Project 2 Developing your marks: Stage 6 Using thread and yarns to create textures

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To start off this stage I tried sewing with chunky threads and strips of material on some hessian. I then tried making my own threads, first up was the fabric twine, made following this tutorial, I have to say this was totally addictive – I could make metres and metres of this stuff! Next up I stretched out some thin strips of jersey fabric to make a thick thread. Both these handmade threads have very different textures, the fabric twine is quite rough and firm, whereas the jersey strips are soft and stretchy. I chose to us hessian for a change as it has a nice open weave, calico is strong but it can be very difficult to get some thick threads through. Even using the hessian I found that strips of cotton fabric broke apart as I tried to pull it through, a string  of denim material managed a whole 2 chain stitches before it broke, but some wider scraps of polyester lining fared much better and I even managed a few colonial knots. I also tried some ribbon-like and very chunky yarn which both held together much better – the colonial knots made in chunky wool are just so pretty to look at! I also tried plaiting together some thin string to make it thicker, this sewed beautifully and also left very defined stitches. I think in the future if I was to try sewing with fabric strips I would try to use the selvage at the edge in the hope that would be much stronger.

For my final sample in this project, I chose a watercolour painting for inspiration which I did from a tutorial in the book ‘Watercolour Textures’ by Ann Blockley when  I was first learning to paint with watercolour’s. It’s of a plant called Hogweed which seems to grow abundantly in the country lanes around our house. When I was sorting through all my fabric scraps I came across this hand dyed piece that  just seemed to sum up the feel of the colours in the background of my painting perfectly. I then couched on chenille and ribbon threads for the stalks and used Cretan and cross stitches in a mixture of embroidery threads and perle cotton for the grey seedhead. The cream flowers are made of seed, cross, Cretan and chain stitches as well as french and colonial knots worked in a variety of crewel wool, perle cottons and embroidery thread all in similar pale shades of blue, white. grey and cream.

Now I have some questions to answer…

  • Can you begin to see the relationship between stitching and drawing?
    Yes  I can see how you can use stitching as a way of drawing, or a way of reinterpreting a drawing you’ve already made. The stitches are effectively the same as pencil marks, but with an ability to be 3D if necessary.
  • Were you able to choose stitches which expressed the marks and lines of your drawings?
    Some of them yes, simple straight stitches can be used in such a variety of ways to get different effects that its quite amazing. It was harder to create very small and fine details with thread though as these seemed to become lost and difficult to see against the background fabric.
  • Did you choose the right source material to work from?
    This is a difficult one, I think the final painting I chose may have been too complicated for what I was trying to achieve – or maybe I just didn’t focus in on a small enough area. In hind-sight maybe I should’ve chosen a much simpler sketch to work from.
  • Do you think your sample works well irrespective of the drawing? /or is your sample merely a good interpretation of your drawing?
    I think my sample works well as a stand alone piece, its not just an unidentifiable enlarged area from a bigger piece, so it could be considered a piece of art in its own right. However, I think maybe that wasn’t the point of the exercise and I should’ve focused much more on just creating texture than something you could describe as a plant.
  • Which did you prefer – working with stitches to create textures or working with yarns to make textures? Which worked best for you and why?
    I’ve found I really enjoy working with perle cotton threads to create textures, they come in all different thicknesses and colours and some are beautifully shiny. I also like being able to overlap stitches repeatedly in a thinner perle or embroidery cotton to build up a texture with much more depth. I find thicker yarns much more difficult to work with, it can be hard work to keep pulling then through the fabric, and the stresses of doing so usually damage the yarn in some way or causes it to break. They can also be harder to layer up as they are bulkier and the original layer of stitches can be hard to sew through.
  • Make some comments on individual techniques and sample pieces. Did you experiment enough? Did you feel inhibited in any way?
    I’ve commented on many of the techniques and samples in previous posts. Couching, colonial knots and simple straight stitches are my favorites to use, and my first sample inspired by bubble wrap is by far my favorite piece. I tried to experiment as much as I could, but there’s always more things I haven’t tried or haven’t even thought of to try in the future. I still feel like I’m very restricted in my work, I find it difficult to work in a free manner, my mind is always looking for patterns, neatness and straight lines. I’d love to create a piece that’s just a big bubbling mass of abstract texture, but I don’t really know where to start.
  • Do you prefer to work from a drawing or by playing with materials and yarns to create effects? Which method produced the most interesting work?
    At this point I prefer to work from a drawing, I find it so much easier to be recreating something – than just creating it from scratch. I find sewing is a slower process which allows a lot of time for consideration and decision making, but a lot of the more spontaneous thoughts I have get forgotten as I can’t get them captured quickly enough, whereas drawing and sketching is much quicker – thoughts can be roughly captured in a moment. When I’m just playing around with materials and yarns, I find I always tend to revert back to things I’ve learnt before like neat little rows of embroidery, and a notion that it must ‘be’ something to make it worthwhile, so I just considering it all to be rubbish.
  • Are there any other techniques you would like to try? Are there any samples you would like to do in a different way?
    I’d love to try more abstract embroidery, maybe with some areas padded and raised up with felt underneath. Dying fabric and yarns is also another thing I’d love to try, and combining them in to an overall texture for a fabric – not to ‘be’ anything in particular. I think my first bubble wrap sample would be interesting to make by fusing and melting fabrics with a soldering iron, to create the feeling of more layers and a rough dirty texture.
  • Is there anything you would like to change in your work?
    I would like to be able to work more spontaneously, with freedom and a feeling that a piece is growing organically. Everything I’ve done so far feels ‘tight’ and confined, I’d like to be able to get past the restrictions I set for myself and just enjoy creating.
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