Part 2, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 2 – Joining straight edges with a gap

3 November 2016

Project 1, Exercise 2 – Joining straight edges with a gap

A logical progression from exercise 1, this series of samples extended the scope by allowing even or irregular gaps between the joined materials. 

Rather than repeat all the samples in exercise 1 with gaps, I took the opportunity to gain technical skills in working insertion stitches, and hairpin crochet (both new techniques for me), and to push the boundaries by extending my use of materials.


SAMPLE 1: Black card, safety pins

I hadn’t used safety pins before, and I felt they would be more suitable for ‘a join with a gap’ than regular pins (see below):

I used different sizes and orientated them the same way. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with that Versace dress modelled by Liz Hurley in 1994 (Barsamian, 2014) and Zandra Rhode’s “Conceptual Chic” collection of 1977, which, inspired by punk, incorporated safety pins as both embellishments and to join pieces of fabric in the garments (University of the Creative Arts, n.d.)

As well as liking the aesthetics and durability of this join, I was pleasantly surprised at it’s flexibility (see below):

The profile of the pins look good standing away from the card too. 


SAMPLE 2: Dictionary paper ‘tabs’ Joining black card

The idea of using tabs of paper came to me as a way of introducing a measured and controllable gap between two pieces of card (see below)

The view above is of the reverse of the sample. I have folded pieces of dictionary paper and used a sewing machine to secure two pieces of card together with them. The card and paper sample is flexible, stable and strong. Looking at it with an artist’s eye, I am drawn to the negative spaces between the tables and the ratio between tab and space. The tabs in my sample are very slightly mis-aligned (i.e. not parallel to each other). I find this quality quite appealing.

Below is a view showing the flexibility of the sample and it’s ability to be configured into a self-supporting shape:

I like this quality of the sample. I can imagine several repeating shapes being used in this way to make a textured surface. Different colour combinations of tab and joined material could also be examined.

As an alternative, fabric could have been used for the tabs and/or the joining materials, but would have given different results due different stiffnesses. I think for this sample, stiff self supporting materials would work best.

I decided that I would select this sample to sketch (see below)


I used olnly a 2H pencil, because that is what I had with me at the time. Consequently it was quite tricky to achieve the full variation of tone. I love drawing in extreme perspective, and I enjoyed the intricacies of the folds, shadows and stitching.


SAMPLE 3: Insertion stitch (buttonhole) joining two strips of “funky foam”

I had never worked any form of insertion stitch before embarking on this project, so decided to improve my technical skills by working several examples from Mary Thomas’s  Dictionary of embroidery stitches (Thomas, 1948: 126-131). For my first example I chose the buttonhole variant, which I worked in variegated Coton a Broder.

Thomas’s book suggested tacking the strips onto a firm piece of paper (or similar), to maintain them equidistant (Thomas, 1948: 130). In order to keep my gap constant, I temporarily taped the foam strips, onto a piece of paper using masking tape (see below):

This ensured the foam strips were secure, whilst enabling me to get behind the flaps for stitching. The masking paper and backing paper were removed once the stitching was complete. Below shows the finished sample:


Because I was interested in learning a new technical skill, I chose to work groups of evenly spaced stitches. However, I’m sure that interesting and more textural results could be obtained by varying the spacings, number of stitches in the buttonholes groups and their lengths. Alternative threads could be used, but these would need to be sufficiently smooth to showcase the detail of the stitching. 

As it stands the sample is highly decorative and aesthetically pleasing, in addition to being robust and stable. However, one point to note is that the stitches do not remain taught unless they are held in tension.


SAMPLE 4: Insertion stitch (Italian buttonhole) joining two strips of “funky foam”

This was a tricky stitch to master. Once again I referred to Mary Thomas’s book (Thomas, 1948: 127), using the same materials and methods as for sample 3. Again, as I was learning a new technique, I worked evenly spaced stitches. The result is shown below:


It is a really pretty, lacy joining stitch which is flexible across the joint. I imagine that interesting results could be obtained by working it is different thicknesses of threads and by varying the spacings.


