Experimenting with Structures

In preparation for this project, I have read “Three Dimensional Embroidery” by Janet Edmonds (Batsford, 2007). Although the remit of the book extends well beyond weaving, it was a good way to contextualise what we are working towards and how self-supporting two-dimensional structures can be incorporated into a larger piece.

For exercise 3, I was inspired to work from some sketch work I have been doing based on the coast of Portland. This wall is fascinating and full of interesting colours and textures that make me want to keep returning and recording it.

This sketch is based on this photograph, with the pink and violet hues exaggerated to compliment the oranges.

I wanted to portray the lumpy fluid quality of the rock formations as well as the colours of the sketch. I started by lashing some trimmed wooden skewers into a triangle. I chose a triangle for it’s stability, and I thought it would allow quite haphazard taut wrapping without slippage. I intially wrapped the frame in a single brown sock weight yarn, weaving it into itself in places. The idea was that this would be visible in places and portray the cracks in the rocks. I then used some yarns I spun specifically for this piece, and wove them vertically through the mesh, allowing the ends to hang loosly like stalactites. I wanted these ends to be roughly shorter at each side and longer in the middle to mirror the frame shape above. The eyelash acrylic yarn was used to accent the rough, irregular quality of the rock as well as the tendency for plants to grow from between the cracks. Some areas were left open to balance the overstuffed tight areas, and allow the yarn to stand out against the negative space. I am really pleased with how this has turned out, and for me does everything I wanted it to. My only reservation is the effect of the protruding skewer ends, and wonder if there is anything different that I could have done with them without distracting attention from the centre. One idea I had would be a mounting board cut into a hollow triangle mounted over the top with the loose threads sitting over it.

At this point I got a bit distracted and made some felt by weaving the unspun fleece and wet felting it. This could be further developed by cutting on the diagonal into strips for weaving with other materials and yarns. I like the idea of repeating this process, felting and refelting trapped cut strips in varying woven patterns.

I started exercise 4 by lashing together a number of trimmed wooden skewers into a 3×3 grid. The meeting points were lashed together with yarn, and a supporting diagonal skewer added at the back to keep the piece square. It was quite a challenge to weave as the knots had a tendency to slip, distorting the shape of the frame. I stuck to a fairly narrow colour palette and concentrated on juxtaposing different materials and yarns both in gauge and composition. The piece was not planned but I kept adding to it intuitively untill I felt the balance of space and fill was right. I like the ties at the edges almost as much as the weaving with in it, and feel the strips of fabric appear to hold the piece in tension. Again, I am not completely sure about the aesthetics of the wood, and it would be better painted or wrapped so that it didn’t stand out quite so much from the yarns and fabric.

With this problem in mind, I went on to construct a frame using homemade paper beads. I cut strips from an old medical textbook, and wrapped them around a skewer with pritt stick and the ends. I then threaded them together with cotton, and wire was threaded around  the edge beads to make a more solid square. This then became quite a conceptual piece as the wording was very prominent and evocative on the beads.

I wanted to portray blood and bandages, but also enjoyed the contrast of shiny silk blend yarn against the dulled pages of the book. I felt the ivory torn silk fabric complemented the paper, and really liked the resulting tufts of thread from tearing the fabric. A torn red polyester satin and acrylic ivory yearn balanced the piece.

This detail photo shows some of the text and how it interacts with the weaving.

This was an extension of the idea, thinking about how a frame could be contructed, and I wanted to try something different in the middle. The frame was made with quite heavy brass jewellery wire, twisted in to a circle and shaped into a square with looped corners. The frame was then wrapped with novelty yarn, and the middle randomly wrapped and woven with an upholstery self patterning overlocking thread. I then experimented free machining in a metallic toning thread over the top to pull the woven threads and distort them across the piece. It worked very well with interesting results that I would like to use again.

I continued working with wire, and was interested in the idea of a structure within a structure. I made this piece with fine red jewellery wires and a red leather thong. To me it looks like some of the loose cellular structures I have studied in medicine, and love the contrast in densely woven versus loosely spaced fine wire, and the fine gauge wire against the slightly thicker leather.


Experimenting with Structures

I started exercise one by weaving some photographs together from my resource collection.

I took a pair of portrait orientation photos of the same sunset and wove them 180 degrees to each other, and a pair of photos of another sunset, one landscape and one portrait orientation. This one worked particularly well in terms of proportion and composition. Finally, I tried weaving a photograph of an acer tree with some oriental text from a shop window. I thought that the shape of the leaves echoed the text somehow and was interested int the emerging shapes rather than the colours.

I have surprised myself in this project as I has always considered myself to be very colour orientated, but I am far more drawn to shapes and textures in collecting source material. You’d think I’d have realised this in the colour project!

