Spring flowers

The online workshop with Pam de Groot continues – I’ll post an update on this later.

In the meantime, partly inspired by the Josef Frank exhibition, I’ve become a bit obsessed with making felt flowers. As you may know if you’ve followed me for a while, my colour palette is normally quite subdued (and usually involves a lot of blue šŸ™‚ ) but the flowers have really allowed me to take advantage of all the brightly coloured fleece in my stash!


I’m hoping to have a good selection of these corsages to brighten my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington later this month.

I’ve also been continuing my work with dress net, exploring other forms. Coincidentally, one of these also happens to be a flower.


The next step is to make enough of these to create a ball! Two down, 10 to go. šŸ™‚



Tulle origami

What goes around comes around. If youā€™ve followed my blog for a while, youā€™ll know Iā€™ve experimented with felt kaleidocycles, felt smocking, and origami moulds for fabric.

Now Iā€™m back at Morley College on a course about fabric manipulation with Caroline Bartlett,Ā whoseĀ work I greatly admired at Cloth and Memory {2} at Saltaire.Ā 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.


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 madeĀ origami mouldsĀ 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.


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.


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.


The tulle version, however, was stiff enough to hold its shape – andĀ 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.


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!

Origami felt

Whew! What a week it’s been – a road trip up to Edinburgh via the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bradford and Newcastle, zipping round various events at the Edinburgh Festival, including a performance of The Tempest on a beach on the Firth of Forth, and visits to the Yorkshire Moors and Burghley House on the way back.

But amid all this activity I had two days in Edinburgh learning how to make origami felt with Andrea Noeske-ParadaĀ at Hat in the Cat Textiles. This was a great opportunity to build on the technique of using partial felts that I learned with Lisa Klakulak earlier this year, as well as my interest in origami sparked off by the pleating workshop I did with Bridget Bailey last year.

Our aim was to make a kaleidocycle, a ring structure where you can change the colours by constantly turning it inside out. We started by trying to make a paper version to learn the principles of the folding technique. But of course with paper it’s simply a case of folding. With felt you have to allow for shrinkage and joining as well as folding and colour blends.

It’s a pretty labour-intensive technique that involves making partial felts, cutting out lots of triangles (I remember now why I never took to patchwork!) and trying to lay them out as precisely as possible. But the end result is extremely satisfying – and it was very interesting to see the effects of different colour combinations chosen by different students (below).

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I also worked with short-fibre merino for the first time, and met Chrissie Day. Chrissie has been very supportive to me in the past but we only know each other online – so it was interesting to meet in real life at last! šŸ˜‰

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More on pleats

There’a a whole new world out there. When I went online to get other ideas for possible pleat moulds, I came across some very advanced origami tessellation techniques. And I realised that some of the techniques used by artists I’ve previously written about, like Polly Verity, could be adapted to make pleat Ā moulds.

However, their folding skills are far more advanced than mine – I got very confused in discussions about iso, 64-pleat grids and 12.12.3 tessellations!

Then I came across this piece about the Miura Ori map, a type of origami pleating that minimises the stress on paper where folds intersect and is also easier to fold and unfold (anyone who has ever tried to refold a map in a confined space like a car will know what I mean!).

So in class this week I made my own Miura Ori mould from cartridge paper, plus a longer parallel pleat mould, and used them with synthetic fabrics and the heat press.

First, I steamed some sheer polyester organza in the Miura Ori mould and then put it in the heat press, still folded with some disperse dye paper on either side. As you can see, the dye did not penetrate very far through the fabric folds:


I also repeated this with the diamond pleat mould:


Then I dyed the fabric in the heat press before steaming it in the mould:


Similarly, I dyed a piece of shiny polyester in the heat press and steamed it in the longer parallel pleat mould. Unfortunately, I clamped the fabric and moulds between two plastic rulers to keep it straight before putting it in the steamer – mistake!


Finally, I steamed a couple of pieces of cotton muslin coated in PVA in moulds, before clamping them and putting them in the indigo vat. Obviously, dunking the fabric in more liquid means the pleats are lost, leaving just the dye pattern where the indigo penetrated:


Paper and pleats

After a somewhat uncreative week, it was a delight to spend Sunday back at Morley on a short course with Bridget Bailey called Introduction to pleating.

Bridget’s work featured on the cover of the first book I ever took out of Morley Library, a volume called The New Textiles (left). I was enthralled by the movement and colour she created in fabric, so the chance to do a course with her was too good to miss.

We started by dyeing a couple of pieces of cotton of different weights, because Bridget hates working with white. It was the first time I’d used Procion dyes on fabric, and it made me realise how quick and easy indigo dyeing is by comparison – no waiting around for an hour for the mordant and fixer to work. Obviously, however, you are not limited to blue with Procion!

After dyeing it, we coated the cloth with diluted PVA and left it to dry.

Then the fun part – making the paper moulds. To save time, Bridget provided a template, which we had to transfer to two pieces of cartridge paper by pushing a pin through both sheets, rather like artists used to do when making a cartoon. We didn’t sprinkle with soot, however – we joined the pinpricks by scoring with a scalpel on both sides, depending on whether the folds were mountain (folding away from us) or valley (folding towards us).

This is a bit tricky to explain if you’re not very familiar with origami, but the photo below shows one of the final bits of scored cartridge paper lying flat. Behind it is the other piece folded along the score marks.

We then put a piece of fabric between the two bits of cartridge paper, folded them up, secured with an elastic band, and steamed for about 5 minutes. After drying, we undid the moulds to reveal a crisply pleated piece of cotton that had taken on the exact shape of the moulds. Magic!

Below is another, simpler mould of diagonal parallel pleats, so they run on the bias. We folded the fabric in half before putting it in the mould, which results in a chevron pattern when it’s unfolded.

Bridget had also brought various pieces for us to see that combined screen printing and discharge dyeing with this technique. Great potential – very exciting!

Friday favourites

I haven’t done Friday favourites for a while. But I’ve just joined Pinterest (aaargh – that’s another six hours a day gone!), and as I was pinning some of my favourite works I came across a group of artists working with paper. As I’ve recently made paper myself, I thought this would be a good theme for today’s selection.

Polly Verity makes amazingĀ origami curved folds, each scored and folded from one sheet, with no cuts and no glue. I also love her work made from crumpled tissue paper, like the liver, stomach, colon and small intestine:

Isaac Salazar is an accountant who has never taken an art class. He uses old books that would otherwise be thrown away and creates words and images by folding and cutting the pages:

Finally, Bekx Stephens creates geometric sculptural pieces that seem to create waves of movement through repetition. I would love to learn some of these techniques to use on fabric with printing/dyeing: