Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Part 2 Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 5 – Stage 4 – A larger sample

I chose to make a an extended version of a repeating pattern which could continue beyond the edges of the sample and is not a complete unit in itself.

I was inspired by the sentence from Jane Dunnewold’s book Art Cloth: A guide to surface design for fabric

“Art cloth features a series of dyed and printed layers, each contributing to the intricacy, beauty, and interest of the fabric, transforming cloth into a work of art”

The first step in her layering process is to dye the fabric.

Earlier this year I attended a workshop by Helen Deighan who has published two books on the subject of dyeing, Dyeing in Plastic Bags and Magic Dyeing Made Easy.  Using her method in Magic Dyeing made easy and starting with a washed piece of an old white bed valance, I scrunched the fabric into a ball and bound it tightly with string. Using her plastic bag method I mixed magenta and acid lemon and a drip of turquoise and added the dry scrunched up ball of fabric to the bag.  The book indicated that if the fabric is completely dry, the tied-up piece will act like a sponge and pull the dye right into the centre giving an all-over pattern.  The fabric produced was interesting but quite light in colour. (I omitted to take a photograph at the time but also used it below left with added printed leaves).


Continuing with one of  Jane Dunnewold’s 0ptional layers, I overdyed the fabric with olive green, using a dye recipe from Tray Dyeing by Lesley Morgan & Claire Benn and Helen Deighan’s plastic bag method.  I didn’t manipulate the fabric on this occasion.

For the next layer,  I used two easy cut lino blocks to print all over the fabric as a background with Jacquard lumiere metallic copper.  The colour of the fabric is not accurately depicted in the photograph.


Jane Dunnewold suggests that if a busy background texture has been created consider adding a simple layer next.  With this in mind, I tried various leaf shapes to overprint and agreed that a stronger simpler shape would suit the background and drew two examples on acetate and laid them on the fabric.  I felt the upper leaf below (the simpler of the two) was better and could be used quite large to best effect. I auditioned various colours by laying ribbons and tapes on the fabric and decided on a bright bronzy colour.


I considered the pattern by drawing it on tracing paper and realised there was a hole in the middle.


I tried various arrangements until I came up with the following, although my 40cm x 40cm square would only have three leaves on it, as the pattern is quite big.


I was feeling confident, even a little excited about my sample.  The last step was to cut a stencil to over-print the cloth.

The stencil I cut wasn’t really compatible with the background leaf, it was too solid, not expressive, and impossible to stencil through without the fabric paint seeping under the stencil.


I cut an easy cut lino block but that wasn’t bold enough, partly because the shape was a little thin, but also because the Jacquard lumiere fabric paint  (which was the right colour) was a bit too transparent when used with a block.


I could buy more paint if the block was right.  So far the best option is a Neopaque II watersoluble wax crayon but I don’t have quite the right colour and I was concerned it would look amateurish.


I thought perhaps it would be improved with some free-stitching and tried out various ideas on another piece of fabric.

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The final sample:

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It is difficult to see from the photographs the true colour of all the tie dyed fabric in this post.  It is closer to the following pictures taking during the project.



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Part 2 Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 5 – Stage 4 – A larger sample – REFLECTION

I am pleased with my efforts but think there are many ways the sample could be improved.

Do you feel you made a good selection from your drawings to use as source material from your design ideas?  Which interpretations worked best? Why?

I do feel I made a good selection from my drawings to use as source material for my design ideas.  Although simple, because the leaf shape was easier to draw I was able to use it more expressively, rearrange the shapes and scale with ease.  The idea began with a drawing from a magazine photograph of autumn coloured leaves that truly inspired me and the theme was followed throughout this section.  The element that work best for me was the curved lines down the centre of the leaf, I liked the way they could direct the eye around the piece.  However, in my sample, I think the background should have had more depth, following the same design but maybe with more contrast in the shades of paint or by discharging with the leaf stamp first in some areas and then adding colour back in.  I was a little disappointed with the larger leaf.  I think the final decision to draw with water-soluble crayons and over stitch wasn’t a bad one, but there is insufficient contrast between the leaf and the background.  Also the fabric was distorted with the stitching.  So more consideration should be been given to all or some of the following, the fabric weight, the quantity of free-machining, the tension or stablising the fabric before stitching.

Which fabrics did you choose?  What particular qualities appealed to you?

