Coursework Part 4: Project 2: Creating Linear Forms: Exercise 4.4 Deconstructing Colour As Yarn

This exercise makes reference to the striped watercolour representations I made for Exercise 3.3, which were derived from a glass still life arrangement.

I studied the five versions I had made, which varied in colour palette from analogous greys to a comparatively ‘dramatic’ peachy red palette, enlivened with yellow.

I made a mind map of ideas to inform this series of yarns:-


I then drew and wrote down some possible interpretations for the yarns.



Materials: lightweight cotton and cotton mix textiles, tulle netting

Construction: four textiles were chosen to represent the colour palette. Trials were made for dipping the yarn in wax to give a ‘glassy’ effect (zero to four dips in the wax were tried). I decided that I preferred the undipped textile and proceeded to make a yarn based on deconstructed fragments of textile. One piece was torn frayed and twisted to become the main thread. Smaller pieces of other textiles were torn or cut into pieces that were hand sewn or tied to the main thread.

Handle and appearance: soft, floppy, frayed, scruffy, random appearance, but with some repetition of colour and shape.

Possible variations: heavier or lighter textiles in different colour palettes could be used; could be scaled up (clothes on a washing line?).

Thoughts and ideas: my first attempt focused on matching the colour palette and the light airy feel of the painted palette. It was painted in a slightly irregular manner, with blending colours, and I think that suggested the frayed texture to me. I wondered about adding a wax coating, hence the sampling, but decided that what it gained in translucence, it lost in texture (the frayed areas and the netting filled with wax). The samples also became stiff and unflexible. Possibly using a cooler wax dip and more immersions could lead to an interesting finish, where the surface beneath is barely visible – suggesting artistic links to ‘hidden’ or ‘buried’ subjects; experiences you are trying to forget, etc.



Materials: assorted embroidery threads and yarns, some snipped into short lengths, others coiled; ice cubes

Construction: two lengths of yarn were constructed: one made from short lengths of embroidery thread, with a connecting thread and frozen in an ice cube tray. The second yarn was made from coiled pieces of assorted yarns, again with a connecting thread and frozen in ice.

Handle and appearance: heavy, translucent ‘beads’ with the coloured yarns and threads just visible. As the ice melted the connecting thread uncoiled and made larger gaps between the ice cubes, and the contents of the ice cube were visible on the surface.

Possible variations: anything could be frozen in ice in the same way (eg, flowers, pieces of cloth, messages on paper?). I would have liked to make a time lapse photography version of this, as it would be interesting to see the hidden contents slowly emerging as the ice melts.

Thoughts and ideas: I was looking for something that mimicked the shiny, transparent aspect of both the original glass arrangement, and the watercolour studies. I was surprised to find that this worked quite easily (I had thought that the connecting thread might pull out of the ice when they were released from the ice cube trays, but it stayed firmly in place). The emerging threads as the ice melted were as interesting as the encased versions. Thinking of artistic metaphors: thawing of emotions; hidden aspects revealed; ephemerality of life, etc. I feel that there is a slight connection to the work of land artists, such as Andy Goldsworthy, whose beautiful structures may only exist for a short time, captured in photographs. The short-lived nature of the yarn concepts, I think, fulfilled the coursework brief for deconstruction.



Samples for deconstructing plastic/cellophane packaging tubes.

Materials: plastic or cellophane packaging tubes; Sharpie pens

Construction: after investigating various means of deconstructing the tubes (cutting, piercing, punching holes, crocheting a thin strip, removing sections and melting). I opted to combine the two samples shown in close-up above. One was melted over a flame, the other cut from alternate sides (almost up to, but not through the opposite side). The tube was first coloured with Sharpie pens matching the colour palette, then was melted over a flame, before being wrapped with the cut sample.

Handle and appearance: very light in weight, feathery, glimmering, shiny, reflective and a mixture of irregular (melted area) and regular elements.

Possible variations: this material had great potential for alteration. It was quite durable and could be knitted or crocheted, possibly sewn through or couched to a project, if required. When using melting, it could be almost melted away entirely to leave a skeleton of the original material remaining.

Thoughts and ideas: I felt that this shiny, transparent material took on the colour of the pens well and reflected the light in a ‘glass-like’ manner. Melting the material gave even more planes and facets for the light to bounce off and it concentrated the applied colour as the material shrank. It could form a useful layer to place over another texture, or could be added in small quantities to an artwork where a reflective quality is required.




Samples for combinations of hair and various media.

left: A4 POSCA pen and pencil drawing; centre: strands of hair with paint attached; right: two close-up images of completed yarn concept made from braided strands of hair and paint drops.

Materials: human hair, acrylic paint

Construction: hair was ‘deconstructed’ from my head, then paint dots were applied along the length, as it rested on a non-stick surface; paint dots were loosened from surface with scalpel; hair strands with paint dots attached were braided together.

Handle and appearance: light, but with a slight weight from the paint drops – feels like a finely beaded necklace. Appearance is cute and bright, like confetti – until you notice that it is mounted on hair – yeuch!

