My first task was to evaluate the work completed so far in this part of the course. I laid out my drawings, paper manipulations, paper with stitch, yarn concepts and evaluative sketches and realised that there was too much to cope with, so I split the material into five groups. Each set of materials was inspired by a different subject. I will show each set of source material followed by the textiles that I created, inspired by it.
My approach was to continue in a spirit of experimentation, with a view to creating a collection of mixed fabrics, using some unusual materials, that can perhaps be layered with one another, or would create a strong contrast when placed next to each other, either in a fashion context, or for the interiors market. I am currently reading two books which have helped to shape my ideas and to give me some context for designing textiles: Briggs-Goode (2013) and Ginsburg (1991).
Alexander Calder, Black Furrows, 1965, tapestry design
Source:- Ginsburg, 1991 (1995 reprint) p 181
Liberty’s Kontiki fabric, 1958
Source:- Ginsburg, 1991 (1995 reprint), p 94
Lucienne Day, Calyx, 1951
Paul Nash, Cherry Orchard, 1930-31
I particularly admire designs such as those shown above. The use of strong contrasts in the colour palettes, paired with a bold, graphic style and abstract imagery are all elements that appeal to me.
#1 plastic bag, cut with scalpel into fine strips, joined at top and bottom
#2 postal sack, as above, with added ties
#3 polyester fabric with 3-D, cut and applied ‘tulip heads’ made from the same textile
The first red textile was directly derived from a sample made in the ‘plastic manipulation’ stage of the process. I felt that it represented the lines seen on the tulip petals well and could be layered over other textiles to give movement and an interesting shiny texture to an end product. It had quite a ‘punk’ feel to it, as did the next textile sample. Although, I felt that both might work on a larger scale as room dividers, or similar.
I introduced ties to the second variation, which was a bi-coloured plastic, and therefore has a different appearance when viewed from the front or reverse. The red ties give a random highlight of colour and perform the function of holding areas of the strips apart. Both of these textile samples have a very floppy, drapeable, lightweight feel to them. I have used a dramatic combination of colours from my chosen palette, giving strong contrasts.
Aiming for a more luxurious take on the idea, I made a repeated ‘tulip head’ shape from cut and gathered squares of a polyester, medium weight, faux silk fabric and attached them to a background of the same fabric. I chose a more muted, orangey shade of red from the palette. The three-dimensional aspect worked quite well, and I could imagine this fabric as a long evening skirt, or as a cushion cover.
#4 cotton fabric with ‘paint on’, liquid batik dye, batik technique using paraffin and bees’ waxes
When I was drawing the plastic samples that I made, inspired by the chard leaf drawing, I was particularly taken with the one seen at centre above. The marks would, I thought, be suitable for representing in batik. I watered the dye in places to give the ‘shiny’ effect seen in the drawing. I did consider adding stitch to this piece, but decided that I preferred the simple and striking marks as they were, in the monochrome palette. I had tried and enjoyed making batik pictures about 35 years ago at school, and had recently purchased a second-hand wax melting pot on Ebay, so this was the ideal chance to try it out. The pattern contains more random dots than the original drawing thanks to wax drips, but I felt that these added to the variety and spontaneity of the design. One unexpected outcome occurred when I washed three samples together in the washing machine: the wax cracked, and the cracked areas re-dyed themselves with the mixture of dye in the water, so a faint secondary colour appeared, which softens the design, compared to the original drawing. Using a cold water dye would probably avoid that happening.
The resulting textile sample feels rather stiff from the dye and wax residue, but I think it would soften with repeated washing. I think that this design could be extended to form a fairly random-looking all-over pattern on fabric and could be rendered in a number of colour combinations, although I feel that the design suits a strong colour contrast. I think it would be suited to a dress or shirt fabric, a curtain fabric, or rug design.
#5 cotton textile with cut petal shapes, wetted and crushed
#6 cotton textile with large lines of petal shapes
#7 pongee silk with cut voids, textile marker, net inserts, layered appliqué and French knot embroidery
Trying to emulate the cut paper samples from the source material, it was not so easy to cut folded fabric, so I felt that the first two samples were not very successful. I imagine that a laser cutting service could provide a much better outcome. On the positive side, the samples were quite interesting with the cut areas giving the possibility for layering, and good drapeability. In a finer fabric, such as silk, they might be suitable treatments for wedding dresses. Using laser cut felt, on the other hand, the textile samples might inspire interior fabrics. One unfortunate outcome was that I discovered that my ironing board cover bleeds colour onto wet fabric, so sample #6 ended up with a pink tinge in places.
