Project development of a design from ACA

I have decided to document a project that was a development from my final design from ACA but that I have developed during this course in part taking note of compositional elements and also lessons now learnt – I have been unsure whether to include this blog or not but feel it does take account of alterations and corrections made plus the fact I feel it is starting to promote my practice.    I had designed a bag based on photographs I had taken at Dovedale in Derbyshire in 2016 and although the process and design was felt somewhat safe I liked it enough to take it through to completion albeit the alterations that would make it work.  As I note later this bag and the sketches would fit in perfectly with the theme of place from this course due to the location which inspired it.

The actual bag was a combination of quilting, weaving and photographic applique with a centre panel being woven and the outer board ice-dyed fabrics.

During the period leading up to assessment but after sending the bag in I realised there was a fault – if I used photographic applique in the outer board it was going to make it too difficult to stitch the edges of the bag together both in terms of bulky seams and in terms of actual stitching.  Consequentially I decided to change the applique in this board to hand-dyed calico.  I also used a different toned but again hand dyed calico for the inner border as well as changing the overall colour scheme to that of turquoise, blues and greens.

The initial stage was to ice-dye some cotton and calico fabric for both the inside and outside of the bag.  Considering I was doing this in February and March it was a minor miracle I got a dry enough day to let the fabrics drip dry on the line for a few hours but at least it was cold enough that the ice melted slowly enough to enable me to get the effects I desired.

I also took some considerable time to decide on which photographs to use for the photographic applique.

The other major issue was re-drawing the actual design to allow for boxing in the corners – I extended the design out at the sides horizontally to allow for this and spent a considerable time getting the measurements and design exactly right.  Between posting ACA off for assessment and deciding to do this bag it really had made me think of how I could improve this bag so that it would work practically …. I did realise the faults and now know to look thoroughly at my designs with fresh eyes and perhaps even to make up a dummy version to check everything works.  Considering the sketchbooks for this bag were at OCA head office I also set up a new sketchbook which is now a working book for further developments of this bag if I so decided to do so.

A minor issue was due to my change in colour scheme as I needed to make up a new centre panel in different yarn and for this I initially tried a slubby type of yarn on a square loom – as can be seen this did not work as the effect was far too lacy.  However for other projects I love this lacy effect so it has been worth doing.

I eventually found a lovely variegated yarn which gave the gentle effect of water that I so desired – the photographs chosen were of a bridge over the river at Dovedale.

This woven panel was simple done on a cardboard loom – I was able to work both sides before cutting the warp threads.

From here I checked that all my fabrics and the woven panels worked well together and was delightfully surprised – I knew they would work but how well I was not sure but happily the dyes had  been a perfect match for the yarn.

Due to this bag not being course work I allowed myself to choose afresh the new hardware from the D rings to the bag fastener and wanted to reflect the silver thread I planned to use for the quilting which would be inspired by the sun glinting on the river – strangely this took the most time as I really wanted to get this right as by this stage I had decided to enter the bag into the Three Dimensional Category at Quilt and Stitch Village at Uttoxeter in April 2017 i.e. this year and it was now March! I also changed the wadding of my original design to a fusible foam stabilizer style wadding which is made specifically for bags or items that need some shape – it proved easy to use and a dream to quilt through.

I carefully traced the design onto tracing paper and from their made templates for all the applique sections and also the handle tabs before cutting everything out and the long process of incredibly careful making up began – I am not one for making marks for accuracy but anywhere that was needed was carefully done using tailors tacks and I swear I could hear my late Mum laughing as she noticed the care in which I was doing these (I normally skip tailors tacks but no longer)!! Unusually I also added labels to each section and carefully kept them in separate bags – unusually because again I am not normally that careful!

From here it was a matter of placing the woven centre panels on each of the outside pieces and slowly and carefully adding the photographic applique and also calico applique – this was all done prior to attaching the inner border as I wanted the outer border applique pieces to extend behind the inner panel in effect.   I attached the applique sections with zigzag stitching – on the photographic applique it was set slightly wider than the calico sections.  The photographic applique was done using photographs printed on good quality paper and backed with felt before being stitched randomly to secure and then cut into the necessary sections.

