My last assignment was encouraging, with a lot of useful advice. When I started this course, the focus was witchcraft, but felt source material was limited. So I thought of an associated theme which was mushrooms and spores. This led to the discovery of the microscopic world. Having studied Biochemistry and my interest in viruses, this seemed the right path to choose. Previous studies gave some interesting ideas and allowed them to be translated to fabric. I was told not to follow the coursework to the letter, so in this section, I adapted my way of thinking.

One of my earliest influences for textiles comes from my grandmother, who modified clothing and readdressed them. One example is taking a fur coat and edging the cuffs and collar with the fabric. She taught me to use the sewing machine and over the years have made lots of childrens costumes, which is where my interest lies in theatre costume. There is a wealth of information from historical to contemporary on the internet.

A favourite film of my is the butterfly effect, based on the chaos theory , where there is cause and effect. Basically if your life took one path and didn’t change anything then it would stay the same. This is similar to the work that I am doing. Although I had certain criteria to follow, such as colour, technique or materials the majority of my work appears to have evolved, through mistakes made.

Generally when doodling, most images involve swirls or circles, which resonates with the spiral design of the butterfly tongue. However trying to replicate this accurately wasn’t as easy as first thought as it lost its uniformity. It was then decided to do it freehand and use the ‘mistakes’ to design. One mistake wasn’t the design, rather it was missing the backing off the fabric, causing it to pucker.this was a useful exercise as it showed a construction method.

Having laid out work done so far, I had to narrow my colour choice. I chose what appealed to me most. The colours chosen for the final project were turquoise, gold blue and purple and variations of tones and textures. I undertook research on the internet for variations on the theme, but wanted to show iridescence of the wings. This research has expanded my knowledge of colour combinations.

Having looked through various materials decided on a faux velvet and embroidered net which complimented the overall design. My colour perception has increased immensely from the first, somewhat naïve project. By using these materials, the initial idea of a butterfly is encapsulated and is representative of the butterfly. As do the various textures which add contrast and depth. It also creates space within the design. It has a vibrant front panel, which initially was to be left bare. However on further analysis, decided it needed embroidery to balance the design.

I used different mediums (such as crayon, chalk etc.) which gave variety in tones, and colours. Threads chosen for the design had to be changed and adapted after running out of a particular colour. This diverse technique allows this as can be over sewn or integrated.

Having tried numerous techniques, I had to decide which one would suit the project. The strongest sample that emerged was machine embroidery. Hand embroidery was looked at, but felt it was too time consuming. Machine embroidery comes very easy to me, as it’s a freer way of working. The work produced is unique as no two stitches are the same, which would put in the bespoke category. As it couldn’t be replicated easily. The final design used various areas of the picture to create a whole new image.

Another deliberation was whether to use surface design or to be part of the fabric itself. I attempted to make a piece of fabric, by using scraps, sewn together with machine stitch, which was effective.

I was originally going to do a soluble fabric bowl, but this was discounted as the soluble material was too flimsy for the purpose. Also it was the easiest option and wanted to push myself.

Whatever I would choose to make would involve machine embroidery as a preferred method. This I found easy to do, but extremely effective, but time consuming. I had previously looked at the work of annemieke mein and still feel drawn back to look at the stitch work. Another acclaimed artist is Souyu Iv who bucked the trend of uniformity by using random embroidery and is famously known for her picture of chairman Mao. This is a traditional method and uses silk threads.

Another artist that has inspired me is Meredith Woolnough. Her work on the natural world is exquisite. The technique used is densely stitched but still so very delicate and ‘lifelike’. This is ‘drawn’ on soluble fabric which is washed after stitching leaving a skeleton of the work, which is preserved in resin.

The piece I wanted to make could be something I could wear and show what I can do. However that didn’t go to plan, as the first design was based on a waistcoat pattern. Having cut everything out, discovered a part of the pattern was missing, so abandoned. However there was a second pattern that drew my attention generating new ideas to work from.

I had an idea of contrasting panel, totally reinventing the waistcoat design and turned out the better choice. I used a dress previously made for the material and deconstructed to use it. But I hadn’t taken into account there wasn’t enough material, which was frustrating. I have found that through this process I have had to problem solve. This has proved invaluable in the design work. I had thought to use a two tone opposing pattern, but decided against this, as the embroidery would not have the effect desired. Machine embroidery had a number of possibilities for development, by trying different stitches, tensions and designs. By altering the images changed the way I wanted to approach the final design and gives me the enthusiasm to master machine embroidery.

Researching waistcoat design, revealed that generally the basic shape hasn’t altered drastically since the 1600’s, however the length of the waistcoat did become shorted. In the 17th and 18th century they were highly decorated (spangles, silk and silverwork) and very bright, worn mainly by women. Waistcoats worn by the peasants were simpler, practical and less coarse than the ones worn by the upper classes.



So I decided on a waistcoat.

There were a number of things to take into account.

  • Would it be used for day or nightwear?
  • Would it be delicate or hardwearing?
  • Would it be practical or decorative?

