Part Three – Colour studies

Project 1 – Colour palettes and proportion

Research point 1

Voyage Decoration – A British company based in Glasgow that produce a wide range of interior design textiles using British woven cotton, linen and wool fabrics.  Their textile collections are inspired by nature with depictions of plants, animals, both wild and domestic and some patterned fabrics including checks which compliment the main textile scheme .  The images used are designed and printed in a painterly, artistic way with a watercolour quality.  They don’t have a restricted palette of colour but the use of muted colours and tones with accents of bright pink, mauve and green are part of their characteristic and allow the collections to be interchangeable.


Marimekko – Based in Helsinki Finland and registered in 1951 by Armi Ratia who found talented young artists to join her in her quest for new bold designs for her textile printing company.    The company has remained fresh and innovative throughout the decades, with new designers bringing their own cultural influence into the patterns and designs.  The designs are stylized images of flowers, plants, fruit alongside bold pattern, large spots and stripes.  Colours used are often complimentry or monochromatic schemes which are vibrant and playful.


Mary Katrantzou – A young fashion designer who uses digital technology printing in her designs.  Geometric patterns combined with historical art and objects of luxury feature in her work.  Her use of colour is bold, vibrant, playful and slightly psychedelic.  She uses colour to create a visual illusion, to play with the eye so you look at the clothing and not the person wearing it.  Whilst she uses lots of colour in each garment the colour is not often used in large blocks but broken up with the construction of the pattern.


Wallace Sewell – A collaboration between Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell established in 1990 producing woven textiles.  They use colour in geometric blocks and stripes influenced by the Bauhaus period.  The colours they use range from muted natural colours to bright pinks and reds.  Probably the most well known of their work is the upholstery fabric used by Transport for London in their trains.


Cole & Sons – Founded in 1875 and produced block printed wallpapers.  Today the wallpaper they produce is a mix of classic and contemporary designs featuring themes from nature and geometric designs.  A lot of their papers use a limited palette,  2 and 3 colours, however there are a few contemporary designs that use a wider range of colour, which would suit the current trend for all white interiors with an accent wall decorated with wallpaper or emulsion.   Each design comes in a number of colourways for example “Palm Jungle” has 7 colourways giving their designs a wider market range.

Norma Starszakowna – A Scottish textile artist who produces large digitally printed textiles which hang in groups displayed from floor to ceiling.  The textiles have a mixed media quality, she uses text, rust marks and surface texture which is transferred in the print giving them a depth.  She uses muted colours which are taken from her source material and with areas of contrasting colour which are used to communicate a mood or feeling. learn/24488.aspx

Paul Smith – Trained as a tailor and worked on Savile Row designing mens suits before opening his own shop in 1970.  His iconic band of specific colours set out like a barcode is probably one of the best known designer trademark logos.  The range of colours used in his logo are also used in his clothing designs either in the instantly recognisable stripes,   or as accent colours along side the more conservative colours of his designs.


Vlisco – A Dutch textile printing company founded in 1864 who produced roller printed wax designs similar to batik that became popular in West and Central Africa.  They still produce their strong colourful designs which consist of geometric patterns and large motifs.  They use a limited colour palette but the designs come in more than one colourway.  The colours and motifs tell a story of the people, they indicate the wealth and heritage of the wearer and are a reflection of the landscape and flowers of Africa.

Ptolemy Mann – A contemporary hand weaver and dyer who uses stripes and blocks of bold colour in her woven textile designs.  She uses stripes of a colour hue which blend into tones of that colour alongside bold blocks or stripes of a harmonious and complimentary colours.  She has a very successful way of blending all these colours together to produce beautiful textiles that vibrate with colour.  They are perfect textiles for the current fashion of all white interiors as they are so striking and warm.  I think that they have a feel-good factor.

Key Pieces

Voyage Decoration – Morning Chorus

The colours are soft but colourful with good proportions of colour with some accent colours (pink and green) which add a dynamic to the design.  The colours are appropriate because it is a painterly representation of British plants and birds, the colours also combine with other fabrics in their range. The design and colour palette are interdependent especially as they are part of a larger collection that can be combined with each other.

Purchased sample of fabric

Marimekko – Unikko – the rebel flower designed by Maija Isola 1964

This design is of large bold simple flowers and is available in different colourways using either tonal or complimentry colours that produce a powerful stylised representation.   The design is important in this example, bold bright colours add impact but it looks equally good in monochrome.  It is a design that is still relevant today, 53 years from its conception.


