Coursework Part 4: Project 1: Exploring Lines: Exercise 4.2 Experimental Yarns and Concepts: 2: Materials Exploration

I chose two textile and paint chip samples from Exercise 3.1 to inform this part of the Exercise. I made some exploratory drawings and tried to think of suitable materials that represented the look and feel of the textiles




Materials: jelly beans, invisible thread.

Construction: I purchased some bulk jelly beans in order to have enough to extract the colours I needed (although the colours were not an exact match, I felt that they linked with the bright, colourful nature of the source textile).  The sweets were laid out, exploring a possible pattern of an irregular vine-like structure (inspired by that seen in the textile) and rings of beans forming ‘flowers’. In my imagination it would be like stringing beads on a thread: the reality was horrendous! I had chosen to use invisible thread so that it would not detract from the colour of the sweets, but even this fine thread was extremely hard to pull through the sticky, dense centre of the jelly beans. Even a fine needle had to be forced through on a hard worktop and I am sorry to say that I gave up on this one, so it will remain an unfinished sample (in photographic form only, since I doubt it will keep fresh!). The needle, thread, my fingers and the outside of the jelly beans became a sticky mess. I tried heating the needle and ‘burning’ a hole through the sugary centre, but it was scarcely any better.

Handle and appearance: heavy, flexible, sticky; with a fun, lighthearted, edible appearance!

Possible variations: I have since seen plastic jelly bean beads available from the US, so they might be a possible, if more costly, alternative. I think there is further mileage in this idea, but maybe using an assortment of plastic sweets or food items.

Thoughts and ideas: I was most excited at the thought of making a jelly bean yarn concept, which I felt would represent the bright floral textile well. I made links to colour, and a joyful, playful mood that I thought the textile portrayed. I did consider gluing them together, but that seemed like cheating, as it would have been more of a jelly bean ‘sculpture’. The use of food for art reminded me of Lady Gaga’s vile meat dress, or the portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II by Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

And this is more how I imagined the linear concept to look. Drawn A5 size with POSCA pens.


Materials: plastic coat hangers.

Construction: It was only after I started to try and assemble them into a chain that I realised there were numerous ways of combining them: a simple chain; reversing the direction of every other hanger; altering the side of the hanger the hook caught onto; forming a regular pyramid-type shape by hooking an increasing cascade of hangers; or attaching them randomly. This seemed to offer a ‘DIY’ yarn concept that could be altered to suit the whim of the person assembling it.

Handle and appearance: quite heavy, ungainly, fragile construction that can be broken apart easily, playful, childlike, simple or complex.

Possible variations: anything with a hook on one end and a place to attach another unit’s hook could be used (there are toy monkeys that can be joined like this, for example). Units with numerous ‘hooks’ could be formed into 2-D and 3-D structures. Metal or other materials could be used.

Thoughts and ideas: I was walking around IKEA and saw packs of brightly coloured coat hangers. The idea of a chain of them came to me. Colours could also be played with to form another pattern within the structure. This felt like quite an important discovery: how a simple unit can be combined with other similar units in so many ways, somewhat like knitted or crocheted stitches; or molecular structures. I decided to try a blue background to mimic the textile source, but it was so windy that the photographs did not come out well. The ‘linear concept’ seemed quite at home hung from a tree in my garden, though. An idea for outdoor sculpture, perhaps?

A3 size gestural drawing, quickly made, with only a few glances at the paper, using POSCA pens.


A4 size on Japanese paper, mixed media (ink applied with a brush, Sakura pigma pen, carbon pencil and gel pen). Don’t look too closely at the skinny, wobbly washers! I chose the paper and media to match the Japanese feel of the colour palette.

Materials: metal washers, dogwood twigs, willow twigs, wool rug yarn.

Construction: five twigs were placed in a bundle with some facing one way, some the other, to form a roughly equal diameter along the length. Metal washers were spaced out at 1.5 – 2 cm intervals. Wool yarn was added in a sort of blanket stitch, threaded through the centre of the washers to hold the washers roughly in place.

Handle and appearance: stiff, cold washers, ribbed. The appearance is an interesting mixture of materials – shiny, hard metal; natural, smooth twigs; and hairy, woolly yarn.

Possible variations: the washer could be strung onto cord, rubber tubing, plastic-coated wire, or textile strips; combinations of different sizes of washers or washers and nuts (as in nuts and bolts!) could be used. Also, altering the placement of the washers to give an irregular pattern. Wrapping the washers with thread/yarn before threading them on.

