Monthly Archives: October 2016

The contemporary use of embroidery techniques

22 October 2016

Having just completed an exercise in mixed media stitching, I was especially interested to read Rebecca Fairley’s bog post on the contemporary use of traditional embroidery techniques (Fairley, 2016). Project 5, exercise 2 “stitching”, was my favourite exercise in the assignment, and a technical area which I would like to develop and explore further/make my own. My ideas at this time are to combine stitching with puncturing/drilling and/or printing. From a materials-led perspective, I am interested in exploration games the use of solid media such as wooden planks or stones and over-sized holes, and the contrast with delicate or finely textured threads. 

Rebecca’s blog post provides a wonderful resource of web-link and books from which I can explore the work of innovative contemporary embroiderers in my own time. Of the 5 artists which she briefly discussed, the work of Lithuanian Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene had the most appeal because of her use combination of embroidery of traditional cross stitch motifs onto metal objects (including car doors and household items). I found an interesting link to an interview on the artist’s website (Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, 2016) which explained in greater detail the motivation behind her work and how it has evolved and developed. After many successful exhibitions, Severija became tired with stitching onto metal, and began to feel that there was too much focus on aesthetics rather than the meaning of the objects. In response, she held an “unravelling exhibition” in which she filmed herself deconstruction one of her stitched pieces. Recently she has developed new lines of enquiry, such as her “carpet series” in which she constructs rugs from recycled sweaters.



Fairley, R. (2016) Traditional textile techniques used in contemporary ways. At: (Accessed 22 October 2016)

Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, S. (2016) Severija: News. At: (Accessed 27 October 2016)


Post script to British Art Show 8

21 October 2016


Although I was not able to attend the OCA study visit to the British Art Show 8, I did make a visit alone (which I have discussed in an earlier entry of this learning log) (Eastaugh, 2016). I was subsequently interested to read Rebecca Fairley’s blog on the subject and her thoughts on some of the textile exhibits (Fairley, 2016).

Like me, Rebecca chose to write about “Kentucky” (2010) by Brazilian-born artist Alexandra de Cunha. She highlighted that it had been made from utility items (mops) and picked up on the fact that printed tapes with the object’s weight and product code had been included in the piece (something which I hadn’t specifically noticed). I was also interested in the other textile artists which she had focused on, and why she had been attracted to their work.

Rebecca made the important point that students can develop their own practice in exciting and innovative ways by exploring a wide range of art and design disciplines, including fine art. I certainly paid as much attention to the non-textile as the textile exhibits at The British Art Show 8. Exhibits which are non-textile still raise the same questions about composition, texture and colour, and how the artist has achieved contrast, tension or harmony. I also find that looking at non-textile art-forms often helps me to see beyond the obvious, by suggesting new relationships, interpretations, or combinations of media or techniques.



Eastaugh, N. (2016) British Art Show 8. At: (Accessed 21 October 2016)

Fairley, R. (2016) Textiles at the British Art Show 8. At: (Accessed 21 October 2016)

Assignment 1, Reflective commentary

19 October 2016


One aspect of the old style of course which I miss is the questions posed at the end of each assignment. These helped to concentrate my mind and focus my attention on what had gone well, what had gone not so well and why. Once I had answered these, writing the reflective commentary was easy. The re-written course instead asks students to reflect on their performance against the four assessment criteria. If I were to list examples in support of these criteria, I would probably not adequately probe and interrogate my strengths and weaknesses – it can be difficult to see what you could have done better, by asking a simple question like ‘how could I have been more creative?’ I started by posing myself some questions, which I hoped would help to tease out the information I needed.


Self posed questions:

Did you feel that you explored all the possibilities? Can you see a route from sample to finished piece?

Although I made 141 samples, I didn’t feel that I explored all of the possibilities. However, I honestly don’t think this is practical given that some artists base their entire practice on just one area of surface distortion! Instead, I tried to be systematic and build on what I had learnt from previous level 1 modules. This meant that for some exercises, I made intentionally basic samples, varying just one aspect (such as shape, size or placement) at a time. This allowed me to understand the relationships between these variables and build up an awareness of how changing them might contribute to the success or otherwise of the outcome.

Later in each exercise, and particularly for Project 5, exercise 2 (stitching), I allowed myself free rein to combine techniques, introduce, colour, pattern and contrast. These were more innovative samples which better reflected my personal voice, however because of the many different variables, they were not as useful in teaching me what about the success of visual outcomes. 

I was surprised by just how many of the samples promoted an emotional response or analogies with objects (either animate or inanimate), and I have noted these down in the exercises against each sample. This was particularly aided by my research, which also prompted thoughts about possible development and applications (be it textured surfaces for interiors, fabric, sculpture). For the first time in this assignment, I have integrated comparisons with other practitioner’s work in my blog posts whilst I have been making and documenting the samples (this being in addition to stage 1 which is a dedicated piece of research) . This immediacy has helped me to relate better to my sampling and see many more connections and possibilities for development. Although this assignment has not required me to demonstrate a route from sample to finished piece, I can clearly see lines of enquiry emerging, which I have documented in my blog posts for stage 2&3 and stage 4 (sorting).


Did you feel that you made effective use of materials? Were there any other materials which you would have liked to try?

In the beginning, I purposely started with basic plain paper to help me understand the relationships between size, shape and composition. Although I did use other materials later in the exercises, I still have plenty more that I would like to try! As a general observation, I would say that sampling with different materials was more risky and often I was disappointed with the results. This confirms that my tendency to seek out complexity over simplicity, often does not result in the most successful outcome. This was backed up by my research, which suggested that surface distortion of basic, untextured, unpatterned materials is often extremely effective. In my own experimentation, I found that plain materials showed up shadows and subtle tonal variations particularly well.

How did colour effect the outcomes?

As I have alluded to in answer to the previous question, the use of colour (and particularly pattern) has to be considered carefully in the context of surface distortion. The temptation is to use exciting textured and patterned materials, but these often detract from surface distortion (in itself a form of patterning) and the shadows and tonal variations which it produces.


Did you see opportunities for combining techniques?

I saw many opportunities for combining techniques and investigated some through sampling. For example, I used folding and puncturing in combination with stitching, cutting flaps and stitching in Project 5, exercise 2. In my themed sketchbook on ‘The Garden’, I used scratching in combination with cutting holes, stitching in combination with cutting holes, and stitching in combination with twisted pleats. There is so much more scope for combing surface distortion techniques, not just with each other, but outside the discipline. For example, photographs of heat set fabrics could be printed onto acetate or fabric and developed further using other techniques. A scratched surface, for example, could be used as a printing block, in combination with mono-printing, or as part of an appliqué piece. The possibilities are endless.


Did you feel that sketching helped your analysis? If so, How?

When I first started with OCA over 2 years ago, I was timid about drawing and sceptical of the benefits it can have for textile practitioners. How far I have come – in feedback for my previous course, my tutor strongly suggested that I continue to develop my sketchbook work, as she recognised it as a vital component in my working methodology. Building on her suggestions, I have produced a dedicated sketchbook on the theme of ‘The Garden’, extending my stitched sampling with layering, transparencies and recycled materials. This work also draws inspiration from the exhibition by artist Martin Kinnear, which I visited in August, and supplements the exercises in this assignment.

I sketched 25 of my samples (approximately 18%), spread across all the exercises. It is a concept which I was only introduced to recently, but which I find extremely valuable. It helps me to understand complexity, but can also give training in the skill of simplification and selecting the most important visual elements of an object. It is not possible to make a drawing without understanding the subtlety of variation and the nature of lines, be they sharp or diffuse. Colour matching and representation of texture are also tested and explored in the process. The act of sketching gives new insights for development as well as the possibility for using the sketched image itself in a textile piece.


Measurement against assessment criteria:

Having answered my questions, I now feel able to address the assessment criteria and make better judgement on my performance, strength and weaknesses. 


Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I explored 10 exercises in surface distortion in depth. Design and composition was less important because many of these samples were purely experimental, and chosen so as to teach myself technical skills. It is difficult for me to assess my technical competency as I am not sure what the expected level is at this stage of the course. I can say that I have made good progress and feel confident to extend and develop the skills through my future practice. 

I would like to think that I one of my strengths is visual awareness and I have made efforts to explain this through my blog entries for each sample. Sketching samples has been an important elements of developing this understanding. My sketchbooks are developing and improving, but when I look at the contents of sketchbook on “The Garden” I can see scope for including even looser drawing and more mark-making, which I feel would enhance my design ideas further.


Quality of outcome

This is a really difficult to make a self assessment in isolation of other students work and given that the focus of the assignment was on experimentation. However, I feel that I have produced some samples which are visually very strong. My exploration of the effect of lighting has been essential in showcasing the transparency and shadows generated by some of my most successful samples. This is an area where I can see that I have developed. I am considering the malleability of samples a lot more and I am developing an understanding of how visual outcome can be changed depending how they are configured for display. I have learnt that simple ideas can produce a better outcome than more complex ones, and that this is especially relevant for surface distortion.


Demonstration of creativity

My starting point was to learn techniques and understand the relationships between size, shape and composition, so I did not always seek to be especially creative, particularly in my early samples for each exercise. Some samples did demonstrate a greater degree creativity (and also risk taking). I was able to demonstrate my creative voice, particularly in Project 5, exercise 2 (stitching), where I combined several techniques. I was pleased to be able to build on the work of artists such as  Kazuhito Takadoi, Anne Wilson, Jacob Dahlstrup and Carlos Amorales, and think about how I might make the techniques my own through interpretation and variation.



