Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 3, Exercise 3 – Using hot water

3 October 2016

Project 3, Exercise 3 – Using hot water

I had already examined the work of Yuh Okano as one of the artists/designers who used distorted surfaces (see my blog post assignment 1: research). Her work “Epidermis (Ocean)” (McCarty and McQuaid, 2000) was not dissimilar to the effects I achieved in samples 1-5. Browsing through books in the Norwich University of the Arts library, I was also able to find examples of other artists/fabric engineers using heat setting techniques to permanently texture fabric (Klein, 2011:93), (Sudo and Birnbaum, 1997), some of which I refer to later in this post.


Samples using marbles:

I like my experiments to be controlled, so I started by comparing the behaviour of different fabrics. The technique I used was identical. First of all I used a Shibori technique of tightly wrapping several marbles in the fabric, secured with elastic bands. I then placed the samples into a vat of boiling water for 30 minutes before plunging them into cold water, allowing them to cool, then removing the marbles and examining the result.

SAMPLE 1: Polyester voile (white)

This was fabric similar to screen printing mesh. It was opaque, close weave,  and did not readily hold a crease. I was initially sceptical as to whether it would hold the heat-set moulding, but I was delighted with the results. My first image shows the finished sample laying on a piece of white paper and photographed with a daylight bulb angle-poise lamp:

It is possible to see that the creases have set very firmly, however the sample only really comes to life when light it shining through it. See below for the photography set-up:

I took two fabulous photos, one each side of the fabric:

There is an intense and beautiful contrast of light and dark produced by the combination of the lighting conditions and the interpretation of the i-pad camera. I love how the tonal variation moves from obvious at the top of the photo to subtle and dark at the bottom.

This image is more evenly lit – the shadows combined with the translucency of the fabric makes the sample look organic and flowing. 

Finally, I used crocodile clips to hold the piece of fabric in an approximate sphere shape, so that the areas heat set by the marbles appeared in profile (see below):

Although there was less interest from tonal variation in the surface, the profile shapes of the marble impressions and their shadows are what makes this image interesting. Some shadows are very soft and diffuse, others are sharply defined.


SAMPLE 2: Polyester organza (sparkly, blue)

The first photo shows the sample laid flat on some white paper and photographed lit by the daylight bulb (see below):

Next I clipped it to the lamp (see below)

When I photographed the sample in his configuration, it was much more dramatic:

It appeared to be jelly-fish like and very delicate. The surface of the fabric was more lustrous than that of sample 1 (which was matt), so the light behaved differently. Like sample 1 the fabric appears soft and flowing.

Finally, I photographed the profile of the moulded areas:

I didn’t really like this view: compared with sample 1 there were less moulded spheres over the surface of the fabric, and so both the sample and it’s shadows were less interesting. The colour of the fabric and it’s lustre meant is was not as effective at showing off tonal variation in this view either.

SAMPLE 3: Sizoflor (silver)

I purchased some Sizoflor (a synthetic florists’ medium also known as “Angel Wire”) for the purpose of using it in Project 3, Exercise 2. However it occurred to me that it may work with hot water distortion. Using the same method, I produced the sample below:

The material heat moulded very well, and because it is essentially a mesh, produced cobweb-like shadows. I then looked at the sample illuminated from behind with the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb (see below):

Although similar moulding to samples 1 and 2, the effect with the Sizoflor is rather different – the patterning of the fibres taking over from the beauty of the shadows. The sample feels less fluid and visually less subtle.

I decided to challenge myself by making a sketch of the Sample resting on the table (see below):

It was a drawing made from the object, lit by the angle-poise lamp but in daylight, so the shadows are not that pronounced. It was difficult to capture both the creases and the texture of the Sizoflor, especially using a grey coloured pencil for the silver Sizoflor and grey graphite pencil for the outline and creases of the sample. It is easier to discern the sample from it’s shadow in the real sample and photograph. I think I should have used a darker colour and/or more density of mark for the sample.

