OCA Project 10 – Getting to the final piece

This is just a wee post to highlight some the steps I went through to get to my final piece in Project 10 of Textiles – A Creative Approach with the OCA.

I went through many steps, it’s meant to be a design process after all. However, there were definitely times when I felt as if I was undesigning, redesigning or plain just not-designing at all.

Firstly there was a theme book…

Finished journal waiting for use

Finished journal waiting for use

My theme was ‘flora and flowers’. Not a neat subject matter, but my garden was inspiring me at the time so I just went with that. I love to have meanings in things so I concentrated my thoughts on the ‘meanings of flowers and plants’. This really helped a lot. On top of this I put the idea for what the final piece might be – in this case I chose a collar. A google search for ‘floral collar’ showed me this…

Find more information on this at the Metropolitan Museum website

Find more information on this at the Metropolitan Museum website

That was it really. I picked my flora and plants to match this theme and used marigolds (grief) and cypress (death).I’m not sure if this constitutes a ‘typical’ design process but it’s what happened to me. I was turning this into a piece of costume, it’s wearable and it had to have a purpose – and this is typical of my thought process.

This I filled with all sorts of sketches and doodles… not always in pencil/pen… sometimes made of fabric…

Themebook thoughts

Themebook thoughts

Exploring stitches with sketch

Exploring stitches with sketch

Sometime sketches would lead to patterns and other shapes…

Original sample and sketch...

Original sample and sketch…

... turns into a repeatable pattern and edge design

… turns into a repeatable pattern and and edge design

There was no real clear-cut step-by-step process. I did a lot of exploring and playing with materials. I would spend time pushing scraps of fabric around, laying them out on top of each other, stitching folds in things, trying to recreate an effect.

Thinking about the funeral collar prompted me to look at mummification wrapping in the NMS.

Mummification wrapping at the NMS

Mummification wrapping at the NMS

I particularly like the time taken to produce these designs, the depth that is achieved and the thought that goes in to producing the precise weave that will prevent slipping as the layers of linen are applied. Admiration all the way.

Bonkuk Koos' Mummy dress - an inspiration

Bonkuk Koos’ Mummy dress – an inspiration

From these ideas I was inspired to try my own. With a little help from instructions from Collette Wolffs ‘Manipulating Fabric’ book.

Mummy wrapping sample

Mummy wrapping sample

This was a very satisfying sample to make. It’s obviously not the same as Bonkuk Koos’ work, I couldn’t quite figured out how he had managed that piece of fabric. The producing a piece of fabric was actually an inspiration I actually missed in a way, noticing only in hindsight. My loss really, but now I have it reflectively I’ll know for next time! I tried placing my folded fabric sample onto a tailors form, and it worked or not in various ways. I couldn’t quite figure out to get it to sit correctly over contours of a body, so I decided to leave it.

However, what it did do was produce pleats and ruffle effects around the neck line. So that was another avenue to explore. I’d seen some of Gareth Pughs designs for 2009 and these were very inspiring.

Structural ruffles by Gareth Pugh

Structural ruffles by Gareth Pugh

I’d also seen Jessica Prestons work, and of course Anne Kyyro Quinns’ designs were still in my mind from previous projects.

Ruffles and pleats for structure in fabric - Jessica Preston

Ruffles and pleats for structure in fabric – Jessica Preston

The petal shapes produced by the wave of felt were interesting - AKQ

The petal shapes produced by the wave of felt were intresting – AKQ

It did cross my mind to flat-out copy that wave and twist idea as I find it so pleasing. But that really isn’t what this project is about. I note it as an inspirational influence and move on. I can similar shapes in some of my themes and sketches as I work, so I know the influence is there.

One thing that was influencing me was the materials I was using. I’m quite fond of jute and hessian scrim materials. Making a sample of leylandii cypress was a starting point for this off-shoot idea.

Material sketch - jute string

Material sketch – jute string

I’ve used jute scrim fabric in the past and when it comes in its natural form it can be quite ordinary. Dye it in the washing machine and it becomes a different thing entirely. Playing with materials I did just this, and dyed it green. It gave me a lovely wavy knotted effect and hung in matted tendrils at the ends. Weaving orange chiffon through it didn’t look right until I dropped it on the workbench. The cartoon for the final piece just fell out of it.

