Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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New Course, New Blog

To follow Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles go to my new blog

Look forward to sharing my new adventures with you.


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Supplementary Work to Assignments 1 & 2 in response to Tutor Report

Assignment 1 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)

Assignment 2 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)

To improve both the presentation of both assignments 1 & 2, the pages were bound into book form in response to the Tutor’s suggestions.

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Supplementary Work to Sketchbook Module in response to Tutor Report

Tutor Report for Sketchbook Module

Nina O’Connor 513049 (3)

In response to the tutor’s feedback, I signed up to a local drawing class which has been hugely beneficial.

it was also suggested that I might try to finish the customised hardback book “possibly using another artist as a starting point. You might also change the cover, by collaging, texturising the surface, maybe adding text“.  I made a start on this, looking at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work which was very enjoyable, but didn’t do as much as i’d hoped.  

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I loved the exuberance of her work but found it really difficult to achieve a similar effect with paint.   It was a very useful exercise in mixing and made me appreciate her skill.

As suggested I also looked at altered books, including Tom Phillips’ Humament’, which I hadn’t seen before.

I enjoyed the artistry of the altered books but had no desire to try it for myself, although I am drawn to artists’ books and would definitely like to further explore bookmaking skills.

I added to the sketchbook how much i enjoyed working in the book and how it encouraged a playful approach.  

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Supplementary work to Assignment 3 in response to Tutor Report

Tutor Report from Assignment 3

Nina O’Connor (1)

There were many helpful pointers in this report which have influenced that way i have worked since its receipt.

As suggested by the tutor, in preparation for assessment, I have improved the presentation by sewing down all the samples and making a book of the pages.  Also included is a fourth A5 booklet of drawings, explorations and research undertaken during Assignment 3, but not submitted to the tutor.

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Supplementary work to Assignment 4 in response to Tutor Report

Tutor Report Assignment 4

Nina O’Connor 513049 (2)

I was frustrated that I hadn’t identified that the blue and grey yarns used in my final piece were too similar, didn’t provided the contrast I sought and didn’t match my painted paper sample. In addition, I found some shapes difficult to produce.

My tutor’s comments:  “I think you sensed you had some issues with achieving the colours and proportions you wanted here (page 36). I think this is because surface texture will change how a colour is perceived, so although a colour/tone may look right in the paper collages, you have to make adjustments when working with fibre based materials. One issue with weaving is that it is such a slow process, that often you might see something is wrong, but you haven’t got time to put it right. This is why both wool windings are so useful, to explore both texture and proportion of colour. (It would have been useful to see one at this stage – don’t think of them as simply analysis tools).

You would have also solved your problems by sampling in fibre based materials for the final collages, rather than confining yourself to paper. (You might want to re-visit this in the period after assignment 5 and assessment – improve your assignment by adding some alternative designs in fabric or wools on a small scale. )

In response to the above comments, the following small windings and samples were produced.  I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to do either at the time as both windings and a small sample would have solved my problems before I started.    The windings give a very quick indication if the colours work well together and the samples are ideal for trying out designs.  This has been a useful exercise.



RE-THINKING and REINVENTING the Final Piece – Supplementary to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report

As previously posted, my Tutor Report for Assignment 5 included some suggestions as to how I might re-think my final piece and consider some more areas of relevant contextual research to improve my submission.

I wondered just how far I could/should go and decided to begin the suggested areas of research with the tutor’s comments in mind and see where it lead.

To summarise, I looked at

  • Sonia Delaunay whose work was interesting but not exciting to me.
  • El Anatsui whose work was incredibly exciting and will be revisited but not relating to this assignment.
  • Contemporary Patchwork; the work of Matthew Harris, Dorothy Caldwell, Mandy Patullo, Junko Oki and darning & patchwork for mending.  I was most drawn to Harris & Caldwell’s work.
  • Gees Bend Quilts, enjoyable research and agree some ‘superb composition’.  Could relate aspects of these quilts to my piece.
  • Boro Patchwork, the characteristics of which are very appealing to me.

Tutor’s Comments: Looking at these three, what struck me was the freedom and the liveliness of the rough patchwork sketch on paper (page 4 book 2), which was lost in the other two more finished pieces. Thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that the white base was significant; Some patches freely move out and away from the mass, out of the boundary – almost escape – allowing the white to play a positive role. The white background is much larger than the mass of patches, allowing a margin of white space around the composition. This earlier composition has a dynamic quality which was constrained in the two later ones by the rectangular outer edge which reinforced the static nature of rectangles. This encloses and confines the composition.

