Category Archives: Project 3

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.  



Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 3, Exercise 2 – Using a heat gun

29 September 2016

Project 3, Exercise 2 – Using a heat gun

I started by reading through the course notes and thinking carefully about what I wanted to get out of the exercise and how I wanted to approach it. My main sources of reference were: “Stitch, Dissolve, Distort with Machine Embroidery” (Campbell-Harding and Grey, 2006:103-112) and “Surfaces for Stitch” (Hedley, 2004:29-33, 61-62, 86). These texts had several suggestions for proprietary specialised fabrics for textile art use (some of which I possess), but looking at the course notes gave me the impression that the emphasis was supposed to me more on exploration of the behaviour of found objects. Apart from Tyvek and “Crash” (also know as Lutradur or Spun-bond), which are specialist materials, I stuck mainly to found objects.

I used a specialist craft heat gun for heating the materials and a full respirator, which meant I did not have to worry about fumes.


There are many different types of plastic, and if you use found objects (such as plastic bags) it can be difficult to know exactly what you are dealing with and how it will respond. I chose plastic bags which had a different feel/handle and indeed found that they responded differently. For future reference, I left half of the sample undistorted, so I would hopefully be able to identify similar plastics again. My results are detailed below:


SAMPLE 1: Red biodegradable plastic bag

This plastic came from a cut up carrier bag. The coloured surface is matt and the reverse (white) is shiny. I applied heat to red side. Below is a photo showing the distorted surface:

There is an interesting subtle but permanent creasing. However, more interesting was the reverse side:

The surface patterning is much more visible. The surface is still relatively flat, which might be useful for certain project. The biodegradable quality of the material could be a problem, however, depending on the anticipated lifespan of the sample/project.


SAMPLE 2: Stiff, clear plastic bag

This is the type of plastic bag you don’t find too often. It has a stiffness and crisp feel more similar to paper. I am not sure whether it is biodegradable (my guess is probably not).

Below is a photograph of the distorted surface. 

The way it responded to heat reminded me of Tyvek; the heated side forming concave “bubbles”. The shapes remind me of a lava lamp – somehow I expect there to be some slow, sinuous movement. This sample evokes feelings of calmness and relaxation.


SAMPLE 3: A textured fringe

Using a strip of plastic cut from the same bag as sample 2, I cut a pattern as shown in the diagram below:

I then carefully heated each of the strips to distort them. The resulting sample is shown below: 

I love the additional interest and irregularity that has been introduced by the surface distortion. I like the fact that instead of the sample laying flat, it takes on a three-dimensional form which is somewhat unpredictably determined by the surface distortion.

Viewing the sample lit with an angle-poise lamp (daylight bulb), I was able to create some lovely shadows (see below)

This was only possible because of the stiffness of the plastic, which made the sample stand up from the surface of the photography box. It suggests possibilities for this it to be used in conjunction with other pieces or to be part of a larger ensemble. However, viewing the sample against a white background resulted in almost completely loosing the tonal subtleties of the bubbling. I prefer the sample against the black background viewed in natural daylight. I wonder if there a way to retain this effect whilst simultaneously creating shadows?

I decided to sketch this sample. I sketched from life rather than the photo and I made a tonal drawing with a charcoal base. I found that the charcoal didn’t rub out to a bright enough white with the eraser, so I used white acrylic paint for the highlights. The sketch is shown below:


I”m quite pleased with the subtleties of the plastic which are reflected in this sketch, and using charcoal made it easy to depict both the soft edges and the sharp edges of the shadows.


SAMPLE 4: Small bubble wrap

I used the type of bubble wrap with small bubbles for this sample (for the large bubble variant, see sample 12). I found that when I applied heat, the air in the bubbles expanded causing them to burst, and the plastic then fused together. 

To make the sample more interesting, I applied heat in spots, rather than over the whole surface, so that there would be a contrast created between the distorted and the undistorted areas (see below):

The result is not as exciting as I hoped.


SAMPLE 5: A cut up plastic milk bottle:

I took a 2 litre milk bottle and first cut it into sections (see below)

I started by using the middle piece, and because it was very difficult to distort (being thick plastic), I decided not to continue and apply heat to the even thicker lid and base sections.

I applied heat to one of the edges of the square tube, then I also cut slits to the opposite surface and applied heat to these strips. The photograph below shows the results:

I like the fact that the distorted sample is stiff and holds it’s new shape, which could be a useful attribute for making a structural piece. There was also a change in texture, with the untreated plastic being matt and slightly textured, whereas the heated areas being smooth and shiny.

I was interested to find out how the sample would respond under artificial lighting (see below)


There were some good shadows created.

Looking from above created interesting shapes – from both the plastic tube, the shadows and the negative space of the background paper. The variety of the shadows is interesting, some having soft edges, others being crips and definite.

