Choosing and Preparing The Base Textiles
I wanted to make something more abstract on the theme of re-wilding, inspired by the grass drawing, and paper manipulations shown previously. I thought I would include a photo of what it looks like ‘on the ground’. The tarmac is slowly populated with moss, then clover and daisies, and then grass and larger plants.
Continuing with the red, white and black colour scheme, I decided to set some constraints for this third piece: I would stick to knots for the stitched aspect, and roughly rectangular shapes for the three different areas.
I started by considering the layout and where each colour should go, also the colour and type of stitch in this drawing.
I thought about what the colours might mean in connection with the theme and decided upon:-
- white in the centre for the lowest stitched area, representing sterility of the ground (when it is concreted over or built upon);
- black for the medium ground, representing alchemy/change (thinking of formal gardens and farmland);
- red for the wild area (back to my earlier theme of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’).
Considering the base textiles, I picked the thin, white table cloth textile for its fragility and slight translucence, rejecting various other textiles that weren’t white enough, or were too thick.
For the black area, I thought of a shirt that had lines like plough furrows on it, but decided that they would be too distracting against the stitch. A plain black felt was a possible choice, but the corduroy I found seemed to fit the bill better, as it had the raised ‘furrows’ on it, but no extra colour.
For the red section, I wanted to manipulate the textile to produce a ‘wild’ and varied surface, so I sorted out lots of different red fabric scraps, yarn, and some different types of textile (eg found orange net bag, red silk, darker red from a silky dressing gown, jersey, cotton etc). I experimented with the sewing machine and found that I could attach them to a base textile while introducing some folds, pleats and overlaps.
Stitching Into The Base Textiles
1 Directions of stitch and creating lines.
The stitch I decided to use was based on knots: small, self-coloured French knots for the centre in a random pattern (returning to the idea of hidden potential in the sterile surrounds); the black section would have medium-sized ties set in rows and quite tightly packed (like crops in a field); the red section would have very large and random ties, hopefully with a certain feeling of vigour to them. Another constraint I set was to use white for all the stitch (this after trying different colour placements in the drawing at the top of this article.)
2 Using stitch to create texture.
I tried different threads and yarns on the selected base textiles and chose white embroidery thread for the ease of sewing French knots, and it showed up well through the thin white base textile (like roots underground); the stiff, fairly thick linen thread was chosen to represent the farmland/formal garden marks (the embroidery thread split into individual threads after it was tied, the crochet thread was not white enough and too fine); for the red section I tried a nubbly yarn (too floppy and hard to sew through the base textile), string (same problems as the yarn) and chose the paper cord as it had a good springiness to it and was the easiest to sew with. I picked up a couple of techniques while sampling: the loops for the tied stitches had to be left long enough to be cut and tied easily before being snipped to the desired length; and to make holes in the ground for the thicker threads, I had to use one sharp needle, followed by a large blunt needle to make the holes large enough for the cord to pass through. I think that these three different threads, types of stitch, sizes of stitch, and placement of stitch, with the different densities, will provide quite different textures.
3 Deconstructing and recessing. The white base textile will be fine enough to enable the viewer to see (on close inspection) the lines of thread on the reverse, like roots underground.
4 Building relief. The white base textile will be on top, overlapping the black textile, and the red textile will be below them and surrounding them in places. I will applique the pieces into place. I was initially going to make all of the areas clean rectangles, but have decided to leave the red, manipulated textile with uneven edges, as if it is spreading ever outwards.
5 Looking at the reverse.
The reverse of this piece does not look as interesting as the first two pieces. The stitch on two of the sections is hidden, as they are appliqued to the largest section.
6 Repetition/scale/placement. There is repetition in the choice of stitch (all varieties of knots), the colour of stitch (white), the shape of the base textile sections (rectangular) and in the stitch within each section. Thinking of the scale in this piece, I wanted to exaggerate and contrast the difference between the smallest, the medium and largest stitches. I had made a small sketch to consider this, seen at point 1, above. I had deliberately arranged the placement of the sections so that all areas would touch at some point to produce the comparison between the texture in each. (Illustrated in the first drawing in this article.)
The Finished Piece
Re-wilding #3, 50 x 38 cm
I felt that this was the most successful of the three pieces I made. I certainly enjoyed making this piece the most. I think that the simplicity focuses the eye on the contrasts in the stitch (and what that might mean to the viewer), whereas the earlier pieces were perhaps too ‘busy’, with too much variety in the materials used. All of the textiles in this piece are re-purposed, which underlines the theme of caring for the Earth. If I was making it again, I would use a firmer backing for the red textile (I used thin quilt wadding, which was a bit too stretchy in places); and I would mount the white textile over card or plastic to give it a hard, crisp edge, rather than the soft, slightly uneven edge it has now. I had considered covering the white section in cling film, but, although I liked the idea of the ‘seeds’ being ‘shrink wrapped’ below the surface, when I tried it, I decided that I preferred it without the plastic overlay.