I then took another photo of a sunset and used it to weave fabrics and threads that I felt reflected the qualities of the photograph. I have seen a number of pieces recentlly where toning threads have been used to weave strips of card or metals.The photo was cut in varying width strips and reorganised in the same orientation, maintaining the colour movement from sky to deep blue water. This was an interesting piece to work, but I’m not sure it works as a piece. It might have ben more interesting to mix it up a little and weave some of the photo strips the other way up to introduce some contrast.

Continuing on the same line I took varying width strips from a selection of the photos used above and paired them with a toning and contrasting card in heavy pattern, crocheted alpaca chains, chenille yarn and wool. The result was more dynamic and showed how pattern and colour can influence each other depending on how they meet in the weave. If I did this again, I would use the yarns in the weft and the weave.

For exercise 2 I began by practising the three suggested braids with chunky merino yarn. From left to right is the chevron braid, the round braid and the flat braid. I particularly liked the round braid and used this in the main for further experimentation. I then experimented mixing contrasting textures and materials. The top braid is with audiotape and a fine pom pom yarn by Habu textiles, the middle braid was a mix of synthetic, alpaca and merino yarns, and the bottom flat braid was worked in found scraps of fabric, acrylic yarn and silk merino (Manos del Uraguay). I thought the fabric braid worked well, and was well suited to the flat braid where the contrast in proportions was shown off to good effect.


I continued by illustrating various textures with natural coloured yarns. Metallic, shiny, soft, spiky, rough. The spiky sample was worked with another yarn by Habu textiles. I love Habu – innovative and covetable, but dangerously expensive!

This was a really enjoyable exercise, and the possibilities, as ever, are endless. It makes it very difficult to know where to stop, but I felt that I had learned enough to be comfortable with what I was doing before moving on.

I have tried knotting Chinese style braids and decorative knots before, which would be an interesting extension of this exercise. Given my past experiences with straightforward braiding yarn and how frustrating/time consuming this can be, I am leaving that idea hanging for the moment.


I have steamed ahead with this project whilst I am waiting for feedback on my last assignment. I have been doing a lot of reading for the research point, but have decided to post my thoughts later on in the assignment. I am currently reading ‘Machine Stitch Perspectives’ by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating, and have also bought, Textiles Now, Inspired to Stitch and Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge form the reading list. A lot to get through, giving me time to come to some conclusions.

As a knitter and crocheter, I already have quite a stash of varying yarns and have also been collecting more novel materials this year such as vegetable bags, audio tapes, coated wire, and various strings. I already talked a lot about raffia and straw in fashion in my last assignment, so I thought I’d look more into spinning wool here. I enjoy a hands-on approach to learning, so thought I’d have a go at spinning myself. It’s harder than it looks! I bought an inexpensive drop spindle, and have some carded dyed wool and merino-silk blend fleece I had bought for felting.  I also have some undyed carded fleece from yorkshirewoollybacks.com, which has a coarser more curly texture.

The fleece is first carded so that all the fibres lie in the same direction, smoothing the texture but meaning that the fleece pulls apart very easily. By spinning it you are encouraging the fibres to lock together creating a yarn with tensile strength. The fleece is teased out to form a ‘shed’, the spindle spun and the spin allowed to travel up the fleece, but keeping an area of shed protected to ensure an even gauge yarn. The spindle is always spun in the same direction. If a 2 ply yarn is required, the single ply strands are spun together in the opposite direction. In order for the yarn to hold in it’s spun form, it is wound into skeins and dipped in warm water, starting a very light felting process.

I have also tried spinning with audio tape, using three tapes together, which worked really quite well. There is obviously lots of potential for inventive blends of materials, which can be explored later with braiding.

Analysing Colour and Texture

For this exercise, I have used a photo I was particularly drawn to from one of my Foto8 journals. It is one of a series entitled ‘Water Colours’ by Narelle Autio, and featured in Issue 25, Spring 2008. I was attracted by the colours, but also the fluidity of one colour bleeding into the next, interrupted by the bubbles and sand. The photo has an otherworldly, dreamy magic to it.

I started by recording the colours in gouache, and felt I did a reasonable job, although the proportions of earthy tones are slightly off meaning that my representation is lighter overall than the original source. It was interesting to see just how many tones of blue and green there are in the picture once you start isolating areas.

I then drew three vertical lines through the original picture, and used these as a guide to produce the yarn wraps so that I could properly concentrate on proportion as well as colour and texture. I used a wide variety of smooth yarns in subtly different tones for the water, and a a chunky alpaca gold yarn for the sand. For the bubbles I had a space dyed yarn in blues and white that works very well. The laceweight lime green yarn with fine loops was used to reflect the highly blended transition between colours.

I also made the water soluble pastel sketch with weaving as well as colour, proportion and texture in mind. Overall I found this a useful exercise in understanding how to translate visual source material into ideas for weaving.