Instead conducting the research topic in isolation, I have made an effort to integrate and extend it into the project exercises. As well as the dedicated research of 6 practitioners who used surface distortion in their work, I have also made mention of relevant practitioners as I have conducted my sampling. I have looked not just on the Internet and in books, but also in current magazines, which has put my research in the context of trends in fashion and homeware. Outside the course, I have documented TV programmes and other areas of research have which I have found relevant and of interest to my studies.

I have continued to meet regularly with the local OCA support group ‘East Anglia Extreme’ and have continued to seek the opinions of my peers through OCA Facebook Groups, and The Print and Stitch Group (a local exhibiting group to which I have belonged for over a year). In the last few month I have discovered the OCA forums and have joined two Mixed Media for Textile group handouts and formed new relationships with students on my course. 

In the period of completing this assignment I attended The British Art Show 8, and an exhibition of Norwich Shawls curated by The Costume and Textile Association. As a result, I have decided to join the group which will give me access to their programme of events, talks and workshops, trips to exhibitions and collections, and an introductory tour of the Clothing and Textile Study Centre.

Norwich Shawls: Past glory, present inspiration – 14 October 2016

14 October 2016



The exhibition of C19th Norwich shawls and contemporary work produced in response to them was curated by the Costume and Textile Associate, Norfolk, and held 1-15th October 2016 at the Norwich Cathedral hostry.

I was lucky to be able to visit with a fellow OCA student whom I met through our local support group “East Anglia Extreme”. I find it extremely helpful to be able to discuss the attributes and merits of exhibits with my peers; especially with students of different creative disciplines who bring fresh perspectives.

Photograph of the exhibits were not allowed, but I was able to take photographs of two of the “handling pieces” (fragments of original Norwich shawls).


These photographs give an indication of the complexity, craftsmanship and beauty of these textiles pieces. The fabric fragment on the left is from a Norwich shawl woven on a Jacquard loom in the 1860s. The photograph on the right is of a Hind’s silk “wrapper” (a long thin shawl similar to a modern day scarf) dating from the 1880s-1890s (design attributed to Obadiah Short).


In Elizabethan times, skilled foreign weavers were invited to Norwich to establish a textile industry, and from then onwards Norwich grew in it’s reputation to produce high quality, distinctive textiles (Priestley, 1995:1-9). When shawls became fashionable in the 1800’s, Norwich was ideally placed to satisfy demand for high quality products (Hoyte, 2016:23). Quality shawls were woven and printed for an elite clientele, confirming their wealth and status in society. Over years of catering for an exclusive market, Norwich shawls developed a distinctive character (patterning and colour) which became known as the “Norwich shawl” (Hoyte, 2016:35).


A discussion of some exhibits from the exhibition:

Zebra shawl:

One of the first shawls which caught my attention was exhibit no. 7, the “Zebra Shawl” (340x167cm). Jacquard woven silk, manufactured 1860’s by Clabburn Sons & Crisp, the shawl currently resides in the private collection of one of the members of the Costume and Textile Association.

I had previously shied away from such detailed patterns, finding them impossible to sketch. However, I took inspiration from the sketchbooks of Zandra Rhodes (Rhodes, 2005:20), who seems to be an expert when it comes to capturing the essence of complicated designs and translating these into glorious textile designs of her own. Below is an excerpt from my sketchbook showing an overview of the pattern layout and an area of the pattern in detail.

An exquisitely crafted item, the shawl incorporates both plain and patterned stripes known as “Clabburn Zebras” and was made for daily wear (Hoyte, 2016:9). It is typical of the design of Clabburn Sons & Crisp (Clabburn, 1995:94,95,98). 

The weave is extremely fine and the patterning unbelievably detailed, considering that each colour element/thread would have been drawn up on punched pattern cards to be fed into the loom to replicate the design. It can be seen from the fringes of these shawls that each thread is no thicker than a human hair.  It was the black, pink, mauve, aubergine and green colour scheme which initially appealed to me, but I also like the fact that there is space in the design (i.e. the plain black stripes). It perhaps appeals to my modern taste that the design feels less cluttered than some of the overall patterns. Looking at the design I can see elements of the pattern which I might pick out and adapt for use in my own practice. 

This shawl would have been made towards the end of the period when these garments were fashionable. The way shawls were worn evolved throughout the 1800’s and developed in line with the size of the crinolines which they laid over. By the mid-late 1800’s they were designed to be folded into a triangle, and draped so that the folded edge formed a type of collar, or drape around the neck. The exhibition showed examples of shawls hung around mannequins in this way, so that it was possible to see how the patterns were intended to be viewed when worn. It reminded me again very much of Zandra Rhodes who designs her garments to suit the patterning on her fabrics, often incorporating circular, or border motifs (Rhodes, 2005).


Scissors design shawl:

The scissors design shawl (exhibit no. 3) was manufactured by Clabburn Sons & Crisp in 1862. Designed by John Funnel, it is also a Jacquard woven silk. Measuring 347x 103cm, it resides in a private collection and was loaned to the exhibition (Hoyte, 2016:7). According to Hoyte, Funnel designed exclusively for Clabburn Sons & Crisp, and a shawl exactly like this was the manufacturer’s entry for the Paris Exposition of 1862, anticipating the coming Art Nouveau movement of the 1890’s (Hoyte, 2016:7). This shawl would have retailed for around £20 (equivalent of at least £1,600 in todays money), which indicates the exclusivity and status of owning such a fine garment (Hoyte, 2016:6). My sketch of part of the shawl pattern detail is shown below:

This shawl is predominantly beige and gold in colour with small areas of emerald green, sky blue and red. Black was used to emphasis the boarder between two areas of design, and to delimit some of the pattern edges. Interestingly, this shawl features a development of the “boteh” or “Paisley” design which originated for India and Persia in the C16th. In Norwich, the design was also known as the “Pine”. Variations in the development of the boteh can be used help to date textiles (Hoyte, 2016:36). Like the Zebra shawl, the Scissors design shawl was of exceptional quality (especially so, as it was designed to showcase the manufacturer’s product at an international exhibition). Considering my own practice, there are once again elements of the pattern and colour which I could consider using. 


Pattern study by Susan Rhodes:

I was interested in this piece because it is a contemporary textile work produced in direct response to the Scissor design shawl. I have only been able to include a sketch, however a photograph of the work can be viewed in the exhibition catalogue (Costume and Textile Association, 2016:26). The piece measures 59.4x42x3cm and is made from cotton fabric, cotton and silk threads, wadding and card.


The piece is mounted on an airforce blue background and consists of a large rectangle of loom pattern punchcards stitched in horizontal rows. I’m not sure whether these are original (probably not?). The material they are made from looks like a type of plasticised card and they are beige in colour. The holes are brown around the edges, showing signs of having been made by burning through the material. 

The rectangle boteh motif on the bottom right looks has if it has been taken directly from a scanned image of a photograph of part of the scissor shawl and digitally printed onto fabric before being cut out, appliquéd onto a dark background and enhanced with stitching to emphasis certain areas of the pattern. The colours appear washed out and pinkish purple and blue, rather than the vibrant gold, beige, red, blue and green of the original motif. Around the edge of the boteh, some text pertaining to the weaving industry has been printed digitally onto fabric, cut out and appliquéd onto the background.

I have to admit choosing to review this piece because I do not like it. The artist cites contrast as one of the inspirations (Hoyte, 2016:26). However, I find that there is too much contrast between the area with the punchcards (which is clumsy, plain and light-coloured) and the appliquéd section (which is dark and finely detailed). It leaves me feeling that the punchcard area swamps and overwhelms the rest of the work. It looks like two different textiles pieces stood next to each other, having nothing to unify them other than a common narrative. Perhaps the artist could have chosen to exploit the beige and gold colours of the original motif on her boteh design, which would have leant an element of harmony with the colour of the punchcards? Perhaps the size of the appliquéd area could have been made larger, so that it wasn’t completely overwhelmed by the scale of the punchcards? Perhaps the text could have been more subtle and integrated into the whole pice, like a thread of storytelling running across the textiles and so uniting the two rectangular areas? 

I thoughht I ought to ask myself at this point how I might have interpreted the Scissor shawl. It would depend on the extent to which I felt compelled to convey a narrative, and whether I was content to interpret elements of the design purely for their decorative merits. Although I don’t have a definitive answer at this time, I can say that I would seek a more balanced an harmonious visual outcome.


Madder by Cas Holmes:

For me, this was the stand out contemporary piece at the exhibition. “Madder” (Costume and Textile Association, 2016: 24) measures 151 x 56cm and is a wall hanging made using found rags and cloths from workshops in India. The piece tells the story of the Norwich red shawls (having been made as a cheaper alternative to the finely woven shawls of Kashmir). This piece incorporates pieces of Indian cloth many of which bear the traditional “Botch” (flower) design. The work which Holmes has put into making the piece serves as a reminder of the “unfair trade” in the clothing industry today, and how the tables have turned to make the Indian fabric the cheap alternative (Costume and Textile Association, 20016:24). Norwich shawls would have been traditionally dyed with the plant root madder to produce their vibrant red colour before the introduction of synthetic dyes, hence the title of this piece.

