Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Part 3 Creating Shapes and Three-dimensional Forms – Stage 2 Developing ideas and Stage 3 Applied fabric techniques.


Using the above drawing, tentatively drawn from a photograph of an echinacea in my garden, I roughly traced the image in two different thicknesses of fine liner and then acrylic ink using the pipette.


I was encouraged by the acrylic ink drawings which made me think of layers of voile, net, lace and black stitching and the using the idea to explore shadow applique.

I didn’t have a fabric selection to match this drawing so created a small collage in black and white using ribbon and lace.


Feedback from my last assignment had also suggested developing my use of the different stitches and feet rather than just free-hand embroidery.  Examples of this are very well demonstrated from page 36 of Stitch, Dissolve, Distort  (Valerie Campbell-Harding & Maggie Grey (2006) Stitch Dissolve Distort with Machine embroidery (Batsford).  This book has also been a valuable resource and dragged and distorted stitch is something I’d like to explore further.  Before completing the small collage above, I familiarised myself with the present stitches on my machine and experimented with changing stitch length and width.


Shadow applique had caught my interest in both Contemporary Applique and Transparency in Textiles. (Dawn Thorne (2009) Transparency in Textiles (Batsford).


I stitched a small sample, appliqueing a very fine pink chiffon to some tulle using herringbone stitch.  I like the technique but it needs refining.  I think the pink chiffon is too fine and might fray away, an organza might be better and I also intended using a different fabric for the flower centre although the different thread created some contrast.

Taking the shadow idea and applying it my original drawing, I traced the design onto tracing paper and stitched the outline.  I intended to remove the paper but as I was tearing it off, I liked the look so decided to leave the remains on.  I stitched another piece of net with the petal detail through tracing paper and removed the paper and then stitched both layers together out lining the flower.


I am very pleased with this, I really like the painterly effect the layers and the cut threads.

I’m not sure why I didn’t continue developing this immediately as I was so excited by it, but I digressed to try some other techniques from Fusing Fabric. (Margaret Beal (2007) Fusing Fabric (Batsford))


I like the technique.  I appliqued pieces of lace, voile & net to the cotton fabric background with black cotton machine stitch, cutting away each petal with the soldering iron after stitching.

I like the subtle differences in texture provided by the lace, voile, organza and net.  The shine shows well on a matt background.

I don’t really like the white cotton and I didn’t before I started so it probably wasn’t the best choice originally.

I don’t like the overall look, there isn’t enough contrast between the flower and background and it lacks interest in colour or detail.

Try – different background? coloured cotton/voile/ white thread, bigger?

Not such good ideas – I really don’t like this:


I used a peach silk for the background and white thread.  Perhaps I still appreciate the subtle differences in texture provided by the petal fabrics against the matt background and the orange lutrador (it’s a little paler in reality than the photograph), but the white lace stitched with white thread onto peach silk says something about my grandmother’s under garments and the combination doesn’t appeal at all!  So at this stage, I much prefer the shadow applique approach with the black thread.

Returning to my preferred sample, I enlarged the original drawing, first by 150% and then again to 160% on the darkest setting.


I love this, it doesn’t look like it came from my tentative, nervous hand!

I then traced the design onto vilene stitch and tear and stitched it onto the net and tore away the excess from outside the outline.  This has potential and I like the matt net/tulle rather than the ‘shiny’ crystal type.


Progressing this idea, I traced the design onto stitch and tear and layered it in an embroidery hoop with a layer of silver organza and stitched part of the design.  I then added a layer of crystal net and stitched more of the design, added a layer of grey organza to the top, stitched the outline and cut away the outer fabric with the soldering iron:


This has worked to some extent.

I like the shadow effect of the layers on the petals.

I don’t like that the stitching with the cut ends is enclosed, preferred the rawness and texture of having those on the surface.

I don’t like the roundness of the top outline, it detracts from the jaggedness of the flower centre.

I like the subtle difference of the grey organza against the outer layers, but perhaps it should just have been on the petals.

On second thoughts, I prefer the matt net/tulle to the organza.

For the flower centre I’ll try the ‘Dots, webs, and tufts’ illustrated on page 90/91 in Helen Parrott’s book ‘Mark Making’ (a small sample is attached to the drawing below in the bottom right hand corner).   (Helen Parrott (2013) Mark Making (Batsford))


Having reviewed all the work completed in this section, I decided to develop this further.  The following is an unsuccessful attempt from which I learnt to be more careful in my preparations:


Although during the stitching of this I realised the organza wasn’t working in the way I’d hoped, which enabled me to change my choices for the final sample, the biggest error I made here was to assume the organza was synthetic.  I did hold a soldering iron to it but I wasn’t very thorough or observant because when I came to distress it with the heat gun, I discovered that the organza wouldn’t melt and when I checked with the Crafty Computer Website, realised it was silk organza.