SAMPLE 4: Habotai weight polyester lining

I decided to make a different arrangement of marbles in this sample by arranging them in a circle. In doing so, creases formed in the areas between the marbles and there were creases radiating out from the circle (see below). The photo is taken with the sample lit from above using the daylight bulb and angle-poise lamp.

Next, I clipped the sample to the angle-poise lamp and photographed it from both sides with the light shining behind:

Both views are very effective showing the creases beautifully as different tonal values. However, my preference is for the photo below because of the exquisite detail of the creases around each moulded depression.

Finally, I took a photo in profile, using the same lighting conditions:

The moulded areas appear pendulous, like pustules or villi inside the intestines.

I decided to sketch the reverse (holes, as opposed to spheres) of the organza. To recreate the soft floaty feeling I used a water-soluble Neocolour crayon. It captures the texture of the creases well, but the thickness of the crayon suggests a thicker, more opaque fabric than the one used (see image below):


SAMPLE 5: Sateen polyester lining

I tried to place the marbles in a cross shape for this sample (see below)

This is a photo of the finished sample taken from above, lit with the angle-poise lamp. Next, I clipped the sample on the lamp and photographed it on both sides, lit from behind:

These photos somehow have a very different feel to similar shots taken with voile, organza and habotai-weight lining (all of which are lighter fabrics). Perhaps the dark colour of this sample has a bearing too? Instead of soft and fluid, it feels rich and more solid, almost velvet-like (of course, in reality the texture is very different – shiny and highly lustrous).


SAMPLE 6: Polyester, tiger stripe print

The fabric was a polyester crepe with a close chevron stripe print. I thought that whilst I was assessing how well the fabric took the heat setting/moulding, I would compare placement of marbles close together vs. far apart.

This first photo shows the sample lit from above with the  angle-poise lamp. 

Apart from the fact that the fabric accepted the moulding well, there was little to commend this sample. The moulded areas seem to pull the stripes in different directions and really just confuse the pattern. Perhaps if it was a very simple stripe, the results could be more interesting, but I felt that this sample just looked like a muddle.

The photo above is of the sample clipped to the angle-poise lamp and lit from behind. Unlike the previous samples, there is no additional emphasis of creases, shadows or subtle tonal differences achieved by viewing it in this way. It just looks very confused, and for that reason I don’t like it.


SAMPLE 7: Polyester crepe, Butterfly print

This was a very soft, floaty polyester crepe and I had my doubts as to whether it would hold the heat setting, but in the event it responded very well. However, I wasn’t as keen on the resulting sample (see below)

This view is lit from above, lit with the angle-poise lamp. I purposely put the marbles in between the blue butterflies and over the grey motifs. I hoped to give a feeling of movement to the fabric, but I don’t think I have achieved this. The main problem is that the spherical shapes have no relation or meaning with respect to the print, so they seem out of place.

The two photos above show each side of the sample lit from behind. I prefer this lightning scheme because it is now possible to see shadows and creases in the fabric which suggests butterflies or moths emerging from a chrysalis, or even fluttering wildly around a light source. Now the story of the lighting scheme and image is starting to be more meaningful, I do quite like the result. However, looking at all the results so far together, the sheer fabrics give more dramatic results and are my overwhelming favourites.


Samples using corks, beer bottle tops and crocodile clips:


SAMPLE 8: Stretch metallic organza (sparkly, pink)

I wasn’t aware when I purchased this fabric that it was a stretchy. I wanted to test out a different Shibori method, so I concertina pleated the fabric by hand and secured it in three places with crocodile clips. Between each crocodile clip, I wrapped an elastic band, to provide further creasing (see below)


Unfortunately, all the colour bled from the fabric during the boiling process. I was not sure whether the structure of the fabric would be damaged also, but it remained intact. Only the areas where the crocodile clips were placed retained a slight pinkness. The photo below shows the sample compared with the original fabric, lit from above with the angle-poise lamp.

