Part 2, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 1 – Straight wrapping with threads

18 November 2016

Project 2, Exercise 1 – Straight wrapping with threads

I chose to wrap a wooden spoon for this exercise. I have interpreted the purpose of this exercise as exploratory, allowing students to experiment with and understand the following:

  1. Different thread types
  2. Even vs. uneven wrapping
  3. Different tensions
  4. Combinations of materials
Thinking about outcomes it will be interesting to note and record whether the thread and wrapping method:
  1. Emphasise or hide the shape of the wrapped object
  2. Infer texture
  3. Relate to, or is suggestive of what is underneath.
SAMPLE 1: Even and uneven wrapping, cotton double knitting yarn
As suggested, I started at the handle of the spoon and worked upwards towards the bowl. The tip of the bowl was impossible to wrap in the way I had been proceeding up the handle, so I decided to cover it by working threads diagonally, incorporating a dense area of thread in the process. The finished sample is shown below:
The colour and texture of the thread is intentionally bland, almost utilitarian, like dishcloth cotton. I like the way that the thread choice mirrors the domestic associations of the spoon. 
Because I was able to wrap tightly, the object underneath is easy to guess. The crossed threads at the tip add interest and texture, but do not disguise the spoon in any way. The only suggestion is that there might be something small trapped or hidden underneath the layer of crossed threads.
I was sufficiently interested in the sample to make a pencil sketch (see below):
I used regular graphic in different hardnesses to depict the thread, and water-soluble graphic for the shadows. This was very much an exercise in understanding to to represent three-dimensionality through tone. The threads only appear to be above if their shadows are correctly represented. It took careful observation, patience and effort to make the drawing.
SAMPLE 2: Even and uneven wrapping, crepe bandage
I chose this material because of it’s texture and flexibility. The stretchiness of the fabric made it easy to completely cover the spoon (see below):
The width of the crepe (7cm) meant that there were unavoidable overlaps which resulted in a distortion of the contour of the spoon, partially disgusting it. At the tip of the spoon, the bandage is a single layer and barely covers the wood. At the handle and other areas, several layers mean it is completely covered. The fabric is soft and thick and Feels like it is inferring a layer of protection. The association of bandages with healing helps to consolidate this idea.
I decided to use a water-solvable gel pen to sketch the sample (see below):
The texture of the crepe was difficult to capture, and whilst I am happy with the representation of the fraying edges, the surface texture of the fabric itself is rather too bold. Perhaps I should have used my silver gel pen for this detail?
SAMPLE 3: Even and uneven wrapping, nylon fishing line
I was able to easily wrap the fishing line along the handle of the spoon, but the bowl proved impossible, even using the method I had successfully employed in sample 1. I conceded that I could only partially cover the spoon with this nylon thread. Creating more and less dense areas was easy, and the thread appeared darker where it was more densely wrapped.
The tangles in the fishing line make me think of entrapment, or snaring. There is no feeling of protection with this wrapping, instead it suggests restraint, and limitation of freedom.
Being semi-transparent, the threads were interesting to draw (see below)
It was a challenge to make a distinction between fishing line threads and their shadows. The semi-transparency of the threads meant that areas which were wrapped more densely appeared darker, and the thread itself was highly reflective. I had to use lots of different hardness of graphite pencil to achieve the tonal differences which I needed.
SAMPLE 4: Even and uneven wrapping, Boston creeper vine
This vine looses it’s leaves in winter and because the stems are alive and ready to bust into leaf next Spring, they remain supple. I thought this would make an interesting wrapping material because of the textural interest, including the presence of dead tendrils and leaf-bud junctions. 
One reason for choosing the vine was because I had been thinking about the work of outsider artist Angus MacPhee (b.1917, d. 1997). McPhee was born on the Scottish island of South Uist, where he grew up learning the Island traditions of weaving, plaiting and twisting. After the Second World War, he returned to South Uist but seemed unable to cope with looking after himself and became uncommunicative. A diagnosis of schizophrenia meant that he was confined to Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital where he spent the rest of his life. Although verbally uncommunicative, MacPhee wove many sculptures from long grass, including hats, boots and other clothes, which he left around the grounds. Many were destroyed, but a few survive and have been exhibited (Marshal, 2011). The weavings demonstrate a beauty and power that bely their fragility, as shown in photographic evidence in the journal article by Robert Howard (Howard, 2002).
MacPhee sometimes wore his weavings (Marshal, 2011), perhaps as protection from the elements. A feeling of shelter and protection is also evident in my sample. The vines give a structural feeling to the piece, almost like a bushcraft shelter.
