This stage was experimenting with various techniques that manipulate surface textures to achieve three-dimensional qualities and despite the course material stating these are all hand-techniques I have used a combination of machine and hand techniques in particular with the quilting (this being due to issues with my wrists and a personal preference for machine quilting). I have used my sewing machine for the tucks too but have combined in my sample hand tied tucks which proved really useful to learn.
This technique has been at the heart of my dressmaking skills since childhood although admittedly not one I use too often as I detest doing double rows of stitching and then spreading the gathers out evenly! However despite my protestations it is also a useful technique and one I am learning has real possibilities in textiles.
I initially tried just pulling some of the threads in loosely woven hessian and muslin to gather the fabrics (with the muslin I secure the fabric afterwards with machine stitching). I also used a green cotton fabric to double edge gather a strip of fabric before stitching two side panels to give an idea of how it could be incorporated into a textile piece. I also took inspiration and tried four strips of double edged gathered fabric sewn into a square(ish) block which again could be incorporated into a textile piece or added to further. Lastly on this display card I have done some small gathered yo-yos – circles of fabric gathered (with or without hems turned under) and the centre blue one stuffed with toy stuffing. These yo-yos are popular in quilting and really useful way of doing circles that can be appliqued in various ways.
Further examples of gathering but using different fabrics I have put on a separate display card.
FOLDING AND PLEATING
I do not have many stripy fabrics so used one of my sons old shirts and also one of my floral patterned blouses to try pleating and folding. Again I have used pleating before and it is a much more favoured technique than gathering as I have always liked the crispness it gives and also the pattern distortions.
I tried both knife and box pleats in the striped fabric (one shown here but two on my display card) – I always have liked both and they create crisp neat strips which can be made crisper by the addition of top stitching the pleats. I also tried the knife pleats on the floral fabric and this shows wonderfully the distortions and concealing of patterns.
I also tried using velvet but with random pleats that on the front have the appearance of tucks but on the back the pleats can be seen clearly – this for me is a little reminiscent of darts in dressmaking which are ultimately a type of pleats. The pleats in the velvet were interesting to do and I like the way where 4 meet in it produces a bubbly type area which could potentially be stuffed if backed by another fabric.
I used my machine for all these pleats – purely to give a crisper effect but hand sewing would also secure the pleats satisfactorily. I do feel now I could have been more experimental with my fabrics and this is something I must be braver on and more willing to try.
On the top sample in calico I have done a series of tucks which are different widths and stuffs some with wool and string which give either soft or firm effects to them.
The left hand blue cotton sample is done with the tucks bent backwards or forwards and stitched to produce waves in different directions. This particular sample shows the lines of shadow that can be produced. The right hand blue sample is of tucks in random directions and width – this is really effective and a style and technique that is being firmly noted as I can see this working in different fabrics from lightweight voiles to lightweight wools (heavier weights would not be as effective as the tucks would have to be larger but depending on the project it could also be worth bearing in mind).
TEARING, FRAYING AND SLASHING
First and foremost and totally un-academic but this was fun! As the course material says some fabrics fray well to give decorative surface textures and although I do not have enough silk to be able to tear I did have other fabrics such as cottons, voiles and calico’s which worked well.
I tried one sample with just tearing and weaving in and out randomly after initially using a large needle to stitch some fabric to the background calico. This worked well and produces a swatch of different textures that I really like.
The second sample I tried involved stitching different torn strips of cotton, calico and voile to a background swatch of calico – again this worked well and I know I used machine stitching again but this has produced a very different fabric from the same materials as the first. I did not have any lace or ribbon at the time that I could have threaded or added to this piece but that would really well with this.
I also tried securing two tweeds to a background swatch of calico and slashing it before threading voile strips, cotton and calico plus rafia through the different layers (and securing at the edges again for the purpose of this exercise). The only thing I am not happy about here is the fact that the second underneath layer cannot be seen as well as I would like so would think about cutting back the upper layer further in future.
I finally took the same two base layers of tweed as above and slashed them again but this time tied some of the slashed areas with torn strips of calico and cotton – this worked well and I would add more ties in if I repeated this in different fabrics.
I am curious to do further experiments over time with different fabrics and doing as the course material suggest and use the fabric as a thick yarn and using hand stitching to get them to bunch together as is suggested by the course material.
I am not experience in hand quilting for the aforesaid issues with my wrists but am relatively experienced in machine quilting. For the first sample I did what I know best which is free motion machine quilting – this particular design is based on one I have on my bedroom wall and was my own design but chosen due to the variety of marks and textures created by the machine stitching and different threads used. The quilting produces areas of light and shadow and a variety of textures and this style of quilting is often used to produce whole cloth quilts as well as work on pieced quilts.
In addition I did three other samples – the two photographs show both sides – with simple meandering quilting in a contrasting colour (except on the light grey velvet and pale grey tweed) purely to give me an idea of how the other fabrics react to quilting with wadding (the wadding is a basic polyester mix).
I particularly love the machine quilting on the velvet as it produced such wonderful areas of light and shadow which really capture the light so well. I also liked the thicker tweeds which was a surprise and can see how this would work on textile pieces.