Nevertheless, the creases had set beautifully in the fabric, so I proceeded to photograph it lit from behind and clipped to the angle-poise lamp (see below)

There is a “jellyfish” quality of the sample in these lighting conditions. For some reason the white paper behind appears bluish-green.  The pleats are crisp and fluid. The fabric is very sheer and is barely visible between the pleats.

I also photographed the same sample without moving it and on the opposite side, so that the angle-poise lamp was shining directly onto the surface that I was viewing (see below)

I was firstly surprised that the white paper appeared black, and also that metallic green threads were visible. In this view, the space between the folds becomes more prominent and it is obvious that this is fabric, not negative space, so that sample has more presence.

Next, I folded the sample in half and placed it against the rear side of the photography box. I photographed it with the lamp lighting it from the front. These two photos a show slightly different views:

The image on the left shows the fold in profile. I love the fact that it is not straight and the creases form a bumpy outline. The view on the right shows the crease viewed straight on. There are bright reflections from this apex, which focus attention on the creases.

“Jellyfish” (Sudo and Birnbaum, 2011:37) and “Medusa” (Sudo and Birnbaum, 2011:38) are examples of heat shrunk fabric developed by the NUNO Corporation. The use of a specialist technical fabric (a polyvinyl chloride with enhanced heat reactive properties borrowed from the brewing industry) has made it possible to mass-produce shrink-patterned fabrics, visually similar to sample 8.


SAMPLE 9: Habotai weight polyester lining with corks

I decided to use corks for moulding, because of their interesting shape. I also hoped that they might stain the fabric. My original intention was to make a ‘basket weave’ pattern by placing the corks alternately vertically and horizontally in rows. In the event it was virtually impossible to align the corks correctly, so I just managed one row (four corks) in this configuration.

The result is shown in the photo below, lit from above with the angle-poise lamp:

There is some staining (I would have liked more). The shapes are not perpendicular – they seem to lollop awkwardly, but they do hold the shape/creases well.

The sample became interesting when I photographed it with light shining behind:

The photograph to the left is the same side as photographed in the first picture. The contrast between the smooth areas where the corks have been moulded and the many crumples of the background makes for a very interesting sample. The top two cork shapes are slightly distorted by the clip holding the fabric to the lamp.

The photo on the right is very different – we see a row of oval orifices, invaginations of the fabric, lit from the inside. It seems almost counter-intuitive for the hole to be brighter than the surface, but the result is that he contours of the openings are very clearly defined. 


SAMPLE 10: Polyester, tiger stripe print, bottle tops

I wanted to make a sample using metal bottle tops. I like the idea of the serrated edges and flat surface, and I hoped that I would get some rust marks from them too. I chose the striped print because I wanted to investigate the effect of placing the bottle tops at evenly spaced intervals along the stripe.

The photograph below shown the sample lit from above with the angle-poise lamp:


I was really disappointed. I think that the pattern is just too ‘busy’ for the surface distortion to give a visually interesting result. Similarly, lighting the sample from behind was equally disappointing – a confused image and lack of subtle shadows:

It might be worth repeating this experiment with different fabric. A single, simple stripe might produce interesting results.


SAMPLE 11: Habotai weight polyester lining, bottle tops and concertina pleats

I wanted to take sample 10 further to determine whether it could produce an interesting disruption of a striped pattern. I painted a strip of habotai weight polyester lining with diagonal stripes of fabric paint, before allowing it to dry and fixing with a hot iron (see below)

The design was very simple and applied roughly with a brush. I decided that I would treat the two ends of the fabric differently, so one end I placed metal bottle tops, evenly spaced and with no particular concern for positioning nor regard to fabric pattern. The other end I concertina pleated and fixed with crocodile clips. The finished result after heat setting the fabric is shown below:

It is worth noting that the fabric paint had a big influence on the feel of the fabric, making it much stiffer. The bottle top shapes were well defined but the concertina pleats did not hold their shape as well and sample 8. I suspect this is due to the effect of the fabric paint (the same fabric worked well in all other samples).