I chose to use the recycled cotton from the valence.  I preferred the smooth surface for printing.  I love the texture of other fabrics like silk noil, linen scrim, rough linen and cotton velvet but in this case aimed to provide the texture with the printing.  (Although as mentioned above it puckered a little with the free machining)

Is the scale of marks and shapes on  your samples appropriate to the fabric?  Would any of your ideas work better on a different type of fabric, for example, sheer, textured, heavyweight?  Why?  Do the marks and shapes seem well placed, too crowded or too far apart?  Were you aware of the negative shapes that were forming in between the positive shapes?  What elements are contrasting and what elements are harmonising in the sample?  Is there a balance between the two that produces an interesting tension?

I think the scale of marks and shapes are appropriate to the fabric although to get the full impact of the design, it would need to be produced on a bigger piece of cloth.  I don’t think the ideas would work better on a different type of fabric but think a very similar approach would work well on a sheer because the surface is smooth enough to take a detailed print.  The detail of the smaller printed leaves would not have worked on a textured fabric.  I think the marks and shapes are well placed.  I am not sure I was aware of the negative shapes forming in between the positive ones, but I was definitely considering the negative space in the placement of the larger leaves.  The size of the background leaf print and the larger leaf contrast, the leaf shapes harmonise, the analogous colours harmonise.  I think there is a balance between the larger and smaller leaf design but that a much more interesting tension could have been created by introducing more colour contrast and texture in the background.   The subtle but intricate detail of the scrunched cloth in the first dyeing (illustrated in the photograph of the cover of the ‘Samples – printing on Fabric’ booklet)  was lost in the overdyeing and the background small leaf print was a bit too subtle and ‘safe’.   This is more evident when viewing the actual sample, the photograph suggests greater texture.   There also needed to be more contrast between the stitched leaf and the background.  It it better close up  but from a distance the stitched leaf is lost.  The burgundy bobbin thread on the reverse of the fabric may have been bolder and appeared more expressive than the right side.

The following left is a sponged and printed page from my sketchbook which shows more contrast than the over-dyed cloth below right.

How successful do you think your larger sample is?  Do you like the design?  Have you recreated or extended your ideas from the smaller samples so that there is a visible development between the two?  Does your repeating design flow across the surface without obvious internal edges?  Do they make an interesting composition on this larger scale?

I am pleased with my efforts and think there is some success in the larger sample, I like the design but think it could be exploited to much greater effect.  I think there is a visible development from the initial drawing, through the printing experiments to this point. The repeating design of the background flows without obvious internal edges and considering the tracing paper sketch of the larger pattern alongside the sample think the larger leaves would flow if the design was printed on a larger piece of fabric.  I think further development would add interest to the composition.


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Part two Building a visual vocabulary – colour, design, printing and painting – ASSIGNMENT 2 – Reflection

I feel I have made progress during this assignment, I can successfully mix colours in an informed way, rather than by chance.  I notice colour much more in my surroundings, but have not developed the habit of recording my observations on a regular basis.

I have a much wider understanding of paints, soft pastels and oil pastels, markal paint sticks, water soluble pencils and crayons.  I have developed my knowledge of printing using a variety of materials.

I can see there is a process to developing visual ideas and that I am capable of using a number of techniques to generate ideas.

I am beginning to acknowledge the things which are more visually exciting to me, am more aware of negative space and visual energy.

I had a brief ‘epiphany’ moment when making a drawing in Project 4, Stage 2, Exercise 2 when we were asked to decide what it is that it important to us, colours, textures or shapes and that we need to have an emphasis,  a point of view, or attitude when drawing, to be aware of a particular quality we want to emphasise and be selective about what is included and what is left out.  I felt an emotional connection for the first time, a pleasure at recording something visually exciting and a glimpse of how good that can feel and how selecting imagery exciting to me will positively influence my drawing.

My work is in order, presented in a way that I will be able to refer back to easily.  It was a new experience to make the junk books, by taking an idea and experimenting until it worked for me.  In the past I would have looked for strict instructions on how to make a book and followed them precisely.  I was encouraged to be more creative and work more freely.

I am overall pleased with the quality of my practical work in this section, have worked consistently with commitment, a little more freely and with more expression.

I have not developed my sketchbook work sufficiently and, although more confident, need to develop a habit to work on it regularly.

I have gathered more source material, researched the presentation of work, subscribed to and read Selvedge & Embroidery Magazines and visited a textile fair locally and The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace but have not been disciplined in recording these effectively.

I am disappointed with my application to reading research material not related to practical work.  I usually enjoy reading and am particularly inspired by books by artists illustrating their work and discussing techniques.  I previously attempted to read Textiles Today A Global survey of Trends and Traditions and recently The Textile Reader by Jessica Hemmings which I have picked up numerous times but failed to read.  I will join the library at UCA Farnham in the next few weeks to address this aspect of the course.

I have immersed myself in the subject, but need to work on the balance between coursework and the more self-driven aspects of the course.