Choosing The Base Textiles
For this piece, I wanted to depict a series of interconnecting sections: one with damage, but hidden potential; the second showing healing and growth; and finally abundance. The idea initially came from my grass drawing, but is also influenced by the paper manipulations below:-
To make a needle punched wool section, I needed to use a loosely woven base textile, and considered three: monk’s cloth (white cotton); grey polyester rug backing and hessian (natural jute colour).
The monk’s cloth was rejected because it would not contrast well enough with my red, white and black colour scheme. The hessian proved to have too loose a weave for needle punching, but the grey polyester was a good colour and would take the stitches and needle punching, so that was my choice of base textile.
Preparing The Base Textiles
In order to show the damaged aspect of the re-wilding idea inspired by the grass drawing and paper manipulations, I needed to make holes in the grey polyester. One of my paper manipulations had included burnt areas, so this was where I began my sampling.
Unfortunately the polyester just buckled and shrank unevenly but did not form a hole when a match was applied (sample at left). I tried making holes first to see if a flame would singe the edges of the holes, but the loose threads melted leaving open black holes: not quite what I was looking for (sample second from left).
The central sample shows scissor-cut holes, which I preferred to the burnt ones, however to supply the blackened look to the edges, I tried adding felt pen and then acrylic paint. I opted to use the sample at far right with the paint, as it gave a bolder colour, and stiffer aspect to the cut edges, which I hoped would enable me to manipulate them open to reveal a layer beneath.
Stitching Into The Base Textiles
1 Directions of stitch and creating lines. My plan was to make three connected circles (Earths). The first showing damage (with potential); the second circle healing; and the third would have an abundant, wild feel to it. To show potential, I decided to have a ‘hidden’ layer with tiny ‘seeds’ of potential below the damaged surface. A random seed stitch seemed the ideal way of depicting this. For the second section, I wanted to show healing, by repairing the holes (using a straight stitch surrounding the hole, and then a darning stitch over some of them), and also including ‘germinating’ plants. The stitches I selected for the latter were French knots, then tied threads with ends on the surface, finally couching some organza-like fabric in place to give a more densely-covered appearance to the surface. The third circle would be fairly densely covered with needle punched wool with inclusions of other yarns, threads, the organza fabric etc.
I made some sketches and notes about how I thought the piece should look, with the stitches I envisaged using.
2 Using stitch to create texture. This piece would be very much focused on textures. There would be increasing density of stitches and thickness of the threads and yarns employed, with each successive circle.
I tried out some stitches and couching on small samples. Some yarns were rejected as they would not fit into the needle punch and run through it smoothly. A stiff, wiry thread was found to represent the germinating plant life, however, it proved to be too stiff for making French knots, so a vintage embroidery thread was used for that purpose. A combination of cut and looped yarns would be used in the ‘abundant’ circle, along with some strips of organza-like fabric, and bound cord, to give a three-dimensional and layered feel to the piece.
3 Deconstructing and recessing. The first and second circles will have holed and damaged areas, with a ‘hidden’ layer under the first circle featuring the seed stitches. I selected a black felt for the under layer as the seed stitches embed nicely into the surface (sample shown above right, middle).
4 Building relief. In the second circle, some of the stitches will be on top of ruched and frayed textile strips. The third circle will have a three-dimensional texture with threads, yarns and fabric standing proud of the base textile.
5 Looking at the reverse.
I find the needle punched area (largest circle) very interesting on the reverse: it looks like a running stitch, giving little clue as to the texture on the other side.
6 Repetition/scale/placement. I have aimed for repetition in the use of three circles or Earths in this piece. The scale is explored in starting with tiny, almost hidden, seed stitches, increasing to more texture and boldness in the second circle and a riot of texture and variety in the third circle. The three circles themselves, increase in size as they descend from top to bottom. Placement is highlighted at the areas where the circles meet and overlap. This was explored in my sketch shown at point 1, above.
The Finished Piece
Re-wilding #2, 23 x 45 cm (stitched area)
The first circle has cut and painted base textile; the circle is outlined in straight stitch. A circle of black felt with red seed stitches is attached to the reverse. Small stitches hold the holes open to reveal the hidden layer.
The second circle has embroidery thread French knots; the damaged areas showing signs of repair (‘healing’); moving downwards to tied knots in a wiry thread suggesting small plants, then the same tied stitches are couched over red fabric scraps to give an impression of thickening plant cover.
The third, ‘abundant’ circle has needle punched wool yarn at two height levels and increasing density of stitches towards the bottom of the circle. The top section has contrasting wiry, tied threads emerging, together with small clumps of plant like, cut yarns in red and black. These elements increase in scale towards the bottom and are joined by bound and couched cord (suggesting exotic plant or animal life), and prodded and tied red textile to give an added dimension and layer of interest to the textures. The tips of the red textile are cut to points, suggesting leaves.
The first two circles had some interesting and, I think, successful elements to them: the damaged surface with layer below, just visible; the tied stitches, and French knots outlining the top of the circle were pleasing. I was less keen on the third circle, which although it looks dense and ‘alive’, could also be said to resemble an unsavoury pizza, which was not what I was aiming for at all. Thinking about why that is, I think the colour scheme, and the patches of red and black cut yarns were not successful in suggesting plant life. Although, for this exercise, I have nominated red, white and black as my chosen colour palette, I think that a more ‘realistic’ green ‘plant life’ would probably work better. I may return to this theme at a later date and try that, however, for now, I will stick to my chosen colours. I did, however, like the wool yarn with its differing heights and some areas of the base textile showing through.