Personal project, Stage 3, Developing design ideas

20 June 2016

Since I wrote about by thoughts for the personal project in stage 2, I have completed a whole sketchbook on the theme of “trees”. In many areas I have been able to draw on the experience of assignments 1-3 and where appropriate, I have referenced successful samples where there is read-across. 

The core idea which I have decided to develop further for my personal project is that on page 3-4. It is centred around the inclusion of small “cut pieces” to make an art yarn which can cast beautiful shadows when suspended (see sketchbook extract below):


It reminded me very much of the vertical strands of “bead curtains”, and I produced a Pintrest board to investigate possible variations. I thought that this could become the basis for my project.

There are several possibilities for the direction which the project could take. The choice of material for the “cut pieces” for example – could be opaque or transparent, made from fabric, plastic, paper or other material (or a mixture). They might be embellished with paint, stitch or collage. They might be identical each side, or different, and how might they be attached to the carrying thread, and how thick, textured, coloured might it be? Once this has been decided and the “yarn” has been made, what might it be used for and how might it be displayed? (i.e. as a hanging in the configuration of a bead curtain, maybe In another configuration). 

In order to answer these questions, and to narrow my choices down, I set about making a set of basic samples. In this blog entry I will explain how I have gone about making each, and my thoughts regarding their suitability.

First, I looked at a series of yarns using different “add-ins”. I explored how these would look wrapped around a card (similar to a weaving warp), and knitted up in a garter stitch swatch (similar to being used as a weft).


SAMPLE FP1: Card pieces stung onto dressmakers’ polyester thread and plied with Handspun merino

I started with some simple card, coloured on one side, plain on the other. I cut randomly shaped triangles or quadrangle a and used a crewel needle to thread them onto some polyester cotton.

Using the Ashford Country-spinner II, I plied the cardboard pieces with some merino handspun yarn. The size of the cardboard pieces were about as large as they could be (because they only just fit through the spinning wheel orifice). An alternative might be to simply tie the pieces, as I did in my sketchbook sample (although this might leave an undesirable bulky knot with anything much thicker than ordinary sewing thread)

Below is my sample yarn, threaded onto a card and lit with bright natural sunlight from the window.

I am very pleased with this first sample. The card, being stiff, stuck out at different angles around the yarn creating interesting shadows. The shadows from the bumpiness of the plied merino also gave added interest.


SAMPLE FP2: Sample FP1 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch


Because the yarn was fine and the needles large, this sample knitted up to an interesting net. The card pieces were light enough in weight not to distort the stitches and fell interestingly in different directions across the body of the sample.


SAMPLE FP3:Pieces of polyester voile incorporated into handspun merino single

Using a method described in reference 3., I inserted strips of cut polyester voile into small sections of drafted merino top (see below) before incorporating it into a spun single.

The finished yarn is shown below, again lit by strong natural light from the window.

I didn’t find the yarn (or the shadows) as interesting as sample FP1, although it would be possible to embellish the voile inserts, maybe by printing or machine stitching, to give additional pattern and surface interest.


SAMPLE FP4: Sample FP1 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch

I found that the voile pieces tended to slip/drift out of the yarn when I knitted with them, so I tied them with a knot. As it turned out it made little difference to the finished appearance/feel when I tied some additional insert onto the yarn after it was spun, during the knitting process (see darker areas of this sample). Again, I preferred sample FP2 – I don’t think polyester voile pieces were as striking as the cardboard inserts.


SAMPLE FP5: Strips of newspaper integrated into handspun merino single

I used the same method as FP3 and the sample is photographed in the same lighting conditions.

This sample didn’t cast such interesting shadows as FP1 and FP3. The newspaper also needs to be secured more carefully too (maybe by the addition of a “twist” where it is spun into the yarn), as it tended to slip out.