Wallace-Sewell – 150th Anniversary throw for London Transport museum 

This throw is designed using the same colours that identify the different underground railway lines on the London Underground, iconic colours understood by anyone who uses the underground system and possibly recognised by people around the world from the London tube map.  This is such a clever way of adapting a predetermined colour palette that is still understood and is relative to the finished article.  Here the colour is fundamental to the design.


Ptolemy Mann – Red Vortex rug

This is a circular 100% wool hand knotted pile rug in which Ptolemy Mann uses the three primary colours of red, blue and yellow.  These colours are used across the rug in bands of different widths and within those bands there are different tones of those colours.  Her method of using colour produces a visually stimulating result, it has impact and vibrancy.  Colour plays an important role in all her work, she studied colour theory and is a colour consultant.
















Warner Textile Archive Textile Fair

On Sunday 7th May 2017 I visited the Textile Fair organised by the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree Essex.  The fair incorporates a textile exhibition, talks, “have a go” activities, opportunity to view a small part of the Warner Textile Archive, trade stalls and a pop up tearoom.

We started our visit at Braintree Town Hall where the trade stalls and pop up tearoom were set up.  After sampling a large piece of home made fruit cake and a cup of tea we walked from the Town Hall to Braintree Museum which is just around the corner, where the exhibition of new work by East Anglian Stitch Textiles (EAST) entitled ‘Following a Thread’ was on display.  The textile work was a beautiful range of work from bright quilts to depictions of personal journeys.  We were able to take photographs so here are a few.

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One of the ‘have a go’ activities was monoprinting which involved spreading acrylic paints on a laminated A4 sheet, making marks into the acrylic paint using a variety of implements and then laying over a piece of cotton calico resulting in the paint image being transferred onto the fabric. I had not tried this technique before and it gave very good results.

Playing with monoprinting


We went to hear a talk entitled ‘An Exhibition on Historic Silk at Gainsborough’s House’ by Louisa Brouwer, who is the ‘Keeper of Art & Place’ at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury Suffolk. Her talk was about a forthcoming exhibition on the history of Silk and the connection between Spitalfields in London and Sudbury, which is the only place in the UK where silk is still produced.

In the afternoon we walked down to the Warner Textile Archive to have a look at a small selection of the Archive’s collection of textiles. The archivist had selected a range of fabrics that incorporated geometric designs from the early 1900’s until the closure of Warner’s Mills in the early 1970’s.  We saw fabrics designed by Marianne Straub and Alec Hunter.  Also on display were a collection of garments made by the fashion house Oasis who recently worked together with the Warner Textile Archive.  The design team from Oasis selected 5 different historic designs from the Archive and translated them into affordable fabrics for todays fashion market.  The designs were a wonderful example of how important the Archive is in not only preserving these samples for the future but enabling them to be rediscovered for a new audience.




My Blue Suitcase – a lecture by Amanda Clayton

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by the wonderful textile artist Amanda Clayton for the Colne and Colchester Embroiders’ Guild on 29th April 2017 at Firstsite in Colchester Essex.  Amanda took us on a journey through her “life of stitching, her education, influences, philosophies and experiences”.  She started by talking about her childhood memories, her family, Aunt Kate and her education which included being taught by Anwar Shemza the artist.  She brought along lots of little bits of memorabilia from that period of her life, school books, stitched pieces and match boxes of collected items.  During her time at school she was influenced by art and lots of different crafts including printmaking and not initially by textiles.

Part of her philosophy is “visual awareness without money” and she had examples of printed papers, pieces of found china, floral transfers, pieces of antique lace and lots of other items which she uses to start building a collection of found and saved objects to initiate new creative streams.  Using everyday objects in a grander context.  Amanda also described creativity as “a thing that sometimes may not work” but that even small ideas are significant and it is important to record all of them so they can be revisited in the future.  She talked about her sketchbooks and that she has a “studio diary” which she uses at home and a smaller sketchbook which she takes out with her.  If she has forgotten her pen she uses something else like a needle to make puncture holes in the pages just so she can record something she feels is important.

Anwar Shemza was a big influence in Amanda’s life and she said one of his quotes was “You are only as good as your next piece of work” and she has carried this motto with her throughout her life.  She talked about success and contentment and how we measure these things in our life and craft.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of her story for those who get the opportunity to see her lecture “My Blue Suitcase” but she was very generous, informative and inspirational.   Amanda had a large selection of her work that had previously been exhibited and we were able to handle and examine her beautiful hand stitched textiles.