SAMPLE 5: Insertion stitch (twisted) joining two strips of Khadi paper, wire and threads

Twisted Insertion stitch was the simplest of those I have learnt for this exercise. To make a change, I contrasted pink Khadi paper with three staggered rows of stitching worked in green jute, pink crewel tapestry wool and fine red wire. I used the same method of temporarily taping the paper strips onto a backing with masking tape. My finished result is shown below:


I worked the stitches from right to left, gradually increasing the spacing as I went along. Although the join is pretty enough, I really don’t like this sample. I think it is due to the colour combinations, particularly the contrast of the green with the pink. On the plus side, embroidering with wire makes this sample robust, flexible and easy to bend into shape.


SAMPLE 6: Hairpin crochet with handspun yarn on a 1.25mm copper wire frame.

I had never tried hairpin crochet before and I was intrigued as to how it worked. It looks complicated, but was in fact very simple.

For the method, I referred to a book by Penny Hill in the Norwich University of the Arts Library (Hill, 1994: 74-79). I didn’t have a purchased ” hairpin”, so I had to make my own out of a bent piece of copper wire. Traditionally, the crochet would have been worked on a “hairpin” and once complete, the wire would be removed to give a strip of crocheted lace. However, because I needed to keep the stitches taught and wanted to demonstrate how the stitch could be used to join two rods or strips of material, I left my frame in place. The finished sample is shown below:

There are different variants depending which and w many crocheted stitches are worked into each loop. I chose to work two double crochets each time (English nomenclature). This sample is interesting; the stitches can be moved up and down the frame to bunch them up or spread them out. The frame can also be bent into different shapes, which makes lovely shadows (see example below):

I can’t help thinking that this sample would be more interesting worked in a very thin thread and/or a textured thread such as raffia (I chose the wool for ease or working and so that I could see the stitches easily). In the top image the lacing reminds me of traditional snow shows (although they incorporate more complex netting). 

I was attracted to sketch this sample by it’s colour. I used water-soluable Neocolor crayons to represent the yarn, and I tried to be representative of the crocheted stitches without drawing in all the detail (wax crayons make this difficult, which is why I like them!) The copper frame was represented by gold gel pen outlined with a black Sharpie. 

I didn’t attempt to draw that shadows from the stitches (although there are shadows implied in the knots). I am most pleased with how the crayons have blended to suggest the variegated yarn and the representation of the knots.


SAMPLE 7: Staples in “funky foam”, increasingly large gap

In all the previous samples I had sought to keep the gap constant. From now on I would change the gap as I worked the sample. I started with a very simple example, but I’m not pleased with the results (see below)

It was very difficult to get the staple to ‘grab’ the edges of the foam properly as the gap became larger because there was no material for the staple wire to wrap around to secure it. Consequently the join was unstable and fragile, and also, I think rather unsightly.


SAMPLE 8: Strips of Khadi paper, varying gap, twisted insertion stitch worked with embroidery cotton and ribbon

After the disaster of sample 5, I decided to stick with white for this piece, to show off the stitches and the negative space. I worked freely, first in 6 strand embroidery thread, allowing the gap between the paper strips to become progressively smaller. When I ran out of embroidery cotton I started working the stitches in ribbon. The smooth shiny and flat surface worked really well and gave the stitches  excellent definition. When the paper strips moved closer together and nearly touched they seemed to want to cross, so I let them! This meant the stitches remained in tension and it allowed me to work the stitches in an increasing gap the other side of the cross. The result is shown below:

This is my favourite sample of the exercise, although I feel that the photos do not do it justice. The sample is corset-like. The lacing is decorative and well defined, and the sample naturally forms an attractive cupped shape. I like the use of the ribbon, in particular. It’s flatness helps to emphasise the shape of the stitches which remind me of a snake’s skeleton. They are very structural.

The sample is flexible but firm, and I feel there is a possibility of using this type of joining to good effect in sculpture.

This was an interesting sample to sketch. I was keen to make a loose, impressionistic representation, to I used watersiluable wax crayons, and allowed my drawing to extend past the edge of the paper (see below)

I also purposely chose a colour, because I wanted to get away from grey graphite drawings! This drawing taught me that the twists and shapes make by the ribbon are very irregular, and there are lots of complicated negative spaces.