Considering the Tutor’s comment that the “freedom and liveliness of the rough patchwork sketch on paper was lost in the other two more finished pieces”, I can see there is more movement in the paper and fabric sketch on the left (below) and think the outline shape against the white is interesting, particularly along the bottom edge.  Also the simplicity of the plain colours with no printing adds to the contrast.

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Tutor’s Suggestions: Before assessment, try to re-look at this final piece.

  • Consider, possibly re-think, the number of patterns, colours, stitches you combined in the piece. You organised the blocks of colour well in relation to each other, but when you tried to increase dynamic quality with diagonal rows of stitches these were lost against the heavy dominant colours of the rectangles.
  • You also might need to think about reducing the different types of stitches, the different print patterns.
  • Consider, if it is to be a hanging, if it needs a larger plain background.
  • Don’t forget, this is patchwork – taking off, adding, unpicking has been part of this craft since people began to wear clothes.
  • You did look at some artist/makers during this assignment but the assessors will expect you to have looked at contemporary patchwork and that of other cultures where it has become an art form. They will also want to see if you have gone beyond the merely decorative.
  • Ask yourself about the need for patchwork in some societies, the significant place it has in some cultures, and the symbolic use of pattern.

I  began by laying out my original piece on a white background, which did nothing for it, the intensely coloured piece just looked like a block of colour in the middle of the white, there was no interaction at all between the two.


I tried covering all the multi-coloured and printed patches with white patches which improved it a little but not significantly.  I then covered the multi-coloured and printed patches with plain patches in a mix of the colours already used (Green, Orange, Claret & Petrol Blue).  This was more pleasing on the eye, removing the orange was also interesting.

So, re-thinking the number of patterns, colours and stitches combined in the piece, I concluded that limiting the palette to the plain dyed patches, green, orange, claret & petrol blue or, even further, to green, claret and petrol blue was worth pursuing.

I decided to produce some samples.  The first was on a single piece of white cotton sateen with petrol, red brown and chartreuse patches machine stitched.  The cotton sateen was horrible, too limp, no substance to sew into, a bit shiny, the machine stitching on the patches was too straight and even, making the patches look like badly cut out squares, not adding any character at all.  I subsequently unpicked the patches for re-use and omitted to take a photograph first.

The second sample used a single layer of base cloth of white 55% linen/45% cotton which I scoured first in the washing machine with synthrapol and washing soda to remove any sizing and give the fabric a softer, worn look to create properties similar to fabric used in Boro patchwork.  Raw edged patches were hand sewn onto the cloth.  This sample was a pleasure to sew, the background suited the different weights of hand dyed soft cotton patches, felt good to sew, had more substance than the cotton sateen but still some drape.

The hand stitch and textures married together with the patches becoming more a part of the cloth.   Running stitch was used so as to be comparable to sashiko used in Boro textiles, initially in thread to match the coloured patches.  I wondered how it would look with white thread and if running stitch was enough or would a freer Dorothy Caldwell stitch be more dynamic?  I concluded that I liked the simplicity, rhythm and harmony of the running stitch.

As the sample was successful I decided to develop it further by adding a small piece of 80% cotton/20% polyester batting and another layer of the linen/cotton.  I am not a quilter and haven’t made a quilt before but thinking about the Gees Bend Quilts and the Boro patchwork wondered if I could combine ideas from both.


The packaging for the batting suggested it might shrink up to 5% if washed.  Hoping this would add to the character, I decided to wash the sample again once it was hand quilted.  I had also looked closely at samples of Boro patchwork to determine how the edges were treated and in the main, the futon covers had raw edges enclosed either in blanket stitch, oversewn in a vertical whipstitch or edged with two or three rows of running stitch.   Knowing that the fabric was inclined to fray heavily, I added backstitch to the list and edged the sample with all four stitches.

I concluded that running stitch was useless at preventing fraying, the other stitches reasonably successful, but the backstitch was preferable.

Boro patchworked futon covers are created with layers of fabric and do not contain any batting so, for comparison, I stitched a similar sample with two layers of linen/cotton and patches, held together with running stitch.  I used white thread horizontally and vertically at varying distances apart.  The contrast between the intensely coloured patches and fairly dense stitching on some was distracting, particularly when the stitches were horizontal.  I preferred the bigger wider spaced stitches in the white thread.   The two layers of fabric were also lovely to stitch into, but when they were both washed I preferred the sample with the inclusion of batting.


Just to be sure I was developing the right sample, I briefly investigated improvisational quilting and made a sample with white cotton sateen and dyed strips to consider if I wanted to take more inspiration from the Gee’s Bend Quilts rather than the Boro but I disliked it intensely, it was too clean, crisp and lacked character.