I hoped to be able to find a link to an image of “Madder” on the internet. I haven’t been able to, and I unfortunately didn’t make a sketch at the exhibition. Describing the piece is tricky, but I’ll have a go! The work consists of a pieced patchwork of ochre, pink, white and blue plain and patterned cloths, stitched together by machine and embroidered across the whole surface with a large plant motif worked in pink thread. Holes have been made in some parts of the hanging, and the sections of cloth vary from dense and opaque to fine and transparent, giving the piece a dynamic feel. Unity is achieved by the colour scheme and the machine embroidered plant/flowerhead which stretches from top to bottom of the hanging. The work is visually stunning and engaging.

I was so inspired by “Madder” that I decided to purchase Cas Holmes’ book “Stitch Stories” (Holmes, 2015), so that I might better understand how she convey narrative through her work. I have only just started to read the book, but I was interested to discover that Holmes was brought up in Norwich (hence her interest and connection with the Norwich textile industry). It was also interesting to read that she has a Romany grandmother who inspired her interest in collecting and re-using found objects (Holmes, 2015:6-7).



Priestley, U. (1995) ‘The Norwich Textile Industry 1750-1880’ In: Clabburn, P. (1995) The Norwich Shawl: It’s history and a catalogue of the collection at Strangers’ Hall museum, Norwich. London. HMSO. pp.1-9.

Clabburn, P. (1995) The Norwich Shawl: It’s history and a catalogue of the collection at Strangers’ Hall museum, NorwichLondon. HMSO.

Costume and Textile Association (2016) Norwich Shawls: Past glory, present inspiration. Norwich. The hostry, Norwich cathedral.

Holmes, C. (2015) Stitch stories, personal places, species and traces in textile art. London. Batsford.

Hoyte, H. (2016) The story of the Norwich Shawl. Norwich. Nick Williams.

Rhodes, Z. (2005) Zandra Rhodes: A lifelong love affair with textiles. Camberley. Zandra Rhodes Publications Ltd.

Part 1, Stage 4, Sorting

11 October 2016


Sorting always presents me with a dilemma, not helped by the fact that I make a lot of samples (141 for this assignment). It’s easy to choose samples work well as stand alone entities, but much more difficult to select those with potential; for instance, just because I can’t see the potential in a sample now, doesn’t mean I won’t see potential in say 6 months or a years time. It could simply be that right now I’m not aware of what context in which it could be used, or other samples or techniques that would enhance it. For this reason I like to ‘park’ samples rather than disregarding them. 

I shall use this post to reflect on my working practices, outcomes as a whole, select and describe samples which have worked well and those for which I can see clear lines of development.


Working practices:

Because I did not have experience of several of the exercises, I started with very basic samples and systematically worked through them. The exception was project 3, exercise 2 (using a heat gun) which I covered briefly in “A creative approach”, assignment 3 (Eastaugh, 2015a) and and project 5, exercise 2 (stitching) which I covered in “A creative approach” assignment 1 (Eastaugh, 2015b). I tried purposely to be more creative and playful in my approach this time round, and was mindful to build upon rather than repeat the exercises I had already worked on in previous modules.

I thought carefully about lighting and orientation and viewed my samples in different configurations as part of the assessment process. I referenced the work of other artists when considering the context in which my samples might be used and how they might be developed. I thought about scale (large and small) and the merits of repetition vs. a stand a alone statement piece. I considered how I might create harmony through colour, pattern, shape, or texture and how elements like contrast of colour, texture or composition might be used to create drama and tension.

General comments on outcomes:

Reviewing each exercise and selecting the samples which I liked or had potential seemed to be a good place to start. This gave me an overview of my work and enabled me to make some general comments on the outcomes as a whole:

  • In terms of outcome, my favourite exercises were: Project 2, Exercise 5, “Flaps” and Project 5, Exercise 2, “Stitching”, (although stitching was worked partly in combination with other techniques). What I discovered when working the exercise on flaps was a surprising versatility of 3-D forms which could be achieved with just a simple piece of cut paper. Stitching  a technique which I knew I could produce interesting result, having used it for my sketchbook work in previous modules. 
  • Some samples were only interesting when lit from the front so as to produce shadows (an example being sample 1 of Project 3, Exercise 3)
  • For samples which rely of shadows for their appeal, I preferred those which use plain material as opposed to patterned. This is because the forms of the shadows can be better appreciated and there is no additional patterning to confuse or detract.
  • Photography enhanced some images compared with with when they are viewed using the naked eye (In particular, I’m thinking of Project 3, Exercise 3, “Using hot water” and particularly the photography of samples when they were lit from behind)
  • I found that the results of Project 4, Exercise 2 (scratching) were generally very subtle and it was difficult to imagine how I would use them directly in a finished piece. For me, their greatest potential would appear to be to translate them to another medium (maybe photographing and using that image – enlarging, colour modifying, multiplying?) or alternatively using them to make a rubbing.
  • For the exercises involving pleats, small scale worked better than large scale.

The fact that some successful samples require specific lighting conditions and/or placement in order to look at their best provides a dilemma for the distance learning student. Some samples are so fragile, as to require setting up “in situ” (project 1, exercise 5 (crumpling) and the specific display conditions which might be needed for a piece to work are unlikely to be reproduced at assessment. 

Comments on specific samples:

I have made detailed analyses of what I like and dislike about each sample, relationships with the work of other artists and ideas for development in the blog posts for each exercise, so it seems pointless to repeat it again here.

If I had to choose specific samples to take forward I would definitely focus on Project 1, exercise 5 (Flaps). One of the main reason for this choice is the successful visual outcomes of samples 3, 4, and 5 (see thumbnails below from left to right). 


However, I also find the idea that each sample can be displayed in a multitude of configurations very appealing, and sample 3 is an example of just how successful this approach can be (see thumbnails below). It was an idea which first came to me through the work of Sheila Hicks, who frequently reconfigures and reworks her pieces to suit the gallery or space in which they are to be viewed. The outcomes can be quite different – as if there were two distinct but related pieces. 


As I mentioned in my general comments, the addition of pattern did not improve the visual outcome of samples in exercise 5 (flaps), so I would stick with plain or subtle textured materials. The shadow effects are dramatic but there were wonderful subtle effects from using acetate (sample 8 – see thumbnails below), which could possibly be combined with other techniques, such as folding, to create a 3-d structure.


There is no denying that exercise 5 (flaps) and  exercise 4 (cut holes) of project 1 are closely related, so I would consider the results two exercises together when deciding what direction to take my enquiry. Size and spacing of holes and flaps are important compositional decisions which influence whether a piece evokes feelings of animation, tension, calmness, and much can be learnt from the outcomes of exercise 4.

Stitching (project 5, exercise 2) was another favourite. In contrast with the other exercises, which I mostly approached systematically and in isolation, I allowed myself the freedom to combine techniques of folding, punching and flap cutting. In my opinion, these combined techniques gave most successful outcomes (see thumbnails below – from left to right, samples 11, 12, 13 and 14)



There was a valuable lesson to be learnt from the outcome of sample 15 of exercise 5, project 2 (see thumbnail below), regarding giving over a larger percentage of the sample area to cut-outs/holes/negative space to obtain more interesting shadows. Whilst sample 15 was not my favourite overall for visual outcome, I would consider using a greater proportion of negative space as a line of enquiry in future sampling.


Following on from this, the use of wire is another line of enquiry which is worth exploring. Sample 15 of project 5, exercise 2 (above) also showed that wire can be used both as a thread and to form and sculpture material which would otherwise be too floppy into a self-supporting 3-D shape. The appeal of simplicity was also demonstrated through the successful visual outcome of project 3, exercise 2, sample 14 (see thumbnail below). In common with sample 3 of project 2, exercise 5, it is configurable in a many different ways. It is certainly a line of enquiry worthy of further exploration.


One theme which I have enjoyed exploring through sampling is the contrast between regularity and order, and irregularity and disorder. Sample 13 of project 5, exercise 2 is an example of this with its symmetrically punches identically sized holes contrasted with loose, deliberately untidy threads.

As well as selecting successful outcomes for future development, my consideration of the work of other artists in relation to my samples will very much influence my choice of which line of enquiry to pursue. The work of Kazuhito Takadoi (Takadoi, n.d.), in particular has interested me because of the use of very fine threads and the idea of transience and decay. It is a theme which I started to explore through my use of very fine threads in samples 5 and 14 of project 5, exercise 2 (stitching), and the successful use of plant material in sample 12 of project 5, exercise 1 (puncturing). Thumbnails of these samples (in the order listed above from left to right) are shown below by means of illustration. 


By thinking about my samples in the context of a wider narrative, the analogies that I have made have prompted ideas on the direction of future sampling and development. The most compelling of these comparisons has been the idea of sutures which arose from samples 11 and 12 of project 5, exercise 2 (see thumbnail below). 


This has prompted me to think about types sutures used in surgery as a possible line of enquiry for Assignment 2, project 1. The work of both Anne Wilson in her “Dispersions”  series (Wilson, n.d.), (Mitchison, 201:154-155) and Rosanne Hawsley’s “Seamstress and the sea” series (Hawksley, 2016) were very influential in this respect.