'Cartoon' for the final piece

‘Cartoon’ for the final piece

As I said, I wasn’t pleased with the plain bright torn chiffon. I like the torn effect, but weave just wasn’t working for me. What it reminded me off though was some inkjet printing I’d been trying. The marigold piece I’m using is one of my own photo images, and I’d been trying some of the inkjet printing techniques I’d learnt at a recent workshop. It seems to be a very popular and easily accessible tool to have as a textile artist.

The image was printed onto poplin cotton. I was considering embroidery into it, but couldn’t really see a reason why I would do this so it hadn’t got that far yet. As such, the image was just sitting there, printed, and not going anywhere. I wanted strips of orange, so I tore it up.

Torn photo image

Torn photo image

This was threaded through the scrim again. I felt the effect gave me a separated feeling, as of individual petals without having to go for the obvious petal shapes.

Photo image threaded through scrim - as separated petals

Photo image threaded through scrim – as separated petals

Once this was in place I returned to the ruff idea. It has a strong formal shape, and the structure of ruff itself seemed to combine not only the colour but also the shapes I’d been playing with, of petals and stem parts.

Ruff - a combination of shape and colour

Ruff – a combination of shape and colour

Once all the elements were combined it looked like this…

Project 10 - A Piece Of Your Own

Project 10 – A Piece Of Your Own

I’ve added some elements that were not part of the cartoon, such as crocheted wire through the scrim, and handmade felt beads. Overall I feel this is very experimental and I don’t think I’ve completed the design process entirely. What I didn’t have to start with was a specific enough design brief. The project 10 process was very organic in that respect. Next time I will set myself a design brief to keep things more in check.

I like the final piece, it’s definitely more costume collar than anything else. I feel it needs a character to wear it now. I don’t think I made full use of all the tools that the first OCA textiles course gave me in this respect, but I did do a lot of exploring and I’m taking a few more lessons and experiences away with me. Also, I’m taking away more practise, and that’s always a good thing.

Learning Log – Project 10 – A piece of your own

This is the final stage to the first OCA module; Textiles – A Creative Approach, that I have been doing and it has certainly been challenging me.

The idea was to carry forward some of the techniques and processes we’d covered in all the previous stages. So we start with a review of all the work (Stage 1) I’ve done so far. What I like most is probably structural textiles: making them and building them up into othe forms. Making things out of fabrics and costumes are something I enjoy very much. It fitted well with the idea to make a collar.

I then went to my theme book (Stage 2): theme I chose was ‘flora and flowers’ but I refined that to the meanings of flowers and plants and from there developed an idea based on the meanings of marigolds (grief) and cypress (death). These gave me meaning, colours, shape and texture to work with.

With regards to developing my design (Stage 3) I worked less with drawings and more with materials. I could more easily pick up a piece of fabric or a flower or branch and work with that than I could just sit down and draw something. I didn’t neglect the drawing I just don’t think I did enough of it. A lot of my process went on in my head quite quickly and only some of that made it into samples and onto paper.

When it came to making the final piece (Stage 4) it came about mostly through playing with fabric and paper. My sketchbooks aren’t that orderly so it can be tricky to see the thread of continuity from sketches to samples to final piece, but the links are there.

I don’t think I made all the right decisions during the design process. In some ways I’ve been too literal, maybe not abstract enough. I gave the idea a backstory, it had to have a reason to be. That both simplified and complicated things, I put pressure on myself by doing this. It’s difficult to say what I would change. Even though I’ve completed as much of the collar as I’m going to I’m still designing it in my head, thinking about what could I change or redesign.

Interpretation of my ideas using the materials I chose worked. The techniques was harder to pin down. I’ve collected quite a lot of tools and it was hard to decide which ones to use and which ones to leave alone. Some I just wasn’t brave enough to attempt with this piece. Others I tried and had fun with, but they may not have worked to best effect.

In terms of success of of my final design I asked myself ‘Did I achieve what I set out to achieve?’. I think I have. The collar is constructed, and it’s based on themes I chose at the beginning. Is it right? I don’t know, what’s right?. Would I do things differently next time? Probably, but it would be me working through other ideas that cropped up first time around. I can see many permuations of this theme into a final piece. One idea leads to many others.

Project 10 - A Piece Of Your Own

Project 10 – A Piece Of Your Own

Experiment to Stitch – Environmentals

“What can this possibly be about?” you might be wondering. If I told you it’s all about stitching bits of wood together I have a feeling you might look at me a bit funny. But once you start to see what happens I’m sure those funny looks would turn into surprise and delight.

