This exercise is the first of 3 concerning constructed textiles and is with a view to translating some of my visual research from Part 2 into constructed textile samples – this is where I have made the mistake of not reading the page before the exercise thoroughly before embarking on the samples! However in my defence I have had a medical diagnosis that has thrown me somewhat and I feel has affected my concentration to a degree …I think making a note of this here is reminding myself of the fact that I cannot underestimate the mental effects of this diagnosis and I am still relatively happy with the resulting samples.
I have also now realised that I have not watched the Ted Talk on the coral reef constructed using crochet – this will be my next blog and I am now of the opinion that by doing the samples in crochet and knitting first it has enabled me to work instinctively and without any preconceptions or ideas of what I could do with them and let my thoughts develop as I look at each sample in turn as to how I can use them if at all.
I have not knitted or crocheted since my teenage years and even then did far more crochet due to the movement caused by knitting was problematic for me for some reason and moving forward 40 years a very long term RSI injury means I have found a similar problem ….. however I have discovered I can knit for short periods if I rest and am patient so if I decided to use any knitting in my theme or future textile projects it is still more than possible which I am delighted about.
At this point as I have said I had not fully gathered together materials and yarns etc for my theme so concentrated on using what I had and what I felt would be suitable for my samples including wool, acrylic yarn, garden wire, fabric strips and plastic bags and also trying to be experimental which does not come naturally to me. I have since been able to find some floral plastic bags which have been added to an ever growing bag of materials along with plastic string, a pink and white rope and paper yarns – I had been looking to purchase all of these but previously all were too expensive but luck was on my side and eventually I have been able to get them at sale prices.
So onto the samples:
The first selection are using a variety of unconventional tools to knit or crochet with in conventional yarns.
The first 3 samples have been done with different sized knitting needles (the purple sample on the left), small wooden dowels (top sample worked in a red yarn) and wooden diffuser sticks (blue yarn sample). I have used a combination of watercolours, charcoal pencil, Inktense pencils and marker pens … due to the fact I used the most basic of all knitting stitches the pattern was the same in all 3 samples but varying in size.
The only thing I now regret is not using the same number of stitches for each sample so that I would have had a clear idea of the change in size by using the different implements but all samples were done with between 15 and 25 cast on stitches.
The next sample was done with a thicker ribbon style yarn using the finger knitting technique – I really loved the braid effect this produced.
The yarn itself is in keeping with my colour scheme for my theme although I do not have more than 3/4 skein of it. I do feel this yarn in the finger knitting technique has distinct possibilities as it could potentially be made stiffer using wire woven through it or several braids could be stitched together to produced a chunkier almost fence like panel or even curled and stitched in the way coil bowls are made.
I also tried finger crochet – infuriatingly difficult initially but once I got the knack of it I really loved doing it! The technique produces a large and loose but wonderfully textured sample with the stitches able to be seen clearly – I choose a yarn of unknown content for this sample (I had been sent it by a fellow student some time ago and believe it may be wool). Due to the loose almost fabric like effect I can see possibilities of this being twisted or gathered or even woven into to create textural or coloured effects that could be used to produced a variety of petal or flower shapes if I do not actually crochet a petal shape directly.
Finally I chose to try knitting with cardboard inner tubes from tinned foil – again this took a little getting used to but eventually I was able to produce an incredibly loose sample which was very ‘holey’ for want of a better description! For me this sample is reminiscent of tendrils of plants interweaving or trellis fencing and if done in a different colour has distinct possibilities for representing these – again it could also be woven through or used layered with fabrics or other textile techniques.
Throughout all the samples the course material asks you to record your sample using photography and also a variety of sketches using different media. I fully confess to finding the sketching initially very tedious – ok more than just initially!! I also found the sketching quite difficult to reproduce the stitching and samples accurately but eventually started to relax and work in a looser more representational style which seemed to work much better for me. I decided to try to look for shapes and patterns that were appearing rather than to accurately reproduce the samples and be experimental in my style – some of the sketches appear repetitive but others show emerging patterns as I look more closely or change my viewing angle as I work.
Although I have only done the required 6 samples I do feel I now have the confidence to look at other tools that could be used to knit or crochet with and this is something to bear in mind as I move forward – as soon as the weather dries out sufficiently I am searching my garden for some suitable twigs for instance as I would like to experiment directly with them with perhaps garden string to see what textural effect it produces.
Going forward in the exercise the next section was to try using unconventional materials – mmmmm initial reactions were I was not looking forward to this but in the end I absolutely loved the experimental nature although I did have to order a new set of crochet hooks as I broke the first 2.