How I selected samples to send into my tutor:

It was not practical to send all of my samples to my tutor. My choice has been guided as follows:


  • The entirety of Project 5, Exercise 2 (stitching) – this is probably my most creative exercise, and includes some of my best samples. By sending all of them, I hope that my tutor will glean an understanding of my thought process and creative development throughout the exercise.
  • I decided not to attempt to send samples which are too fragile or which are unlikely to retain their shape when packaged and transported by post). This ruled out all of Project 1, Exercise 5 (basic crumpling) and samples which have already degraded since they were made (e.g. The ivy leaf sample from Project 5, Exercise 1, and the sample made from decorators’ general purpose filler from Project 4, Exercise 2).
  • I am sending all of the samples which I have sketched (with the exception of the three samples in Project 1, exercise 5, “basic crumpling”, for reasons mentioned above, and sample 11 from Project 5, exercise 1 “puncturing”, which I have unfortunately misplaced).
  • Those samples which I have specifically mentioned above as being successful visual outcomes and/or having greatest potential for further development.



Eastaugh, N. (2015a) At: (Accessed 11 October 2016)

Eastaugh, N. (2015b) At: (Accessed 19 October 2016)

Hawksley, R. (2016) Rozanne Hawksley: Work – The seamstress and the sea. At: (Accessed 19 October 2016)

Mitchison, L. (2012) ‘Out of the Ordinary’ In: Kettle, A. and McKeating, J. (Eds) Hand Stitch Perspectives. London. Bloomsbury. pp. 154-157.

Takadoi (n.d.) Kazuhito Takadoi: Work. At: (Accessed 11 October 2016)

Wilson, A. (n.d.) Anne Wilson: Projects, Dispersions. At: (Accessed 19 October 2016)

Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 5, Exercise 2 – Stitching

8 October 2016

Project 5, Exercise 2 – Stitching

I chose this exercise because it has huge potential, because I love stitching onto paper, and because it complements the other exercises. My only misgiving was the amount of time it will take to complete. I allowed twice as long as the other exercises in the assignment. However, it is a topic which I could easily explore for several months, and even then not to exhaustion; different placed holes, holes made with different implements, different threads, different stitches, different background materials. Then to top it off, the course notes say to combine stitching experiments with paper folding techniques. The number permutations is huge.

I had previously completed a workshop on stitching in Textiles 1: A Creative Approach. It was the first assignment which I completed for OCA, and coming from a craft background, I had tended to prioritise neatness over creativity. That said, the experiments provide me a valuable and comprehensive reference with regards to stitch spacing, stitch size, thread thickness, stitch direction, regularity vs. irregularity and layering stitches.

The photos below show this work, exploring marks through line and stitch (Eastaugh, 2014a):

and creating texture with stitch Eastaugh (2014b):

I did not want to simply repeat these exercises, so I allowed myself to be much more free, spontaneous and playful in this assignment, and I tried to let my personality (creative voice) show through.

One of the texts which I found very influential was “The Art of Embroidery” (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006). My attitude towards this book had changed since I completed “A Creative Approach”, and I now appreciate it much more as a inspirational reference. I also referred to “Hand stitch Perspectives” (Kettle and McKeating, 2012a), both as a reference for inspirational textile artists, and by using the glossary of stitches as a prompt for the amazing diversity of visual outcomes which are possible, just by varying stitch and materials (Kettle and McKeating, 2012a: 208-215). I used chapter 5 of Helen Parrott’s book “Mark-making in textile art” as a starting point for stitching ideas (Parrott, 2013:54-95). I just wish I’d had more time to explore all these the possibilities.


SAMPLE 1: Radiating flat stitches

I decided to start simply. I took an A4 sheet of 250gsm cartridge paper and punched some holes in a radial pattern using a crewel needle – see Project 5, exercise 1, sample 3 and photo below:

I then worked a flat stitch into some of the holes using red Coton a Broder. I wanted the stitches to be approximately radiating from the top right hand corner, but not to follow this rule/pattern too strictly. Therefore worked some of the stitches at angles of 15-20 degrees away from the radial. I also made the holes so that their spacings were further apart, the further away they were from the top right hand corner. The stitches were therefore progressively longer, giving the impression of perspective (see below)


I chose red thread to evoke feelings of warmth, and yet the ‘spiked’ stitching gives a feeling of prickly uncomfortableness, perhaps like sitting too close to a hot fire. The different length stitches give a feeling of motion, almost explosion from the top right hand corner. Not stitching through all the holes gave me choice of stitch placement, but I also like the fact that they are not all populated. It gives the impression of emphasising the negative space between them.

The reverse side of the sample was not sufficiently different from the front to warrant a photo, but I clipped the work on the angle-poise lamp/ and photographed it lit from behind. This allowed the threads at the back of the paper to show through onto the right side. (see below)

It is interesting because it shows the path that I unknowingly took with the needle. It was a conscious decision to minimise thread wastage and produced interesting forms in it’s own right. There is also the pattern of the light shining through the holes, so there are two complementary patterns in this view. 

I like both arrangements, and think this sample would have been even more spectacular on a larger piece of paper (say A2).

I chose to draw this sample and was both pleased and surprised that, through the use of different pressures of the red pencil, I was able to create the impression of a surface with thread running both on top and underneath (see below)

I am pleased that the sketch looks so similar to the sample. I do get the feeling that the punctured holes are really present and that the thread is penetrating them. Despite being a simple sample, sketching was more difficult than it looked.


SAMPLE 2: Fly stitch, slightly irregular composition

I took inspiration from “The Art of Embroidery” (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006: 78-79). Tellier-Loumagne, describes hand-stitching as being able to animate a regular design by introducing an element of disorder. This is a quality inherent within hand stitching. In all but the most accurate of work by fine embroiderers, hand-worked stitches will appear slightly different in size and placement. I thought I would investigate this by working vertical lines of offset fly stitch (see below)


To add some extra interest, I used a handmade textured paper. I did not pre-punch the holes – instead I worked the stitches directly into they paper using a crewel embroidery needle.

My stitches are certainly irregular – more so than I intended! I started with the vertical column on the far right and worked columns vertically and left-wards. My irregular stitch sizes caused some of the stitches to be squashed close together to maintain the “pattern” (especially by the time I reached the bottom left-hand corner).

There is certainly a lot of animation in this sample, and it works. Had I wanted to make the irregularity less obvious, I could have drawn a grid on the reverse of the paper, as a template. The size and exact placement of my stitches would still have been slightly irregular, and the animation more subtle.

This sample is simple (especially as it is worked in a single colour 6-strand embroidery thread). However is it surprisingly engaging. The individual, similar but not identical stitches remind me of the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz. Her art deals with the subject of the “countless”  i.e. situations where she is overwhelmed by quantity and counting no longer makes sense. She is especially interested in the inherent variability of nature, where people, gestures, leaves (for example) have subtle irregularities or are not precisely repeatable (Abakanowicz, n.d.)

To use her analogies for my sample the stitches could represent trees in a forest plantation, or soldiers in an army standing in lines on parade.

For completeness, I also considered the back of the sample, although in this occasion I feel that the front is more engaging. There is however an interesting slanting of short stitches in one direction and long stitches in the other, reflecting the order in which the individual stitches were worked.


SAMPLE 3: Bullion stitch, slightly irregular composition 

I used the same handmade paper as sample 2, and followed the same inspiration from “The Art of Embroidery” (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006: 78-79), regarding slightly irregular stitches. I used Lincatex “Gold Rush” metallised polyester/rayon embroidery thread, wrapping the thread around the needle 7 times for each stitch. 

Like sample 1, I did not mark any grid or spacings; I just worked the stitches straight onto the paper. The stitches are irregular, but the irregularity is less pronounced, and on first glance they appear evenly spaced.

I also photographed the sample under multiple spotlights which gave a shadows under each stitch (see below)

I really like this sample. The stitch itself is textured and the metallic thread also contributes to it’s textural quality. It would be interesting to work a family of samples with different densities of bullion knots, to give the impression of different tones.

I made a sketch of the sample but is was in slightly different lighting conditions. Although lit with the same lamp, the presence of natural daylight meant that I did not achieve the double ‘two-tone’ shadow effect in the photo above. Nonetheless, I am reasonably pleased with my sketch (see below):

I think it could be further improved by the addition of more textured marks within the knot stitches and background paper.

Again, I also looked at the back of the work (see below)

It’s unremarkable, but it does show that I was not consistent in my method of working – working two rows at a time (zig-zag thread) and then working the rest of the sample in rows.


SAMPLE 4: Irregular compositions and creating texture with stitches

This sample was a development of samples 2 and 3. I used the same handmade paper, and a variety of stitches and threads to create a multilayer sample. I drew on the inspiration from “The Art of Embroidery” for irregular compositions (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006: 89) and textures and stitches (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006: 112).

I started with a slightly irregular composition of the type which I had stitched for samples 2 and 3. I used a green ribbon to sew flat stitches of approximately even length and spacing at random directions across the surface of the paper (see below)

I always like to take some interim photos, because is provides a record at each stage without having to work numerous samples. On top of this texture, I added bullion knots worked in crewel embroidery wool. This yarn was the same colour as the flat ribbon, but chosen to provide a contrast in texture (it being fluffy and matt). The spacing was irregular, but involved most of the paper surface.