The pieces Ali produces using this wonderful collaging technique are imaginative and captivating. The collections produced are thought-provoking and evocative, capturing memories or making you curious. You find yourself wondering what the story behind it is? Who are those people? Where is that place? For me that’s the most exciting bit about it.

I knew I wanted to go on this workshop from the moment I saw some small samples of Ali’s Environmentals work hanging in the Purple Thread Shed. They were amazing. What was also amazing was that this wasn’t just an experimental day, we were actually going to come away with a finished piece, much like the Journal workshop.

So I had a rummage through my boxes of found natural objects for bits of driftwood, shells, buttons. Some leaves and feathers went in… an old OS map of a place I’ve been on wee holidays… photos of the Northumberland coastline… just personal stuff really.

Starting materials

Starting materials

The above looks quite arranged. I suppose it’s a design process that can take a long time or a little time. Pushing bits of drift wood about, adding shells, moving everything about on a map like a military campaign until it’s just where you think you want it. Once you’ve got it laid out, photograph it!! Glad I had my camera for that bit or else I’d never have remembered where bits and bobs were going.

Once that’s done you have to think about which part gets done first and then what order everything else is assembled in. This is a lesson in planning if nothing else. Careful consideration must be given as to when to glue or when to stitch. This constructive process generates layers of interest.

The crumpled map

The crumpled map

My OS map was torn and crumpled as a background and singed around the edges. It’s strengthened and made stitchable by ironing it onto vilene fabric. I love this technique, so useful for all sorts of ideas. Once that’s done everything else goes on top.

I had a photo of the coastline which matches the map I used. This was a nice link, but it wasn’t until I got some bits of old singer sewing machine wood from Ali that were broken into pieces that I decided to cut the photo into three and make a wee tryptic set out of it.

Tryptic process

Tryptic process

The wood is treated with gesso first. The image is inkjet printed onto water-transfer paper. This, once soaked, can slide easily onto any surface. It’s semi-transparent too which means the background can come through the image and it blends into the background well. Once that was dry it got a wee sand around the edges and it looks like it’s been sand-blasted and weather worn at the beach.

Sand-blasted effect

Sand-blasted effect

The assembly of the piece continues steadily with the drilling of small holes into bits of wood and the sewing in place of driftwood and other finds. The pieces selected give all sorts of hints and advice as to how they want to be sewn, This is lovely because it actually means that the intuitive and personal aspect of creating this piece is taking over. The objects you have collected because you liked them are further working with you to bring the whole show together.

Stitched shells and wood

Stitched shells and wood

The finished item looks something like this.

Final piece

Final piece

I love it so much it’s hanging on the wall where I can see every day! It also means I’m now also collecting other odds and ends from special trips and holidays with the view to making other special things rather than collecting photos all the time.

Learning Log – Project 9 – Woven Structures

This project was an introduction to weaving as a means of constructing textiles. I had a loom at home already, a very old childs loom from Spears Games. It is a solid frame table-top loom with a heddle. I decided to use this rather than buy a new tapestry frame and turn it into a loom. I already had a tapestry frame and it’s far too big and I didn’t want to start marking it up with pen and tape for the warp guidelines, so the loom was best for me.

Weaving loom set up and weaving begins

Weaving loom set up and weaving begins

I had plenty of yarns and materials in my collection by this point in the course. However there is always the worry that using a particular yarn now will mean I won’t have it in the future – especially if it’s a charity shop find or a sample/gift.

Colour matching yarn to an image

Colour matching yarn to an image

The characteristics as individual yarns really effect each sample. This was very apparent in Exercise 4. I only did a ‘Sample 1’ piece but while doing it learned so much about how different yarns lend themselves to the effect you would like to create. The choice of weave/stitch/knot also has the ability to change the effect a yarn has and the yarn vocabulary becomes quite extensive in this way.

I found the weaving quite a challenge. There’s a lot to take in and set-up. I like the considered pace that weaving demands yet it can feel like quite a time-consuming method of production. It’s easy to see how mechanisation altered the industry so drastically.

Weaving produces some interesting effects and the process was a good learning experience. I am by no means proficient in this technique but it’s given me some experience and a useful tool. More practise and confidence would be useful, I feel I have much I could yet learn and may have to seek out others in my locality to assist in my learning should I go further with this.

