Exercise 3.5 Constructing a cloth

This exercise was all about constructing a cloth through firstly deconstructing fabrics – to be honest I looked forward to this as I was able to tear or cut to my hearts content and it almost felt childlike to do …. a really good stress reliever in truth!

I have made a conscious decision to only use fabrics that are in my collection for the majority of this course and am only allowing myself to replace or buy if I feel the project or exercise needs it.  For this exercise I realised I had thrown out several furnishing sample books after the end of ACA due to lack of storage space in my house and of course they would have been really useful for this exercise due to their heavier weight – a series of telephone calls resolved this issue for me and happily a local furniture shop was able to restock me!

For the first sample I took one of the furnishing fabrics and burnt holes in it with the use of a soldering iron and then added small areas of wool roving using the dry felting technique before poking voile through the holes from the back and top stitching to secure.  This felt like a very basic idea but at the same time I like the combination of textures and colours and thinking about how the fact that my theme is based on my garden for inspiration feel this sample works well – often my neighbour and I have each others flowers peeking through our boundary fence.

My sketches I felt much more confident about as I was able to portray the textures through the use of soft pastels on pastel paper and also the colours with the use of watercolour.

The second sample I have mixed feelings about how successful it is.  I decided to take some hessian and cut holes in it before really roughing the piece up with the help of a cheese grater … in some places the hessian has become slightly more coarse in texture but in other areas it is softer.  I backed the deconstructed hessian with a reddish maroon cotton fabric and secured both of the fabrics together with French knots.   The sketches I felt able to do with simple media to give the illusion of the hessian and backing fabric – these are not massively detailed but they capture the impression of the sample.

The third sample I found some woollen mix fabric that although it does not fit as well into my theme as I would like contrasts beautifully with some pale voile which is patterned with delicate flowers.  I wanted to create a stripey type of reconstructed fabric and rather than stitching the pieces together so all the edges are on one side I decided to alternate how I stitched each strip – this has created a double sided fabric in effect.  I also top stitched the seams on the outer edge of the seam allowance in order to catch the edges of the fabrics and create a flatter fabric.   As I look at the sketches I noted that I am starting to be able to capture the textures through more careful observation.

I decided to try mixing up a plaid fabric with some of my much favoured plastic bag strips – first the strips were stitched together before being woven together.  I top stitched the piece horizontally along  the ‘weft’ strips purely to hold the new ‘fabric’ together.  I do really love this new fabric due to the contrast between the plastic bag and plaid fabric – I am unsure as to why but I am finding strong contrasts are really appealing at the moment as are muted tones which softly blend and wonder if this is in part due to my exploration of my almost new identity with my recent diagnosis.

My sketches I wanted to use collage to depict the weaving but also mixed my media a little to do relatively simple sketches that give a reasonable impression of the sample.  I am preferring my sketches which are done in pen as I have no leeway for rubbing out or blending and so what I put down on the paper stays which means I have to think and place my marks carefully even if doing a relatively quick sketch.

The next sample is a technique I have explored previously in ACA – that of using small scraps of fabric placed between two pieces of iridescent voile with added top stitching to secure.  This technique can also be done with water soluable stabiliser although considerable more stitching is needed than I have done here in order to fully secure the fabric pieces before the stabiliser is rinsed away in water and dried.  This is another favoured sampled because the piece can be cut into shapes and used in a variety of way although I would add further stitching perhaps in a different coloured thread.  If I used the soluable stabiliser the piece would have a more lacy effect which again could be used in a variety of ways – I have made a note in my sketchbook to purchase some more as mine has run out and add a sample at a later date if I feel I need to.

The sketches I am not overly happy with due to their basic nature again and struggled to recreate the sample effectively in any media I chose but at least I have an impression that if I needed to use this technique in a future design I can give some kind of impression that I would understand!

The two samples I thought would be my final ones I have not even bothered to sketch because they just did not work at all! The red sample on the left of my photograph used furnishing fabric, felt and voile – I slashed the red fabric before using a Cathedral window style technique to pull the edges back and reveal the grey felt.  Before stitching the edges down I loosely wove a strip of voile through the cut edges.  This sample just does not do it for me …. it was an idea I was not sure where it was going and it failed miserably.  The second sample was an attempt at slashing through layers of fabric but due to the size of my slashes I had to top stitch to hold the layers together – why I did it like this I just do not know as I have done this technique before for a potential quilting block sample and know better!  In my sketchbook I have added this former sample – I do state that it was not for any course but for one of  own sample quilts and for the sample I simply stitched a simple grid through several layers of quilting cotton before slashing small crosses in some of the squares before washing it to fluff up the layers.  I guess for these two samples I just do not know what possessed me!

I decided to do one further sample having seen a piece of textile art by Sue McNair at Derbyshire Open Arts at the weekend.  I took strips of different textured and weight fabrics and stitched them to a piece of calico leaving all edges raw – I am aware that in the course notes there is a photograph of a fellow student’s work who did a similar sample but I wanted to use a mixed palette of colours that are reflective of my theme and that are reminiscent of the work of Sue McNair.

The final sketches were done simply but I feel effectively and reflect the sample. I feel I have taken note of the fact in Exercise 3.4 I was not happy with my sketches and have worked to improve them to capture the textures and colours of the fabrics more accurately.

Throughout this whole exercise I feel my influences have been my quilting background and in particular when I have played with different techniques.  I have done some research into artists/designers who use reconstructed fabrics and note the work of Shona Skinner and Cas Holmes – I really love the fact that Shona is heavily influenced by the environment in which she lives and bases her free-motion stitched landscapes on the area in which she is lucky enough to live (the Shetland islands).  I am also fascinated by the work of Cas Holmes as she works with a wide variety of found materials along to create her pieces that again are shaped and inspired by places that surround her – there is a real feeling of freedom in her work which really appeals to me at the moment.

I have really enjoyed this exercise and felt more confident in working my samples and sketches than I have previously – the weaving exercise and this exercises have definitely been my favoured but each has built on the other.  I still feel that I can play with deconstruction and reconstruction in more innovative ways and wonder if some of my samples have been a little on the safe side of creative but am conscious of the fact I can continue to play with ideas and am now keeping a notebook by my side so that I can note ‘light-bulb’ moments that I can work on or develop at more appropriate times.


Cas Holmes.  (date unknown).  Work [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  https://casholmes.wordpress.com/work-2/

TextileArtist.org. 2016.  Shona Skinner interview:  Embellishment of fabrics [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.textileartist.org/shona-skinner-interview-embellishment-of-fabrics/

TextileArtist.org.  Finding inspiration for textile art by Cas Holmes [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.textileartist.org/finding-inspiration-for-textile-art-by-cas-holmes/



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