Everything about it repelled me in comparison to the soft, loosely woven hand stitched sample.  I pieced a small sample using the linen/cotton fabric but wasn’t drawn to the neat, machine stitched seams.


I panicked a bit at this point.  I had re-thought the piece in response to the tutor’s comments and concluded that the limited palette definitely looked better on a white background like my original sketch.  I also considered various colours, paler than the patches as a background, but decided if I was intent on using green, petrol green and claret, white was the best option.  Having considered my final piece in detail, i felt it was not worthy, but how far could I go?  Should I cut it up and use some of the original pieces, should I dye some more fabric?  Was I seriously considering hand stitching a quilt three weeks before assessment with my other assignments still to tidy up?  I re-read Rebecca Fairley’s blog post “How to use your Tutor Reports”and decided that I would proceed and use the opportunity to make improvements to the assignment which would involve re-making the piece.

I looked again at the original piece, to decide whether to ‘patch’ over any offending areas or cut it up.  I did remove the backing and all the hand stitches, cut away the coloured machine stitched areas  and laid the remainder on the white background, it just didn’t work, the patches would be too small if I cut them all up and in their current blocks didn’t allow for any interaction between the white background and the coloured patches.


So I set about arranging newly dyed recycled fabric onto the newly purchased, scoured and washed linen/cotton mix.  I had intended to use the three colours, green, petrol blue and claret, but retaining the orange from the original piece definitely added value.  I considered whether I was making a wall hanging or a quilt and decided that the materials, samples and research had led me to a quilt.


Once happy with the design, I hand stitched the patches onto the background.  Although I had washed my samples, I decided to machine wash the top layer of the quilt to be certain the colours didn’t run and to assess the extent the patched fabric frayed.  It was a good move as the recycled curtain fabric frayed out of some of its stitching and was repaired with backstitch.

I then added a layer of batting and another layer of scoured and washed linen/cotton fabric and hand quilted it from the middle in vertical lines, back stitched the edges, trimmed away the fabric and machine washed and tumble dried the finished piece, which measures approximately 65″ x 50″


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This process has been hugely beneficial.  Researching  patchwork in different contexts really helped me to plan, sample and develop my idea in an informed and considered way.  The benefits of good research, combined with careful sampling influenced my choice of materials which led to the final outcome, which in turn was very satisfying.

I think the result is a far more considered piece of my own, influenced by the boro patchwork and colours from my theme book (pages 4 & 18), my tutor’s observations and research suggestions, investigations into other artists’ work and techniques and the quilts of Gees Bend.

In addition, I learned the importance of really narrowing down ideas and considering the value of each mark or action so as not to over-complicate the final outcome.

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Supplementary Research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Japanese Boro

Considering patchwork of other cultures, I have been looking at Japanese Boro.  I have admired these textiles in the past and included a magazine cutting in my theme book (page 18)


Japanese Boro textiles are part of a cultural heritage where need and scarcity led to garments being repeatedly repaired and patched, enabling them to be re-used for generations.  I find beauty in such work which is now seen as collectible textile art, fetching high prices.

I really admire these artefacts and their character, the subtle differences in the shades of the worn indigo-dyed cotton, the white stitching against the blues, the texture of the loose weave hemp/cotton, frayed edges, layering, lines of stitch and sashiko stitching on some.

Boro textiles are created by a practice of layering several pieces of cloth, predominantly indigo-dyed cotton, held together with sashiko stitching.  Sashiko is a simple running stitch usually in line with the warp or weft, reinforcing the fabric. Working scraps of fabric together, a stronger, heavier material is produced.

Looking at various samples of boro patchwork on and, I noted the following characteristics:

  • close rows of stitching giving a quilted effect
  • some cut/broken threads and knotted ends on the right side of the garment or cover
  • worn holes patched from behind with the raw edges of the holes stitched around in running stitch
  • the raw edge of the whole cloth finished in parallel whip stitch, blanket stitch or double/triple rows running stitch
  • most visible stitching in coarse white, blue to blue black cotton thread
  • on close inspection, tinier stitches in finer thread are apparent in some areas, sometimes in a coloured thread
  • in some cases, stitching regularly and evenly in vertical lines across the whole piece.
  • sometimes vertical stitching is limited to edges of patches
  • occasionally patches had edges folded under but predominantly raw edges
  • occasional stitched curves
  • Some futon & table covers comprised of larger strips of patched fabric stitched together

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Supplementary Research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Gee’s Bend Quilts & African Images in African American Quilts and identified se en

Gee’s Bend Quilts

I’m looking at these quilts in relation to their composition and my final piece for Assignment 5.

