Initially, I intended to do more meticulous material manipulations to create interesting base fabrics. I started making several samples based on several of the ideas I jotted down on a sketchbook (a new one I started for this assignment). The sketchbook is intended to be used beyond this course as well, so I left ample space to jot down future notes.
However, the sample experiments did not go well. They either took too much time to shape up, too fragile / unstable / unravel easily, or just overall too tedious. They can be stunning, yes, but they would end up overshadowing the stitched lines.
So I ended up going with transparent base fabrics I already owned. True to objectives outlined during the preparation phase, I went back and chose several layers of chiffon polyester, nylon tulle, sturdier polyester blend fabrics, and cotton.
Working with sketchbook
I’d like to note several things about using sketchbook during this process. Perhaps it’s because of time constraint, but methodical testing of many variations on the sketchbook as suggested on the coursework binder gradually dampened my creative spirit.
I thought about why this was the case, and I believe these are the reasons why it’s not the most effective approach for working on this particular assignment:
- I have prior experience working with familiar fabrics, so I can go back to how my sewing machine or I can handle them effectively.
- I only had 1.5 weeks to create three stitched line pieces, so meticulous testing was going to eat up my time to create the actual pieces and I would end up compromising things depending on how much time I had.
- I find it the most exciting when I try out a few ideas and immediately do the rest of the exploration on an actual textile piece, including on-demand problem solving.
- I might not have enough fabric scraps or notions to test things out in a smaller scale first. After all, the amount of remnants are limited and I’d like to have an assurance that I have enough materials to work with.
- Part of the creative joy of making something is the unknown; how we deal with challenges along the way to create “magic” in our pieces. Trying out everything beforehand takes out the necessary excitement to deal with unknown tensions I would surely encounter.
- I view notebooks – and sketchbooks as an extension – as an effective tool for note taking and documenting. It’s more “left-brain” methodical than creativity inducing. Things like planning, organizing, counting, journaling, making to-do lists are great, but not necessarily creative inspiring.
I found it helpful to list my dilemma about sketchbooks. Not because I despise them, but because I haven’t found a harmonious way to work with them. As I will experiment more with mark makings and sketching in the future, I believe I will be able to view sketchbook maintaining as an effective way to hone my personal creative voice.
That said, for this assignment, eventually I went on with a few minimal testings here and there and do on-demand problem solving to create the three stitched line pieces. The progress and used paper materials are documented and kept in the sketchbook*.
*There are no pictures of the sketchbook in this blog post. They are shown to the tutor via video recording only.
Stitched Line Piece #1: Layered Sandals Handkerchief
This work is an extension of my left sandal drawing using my (non-dominant) left hand back in Part 1. I got re-inspired by the continuous line drawing and resolved to use the original drawing as source material.
Out of the three continuous line drawings of a left sandal, I am most attracted to the leftmost version since it’s the first one I made with my left hand. It’s the purest representation of my left hand drawing of this particular object: raw, bold, yet imperfect. I want to see if I can celebrate this quality in a more refined way without losing some lightness.
I like the quality of hand stitch / embroidery on a transparent, fragile fabric, so I decided to do running stitch and backstitch hand embroidery technique on the sandal outlines.
I chose a square handkerchief shape because it can be elegant yet casually playful. I was driven to create some depth of shapes that can vary one’s perception based on available light source, surface, or which side one chooses to observe.
So I decided it will have three layers, each layer would have a pair of sandal outlines in varying scales. When they’re assembled together, some sandals will be easier to see than the others, depending on light source, surface, or the stitched line piece’s side.
So I chose several diaphanous fabrics as base fabrics. The first one is a relatively sturdy yet thin ivory polyester / linen blend. It has beautiful subtle textures and I want to showcase it as the top layer. It’s also perfectly sized at 18″ x 18″ with unfinished edges, so it could be easily trimmed to 17″ x 17″ when finished.
I also cut two layers of pale blue / gray chiffon polyester that I cut into 18″ x 18″ size. They are used as the middle and bottom layers.
The other materials I use are blue embroidery flosses, hand embroidery needles, and embroidery hoop. The sandal drawings are copied into three different scales, mirrored, and printed onto Sulky stabilizer that were then sticked onto the diaphanous fabrics.
After choosing the base fabrics, the initial making process can be summarized as follows:
- Copy left sandal drawing in multiple scales from 100% to 45%. After some composition tests, I decided to go with 95%, 70%, and 45% scales.
- The three chosen copies are then mirrored to create the right sandal outline on the other side of the paper. Now there are 6 sandal outlines: 3 pairs of left and right sandals in 95%, 70%, and 45% scale.
- All six copies are copied onto Sulky materials, and cut to size.
- The sandals are then arranged into a final composition.
Once I was satisfied with the final composition, I sticked a pair of Sulky stabilizers onto each layer of fabric. The left and right sandal for each layer shouldn’t be of the same scale. Here’s what I ended up doing:
Top layer: 95% scale for left sandal, 70% for right sandal.
