Although bleaching fabrics is one of the simplest techniques, it is one of my favourites so far as the results are always unexpected depending on the dye the manufacturer used. I enjoy this aspect of open-endedness and the unexpected in the process of making. Furthermore, we can use recycled fabric scraps and give them a new lease of life by creating unique patterns!
I tried multiple rounds of bleaching as the first few materials I used (felt, poly-cotton blend) were not susceptible to the bleach! Despite leaving these samples drenched in bleach for hours out in the sun, they remained the same colour, allowing me to conclude that these fabrics are not affected by the bleach.
So the next week, I cut out shapes from old t-shirts and fabric. These dark fabrics produced very different results, ranging from almost white, to warm orange, to a cool grey. I used rubber bands to pleat and tie the fabric in different patterns.
Thermoplastics are fabrics that can be manipulated and shaped using heat and pleating, crushing or moulding techniques. When heated, the polyester organza will soften and take the shape of the mould or object and will retain this shape when it cools. The organza can be reshaped when heated once more to an even higher temperature.
100% polyester organza (no nylon!)
Objects to mould the organza with e.g. marbles, stones, glass beads etc
Aluminium foil to pleat the organza and wrap the sample
Large pot of water and stove
Heat set thermoplastics are sometimes used in decorative cushions or lamp shades due to their semi-transparent nature.
Here are some interesting samples which we saw in class:
Mould, fold or manipulate the polyester organza using objects (e.g. marbles, stones) and secure with elastic bands. Alternatively, pleat and fold the polyester organza between sheets of plastic, paper or aluminium foil. Fold the organza into multiple layers to get a repeated pattern over a larger area of fabric. The sample below is folded into 4 layers.
Wrap up the object in aluminium foil before boiling and steaming in hot water.
Unwrap the foil and let the organza cool down in the desired shape. Do not hang the fabric or remove the rubber bands or marbles when still warm, as this will loosen its shape.
Remove the rubber bands and mould objects when dry.
For my final project, I imitated the shape of the pine cone petal using thermoplastics. I wrapped organza around different sizes of disposable spoons to simulate the different petal sizes.
This technique of manipulating thermoplastics with heat is very interesting and enjoyable! It allows us to create organic shapes and mould a soft fabric into a rigid semi-translucent form. There are endless possibilities!
PVC plastic sheet
Objects to form around
Cut out an appropriate size of PVC sheet. The vacuum forming machine has 2 default sizes. Use objects with a concave shape so that they can be removed after forming such as domes (Spheres can’t be removed!). Vacuum forming can be used to create moulds for other materials such as latex and resin.
Knitting is a very popular and widely-loved technique of manipulating yarn to create a soft, warm fabric. This is done by looping the yarn with needles to create multiple rows of stitches and purls.
Wool or Acrylic yarn of any size or colour
Knitting needles (size will depend on yarn chosen)
Knitting basically consists of making knit and purl stitches in a variety of patterns. The number of repeated knit and purl stitches create different knit patterns such as stockinette, garter and ribbing.
Continuous knit or purl stitch creates a garter pattern which is the same on both sides.
After getting comfortable with purling, I tried to combine knit and purl to create a stockinette pattern.
When adding different yarns, I also tried switching needle sizes to suit the larger yarns. Introduce the new yarn colour on a knit row to create a smooth transition between colours.
I also tried to knit ribbing but this could be neater with more practice!
Experimentation: Knitting with unconventional materials
I attempted to knit with a fine jewellery wire but it did not work out beyond a few rows as the wire formed kinks and lacked elasticity, making it difficult to loop and manipulate.
Instead, I tried weaving the wire together with wool yarn to form a new 3-coloured yarn with white yarn, charcoal grey yarn and golden wire.
I used this 3-coloured yarn to knit a sample which was soft to the touch yet stiff due to the wire coil.
The next unconventional material I experimented with was knitting with plastic, specifically a used correction tape plastic film and nylon string.
The two types of plastic used made this sample was very springy and curl inwards.
I also tried knitting with hemp rope. Rope, by nature, has a lot of friction in order to carry weights and maintain tension. It was very difficult to knit it because after 3 rows, the rope would be too stiff to manipulate.
I tried it once more, this time separating the rope into three strands and knitting using just one.
After this experimentation with knitting, I realise it’s an extremely versatile skill which can be applied to many different materials. It is not limited to wearables and clothing and can even be used as an interactive or smart fabric. I enjoy the calming, rhythmic movement of knitting and look forward to knitting a scarf for my loved ones this summer! 🙂
This week, we explored unconventional materials such as fabric of thread. It consists of a variety of threads, yarn, scrap fabric sewn together in a grid pattern to form a new one-of-a-kind fabric. The material is see-through and can be applied to many products such as scarves, clothing, containers etc. to create a unique aesthetic.
Threads, yarns, scrap fabrics, trimmings of your choice! (Can even include small flat objects)
Water soluble stabilizer
Acrylic spray (optional)
First we design our fabric of threads by arranging scrap yarn, ribbon or wool within the water soluble stabilizer. This particular fabric of thread includes yarn, acrylic fur, tiny pipe cleaners, ribbon and an assortment of coloured threads.
Fold the water soluble sheet in half, and pin the edges. This will help with the sewing process.
Sew long lines across the fabric from edge to edge, removing pins as we encounter them. To change directions of sewing when we reach the edge of the sheet, we can either pivot at a right angle or reverse at a point.
When all the horizontal rows are completed, form a grid by repeating rows vertically. This will help keep the threads in place once the water soluble material is washed off. I used 2 different thread colours to sew (grey ochre on one side, and white on the other).
Next comes the exciting reveal! Rinse the fabric with water and watch the water soluble sheet dissolve. Rinse thoroughly for a softer fabric or for wearable products. Rinsing less rigorously will create a stiffer fabric which can be moulded to different shapes using an acrylic spray.
The final result is a one-of-a-kind fabric! I like how the possibilities are endless with fabric of thread. It is very customisable and the variety of materials creates an interesting, weaved semi-opaque textile.
Materials: Fabric of choice (heavy or sheer, plain or patterned), thread, needles, patterns, beads (optional to decorate the darts).
Start by drawing a grid and transferring the patterns onto the fabric. Varying the size of the grids will vary the effect.
Following the lines, stitch the intersections of the grid together in the same spot to gather the fabric
Secure it with a knot
Repeat for a few rows and the pattern will start to show!
Here is my first smocking sample using a heavy mixed grey felt. Using a stiffer fabric creates a more structured sample; the result feels closer to an object than fabric as it curves to create a new form.
I really like the smocking technique as it can create very intricate and textured results using simple hand-stitching. Different weights and textures of fabric creates varying results. I’ve seen these effects in bags, cushion covers and other decorated items but never knew it was this simple to create!
Next, I tried applying this smocking technique onto a thinner fabric (it’s a scrap piece of fabric from an old dress).
When completed, I was curious to see the effect of colour additions on smocking. So I lightly spray painted this black fabric sample to give it a metallic finish and accentuate the ‘bone’ structure and form. The additional gold colour creates more depth in the smocking.