Sketchbook Scans: Mesembryanthemum Studies

Carrying on from Part 5 of the Course, I thought I would draw some more flowers…

Some representative drawings in felt pen, and a couple of stylised versions, and a small sample cut from felt and dip-dyed in ink.

Many years ago I simplified a painting I’d made of mesembryanthemums, to become three overlapping circles of colour, which I went on to use in a lot of small textile pictures and a couple of rag rugs, so they are definitely a favourite subject of mine.

I can imagine these appearing on printed fabrics, mugs, wrapping paper, etc, or stylised versions being made into brooches or joined together as scarves or shawls.

Sketchbook: Colour Studies

More colour palettes taken from various settings, for adding to a colour palette book. Themes are emerging: landscape, nature, the built environment, seasonal colour…

Colour Studies 2

I will make about 50 colour palettes before selecting 30 to make into a book format.

I attend the Solway Quilters: a local group with an interest in patchwork, quilting and appliqué. One of the members recently suggested taking up the challenge of making 12 x A4-sized pictures (one per month) to be made into a textile book ready for an exhibition in April 2018. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to make use of some of my collected colour palettes. I decided that I would choose a theme for my book, of: abstract images derived from ‘the built environment’ (not a subject I have used in my art work before). For the first page, I picked an image taken in a library, and used the colour palette I had taken from that image, to select textiles to make into an appliqué. I simplified the forms and colours in a couple of drawings and have begun to sew the picture.



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

Sketchbook: Colour Palettes

bI have been extracting colour palettes from different locations (landscapes, cafes, IKEA etc) and from a newspaper photo and from our cat! Here are the latest palettes.


I tried to compose one in felt pens, but the result was too jarring next to the pencil versions (all the above examples are in coloured pencils). Trying to think about how to present them now. The artist book by Margrethe Odgaard will be a big influence. She has three colours placed with one across the top and two below, so that all the colours can be seen side by side, so I will have to consider how I can do this with five colours. I may make interwoven strips (although, they would not lie flat, then). Another consideration is how to, or if to, categorise them (eg, all the landscape-derived ones together). I will aim for about 30 palettes that I want to include before making the book.

A final thought is what I want to do with the colour palettes when they are made. I have it in mind to make abstract paintings and textile wall hangings using these colours palettes, but I imagine that they will be useful to refer to for inspiration on any project.


Websites:- Accessed 01/02/17

Research and Reflection: Colour

In my feedback for Assignment 3, Cari gave me some suggestions of artists to research to feed into my current coursework for Part 4.

Sanne Schuurman  is a Swedish designer, working from her studio in Eindhoven. Her interests lie in devising unusual and unexpected combinations of materials and colours that highlight the technique she is using and the “…essence of an object…” (by which I think she means, echoing the functionality and properties of an object, such as lightness or rigidity, transparency or opaqueness). Her playful explorations seem to be her way of finding out what works well, and for sparking new ideas: a great way of working as I am finding out on this course!

The designer has a section on her website about her use of and inspiration for colour palettes in her design work. Her work with plastic has been inspired by the animal kingdom. An example of a translation of colour and form is given below. In this example she has selected just three colours for her palette from the image. Her piece has a large proportion of the background colour (light brown), with black stripes and tiny highlights of the mint green. The sample has translated some of the mood of the original image in Sanne’s lines and spots of colour, which still have an insect-like feel about them.

Sanne Schuurman, colour use: plastic research, 2013


She also has a colour magazine  where inspirational images and resulting colour palettes are shown and some are translated into abstract objects/collections of materials, made from mixed media, drawings and exploratory samples, which may go on to be used in one of a number of applications (window treatments, lighting options, textiles, interior design features etc).

Sanne Schuurman, colour magazine, 2013


In the example above, Sanne has used Google Earth to focus in and out on regions of the Earth’s surface, and has picked specific areas to make her colour palettes from. I like this as an idea for finding colour inspiration, and I have begun to make colour palettes from specific localities (analysing photographs and observed colour on site).

What can I learn from this designer?

  • inspiration for colour palettes can come from anything and anywhere
  • one inspiration may provide a number of different possible colour palettes
  • use playful experimentation to inspire new colour and material combinations
  • associations can be made between the source material and intended end use (eg insects -> plastics)

Margrethe Odgaard is a Danish textile designer working in Copenhagen. Her main interest is in the colour, pattern, and feel of the created textiles.