I was sufficiently interested to attempt a sketch of this sample (see below):

I have drawn from the actual sample and used a 4B pencil. Again, what attracted me was the contrast between the hard edges of some shadows and the soft, diffuse, blending into the background of others. The sketch works well as an analogy.


SAMPLE 6: Soft, shiny, printed plastic bag 

Judging from the texture of this bag, I am assuming it is non-biodegradable. However, it is certainly very different in feel and handle from the plastic used in sample 1. The distortion, however, was not dissimilar to sample 1 (see below, wrong side view).

On the right side there was some interesting distortion of the text and logo (see below)

A close up of the bottom right hand corner of the sample above shows some interesting bubbling and stretching as the sample has distorted (see below)

I decided to sketch the bubbly surface. I started by using a household wax candle to draw with and washing over with Indian ink (see below)

It was difficult to draw the wax marks accurately because I could not see what I was doing, and once I had put the wash of ink over the top, I discovered they were too angular. I decided to draw more detail around them with an intense pencil, then I tried to soften the highlights and make the surface appear more “bubbly” using a white oil pastel (see below)

I feel as if I have only partially succeeded. The surface looks like a crumpled piece of paper rather than the distorted plastic. I am not happy with the result, but it was just not possible to draw over and correct the original wax marks.


SAMPLE 7: Red biodegradable plastic, flower motif

I had hoped to emulate a flower motif, by using a circle shape and cutting slits into it (see scheme below)


However, the result was not as I had hoped. I had wanted the cut strips to curl and shrink more. In the event, the shape was not dissimilar to the untreated plastic but with bubbles and ridges (see images below)

I thought it would be interesting to see what shadows I could create with this sample (see below):

The shadow was actually really pretty, and it made me think that there could be potential for stringing several of these samples on a line/thread and shining a spotlight at them to create a more dramatic shadow effect.


SAMPLE 8: Cling film, trapped dictionary pages

I read in “Surfaces for Stitch” (Hedley, 2004:60) that it is possible to distort and shrink cling-film with the application of heat, and further, trap object between 2 layers of clingfilm in the process.

I used torn pages of a dictionary, which were, in general securely trapped between the clingfilm layers by the heating process. However, there were a couple of areas where expansion of trapped air made the clingfilm burst. The cling-film shrunk during heating but remained malleable – a usefully property for subsequent stitching. 

Below is a photograph of the sample:

I had high expectations for the shadows that I could create with this sample (see below):

I had thought that there might be some shadows from the creases in the clingfilm, but in the event only the paper shapes were visible. The sample was so soft and floppy that it was difficult to stand it up in position that would create effective shadows. 


SAMPLE 9: Printed overhead projector acetate 

For added interest, I first printed an overhead projector acetate with an image which I had created with screen printing and subsequent digital manipulation. I had also used this image for creating overlaid samples in Textiles 1: Exploring ideas. It is shown below:

There was some interesting distortion of the acetate (and image) during heating (see below)

It is difficult to see from the photo above, but the distortion resulted in undulations rather than bubbles. The acetate retained it’s stiffness and no longer laid flat as a result of heating. This made it good for creating shadows (see below)

I love this view of the sample and the pretty flower-shaped shadows from the printed areas of acetate which obscure the passage of light. It has lace-like qualities. I wondered how the image of a face would look if printed in this way, distorted with heat and also viewed as shadows.

I sketched this sample because it is beautiful and has subtle shadows, but it was tricky to make the surface markings look distinct from the shadows (see below).


I used black and grey oil pastels to depict the printing on the acetate and shadows respectively. I am pleased with the fragmented appearance of the black flowers, which reflect how they are printed on the acetate. In the sketch, I depicted the acetate and the shadow of the acetate with yellow and grey Koh-I-nooh watercolours respectively. I tried to draw in some of the creases in the acetate with 4B pencil to try and define the acetate surface as distinct from it’s shadow, but I don’t think this has been completely successful. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t able to represent the bright white reflections of light on the acetate, which would have defined it as a surface. I think I could have drawn them in effectively with white oil pastel, had I started with a coloured background. Something to bear in mind for the future.


SAMPLE 10: Magazine wrap

I used some plastic which had been covering a magazine for my next sample. I was just about to discard is into the bin and then thought “what if…?”

Where the plastic was heated, it shrunk, fused and hardened. What made the sample interesting was that it was easy to differentially heat the surface, leaving untreated, malleable folds. This made me think that the level of control possible with this plastic would give interesting possibilities for sculpture.

The sample is shown below:


I was expecting interesting tonal shadows due to the different densities of plastic created in this sample. The results are shown below:

The shadows were like a webbed mesh, complex and engaging. However, it was difficult to create them. The sample was still rather flexible. I wonder what this shadow would look like projected onto another surface (if that were possible)?