For this sample I raided the garden shed for some strimmer cable …. and unfortunately I have since had to give it back to the strimmer as unbeknownst to me that was the last bit! I will be purchasing some more and redoing this sample in the coming weeks – finances at this point did not allow it in part because it is a question of buying more strimmer wire or just finally purchasing a new strimmer! However the sample produced is really effective and has a natural curl – it is very stiff although still flexible and the cable produces a heavily intertwined curly effect that looks like it has been layered rather than crocheted. For the sketches I concentrated on reproducing the shapes or the curly nature of the crochet in a combination of white pencil and marker pen.
The next sample I used a combination of 3 different ropes which I had tied together …. this is the sample that broke the 2 crochet hooks! This sample is very heavy and inflexible with a combination of textures due to the differing ropes used. For my sketches I tried to reproduce the stitches and how the rope is worked together although I am unsure of how successful I have been at this point.
The next sample used what is proving to my new favourite material – paper yarn and I found this one in a pale green which perfectly fits my theme. Due to the way in which this sample worked up I have since purchase a pink and cerulean type blue skein – the sample was relatively easy to do and produced a sample that for me feels very much like a fabric although very textured. I am finding I feel this sample reminds me of the textures of trellis fencing or again the way climbing plants intertwine together but now as I look again I can see the veins of leaves being represented in the sketches.
At this point in the sketches I had started to develop my ideas and how I was using my different media – I was wanting to be more experimental in my approach and use marks to reproduce the individual stitches rather than overlapping them so that you loose the definition.
Raiding the shed again I found some garden wire and decided to try crochet – yes infuriatingly difficult and I had to be very careful with my fingers to prevent cuts but it has worked well into a flexible piece that can be molded or twisted. My sketches I concentrated on the structure of the sample and the square almost trellis effect that happened naturally as the piece progressed. One sketch was more of a doodle on a newspaper article on gardening which I felt was appropriate – I appreciate the paper means the Sharpie pen can barely be seen but it also gives me an idea of how this same sample could be reworked and layered over other fabrics or papers and is therefore becoming a possible design inspiration.
I do not have a lot of electrical wire but luckily my neighbour was throwing out some which I was able to have …. will I ever knit or crochet it up again? not on your life!! The sample is very stiff and has a natural curve to it and I do like the combination of colours but I just do not see a use for the sample plus it was very tough on my wrists to work.
However what I do like is the two sketches using Inktense pencils and acrylic paints – both are given an impression of textures and plants clambering over each other so maybe the sketches themselves can be used.
Another favourite sample was done using fabric strips knotted together – the fabric used was hand dyed last summer and I have added it to my theme bag. I loved the simple nature of the sample as it has produced what I would term a new fabric – I also like the ends of the fabric which I have not cut off or tried to weave in. The sketches are very simple and similar to the first knitted samples – simple marks to convey the individual stitches.
I also tried using crochet with cellophane – not the easiest sample to work due to the delicacy as the cellophane kept breaking. The resulting sample is one of iridescence and light with closely worked stitches plus the delights of the ends producing a wonderful petal like effect – I am enamoured by this sample and am wondering how it could be used with my theme or whether I can use the cellophane in combination with other materials.
Finally I tried working with plastic bags – these were just two standard shop bags but as I have stated above I have since managed to acquire some floral bags which I have saved for later use. I found the bags easy to work with and produce a distinct texture in which you can see the individual stitches. I am unsure of how I can potentially use the plastic bags but I do feel I am wanting to in some form or another.
What may be important to note at this stage is that my garden which I am using as an inspirational space has been done very cheaply and often using recycled materials such as old tyres and old boots as planters and hence I am aware I do want to use some recycled materials in some form or another or materials direct from my garden such as the green wire or twigs as well as garden or plastic string. I am aware I am creating a cottage garden style sanctuary but one in which you know an artist (albeit student one) lives …. something that inspires us both but one that is also the aforesaid sanctuary hence the choice of colours that can be found on my theme board.
An additional very small crochet sample made with jewelry wire has in fact been done twice – the first has totally disappeared in the detritus or chaos of my working desk and so a second using the remnants of the wire was done.
Working with the wire was very fiddly in part due to not being able to twist the ‘yarn’ around your fingers to control the tension as I would normally do and in part due to the fact that the piece was so flexible and bendy that it created its own shapes as I worked it ….. hence it is just 2.5 cm by 8 cm (the original was about the same in width but 8 cm in depth).
The sketches are very basic sketches as the individual stitches are intertwined much more haphazardly due the fact it was almost impossible to see which stitch I was working into – it was literally see a gap and work into that! However I do like the very fine and delicate effect the wire has produced and will be picking up some more in the coming week or so as I think it possibly has some uses in my theme – the sample reminds me in some ways of skeleton leaves or could be used as an armature (wire base) for perhaps a felted piece.