My finished sample is smaller than is perhaps expected. I used the same loom as in the picture above instead of the course text recommendation. The design process for the final sample was interesting and I felt a little out of my depth with this transfer of design, perhaps because it seemed strange to have left the ‘design’ concept until the very final stage of the project instead of it being a stage on its own. I don’t feel the paper weaves quite demonstrated how design in weaving really works once you get to work on a loom.

It took me a while to understand what I was being asked to do, and even then what I have done is based on my interpretation of the course notes. I think I got the colour proportions in my final piece to match roughly with my design – and this surprised me with its success. I found I had enough yarns to be able to work out my colours and this was always a concern.

Image, yarn card and design

Image, yarn card and design

I think it would have been beneficial to this piece if I had made more small samples based on types of yarn to better capture the textures for the final weave, instead of figuring it out as I went along. I would also use a much finer warp thread if I was going to place them so close together in the future. I’ve noted that thicker warp threads need to be spaced wider than fine warp threads and that if they are thick and close together they can only be hidden by fine weft yarns or knots or soumak stitches.

Getting the right combination would have meant that my warp threads would not have been visible.

Final woven piece from P9S4

Final woven piece from P9S4

I don’t think there was anything that went specifically wrong, just things I could change and improve for further samples. I have a book on weaving from the Dryad Press from the 1950s which has been very helpful.

Learning Log – Project 8 – Yarns

This project in Part 4 of ‘Textiles 1 – A creative approach’ was about constructing textiles in an experimental way. I was expecting to be guided a bit more into the initial constructing of textile fibres ie the conversion of raw materials into fibres then into yarns but this project does not seem to cover that. What it does cover is constructing yarns from materials that might already be available.

I very much enjoy constructing surfaces. I have always enjoyed knots, knotting and braiding and have been doing this since I was little. I was surprised that the section on braiding didn’t include macrame work as it is very decorative and I have previously made a sampler to explore the weaves and knots in this process.

A macrame sampler in cotton string

A macrame sampler in cotton string

With regards to production of yarns and understanding how they are made I have tried some hand spun fibres. I found the instructions on page 108 as very basic and I wasn’t satisfied with just re-plying an already multi-ply yarn. Therefore I got a friend who is proficient in spinning and other wool crafts to give me some instruction and I went away and hand spun yarns from fibres such as wool, silk and plastic bags.

2-ply spun yarn straight from fibres using a drop-spindle

2-ply spun yarn straight from fibres using a drop-spindle

I have also tried making cordage, which is a yarn or rope made from plant fibre such as nettle or rosebay willowherb. In this process I learnt how to spin a yarn from fibres into single ply, double ply and even triple ply, using a 3-ply technique known as Navajo plying.

Cordage from nettle fibres

Cordage from nettle fibres

Spinning from scratch really illustrates how fibres come together and form a yarn and I fell this bit had been missed out in this project. Making the cordage really illustrates the prolonged processes which must go into producing a fibre in order to make a yarn in the first place from plant materials.

It’s difficult to say which of the braiding samples work best as they all work within their given limitations based upon their source material. The sample itself gives some indication as to its potential though. A hard fibre, which might describe leather thong, might be of use where a more rigid structure is required. However, change the type of leather, to perhaps suede thong, and your resulting braid is much more supple and maliable. The material is often chosen to suit the purpose.

The colour matching exercise of the Research point of part 4 was enjoyable and I found it quite interesting to use different materials on my yarn cards. It was such a good exercise I am surprised it wasn’t suggested to keep it for Project 9 Stage 4 for continuity. What was most interesting was colour matching in paints/pencils etc and then trying to find yarns and materials that matched not only the colour but also the texture in the image and also of the colour swatches.

Matching colours from an image into yarns

Matching colours from an image into yarns

Part 4 – Textile Structures – Research Point/Learning Log

We are being asked to consider how we personally think the work of the textile artist differs from that of the designer, the designer-maker or the craftsperson in this research point.

Anything with the term ‘designer’ always makes me think of the technical aspects. ‘Maker’ and ‘craftsperson’ are terms I associate with the practical aspects. They closely linked and one person can be all/any of these to varying degrees I feel. If you are lone artist then quite often you will be all of these things, if you are collaborating then perhaps your own personal strength in design is complemented by that of someone with strengths in making.
As much as I think that a textile artist could fit into the above description I also feel that the above terms lend themselves towards a functional outcome. The term ‘textile artist’ seems to point towards the final outcome being for pleasurable gain. An artist working in textile medium creating pieces whose end purpose is not to function as in a building, or a tea-cup or a motorcar, but instead to act as more traditional art forms have (paintings and sculpture) and to engage with others through visual stimulus, and with textile forms perhaps even tactile stimulus.