Finally I used red Coton a Broder to add accents of both the flat stitch and buillion stitch with much wider spacing (see below)

All of a sudden the piece started to feel much more textural and dynamic. The choice of a complementary red meant a strong contrast and the red stitches certainly stood out as accents (although unified by having shape and size in common with the green stitches). 

There is definitely a feeling of the green stitches being in the background and the red stitches in the foreground. The effect is that the green threads form a ‘background texture’ as the viewers’ eye is more readily drawn to the red stitches and tries to interpret whether there is a pattern formed by them.

I like this sample, but it is not my favourite. It is a very good ‘learning sample’ which illustrates how contrasts in colour, stitch placement and stitch shape can work together. However, the overall effect lacks delicacy due to the big thick matt woollen green bullion knots. It is also unsubtle because of the colour contrasts between the paper and the two colours of stitching.

I photographed the back of the sample too (see below)

Due to the different length of stitches, it feels more dynamic than the front. The red thread feels like a vector; it is like a road within a map of a landscape of mountains and valleys (the green stitches). Instead of the red stitches being mere accents, they lead the viewers’ eye on a journey.


SAMPLE 5: A study of flat stitches in two thread weights

I make a conscious decision not to work any samples with layers of stitching because I had covered this extensively in textiles 1, A creative approach (Eastaugh, 2014b). Instead, I used this sample to crease a very different texture to sample 4, using long, uneven, closely spaced flat stitches in two contrasting thread weights.

Firstly, using the same handmade paper as for samples 2-4, I worked bands of closely spaced flat stitches using bright pink dressmakers’ polyester cotton (see below):

Instead of the crewel needle, I intentionally used a knitters’ sewing up needle, which punched larger holes in the paper causing some embossing around the holes which added to the texture. The stitches are purposely imprecisely aligned but approximately the same length. I liked the subtle texture of the sample at this stage, so decided to photograph it before moving on.

Next, I worked some more sparsely spaced stitches in the red Coton a Broder which I had used for sample 4 (see below)

The Coton a Broder stitches were worked between the polycotton stitches, and with a similar length and orientation, but they were placed much more irregularly. I find it interesting how the red shiny thread of the Coton a Broder dominates. With both colours of threads in the sample viewed together, the bright pink somehow appears at first glance to be a hue of red rather than pink. The addition of the dark red stitches give the impression of a 3-D appearance, as they suggest tonal areas of light and shade. To me the sample closely resembles bark texture, which each band of stitching suggesting a trunk or branch.

Using the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb, I was able to view the sample from underneath, whilst projecting pin-like areas of light through the spaces left by the holes the needle had made (see below):


I also looked at the reverse side of the sample:

The pink polycotton threads made a zig-zag pattern, with the red threads appearing much more random in length and direction. I did not find this view particularly interesting.


SAMPLE 6: Broad chain, different threads and hole sizes

I continued with the same handmade paper as samples 1-5, but this time I investigated different thread types and methods of puncturing the paper. Lines of stitching were worked individually. The finished sample is shown below:

The very top of the sample is a row worked in thick woollen thread, straight into the paper using the same knitters’ sewing up needle as I used in sample 5. The stitches are only slightly irregular, being the same basic shape and size. It looks like boring conventional embroidery.

The very bottom row is worked similarly, but using yarn made from recycled sari silk, which varies in thickness. For added interest I also varied the spacing of the chain stitches. I quite like the sinuous effect; it reminds me of a slinky spring (longitudinal waves). There is a definite suggestion of ‘bunching’.

For the two rows of stitching in the middle, I first punched rows of holes using a screw punch. These were not entirely regular (being made by eye). For the centre top row of stitching I used two threads together – the Coton a Broder I had used in samples 4 and 5, and some natural raffia. The intention was to contrast a shiny and matt thread, but the result was rather uninspiring. Together they almost filled the punched holes, so I didn’t get very obvious negative spaces where the thread punctured the paper.

The centre bottom row was the one I found most interesting; first the contrast of the mis-match of very fine thread with oversized screw-punched holes. Next the doubled-up polyester dressmakers’ cotton made an interesting ‘double image’ as the threads separated slightly (made possible due to that large holes). There were also subtle shadows made by the thread on the paper; again a feature of the oversized holes which meant the threads were not held tightly against the paper. It is certainly an interesting effect which I would use again.

The reverse side of the paper shows zig-zag stitches, a result of working the broad chain in a systematic way (see below):


It is like a reversible pattern – two stitches in one sample.


SAMPLE 7: Acetate strips and cross stitch

At this point I decided to explore the effect of some less conventional materials. For my paper, I used some newsprint which I had previously painted with acrylic paint. I made my own transparent ‘thread’ from strips of acetate joined together with glue to make longer lengths. 

I sewed the cross stitches directly into the paper using the knitters’ sewing up needle (which together with the acetate tended to tear the paper at entry and exit points). The photo below is shown lit by the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb:

I had hoped that the acetate strips would appear as almost invisible stitches, revealed only by the shadows which they cast on the paper underneath. The results were disappointing. The stitches were near invisible (I did manage to get some definition with the camera in this lighting scheme), and there were no visible shadows cast. 

The only aspect of this sample which I do like is the behaviours of the acetate, which sits above the paper rather than laying flat (see below)


Consequently, each cross shape is very different depending on the twisting of the ‘thread’ as it enters and exists the paper. This is an interesting feature which I might consider using again, but probably in conjunction with printed or painted acetate to improve definition.


SAMPLE 8: A study of edges with wire stitching and textured threads with flat stitch

This sample was the first of a series which explored edges, and in particularly stitching onto edges. Knowing that I was going to be covering “joining” later in the module, I purposely did not join any pieces.

Using the same handmade paper that I used for sample 2-6, I started by punching holes around the edge of a square piece of paper with the office hole punch and threading some purple coloured copper wire through using an “oversew” stitch (see below)


The contrast of the matt, neutral-coloured paper and shiny, bold-coloured wire was interesting, but I felt that I could take this sample further, so I let myself pursue a materials-based approach and carried on adding stitches. 

The inside of the square was too plain and too dull for my liking. I chose a complementary hand-made yellow tissue, cut strips and rolled them between my fingers to make a textured paper ‘thread’ and I worked rows or parallel flat stitches using the knitters’ embroidery needle. I contrasted these with flat stitches of similar length worked perpendicular in purple dressmakers’ polyester cotton and tiny, short stitches of purple handspun merino wool. Finally, I used some gold Anchor Marlitt 100% viscose rayon embroidery thread to whip-stitch around the edge between the purple wire, and this helped to unify the piece (see below) 


This photograph is taken in natural daylight. I did also look as the sample under artificial lighting, but there were only insignificant shadows coming from the wire at the side of the sample. The reverse of the sample was also unremarkable, so I haven’t included an image of either.


SAMPLE 9: An extended study of edges using buttonhole stitch and oversewing with a variety of threads and wire

I used a patterned handmade paper to work around the edges of a series of three strips of paper in related colours and stitches. For ease of viewing, I sewed the pieces onto a backing paper of neutral coloured handmade tissue. However, I made sure that the edges of the strips could be lifted to examine the underside of the edge stitching. 

I started by punching some holes in the edges of the paper using an office hole punch. I then worked oversew stitches using pink coloured copper wire, and oversewing and buttonhole stitches using a variety of pink and purple threads including raffia, dressmakers’ polyester cotton, 100% silk, and 6-strand embroidery cotton. The finished sample is shown below:


The running stitches simply secure the strips to the backing paper. I think this sample is a partial success. I like some of the edge effects, particularly the raffia and wire. I’m not sure whether the patterned paper enhances or confuses the stitching (I would say it looks more confused in the photo than when viewed with the eye, where the lustre and texture of the threads is more obvious). The sample was photographed in natural lighting conditions.

Looking at the sample as a whole it reminds me of pieces of an old leather garment uncovered in an archeological dig; the centre section being analogous to the bodice, the outer sections to the sleeves (especially as it is presented on a tissue background). The paper has the quality of vellum. The advantage of using the paper and not leather is that it is easier to sew and more malleable.  


SAMPLE 10: A study of stitch density and direction

I liked the effect of using oversized holes with a fine thread in sample 6, so I decided to explore this further using the same paper I had used in sample 9. I punched the holes using the smallest sized screw punch. Whilst I was working the sample, it was being lit by multi-directional spotlights and I noticed a lovely pattern of light shining through the holes (see below)

Although I sewed through all the holes I had punched in this sample, this lacy effect was still present after I had stitched the sample, because the thread I used was very fine. The photograph below shows the finished sample lit in natural daylight:

I worked in 100% silk thread using an embroidery needle with straight stitch in different stitch spacings and groups of stitches in different directions. I stitched some areas by working straight through the paper. In other sections I threaded the silk thread through the pre-punched holes. 

Unlike my “slightly irregular” stitched samples, I did mark a grid to ensure that my punched holes were in approximately the correct position (although some still went awry). I like the subtle effect of the stitching which gave a good contrast against the pattern of the paper.  As I mentioned in my discussion of sample 9, the paper is vellum-like (this can be seen from the close-up below)

Due to the lustre of the thread there was a tonal difference obtained by stitching in different directions. The density (closeness) of stitching also had an effect, although I would have had to work a lot more stitches to see this effect properly.

