Module 1 – Chapter 12

Different ways of using the shapes to show disintegration


Images 12.1 and 12.2


Images 12.3 and 12.4

In these samples I used a background card of 8’’ by 8’’ which is the required size for the resolved sample in order to identify designs which could be translated into the final sample.  I explored the use of size and colour in giving the appearance of disintegration i.e. the paler, or faded, colour and smaller shapes representing the disintegration.  I think that the idea of showing disintegration creeping through the piece  is interesting, such as in 12.4 where the shapes are strong in the top left corner and become weaker through the lighter colour to the right bottom corner.

To give me greater flexibility, I decided to try some digital layouts using an image of a  previous samples, below.

Disintegrate 1  Image 12.5 – Disintegration shown by decreasing size and faded colours moving from left to right

Disintegrate 2

Image 12.6 – Disintegration shown by decreasing size and faded colours moving from centre to edges

Disintegrate 3

Image 12.7 – Disintegration shown by decreasing size and faded colours moving from top left and bottom right i.e. most disintegrated section is central diagonal bottom left to top right.

Disintegrate 4

Image 12.8 – Disintegration shown by decreasing size and faded colours moving in spiral shape.

 Composite sheet

I created a composite sheet showing samples throughout the module, as well as some of the original images which inspired my work.  The over-riding image which is present is the Maltese Cross.  I have enjoyed working with this particular design because of the flexibility of using the positive image of the cross to produce very strong, heraldic designs as well as the softer negative form i.e. the ‘petal’ shapes.

imageImage 12. 9 – Composite sheet

Thoughts on design for resolved sample

I sketched out some thoughts in my sketchbook as shown below:

imageImage 12.10 – sketchbook page

The sketchbook page above shows some of my thoughts on the design using some of ideas explored in the exercises above.  My main thoughts at this stage were:

– the design needed to work as a square of 8’’ by 8’’ as per the brief for this module.  This therefore restricted the design i.e. it could not be linear or rectangular.

– the size limitation meant that if I chose to use a large number of design motifs, they would need to quite small.  The stitching techniques to show disintegration would therefore need to be capable of working on small motifs.

– the use of faded colour was effective in illustrating disintegration

– the Maltese Cross offered lots of design possibilities in that it could be used as either a traditional image using the positive shape, or a softer more modern design using the negative ‘petal’ shapes.


Image 12.11 – sketchbook page of techniques to disintegrate

I also wrote down some thoughts on techniques of showing disintegration which I had learnt throughout the module such as:

– stitching past the outline of a shape

– using Brusho ink intensively to represent strength, and more diluted or speckled for areas of disintegration

– using the chenille technique

– adding fragments to the surface of fabric using a bonding agent to look as if it is disintegrating e.g. paper, painted dried leaves, or by machine stitching over tissue paper and leaving fragments trapped in the stitches

– use creased/crumpled surfaces to represent the bubbled texture of rust

– using strong colours which graduate to faded colours through multi-layered reverse appliqué

– using coarse/loose weave fabrics that fray well

– adding tufted knots

– melting areas of a synthetic fabric using a soldering iron

– using ripple effect reverse appliqué to create differences in depth and relief to represent worn out areas e.g. floor tiles which are worn are lower in the middle than at the edges.

With these thoughts in mind I worked on a more detailed design idea:


Image 12.12 – sketched design ideas

I made a number of design decisions:

– I would use the Maltese Cross as my design motif

– I would represent disintegration using three techniques: fading colour from strong to weak; using ripple effect reverse appliqué to produce areas of relief/depth as if worn away; using chenille to create heavily distressed areas

– I would use a gold top layer with blues and other colours underneath.

As I worked more on this design, I realised that the motifs all needed to be an adequate size for the slashing in the reverse appliqué technique i.e. so that a lot of layers became visible.  I therefore changed the design to one with four crosses, one in each quadrant of the square – see below.  This design also created an additional cross shape in the centre i.e. the space between the four smaller crosses.

image Image 12.13 – first sketches of the final design idea

I decided that I would have an area of strength in one corner, and that the piece would gradually disintegrate along a diagonal line.  I chose to disintegrate along the diagonal line as this gave the opportunity to have two of the crosses that were  half rich and half disintegrated which I thought would add interest to the sample.

Having decided upon this design layout I made the following decisions:

– The piece should look like an ancient religious/heraldic relic which has started to disintegrate with age.  This could be, for example, a fragment of an altar cloth.

– Opulent fabrics and surface decoration such as beading should be used to give the richness required

– The top layer would be gold dupion silk decorated with additional gold in the ‘rich’ area.

– The second layer would be a rich blue dupion silk and the cross in the ‘rich’ area would only be cut through to the second layer i.e. the blue layer.

– The crosses on the ‘disintegration diagonal line’ would have areas which were only slightly disintegrated at the top left, and would be more disintegrated at the bottom right.  This would be created by increasing the amount of layers that were slashed through in the more disintegrated area.

– the layers should include some fragments of heavily frayed sari silk to enable a high level of disintegration to be created (i.e. producing longer threads than by fraying the edges alone).

Creating the top layer

I contemplated a number of ways of decorating the surface of the gold silk with gold acrylic paint to create a richer area in the top left area.  These included:

– Painting small marks on to a triangular sheet of Bondaweb the size  of half of the square i.e. to cover the whole of the ‘rich’ area and applying this to the silk surface.  This would provide a method of adhering the gold marks as well as reducing the amount of fray in the top layer so that the ‘rich’ parts had clean edges when slashed.   I tried this approach but did not like the look and feel of the Bondaweb adhesive on the surface of the silk as it reduced the sheen.

