These two pieces are a stitched paper sample and textile piece inspired by the grass drawing that I made for Part 1. The piece on the left has tufted paper texture, French knots, seed stitch, wired bead ‘flowers’, paper cord opened out into ‘leaves’ and some looped threads, which I had made to represent ‘seedlings’. The textile piece on the right had knots in three scales, set onto a translucent cotton, a corduroy fabric and a textile constructed from a variety of fabric scraps, net and yarn.
Thinking of terms inspired by these two pieces that might inform my yarns, I made a couple of mind maps.
I made some visual analysis drawings of the source material, concentrating on areas that I found interesting, and imagining the sorts of textures my created yarns could have. I started with some all white drawings, focused on texture, then gradually introduced some colour inspired by the colour palette of the source material.
The next task was to assemble some possible materials. I decided to limit myself to red, white and black initially, but to possibly return to the colour of the original grass drawing (green!) for one of the yarns.
My approach was to start with some of the simpler ideas, with a view to possibly combining some of them at a later stage. Referring to the source material and the drawings I had made, I picked out the materials that I felt best represented them, in colour, texture and ‘feel’. The overall look of the palette is quite dramatic, and matt, (apart from the silver wire, and some netting). The mood of the pieces are a bit wild and out of control, with words such as ‘tufted’, ‘springy’, ‘twisting’ and ‘knotted’ coming to mind.
I decided to keep a notebook with technical jottings, ideas for future developments, and samples: [having just read my latest feedback, however, I will start to keep the material samples in a separate file].
After two evenings of experimentation, I had made six 30 cm yarn samples that I was happy with. Another two were rejected.
I will discuss them below in the order in which they were made.
Materials: white yarn, white cotton thread.
Construction: random, overlapping loops of yarn were hand sewn to a central strand of yarn.
Handle and appearance: soft, floppy, fairly flat.
Possible variations: machine sew, change fibre, colour, size of loops, scale, density, shape and size of loops, cut the loops, layer with other fibres, add embellishments.
Thoughts and ideas: this simple construction gave some interesting lines against a dark background. It was inspired by the looped black thread in the original paper/thread sample. The resulting yarn reminded of 1970s frilly shirts and cuffs, and flatworms, seaweed, ferns, dolls’ hair. Might be good combined with another yarn of a different material and texture.
Materials: white linen thread, white wool/acrylic felt
Construction: narrow rectangles of felt were cut and threaded onto the linen thread, which was knotted at 1 cm intervals during construction.
Handle and appearance: soft, floppy, springy (felt), fairly flat
Possible variations: different threads, different colours of felt and thread, more felt pieces, longer felt pieces, other textiles, different shapes (eg squares circles, random shapes), added embellishments.
Thoughts and ideas: another simple construction giving irregular lines. I liked the way the felt shapes did not lie parallel to each other. It gave the yarn pattern with variation. I think this one represents the original work well: matt appearance, repeated lines, plant-like, but also has a more-regular manmade appearance. Possible use in textile jewellery.
#3 (small sample) seen at left above
Materials: white embroidery thread (6 strands)
Construction: 8 cm lengths of embroidery thread were tied at 1 cm intervals to a central thread of the same material.
Handle and appearance: soft, flimsy, insubstantial, thready
Possible variations: different threads, different colours, other textiles, added embellishments.
Thoughts and ideas: inspired by the knots in the original textile piece, but I could tell straight away that I didn’t like this sample (its feeble appearance did not look strong or wiry enough), so back to the drawing board…
Materials: white cotton textile (re-purposed pillowcase)
Construction: 4.5 cm width of white cotton textile was folded in half lengthways and snipped from the cut edges to within about 5 mm of the other side. Textile is then twisted.
Handle and appearance: soft, feathery, floppy. Repetition with variation, wild and a bit scruffy.
Possible variations: different textiles, different colours, wider or narrower cut sections, start with a wider or narrower textile strip, tear instead of cutting, adding wiring to make it poseable, pre-treating the fabric with paint or starch to give it more body, intertwine with other yarns.
