In the SAQA 100 Days Reboot challenge I’m currently participating in, I’ve been using it to explore different materials and combining some surface design techniques with basic stitch. As I outlined at the start of this series, instead of just throwing them into the large shopping bag I normally use to receive my sample bits and pieces, I am mounting these ones on small pieces of foam core board cut to the same size.
Some have been excitingly successful and will no doubt lead to some new directions in my surface designs, others came out less interesting, but every one of them has shown me something, and at least my curiosity about a few dud ones is now settled 🙂 Many of them I’ve posted on Instagram @schwabealison, and quite a few have appeared in this Small Pieces series of posts, of which there’ll be another two or two before the 100 Days challenge finishes on November 3rd.
Many of you know I’ve been interested in sheer fabrics for some time, with burnt layers in some of my Timetracks series, which featured nylon organza. Sheer fabrics include tulle, organdy, organza, chiffon, and their character has been used to great effect by some contemporary textile artists in the Korean Pojagi medium , others such as Rosemary Claus Grey, and Christine Mauersberger whose installation Timelines seems to float on its fine tulle substrate.
I recently (2019, 2021) bought some clear plastic to experiment with as the ultimate sheer, a flexible but solid, soft material that could be stitched through without drilling holes in it, as UK artist Clyde Olliver often did to stitch on really solid materials, like slate and wood.
These next two samples require thinking of heavy duty clear plastic as ‘fabric’ … Working on 100% see through sheer material means you need to be thinking of what the thread is doing on both sides to make the pattern as viewed from the front.
Here I thought I might just as well tie a knot in the thread and leave it on the front anyway! But, if I were going to use this kind of thing as a background, to frame something, I’d probably start and end the stitching where it would be behind that ‘thing’ once that was put in place. I joined the pink to the yellow with a knot on the front for the same reason – the limitations of a completely non-traditional material can require different thinking, and here, this can be made a feature of the surface texture.
Early in 2020, I began what was for me a new technique of hand oversewing raw edged strips of fabric (Pandemic Pattern resulted from this experimental technique) While oversewing one small wall quilt with metallic gold, I realised that for every stitch showing on the front, there was as much again hidden behind the work. This meant I needed to join threads twice as often, (a handsewn metallic thread will tend to fray fairly quickly) and at the density of my stitching, I realised I’d soon go crazy turning it over every couple of minutes to finish off conventionally. So I joined those threads with knots on the outside/front, and there were so many of them that the knots made a pleasing additional surface texture. We think of metallic as ‘hard and cold to the touch’ and this surface looks brassy, but it is surprisingly soft to touch.
Couching: when threads and cords too thick or textured to actually sew with are laid onto the fabric and hand or machine sewn down with a finer thread, visible or not. There are many potential variations to this technique. Couching will come up again soon.