined of course. A couple of pockets, zippered, open, and nice&tight for a pen. A neat casing to hold a snap-open frame. The tab and magnetic catch closure. And you can’t really see it, but a firm bottom supported by cute little feet.

This has always been intended as a gift – fortunately to someone close so I feel comfortable saying “it’s my first – give it back for me to fix if something doesn’t work out”.  I’m already thinking of a few changes for mine – but there’s quite a queue of things beforehand.


The 3 brothers afterwards.

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