Thoughts and ideas: an improvement on #3, and represents the source material better in its solidity and grass-like appearance. Also reminds me of fir trees, tinsel, feathers and feather boas. A bit boring by itself, but may combine well with other textures.
#5 (small sample) (Image at right of #3 above)
Materials: white satin ribbon, black cotton thread
Construction: random French knots were hand sewn onto the ribbon
Handle and appearance: shiny, soft, bobbly, a bit gritty, fairly smooth on reverse, malleable.
Possible variations: different textiles, different colours, wider or narrower strip, sewn onto jersey textile, then gently pulled to form cord (not sure if that would work with the stitch in place, maybe stretch it first).
Thoughts and ideas: inspired by the area of French knots in the paper and stitch artwork, and the drawing made subsequently. I liked the stitch but not the ground textile in this small sample. The latter was too shiny and flat-edged.
Materials: white cotton textile, black cotton thread
Construction: the cotton textile was torn into a narrow strip, random French knots were hand sewn onto it
Handle and appearance: matt, soft, bobbly, ‘seedy’, fairly smooth on reverse, flexible, flat, ragged. Different textures and patterns on front and reverse.
Possible variations: different textile, different colours, wider or narrower strip, sewn onto jersey cord, different densities of stitch, using a regular pattern, using other stitches, overlapping one or more variety of stitch/thread.
Thoughts and ideas: this represented the seeding of new ground in the original artwork, and I felt that this continued the theme of random sparks of life appearing on the damaged ground. The rough edges of the fragile-looking strip and the matt appearance were true to the source material. The simple design of this yarn could be combined successfully with others.
Materials: red tulle net, red cotton quilting thread, black and white glass beads
Construction: a strip of red tulle had zig zagging lines of hand stitch with threaded beads sewn onto it, before it was rolled and sewn into a tube.
Handle and appearance: floppy, slightly weighty (the beads), knobbly to touch, yet some appearance of lightness, suspension and transparency.
Possible variations: different textile or material (clear plastic?, tubing (hard to sew), different colours, different scales, different densities of beading, using a regular pattern, using other embellishments, adding further stitch or wrapping or enclosures, stuffing the centre tube.
Thoughts and ideas: I felt that the colour and beading represented both the original source material and the drawing I made. This yarn had possibilities for further development. It has a somewhat nautical feel (nets and floats), but the colour makes me think of burlesque, however, the suspended beads remind me of a starry sky, or atomic structures, or particles suspended in a vortex, or fungal growth, (the latter would link back to the original theme).
Materials: red cotton textile, white paper cord, black cotton thread
Construction: a strip of red textile was frayed along the length, until only a thin connection in the centre was left (like a feather), this was twisted and tied with knotted white paper cord, then bound with black thread. (The last two operations would have been better reversed!) This yarn has a 5 cm repeating pattern.
Handle and appearance: flexible and light, feathery with added springy texture; repetitions with variation. Dramatic, unusual appearance, with a variety of textures.
Possible variations: start with a tufty yarn rather than making the feathery texture, or bind bunches of fibres to a central strand; vary colours, length of pattern repeats, scale, length of tied elements and length of bound areas.
Thoughts and ideas: labour-intensive to make, but I liked this yarn a lot. It has a dramatic, ‘dangerous’ appearance – I think I associated it with poison darts, the binding on arrows, or hand-tied fishing flies. It feels like something an Amazonian tribesman might wear. While there is pattern and repetition, the ties and variety in the frayed threads give enough variation to make it interesting. I think this texture represents the source material well, and I may take this forward for further development.
At this point in proceeings, I decided to spend more time on this exercise, as I felt there was more exploration to be had!
Materials: silver beading wire, red glass beads
Construction: a double length of beading wire was twisted together and 12.75 cm lengths of wire were twisted around the central stem at 5 cm intervals. Red glass beads were twisted onto the tips of the cross pieces.
Handle and appearance: stark, plant- or fungi-like structure. Wiry (!), malleable, gives added structure when combined with the softer yarns. Poseable.