SAMPLE FP6: Sample FP5 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch

I was really surprised how effective this yarn was when knitted – see below (viewed from above)

The pieces of newspaper (of which more could be added to increase the effect), looked like textured outgrowths and reminded me of my sketch of an oak tree trunk (see below)

The texture of the sample is fabulous, especially when viewed from an oblique angle:

I can imagine it might be enhanced further by colouring/patterning the newspaper strips. I would probably keep the patterned newsprint instead of using plain paper because I like the added random effect of the newsprint and photos.


SAMPLE FP7: 0.6mm wire, core-spun with hand dyed merino

I decided to make this sample because I thought it might be useful in conjunction with FP1, 3, or 5, to give form and structure to an open weave woven piece, and as an alternative to bare wire. 

I had never spun with wire before, but I found it remarkable easy, and very effective. I like the thick and thin sections, and the coiled and twisted shape which it naturally made, reminding me of tree roots in the Marais Poitevin region of France.

The image above is an example of root grown into the canal (which unfortunately I had to omit from my sketchbook work due to lack of time).

My main interest in this sample is that it can be bent, twisted or formed into interesting shapes, and the structural nature of the wire means it could be used to define a 3-D shape.


SAMPLE FP8: Fishing line knitted in garter stitch on 12mm needles with bead inserts

I decided to make this sample because nylon line was a very effective medium for sampling in assignment 3. I thought that it might add a contrast to the other samples I had made – possibly to be used in conjunction with them? I was also keen to capture the feeling of light reflecting off leaves (see inspiration photo below)

Although interesting, I can’t see Immediately how this sample might be combined with the others.

I  also think that some of the textural qualities of the sample have been lost because it was knitted on larger needles than the one I made for assignment 3.


At this point I decided that I would make a series of samples to experiment with different materials and techniques for making the “cut pieces”, and to explore transparency.

SAMPLE FP9: Lamifix gloss, single-sided onto Japanese tissue with trapped threads and fibres

I chose the Lamifix gloss in preference to matt, based on my sketchbook experimentation. Lamifix needs to be ironed onto a surface, and I chose Japanese tissue because of it’s relative transparency and because it’s strength means that it could be coloured/dyed (if desired)


The Lamifix adhered well, although the sample remained soft and pliable (more than I would have liked). The tissue was more opaque than I had hoped and the threads didn’t really show through on the opposite side.


SAMPLE FP10: Lamifix gloss, single-sided onto polyester voile with trapped threads and fibres

This time I used the same method as for FP9, except I used polyester voile as the backing instead of Japanese tissue.

Although more transparent, the voile was less satisfactory because the Lamifix it did not adhere as well and also curled at the edges. Like sample FP10, the handle was soft and floppy. 

SAMPLE FP11: Lamifix gloss, double-sided onto polyester voile with trapped threads and fibres

Finally, I tried using the Lamifx double-sided (first one side of the fabric, then the other, not both at once). I used solely black thread on one side and solely green coloured thread/fibre on the other so that I could assess the transparency.

The photo above shows the side to which the black threads were adhered. The green thread and fibres are easily visible.

And visa versa, the black threads show through nicely on the other side. The handle of the sample is also improved (being stiffer), although there is some “rippling” in the Lamifix film, which I don’t really want for this application.


I then thought I would experiment with a lamination machine. I had not tried this workshop in assignment 3, so it was a new experience. I ruled out paper lamination, because I knew from the workshop results that the samples would not be stiff enough for my intended application.


SAMPLE FP12: Lamination of threads and fabric pieces

This was the first time I had ever used a lamination machine and my sample got stuck! (hence the concertina crinkles). I’m still not sure why, because I only used very fine fabrics and threads, and I have used more bulky materials since without a problem. I can only think it may have been because of the unevenness of distribution of trapped material.


SAMPLE FP13: Magazine cutting laminated with trapped threads

After the disaster of my first attempt, I chose to laminate a cut-out from a magazine and laid very fine threads on top to add texture and disrupt the image.

I was very pleased with the results – now to push the boundaries a bit more.


SAMPLE FP14: Lamination of larger pieces of fabric and Japanese tissue

I used polyester voile, heat set-creased polyester, metallic net and strips of Japanese tissue.

