For this first piece, I decided to concentrate on a fairly monotone colour scheme (inspired by the sample seen below at top right) that would bring the focus onto the textures, so I picked out various white and cream textiles, favouring those that were recycled or remnants. These were chosen because my theme of ‘re-wilding’ and repair to the Earth demonstrated a care for the environment. Having researched Louise Bourgeois’s textile work was a further impetus for this approach.
I made some drawings in my sketchbook exploring possible layouts for the piece, and using the method of making small test compositions as suggested by my Tutor, Cari, in my last feedback. I started with the layout I had used in my larger paper and stitch sample and tried moving the areas of flat, medium and high texture about. I then considered non-rectangular shapes and came up with a spiral. This seemed to offer an interesting placement of a central area with no texture, then increasing texture in stitch and fabric manipulation around the outside.
I needed a fairly sturdy base fabric to support the weight of the project I had in mind, and chose a recycled duvet bag made from calico. The ‘grass’ required a stiff, springy texture, so I decided to carry out some sampling on the best way to achieve this. Also for the central portion which was to have little texture and represented the bare concrete.
I selected two types of cotton: a recycled duvet cover and a remnant of quilt backing, both with cut and uncut loops. I preferred the cut loops as they were more like the grass drawing. The quilt backing had more body, but still not the springiness required, so I tried spraying it with stiffener (used for making roman blinds). That added some body, but with the addition of some medium-weight interfacing, I arrived at the texture I wanted (top right image, above). For the central portion, I started out with a loosely woven linen (curtain sample), which did have a concrete-like texture, but after considering the comments in Research Point 1, I chose a damaged tablecloth fabric to represent the damaged Earth, which would be an appliquéd circle at the centre of the spiral. (Sample shown bottom right, above). The stitching would be carried out on a piece of the quilt backing fabric and then that section would be appliquéd to the centre of the grass-like textile manipulation.
The two sections of base fabrics with manipulations completed. The grass-like section goes from a low height at left and increases in length as it goes. These raised sections were attached with a sewing machine, before being cut into strands, and trimmed to the correct width.
Stitching Into The Base Textiles
The central portion would have all the stitching on it, before itself being stitched to the ‘grassy’ section. There would be a mixture of scale.
I picked the samples shown below as containing stitches that I wanted to include (couched, nubbly yarn, knotted threads, random cross stitch and I also liked the looped, couched stitch in this sample.) I made some sketches of how I wanted the stitch to progress around the spiral, starting with a tiny seed stitch (seems appropriate!) in a single strand of fine thread, progressing to a slightly thicker quilt thread and random cross stitch (representing tiny germinating plants); and so to French knots (somewhat like the moss that appears on bare earth); and onto the looped stitches in ever thicker threads/yarn, to a few tufted areas that would lead into the fabric manipulation area. The feeling I wanted to recreate was of bare earth being slowly seeded, and repaired by the ever increasing plant life. Therefore the thickness of yarn, density and size of stitches would increase around the spiral.
These are the threads and string I picked (including cotton and linen). I also chose the yarn shown in the cream paper and stitch sample.
The finished piece, which I will call ‘Re-wilding #1‘, 34 x 43 cm
The reverse of the piece, showing machine stitched area and hem. This side looks like a sea creature!
Some close-ups of the stitch.
I was reasonably happy with this first piece, but there are some things that I would do differently if making something similar again:- I managed to singe the ‘grass’ fabric in several places, which happens to blend in with my thread choices, but was not deliberate; the central stitched portion shrank from my original measurements, so I ended up with a small gap between the two areas; it was extremely tricky sewing the central area into place over the ‘grass’, so I would, in future, make the central portion first and then add the textured fabric, which would also mean that I could adjust for any shrinkage in the centre. The transition between stitch and textile grass was somewhat jarring. There is a lot of variety in the stitch, but only height variation in the grass section.
On the plus side: I felt that the idea was a good one. I liked the spiral shape with the damaged ‘Earth’ at the centre. There is an interesting mixture of scale and texture, with both close-up interest and an overall impression of increasing wildness.
For my second piece, I think I will try a less formal textured area with more colour included, and use yarn mixed with fabric to create the raised area.