For me this comes back to the question of craft vs art?

I feel the processes used by each of the above types of people would all crossover. Crossover in techniques and materials come hand-in-hand with innovation and progression in all these fields. If as an artist you happy with your style and your choice of materials then that’s where you would focus your attention. Others, looking for development and desiring to explore and find and edge for themselves in their work, will keep adding and changing aspects of their work. This is where crossovers happen, where your 2D printed fabric becomes a garment because of where or how you transfer your design to fabric. I believe Zandra Rhodes works in this fashion with her designs and creations.

Asked to choose 2 known textile artists whose work I find inspiring I have chosen Anne Kyyro Quinn and Sandra Backlund.

Sandra Backlund is a Swedish fashion designer who works mostly in sculptural knitwear, see Interview with Sandra Backlund

Sandra Backlund works with the materials and the underlying form of the female body to create her designs. By her own admission she feels hand-crafts are very important and she likes to explore with techniques and materials as a form of collage rather than to draw or sketch.

Knitwear or sculpture? Fashion or art?

Knitwear or sculpture? Fashion or art?

Her creations are crafted progressively rather than designed in a 2D format. Although fashion has the impracticalness of art Sandra Backlund’s wearable pieces are still functional. In this way I feel she is an example of how a textile artist can also be a craftsperson, designer and maker without a need for distinction between the categories.

Anne Kyyro Quinn is based in the UK. The company which bears her name focuses on interiors and sculptural use of felt and fabrics. For me her work is more textile art with an emphasis on design. I particularly enjoy the structural use of felts with regards to enhancing and transforming interior spaces. It is easy to imagine how her designs could work equally as well in other materials normally used in hard construction yet she choses fabrics which connect people to their surroundings by the virtue of the fact that fabric is something that we all have a personal experience of.

Anne Kyyro Quinn works (2006)

Anne Kyyro Quinn works (2006)

Her work extends the use of sculptural fabric to everyday furnishings such as throws, pillows and cushions and in doing so her art works become functional. Again, for me, she blurs the lines between designer/maker/artist.

Currently, as I find my feet in the world of textiles, I narrowly think of textile ‘art’ as something pretty which you would hang on your wall. This is just how I am (currently). I very much favour the practical and think being functional or usable at the end of the day is important. If it looks amazing then this is a bonus. With the increased interest once again in hand-crafted products it seems easy to shoe-horn artistic textiles down an aisle of practical goods rather than artistic pieces. This draws my memories back to the a recent visit to the Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show, where fine art students were exploring all manner of mediums and style. Only occasionally did I see the use of textiles and even then not really used as a main material. Perhaps it’s getting there or perhaps I’ve just not seen it yet, but to me it doesn’t yet look like an accepted medium in the art world. I think people would still invest in a painting as opposed to a textile wall hanging.

Experiment to stitch – Journal Making Workshop

What a great workshop this was!!

I’ve never made a handmade journal or sketchbook before… and my college course had a new section in it on starting a theme book… so, I thought, this is the ideal moment to make a journal for my theme book. Start at the beginning…

So, going along to another Purple Thread Shed class with Ali Ferguson set me on the course for this project. I’m very greatful for the Purple Thread Shed classes and workshops, they are amazing.

Ali took us step by step through the journal making process. In the morning we look at examples, discuss what a journal is for and why we personally would want one and then learn about making the signatures and stitching them together. A signature is the name for a set of pages that you stitch together. Any properly stitched and bound book contains signatures of pages.

Making the signatures

Making the signatures

You can use any paper you like for signatures. I used a mix of wrapping papers, tracing paper; scrapbooking papers; artists sketchbook sheets; envelopes; sugar paper and brightly coloured printer papers.

Envelopes are really good. We used them on the outer most signatures especially as when you finally bind it all together you place A5 pieces of backing board inside the open envelope part and seal them closed. This gives a nice hard cover to your journal.

Stitching the signatures

Stitching the signatures

Holes are made using a big needle, preferably the one you are going to stitch with. Linen thread (waxed) is a good strong thread to use, cotton threads will wear and break. Holes are spaced according to the widths of the bindings in the spine, and are as equal as you can make them.