When I decided to sketch the sample, I chose graphite and Inktense pencils to help me recreate the texture and colours.
I particularly like the rough, gnarled vine stem contrasted with the thin, delicate wiry tendrils. 
SAMPLE 5: Even and uneven wrapping, thick piping cord
I chose this thick cord to give a very different feel and texture from the thinner threads I had used. The individual strands of the cord appear prominent and rope-like. 
There is a feeling of security and solidity about this wrapping. It is still possible to easily see that the object underneath is a spoon, but it also feels as if it has been ‘parcelled up’ ready to put in the post.
To sketch this sample I chose Neocolor water-soluble wax crayons. It is only possible to draw thick lines with this medium, so although I enjoy using the, they had not suitable for my earlier sketches.
I like the texture of the wax crayon marks, and being able to apply water allows me to soften them in places where I want to emphasis shadow. By leaving some of the crayon marks dry, I was able to simulate the roughness of the cotton cord.
Samples with combinations of materials to explore combinations of colour, texture and differences in tension
Inadvertently, I had already explored areas of looser verses tighter tension in sample 3, which was impossible to wrap tightly. I was looking forward to extending this with combinations of different threads, using what I had learnt in my sampling so far. 
I also thought about opacity. The fishing line which I had used in sample 3 was semi-transparent and this added depth and interest through semi-concealment. 
How the wrapping is considered in relation to the object is also important. For example, does it represent:
  1. Protection/healing
  2. Entrapment/confinement
  3. Concealment/hiding
  4. Restraint/imprisonment
  5. Bondage/fetish
Number 5. only occurred to me when I recalled an article in The Textile Reader (Hamlyn, 2012). Referring to fabric specifically, Hamlyn notes that ‘It (fabric) restricts direct access to the naked object, but it also has the ability to suggest, enhance, and draw attention to what it covers and adorns’ (Hamlyn, 2012:16).
SAMPLE 6: Mixed thread sample, wrapped spoon
I wrapped the same wooden spoon as I had for samples 1-5, this time using a mixture of threads. I used a fine beige crochet cotton, salmon-coloured Coton a Broder, aubergine purple commercially produced paper string, and raffia. 
I started by wrapping the handle of the spoon tightly in paper string, then I joined in the salmon thread and the beige thread. I worked in layers, and after I had good coverage of the spoon, I allowed the beige and salmon threads to become looser as I wound them. I experienced some tangling on the fine threads which I allowed to add to the texture to the wrapping. I also had to cut the threads at one point because of tangling and this gave some loose ends. I particularly like the textural effect of these. 
I had initially intended to finish my sample before adding the raffia (see below):
I felt ok about this, but that it could be better. I love the effect that has been created on the handle, which I feel this has worked really well. However, it was not possible to wrap the paper string loosely around the bowl of the spoon in such a way that it would stay attached. This meant that I had to use the finer threads to secure it, which gave a denser and less open structure. The sample has a similar feel to sample 4 (Boston creeper vine).
I decided to take the plunge and add some raffia to the bowl of the spoon. I felt that as it stood the wrapping in this area was just too loose and did not fit with the handle (which I preferred). The finished sample is shown below:
I choose natural raffia to pick up on the beige cotton thread and the natural wooden colour of the spoon. It now feels as if the spoon is more ‘parceled’ or ‘packaged’ due to the raffia knot. I can’t help but think of it as looking like a voodoo doll. The bowl of the spoon feels like a head and the handle the neck and/or body.
I think this change helps the sample to work better. It adds and additional texture, and helps to make the sample feel like a single unified object. 
SAMPLE 7: Mixed thread sample – wrapped egg box
I decided that I wanted a change from spoon-wrapping. The egg box was a cheap and available found object, with an interesting shape. 
I started with some of my hand spun yarn which I had plied with metallic crochet thread. Before spinning, I had selected the colour combinations of fleece and made a batt. The colours had always reminded me of costume, theatre and showmanship. They were bold, vivacious, and mysterious; reminiscent perhaps of the glitz of the circus?
I chose an aran weight mohair in a greenish blue colour which picked up on one of the hues in my handspun yarn. Because layering had worked so well in sample 6, I decided to take the same approach. I wrapped the egg box in the blue mohair first, getting as much coverage as I possibly could. I then started wrapping in the handspun yarn, leaving some of the mohair to show through. As I did so, I added some cut pieces of feather boa. I had chosen these for fun and because of the association costume. I wrapped both yarns tightly around the egg box so as to emphasise it’s contours. Finally, I chose some bright pink ribbon and tied it around the box to add an accent. I also sewed loops of fine shocking pink mohair into one corner and cut them to make loose ends. I particularly like this part of the sample (see photo below, bottom left corner).