Middle: 45% L, 95% R.
Bottom: 70% L, 45% R.
From here on, long process of hand embroidering with navy blue floss began. I used two strands at a time, starting with the bottom layer. Bottom and middle layers’ outlines are made with running stitches only.
Only the top layer has more stitch varieties:
- front-facing backstitch for right sandal outline
- back-facing backstitch for left sandal outline
- running stitch for complementary lines (heel pad or supporting curves near the front of sandal)
- satin stitch for mineral rock cut-out accents on the heels
Hand embroidery took time, but the end result was very clean. To finish it neatly, I added navy blue double-fold bias tape around the stacked piece. The fraying edges are covered with clean mitered corners.
Looking at the finished piece, I believe I achieved what I wanted to convey at the beginning – elegance and lightness. It’s also clean and neatly done, with some minor spots of charming imperfections.
The layers make it an interesting piece that can be seen multiple ways – from the front or the back, on a surface or against a light source – the holder’s chosen method will dictate what they see, and that contributes to personal experience in relation to this piece. My favorite way is to hold it up against a window on a daylight; the textures of the background, multiple embroidery stitches, and the depth of the piece feels very refreshing and calming.
The only thing that didn’t work so well was my time management. I overestimated myself – I thought I could finish the whole piece in three days. I ended up spending 4.5 days, some with late night work due to my relatively slow hand embroidery pace. That said, the result is so good that it’s all worth it!
If I have a chance to expand on this project in the future, I’d like to use thicker lines of stitches on the inner layers and use thinner on outer ones. That way, the piece will look more delicate yet flatter.
Or if I want to focus on creating more depth, it will be fun to create an outdoor (or indoor) installation of layers of diaphanous fabrics hung with a set space from one another, with varying levels of sizes, preferably in gradual ascent or descent. The embroidered stitched lines can either be a shape of objects or an extension of the gradual ascent or descent of fabric sizes. If it’s the latter, the piece will mimic layers of rock sediments found in nature – at least that’s how I pictured it in my mind.
Stitched Line Piece #2: Vintage Purse – Inspired Textile
If sandals handkerchief is all about hand embroidery, this textile piece is made with a combination between hand stitching and machine sewing, more heavily on the latter. The textile piece is more stacked and durable with some surface textures and intricate stitch line details.
Like the sandals handkerchief, the main inspiration comes directly from the drawing I made in Part 1 exercise. This time, I wanted to preserve its original scale as much as possible. Moreover, I’d like to isolate a section of the drawing and treat it as a repeat pattern piece that can be used as a template to create framing accents around more intricate stitching details.
In a way, I view this project as a combination of both stitched lines and fabric collage, since the framing accent is made with a jacquard fabric stitched on top of a stack of fabrics. The idea is to explore both sturdier stacking / layering with more intricate details.
The white cotton fabric I chose as a base was a home decor remnant, and I was able to contain and finish the edges to A3 size. On top of this cotton, I stacked two layers of white polyester chiffons with raw edges.
The framings stitched on top of the stack is made with pieced jacquard fabric, whereas the fanning out shapes are made with zig-zagging fringe cut-out remnants from Part 4.3 exercise.
The rest of the materials are sequin circles cut out from a rescued sequin trim, as well as polyester threads in gold, pale gray, white, and navy blue. Supporting fabric transfer tools like carbon paper and temporary fabric marker were also used.
The first thing to do was to decide on drawing scale. After a few copying tests, I settled with 90%. Then, I made 6 copies of the 90% copy using tracing papers.
Once I had all six of them, I treat them as repeat pattern and arrange them to cover the whole A3 size. This way, I had my pattern template for the “frames.”
The so-called “frames” are made with a jacquard fabric remnant. I didn’t have one piece long enough to cover the whole A3 size, so first I pieced them together from two remnants, matching their pattern.
Once I had this piece, I traced the “frames” of the template with carbon transfer paper. Then I cut out the jacquard fabric following the tracing lines with an Xacto knife.
Once the framing cut-outs are done, I sew this jacquard fabric onto the cotton and chiffon base stack.
Next step was all about precision work. I carbon transferred one of the fanning outlines onto the fabric, and made one as a “test run” before continuing the rest of them.
From this test, I realized I had to made a few changes. It would look neater and less hectic with 9 long fanning lines (instead of the original 11), and the sequin details needed to be two tiered instead of one.
This was done to create a visual balance of the existing elements. The jacquard framing is a strong accent, and jamming 11 fan out lines for each inner design felt like an overkill. Having two tiers of sequins can achieve the overall balance that can be pleasing to the eye. Moreover, the art-deco like color scheme of black, white, navy, and gold felt very rich and bold, a whole different set of qualities from the actual vintage purse.
Once the fan out detail elements are decided, it’s all about precision work. The gold fringe remnants were attached one by one with a narrow zig-zag stitch.
There were several fixes and redos to create the right curving lines, but it was a generally smooth process.
