Friday, 1 November 2019

Experiments with an embellisher

I'm not the proud owner of an embellisher but I have a friend who is!

I wanted to experiment and see how the embellisher works and the effects I could achieve so I had a go when we last met.

I've selected some drawings from chapter 1 of this module 6 as was the protocol for samples in the last 2 chapters.

Sample 1

Drawing 1.71.h. Oil paint sticks with inktense sticks rubbed over snippets of card under paper

Calico with painted bondaweb applied with added white emulsion paint and horizontal strips of net.

I added strands of space dyed deep blue scrim and blue / orange wool fibres plus strips of pale blue scrim snippets of space dyed blue sari strips which tended to blend less well. I decided to cut the sample to add a sense of movement.  Free machine embroidery added in sideways zigzag and circular stitching.

At this point I tried out a hand held needle felting tool which proved ineffective

 I then embellished the sample and achieved a beautiful blended effect. Very pleased with this:

Sample 2
Drawing 1.71.g.  Oil pastels followed by a wash of water and inktense sticks applied.

Printed felt with horizontal strips of painted Bondaweb and blue / orange wool fibres and scrim:

I then overlaid this with a lacey fabric worked on water soluble fabric [ horizontal sideways zigzag stitching with added snippets of of dyed sari strips, dyed blue scrim, blue and orange wool fibres.
Threads - Blue, turquoise and orange threads and royal blue in lower bobbin:

The above was dissolved and laid over the backing.

Embellisher applied to blend the layers, some pale blue scrim and darker blue / teal cable stitch added for more tonal contrasts. The sample took on a distorted form with embellishment and extra stitching:

Sample 3
Drawing 1.8

Background - Printed white felt in blue [ bubble wrap print].
 I lay spirals of wool fibres, dyed blue scrim, snippets of dyed blue sari strips and disc-shaped fabric pieces in a sandwich of Aquabond and water soluble film before free machine stitching in variegated
blue thread with royal blue on the lower bobbin in a vermicelli style / pattern. Orange thread added with royal blue to bobbin. Cable stitch added with space dyed cotton perle on lower bobbin in vermicelli style and then orange stranded cotton also in vermicelli style.

And dissolved:

And embellished:

This was an interesting exercise and demonstrated some beautiful blending effects which could be used  to represent a watery feel.

I took inspiration and added information about the use of an embellisher from the book Just One More Thing by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Chapter 7. Use of dissolvable fabrics.

It is possible to make an embroidered lace using soluble fabrics. I think this is one of the most wonderful and serendipitous of techniques in the world of stitched textiles!

I have made a series of technical samples trying out a variety of dissolvable fabrics to compare results. I've used these materials before and always loved them but I'm intrigued to try out a wider range.

Sample 7.1 
Each piece is just 3 x 3 cms in size and I have used the same free machine embroidered technique for each to enable me to compare the results and any differences in the dissolvable fabrics used, depending on their individual characteristics. It’s essential that rows of stitching connect to prevent unravelling.

I have recorded my observations below, the differences were subtle but could make a difference to specific pieces of work. Please zoom in for my comments:

7.2 Samples of soluble lace using different stitch methods.

I have now produced a series of samples using my favourite soluble fabric – I have chosen Solufleece cold water soluble.
I have stretched the fabric in an embroidery hoop and using machine stitchery I have produced a series of 3 x 3cm samples including  the following criteria. Needle size 90.

 Normal stitching
 Free stitchery using an embroidery foot with feed teeth out of action
 Very open effect
 Very dense effect
 Only one direction
 In opposite direction
 In curved shapes
 Straight stitch
 Any swing stitch
 Cable stitch
 Whip stitch
 Metallic thread
 With trapped bits of fabric or threads.
 Form a 3 dimensional shape

The three following images are of my samples worked [a] within the hoop and then [b] pinned onto polystyrene ready for rinsing and [c] finally after rinsing. I’ll talk about each in turn and compare the results after rinsing.

[b] pinned onto polystyrene ready for rinsing:

And finally after rinsing:

 I’ll talk about each in turn [the samples are numbered]  and compare the results after rinsing.