Textile sample #7 was looking at the distant blossom, and exploring a more delicate scale. I had hoped to find a very fine cotton, but none was available at my local fabric shop, so I opted for pongee silk (sadly cream, rather than white). I was aiming to create a variety of textures and patterns. I thought that this piece had some nice aspects and it felt like a very feminine, light and ethereal fabric. I can imagine a blouse made from this, paired with a skirt made from #4. It might also be suitable as a Summery window treatment.
#8 cotton fabric with ‘paint on’, liquid batik dye, batik technique using paraffin and bees’ waxes
#9 as for #8
#10 re-purposed linen table-cloth, cotton embroidery thread, textile marker
Following on from my batik experiment with #4, I decided to try my hand at a larger, single motif that could be repeated all over a fabric, giving a large-scale pattern suitable for both clothing and home furnishings. (This reminded me of some earlier research into the Dutch company, Vlisco, as many of their fabrics sported large motifs in a printed, faux batik for the African market).
#9 concentrated on an all-over pattern that might have a number of end uses, such as for a craft fabric or wallpaper.
#10 simplified the colour palette to an all-white scheme, highlighting the subtle self-coloured textile marker pattern with added texture in the form of needle-punched ‘catkins’. This was carried out at a half-size scale of the previous sample. The combination of drawn marks and textured embroidery worked well together, and the embroidered aspect could be expanded to include all of the catkin heads and the stems for a more textured version. Its delicacy made me think of wedding dresses and veils, if it were executed on silk or satin fabric.
Distant Mixed Foliage
#11 printed acrylic paint, embroidered ‘leaves’ on cotton fabric
#12 discharge dyed marks, painted marks, embroidery thread ties on cotton fabric
#13 couched, crumpled polyester fabric, wool chenille, and disassembled pom pom trim on dress net
#11 was inspired by the embroidered texture of one of the sewn paper manipulations, and the resulting yarn. I chose the burgundy from my colour palette with printed white stems and an orangey red for the leaves. The asymmetry would have to be reigned in a little to create an all-over pattern, but I think that this would make good curtain or cushion fabric, and could be turned into a printed fabric in a number of colour palettes.
I decided to continue the linear theme with the next textile sample, using bleach to create some marks inspired by the tree twigs and resulting yarn concept. To give the fabric a little texture and movement, I added embroidery thread ties in the soft green from the palette. I thought the reverse of this fabric was interesting (the white-painted aspect doesn’t show and the ties appear as little dashes of green). It is a very strong pattern, quite masculine in feel, and has a 1980s vibe. It reminds me of Chinese painted brush marks. It is possibly suited to a bedding or rug design, but I think a simpler version (similar to the reverse) would have been more successful.
#13 was a playful take on an idea inspired by the distant plum tree in blossom. I used bold shapes and colours from the palette on an almost transparent background, introducing exaggerated texture, with the intention that it could be layered over other fabrics. In a larger scale, I could see this embroidered on a dress bodice, or full skirt. I think it would also work well in a pastel or monotone palette. It could be developed into a simplified tree shape for printing in a repeated pattern (such as the design by Paul Nash at the start of this article).
I could have carried on this project for weeks: I have so many ideas generated by this work, and I barely touched on printing, as the textile paint I ordered has yet to appear! I will certainly return to this source material in the future, as I think that coming up with more stylised repeat designs for printing would be a fertile area for further exploration. I would also like to use a similar development process for making textured, abstract wall hangings based on landscapes.
What have I learnt during this Project?
I seem to be narrowing down my preferences to bold, abstract patterns and strongly contrasting colour palettes. I prefer very simple, uncluttered designs.
It has been interesting to try the batik technique after all these years, and it is certainly a technique I will revisit. The discharge dyeing with bleach was new to me and another way of altering fabric to add to my ‘toolbox’.
The idea of layering textiles has great potential for creating exciting combinations of colour and texture.
Ginsburg, Madeleine. The Illustrated History Of Textiles. Studio Editions, London, 1995
Briggs-Goode, Amanda. Printed Textile Design. Laurence King Publishing, London, 2013