Stitched signatures threaded onto the bindings that form the spine

Stitched signatures threaded onto the bindings that form the spine

Once the signatures are all stitched and the bindings (pink card in the above image) are all threaded into place a little PVA glue is used to secure the bindings to the front and back covers. In the above image you will also see an open envelope flap; there is one like this front and back and that is where the backing board has gone to prove the hard cover for the journal.

Basic journal ready for a cover - it even opens like a book!

Basic journal ready for a cover – it even opens like a book!

So, now it’s time to take a break, leave the journal under a heavy object or other books to press it firmly and evenly and start work on preparing the cover.

Ali works with three styles of cover in this workshop; floral, vintage and bollywood. I’d decided to make this journal my college theme book, and the theme I’d chosen was ‘flowers and flora’. But I decided I didn’t want to plump for the floral design. Instead I’d been inspired by a sample of batik print fabric which had flowers on it, but was in lovely bright colours. So I opted for the bollywood style, as I’m also quite in love with recycled sari silks.

Pile of ironed sari silk strips

Pile of ironed sari silk strips

We used as a base for the fabric cover a piece of Vilene (iron-on interfacing) slightly larger than our journal cover. The base fabric is easy to iron onto this, and the vilene makes it sturdy enough to take further manipulations. Below is an image showing stitching used to further secure the samples to the vilene (we’ve all had experiences of interfacing coming away or not sticking at just the wrong moment!)

Ironed on silks to Vilene, stitched with a machine stitch in varigated embroidery thread

Ironed on silks to Vilene, stitched with a machine stitch in varigated embroidery thread

Once that was done I added a wrap-around ribbon for a tie to secure the book in a closed fashion. Also I added a ribbon as a book marker. Both were secured and decorated with shiny buttons as these look rather nice on the spine of journals.

All ribbons attached

All ribbons attached

It was the end of the workshop by that point and I hadn’t attached the cover to the journal. But that just required PVA glue, and besides I wanted to add some extra decoration onto the journal so I decided to do that all at home. But here’s a picture of the journal at the end of the workshop.

Cover on the book - all done up

Cover on the book – all done up

I took my new themebook/journal home and atached the following extras to it.

I made some cord using machine stitch over sari-ribbon and then couched it onto the cover

I made some cord using machine stitch over sari-ribbon and then couched it onto the cover

Batik print fabric cut-out and bondawebbed onto the cover. Seed bead details the centre of the flowers

Batik print fabric cut-out and bondawebbed onto the cover. Seed bead details the centre of the flowers

With those final bits added on to the loose cover I secured it to the journal with some PVA and that’s it done… all that’s left to do now is to fill it with my themebook thoughts.

Finished journal waiting for use

Finished journal waiting for use

One journey ends, another begins…

Experiment to Stitch – Inkjet Printing workshop

I’ve mentioned Ali/The Purple Thread Shed in a previous post, so this is just to up date you on what we’ve covered in this workshop.

It nearly didn’t happen due to snow… but Scottish weather being what it is the snow was already slush and the thaw setting in over night meant it didn’t get truly cancelled.

As always the Purple Thread Shed was warm and cosy and just full of ideas. Having read about inkjet printing onto fabric in text books I was really keen to give it a whirl and find out how to actually go about it. The Purple Thread Shed is the perfect place for this.

Ali uses this technique a lot, it’s one her favorites and so she knows a lot about it. This means not only do you get a heap of information about the techniques but also all of the tried-and-tested do’s and don’ts to go with it. Invaluable!

Today we covered things such as getting your images to print set-up in a suitable A4 format/layout (great if, like me, you are hopeless with a computer); printable fabrics (pre-made); setting up your own printable fabrics; making the most of your resources (reusing stuff); acknowledging that EVERYTHING is a potential resource (endless possibilities); printing onto lots of different fabrics/materials; how to print onto ‘unusual’ materials and also preparing/layering a background using printed fabrics.

It was great to have a day to ‘play’ with techniques and not feel any pressure to come away with something finished at the end.

I won’t bore you with how we laid-out images on the computer (unless you ask me to of course) but we just started off with some digital images I had on a USB key.

Prints on 3 types of fabirc (L-R): inkjet cotton; muslin; calico

Prints on 3 types of fabric (L-R): inkjet cotton; muslin; calico

As you can see, you can print many images on one sheet of fabric with very little wastage!