Next was creating the navy blue “vase” detail, also done with narrow zig-zag stitch in gradually decreasing width. There are five columns in each complete vase detail.
It was a much faster process than sewing the fringe remnants. Next was the light gray running stitch, done by hand. It’s quite a straightforward process albeit a little bit slower.
Once all the lines were done, it’s time to attach the sequin tiers. This process was also done by hand.
Once everything was done, I added a decorative border on the textile piece’s edges to prevent excessive fraying. I couldn’t take a good picture of the decorative border due to lighting issues, but it’s mentioned on the video submission to my tutor.
Once everything was done, I couldn’t help smiling proudly. It’s a new achievement of what I could do when I pushed myself!
I think it’s a successful exploration and implementation of stacked and layered contrasted with fragile and transparent qualities, along with subtle bulbous feel for more surface touch.
The intricate fan out motifs and frames are translated from my “imperfect memory” of the vintage purse representation via drawing, and that feels special. The rich motifs, combined with fraying edges of the frames and the textile edges feel like a harmonious collaboration between two opposite principles – refined design and unrefined fraying, machine sewn and hand stitched.
This is the one piece where I felt making on-demand tests and decisions on the go was the right way to go. Everything seemed controlled and balanced.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I can develop this further into new projects. This textile piece is set to be reused as a small pillowcase, and I’m looking forward to showcase it to visiting guests.
Maybe I can make a larger scale of this same project to create curtains / draperies, as well as making tassels to accompany them? I’m not sure if it’s the right interior design choice, but it’s empowering to know that it’s definitely possible and very doable.
Stitched Line Piece #3: Doctor’s Bag Stitched Blind Sketch
By this time, I was running out of time and slightly panicking. That said, I had a stack of transparent fabric remnants in various purple / dark blue color palette. I vowed that if I’m to embark on creating this third piece, it had to be done in one day.
I wanted to create a new drawing for this final piece. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than making a new doctor’s bag blind drawing using my non-dominant (left) hand. The coursework binder also inspired me to try out irregular stitch length by removing a presser foot when sewing.
I grabbed my prepared stack of purple multi transparent fabrics – knife pleated polyester / linen blend, printed nylon tulles, lavender nylon tulles, decorative silk petals, as well as bright violet polyester and lilac sewing threads.
I barely took in-progress photos because I was focused on finishing this piece on time. The first thing I did was flattened out the pleats of the polyester / linen blend base fabric with irregular lockstitch. It’s quite fascinating to see the jagged lines along the neatly flattened pleat lines. I purposely didn’t sew all the way to the edges to create a more relaxed, open feeling.
The final size of the base fabric post-flattened pleats is 10 in. x 17 in. Slightly smaller than an A3 size, but I didn’t worry about it at all.
Next step was to make a blind sketch of a doctor’s bag on a tracing paper. It was done in several minutes, and I pinned it on top of transparent fabrics that I stacked on the base fabric.
I sew the whole stack using the same irregular lockstitch setting I used earlier, patiently following the lines I drew on the paper. Once it’s done, I tore the paper apart to reveal the stacked fabrics. Then I also cut out all of the stacked fabrics outside of the doctor’s bag outlines.
Once the shape is more revealed, I added more emphasis on the bag silhouette using narrow zig-zag stitch (this time with a presser foot attached). Last but not least, I secured the nylon tulle and silk petal remnants to the base fabric.
I felt accomplished (and astonished) that I was able to finish this piece in a few hours time. Prioritizing the time to create and not worry about photo documentation worked for me in this particular case, and this project was a victory for personal time management.
Aside from the prepared materials, the project was done quite impulsively compared to the other two pieces. That’s the magic of this one, and looking at it more closely fills my head with more critical thoughts:
- Is it a beautiful abstract piece? Or does it look like a decaying object?
- Do you see the tulle and silk petals as flowers / butterflies? Or do they look like flies?
- Using purple / violet color scheme – do you see them as rich, fashionably elegant? Or do you see them as villainous?
- What do you see – luxurious colors or misshapen body? Or what’s wrong with seeing both?
The use of irregular stitches and the return of blind sketching create this somewhat unfamiliar feeling that I wholeheartedly welcome. It was the right decision to create this more abstract piece, and it’s something I want to explore more in the future.
I’d like to set a time limit to create a textile piece and then impulsively create something within that time limit. It should be something that takes me out of my comfort zone of painstaking building and layering.
When I have enough pieces like this, I should then combine them together in an interesting way – I don’t know how yet, I’ll figure it out when the time comes!
I realized my written evaluation of this final assignment far exceeds the 400 – 500 words outlined in the coursework binder. That said, it doesn’t feel excessive since I’m not able to send my works to my tutor physically due to time constraint. Moreover, it feels more proper and respectful to the whole learning process that I do it this way.
All in all, I feel tremendous creative and personal growth from doing this course. Doing projects in this final assignment is a great celebration of implementing all the exercises encompassed in this course, and I am so very grateful. I’m looking forward to hone my creativity even more!
Thanks for reading,