Overall working these samples has I will fully admit been tedious – not always enjoyable in truth but the end results have produced some interesting and thought provoking results. I have discovered that I really love the paper ‘yarn’ and also the effects produced by using plastic bags or torn strips of fabric perhaps even more so than using the more conventional yarns but I am not so keen on some of the wires perhaps due to the difficulty in crocheting them or knitting with them.
The ones I feel best fit my theme are definitely the paper yarn, plastic bags and interestingly I do like the green garden wire as I feel its flexibility or ‘bendability’ could potentially work well particularly considering my ‘place’ is my garden …. it would be good to use some items that I use directly in the garden but I also I feel that the green wire crochet sample has potential to be used as a base for weaving so will be making a new sample up for the next exercise to try just that. I also like the cellophane sample due to the iridescence of the material and wonder how I could use it …. I wonder if the weaving or fabric deconstruction/reconstruction exercises may work better for the cellophane? this is something I want to experiment further with. Finally I am also curious as to how I could use either the finger crochet, finger knitting or even the knitting with cardboard tubes could be used as I love the looseness of the samples – again there is possibilities for weaving into these in some manner or using them as part of a reconstructed fabric perhaps as part of as a layered process.
Overall the results have, as I say, produced some interesting and thought provoking ideas so although I have admitted to finding this a tedious exercise and one I have struggled to do I am interesting in the resulting ideas …. I am discovering that sometimes you have to work through something you don’t enjoy and cannot see where it is going to develop new ideas and inspiration. Although I do not particularly like working with the electric wires or the rope purely due to the difficulty I am happy I tried them – if I do not use these in my theme I now have a record of what can be done and I do really like the sketches produced from these which provide inspiration for patterns or design work in their own right.
Looking at artists or designers for this exercise I decided to concentrate purely on crochet or knitting designers and I was recommended by a Facebook group to look at the work of James Walters and Sylvia Cosh who developed the process they termed ‘scrumbling’ in the 1970’s and which was a free form style of crochet which makes it up as the piece progresses – literally the work involves changing stitches, textures and yarns to produce unique pieces. I love the random style of their work and the heavily textured results and wonder how I could use this style in combination with my own favoured materials.
Sophie Digard has been another revelation and a joy to discover – all of her work involves colour and texture again and some appears to be based around flowers and plant life which obviously is of major interest. I really love the intricacy of her designs – some appear very simple but this simplicity hides the complexity and some are obviously highly complex but all display an elegance that speaks of her Parisian roots.
I am note that this designer is someone who is working with the local women in Madagascar which has been her home for a number of years – these women are artisan crocheters who are paid a fair wage in return for their work. I like the fact that this Parisian designer is helping women in a local community support themselves – as a women trying to do a textiles degree so that she can work for herself this is hugely appealing and resonant.
Finally I cannot not mention the work of Kaffe Fassett who I have known about since childhood as my late Mum was a fan of his knitting designs and use of colour. I have come across him many times over the years and have one of my late Mum’s books of his on some tapestry designs. Kaffe Fassett’s use of colour is extraordinary and inspiring – colour appears to be his focus and he designs for knitting, patchwork, needlepoint, painting and ceramics with inspiration being taken from many differing sources. If I was to work my theme inspired by this designer my colour palette would be considerable brighter although I have also seen some of his work in more muted and toned down hues too. I have always loved the floral designs that Kaffe Fassett produces with the large bold flowers that seem to shout to be seen and almost heard – his designs are ‘busy’ in that he is not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination and certainly does not take a less is more approach as he seems to have the opposite viewpoint! This designer packs his designs full of life and bold statements and I wonder if this approach is something that could really work for me as my theme progresses.
As I sit here typing it is now late May and I will be working on this theme as my garden, my place of inspiration, comes into life and bloom and so I will seek further inspiration from the designers I have discovered and in Kaffe Fassett’s case, long loved, as I go forward and play with ideas from which my final project will develop.
Cosh, S and Walters, J. (date unknown). Sylvia Cosh and James Walters Crochet [online]. [Date Accessed: May 2017]. Available from: http://www.crochet.nu/scjwc/
Crochet Concupiscence. (date unknown). 1970s Crochet Designers James Walters and Sophia Cosh. [online]. [Date Accessed: May 2017]. Available from: http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2013/02/1970s-crochet-designers-james-walters-and-sylvia-cosh/
Crochet Conscupiscence. (date unknown). Sophie Digard Crochet Scarves: France, Madagascar and Fair Trade [online]. [Date Accessed: May 2017]. Available from: http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2012/07/sophie-digard-crochet-scarves/
The French Needle. 2017. Sophie Digard [online]. [Date Accessed: May 2017]. Available from: https://www.frenchneedle.com/collections/sophie-digard