Because it was worked in running stitch, the reverse of the sample was virtually identical to the right side.


SAMPLE 11: Large holes, bound edges

This sample was inspired by a continued wish to study edge stitching and to be much more radical with holes. The work of American fibre artist Anne Wilson came to mind (Mitchison, 2012: 154-155). In her series “Hair works” she adorns holes that are already present in crisp white cloth with hair and black thread stitching. The stitching subverts the idea of mending as it accentuates the holes. I wanted to develop this idea with my sampling, by stitching around large “ugly” holes to accentuate them.

I chose a patterned piece of handmade paper and made some big holes (tears) using the neck of a wine bottle (see below)

I then ‘bound’ the holes by oversewing, at the same time forcing the flaps to be bent back and secured, making the holes bigger and better defined. I used red and gold 100% silk thread and some purchased purple paper thread. I chose the paper thread because I wanted it to curl and stand up from the flat surface of the paper to form a 3-dimensional structure (the string had been wrapped around a cone, so had ‘memory’ of this shape). Below is a photograph of the finished sample taken under multiple spotlights:

I love the roughy untidiness of the stitching and the contrast between the size and texture of the lustrous silk and matt paper threads. I had really hoped to get dramatic shadows from the paper string, but I had to work hard to configure the sample and achieve them (see below):

Eventually I obtained some great shadows by forming a convex arch with the paper and holding it up so it didn’t rest on the white paper surface. If I were to use these properties in a finished piece I would have to make sure it was folded in such a way as to create the shadows and be self-supporting.


I am drawn to this sample because the holes remind me of wounds (maybe a bullet entry because it is ragged and torn?) and there is a feeling that there is not enough material to join back and cover the hole. The stitching has the appearance of being hurried and botched. There is an emotional connection.

I relished the opportunity to sketch this sample in all it’s complexity (see below):

I laid the sample flat against a white sheet of paper and sketched it in natural daylight. I’m pleased that I managed to capture the roughness of the handmade paper with Derwent Inktense sticks and pencils, and the contrast between the fine and coarse threads. The suture-like qualities once again come across.


SAMPLE 12: Stitched back flaps

I loved sample 5 of Project 2, Exercise 5 (Creating flaps) and felt that it had potential for development. I also wanted to extend the idea of sewing and securing edges which I had started to explore in sample 11. This was prompted by the idea of sample 11 being wound-like and I thought about stitched mouths and eyes in shrunken heads; it was the stitching of flaps or openings that made me think about creating a sample with flaps and stitching them back.

I started with some handmade paper. I chose a red colour with a delicate subtle lacy-gold print. In contrast to the precise pattern of the print, I chose to stitch with coarse untidy raffia (see below). 

I like the way that the raffia is self supporting when stitched, and to some extent holds up the flaps. I had initially thought that the stitching would generate interesting shadows, but of course they are always in the shadow of the flaps!

I did get some interesting tonal variations where light shone through the cut-outs. Where light from the cut-outs overlapped the tones were brightest, and there were darker toned areas depending on how much light got through. It was difficult to achieve this effect with the soft, floppy piece of paper (I had to hold it in a particular way). If I wanted to replicate these effects in a sample, I would need to use some support, such as wire or stiff card.


SAMPLE 13: Stitching through holes and a concertina pleat

I wanted to look at combining stitching with folding, so I started by taking a sheet of 80gsm A4 printer paper and dividing it into 8 using concertina folds. I was then able to punch regular holes with the office hole punch, as I had done in Project 5, Exercise 1, sample 9. However, instead of punching through all the layers of paper at once to obtain a repeating pattern, I punched through each valley and mountain fold separately, so I got some symmetry, but not a repeating pattern.  

I then proceeded to stitch through some of the holes with natural raffia. I chose the raffia because of it’s irregularity and the contrast that this would make with the regularity of the holes. I loved the contrast, but found the colours rather uninspiring, so chose some very fine red boucle to use as an accent. 

It was at this stage that I had to question whether I was actually stitching or weaving (because what I was doing, and the results were more akin to weaving). The finished result is shown below, photographed under multi-directional spotlights:

I am very pleased with the result. The shadows cast by the raffia effectively add an extra layer of pattern to the otherwise plain white printer paper, and enhance the sample. The holes are also emphasised by shadows; in some cases appearing as dark tones, in others eclipsed areas of light. The contrast between “order” (the holes) with “disorder” (the stitching) is very engaging.

I also viewed the sample from different angles whilst lit with the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb (see below):


These three images show the potential of the holes to make lacy shadows. This is a beautiful sample as it stands, in it’s simplicity, but there is scope for developing the idea further; possibly with different paper (providing this doesn’t detract from the patterning with made by shadows of the raffia and boucle threads), but certainly with different types of folding.


SAMPLE 14: Bridging the gap with stitching

Folding creates voids which can be filled with stitches. Stitches can be used to for emphasis, but can also contribute to structural integrity (suspension bridges come to mind).

I was inspired by the shadows formed by the threads in sample 13, but also by “Happa” (leaves) (2003) by Kazuhito Takadoi (Takadoi, n.d.), who cleverly uses shadows from fine grass, leaves and twigs (which he substitutes for threads). He sometimes deliberately puts his work outside, so that it slowly decays and is reclaimed by the earth (Kettle and McKeating, 2012b:196-197). I am actually quite drawn to the idea of work being transitory and fading, shrivelling or decaying with time. This is an idea which could be readily applied to my ivy leaf sample in Project 5, Exercise 1 (sample 9).

Takadoi’s work is delicate and tensioned with a balance between the sense of interior and exterior (Kettle and McKeating, 2012b:196). I hoped to replicate some of that tension and balance in my sample.

This time I used 220gsm card, dividing it into 6 using concertina pleats. I punched holes with the office hole punch only in the mountain folds (I did not want the holes to make an all over pattern in the card, but intend emphasis the peaks only). I deliberately let some of the holes overlap.

I wanted to play on the idea of delicacy, and contrast the fineness and pliability of the threads with the stiff, well defined folds of the card.  I used fishing line, 100% silk thread and polyester cotton. Again, I wondered if this was really stitching or weaving? Anyway, between one of the valleys I worked the fishing line only in spaced apart ‘stitches’ which did not cross. In contrast between the other valley, I let my threads cross and loop and used the full range of threads. The results are shown below:


I think this sample is highly effective because of the delicacy and tension that the fine threads provide. It reminds me somewhat of a wiring loom and I find the complexity fascinating.
The sample looks just as interesting on the reverse side. Looking from this view, the valley and mountain creases are reversed, so the threads cross over the “mountains” to become concentrated in the “valleys”. The shadows produced by he holes add further interest and are a foil to the complexity of the crossed threads (see below):
SAMPLE 15: A larger percentage of negative space 
Samples 1-14 are mainly paper, with cut-outs or holes comprising just a small percentage of the total area of the sample. I wanted to investigate the effect of making the negative spaces more dominant. Rather than cut out lots of holes myself with a scalpel, I used some ready cut florists’ paper. I ‘stitched’ (or should that be threaded?) silver coloured copper wire and paper string through the holes. 
When I viewed the sample in natural light I was disappointed to find the results rather boring (see below):
However, the use of wire for support meant that it could be form the sample into shapes which cast interesting shadows. These were amazing (as the selection of images below demonstrates):
These photos were all taken using the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb. The multiplicity of shadows is intoxicating, and through this sample, I have demonstrated to myself that very lacy papers (with a high percentage of the material cut away) have amazing potential. It is an idea which I will be able to develop and explore further when I have more time available. 
I feel the success of the sample is also helped by the different surfaces on each side of the paper (i.e. metallic silver and matt black) which have a strong contrast in reflective properties and tone.


Abakanowicz, M. (n.d.) Magdalena Abakanowicz: About. At: (Accessed 9 October 2016)

Eastaugh, N. (2014a) At: (Accessed 9 October 2016)

Eastaugh, N. (2014b) At: (Accessed 9 October 2014)

Kettle, A. and McKeating, J. (Eds) (2012a) Hand Stitch Perspectives. London. Bloomsbury.

Kettle, A. and McKeating, J. (2012b) ‘Contemporary practices: where are we now?’ In: Kettle, A. and McKeating, J. (Eds) Hand Stitch Perspectives. London. Bloomsbury. pp. 196-207.

Mitchison, L. (2012) ‘Out of the Ordinary’ In: Kettle, A. and McKeating, J. (Eds) Hand Stitch Perspectives. London. Bloomsbury. pp. 154-157.

Parrott, H. (2013) Mark-making in Textile Art. London. Batsford.

Takadoi, K. (n.d.) “HAPPA (leaves) detail” [Stitch, twigs and grass on washi paper] At: (Accessed 10 October 2016)

Tellier-Loumagne, F. (2006) The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London. Thames and Hudson.


Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 5, Exercise 1 – Pucturing

27 September 2016


Project 5, Exercise 1 – Puncturing

My first task was to assemble a range of puncturing tools (see below)

I purposely chose a variety of tools including:

  • Different diameter implements
  • Some which punched out material, others which pushed it aside
  • Different shaped points – some which would produce regular puncturing, some irregular 


As I pondered how I would approach my first sample, I got thinking about puncturing and what it means. The dictionary definition is “to penetrate, pierce or rupture” (, 2016). I could see an overlap with Project 2, Exercise 4, Cutting Holes; hole punches produce regular cut-outs (albeit smaller than those which could be cut with a scalpel). They remove material rather than pushing it aside.
I could recall several artists who used cutting or puncturing to make holes (Revere McFadden, 2009), but puncturing in the sense of rupturing a surface was more difficult. I thought about Francoise Tellier-Loumagne (Tellier-Loumagne, 2006:58-60) and her use of stitched paper (after all, the process of stitching punctures paper to produce holes). What appeals to me about the idea of using paper is that stitching it is a one off activity; once a hole is made with the needle it cannot be undone or changed. Mistakes (if you want to call them that) are visible. The finished item demonstrates the irregularity inherent in something which is handmade and it cannot be disguised. An analogy in music is the way that a real human drummer will hit the instrument slightly earlier or slightly later each beat, in a way which adds warmth and intimacy. For me, the same can be said of stitching.  
As suggested, I used paper for my first sample. I decided to test a number of similar tools initially, with puncturing evenly spread out but without a particular geometry/pattern.
SAMPLE 1: 180gsm paper, implements which push the material aside

For this sample I investigated the holes made by a screwdriver, scissors, paper piercer, pin and various needles. The sample was photographed in natural daylight against black card (see below)
In each case I pushed the implement through the paper from back to front, resulting in the displaced material being pushed through and forming a relief (rough texture) on the surface of the paper. Touching the surface of the paper reminded me of Braille. I could imaging the possibility of taking a rubbing from the surface.
I generally had good control of the implements with the exception of the paper piercer and screwdriver. These two tools (being relatively blunt) occasionally slipped and resulted in a tear.
In general, there was very little difference in the resulting holes regardless of the speed, direction and pressure with which I tried to puncture the paper (although with the screwdriver and paper piercer, there was more likely to be a loss of control if the hole was made with a fast action). The exception to this was the scissor blades. A higher pressure resulted in a greater length of the blade penetrating the paper and a larger hole. 
Because the paper has been punctured, light can pass through the holes unhindered. The photograph below shows the sample Blu-tacked up against a window:
Looking at the sample in this way shifts the viewers attention away from the surface and texture of the paper, and focuses on the holes (negative space)
SAMPLE 2: 180gsm paper, implements which cut out material

In hindsight the leather marking wheel should have been included in sample 1, because it is an implement which pushes material aside. The other implements included on this sample are the office hole punch, screw punch and leather hole punch. The sample was photographed in the same way as sample 1 (see below)

The position of holes made by the office hole punch was difficult to control, meaning that some overlapped or were spaced closely, and some further apart. This is actually rather interesting – particularly those holes which go off the edge of the page.
Similarly, to the office hole punch, I could only make holes with the leather hole punch close to the edge of the paper. Most of the punched out holes were clean, although the largest punch did not cut through the paper properly (it should have done – the hole punch was new). This lead to some torn edges, some embossed circles and some deformed circle shapes.
I used most of the different attachments of the screw punch to experiment with cutting holes in the centre of the page. I also found that if I kept the screw punch vertical, this helped to ensure a clean cut. However, regardless, I noticed that it was easier to cut cleanly with the smaller attachments, whereas the larger punches tended to shift sideways as they cut, resulting in an incomplete circle. 
The leather marking wheel gave evenly spaced rows of tiny pin-sized holes which gave a subtle surface and texture to the paper.

As with sample 1, I also photographed this sample against a window to highlight the holes (negative space)

In particular, the screw punched holes which were not fully cut through are interesting. The holes are crescent-shaped, which adds to the appeal of the surface. I can imagine that some of these punched holes would work very well in combination with folding.

SAMPLE 3: 180gsm paper, exploring spacing, crewel needle

Next, I looked at different spacings and patterns with the crewel needle. I chose the crewel needle because it was easy to use and give consistent, clean punctures. Below is a photograph of the sample taken in natural daylight.

Top right, I compared the effect of placing the punctures close together, then progressively spacing them apart, the further the distance from the top right hand corner. It gives the impression of dispersal (say seeds, grains of sand, stars?)

Top left, I started to try and make parallel rows with alternate narrow and wide spaces in between. It soon became apparent that I was not going to be able to achieve this by eye, and I allowed my rows to form wavy, unkempt lines. I actually quite like this less rigid approach.

Bottom left was my final pattern. I drew pencil lines on the reverse of the paper with a ruler and followed them with the piercer (crewel needle). I changed the spacing of the puncturing to see what effect this would have on the line. Where the punctured holes are close together the line appears “darker” or better defined. Further apart holes mean you have to use imagination or interpretation to decide whether they are describing a line or not. This could be used in a sample or finished project to add an element of intrigue.

Next, I photographed the sample against a window (see below)

It shows up very well with this sample that viewing in this way emphasises the pattern. The wavy rows of lines in particular are lovely.

SAMPLE 4: 10gsm paper, Punching out the Union flag
Throughout these exercises I haven’t been sure whether I should be focusing on simple, exploratory samples, or whether it is OK to let my imagination run wild and develop the techniques as they present themselves to me. Sample 4 has been one such example.
Whilst I was researching artists who use punching in their work, I came across Anne-Karin Furunes. She uses approximately 30 different sized punches to make holes in canvass or paper to create images (Revere McFadden, 2009:116). In this technique, which Furunes developed herself, the different sized but regularly spaced holes give the impression of tonal differences. The website of Galerie De Bellefeuille gives examples of the portraits Furunes has produced using her method (Galerie De Bellefeuille, 2015)
I wanted to establish whether I could also use the puncturing patterns to create tonal differences in a sample. I chose the simple image of the Union flag. It is a motif that I have used before (Project 2, Exercise 5, sample 10), because I am developing a themed sketchbook on the subject of identity, and have already carried out some sampling with the flag.
I used only the embroidery scissors and the pin to outline the main blocks and create different tonal areas (see below, photographed in natural daylight)
The shape of the image can be easily discerned, however the sample really comes to life when viewed against a window, which allows light to shine through the holes:
I am quite pleased with this image, although I think that a more sophisticated image (e.g. a flag fluttering in the wind) could be produced if the paper was larger, and a greater variety of puncturing implements. Even this relatively small and simple A4 sized sample tool about an hour to produce.
SAMPLE 5: 180gsm paper, sewing machine
One puncturing tool which I hadn’t considered until now was my sewing machine! I have stitched paper before, but never used just the needle as a puncturing tool. 
I used a straight stitch with the feed dog down, controlling the interval between punches and placement of holes by the speed with which I moved the paper under the needle. Here are the results:
The photograph was taken lit from a daylight bulb. The sample appears rather nondescript. However, this next photo was taken with the sample held up against the daylight bulb (darkness had fallen, so holding it against the window was not an option). 
All of a sudden it is much more exciting; the pattern is clear and this sample starts to look more appealing. It suggests that punctured designs such as this would work very well as a lampshade.
An advantage of using the sewing machine is that it is very quick to produce the holes and, with practice, the needle can be controlled to draw intricate patterns. All holes are identical, so there is a uniformity about work produced in this way (which may or may not be desirable).
SAMPLE 6: Corrugated card, a variety of implements
I have to admit, I was expecting this sample to be rather boring, but I found some unusual corrugated card which, instead of being a corrugated piece of paper sandwiched between two flat pieces, consisted of a corrugated piece of paper mounted onto a flat one, so that one side was flat, one ridged.
I used a variety of tools puncturing tools  – the results are shown below (the flat side of the card is uppermost)
I think the ridged side also gives interesting results (see below). The screw punch cut the card cleanly, and the paper piercer was also very controllable, whereas the screw driver and knitters’ sewing needle left ragged edges. 
Holding the card up to the light allows the holes to be seen more clearly (see below). The combination of the shadows formed by the ridges contrasted with the pin-pricks of light is appealing. I think that the irregular shaped holes (screw driver and knitters’ needle) are especially interesting, and I like the way that the pin holes traverse both peaks and troughs in the card. I also like the way that some of the screw punched holes follow the ridges of the corrugation. I’m sure it would be possible to write text using any of the puncturing tools, which would add the dimension of meaning to the sample.
SAMPLE 7: Polystyrene tray, spirals and zig zags
The tray was small, so I only had space to try three different implements. I chose the paper piercer (left), the pin (top right) and the embroidery scissors (bottom right). The polystyrene allowed very definite, well defined holes to be made with all the implements. 
It looks dull and uninspiring when viewed under a daylight bulb, but how it comes to life when illuminated with the same light from behind (see below). As a material, I don’t much care for polystyrene, but I have to admit, this sample works very well due to it’s colour.
The polystyrene allows some light to pass through it, so appears to almost glow. The paper pieces and scissor holes allow light to pass through very easily, whereas the pin holes are barely discernible and don’t work well with this thickness of material.
SAMPLE 8: Acetate, concentric circles pattern
I started by testing out the implements and soon discovered that the acetate was so tough that only the really sharp tools could be used to pierce it. The photo is poor because of reflections, but you might just be able to make out on the left of the sample the area where I tested the different tools. The leather punch was unreliable at making clean cuts and it hurt my hand to use. The paper piercer was too blunt and didn’t make clean cuts. This left me with the crewel needle and the pin.
To the right of the photo below you might just be able to make out that I have punctured a pattern of concentric circles alternating between the crewel needle and the pin. The photo shows visible depressions and rippling in the acetate due to the action of creating the holes.
I had hoped that I would get some lovely shadows with this sample, but it proved very difficult to see them, being only visible when the acetate was almost touching the paper (see below)
I would like to bet that if I placed this acetate on an overhead projector I would get a lovely projection of the pattern of the concentric circles. Unfortunately I don’t have one to try.
SAMPLE 9: Japanese tissue, office hole punch
I wanted to use a different kind of paper and Japanese tissue seemed an interesting choice. My experience of using it is that it is tough and difficult to tear, so I chose the sharp precise office hole punch for this sample. Because the hole punch can only make holes near the edge, it meant that I had to concertina the tissue and punch through multiple layers to cover the whole sheet. Of course this gave an interesting symmetrical and repeating pattern of holes reminiscent of lace (see below)
The sample looks pretty both opened up and with one edge pinned together in the style of a fan. I wanted to see if I could get shadows when I viewed the sample with the angle-poise daylight bulb, however because of the softness of the tissue and it’s inability to hold creases, I found that I could only really place the sample flat (see below). There are some shadows which do enhance the sample.
Looking at the sample from the edge gave an interesting perspective (see below)
I like the drama of this view, seeing the folds vanish towards a point in the distance. Photographing it at this angle makes it look bigger than it is. It made me think about making a huge sample which was big enough to walk underneath the apex of the concertinas. It is, or course, a project too large for an OCA student, and a supporting structure would be needed to make it safe, but it’s an interesting concept.
I can also imagine this sample incorporated into clothing, the obvious choice being a skirt. In fact, Jum Nakao (as Japanese Brazilian designer), already makes paper couture which has been shown on the catwalk and for the MOMU Fashion Museum, Antwerp (Mansur, 2011). He uses laser technology to cut his paper lace fabrics, which are made from vegetable fibre paper, chosen for it’s subtle transparency (Sandu Cultural Media, 2014:36-37) 
I decided that I would attempt a sketch of this sample. I realised before too long that it would be difficult – the punched out holes do not appear circular when viewed in perspective, and capturing them correctly is key to making the drawing look properly 3-dimensional. My sketch is shown below:
I sketched from the object, not a photograph and I an rather pleased with the result. It was viewed in natural light, placed on a black card surface, so there are minimal shadows.
SAMPLE 10: 0.8mm Balsa wood sheet,
Balsa is an interesting material; fragile, soft, lightweight, yet it can be used to build reasonably strong models/structures. I started by testing out some of the implements on the edge of the sample (see below left)
The hole punch produced good clean punctures, but because the balsa is brittle and cannot be folded without splitting, it meant I could only puncture the edges of the sheet.
The paper piercer, crewel needle and pin all caused the wood to split along it’s length (grain), so I did not choose to use them. To the right are some examples of holes punched with the screw push. This implement worked very well. It was easy to use on the soft balsa and made clean cuts without splitting the grain.
I continued to make a pattern of randomly spaced punched holes using two sizes of punch (see below). 
I hoped the pattern would produce some interesting shadows when viewed under the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb, which it did. However because the balsa sheet could not be bent and shapes, it was difficult to photograph the shadows to best effect. I can imagine that if the sheet could have been cut and glued into (say) an open-sided box to produce interesting shadows projecting from different angles.
Below are a series of photos of the shadows which I was able to obtain in my studio with the flat sheet of wood:
By holding the balsa sample up against the light it is possible to see that it is thin enough for some light to penetrate through, illuminating the wood grain. 
SAMPLE 11: Plastic bag
I used a piece of red plastic cut from a carrier bag. From the feel of the bag, I assumed it to be biodegradable. I was not especially concerned about longevity for this sample, although the choice of materials raises important questions about whether art is to be a transient or enduring piece and whether attempts should be made to preserve it in it’s original state or whether it should be left to degrade naturally (Healy, 2012, 89-98)
I wanted to move away from just making random punctures in the material with different implements and my experience told me that the paper piercer was the tool I wanted to use. I made a pattern of two rows of 5 puncture holes, spaced across the surface. I wanted to use the puncturing to build up a surface texture, and although the feel of the surface of the plastic was very textured, visually is did not have much impact (see below)
I changed implements to a much bunter, more brutal tool, the screwdriver. The result is certainly more interesting (see below)