Sample 1: Variegated thread on top and turquoise on lower bobbin. Feed dog engaged. Tension normal. Initial square of straight stitching then straight stitch in one direction ensuring that stitches connect at the edges. Rows of scallop stitching in one direction only. Then cable stitch in scallop style to finish using space dyed linen thread on lower bobbin with looser tension and worked blind. Dense stitching.

After rinsing: Dense and textured finish with wave like patterning highlighted by the cable stitch. Size unchanged. Really love this one, the variegated thread and the scallop stitching gave beautiful detail and texture.

Sample 2: Variegated thread on top and turquoise below. Feed dog disengaged. Tension normal. Straight stitch worked in free circular pattern around the outside and then filled in ensuring that all stitches connected at circle edges. Cable stitch [as before] to finish with space dyed linen thread in lower bobbin and worked blind.

After rinsing: Lovely well formed circles of various sizes. Size unchanged.

Sample 3. Feed dog disengaged. Variegated thread on top and turquoise on lower bobbin. Free wide zigzag worked in vertical lines and then horizontally in sideways zigzag over the top. Dense stitching.

After rinsing: Surprising result with wonderful loose and irregular texture. Now measures 3 x 7 cms. Love this result!

Sample 4Turquoise variegated thread on top and turquoise below. Narrow zigzag grid filled with free circular stitching.
Apricot variegated added via lower bobbin using whip stitch to add definition. Dense stitching.

After rinsing: Dense areas of textural stitching alongside circular lacy patterns. Size unchanged.

Sample 5. Variegated turquoise thread on top with turquoise in lower bobbin. Feed dog disengaged. Free stitching in repeated circular layers until the shape starts to distort in the centre.

After rinsing: Loose circular rows of stitching in places with raised area in the centre and upturned areas. Looks like a 3D shape but not expected! Size half a cm smaller. So exciting! Love this result!

Sample 6. Variegated and turquoise threads as before. Feed dog disengaged. Initial free concentric circular stitching in straight stitch then circular patterning from each corner to the centre. Loose effect.
After rinsing: Circular patterning has stayed in place and size unchanged.

Sample 7. Apricot variegated thread on top and turquoise below. Feed dog disengaged. Whip stitch. Figure of 8 loopy stitching.

After rinsing: Lovely loopy and loose effect with texture created by the whip stitch. Size unchanged.

Sample 8. Orange thread on top, royal blue below. Feed dog disengaged. Zigzag grid worked and repeated.

After rinsing: Irregular grid effect, spirally and loose around the edged. Size 3 x 4.5 cms.

Sample 9. Orange and royal blue threads as before. Feed dog disengaged. Narrow zigzag worked in an irregular grid. Finished with cable stitch with orange stranded cotton on lower bobbin.

After rinsing: Looser and rounded effect of zigzag, cable stitch adds definition and strength.
Size 3 x 3.5 cms.

Sample 10. Snippets of blue cotton organdie and orange felt held in place at random by wooden cocktail stick as a narrow zigzag grid is worked. Orange thread on top and turquoise below.

After rinsing: Grid maintained with snippets of fabric secure. Lovely blending of fabric bits and stitching. Size unchanged.

Sample 11. Trapped threads [space dyed linen] held in place by cocktail stick as random circular stitching worked.

After rinsing: Lovely lacy effect with threads loose around the edges.
Size unchanged.

Sample 12. Royal blue thread on top and orange below. Feed dog disengaged. Whip stitch. Base grid of straight stitch over worked by rows of zigzag worked vertically only.

After rinsing: Tight spirally effect, looser at the ends. Size 3 x 4cms.

Sample 13. Variegated and turquoise threads worked in straight and zigzag stitch base. Cable stitch added in turquoise Madeira Glamour metallic thread. Dense stitching.

After rinsing: Gorgeous texture, dense and loose textured areas. Size unchanged.

Sample 14. Royal blue and turquoise threads. Feed dog disengaged. Whip stitch. Wavy zigzag patterns worked horizontally. Central vertical line added to secure structure.

After rinsing: I rinsed very briefly to purposefully leave some of the soluble fabric in to enable me to mould a 3D shape. Looks like a sea creature!

7.3 Soluble lace based on sea and sky drawings

The task here is to work a series of samples using any dissolvable fabric based on my drawings made in chapter 1.
The brief is to note the type of mark and rhythm in the drawing, to indicate the type of threads and stitch to be used which will inform the rhythm of the stitching. I have uploaded the original drawings or mark making followed by the sample prior to rinsing and afterwards. I've dealt with each one individually.  All worked on Solufleece.


