I think one of the reasons I prefer making samples to doing proper designing is that I can get started without worrying about how the piece turns out – it’s ‘only a sample’. When I’ve got fabric and a needle and thread in my hand the ideas flow, I start asking ‘what if?’ and one thing leads to another.
So, when I was playing around with making 3D vessels with PVA, as instructed in class, I thought ‘what if I tried wallpaper paste?
Which led to this.
But it’s a bit boring like that, and although I was fairly sure I couldn’t sew into the PVA and Paverpol stiffened samples, this one was much softer.
So now it looks like this. I whipped the folds with gold thread, and as it was threatening to come apart in my hands, added black seeding and black beads to hold it together before reglueing it. It’s not as sturdy as the others – but it is definitely more interesting.
Flushed with the success of my efforts at making fabric stand up by itself, I seized on a bit of hessian I’d used as a mask when spray painting. [Definitely worn, characterful and looking like it had seen life.] I intended to do something like this with it, but started with a bit of free machine zigzag to make it more interesting - in a circle because the frame was circular – which led to a sort of spider’s web. [I must get into the habit of taking photos as I go along - assuming that anyone apart from me would be interested in them, of course.]
However, it looked a bit boring, so I took an idea from a book I’d been reading [can’t remember which one] and embroidered it with strips of fabric. And then some of those thick threads you get in Texere packs and never know what to do with. Tent stitch, French knots and giant eyelets. And some beads, for a bit of variety.
At that point I decided that, rather than leave the edges wispy and ragged, I’d whip them with fabric – and then I realised that with a few judiciously placed tucks, tied in with more fabric strips, it might stand up by itself.
Which it does.
Every time I look at it I smile – upside down mob cap and curling papers, I think.
I still like the idea of stiffened hessian with wispy edges, so I may get back to that in time.
But - today I came across some of the drawbacks of making it up as I go along.
Remember this? Inspired by a technique mentioned in passing in class, and the teacher's sample which reminded me of the Sutton Hoo helmet. But hers was painted with gold paint so mine wasn't going to be metallic – until I had some bronze powder to use up. What if I tried bronzing it and adding patina?
What if I tried the same treatment on some bits of copper coloured plastic? What if I tried using a paper punch on them?
I’d always meant to add some sort of decoration to the patches on the fabric, so on they went with some beads as well.
As a diversion yesterday, I experimented with Ruth Lee’s technique of using wire in the bobbin when she makes machine cords. Don’t try this at home unless you've got the right kind of wire, mine was too stiff to work. I ended up with a bobbin full of copper wire.
Mmm – what if I used the wire as one of the ‘threads’ in a machine cord? I made several
miles metres of machine cords – which just happened to be in copper/patina colours.
What if I hand couch the cords round the arch shapes at the top of the helmet? [It’s been a helmet, it’s been a square box, at that stage it was back to being a helmet again.]
But as I couched I thought – this would be much better machine couched to the edges – but the fabric isn’t stiff enough and how would I sew the seams? What if I lined it to stiffen it and made a cylindrical box with arch-shaped flaps? Not craft Vilene [shudder], I’ve got lots of black felt.
But – the liberated Bargello has holes in it and I don't want the felt showing.
I’ll cut the story short, before you all fall asleep. I ended up unpicking the couching, rootling through the stash for a suitable piece of fabric to make a lining, bonding it to felt for the inner lining, finding some black fabric for a base, bonding that to felt and painting it with bronzing powder as any C&G trained textile person will pick it up to see if if I have done so, thinking of and rejecting the idea of aging the felt in some way [that way madness lies], making a paper mock up, realising the flaps don’t meet properly, making another paper mock-up, realising the flaps still don’t meet properly, deciding it will have to do – and then worrying whether the whole thing will be stiff enough to stand up anyway. In which case I will paint it with PVA as instructed – which is not a technique I thought I would like when we were told about it.
What have I learned from this? That sometimes it is better to plan ahead - and that the Anglo-Saxon craftsmen who made the original helmet had a much better idea of what they were doing than I have.