The displacement of plastic needed to make the punctures is visibly present, as is the stretching and pulling of the plastic around the hole. I actually prefer the reverse (white) side of the plastic, with the pinkish-red showing through and giving a ‘glow’ to the surface (see below)

I zoomed in and got a close-up of the holes (see below)

This interests me much more – it looks like puckered skin and the physical action of punching through the holes is apparent in the wavy stretched edges. It seems as if the material would like to self-anneal but because of the stretching which has taken place, the edges of the puncture no longer fit back into the profile of the hole.

Plastic is a material that I really don’t like to work with (with the added complexity of biodegradation), so rather than using the physical sample, I can imagine using the image of the close up, or patterns from it’s surface in one of my textile pieces.

I thought it would be fun (and easy) to sketch a close-up of the holes, but it was much more difficult than I had expected (see below)

I used coloured pencils and tried to capture the subtleties of shadow and highlights in the plastic. However, I am disappointed with the result. It looks as if I have sketched a pattern rather than a 3-dimensional surface. The grey of the shadows are too strong and all the tonal changes are just not subtle enough. I sketched from life, but perhaps I would have been better sketching from my photograph on this occasion? It really irritates me that this sketch is so bad. 

P.S. At the end of the project, I had time to repeat the sketch in acrylic paint (see below). It is better, but I am still not happy that it represents the sample properly. I used a cocktail stick to apply paint around the areas representing puncture holes. I still don’t think it looks like a 3-dimensional surface (probably because I haven’t correctly captured the detail of areas around the holes). It is one of the most difficult objects I have ever tried to draw!

SAMPLE 12: Waxy leaf
I chose large, waxy Ivy leaves for this experiment. I wanted a material which was robust and would puncture without disintegrating.
I started my experimentation with the paper piercer. The holes I made looked as if they had closed up, and the act of puncturing tended to tear the leaf. I then tried the leather punch. It made clean cuts and was ideal, because the leaf could be rolled so that all parts could be reached. The photo below compares the punctured holes produced by these two implements (right middle, between the two areas of leather punched holes, you might just be able to make out the holes produced by the paper piercer). 
I decided to punch out another leaf using just the leather punch with different sized holes. I let some of the holes coincide, so that ‘figure of eight’ shapes were made.
What I like so much about using a leaf is that although you might expect to see holes in it (from caterpillars and other nibbling insects), the act of make regular holes or holes which are present only in certain areas raises doubts as to whether they were made naturally and about their purpose and meaning. I like the idea of “cutting lace” into a leaf, and although the holes are simple, they make beautiful patterns and shadows (see below)
I also found that by placing one leaf on top of the other, I was able to create shadows on the surface of the leaf underneath (see below).
This suggests how several leaves might be used in a larger sample to finished piece. However, it is worth noting that at this moment I do not know how the leaves will behave when they start to wilt and dry. One approach might be to preserve them by pressing (similar to “pressed flowers”), however the character of the material will inevitably change.
Whilst I was watching all the different sized circles of leaf punch-outs fall onto the floor, it reminded me of the work of Danish author and artist Peter Callesen (Sandu Cultural Media, 2014:94-99) and his effective use of the material he cut from used alongside the pieces he cut out. The example of “Holding onto myself” (2006) (Artstack, n.d.) is probably the best way to illustrate the concept. Whilst I haven’t pursued this approach in my sample, it is a powerful concept to remember of my future practice. Using the cut-outs brings harmony and raises wider questions about negative space, missing objects and the parts we throw away in the course of manufacturing.
Whilst I was looking through textiles magazines at the Norwich University of the Arts library, I chanced upon an image which reminded me of this sample. Within an advert/feature spread in Marie Claire Maison (Feuilles 2016), was a picture of a fig leaf, with some of its surface covered in blue dots (which could be interpreted as punched holes with a blue material underneath). It turned out that the image was part of the “Wonderplant 8” series of prints by Berlin designer Sarah Illenberger (Illenberger, S., 2015). It made me consider the diversity of applications for my sampling – an example being the use of an image or an idea from sampling as a modern print for the home. 

Artstack (n.d.) “Holding onto myself” Peter Callesen. At: (Accessed 28 September 2016) (2016) ‘Puncture’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 27 September 2016)

Feuilles (2016) [Advertising] In: Marie Claire Maison No.485, May-June 2016 

Galerie De Bellefeuille (2015) FURUNES, Anne-Karin. At: (Accessed 27 September 
Healy, R. (2012) ‘The Parody of the Motley Cadaver: Displaying the Funeral of Fashion’. In: Hemmings, J. (Ed.) The Textile Reader. London. Berg. pp.89-98.
Illenberger, S. (2015) Wonderplants At: (Accessed 10 October 2016)
Mansur, R. (2011) Jum Nakao’s Paper Couture. At: (Accessed 28 September 2016)
Revere McFadden, D. (2009) Slash: Paper under the knife. New York:Museum of Arts and Design.
Sandu Cultural Media (2014) Paper works. Berkeley. Ginkgo Press. 
Tellier-Loumagne, F. (2006) The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London. Thames & Hudson.