Her process is described in images on her website, including collage, paint samples on ‘lolly sticks’, which can then be placed next to each other and interwoven to help with decision making about the final colour choices for the woven textiles. Small bundles of yarn in many hues, values and saturations are on hand for informing choices.


Margrethe Odgaard, selecting colours


Margrethe toured Japan and observed and recorded manmade colour combinations from buildings and objects that interested her.

She made an artist’s book out of a selection of her colour palettes to use for future inspiration. The colours in the book were recorded on location. She chose three colours for each of the palettes to equate to the harmonious musical chord where three notes are heard at one time, however she also notes that some palettes have “dynamic asymmetries”.


Margrethe Odgaard, Artist book, 2016 (crayons, markers, cotton paper, cardboard)


I really love this idea, and the beautifully simple layout of the book. The placement of the colours on the page, so that they can all be seen next to each other is perfect. The designer has used both markers and pencil crayons, allowing her to translate something of the texture she is observing (smooth or grainy, for example), as well as the colour. It has inspired me to take some colours and a sketchbook in my bag with me to have a go at something similar. The brief descriptive labels showing whence the colour was derived are a nice feature, adding to the feeling that this is also a personal travel journal.

Margrethe muses on the question of cultural preferences and traditions in colour choices. Looking through her book, I can see palettes that I would think of as typically Japanese (browns, indigo blues, greys, teal and dark pinkish reds). There are other palettes where, for example, a dark burgundy and muted pink are enlivened by a coral. Some palettes are all dark or mid toned, others have a pale tone with two dark toned colours. Muted and pure hues jostle for attention. She plans to make similar ‘diaries’ for Brazil and Rwanda, and I’m sure that the palettes will be quite different in tone and saturation, with more bright, pure colours in both of those countries.

See this article on the Selvedge website about Margrethe Odgaard. As well as her solo designs, she also works with furniture designer Chris Halstrøm  of Included Middle producing functional and beautifully designed furniture and interior decoration, such as hanging embroideries.

[Edited 03/04/17:- thanks to Inger for finding this link to Margrethe Odgaard talking about her colour palette gathering activity.]

What can I learn from this designer?

  • abstract colour palettes from your environment (manmade as well as natural)
  • keep an ‘on-the-spot’ record of observed colours with a notebook and coloured pencils/markers
  • keep presentation and labelling simple, yet descriptive
  • think about ways of subdividing the palettes (natural versus manmade, for example)

Raw Color is a design company, owned by Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, based in The Netherlands. They take an experimental approach to their work, focusing on materials and colour, and take their influences from graphic design and photography.

Raw Color, Graphic Time, 2016


The designers have made clocks with kinetic parts rather than moving hands. Sometimes a series of three faces, one each for hours, minutes and seconds; sometimes three moving, perforated parts that allow for patterns to form, interact and change as the timepiece moves. The designers have chosen very different colour palettes for each clock: one with black and white stripes on each of the three sections; another a series of three overlapping grid like forms with varying sizes of holes; a third has an analogous selection of turquoise/sea greens in layered rings. Each of these designs and colour palettes creates a different mood: fun, office-like, arty, sophisticated etc. The pattern can have meaning too: the dense pattern grids representing seconds; the medium density, minutes and the low density, hours. These clues allow the viewer to read the time without the need for numbers.


Raw Color, Mixology, created for Heimtextil Colour Trends 2015/2016


Heimtextil’s trend forecasting team commissioned Raw Colour to make four videos and some still images to illustrate their colour palette predictions for 2015/16. (Heimtextil is a trade fair for textiles.) They use the simple device of sheets of coloured paper and stop-motion animation to create interesting movement and interplay of colour.

The Mixology palette above contains clashing colours and muted shades, which I must admit to finding rather unpleasant. I don’t like muted colours such as the flesh tone pink near pure hues like the red and blue. However, having researched a number of designers’ use of colour, I see that it is common for them to include these seemingly disparate colour selections. I think it is because they create unexpected combinations that jar like dissonant musical chords, and perhaps grab more of the viewer’s attention than a harmonious, analogous palette.