Generations of quiltmakers in Gee’s Bend, Alabama have recycled work clothes, feed sacks, flour sacks and fabric remnants to make improvisational quilts creating outstanding abstract textile art.  I found it fascinating to look through the quilts on the Souls Grown Deep website and admire their artistry.

There is a more detailed explanation of the quilts and their makers here:

and some examples here:

The simpler designs are more appealing to me (bars, string pieced, blocks and strips and blocks of different sizes) and I particularly like the quilts made from work clothes, the patina of the fabric and their limited palettes. I like the movement created by the freehand cut pieces, the slightly irregular squares and rectangles, the gentle curves created by the improvised methods.   The white in the middle and right hand quilts contribute to the energy.

The quilt above on the left has some similarities to my piece, although mine is much busier.   I like the simplicity of Lucy Mooney’s design, I can now see that my piece has too many little patterns fighting for attention.  Although up close some of that detail is inviting, it might benefit from being simpler.  Looking at both converted to black and white (see below), there is less variation in tone in my piece when compared to Lucy’s which makes my piece less dynamic.  I’m also keen on the gentle curves in the quilt and although I set out to achieve a softer, less uniform look to the edges and shapes of the original pieces, the addition of the smaller rectangular pieces has detracted from the original shapes.



SIGNS & SYMBOLS: African Images in African American Quilts by Maude Southwell

Maude Southwell and her colleague, John Scully curated an exhibition of African American quilts at the Yale School of Art Gallery in January 1980 and identified seven traits that appeared to distinguish African American quilts from Anglo-American traditional forms.

They tended towards vertical strips, bright colours, large designs, asymmetry, improvisation, multiple patterning and symbolic forms.

I haven’t been able to borrow a copy of the above book and am reluctant to purchase it at this point.   I have looked at it briefly on and see that it includes several of the Gee’s Bend Quilt Artists.  There is an emphasis on symbols which might be interesting but I feel I have more than enough information to work with at the moment without adding signs and symbols to the pot at this late stage.



Additional research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Contemporary Patchwork

I’m having difficulty determining what ‘Contemporary Patchwork’ might be in 2015.    If I had been asked to describe my wall hanging, I might have referred to it as ‘collage’, rather than ‘patchwork’.


As a textile artist, I consider some of Dorothy Caldwell and Matthew Harris’ work as a form of contemporary patchwork:

I first looked at and posted about Matthew Harris’s work on 15th April 2015.  Looking again now at his Lantern Cloth in relation to patchwork, I notice that it includes multiple squares and rectangles of fabric, with frayed edges but stitched close and small so each layered piece melts into the next.


I like this effect, lots of small pieces and layers becoming one.  There is a soft worn look about the fabric and the colours.  The cloth is printed in red and blue with slight changes of tone or width of stripe providing much visual texture and interest.  I like the use of reverse applique in this piece, the Andolan cloth and Fragments.

I posted about Dorothy Caldwell on 15th March 2015.  Looking again at her work and concentrating on a detail of ‘Meeting Place’ thinking about patchwork, I note that she too has used printed cloth with slight variations in the size of the grid used in different patches of material.


There is imperfect printing adding texture.  Tiny hand stitches secure some of the fabric whilst other pieces are freely stitched with lots of long stitches in the same direction creating energy.

As mentioned before, Dorothy Caldwell says  “The vocabulary for her work is drawn from studying textile traditions and ordinary stitching practices such as darning, mending and patching.”   Both her work and Matthew Harris’ is suggestive of such practices.

More decorative, Mandy Pattullo’s work has elements of patchwork, although she describes it as based on collage techniques.  She uses hand stitch and combines patching and piecing of fabrics, applique, found objects and vintage embroidery.

Louise Baldwin and Junko Oki also include some patching in their work, although decorative stitches dominate.

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Tutor Report – Assignment 5

A copy of my Tutor Report for Assignment 5

Nina OConnor 513049

I appreciate the positive comments, suggestions for further contextual research and how I might re-think the final piece to improve my mark.

So, looking at all my work for Textiles 1: A Creative Approach, I am preparing for assessment with the help of Rebecca Fairley’s article on how to use your tutor reports.

Whilst waiting for my assignment to be returned, I made a start on researching the artists recommended by my tutor thinking about how I can relate their work and techniques to my own.

Now reunited with my work, I am re-thinking the final piece in the light of tutor comments and recent research.