Thoughts and ideas: this linear concept was inspired by the linear, bound nature of the source textile (the washers seen sideways on reminded me of the pale grey marks on the source textile) and the masculine feel of the colour palette led me to think of more traditionally ‘masculine’ materials (wood and metal). I really preferred it without the wool, but the washers would not stay in position without it. I tried a small sample using glue to hold them in place, but the glue was too visible for my liking. Adding more twigs to form a very tight fit meant that the bark was scraped off as the washers were fitted. This might suggest designs for interior furnishings (blinds, for example); jewellery (a choker necklace, earrings etc); or might be a useful technique for making sculpture. I liked this piece and it reminded me of the combination of materials found in work by artists such as Ella Robinson and Sophie Smallhorn, whose art I had studied in my recent research here and here.



For the next linear concept, I started by making some wrapped samples using slate, beach pebbles and various threads and yarns.

A5 watercolour and coloured pencil drawing (shown before the pencil was added on right hand side – a simpler grey and white colour palette option).

Materials: grey polyester ribbon, pieces of slate, beach pebbles, embroidery thread (linen and cotton), quilting thread, linen sewing thread.

Construction: after completing the trials shown in the first image, I decided that I preferred the finer threads to the thick yarn as the proportion of thread to stone/slate felt right, and allowed more of those materials to show through. I chose the fairly straight wrapping as opposed to the random wrap, as it again referred back to the straight lines of the source material. Slate chips were collected from the garden and pebbles from a beach. All were washed before being matched for colour to the source material (many of the pebbles showed the pinkish hue often found locally, so will be saved for another project). 10 each of the selected slate chips and stones were wrapped with five colours of thread (teals, burnt orange, mid orange, light grey and dark grey), and the knotted ends of the threads were used to anchor them to the fine ribbon with linen thread at 2 cm intervals.

Handle and appearance: heavy, makes a chinking sound as the stones and slate knock against each other, cold stones with the ribbed feel of the threads. Appearance has a connection to the Stone Age, natural materials, landscape inspired colours. Hard, rugged, masculine, randomness.

Possible variations: drill holes in the stones/slate chips; use sea glass for a translucent alternative, or broken china; wrap other objects; scale up or down; use wire for the wrapping.

Thoughts and ideas: This idea emerged from word associations with the source material, such as ‘landscape’, ‘earth’, and ‘strata’. The wrapping technique seemed to suit the linear quality of the source textile, and the materials and colour palette also fitted the landscape theme. I decided to use some colours that almost blended with the stones and some that were a bold contrast: this following my study of the designers (eg, Sophie Smallhorn) that Cari recommended to me for their interesting use of colour. It quickly became apparent that any stones with large slopes to the edges would quickly lose their wrapping, so I tried to select squarer profile, or longer pieces to wrap. I think that the random wrap pattern tried in the samples could work with other shapes better. None the less, I think this linear concept is only suitable for decorative purposes, as the wrapping could easily be dislodged. I did consider using glue or varnish, but preferred the matt, natural appearance of the stones and slate. I think that this technique would make interesting jewellery, or household decorations such as decorative trims. Thinking of an artistic narrative that might relate to the wrapping: bondage, enslavement, swaddling, imprisonment, war paint, keeping ‘it’ together, landscape. This was my favourite linear concept of those I created, for the simplicity of the materials used, the colour palette (mainly shades of grey with smaller proportions of oranges and teal), and the combination of materials. It could be used hanging down in a vertical display, in which case the stones and slate overlapped each other; or horizontally, in which case the stones and slate dangled beneath the ribbon.


Found linear concept. Not inspired by any of the samples, but spotted on a recent walk.

This beautiful larch tree, seen in winter, hanging with ‘Old Man’s Beard’ lichen and larch cones is a lovely yarn concept: long trailing strands with knots in them, pale grey-green fluffy texture, and embellishments like natural wood beads.


What have I learnt?

  • until you try a technique with the actual materials (ie sampling) you can never be certain how they will react!
  • word associations and drawing can suggest new ideas and directions for work
  • when selecting a palette, consider using some low contrast areas to balance out the high contrast highlights
  • textiles and yarns can work with a wide range of different materials including stone and metal, giving interesting new meanings and qualities to a piece of work




Websites:- Accessed 27/01/17 Accessed 28/01/17 Accessed 27/01/17 Accessed 28/01/17



5 thoughts on “Coursework Part 4: Project 1: Exploring Lines: Exercise 4.2 Experimental Yarns and Concepts: 2: Materials Exploration”

    1. Thank you, Inger. Glad you like them :o) I bought 1Kg of the jelly beans, so I am eating them as I type – also will be giving some to friends and family. Yes, I think the slate one was my favourite, too. I was so pleased when I found that in the garden.

      Liked by 1 person

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