Close up of three images on different fabrics (L-R): muslin; calico; inkjet cotton

Close up of three images on different fabrics (L-R): muslin; calico; inkjet cotton

The distinction is made between inkjet cotton and normal cotton because all the fabrics which come ready-to-use are treated fabrics. This means that the dye from the inkjet printer will bind to the fabric and this makes it more hard-wearing and also washable (supposedly – I haven’t tried washing it). These fabrics-on-paper can be expensive and therefore preparing your own is a much cheaper option if you also have the time.

Ali showed us how to make your own A4 sized inkjet friendly fabric-on-paper. If you start off with pre-prepared sheets save the paper backing. If you are starting from scratch use a paper called ‘Freezer paper’. Both types of paper have a gummy side, and ironing on fabric binds to two together (use a hot setting – no steam!). Trim any excess fabric and stray threads from around the edge.

Then run your fabric-on-paper through your inkjet printer in the normal way. Peel the fabric off the paper. Keep the paper!! It can be used over and over again! Even if it’s covered in ink it can still be used. Each time you use it the gum gets a little weaker, but it’s still useable.

Two photos photocopied straight to muslin

Two photos photocopied straight to muslin

The above image shows an example of photocopying directly  to self-prepared muslin on paper, using the above noted technique. Muslin is almost semi-sheer and the wide fibres can give quite a grainy appearance. This is almost like having your own digital printing service. How easy to replicate repeating patterns would this be?

Tourist Map of Scotland (1 Shilling) photocopied directly onto Tissuetex fabric

Tourist Map of Scotland (1 Shilling) photocopied directly onto Tissuetex fabric

Tissue-tex fabric is the same stuff as your teabags are made out of and it comes in big sheets. It’s sheer, see…

Tisseutex held up to the window

Tissuetex held up to the window

You can also print on other delicate papers such as pattern paper…

Vintage postcards printed onto old pattern paper

Vintage postcards printed onto old pattern paper

You can also place real-life object on your scanning bed and copy these straight to fabric as well.

Redcurrant leaves from the autumn straight to muslin

Redcurrant leaves from the autumn straight to muslin

A lace placemat copied to muslin

A lace placemat copied to muslin

With textured fabrics copied to other fabrics you get all the shadows too. This makes for very interesting effects. At different angles the pattern also changes, and on different backings the shadows deepen or fade. These are all really interesting qualities just waiting to be explored.

Then we got onto unusual objects… too much ‘Wow!’ and fun with these lovelies…

Photos and text printed onto (topleft) a parcel tag; (lower left) a leaf skeleton; (lower right) a piece of ribbon

Photos and text printed onto (topleft) a parcel tag; (lower left) a leaf skeleton; (lower right) a piece of ribbon

Finally in the day we tried some transfer techniques and preparing a surface to stitch.

Vintage postcard - inkjet print and transfer with Liquitex Matt Medium

Vintage postcard – inkjet print and transfer with Liquitex Matt Medium

This example isn’t very succesful, but it’s worth doing for just that reason. In a day full of ‘Ooo, that’s amazing’ type techniques it’s good to have one that doesn’t work. For those of us who do a lot of experimenting on a daily basis it’s a given that lots of things will not work and only a few will produce desirable results. That’s a very important rule to remember!

Finally I made up a surface that could be used for further work. It’s just a practise and reminder of what I could do that will give me inspiration to explore further in future.

Calico, scrim, tissuetex copies, muslin and calico prints.

Calico, scrim, tissuetex copies, muslin and calico prints.

Now all I need to do is replace my broken printer… which will require a bit of investigation.

Life drawing – Small steps

A while ago I was looking for some late night top-ten-tips for life drawing. I found a site on the internet, and now I can’t remember what it was. Shame.

Oh well, the one thing I did remember from that site was about angles, and how when you transfer from real life to the page everything will appear exaggerated. Wow! YOu know, that never clicked in my mind until that moment.

Sure we did ‘perspective’ in technical drawing at school, but for things like life drawing I would never have thought it applied there too. Well, that was me enlightened for sure.

So of course I had to go and give it a try, but at 10:30pm where am I going to find someone to draw? Ha, oh yeah, there’s always me isn’t there!

Feet are very far away from hands generally, so naturally I’d be able to use the exaggerated angles rule on them. Here’s the results…

Drawing what you see... sometimes the angles look all wrong but they are not

Drawing what you see… sometimes the angles look all wrong but they are not

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The other left foot…

It was quite a challenging exercise. My vanity kept saying “I’m sure my feet don’t really look like that!”. But, how often do I really ‘look’ at my feet? In fact, how often do a really look at anything. Must look more closely in future.