What can I learn from these designers?

  • patterns can communicate information as well as looking decorative/interesting
  • movement allows layers of patterns to form new and changing interactions
  • experimentation and imagination can transform everyday objects into something original and engaging

The 1692 Colour Book is a hand painted and handwritten book called Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, although the text is in Dutch. It runs to c.800 pages. It was created by an artist called A Boogert in the year mentioned, and is thought to have been made as an educational resource, although only one copy is known to exist. It contains all the hues, (with different values), tones and tints that the maker could produce from the watercolour paint pigments available at that time, with notes on how to reproduce them. What a wonderful object! The online version of the book is not currently available, sadly. The modern versions are the Pantone colour guides.


A Boogert, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, 1692, currently owned by Bibliothèque Méjanes, Aix-en-Provence, France


What can I learn from this artist/writer?

  • the importance of keeping technical records
  • the usefulness of building a library of colour inspiration to refer to
  • a simple, but beautiful method of presentation

David Adey is an American artist, who lives and works in San Diego. His artwork are formed by setting himself constraints, as a metaphor for human life. He uses deconstruction and reconstruction techniques. (These techniques are relevant to an exercise in an upcoming part of my coursework).

David Adey, Swarm, 2007 (skin coloured sections punched from magazines, pinned to a foam panel)


This beautiful artwork is made from the found palette of human skin colours (he now works with google images in a similar way). I find this a very interesting idea, as I like to use ‘found’ colours in my own artwork. This says something more in its deliberate use of one source of material, taken together with the title of the piece, it points to overpopulation, mixing of races, and perhaps the harmony that could be found if there were no racism. Therefore, the linking of the source materials to a narrative gives added impact to an artwork. (Incidentally, I found skin tones very useful when constructing my recent pixelated collage).

The aforementioned collage prompted my tutor, Cari, to recommend the following artwork, in particular, to me.

David Adey, Anatomic Particulars (detail), 2007


This artwork is formed from 1 inch square, urethane plastic cubes, coloured with pigment and glitter, and configured into partial blocks up to 5 inches square. The colour palette, viewed with the hollows and protrusions, and the translucent character of the materials have the visceral quality of human flesh, suggesting both internal and external body parts. I like this piece a lot, with its abstract quality, self-imposed constraints, and considered use of colour, texture and media. Something to bear in mind when I am selecting colour palettes and media for my own work. David has now embraced the new technology of 3-D printing in more recent artworks, such as Hide, in which his body was subjected to a 3-D imaging device, the resulting information was converted into triangulated 2-D pieces (like a macabre jigsaw puzzle). These sections were split in half and reformed into a diptych of 2-D artwork, like a split human hide. Although in this case the artist has chosen a single creamy white colour to represent the skin, perhaps to focus attention on the Rorschach test-like, non-human look to the piece.

Sophie Smallhorn is an artist and consultant working in London. She “… explores the relationships between colour, volume and proportion.” The ‘Making‘ section of her website, shows her process: working with small colour chips/sticks/dots and colour samples in different media (yarns, vinyl, paint, printing pigments etc), and exploring different colour combinations and proportions, before translating these into her chosen media (eg, screenprints, or sculptures, or architectural features such as a coloured glass roof in London Victoria Station).

New work for Galerie Wenger 1

Sophie Smallhorn, work for Galerie Wenger, Cube 64/5, 2014


In this series of work, the artist has constrained her medium to small cubes measuring approximately 36 mm cubed. These have been coloured, using different colour palettes in each sculpture. Sometimes the side is obscured, so you are left to wonder at what is hidden from view. The colours go from combinations of muted, analogous hues to bright contrasts. These mixtures of hues, values and saturation confuse the viewers’ eyes and minds, with the pure, saturated colours advancing and the muted, and darker value colours receding (compare the orange and dark blue-green in the example above, although placed next to each  other, the orange leaps forward, while the darker hue recedes). These optical illusions are further enhanced by the fact that the cube is incomplete in places.