Having experimented with lots of different types of applique and produced some examples, I had intended to work on the above piece as my final sample, before re-reading the course notes and realising I probably needed to do a more traditional applique piece.  If I take this forward in future, for the petals, I would applique the grey organza (third picture above), with similar stitching, ie. more lines and less cut stitches, but use similar stitches for the centre of the flower.


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Part 3 Creating Shapes and Three-dimensional Forms – Stage 2 Developing ideas and Stage 3 Applied fabric techniques.

Using another drawing from my sketchbook, I created a small collage and explored ‘piecing and re-piecing’ and reverse applique as detailed in Contemporary Applique (Julia Triston & Rachel Lombard (2014) Contemporary Applique (Batsford).  An invaluable source of research and an inspirational book to me.

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As with earlier collages, although I had a small pile of fabrics in different textures and similar colours, when it came to making a selection for a small collage, I found I only used three for the most effective combination.  This was constructed using bondaweb.

I scanned my drawing and tentatively played with it in Word and succeeded in producing an image to work from.  The digital manipulation of images as a way of developing my drawings in an area for much greater confidence and exploration.

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For the reverse applique sample, I layered five fabrics on a felt base and machine-stitched lines loosely based on an enlarged section of my original drawing.


I am quite pleased with this sample. I think it has movement and interest but could be improved by using toning thread for all the machining and not using the red thread.  I think a little more contrast in colour would be more dynamic.  Although I like the white, it would be interesting to see if the red taped at the top of the sample would work.  The green of the muslin was too similar to the tray dyed cloth, another green patterned fabric or a darker green could be tried.

Taking the above colour thoughts into account I used the same fabrics as above and added a red and dark green and a different green in brushed cotton for the piecing and re-piecing sample below.


This sample was creating by machine stitching strips of fabric to a foundation fabric with decorative stitches, then cutting up the whole piece into strips of equal sizes, rearranging them and re stitching to a new foundation fabric.  I repeated the process three or four times.  I quite like the technique and the addition of the red and dark green but think it needs more planning to avoid some of the stitch repetition, eg the red zigzag dividing the piece vertically into three and the leaf pattern repeating through the centre.  These could have been broken up by cutting and rearranging the strips a few more times.  I would also like to add further embellishment with hand stitch and beads to create a more textural surface.

Working from this drawing was also a good learning experience.  I can really see that one good source of inspiration can be taken in many directions and am feeling a sense of excitement about the originality of some of the successful outcomes.

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Part 3 Creating Shapes and Three-dimensional Forms – Stage 2 Developing ideas and Stage 3 Applied fabric techniques.

Taking on board the suggestion that my samples should help to develop ideas, I chose this simple inspiration which I had started in my sketchbook:


The mosaic was torn from a magazine advertisement and I had started to copy the mosaic in torn paper on the left and tried a few ideas on the right – felt on linen, linen on felt, felt on dyed cotton sheeting.  I prefer the surface texture of the wool felt but the acrylic felt is more raised and there is something about it that makes me want to run my fingers along the curves and feel the bumps as I move from square to square.

I enlarged the scale, using only the centre of the circle and tried invisible stitched hand applique.


Initially, I wondered what possessed me to stitch the sample on the right as I hadn’t left much allowance to turn the edges under neatly but I quite enjoyed it and like the raised effect of the orange pieces on the teal background, but the mosaic design lost its appeal by enlarging such a small section of the original picture.

I then enlarged another area of the mosaic and used soft-edged machine applique.  I like the colour combination, the blue of the background and the different tones of orange hand-dyed and painted fabrics and the contrasting textures of the appliqued shapes.


The stitching is a bit scruffy – I overshot the end several times.  I was surprised to realise that I was so unfamiliar with stitching with the feed dogs up, I had developed a bad habit of keeping my foot on the pedal too long.  When free machining the fabric stays still – with the feed dogs up the fabric keeps on going!

Although I liked aspects of the sample, I still feel that some of the movement in the original inspiration is lost when enlarged to this extent.