SAMPLE 11: Laminate with trapped fibres

I used a piece of laminate into which I had trapped threads and fibres. The result of heating with the hold air gun was to produce undulations very similar to sample 9. However, it also caused the laminate to separate (especially around the edges) – a photograph is shown below:

I was not particularly taken with the sample – I don’t think the heat distortion added to it’s appeal, rather just made it more confused. I looked at the sample lit with an angle poise lamp (see below):

There was an interesting mottled effect from the fibres and a yellow tinge to the shadows. This was however a function of the laminate could have been achieved without deforming the sheet.


SAMPLE 12: Large bubble wrap

After the disappointment of sample 4 (small bubble wrap), I thought I would repeat the experiment with the large bubble variant to see if the results were any more interesting (see below):


The results were certainly more pronounced, but probably the result would have been not that much different had I just chosen to selectively burst some of the bubbles?

I also considered the shadows projected by this sample:

Again, quite interesting, but more a function of the bubble wrap rather than the distortion with heat.



SAMPLE 13: “Crash”

“Crash” is a specialist fabric, similar to Luxtradur/Spun-bond, which has been designed for use in mixed media textile art. When heated, it shrinks and disintegrated, leaving a delicate web of fibres.

I used a piece of fabric which I had already coloured with black fabric paint. Often, the fabric is used conjunction with another material – for example, stitched onto a contrasting backing, so that when heated, there is support for the fragile fibres which remain. I used my fabric on it’s own for this sample, but I was careful to leave some areas untreated, so that the fabric still held together! I notice that the areas where the paint was thickest gave some protection to the “crash” fabric which disintegrated less in these areas.

The sample is shown below:

It was difficult to create shadows with this sample. I needed to get the material close to the surface for them to be bold and interesting (see below):

However, I managed to project shadows onto the vertical surface too:


SAMPLE 14: Pipe-cleaner

Not really a fabric, but the wire covering is synthetic, similar to polyester velvet, so I thought I would give it a go! I heated only some  of the length of the pipe lean, leaving other areas untreated for comparison. In the areas I heated, the fibres melted around the wire, which remained flexible (see below)

The transformation to give thick and thin areas gives added interest, and I am more likely to use a pipe cleaner treated in this way than an unmodified one. Previously, I have created samples using fibre covered wire (which I have spun). The wire is suitable for sculpture because it can be bent and moulded, re-moulded and changed if desired. The creation of different shadows can be explored (see below):

This is one of my favourite samples, and I set it up in two different configurations to sketch (see below):

It turned out to be a highly photo realistic sketch. I used a black ink gel pen for the pipe cleaners, which I softened afterwards with water. The shadows were simply made with a 4B pencil, which I smudged. I really feel for this sample. It reminds me of dancers – it has poise, a definite position in space and a suggestion of stored energy.


SAMPLE 15: Sparkly polyester organza

For this sample I used some sparkly polyester organza which I had previously used for a paper lamination exercise in Textiles 1: Exploring ideas.

When I heated the fabric, it puckered, but also formed holes and appeared “shredded” in some areas. This shredding was particularly appealing, as it produced areas of bare threads along the grain of the fabric (see photo below and close-up)

The lustre of the fibres was not degraded by the heating and remains an attractive feature of this sample.


SAMPLE 16: Polyester voile

This was also fabric which I had also previously used for the paper lamination exercise in Textiles 1: Exploring ideas. It’s qualities were quite different, however to the sparkly organza used in sample 15. The organza had lustre, frayed very easily and shredded when heat was applied. In contrast, the voile was matt and did not fray (it is similar to the specialist fabric used for screen printing mesh). When heated, it puckered, but did not shred. Instead, the mesh of the weave fused together. I purposely applied the heat in parallel lines to exploit this effect and I was delighted to have produced a permanently creased and ruffled fabric (see below)

This sample also created shadows, which (opposite to the fabric) reflected the higher density of the melted fabric and creases as darker tones. (see below)


SAMPLE 17: Metallic synthetic, heat creased

I found some interesting commercially heat creased fabric in my stash which was shot (i.e. had different colour threads running through the warp and the weft). One of the threads was metal which made me suspect it would respond interestingly to the application of heat (in the book “Stitch, Dissolve, Distort” it is suggested that metallic organza (also referred to as Indian organza) produces interesting results when heated) (Campbell-Harding and Grey, 2006:106). 

The material produced puckering and shredding when heated, with the pre-existing heat-set creases being removed in the process (see below)

It would appear that the shredding has resulted from one of the threads melting and disintegrating whilst the other stays in tact. Probably the same explanation can be offered for sample 15.