This sample looks uninspiring because there is very little colour, however the aim was to see whether larger pieces of fabric and paper laminated well and to see if I could successfully introduce a thicker sample. The first success was that I did not cause a jam in the lamination machine. However, the larger pieces (particularly where the tissue overlapped the voile) did not adhere well to the laminate. The heat-creased synthetic was disappointing because the lamination process effectively removed the creases and texture.


SAMPLE FP15: Lamination of Procion dyed Japanese tissue, commercially-dyed tissue, inkjet printed design and trapped threads

For my next sample I tore pieces of dyed Japanese tissue, regular tissue and inkjet printed paper with some threads thrown in for good measure. The inkjet printed paper was one of the designs from my sketchbook.

I was delighted with this lamination. Technically it was perfect and I like he overlapping colours of the tissue and the fact that the threads could be seen from both sides and through the tissue.

The inkjet printout was single-sided so the back it white. I would make sure I printed double-sided if I was making the lamination to use in my final project.


SAMPLE FP16: Lamination of magazine cuttings, origami paper and trapped threads/fibres

For my final lamination I tried to pull together the knowledge from my previous experiments and I am really pleased that I have produced a sample which is visually and technical exactly what I had been hoping for.

The photo above shows one side, the photo below the reverse.


I purposely chose origami paper because it is double-sided, but the magazine cutting works well too (the reverse by chance being a gardening advertisement) The get trapped fibres and threads add a lovely 3-dimensional feel. For this lamination I used a pouch which was thicker and gave better results in terms of both adherence and reduced curling. It was one I’d purchased, whereas in previous experiments the pouches were those provided as free samples with the laminator. 


SAMPLE FP17: Handspun merino plied with paper and acetate metallic ribbon

Exploring the theme of reflected light on leaves and inclusions in yarn, I decided to ply some metallic ribbon with  merino single.

I had to split the ribbon lengthways, and it kept breaking. I’m not especially taken with the sample, so don’t think I’ll be using it. I feel that the metallic is too overpowering.


SAMPLE FP18: 1mm basket cane knitted in garter stitch using 19mm needles

I had wanted to try this material for assignment 3, but hadn’t managed to buy any in time. Thinking about sample FP7 being analogous to large tree roots, I thought this might be analogies to finer, thread roots and could possible be used to add a contrast of texture to my piece.

Shown below is the undyed sample:

This would need to be dyed if I decided to use it in my final piece (which I understand can be done simply using Procion dye).


SAMPLE FP19: Scored and painted acetate sheet

As an alternative to samples FP9-16, I also considered using acetate for my yarn “cut-outs”. Firstly, I took a projector-weight sheet and scored different marks using dry-point tools. I rubbed black acrylic paint into The scored areas to highlight the marks. I then turned the sheet over and painted the reverse side thinly using green acrylic paint, and a credit card in places to disperse the paint and create textured marks.

The effect is bold but still transparent. The black marks show similarly on the scored side and the reverse. It is an effective yet simple technique which I found in reference 4.

Review of progress:

At this stage of experimentation and sampling, I had decided that my preferred technique for making the “cut pieces” for inclusion in the yarn was the laminating machine (FP16), the next stage being to try out different patterned and coloured papers and the inclusion of threads and yarn and see which I liked best.

I was also really keen to incorporate samples FP2, FP6 and FP7 (and maybe FP18) if possible, because they complemented the laminate samples by adding a contrast of texture.

At this point it was necessary to give consideration to the form and scale of the finished piece. Because my sketchbook work had initially conjured up thoughts of bead curtains, this seemed the natural way to proceed with developing the piece.

I had a large wooden art canvas frame which reminded me of a window frame (a fitting place to hang/display a bead curtain).

Holding samples up against this frame seemed like a good way of testing how they might be used in a woven piece of this size. I had intended that the yarn would be strung vertically in the frame, then viewed against a plain (probably white) background. I therefore had in mind that my leaf-like “cut pieces” would be coloured and patterned.