One thing of note was I added a small area of wadding directly behind the central panel in order to pad it out slightly and make it stand out and then also backed the back and front panels with cotton wadding before free motion quilting the whole of the outer border using a silver metallic thread – a small note is I have learnt to use metallic needles and change my tension to prevent breaking the thread.

The scary part was then stitching the panels together – would it work as intended? happily yes and importantly due to the tailors tacks it was straightforward to do!  I also had to add the pockets to the lining – one was a stitch pocket and the other has sections for several pens and my phone.

Once the lining had also been stitched it was time to attach it to the outer panels …. oh I also had to make the handle tabs and also add the silver lock which proved problematic as I had never used one of these before but lessons have now been learnt! During the stitching of the lining to the outer panel I stitched several times over the handle tabs for added strength. Once the bag was turned through and the lining closed using small stitches and everything had been checked for accuracy I very carefully top stitched in a pale blue thread to both neaten the top edge and also to add one extra row of stitching over the handle tabs.  I also made a bag bottom for the inside of the bag using cardboard, wadding and spare matching fabric which gave the base of the bag some solidity.

Finally it was time to make the handle and also a small additional kumihimo handbag accessory which was done in turquoise threads and silver beads.

The end result once the bag was finished was one I felt had developed from my original design in a satisfactory manner.  It is now I admit to having discovered just before sewing the lining shut that I had done the silver lock incorrectly … a somewhat frantic correction was needed particularly considering it was now 5 pm the day before I was due to drop it at Uttoxeter Racecourse for the show!  The actual bag was totally finished around 6.30 pm and duly dropped off the next morning by 10 am!

Now unbeknownst to me Wednesday 5th April was going to be quite a day … I dropped off the bag at 10 am and arrived home by 11-ish only to open an email with my results for ACA and art history – so for the first time that week I burst into tears of happiness and relief at having passed both!  Please note the words ‘for the first time that week’ because judging at the quilt show was the next day …. I duly went back on the Friday and had a strange feeling on the way over that I had got second in my category but promptly dismissed this as wishful thinking!

However what awaited me was this sight … my first ever rosette or prize in any competition!!  Yes this klutz promptly burst into tears again …. I admit I looked a bit of a twerp and yes I know that it is not an academic term but it summed up a very emotional and daft looking woman who had not stopped grinning since results morning as it was!!

The resulting photo seen here is pretty much how I remained all day! The rosette did make the name of the bag appropriate – Walking Back to Happiness because last year was the first time I had gone back to Dovedale after several very tough years … it is a place of happy memories but ones that I had avoided due to the pain they caused in those intervening years but when I walked back last year I walked back to happiness and new memories so this bag would fit in perfectly with the theme of ‘place’ in parts 1 and 2 of this course!

Suffice to say that the rosette is still on my mantelpiece and will eventually have pride of place in my sewing room – September 2017 it is still sat there!

So what now with this bag?  there are things I will change …. the photographic applique has worked but it did need some areas gluing down carefully even the morning I delivered it due to the stitching effectively cutting the photographs – this gave me a few headaches.  Consequentially when I make this bag again but changing it to a vertical version I am going to use purely calico applique sections – I want this next version to be washable and if possible I would like to spray it with a water retardant spray so that it could possibly be used for winter. I think I would also add an additional recessed zip as well as the lock for additional security as the bag in practice is quite open and I feel the zip is very much needed.  If I do this as a  vertical version I am also considering just having the woven panel purely on the front so that the yarn does not catch on buttons etc on my coats or jackets.

Overall I am really happy that I have been able to develop a project from ACA into something that is a working design and has further possibilities and business potential as well as being my first rosette winning design – this clearly demonstrates my studies are having a direct effect.


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