ColourWare 1

Sophie Smallhorn, collaboration with Sebastian Bergne, Colourware, 2011 (Corian, wood, bronze, felt)


The artist’s Colourware collection shows an interesting colour palette and use of pattern and surface qualities. The pale wood with its natural lines, knots and rings contrasts with the bright pops of colour from the felt and Corian. There are tiny injections of black and white marbled Corian; and shine from the smooth, reflective metal, creating an impression of cohesion with contrasts, in the repeated shapes (circles/rings/cylinders), and repeated and varied colour combinations.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • experiment with different colour palettes (actual colour chips) using different proportions, and materials with different surface qualities
  • consider repetition and variation in art and design work
  • saturation, value and hue can appear to change, depending on the placement of colours next to each other
  • a small injection of colour can enliven an otherwise ‘quiet’ and harmonious palette


To put my new knowledge into practice, I have begun to take photographs when I am out and about, such as the ones below of a walk at Talkin Tarn. I make collages of the colours that interest me and import them into Adobe Color CC software to highlight some possible colour palettes.



The three palettes shown at the top of this screenshot are derived from the photo collage above, focusing on different aspects of the images. The resulting palettes are certainly more subtle than my usual high contrast ones: lots of chromatic greys and muted pinks, purples and greens. These might have potential as inspiration for interior decor such as rugs, furnishing textiles, fashion accessories etc.

Here are two pages from my sketchbook showing the observed colours from two locations: a hospital waiting room and a lakeside walk. Using a limited selection of coloured pencils (I may start to include felt markers to give more contrast) means that I have to try my best to recreate the colour I’m seeing, with blends of colours optically mixing to produce an approximation of the correct colour. When I have enough samples to choose from, I will make a book like that of Margrethe Odgaard, shown earlier in this article. And to follow that artist’s example, I took some images of manmade colour palettes at IKEA today.



I have learnt:-

  • Colour palettes can be derived from numerous sources.
  • A variety of palettes (bright, muted, analogous etc) can be inspired by one source: by varying proportions, selections and combinations of hues, values and saturations.
  • Including jarring colours (such as muted values) in a palette can make a more exciting combination than gentle, analogous or purely contrasting, complementary combinations. However, selections will depend on the mood you wish to convey.
  • A technical record is a useful educational and inspirational resource for future work, and can be a beautiful object in its own right.
  • To link the narrative or meaning of an artwork to the media used, or to the source of the palette selections.




Christopher Jobson, 271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book, on, 5 May 2014,

Nickie Shobeiry, Margrethe Odgaard, 12 January 2017, on Accessed 20/01/17


Hornung, D. and James, M. (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers: A workshop for artists and designers. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Websites:- Accessed 13/04/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed (in vain!) 20/01/17 Accessed 22/01/17 Accessed 25/01/17 Accessed 18/01/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed 19/01/17 Accessed 18/01/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed 19/01/17 Accessed 22/01/17 Accessed 17/01/17 Accessed 25/01/17

Coursework Part 4: Project 1: Exploring Lines: Exercise 4.1 Yarns Inspired By Stitch and Marks

I began this Exercise by looking back over the work from Parts 1 and 2. I selected two pieces for inspiration:-

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!



Sketchbook: Deriving A Textile Pattern From A Collage Detail

In my feedback to Assignment 3, Cari had mentioned that she would like to see a translation of a detail of Collage #2 into an idea for a textile.


Detail of Collage #2

I decided to play with the image in Gimp software, applying (and undoing) a variety of filters (I am an absolute beginner with this software, so it is all trial and error!), followed by a tiling filter.

Three digital versions of the collage detail, altered and tiled

I picked acrylic paint to make my simplified version of a potential textile design. The acrylic is opaque and dries quickly, so painting layers of colour in this medium was easier than using watercolour, for example. Also, I felt that the colour saturation was important in translating the colourful original.

A simplified pattern in acrylic paint, with POSCA pen, detail (left) and A3

I have ended up with quite an exotic-looking fabric – perhaps suitable for a Hawaiian shirt or a tablecloth! There is more of the turquoise-blue than in the original, where the green and ultramarine blue predominate. This triadic colour palette leaves little room for the eye to rest, so it might be better with a more muted secondary pattern or background colour. Only a few strokes of dull purple are present as lines on the turquoise areas. (The purple occurred in the digital version, when the ‘make seamless’ filter was applied and the red and blue mixed.) An interesting exercise, and another piece of work to add to my colour file.