Amanda’s website is https:/// which I recommend visiting.

The above was written from notes that I made during Amanda’s lecture.

Reflection – assessment criteria (part 2)

Demonstration of technical and Visual skills

I have tried to use a range of techniques and materials within my work.  I have a good knowledge of sewing and traditional embroidery techniques and I love to learn new skills.  Since starting this course I am enjoying learning about other practitioners and the wide variety of exciting textiles being produced.  I consider that my design and compositional skills are my area of weakness and I need to work on developing these areas to bring an individual quality and confidence to my work.

Quality of Outcome

I have worked through Part 2 following the brief, considering the information given along with the criteria required and made decisions based on my current knowledge and skill level along with some personal research.  I enjoy working on my learning blog, recording my processes, decision-making and progress together in one place.  I still need to use my sketchbook more to bring together my ideas and would like spend more time drawing and sketching and allow myself time to develop this skill.

Demonstration of Creativity

I have tried to be original and experiment with a range of different techniques some of which have been new to me and I have enjoyed them, some I have struggled with. I understand the need to develop my imagination and be more innovative and I am confident that this will happen as I progress through my journey within textiles.


I have tried to be objective in my reflection on the work I have completed and will always be realistic about my strenghts and weaknesses.  I have enjoyed the research that I have undertaken to inform and inspire me in the relevant areas.  I still work full time so going to exhibitions and museums will always be difficult, however I am conscious that this is an important part of my research development.



Written reflection (part 2)

Part 2 has given me the opportunity to continue to work with the outcomes from the mark making and drawing exercises in Part 1, to understand more the creative process using these sources and the exploration and development of ideas from these starting points.

I have enjoyed trying out different techniques with the manipulated paper surfaces, using my drawings as the inspiration to create interesting textures and surface qualities with different types of paper and card.  I have not played with paper like this since I was a child and it was very inspiring although I nearly managed to set fire to my study!

The stitched paper experiments were very interesting to work on, especially when a paper and a stitch technique were complimentary to each other but then there were frustrating times when the manipulated papers tore at a critical moment. Understanding the strength and surface of the papers was crucial when deciding how to stitch and what type of thread to use.  I would like to experiment with mixed media more in the future as these projects have really inspired me.

Further translating the paper samples into textiles proved quite difficult, I did not know quite where to start, normally I have an idea of what I want to produce or what is required as an outcome.  I had to put self doubt aside as there was little option but to jump in, start experimenting and see where it would take me.  I selected the same elements from the original paper sample and worked on evolving them within the three samples using different techniques within the same theme.

Part 2 has taken me a lot longer to complete than I had anticipated but will provide me with a good foundation to continue to Part 3.

Assignment 2 – Placed and spaced

For this assignment I have selected to work from one of my stitched papers which originated from my drawings of the Damask silk stays.


As part of the brief was to start with a textile with a relatively traditional quality and I have chosen to use Calico.  It is a world away from the Damask silk used on the original garment but the stays were lined with a linen fabric.

I started to experiment with ideas using an interfacing fabric and used this as a basis for making decisions as I worked on my first sample.  I selected the main features as a starting point, the ridges in the corrugated card suggested pleats or folds and the raised rectangles of card which represented the straight stitching from the original garment suggested a feature or window. The stitches I used in the paper sample were chain stitch in cotton perle and cross stitch in tapestry wool and cotton perle.

Sample work in sketchbook


Sample 1

Sketchbook work

From my first experiments I divided my fabric piece up and marked where the pleats would be put, I didn’t want to cover the piece in pleats but just have sections of pleats between the rectangular areas.  I know that I can not make the windows in the pleated area as the pleats will not stay in place after the fabric is cut and it would be to bulky, luckily this worked out as 3 sections of pleats with two rows of rectangles.  I stitched in the pleats to start with using running stitch in black cotton perle.  Pleats use up quite a bit of fabric so I had to allow for this when cutting the original piece of fabric to work on.  I have again used the original paper sample as a reference to the 5 rectangle areas between the rows of pleats.  I used a card template to work out how big to make them and then stitched around the shapes before cutting some of them out of the fabric.  I then washed the fabric so that it frayed on the raw edges as I didn’t want perfect rectangular opening but a softer window.

I gathered together small pieces of red and black fabrics, these were scraps of different fabrics from my collection, a shiny polyester silk, cotton velvet, netting, threads etc.  I did not have any Bondaweb to fuse the fabric pieces to a backing fabric under the windows so had to hand stitch them down using either cross stitch or herringbone stitch. I tried to do something different to each window around the idea of the stitched paper sample.