Possible variations: I tried to make the dots smaller and more globular by having the hair raised off the surface when the paint or varnish was applied, but it would not stick like that. However, my samples show that beads or a number of other substances could be used instead of paint. A very fine ‘yarn’ can be achieved by using a single strand of hair (see strands before they were braided, centre image, above). Hair alone can be braided or used in cut lengths as decoration, (as seen in Victorian mourning jewellery – examples on this Pinterest board).

Thoughts and ideas: I chose to use hair because I was looking for something light, fine and strong with translucent qualities. I had seen  Lucy Brown‘s Ladies Companions at the Making Space exhibition last August, and appreciate the many reactions the use of human hair can generate from the viewer. During the discussion after the study visit, the majority of the group found the artwork so repellent that some people couldn’t even look at it. I find this an interesting reaction when we see it every day on people’s heads, but there must be some innate repulsion reaction to it when found detached! The associations are with remembrance of the dead – keeping ‘a piece of them’ close to you in jewellery.

Lucy Brown, I Serve Only You …, 2012

This sculpture explores the relationship between a lady and her maid over 60 years of service (repetitive tasks such as hair brushing). In this case, the hair refers directly to the tasks performed by the servant; hints at the intimacy, trust and care required for such tasks; but also has a shock value. The collected hair changes colour with the passing years reinforcing the length of time these women were together.

Well, I thought I would try using hair for this exercise, since it seemed to fit the requirements and associations with light, fine, airy, reflectiveness and transparency of the watercolours, but I, too, find it rather disgusting, so will probably not repeat the experience.



Materials: plastic tubing, invisible thread

Construction: plastic tubing was cut into fine rings, that were connected randomly using invisible sewing thread.

Handle and appearance: quite stiff, but light. The appearance presents a repeated element with variation and feels transparent, reflective and ‘glassy’.

Possible variations: I initially tried longer tubes stuffed with yarn, threads or textile, which might be another approach. Any tube-like or cylindrical form could be treated in the same way (copper pipe, loo roll cardboard centres, wood, rolled textiles, etc.) My joining is not very neat: maybe welding the loops together with heat, or gluing them together might be better if no flexibility is required. Or joining the elements with jump rings or wire. A visible thread or yarn for joining would give a secondary pattern to the ‘yarn concept’.

Thoughts and ideas: As mentioned above, I had considered adding more colour and texture to this, with other materials, or paint, but after exploring various options, I decided to keep this yarn simple with the light reflections providing the white and grey palette. This was one of my favourite yarns. I liked its simplicity and the effect of the overlapping ovals/circles. I can imagine the technique being transferable to fashion and accessories, jewellery, or interior decor, and pattern for art or craft applications, such as decorating ceramics.

Visual evaluation drawing – ‘pattern’, printed with masking fluid (removed), watercolour

Visual evaluation drawing – ‘surface quality’, PVA glue


I have done my best to stick to my resolution of trying something on a smaller scale than my previous efforts, as befits the source material.

I have learnt that:-

  • exploring a material with small trial samples can give a variety of options to choose from
  • keeping an outcome simple is often a better option than overcomplicating a design, ie ‘less is more’ constraint
  • created work does not have to be long-lasting to be interesting
  • working with and manipulating the actual materials is a good way to provoke new ideas and find solutions to problems (such as ways of joining materials)


Websites:- Accessed 19/02/17 Accessed 20/02/17

5 thoughts on “Coursework Part 4: Project 2: Creating Linear Forms: Exercise 4.4 Deconstructing Colour As Yarn”

  1. Julia – these are stunning! Both the the ideas and the presentations and your reflections are the exquisite – I am so inspired by your ingenuity. With the ice you remind me of a woolen piece by Andy Goldsworthy – I believe he used ice to ‘glue’ wool hairs to a stone. your work seems to resound with some of his ideas. I do not find the hair idea repulsing – I see a light and elegant solution here (But I do mind my daughter’s long hair once they are in the drain…. 🙂 For the first time I actually feel like going back to make yarns again, fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Inger! Yes, I have seen quite a lot of Andy Goldsworth’s work over the years and I love his use of found colour and pattern. I have not seen the piece you mention, but I have just found an example where he had fixed sheeps’ wool all along the top of a dry stone wall – probably part of the same collection – interesting! He actually lives somewhere in our county (Dumfries & Galloway).

      Haha! Hairs in the drain are particularly irksome. I like the fact that people use hair in art and I certainly would be happy to look at it, (having a somewhat macrabre interest in such things), but I don’t feel that it is ‘for me’!

      One more exercise to go before the Assignment of putting it all together … seems to be a very long section of coursework, but I am glad to hear that it has inspired you to return to the subject :o)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia, I’m lost for words! Where do you come up with all your amazing ideas? The ice cubes are genius. So much thought and effort gone into this. It all seems so structured and well thought out – in comparison I feel that I’m grasping at vague ideas, particularly in this deconstruction exercise. Just finished doing my flat yarns, so now to think about how to present it all.


    1. Thank you Jasia. I think the ideas come mostly from the mind maps and the research. I also have a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and (sometimes) a good idea pops into my head. I must admit I’m struggling to get this finished in time – just about to start my flat yarns – having drawn a few ideas. They will be simpler and more traditional, I think. I’ll look forward to seeing what you’ve come up with when I’ve completed the section :o)


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