Tulle origami

What goes around comes around. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve experimented with felt kaleidocycles, felt smocking, and origami moulds for fabric.

Now I’m back at Morley College on a course about fabric manipulation with Caroline Bartlett, whose work I greatly admired at Cloth and Memory {2} at Saltaire. Participants come from varying backgrounds, including handmade paper, print, fashion and textiles, so it’s an interesting mix.

We started by using paper to explore how folding, slicing and cutting can be used to create repeat patterns and then how to translate these into fabric by using darts, pleats and cuts.

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Depending on the fabric properties (transparent / opaque, fraying, thickness), you can create quite different effects.

We’ve also used pleating machines to create heavily pleated pieces, which can later be dyed or discharged as in the sample below.

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Last time I made origami moulds I used fabric stiffened with PVA or floppy synthetics. This time I used stiff tulle, and was delighted with the result. Here are a couple of pieces that I’ve stitched on.

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This inspired me to use tulle for origami in other ways.

First I tried making a hyperbolic parabaloid in tulle, but it was too floppy to work properly.

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Then I moved on to a ball-like construction. I had tried this with other fabric previously – the picture below shows the paper version at the front and two fabric versions behind.

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The African wax print fabric was stiffened with interfacing, so it had the same body as paper. The white version on the right was calico which I had tried to stiffen with machine stitching. The stitched surfaces were a bit firmer, but the overall structure lacks the body of the paper version, being curvy rather than angular.

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The tulle version, however, was stiff enough to hold its shape – and because it’s transparent there are intriguing views of the other side of the structure (which make it a bit tricky to photograph!).

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Another origami technique that was new to me is crumpling, a technique pioneered by Paul Jackson.

The qualities of tissue paper that make it ideal for crumpling are difficult to reproduce with fabric. I tried it with a slightly less stiff tulle, but it’s much too floppy (tulle on left, tissue paper on right). I’m not sure tulle will work for this – I may need to rethink the fabric.

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I’ve also just started experimenting with tulle shaped using arashi shibori techniques – could be interesting!

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As I mentioned at the beginning, the class contains students from many different backgrounds. One of them, Frances Kiernan, brought in an amazing flag book that she had made from some of her prints.

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I’d never heard of a flag book before this but I think it would be a wonderful way to display samples!

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8 thoughts on “Tulle origami”

    1. It’s one day a week for five weeks Ruth, and is great fun. Three weeks down, two to go! I’ve discovered that flag books can be relatively simple to make – this one is particularly elaborate.

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