Some of the windows I padded with polyester wadding to give a raised effect.  I also slashed and cut the upper fabric on some of the windows to reveal the coloured fabric underneath.  The whole sample was then hand stitched using a variety of threads and stitches with reference to the original paper sample.

I have used cross stitch, running stitch, chain stitch and herringbone stitch and the treads I have used are cotton perle, stranded cotton, polyester sewing thread and rayon threads.

Experimental stitching
Close up of one of the windows

Stitching like this is way out of my comfort zone because I naturally like things neat and tidy,  I have deliberately worked in an experimental way using the original stitched paper sample to lead me throughout the exercise still within the bounds of using only a few types of stitches and materials that I already had in my stash.

Threads used in Sample 1

Sample 2

This sample follows on from Sample 1, using the rectangular shapes, pleats and stitches but worked in a different way.

Sketchbook work for Sample 2
Working on layout designs for Sample 2 in sketchbook

I have now purchased some Bondaweb and started by fusing some of the fabric scraps that I used in sample 1 onto a polycotton backing fabric (left hand photo).  I fused together some sheer fabrics (right hand photo) cut them into wavy strips and fused this on top of the other fabrics.

Result of the two layers of bonded fabrics

The fabrics I have boned are netting, polyester satin, old synthetic scarf fabric, felt, polyester lining fabric, and velvet.  I have not purchased any fabrics but managed to use suitable materials from my stash.  I have selected an even weave cotton fabric which is heavier than calico but a similar colour for this sample as it will be bigger than sample 1.

I have experimented with the layout of the bonded pieces in my sketchbook and have deliberately chosen a repeating pattern layout which is part of the criteria for this exercise. For this sample I have cut out rectangular shapes from the bonded fabrics and have appliqued them onto the cotton fabric using a straight stitch on my machine.  The use of pleats has been reduced to just one pleat worked by hand in black cotton perle to separate the rectangular bonded fabric pieces into rows.

Example of appliqued rectangle

While I worked on this sample I thought that it would look better if I stitched an outline of the rectangle shape in the areas where there were no appliqued ones.  I think this was successful.

I have stitched over the top of the applied rectangles with cross stitch worked in different threads.  I also experimented with working just half of the cross stitch.  I have used the contours of the bonded fabrics within the rectangles as a guide for working the cross stich,  stitches are deliberately random in size and shape.  I have used cotton perle, stranded embroidery cotton, rayon threads and polyester sewing thread.

Finished sample 2

The sample is a repeating pattern and if the ends are joined together they continue the pattern. I could have experimented with a lot more stitching but it is very time consuming and where do you stop experimenting?

Sketchbook details


Sample 3

For this sample I wanted to use a different base fabric, one that could be manipulated within itself still using rectangular shapes, cross stitch and running stitch which are the theme of my chosen orignal worked paper sample.  I started to experiment with a piece of cotton scrim in a large embroidery hoop, necessary because scrim is very flimsy.  I also soon found that it was easier to work on with a piece of net fabric behind it (please excuse the sequins this was repurposed fabric) as my first attempts with no backing fabric didn’t work at all.

Sketchbook samples for Sample 3

I have manipulated the threads of the scrim with a needle to make the rectangular shapes as you can see in the photo below.  Scrim has a very loose open weave so the threads are very easy to move around.

Scrim fabric and initial embroidery experiment

I have continued to use cross stich as the basis for my stitching but in a more informal approach.  I like that you can see the stitching underneath the fabric as a shadow particularly with the finer threads.  I have used cotton perle (no 5), stranded embrioidery cotton, and a rayon thread.  I deliberatly have not use very thick course threads like tapestry wool as they would not work very well with such a light fabric substrate.


I have continued to work in an experimental way across the fabric trying to bring different ideas within the same boundaries taken from my original sample, mark making exercise and stitched manipulated paper sample.  I have also used the same colour palette in reference to the samples and original textile piece.


From left to right

Blocks of experimental cross stitch worked in cotton perle and stranded cotton.

Cross stitch in stranded cotton worked around manipulated threads of the substrate fabric.

Cross stitch using cotton perle No 5 on the edges of the manipulated threads to maintain the open areas of the substrate fabrics.

A more considered row of cross stitch and back stitch using stranded cotton.