It is not especially apparent, but the effect of the bottle top moulding is to make the stripes appear to curve, and become closer together. I’m sure with a bigger sample, a more interesting effect could be achieved.

The side view of the sample as it was placed on the table was quite interesting. I like the profile of the moulded shapes and the flat tops which remind me of mushrooms. I still feel that no patterning would have been better (less confused).

I also viewed the sample lit from behind, but it left me feeling underwhelmed (see below). Perhaps it is because the sample is too small, and also because I prefer more subtle designs.

SAMPLE 12: Habotai weight polyester lining and conkers

I like the idea of using found objects, and being Autumn, conkers were an obvious choice. I hoped they might produce some staining too. I took a long strip of fabric and prepared it in the same way as the other samples. Below shows the sample curled into a circle and photographed from above lit with the angle-poise daylight bulb.


I like the small amount of brown staining, but wish there was more of this patterning to give emphasis to the large round bulges. The photo below shows the sample viewed under the same lighting conditions on the reverse side, showing deep ‘pockets’.

Holding the sample up to the lamp so that is was lit from behind gave different visual results (see below)



Perhaps not dissimilar to sample 4, this piece has a more tortured, strained feel. The shapes are larger and closer together which brings a greater intensity.


SAMPLE 13: Habotai weight polyester lining, Karamatsu shibori pleated

I wanted a change because several of my samples have similar round surface mouldings. The success of the pleats in samples 8 and 11 made me think of trying stitched Shibori. It is a technique I have never done before, so I chose a simple Karamatsu (larch) design. I followed the method in the book ‘Shibori for textile artists’ (Gunner, 2006:45-48)

After marking out my stitching lines with a Frixion (heat fadable) pen, I stitched the semi-circles and drew up the treads tightly. I then heat treated the fabric in the same way as the other samples.

The result was very well defined lines of concentric circular pleats. I photographed the sample before opening it out (see below)

Then I opened it out and photographed it from above lit with the angle-poise lamp and daylight bulb.

The star-shaped heat-set creases are pretty, but the creases which radiate out from them onto the background give the impression of an overall pattern and repeat. 

The image below is my favourite – is is taken with the sample clipped up against the back of the photography box with the light shining onto it’s reverse (concave) surface. Under these lighting conditions there is a metallic quality to the sample. The photograph is asymmetrical because my hand was in the way of the i-pad and I couldn’t get the centre crease in the middle of the field of view. However I really like this effect, with the dark area to the left and the wider brighter, illuminated edge of the fabric to the right.

These final images are with the sample lit from behind. The one above shows all three motifs, the one below is a close up.

These are flower-like, but could also be compared to bodily openings. 

I was interested to find an example of Shibori techniques had been used to create a beautiful fine-art fabric sculpture. “Umi kara no okurimono: Air, X (A Gift from the Sea: Air X)” (OMG! Heart, n.d.) by Yasuko Iyanaga (2010), is an exquisite 130x130x50cm sculpture made from spun silk and wire using the process of tie dyeing (Klein, 2011, 40)



Gunner, J. (2006) Shibori for Textile Artists. London. Batsford.

Klein, M. (2011) Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers. New York. Japan Society Gallery.

McCarty, C. and McQuaid, M. (2000) Structure and surface: Contemporary Japanese textiles. New York. Museum of Modern Art.

OMG! Heart (n.d.) Yasuko Iyanaga A Gift from the Sea: Air [Pinterest pin, n.d.] At: (Accessed 10 October 2016)

Sudo, K. and Birnbaum, A. (1997) Suke Suke: The Emperor’s New Fabrics. Tokyo. NUNO Corporation.  



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