SAMPLE FP20: Patterned newspaper

I patterned some newspaper ready for laminating and cutting out for use in my yarn (also referenced from my sketchbook sampling). I had intended to leave this to dry before painting and patterning the reverse side. However, when I pinned the paper up against me frame I realised that the paper had real depth and movement and that I felt reluctant to cut it.

The photograph below shows a close up of an area of the paper, the one below of the paper pinned onto the frame.

There are many aspects of this paper that I really like, and It got me thinking as to whether it could be used as a backdrop for vertically-hung yarn with plain “cut pieces” rather than patterned ones?

The features of the patterned paper that I like are:

  1. The colour scheme really works!
  2. The turquoise accents are like shafts of rain and give movement and excitement.
  3. There are subtle yellow accents in the green background – like tints that are visible in leaves, especially when they overlap and have sunlight pass through them.
  4. The brown and ultramarine textured sponge roller paint marks remind me of glimpses of twigs seem through leaves, or shady areas in the canopy.

There are differences I would make compositionally if I were to use this paper for my finished piece:

  1. I would use the patterned roller/brown marks to emphasise the vertical more than the horizontal.
  2. I would extend the patterned paper down to cover two-third of the frame.
  3. I would probably make the marks more dense towards the bottom of the piece, and more spaced out towards the top.


Ideas for extended sampling and resolving/consolidating the work:


1. To string lengths of sample FP1 vertically on a small frame, and hold it up against my backdrop to see how it looks and to check proportion and scale. (see photo below). To determine whether this simple idea gives sufficient interest, or whether it would be enhanced by the incorporation of one or more of samples FP2, FP6, FP7, FP18.


2. Layering really interests me, and in particular I am inspired by this photograph:

I thought that maybe I could explore making small swatches (FP2, FP6, FP18) and layering them. In particular being able to hand-spin, I could explore the differences between very thick, bulky yarns and extremely fine lacy yarns, but unite them by using identical fibre. I also really like the idea of “patchwork” (or joining small swatches to make an overall visually interesting piece).

A further thought was that I might use the same backdrop paper (FP20) for making laminated pieces which I could also incorporate into different areas of the finished project.

I am aware that combining too many of these ideas might produce a muddled, over complicated or confused result, so I would need to experiment.


3. Weaving 

I particularly like this analogy from my assignment 3 sketchbook, especially the use of a transparent warp or weft.

I could imagine sample FP20 being woven in an area of the work – maybe using some laminate, or semi-transparent coloured tissue.


4. Colour palette 

I am really pleased with the colour palette in sample FP20, which I intend to carry on using.



One of the stated aims of this stage in the course is to identify the core of an idea and try out variations on that theme and I feel satisfied that I had done so through my experimentation and sampling. My work is united by the theme of trees and in particular the core idea of using cut pieces strung onto a thread or yarn to represent leaves, their different colours, shapes, movement and shadows. Unlike the samples I made for assignment 3, this work feels coherent and purposeful. I can see relationships between samples and the whole process is making sense and helping to move my ideas forward.

Another aim of stage 3 is to develop ideas of size of the scale and clarify whether the interest is in a repeating pattern or a single unit. I have looked at my samples in the context of the frame on which I plan to make my weaving/piece. I will have to do more sampling and experimentation to find a composition which gives balance yet excitement. I now feel ready to move to stage 4 and make a storyboard.



  1. Walsh, P. (2006) The yarn book: how to understand, design and use yarn. London. A&C Black publishers Ltd.
  2. Fisch, A. (1997) Textile techniques in metal. London. Robert Hale Ltd.
  3. Martineau, A. (2013) Spinning and dyeing yarn: The home spinner’s guide to creating traditional and art yarns. London. Jacqui Small (an imprint of Aurum Press).
  4. Thorne, D. (2009) Transparency in textiles. London. Batsford.



One thought on “Personal project, Stage 3, Developing design ideas

  1. Pingback: Personal project, Stage 5, Translating ideas into textile samples | Learning log for Textiles 1: Exploring ideas

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