Category Archives: Project 5

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

8 October 2016

Project 5, Exercise 2 – Stitching

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

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

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

and creating texture with stitch Eastaugh (2014b):

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

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


SAMPLE 1: Radiating flat stitches

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


SAMPLE 2: Fly stitch, slightly irregular composition

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


SAMPLE 3: Bullion stitch, slightly irregular composition 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SAMPLE 4: Irregular compositions and creating texture with stitches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I also looked at the reverse side of the sample:

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


SAMPLE 6: Broad chain, different threads and hole sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


SAMPLE 7: Acetate strips and cross stitch

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


SAMPLE 10: A study of stitch density and direction

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

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

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

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

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

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


SAMPLE 11: Large holes, bound edges

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


SAMPLE 12: Stitched back flaps

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

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

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

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


SAMPLE 13: Stitching through holes and a concertina pleat

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

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

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

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

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


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


SAMPLE 14: Bridging the gap with stitching

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

27 September 2016


Project 5, Exercise 1 – Puncturing

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

I purposely chose a variety of tools including:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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