 The mark making in the drawing indicates the movement of the waves which slant diagonally upwards from left to right. The rhythm is one of gentle movement in the same direction.

I have, therefore, worked a diagonal and horizontal grid in free straight stitch to support my stitching. Tension normal. Feed dog down. Royal blue thread on top and turquoise below.

Then sideways zigzag with loosened lower bobbin for whip stitch worked diagonally and upwards across the grid.

Snippets of space dyed blue cotton organdie and printed orange chiffon held in place with a cocktail stick and held in place with more sideways zigzag.

On dissolving the sideways zigzag gives the impression of movement and rhythm whilst added fabric bits add texture and a sense of depth. Lacey stitching suggests light reflecting on a watery surface. I’m very pleased with this.

The mark making in this drawing suggests a rhythmic ripple effect with broken circular lines radiating from the top left centre so I’ve worked a loose semi circular grid in narrow zigzag as a base ensuring that all the ends connect with a border. Turquoise variegated thread above and turquoise below.

Spaces between grid worked in straight stitch in the same curved directional fashion.
Narrow zigzag with variegated apricot thread to lower bobbin [whip stitch] worked in circular shapes between grid lines to accentuate rippled effect. Metallic turquoise added to lower bobbin for whip stitch to add sparkle to water surface.  

 On dissolving the rows of straight stitching have separated in places which adds to the rippled effect and a sense of movement and volume:

 I started this sample with a loose horizontal grid across the lower half using straight stitch which joins the upper section where the grid becomes circular in nature. Tensions normal. The rhythm of this drawing was soft and undulating representing the clouds and seascape by Joseph Mallard William Turner. Beautiful!


I’ve used royal blue on upper and lower bobbins which on this occasion is a departure from the original colour scheme and inspired by my drawings. I have added more stitching in the royal blue in narrow zigzag across the top merging into a vermicelli style pattern across the lower half. I’ve added orange on top with whip stitch to add texture.

A lovely lacey effect on rinsing and I'm really pleased how the vermicelli has stayed in place. Next time I would find a way to disguise the grid!

This is based on a set of drawings using several layers namely Inktense sticks and pencils with water or oil paint sticks with pencil crayons which altogether give a denser effect.


In the lower section I worked a close horizontal grid using straight stitch and a wider grid across the upper section. All connected. I then worked overall spiral shapes in apricot and teal which were overworked in dark teal in narrow zigzag. This was finished with cable stitch in apricot stranded cotton over upper half and crewel wool in teal over the bottom half – both in narrow zigzag.  

 The stitching has shrunk a little following rinsing and although the result was dense it was still lacy as suggested by the drawings:

This is another drawing with several layers of colour [oil pastels, water and then inktense sticks] but suggestive of a sunset over water. The mark making is horizontal with a rhythmic sense of linear movement across water and sky. 

Basic grid in turquoise on upper and lower bobbins worked horizonally across the whole sample connecting to outer edge. Tension normal.

I then worked in the same turquoise in free machine sideways zigzag back and forth to ensure the stitches connected albeit loosely.
For next layer teal thread worked in same way back and forth but with snippets of space dyed scrim stitched down to add texture and depth.
Apricot variegated thread across and just above the ‘horizon’ in same fashion with turquoise on lower bobbin and to finish a dark rust thread added to add a tonal quality to the sky.

 On dissolving a lovely horizontal and lacey effect with undulating waves resulted which could be manipulated to suggest depth and movement.


 This is my favourite of the research artwork. Oil pastels and ink resist. I love this drawing as I tend to do much better if mark making requires just a suggestion.

 No preparatory grid this time as I wanted to see if I could get the stitches to connect and support themselves.
Again the mark making moves rhythmically and horizontally across water and sky.
 I started in yellow with a variegated yellow on the lower bobbin in free style sideways zigzag.

Then apricot with variegated yellow underneath. I then added dark teal through the yellow and apricot in same sideways zigzag through to the lower edge and turquoise over this lower half,  with the addition of a metallic royal blue on top bobbin to add highlights to the darker area.
Finished with a little bit of yellow and apricot in the corners. No grid but stitching quite dense, hopefully the stitching will be looser on dissolving? I'd also worked this in a small round hoop when it probably needed more space.

