I&P Exercise 3.2 Fabric manipulation

This exercise will introduce you to some simple methods of fabric manipulation and enable you to explore the effects of scale and repeat.
Begin by producing two or three small fabric samples inspired by each of the following words taken from Richard Serras verb list (exercise 1.5):
Record this new collection of fabric samples & their methods of construction through drawing & photography. Review your outcomes in your learning log using the following questions as a guide:


Robin Atkins  stay in touch with the river

polyester cotton
blue charcoal, watercolour and fine-liner


silk & voile & cotton yarn, heavyweight cotton, stitch and safety pin
lead & coloured pencil, felt-tip, fine-liner 


heavyweight cotton, synthetic lace, silk
wax, watercolour, coloured pencil and fine-liner


rust dyed cotton, gold poly mix fabric, cotton weave ribbon, ric rac
lead pencil


Jacqueline Fink  Sea Art      

cotton weave ribbon, polyester cotton mix 
lead pencil, conventional sketch & continuous line


heavyweight cotton, silk
wax crayon & fine-liner 


4 ply Shetland wool
coloured pencil and fine-liner


silk, voile, fine cotton
lead & coloured pencil, coloured fine-liner


Leisa Rich  Urchin 2006, rolled & hand embroidered

linen, cotton
pencil on tea stained paper



synthetic lace, chintz cotton
brown fine-liner, continuous line blind drawing

. Which samples were the most effective & why ?

The most effective were the samples that expressed complex, disorganised, fluid and solid forms. This seems particularly appropriate for a maritime theme. For example one of the most successful samples for me was the torn silk. I immediately saw a strong link to seaweed and also the blue cotton fold samples clearly expressed wave formations.

. Did you have to overcome any problems ? What were they ? How did you overcome them ?

 Fulling Shetland wool to achieve a felted texture was time consuming and frustrating.  I spent over an hour boiling the samples with very little change from their original state. Reflecting back, if I want to achieve that effect in future I would use smaller knitting needles & a different type of 💯wool. However, this was not a complete failure & I intend to consider the outcome as a potential element in my work.

. Do any of your samples have the potential to capture the mood or essence of your chosen theme ? If so, how ? If not, why not ?

I spent some time carefully selecting materials for this task that could be manipulated into shape which would express my theme, taking into account my colour palette. Looking at all of the samples I could confidently take at least one sample from each process forward as many of my samples express shapes and movement that conjures up the mood of the coast.

Lay all your samples out on a table & select one that you think has the potential for further development. Now create this sample, using the same fabric & technique, so that it is at least 50% larger than its original size. Then recreate it again so that it is now 50% smaller than its original size. Document your new samples through drawing & photography, and review the outcomes in your learning log.

torn silk 50% larger, smaller and original scale

sketch of above inspired by Cy Twombly 
watercolour, charcoal and pencil

My objective with this sample is to capture the mood of movement in the sea. There is something mesmerising when observing marine plant life, or fish and mammals in water. 

Look at the work of Rowan Marsh ………. go to his website www.rowanmersh.com & record your responses to his work in your learning log.

Rowan Marsh has taken his inspiration from nature. He has faithfully considered organic forms & pattern & re-invented them into completed works  using repetition. He uses different mediums to express these formations and encases them within symmetrical shaped frameworks.

 He uses monotone colour palettes allowing the viewer to focus on the intricacies of these designs. This artist’s work reminds me of the importance of scale through close observation in our processes when sampling. Natural organisms tap into a deep connectedness within us which frees up the mind and allows it to relax.

Create a new fabric sample by making 8 identical samples and joining them. Explore different methods of joining the units to form a more complex sample, e.g stitching, tying, knotting, hinging, bending. Aim to produce a minimum of 3 different samples that explore your chosen techniques.

Dame Barbara Hepworth – Pastorale 1969
Lithograph on paper Tate Gallery

repeated theme one    (wrapping)       pencil & felt tip
Barbara Hepworth inspired sketch

repeated theme two  joining (safety pins)
continuous line blind drawing

repeated theme three  (couching)
Twombly inspired scribbled ground,  coloured pencil, felt tip & stitch 

You now have 3 sets of samples:. Your original collection of samples in response to the verb list. Your scale manipulation of a chosen sample (larger & smaller). A complex sample that repeats a chosen sample 


. How did the appearance of your samples change when you used different materials ?

If I take the Suffolk puff samples as an example, I was surprised the lace material did not work out as well as the fine cotton for this experiment. I associate the Suffolk puffs with sea anemones which are soft in appearance.  The stiffer synthetic lace has responded in more of an angular fashion, whereas the soft cotton has resulted with a rounder & softer appearance.

. Did anything happen that you were not expecting ? Could you use this ‘accident’ positively within your  work ?

Despite the felting experiment failing, the complex knitting pattern could be taken forward in the final sampling. The tightening of the substrate works quite well & the lacy pattern could imply coral or crustaceans.

. Have you discovered other artists / designers with whom you empathise ?

In what way does their work inspire you ?

I have visited the Barbara Hepworth gardens many times in St Ives and I took inspiration from her curved forms when I made the coiled fabric cocoon drawings. So looking at her sketches and colour choices informed me with the sketch for my final sample.

. How does their work relate to the way that you work ? 

I recall researching Robin Atkins, Jacqueline Fink and Leisa Rich in OCA foundation so their nautically themed work fits perfectly with my theme. These inspiring artists all express nautical objects with their 3D structured shapes, texture & colours.

Do they use similar techniques ?

Yes, I have referenced their techniques in all of my associated sampling which has been rewarding and helpful in developing contextual samples.

Constructed textiles

Look at ATV refer back to Part Four: yarn & linear exploration & identify any techniques you could use to create your own collection of yarns , braids/ threads to use for the following tasks.

ATV experimental yarns & concepts yarn sample 7

This could be one sample I could recreate. I am making connections to water and organic matter that grows on ropes and fishing nets over time. 

yarn sample 9

I am drawn to the movement and texture of this sample which I can reinterpret using the correct colour palette.

Record your response to this Ted Talk in your learning log. Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

. What are your first impressions of this piece of work ?

I was completely engaged with this Ted Talk on the mathematics of hyperbolic space and how that can be described through crochet. The simple process of creating incremental loops can be used to express complex mathematical concepts. What I also found so captivating was its inclusiveness through creativity & how people from all over the planet wanted to become involved by contributing with their own experimental crocheting projects. 

. What did you think of the idea of creating a hyperbolic crochet coral reef ?

I am imagining crocheting a complex structure that imitates a fragile organism which is under serious threat of extinction. The process of creating a similar structure would put me in a place where I could connect on a deeper level with its fragile beauty. Attending this exhibition would be extremely impactful & thought provoking.

. What will you take from this to use in your own work ? 

I am going to try to create some marine structures with my limited ability of crochet and see if I can include them in my samples for potential development.

4 thoughts on “I&P Exercise 3.2 Fabric manipulation

  1. I love seeing your experiments, and reading your comments about them. It’s all so creative. I’d like to offer one comment on felting wool. In my experience, felting takes places when friction is applied. So a combination of wet wool, heat and rubbing will yield felt. I add a little dish soap and rub the wet fibers together under a sheet of bubble wrap.

    Liked by 1 person

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