Cross stitch in stranded cotton this time used to pull a group of threads of the substrate fabric together (2 rows).

Rayon thread with stranded cotton (1 thread) used to oversew the groups of substrate fabric threads together.

Just for interest here is a photo of the reverse of the sample.

Reverse of sample


Exercise 2.4 Developed and composed Samples


Sample 1

Line drawings – Dorset button

I have selected my drawings taken from the Dorset button on the cotton bust bodice.

I have carried out some research about the history and how to make these buttons.  This is recorded in my sketchbook.

A Dorset button is made from a ring of metal which is covered with buttonhole stitch and then the middle is constructed by laying thread over the outside of the ring and secured in the middle with a cross stitch.  The center is then made by back stitching around the centre spokes.  There seem to be different designs even in the original buttons (seen below) and there are some beautiful modern ones on pinterest.

images of original old Dorset buttons from pinterest

I started to look at what buttons are used for – closing an opening in a garment sometimes with a decorative element.  You push the button through an opening, one made especially for the button to enable the garment to fit close or be closed up.

I have experimented with the idea of the half hidden button as it is pushed through the opening, the button hole.  This then developed to ‘two sides to every story’, the part you see and the part you don’t or how something is portrayed which depends on someones point of view or life experience.

Details from sketchbook initial ideas
Initial experiments recorded in my sketchbook
Experimenting with machine sewing the tracing paper
Experimenting with different size circles

I had originally thought that I would cover the card circles with button hole stitch in an ecru cotton perle as the sample in my sketch book but I preferred the texture of the cardboard after partially peeled off on layer of the card leaving an interesting texture.  I played around with different layouts of the circles on the tracing paper until I felt I had a balanced, interesting, not in a straight line, obvious design.

Experimenting with layout and sizes of circles

I discovered that the tracing paper tore quite easily so I stitched the outer edge on my sewing machine and then made a ‘button hole’ in response to the position that I required for the card circles.  This was successful and prevented any unwanted rips also knowing that I would be hand sewing the circles in place.  After machining I gently crumpled up the paper to get the scrunched up surface that I wanted and inserted the card circle buttons half through their paper buttonholes. I then backed this with a sheet of A3 plain white paper.

Final placement and buttonholes made in tracing paper

Using ecru cotton perle thread I stitched the buttons through the tracing paper and white paper backing on one half of the button and under the tracing paper just into the backing paper on the other half.  I used a long straight stitch to mimic the construction of the spokes of the Dorset button. I then used a silver rayon thread and twisted this around the spoke stitch on the visible side and added some beads made from shells and seed beads to embellish the centre of the button.

Work in progress


Close up of button

I like that the tracing paper obscures and blurs half the button and the embellishment is only on the emerged half of the button.

Sample 2

I have selected the study of the Borage flower using Inktense pencils, which is a drawing of a single flower.  This image is colourful, vibrant and has a strong shape.


I like the shape of the individual flower and enjoyed manipulating paper in exercise 2.2 and had an idea that this may create an interesting combination with stitching.

Rough drawing of Borage flower cut into black paper

My initial idea was to cut the flower shapes into black card which combined with some stitching in the vivid colours would give a pleasing result.

Selecting the colours from the drawing

However I always have an idea but can’t actually picture an outcome.

Experimenting with hand and machine stitching

I tore a piece of stiff black paper to just larger than A4 and played around with how big I wanted the flowers to be, one large one or a few smaller ones.  How did I want the stitching to be, hand or machine?

Experimenting with machine zig zag stitch on black paper
Smaller flower shapes and cardboard template

After much deliberation I decided to have smaller flower shapes cut out in reference to the experiments in exercise 2.2 where they cover the paper and extend off the paper. To give the black card a bit more surface texture I rubbed a large stone on the surface whilst the card was on a rough concrete floor, this broke the surface of the card with random puncture marks.

Experimenting with hand stitching and cutting the paper shapes I decided to use the sewing machine to create petal shaped arcs of zig-zag stitching in the colours identified from the original drawing.  Experiments proved it was also better to cut the shapes after stitching, as machining the cut paper resulted in bits being torn off accidently.

After the machine stitching I used a card stencil to draw on the flower shapes and cut just the petals with a sharp knife along with any stitching.  I really liked the outcome my only reservation was that not all the flowers had stitching on them.  Stitching on quite thick paper on a sewing machine is quite tricky and you have to be careful not to break the needle or damage the machine in the process.

Overview of finished piece
Close up of cut flower motif and machine stitching