I love the way that the textures and colours combine. I am so pleased with it! It is cheeky and fun, vivacious and playful. The fur and mohair impart animal characteristics (rabbit tail, the ear tufts of a toy-sized dog?). It reminds me of a battery-operated a soft toy. I can imagine it just about to squeak and jump up into the air! The pink ribbon adds a feeling of restraint (an animal harness, or lead?), yet I get the feeling of it being a naughty pet which will run away as soon as the owner turns their back.
Update 26/11/16: I decided to put this sample up for critique on “” (it can be viewed here). I felt somewhat uncomfortable in doing so, which was strange given that I regularly post my work on my public Facebook profile and in closed OCA Textiles and OCA Sketchbooks pages. I was concerned how I might feel about feedback I didn’t agree with or conflicting suggestions. 
Despite my initial reservations, I am very gad that I took part in the OCA discussion/critique forum because have received some very insightful suggestions and observations. For example: that I might try and and include surprises in the surface of my wrapping (suggestive of the secret or the unexpected). Another suggestion was that the sample looked like it was in the process of being overgrown or colonised by underwater organisms such as anemones and coral. I was given a useful link to the artist Jason deCaires Taylor (Taylor, n.d.).
Many people saw a joyous side to the sample, interpreting it as “a bundle of good things” (i.e. childhood “treasures”). There was the suggestion of it being alive or having animals wrapped within it because of the fluffy areas. An alternative view was that it could be seen as shamanic or linked to ritual. This was interesting because I had shown sample 6 to a group of textile art friends last week and several had made a shamanic or sinister connection to this piece as well. I wondered whether it was something in my subconscious, (my creative voice maybe) that was causing this juxtapositioning these opposites?
SAMPLE 8: Mixed thread sample – wrapped baked bean can
I started with the idea that I would wrap the tin in burlap, and then add layers of other threads on top. I cut the burlap into a single long length of about 1″ in width. I used the same method as when dividing fleece arts batts ready for spinning. The diagram below explains (with the dotted line depicting the cut lines).
I wrapped along the length of the can, and the corners which I had made in the process of cutting the rectangle into a single long strip seemed to fall at the open end, making an interesting texture. I am including a photograph of the sample at this stage (see below) because I really like the result and wondered whether to stop wrapping! The weave of the burlap, the loose frayed threads and the way the layers overlap and stick out from the cylinder. All very visually attractive.
I decided that I would continue to add more threads and see what happened. I tried wrapping some orange fruit net strips around the circumference of the can, but it spoilt the texture of the burlap strips (see below):
I took this off an decided that I would wrap in the same direction as the burlap. 
I am interested in identity and wanted to give the suggestion of the brand identity of Heinz baked bean can through the use of colour. I found some kingfisher blue embroidery thread to use in conjunction with the orange fruit net. I decided that the orange colour in the wrapping photographed above was too dominant, so I cut small pieces and trapped them in the blue embroidery thread as I wrapped (see below)
I separated the strands of embroidery thread to get different thicknesses, and as I did so, the thread tangled. I really like this effect which adds texture to the piece. I was pleased with the overall sample, although I would ideally have liked to use wider turquoise thread (perhaps fabric strip or ribbon if I’d had the correct colour). Being sensitive to the colour and texture balance, and I feel that there is a slight room for improvement.
Hamlyn, A. (2012) ‘Freud, fabric, fetish’. In: Hemmings, J. (Ed) The Textile Reader. London. Berg. pp.14-26.
Howard, R. (2002) ‘Psychology in pictures’. In: The British Journal of Psychiatry. At: (Accessed 20 November 2016)
Marshal, K. (2011) Creativity in care: Exhibitions: Weaver of grass, Angus. At: (Accessed 20 November 2016)
Taylor, J. (n.d.) Jason deCaires Taylor. At: (Accessed 28 November 2016)

2 thoughts on “Part 2, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 1 – Straight wrapping with threads

  1. Inger Weidema

    wow, Nicola – this is a fantastic post. Your samples are so considered and different, and the drawings are spectacular. I love the bandage drawing – I think it is one vision of the spoon (and a great one), I would think it would not be better with a gel pen – only different? I am in awe of you sensibility to your own samples and the idea of using different media is inspiring. I think I have been to stale in my choices lately…I will take a hit from this. 🙂


  2. houseofknitting Post author

    Thank you for your kind comments Inger. This is an exercise which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and it has been like a breath of fresh air. I would never have thought of wrapping, but it has been something which I have really taken to. I hope you enjoy it as much as me.



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