These are by no means the only decisions to make. The drawings of the waistcoat showed some interesting patterns which could be adapted for the design of the embroidery. One idea generated could be used on a large scale project that could hang from the ceiling and by using wire embedded into fabric could create spirals cascading down. This could be manipulated into various shapes to get the desired effect. Scale was a consideration when drawing, and explored various sizes. But feel I need to do more work on this. One thing that emerged, when looking through my work, the doodles done are too complicated and need simplifying. Some elements were chosen from various drawings, and overall feel the end design fits in with the theme.


However when attempting the machine embroidery using these, I found it difficult to adhere to the design. As felt it hindered the creative flow. By adapting the way i was working, allowed freedom to create straight from my head.


I tried draping material on a tailors dummy to see what the effect was. The material was manipulated into spirals and showed variations on a theme. This was a useful exercise in deciding where the pattern would be.

I made a blouse, which did not go to plan as I rushed the whole process and was not happy with the design. It was useful in highlighting that the design process should not be rushed. So I had to decide what I wanted to achieve.

Referring back to the Butterfly tongue, I carefully thought about the general shape, which was coiled. My partner Mark told me a butterfly in Dutch was a Flinder, which sounded magical. This made me think about the whole of the butterfly and how delicate it was. With this in mind, an initial choice was made used heavily embroidered voile. But this was felt that it did not fit in with the waistcoat theme.

Using the chosen subject, the drawing was relatively easy to do. This translated well when transferred to the samples. Many of them were time consuming, but this assisted my final decision.

The shape within a shape was inspiring and by using this method showed areas that as a whole were lost.

Consideration firstly was given to the base structure (faux velvet)this would show the luminescence of the wings, which would add richness to the overall design. The embroidery threads chosen also needed to compliment rather than contrast. As the source material was limited, was going to alter the theme, but decided to stick with it.

Drawing on the samples made in previous exercises I used various techniques (such as felting, hand or machine embroidery to name but a few) to decide whether I would like to integrate them into the final piece. Some samples produced some interesting ideas, either by design or in some cases I came upon by accident. For example, One of them was missing the backing and it ruched the fabric. Whilst this was an interesting discovery, it was irritating to have done the sample wrong. Other techniques revealed that some textures were flawed in design, and were discounted from the final piece. These would serve as a reference in future projects, of what not to do. These experiments were done on a small scale, which allowed numerous ideas to evolve. Some were time consuming, but not all. Which allowed a decision to be made on the final composition.

I experimented with circles, adapted from the original pattern. These needed edging to improve the appearance. Cotton was the best example of this. The voile did not turn out the way expected and ruffled the material, showing movement because of the fluidity of the fabric. Which is something resonated with the gentleness of the butterfly. I did try burning the edges, but found it too volatile proving it to be dangerous. This needs consideration when making a garment.

This was I played around with scraps of fabric, machine stitching randomly with contrasting colours. Using this approach produced a fabric panel, but I think I made myself more work, by using scattered scraps rather than a whole piece. The way in which it was made shows diversity in building up layers, but would not convey delicacy. The only problem with this is the placement of the scraps would be thicker in place than others. Despite this the fabric takes on a different texture. Once stitched with a sewing machine the material stiffens up.


I am environmentally aware and feel strongly about waste that goes to landfill, so don’t waste any of the scraps or threads from projects. Also this would be more cost effective.

I was happy with the design process. However, if I were to change anything, I would experiment more with stitches on the machine (which is fairly basic). Having researched extensively on the internet, I discovered Su embroidery. A traditional technique that is unique in the way the picture can be seen both sides and is something that could be explored. I am drawn to stitch work as opposed to some of the other techniques previously tried.

This was the best part of the course so far, and the tutor said I was relying on the course book too much. However this section had fewer notes than previously so I had to think for myself, which was good as I had free rein to do what inspired me but still keeping to the brief. This is something that I wish to pursue in future design work.

The waistcoat produced fulfilled all the criteria of design, materials and pattern, and overall was extremely pleased. Doing the process, I had asked for advice, but made me doubt my abilities and took as criticism. My daughter had said to think outside the box, I did take as criticism however I thought what a client would say if not happy.

I got carried away with designing so made an embroidered box in addition to the waistcoat. Looking back at the work as a whole made me realise how much I have improved and become more aware of colours, texture, composition and a number of other factors. And this is reflective in clothing choices and in adapting clothing for my personal tastes. My first project was basic and disappointed with my initial choice.

With the box that I have made, similar stitchwork is undertaken, but this time used a 3d design. I was extremely pleased with the outcome. However the stitching on the corners wasn’t as accurate as I would like and something to consider when doing other projects. Overall the construction was effective. I do find it difficult to manage my time, and needs to be worked at. As if it were to commission then I would have time limits. Also another area where I am lacking is going to textiles events or places of interest with textiles in mind. This is because I am nervous of driving out of my comfort zone. However the internet serves the purpose of research, the only drawback is that I cant ‘see’, or feel the fabric. This is something to be addressed.

Stitches to try

Hand stitches

Soutache braid (hides seam) metallic bullion stitch detached button hole (creates curl) button hole wheel cap single brussells stitch buttonhole wheel flower Italian insertion stitch machine stitches satin/straight/zigzag



About huggywitch

I have been doing textiles for a number of years and recently started my degree. I have always had an interest in theatre costume design and this is where my passion lie.
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