And closer up:

 This resulted in a lovely loopy and rolling sea with a tighter texture across the sky. Pleased with this.

I decided to have another go at this last sample! I wanted to see if I could achieve a different result by adding snippets of fabric horizontally across water and sky. The drawing suggests reflections in a paler blue across the water.
I used the same zigzag stitching the same groups of colours adding in strips of space dyed blue cotton organdie across the water and monoprinted apricot chiffon across the sky with a little added to the water.
This resulted in a less lacey effect but seemed to capture the rhythm of the water apparently moving across the sample. Equally pleased with this!

After rinsing:

And close up:


I was really pleased with first of my samples in exercise 7.2 featuring the free scalloped stitch
and equally intrigued by the lozenges which I’ve worked in the embroidered piece 6.3.
I wanted to see if I could recreate the marks and rhythm present in this frottage sample in ch 1.

I’ve worked a regular grid using a narrow zigzag in my turquoise variegated thread. I‘ve then added some lozenge shaped fabric pieces and secured then quite randomly using a scalloped [stitch feed dog engaged for this]. I’ve finished it with the addition of the scalloped stitch but worked in cable stitch with space dyed cotton perle on the lower bobbin.

 I love this result, after dissolving it can still be seen as lacy but has a firmness brought through the fabric pieces. Lovely rhythmic feel. I love the textured effect of the cable stitched cotton perle  

 This has been a wonderful set of experiments, I’ve worked with soluble fabrics before but really loved the surprising outcomes achieved here. It seems the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Chapter 6 post script

Sian suggested that my dissatisfaction with this last piece may be remedied by correcting the tonal
quality and balance by adding a dark piece at the back and then cutting away from the front. Scary stuff but Sian reminded me that I already had a record of previous results so nothing to lose!

This is sample 6.4 as it was:

And this is the revised piece but I couldn't resist stitching the cut away pieces back on top near the cut away to add a further dimension:

These added tonal contrasts worked really well and I had fun manipulating the shape of this piece using the additional strips at the back to give an impression of rising waves:

Very pleased with this now!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Summer School 2019

Our workshop this year was led by Artist Alice Fox and entitled Into The Woods. Our brief was to gather and forage materials from outside and then learn how to use natural dye processes to mark and colour cloth, paper and thread with the addition of hand stitch to create samples as a record of what we found.

We collected all sorts of foliage and noted our thoughts, senses and observations in our sketchbooks as we explored the woods behind our classroom. It was raining which certainly added atmosphere and brought forth the wonderful aromas of the woods and forest floor.

On return to class Alice introduced us to Ecoprinting and her recipe for an iron solution into which we dipped our leaves and then layered them within the folded pages of our sketchbook.

An iron solution is made using the addition of some rusty nails or such like into a vinegar and water solution which matures over a week or so. This acts as a mordant, aiding transfer of colour and producing dramatic results. Plants containing natural tannins give better results e.g. oak, prunus, rose,  blackberry and raspberry leaves, Our pages were clamped together and then steamed [ they can be simmered with other things could be added e.g. onion skins, beetroot etc] to add further interesting effects.

Strips of silk / wool were lined with foliage, then rolled into bundles and added to the pot. It's better to use silk / wool i.e. protein fibres as they colour more readily

We made our own inks from gathered foliage - brambles, acorns, nettles etc. and Alice challenged us to make our own mark making tools from outside

And our own cola pens:

We also made monoprints and rubbings into which I added a wash with our inks

And dyed threads:

Used for some lovely slow stitching at the end of the day:

The fun continued after I got home - I started off my own iron solution and made a selection of my own inks.

I continued experimenting and worked into the pages of my sketchbook. 

When my iron solution was ready I decided to make a little series of prints using leaves collected in my garden and allotment on watercolour paper:

Top strip [silk] is about the allotment in the autumn including leaves from  blackberry and raspberry, runner beans, sage, carrots

Bottom strip is about our garden in the autumn including grape vine, acer, morning glory, rose, fuschia

Bundle of paper pages on top.

I'd like to try and do one of these for every season - my two favourite places!