SAMPLE 18: Metallic silver fabric

This was some fabric which I had previously used in appliqué. Looking at the frayed edge I could see it was made up of metallic threads in one direction with fine synthetic threads in the other. The application of heat caused holes to form in the fabric and some puckering (see below).

The resulting fabric is fragile and very reflective (the photo does not adequately show this).


SAMPLE 19: Synthetic lace

I had hoped to get some interesting distortion of the flower shapes by heating this fabric, but the results were a little disappointing (see below):

The fine net in between the motifs disintegrated more readily and just formed holes in between the flowers.


SAMPLE 20: Grey acrylic felt

This acrylic felt discoloured and puckered slightly when heated with just a few small holes forming. I don’t find the result especially attractive.

SAMPLE 21: Red acrylic felt

I tried different types of felt because they are different thicknesses and some distort better than others. This red felt was excellent. It partially melted and formed an interesting honeycomb structure (see below);

Because the distorted fabric is peppered with holes, I found it created some interesting shadows (see below):

I managed to pin the felt into a shape with a paper clip which made it easier for me to illuminate it from different angles.

SAMPLE 22: White acrylic felt

The behaviour of the white acrylic felt was disappointing and similar to the grey (see sample 20) with yellow discolouration.

Failed Fabrics

the fabrics shown in the photograph below did not distort with the application of heat. They include two types of net and some red metallic stretch fabric.

Other materials:

SAMPLE 23: Polystyrene sheet

The material is the type of polystyrene sheet used in packaging. As a result of heating, it shrunk and the air bubbles collapsed and fused together. Holes formed in some areas (see below), and the heated areas hardened and became less flexible.

This sample reminds me of a ghostly face. I think the shadows (see below) are less dramatic than the sample viewed in natural light against a black background.

SAMPLE 24:Tyvek fibre

This Tyvek was a sheet of craft material which I had purchased. The instructions stated that there were lots of ways in which it could be coloured (for example felt pens, coloured pencils fabric paint and dyes). I chose acrylic paint. I painted one side of the sheet and left it to dry completely before applying heat (see photo below)

Before heating, I cut slits in one side of the fibre sheet. I applied the heat in spots. It caused distortion (puckering and curling), and in places where the heat was left longer, holes formed.

Undoubtedly part of the appeal of this sample is the colouration and patterning which is possible. I also found that as I got used to heating it, that I was able to exert a degree of control over the extent and direction to which it distorted and curled. This gives many possibilities for use in mixed media work.

SAMPLE 25: Biscuit wrapping (found Tyvek fibre?)

The Oreo biscuit wrapping had a different feel to the Tyvek fibre sheet which I had purchased. It had the added interest of being printed on one side. The material deformed quickly when I applied heat, and had I continued for much longer the whole wrapper would have ended up as a shrunken screwed up ball of material. To avoid this, I applied heat for short amounts of time and only to some areas, not the entire surface. 

The two photos below show the results on each side:


SAMPLE 26: Tyvek fabric

Tyvek Fabric has a slightly different texture to Tyvek paper. I had never used it before, so when preparing my sample, I left a section bare whilst I painted most of the surface with fabric paint (see below)

I found that the sample distorted very easily, so I applied heat with the cooler of the two settings on my craft gun for better control ability. My observations were that the finished sample was generally more pliable than Tyvek paper, especially in the less intensely heated areas. I believe it could be stitched through more easily. It distorted differently to Tyvek paper, shrinking more and producing many small creases instead of large ‘bubbles’. The photographs below show the results:

The close up above shows the many tightly creased areas and the embossed surface patterning of the fabric before distortion. The photos below show the reverse (unpainted side). It reminds me of wrinkled and warty skin!

There was no obvious difference in distortion or handle between the painted and unpainted sections.

SAMPLE 27: Sizoflor

Sizoflor is a synthetic material used decoratively by florists. The results were very similar to sample 13 (‘Crash’), however not being a specialist textile fabric is was much cheaper. I purchased several colours, but decided to use silver for this sample. 

I left the right side of the sample untreated for the purpose of comparison. Like sample 13, it was also extremely fragile and made interesting, lacy shadows (see below)


Post script: It was only after obtaining a copy of “Hot Textiles” from the library, that I realised the Sizoflor is the same material as Lutradur (i.e. “Crash”) (Thittichai, 2007: 17), so in effect samples 13 and 27 are made from identical material (albeit that sample 13 was painted, sample 27 was purchased in a silver colour).


Campbell-Harding, V. and Grey, M. (2006) Stitch Dissolve, Distort with Machine Embroidery. London. Batsford.

Hedley, G. (2004) Surfaces for Stitch – Plastics, Films and Fabric. London. Batsford.

Thittichai, K. (2007) Hot Textiles: Inspiration and Techniques with Heat Tools. London. Batsford.