Returning to a smaller scale, I experimented with organza, felt and evolon and a soldering iron:


This was quite interesting.  I enlarged the mosaic circle enough to make some samples but not too much so as not to lose the essence of the original magazine picture and used a soldering iron to cut free-hand tile patterns.

Top left was a double layer of organza cut on a glass surface.  The organza melted very quickly and it was difficult to control and work neatly. The evolon (bottom left) was easy and pleasurable to cut with the soldering iron.  Bottom right is a single layer of organza on acrylic felt.  I like the way the burnt edges create a shadow effect on the felt and add depth.

Having enjoyed the result of using the soldering iron on evolon, I worked on the curved shape, shown on the left:


I am very pleased with these.  I particularly like the colours on the bottom sample as indicated although as it was randomly patterned with leftovers from an earlier workshop it might be difficult to replicate.

When cutting out the shapes with the soldering iron, the little squares remain on the glass. I ironed some painted bondaweb to net on the top right sample and organza on the bottom right sample and then ironed it onto the squares stuck on the glass.  When cool the pieces peeled off the glass.  An extra layer of net was added to the top of the net sample  Both shapes were cut out with the soldering iron.

I love the shadows created by the cut out evolon pieces create if held above the paper and have tried to illustrate this by taping the cut outs down as shown below left and colouring in some of the shadows below right.

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The cut out evolon pieces above have great potential for further development.

Using the same theme, but experimenting with other materials, I tried this shape in organza on acrylic felt which isn’t very inspiring.  I also free-stitched a grid in cotton on two layers of organza and cut away some of the squares with the soldering iron.  This is a good method.  It is easy to cut away up to the machine stitching giving good control.  The bottom right piece had an additional layer of organza, in orange, machine stitched to the reverse before cutting out.


I also experimented with Tyvek.

On the left, three layers, difficult to melt with the soldering iron.  Second from the left I like the effect of picking off the top of three layers to reveal the colour underneath.  Third from the left, a quick random stitch of two layers to see if its easier to cut up to the cotton stitching.  It is.  Far right, much easier to cut out a single layer stitched or free hand:


I feel the above was a good exploration of techniques with some interesting outcomes from a very simple start point for inspiration.

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Part 3 Creating Shapes and Three-dimensional Forms – Project 6 Manipulating fabric – Stage 2 Developing Ideas

Stage 2 – Developing Drawings & Stage 3 – Applique

I definitely understand the process more and have enlarged, traced and copied some areas of the drawings whilst experimenting with ideas but with hindsight see that much more copying, rearranging and playing with shapes, colours will help to refine and develop ideas.

The course notes suggested selecting six interesting drawings or other source material for further development and match some of my fabric groupings with the drawings and to experiment freely with the fabrics.   Having played with the fabrics the idea was to make small collages of fabric on  a piece of paper.   I seem to have had ‘small collages’ fixed in my head and that is what I made, small stitched collages rather than sticking or stapling the pieces down.  I enjoyed looking for relationships in texture, colour and weight and matched three of my collages to my drawings.  I will post the drawings, collages and samples together to illustrate the path of development.

These two collages didn’t match my drawings but are both examples of fabric I enjoy:

(There’s an unusual colour cast on this photo and others in this post, the linen traycloth is white)


I like blue and white, am often drawn to denim and have a small collection of bought and own shibori style indigo dyed fabric.  I found it harder than expected to incorporate them into a small collage and settled for the following limited selection. If I had to consider the mood this might reflect, I would say calm and serene.

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This collage is about texture and colour, I love the tactile nature and rich colour of the cotton velvet and the visual texture of the wool felt and the needlecord.  I used the collage to illustrate a contemporary example of Broderie Perse inspired by Mandy Pattullo’s work.  Although I really like the Hedgerow fabric when you can see the whole pattern repeat and enjoy the use of colour which complemented the background fabrics, I don’t think the appliqued berries worked as well as I’d hoped.  The shape is too ‘square’ and there’s something about how far the left hand leaf extends that offends me, but I am satisfied with the selection and arrangement of the other fabric.



This selection of fabric really said ‘autumn’ to me and likened it to the corner of a rather unsatisfactory drawing, which I re-drew on a larger scale.  I think most of the fabrics work well together but I particularly like the use of the brown needlecord as a background.  It was cut from an old skirt and has a lovely handle.  Also one of the leaves cut from the same fabric using a seam in the fabric as the central vein is very effective.  I also like the tweed with the orange flecks and the textured linen, both of which are offset by the hand-dyed sheeting.  Although in this exercise I haven’t developed the use of these fabrics further, I would consider doing so in future.