Possible variations: play with scale (fine filaments with tiny beads; thick cable with large embellishments); vary the spacing and density of side branches; make into a coral or branch like structure with many stems coming from the central one.
Thoughts and ideas: the wire was unpleasant to work with, but would be worth persisting with to make a flexible structure that could be given many forms and structures. The combination of this yarn with other pieces gave variety in the materials and did remind me of plants or fungi growth, linking back to the source material. It seemed to be a good method for mounting small points of colour in amongst a densely tufted background.
Materials: black paper cord, red 6-strand embroidery thread
Construction: 18 cm lengths of paper cord were bound to a central strand of the same material at 5 cm intervals. The binding threads were knotted and left with loose ends as an added texture. Areas of the paper cord were unravelled to make leaf-like structures.
Handle and appearance: very light weight, organic appearance, plant-like, vine-like, sinuous.
Possible variations: change the colours, scale up or down; use ‘leaves’ made from stiffened textile and wire; vary the spacing and density of ‘leaves’; add embellishments like ‘berries’ or ‘flowers’.
Thoughts and ideas: this yarn was inspired by a technique used in the stitched paper sample, but was given more regularity with the repeated shapes. The tied element is functional as well as referencing the colour palette and mood of the source material. It has a hint of exoticism, with a touch of the poisonous about it (the black and red colour scheme). I liked this yarn for its simplicity and repeated pattern with variation. I could imagine this being added to fashion clothing and accessories, or being made into jewellery. The importance of joining different types of materials together is becoming apparent with the more complex forms. Trying to find a method that is appropriate, functional, and complements, or, as in this case, gives an added dimension to, the outcome.
#11 – #16
Materials: black or white acrylic gesso paint, string, cotton textile, vegetable netting, hairy yarn, tulle netting
Construction: the various materials were rolled, twisted, knotted, looped or left as they were, then given whole or partial coats of gesso. Most pieces were hung to dry: the looped yarn was left flat on plastic to dry, with the loops each opened to the desired shape, and it retained large areas of gesso, which was flat and smooth on the reverse.
Handle and appearance: in general, the gesso makes the material stiffer and less flexible. The knotted cotton textile remained flexible in the unpainted areas, as one would expect.
Possible variations: coat with wax for a translucent look, or use other types of paint, varnish or plaster; include added materials such as grit or glitter; add stitch or other media after painting.
Thoughts and ideas: I tried this because I wanted to change the colours of a couple of the materials I had on hand: the hairy yarn was changed from green to black (and resembled a raggedly-drawn ink line), but the other materials retained some or all of their original hues. The coated, knotted string and hairy yarn were two experiments that I felt matched my original drawings. The other pieces hold possibilities for use in other work, such as artworks where some structure is beneficial, or where a partially hidden/revealed aspect is required. The looped yarn looks frosty and ragged, which was an interesting texture to bear in mind.
Materials: red, chenille yarn (?cotton or mixed fibres), linen thread
Construction: I had come up with this texture in one of my drawings, albeit more regular. I puzzled over recreating this one, but came up with an inner structure of linen thread with tied crosswise pieces of thread with knots in both loose ends, at 1 cm intervals. I then made a French knitted structure over the top. Some of the knotted threads were knitted into the structure and others were hooked through after knitting was complete.
Handle and appearance: this has a soft, ticklish feel and an exotic, alien appearance.
Possible variations: both materials could be finer or thicker; different colours; scaled up or down, the protruding threads could be longer or shorter and could have embellishments added.
Thoughts and ideas: This was definitely a favourite. I liked the contrast between the soft, velvety knitted yarn and the spiky, irregular linen thread. I had imagined the threads coming through at regular intervals, but they behaved otherwise, and I think I prefer the random placings. It has potential in textile jewellery and art work: its strange appearance suggesting alien or deep-sea life forms, which feels true to the spirit of the ‘wild’ aspect of the source materials.
I felt that these were the most successful yarns that I made, in terms of representing the source materials and my drawings. I will take them forward as possible inspiration for the next three, longer lengths of yarn.
I made some more visual analysis drawings of the chosen yarns, considering what further developments could be made.