Dye Workshop – Big Cat Textiles, Newburgh, Fife

Working through the OCA stuff you sometimes find a bit which says ‘outside of the scope of this course’… or words to some such effect. It’s at these points that I think “But, I might need that!”. Now, if I was a full-time student in college every day I’d jolly well hope I’d be getting (if nothing else) a crash course in some of these things! But I’m not, I’m distance learning, and there are only so many hours in a day, and even fewer of those which can be usefully used for OCA work.

So, in order to get some classroom experience I treat myself to a wee one-day workshop in all sorts of things. This deals with a good number of things:

  • these workshops are run by knowledgeable folk who are helpful and very experienced
  • its a classroom environment with a time limit so you knuckle down and get stuff done
  • its full of other people so you get not one tutor but a room full of them as you feed off what each other is doing
  • they are fun and you make a lot of great contacts
  • its value for money; you don’t spend a fortune setting up with equipment then make an unholy mess, get annoyed and never look at it again
  • its great for confidence, experience and learning skills/techniques

Saturday gone I went to a dye workshop at the Hat in the Cat Textile Studios in Newburgh, Fife.

Big Cat Textiles and Hat in the Cat

They run some amazing workshop, and are on the top of my list for places to go and learn the practical way!

So, this dye workshop covered Acid dyes and Procion dyes. The easy way to remember what dyes what is:

  • P (Procion) = Plant fibres
  • A (Acid) = Animal fibres

I like these easy rules.

So, Acid dyes are hot dyes. This means not hand hot, but boiling hot! Yep, you need to have lots of old pots, and you need to boil your animal fibres ie wool, in the dye baths for 10-15 minutes.

We used pre-felt, then felted it a bit more. This helps shrink down the fibres, pacing them closer together, and giving a tighter mat for the dye to stick to. This means that your design/pattern with look tidy. If the fibres are too far apart the design won’t be clear, and then if it felts during washing and drying the pattern will end up messy and distorted as well. Either way it’s not good, so start with a nice bit of felt at the beginning.

Making patterns on the felt was interesting. We used a whole variety of ‘clamps’. Now, clamp is an object version of a dye resist. Dye resists are normally a subject you put on fabric so the dye can’t get in ie gutter (silk), wax (batik), mud/resin (cotton). With dyeing wool the felt/wool is too thick for anything like that so you need to clamp it tightly to stop the dye leaking onto the bits you want to ‘resist’ dyeing.

Acid dyed felt with resist patterning - original felt was baby blue overdyed with yellow then red

Acid dyed felt with resist patterning – original felt was baby blue overdyed with yellow then red

Anything can be used! Metal, glass, wood (plastic can distort – avoid!). We used the following from a selection provided: metal washers, maccano pieces, wooden cut-outs, sink/plug-hole drainers, glass coasters etc. You keep these resists clamped over your felt by using bulldog clips (all sizes required) or any other metal clamps depending on the size and thickness of your project and fabric.

All these things make interesting patterns and you have to remember that the area covered will be the pattern you are left with. Getting your brain to work out the negatives is quite hard! To begin with you just experiment, which is what I was doing. A tip I got the hang of really quickly is that for every resist template you need a second one to match! That’s because one goes on the top of the fabric and the other on the bottom, so the fabric is pinched in between tightly when the clamps are applied. If you don’t do this you get all sorts of partial patterns but nothing defined.

Acid dyed chiffon - folded fabric with resists carefully placed make lovely repeat patterns

Acid dyed chiffon – folded fabric with resists carefully placed make lovely repeat patterns

We used the procion dyes (cold water) to dye muslin and pre-soaked fibres such as silk, bamboo and viscose. The fibres or fabric are wetted then placed into tubs, dye is poured on and massaged in and then left for one to several hours before being washed out and left to dry.

Muslin dyed with blue and yellow procion dyes makes a nice blend of turquioses and greens

Muslin dyed with blue and yellow procion dyes makes a nice blend of turquoises and greens

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Top left РViscose fibres;  top right Рsilk fibres; lower Рbamboo fibres. All with mix of procion dye colours

These dye processes are fun and easy to do, esp the procion dyes which can be done with very little mess in plastic tupperware-style boxes!

I look forward to being able to use such fibres in spinning and weaving experiments in the future, or even blending them into felt projects.

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