I am not entirely sure how the thicker fabric would work for hand quilting as you would not be able to get tiny stitches but what is termed ‘big stitch’ would be suitable. Other techniques suitable would be various forms of ties – literally the quilting sandwich is tied at various intervals using either thread or even ribbon and this is one of the most basic forms and often used for what were termed utilitarian quilts in the early part of the last century (very common in the USA amongst the homesteads where old clothes etc were reused for bedding and often old quilts were used for the wadding – feedsacks often provided the fabric).
Shadow quilting is often used interchangeably with shadow applique and involves capturing or trapping other yarns and materials underneath a sheer fabric and stitching around them. In my sample I have done a basic shadow applique with the blue felt and blue mesh fabric with stitching around the felt through the mesh. I then added a second layer of fabric and another layer of sheer voile before again stitching around the shapes. Lastly I decided to slash through certain areas to create an added texture although I could have also added a layer which enabled me to cut back in the same way as reverse applique.
The top sample in the wool check fabric I simply made a tube and stuffed it with toy stuffing to create a nice fat tube.
The lower sample on the left I stitched various oblong shapes and stuffed them with toy stuffing and also wool in the smaller areas. The latter is very reminiscent of trapunto technique where you stitch two layers of fabric together in a desired design and stuff the shapes with either wool or a stuffing – if using a wool this termed corded quilting and often a piece is quilted first with a sandwich being made of the top two layers of fabric and the wadding with the backing fabric only added when any additional quilting is done after the corded section is complete (some experienced quilters add the backing at the time of the original quilting too).
The small pouches on the right hand side of the card are stuffed with a variety of beads, buttons, stuffing and scraps of fabric – each has its own feel to it and I can see a potential use for these.
This is a technique I have yet to try – I had run out of PVA and due to health reasons was unable to do this at this stage but will be trying in the coming weeks now. The idea is to mould fabrics dipped in PVA or wallpaper paste and moulding over other objects to create a range of shapes that that then be cut out and applied to other work or form the basis of work. Apparently scrims or hessians have a dressing that when damp allow them to be moulded into shapes – I did not have enough hessian left and some is now on order.
The gathered fabrics underneath are to demonstrate how different materials react to gathering – tweed, velvets and voiles. Like the quilting I loved the velvet with the gathers as it creates a real play of light.
The second sample showed various experiments using a soldering iron to create marks and holes which changed the textures of the fabrics – this was particularly revealing and interesting to do. I like the marks created by the soldering iron on the calico in particular. Some of the burnt away sections could also be used in combination with other techniques such as applique and quilting.
The final sample is using drawings selected from stage 2 and choosing one which has three-dimensional qualities about it. I had already decided to use which image as the developments had a lot of possibilities.
I liked the lines and contrasts with the pebbles in the image of the pier/walkway on the sea front in Cezary Kowalski’s photograph and felt I could do a series of designs and work them in a way that they can be translated into the required fabric sample.
As can be seen I played about with various ideas over the course of several sketches – each could have easily become the final design. What I particularly liked with the perspective lines that I wanted to really experiment with – I feel this is something that could become quite important in my future work.
With each design I was thinking very much of how I could use tucks and gathering and the three-dimensional techniques I had been using to create a piece using only calico with no added extras which was the course requirement. I had chosen calico as it is crisp and holds folds and tucks well as is suggested and found it also has a play of light over them too which really appealed and was an important part of my consideration.
The final design I settled on effectively has a double walkway surrounded by pebbles. I chose to do machine tucks for the outer lines with tied tucks between in single lines – these proved to be nightmares as I learnt to do one extra knot that is suggested in the book I referenced due to them becoming untied as I did further work. The centre tucks were done in an American smocking lozenge type style on one side and also vertical and horizontal style tucks on the other – the latter is done with long lengths of thread to match a dot to dot grid whilst the other is tied tucks like the ones in the border (again with extra knots).
I also eventually did less pebbles and just had 3 in each section – some going through to the other side and some puffed up on the side I was working on.
The decision to do less pebbles was done purely as the fabric took on a life of its own and it seemed to evolve and I understand exactly what is said in the course material – this was part of the fun of doing this.
My final result looked nothing like my design as the design is done on a flat surface and the fabric obviously became three-dimensional. I started off with a 30 cm square but eventually went down to 22 cm at its longest and just 10 cm at its most narrow width – it became a quadrilateral shape with no two sides being of even length.
My question to myself is which is the right side now? I like the side which shows the matching thread and pencil marks for some of the tucks showing and the textures created by the machine made tucks which have a definite raised structure but I also like the softer less architectural side which seems calmer and almost less chaotic.
This has proved to be an incredibly interesting section which requires more work and more experimenting on different fabrics as I develop my skills and one which I will be coming back to often now.
Guerrier, K. 2006. Second edition. Quilting from Start to Finish. Newton Abbott, Devon, UK. Quintet Publishing Limited.
Woolf, C. 1996. First edition. The Art of Manipulating Fabric. Iola, Wisconsin. Krause Publications