I imagined #2 (threaded felt with knots) with larger/thicker pieces of felt interspersed with large beads; or threaded with irregular shapes; or clusters of felt pieces separated with bound areas; or lengthening the threaded on strips and adding some knotted threads.
#7 (beaded net tube) could be tied at intervals instead of being left as a tube; or the net could be stuffed with a wispy materials and have large beads separating the stuffed ovals.
#8 (tufted frayed fabric, bound and decorated with knots) could be given a playful twist and could be made from artificial grass with ladybirds on it; or could be scaled up and made from a thicker (plaited cotton) strand decorated with painted twigs tied on with ?plastic ties and separated by large beads, knotted in place. The direction of the twigs could be varied; it could be made from a feather boa in a larger scale (although I am not happy at the thought of using real feathers).
#17 (French knitted tube with linen thread knots). Well, I was quite happy with this one as it was, but I thought it could be scaled up if I could make a larger circular ‘knitting doll’ and use something like fabric strips for the yarn, and paper cord instead of linen thread for the knotted protrusions.
#11 (knotted, coated string) could be scaled down and made with embroidery thread with wrapped areas separating the knots; or it could be made from yarn with multiple, random and some overlapping knots. In my research, I saw that Jean Draper had made some yarn from already wrapped thread or yarn that was then knotted.
#10 (leafy paper cord) could be made in different colours, white or green, for example and could be scaled up or down and could have embellishments added.
#1B For my first 100 cm yarn, I picked the French knitted one and decided to proceed as outlined above, exploring scale.
I made a larger French knitting device from a tin can, pencils glued to it and held in place with rubber bands.
Materials: assorted re-purposed cotton and cotton mix jersey textile strips; paper cord
Construction: I proceeded as for the smaller version, but using a central core of a metre long length of paper cord, tied with cross pieces at 5 cm intervals and knotted on the loose ends. To represent the red background of the original source textile, I decided to use a mixture of repurposed jersey clothing (deeming the stretchiness necessary for knitting with), cut into strips (starting with the surreptitious acquisition of my husband’s worn red tee-shirt!).
Handle and appearance: this has a soft, heavy, flexible feel with springy texture from the cotton cord. The appearance is monstrous and ugly*.
Possible variations: as well as the variations mentioned above: [both materials could be finer or thicker; different colours; scaled up or down, the protruding threads could be longer or shorter and could have embellishments added.] I thought that the larger piece could have additional stitch added, or could be made from a more frayed texture of fabric strip. Finer, less stretchy fabric strips would result in a net-like structure allowing the viewer to see inside the knitted tube.
Thoughts and ideas: *[Having recently read fellow student, Julie’s, reflection on Tackling the ugly, I feel that I should elaborate on that word!]. By ugly I mean that it evokes a disgust reaction because it looks both unsightly in its uneven, coarse construction, and also because of its worm- or snake-like appearance in shape and colour, perhaps also the hairiness. Ugh! I found the smaller version (seen in two images above for comparison) rather ‘cute’, like a little sea creature, but this one is so large that it feels threatening. This may be just the effect one is looking for in an art work! It has the potential to be wired or sewn into different configurations (coiled, looping, 3-D spiral, etc), or dangled from the ceiling.
Construction: based on #8 and the subsequent drawing, I decided to make an enlarged version using some unusual materials. I clipped dozens of willow twigs from a tree in our garden, then painted them black with acrylic gesso (seen above left, drying). I had considered leaving them their attractive natural colours, but decided to stick to my chosen colour palette on this occasion. For the supporting ‘rope’ I considered using another natural material: twisted golden hop stems and I made a test structure with five twined stems, but decided that it looked too ‘wreath-like’ and inflexible, so I made a braided structure from three torn white cotton strips, which referred back to the original sewn paper piece in colour and ‘ragged’ texture. I felt that its softness and colour contrasted well with the spiky black twigs. I spotted a bracelet, composed of huge black beads, in a charity shop and disassembled it to use for this ‘yarn’. The knotted aspect was again added with my old friend, springy paper cord, and for further texture and colour contrast, I tied the bunches of twigs in place with red and black plastic lacing (red side showing).