SAMPLE 9: Packing material surface joined with twisted insertion stitch

Next, I wanted to explore joins where the gap got wider and narrower again. I had some cardboard packing material which I had saved because of it’s texture (see below):

It provided a ready-made framework (although I wondered if this was in the spirit of the exercise, because the pieces were already joined?) Anyway, it was sufficiently interesting that I decided to work it. To maintain the gaps, the card needed to be pulled apart slightly, so I decided to glue the ends to some Khadi paper (chosen because of it’s firmness and toughness).

If this idea was to be used in a finished piece, the packing material (or home-made substitute) could be fixed temporarily and removed after working (however, the stitches would need to be kept in tension, to prevent them collapsing).

I started by working with some double-stranded polyester dressmakers’ thread. However, the effect was too subtle and the stitches did’t show up as much as I would like, so I switched to the variegated Coton a Broder (see below)

What I like about this sample is the way that the packing materials sits above the surface of the paper making a 3-dimensional structure. This causes shadows to formed, both from the packing material and the stitches themselves. Photographed side-on, this surface is more easily visible (see below):

The packing material is very flexible, so this sample could be shaped into a 3-d sculpture, as desired and it would be easily to join pieces together. If I were to use this idea, however, I would probably want to disguise the packing material better by cutting my own version out of a different material (unless packaging and recycling was part of the theme!) There are a number of suitable alternative materials which could be used such as sheet craft foam, or leather for example.


SAMPLE 10: Corrugated card strips joined with twisted interaction stitch

This was intended to be a variation on sample 9, in which I cut strips of corrugated cardboard and joined them from scratch. I used the same insertion stitch worked with Coton a Broder and raffia. I glued the cardboard strips onto a Khadi paper backing in the same way as sample 9 to ensure that the gaps were maintained and the stitching would be shown off. The finished sample is shown below:

My initial response is that this sample doesn’t work as well, because unlike sample 9, it sits in a 2-d plane. However, what I like about it is the way that the raffia strands separate to make a “double thread” with attractive shadows. It is certainly worth considering using raffia in stitching in future because of this quality.


SAMPLE 11: Khadi paper strips joined by threads with an irregular spacing

I felt that I hadn’t explored a truly irregular spacing (which is I what I intended to achieve with this sample). From my experience in working the other samples, I realised that it was not going to be possible to ensure thread tension and irregular spacing with any of the conventional joining methods I had used, so I devised my own approach.

Initially, I laid threads of different compositions and weights across a sheet of Khadi paper. I then laid a sacrificial piece of tissue on top and sewed down each side with machine straight stitch (see below left)

I then cut the tissue down the middle and folded the flaps back to reveal the Khadi paper with the threads laid across it. I was then able to machine sew a two wiggly zig-zag lines down across the threads to hold them in place. Once this was done, I tore out the central strip of Khadi paper to reveal a join with a highly irregular gap! I also tore off the sacrificial tissue paper strips. However, at this point I decided that I actually liked them and that they could be used to add a layer of depth and transparency to the sample, so I glued them across the gap, behind the threads. My finished sample is shown below:

This first view shows the sample laid flat on the table. However, I really like the way that it is possible to fold, clip and stand it up to obtain shadows and to make the threads stand away from the paper at the edges (see below):


I really like the dynamic element that the threads add and the flexibility and durability of the sample. I think it could have been improved further by a still wider variety of threads and a colour scheme with greater contrast of hue. 



Barsamian, E. (2014) ‘Elizabeth Hurley’s top 10 show-stopping Versace looks’. In: Vogue. June 10, 2014 [online] At: (Accessed 3 November 2016)

Hill, P. (1994) Crochet (Sunburst Handguides). Gillingham. Sunburst Books.

Thomas, M. (1948) Mary Thomas’s dictionary of embroidery stitches. London. Holder & Stoughton.

University of the Creative Arts (n.d.) The Zandra Rhodes digital studies collection: 14. The conceptual chic collection. At: (Accessed 3 November 2016)


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