Handle and appearance: this is heavy, semi flexible with contrasting textures: spiky, round, hard, shiny beads, soft, slightly ragged textile, springy knotted areas, and stiff, shiny plastic cord. It is single sided rather than viewable from all sides.
Possible variations: an all-natural version would give a more gentle and harmonious appearance; smaller or larger scale; twigs could be bound all around a central rope and beads with large holes threaded on to give a structure that could be viewed from all angles. The twigs could be all facing one direction, or overlapping; different colour palettes such as all pastels would give the piece a more ‘friendly’ appearance.
Thoughts and ideas: I liked the contrasts in colour and textures, for example, the bundles of twigs tied with red plastic cord. There is a touch of witches’ brooms to the look of the bundled twigs, which conjures images of magic and danger. I’m not sure that this is really a yarn as it would be difficult to knit or sew with, so I will have to call it a ‘linear concept’! It did have a feeling of spiky, springy energy and the twigs related to the theme of ‘re-wilding’. Using a mixture of media was interesting, and something I shall return to. As for potential uses:- interior furnishings, such as blinds or lampshades; or assemblages for artworks.
I had never seen artificial grass close-up before, so I was surprised to find it quite realistic-looking and constructed by tufting through a backing material. Once I had studied the construction, I decided to cut it into strips to give it flexibility and tried some possible manipulations (trials shown above).
Construction: After the sampling shown above, I cut the backing to as thin a sliver as I could while leaving the stitches in place. Noticing the directional tufting, I placed the lengths of backing together, with the tufting all pointing in the same direction. I glued them to a central yarn, made from three thickenesses of plied yarn. These were overstitched for strength (the glue would not have held on its own) with a thick vintage embroidery thread in green. White paper cord was knotted in place at 10 cm intervals, with ladybird buttons attached. I had considered adding ‘flowers’ but decided to keep it simple, to make the grass and ladybirds the main features.
Handle and appearance: this is quite heavy, semi flexible with contrasting textures: tufty, springy, stiffer in the centre where the backing material meets. The appearance was a big disappointment to me, screaming ‘Christmas’, thanks to the red, white and green colour palette, and the grass texture resembling an artificial Christmas tree (they are no doubt made of the same material!). This is a single-sided linear concept.
Possible variations: cutting the artificial grass into smaller beads and threading them onto a yarn might work better, or binding tufts of the material without the backing, to the yarn. Including flowers, butterflies and bees to mimic a meadow would make a prettier version.
Thoughts and ideas: This was supposed to be a fun, playful idea, that referenced the original ‘grass drawing‘ from which the two pieces I used as source material were derived. I think the variations mentioned above might have given less of a tinsel-effect. I had thought of using enormous insects on the ‘yarn’, but at £5 each, they proved too expensive, but with those and some exotic-looking flowers, it might have worked better, as there would have been more colour variation that is not associated with Christmas. The variations mentioned above might be useful for quirky jewellery or fashion accessories.
I have learnt:-
- That drawing can bring forth multiple ideas for yarn designs based on the source material and helps to focus the selection of appropriate media and colour palettes.
- Playing with the materials and combinations of media can spark new ideas.
- Breaking the forms down into simple linear constructions can provide a huge variety of yarns. Some of these can be combined at a later stage.
- Regular patterns with in-built variations; and those with random placings of repeated elements are the most interesting outcomes (to me).
- The type of ‘lines’ created and the chosen colour palette can create quite different moods in a yarn.
- Scale can be varied from tiny and ethereal to huge and bold. Components and repeats need to be scaled up and down, too, to maintain good proportion.
- Joining materials is important for functionality and offers the opportunity for adding dimensions such as texture, colour and movement.
- Overlaying patterns can add to the richness of a yarn.
- The order of construction can make the process easier or more difficult.
- Some flexibility in your design ideas is required for overcoming obstacles, and for making use of ‘happy accidents’.
- Playing with scale and the colour palette of a yarn can have drastic and sometimes unforeseen effects on the outcome!