– Painting Bondaweb and then cutting bits off and applying them individually to the silk.  I tried two ways of creating the bits – one was using a hole punch and one was snipping with scissors. In the image below a brand of bonding material was used which had a diamond shape pattern on it.  Image 12.15 shows the bits bonded to the silk.  This technique did not produce the opulent effect that I was trying to achieve.

– Adding a layer of gold metallic voile to the silk.  I did not like this effect as it hid the surface of the silk too much and became stiff, See image 12.16.

– Printing the paint directly on to the silk.  I was very pleased with the effect of his technique.  I used the flat round end of a pencil and created a graduating area area of gold spots.  I decided to use this technique for the resolved sample.  See image 12.17 below.


Image 12.14 – Bonding material painted with gold acrylic paint

image   Image 12.15 – bonded bits applied to the silk.


Image 12.16 – layer of gold metallic voile bonded to silk


Image 12.17 – printing directly onto silk

Selecting fabrics for the layers

To create the opulent look that I wanted for my ‘holy relic’ I chose to use silk fabrics.  My selection included some pieces of frayed sari silk ribbon and twisted silk threads to add texture.  See images 12.18 and 12.19 below.  The backing fabric was white cotton to enable the pattern to be drawn on.

image image

Image 12.18 and 12.19

Placing the layers

I made 10 layers plus some narrow strips – see images 12.20 and 12.21 below.  The partial layers and strips of ribbon and threads were only placed on the area that I wanted to disintegrate.  Full pieces were used on the ‘rich’ side in order to keep the layers the same thickness across the whole sample.


Images 12.20 and 12.21

Once all of the layers were in place I pinned them together, including the base layer with the design drawn on.

Stitching the design

image image

Images 12.22 and 12.23

I stitched the design using gold embroidery thread with a narrow zigzag stitch to give the piece strength when slashed.

Cutting the layers

The first layer as cut out on all of the crosses to reveal the rich blue second layer.

 image  Image 12.24 – blue layer with line drawn on to show split between rich area and disintegrated area.

Because I wanted the top left cross to remain sharp I did two rows of narrow zigzag stitch around the perimeter of the cross to prevent fraying.  I also did the same around the two ‘arms’ of each cross which fell in the ‘rich area.

I then cut through to the next layer on three of the crosses.  At this point I worked on the two crosses on the diagonal i.e. the partially disintegrated crosses.

image Image 12.25

Image 12.25 shows how I created partial disintegration by peeling back sections of the layer and stitching down the peeled back parts using invisible thread.  I then worked on the arms of the cross in the disintegrated area and cut into the layers.  Image 12.26 below shows the effect of the frayed sari ribbon giving great texture.


Image 12.26 – frayed sari threads


Images 12.27 and 12.28 – completed crosses in the partially disintegrated area.  I cut through 7 –8 layers on the two arms in the disintegrated side of these crosses.

Next, I worked on the fully disintegrated cross.  Image 12.29 shows the fully disintegrated cross in which I cut through all 10 layers in some places but fewer in others to give variety in colour and changes in the depth of the sections. Again, the long frayed sari threads gave additional interest once revealed.


Image 12.29 – cross in the disintegrated area

Adding more decoration and more disintegration

I wanted to maximise the contrast between the two sections of the piece and so added beading to the rich areas.  On the rich cross I added a row of coloured glass beads to the edge of the blue cross and another of amber and gold glass beads to the outside edge.  I added a few of the amber and gold beads to the partially disintegrated crosses so that it would look as if they had once been fully beaded but fallen off in places over time.


Image 12.30

Next I added some additional lines of stitching to create the chenille sections to add to the disintegration effect – see image 12.31 below.


Image 12.31.

I slashed through all of the layers for the chenille sections and then roughed them up with a wire brush.  This created additional contrast to the smooth silk surface of the rich side.

To edge the sample I used a machine embroidery stitch in a honeycomb design.  On the disintegrated sections I added fragments as shown in image 12.32

image Image 12.32 – stitching fragments into the border

Once the border was stitched I trimmed all of the layers to about 1.5cm and frayed them to create a tufted edge to the piece.  Because many of the silks I used were shot, the colours on the warp and weft were different and so this gave additional interest to the tufted edge.

The final resolved sample


Images 12.33 – 12.35 below show close ups of the crosses in each area i.e. rich, disintegrated and partially disintegrated.

imageImage 12.36 – the full resolved sample.


Time: 25 hours

Cost: £17 for silk fabric


Module 1 – Chapter 11

Growth and disintegration

Paper experiments in disintegration

The images below show my experiments in making paper appear to have disintegrated. 


Image 11.1 – Left – paper soaked in water then rubbed with a pan scourer;

Right – paper heavily creased to change surface texture but not cut in any way.  I think that these samples which look quite natural i.e. as if they have deteriorated through wear and tear.


Image 11.2 – Left – paper from the edge of a spiral bound pad, woven.  This creates quite an interesting effect, but does not really look disintegrated due to the regularity of the shapes i.e. the clean-cut squares;

Right – torn pieces – the torn edges give a naturally disintegrated look.

IMG_4632[1] Image 11.3 – Left – perforated lines made with sewing machine and sections torn out.  This creates an interesting effect, as if the paper has been caught up in a machine and disintegrated as a result;

Right – paper rolled up and snipped with scissors – I don’t think this is an effective approach as it looks too purposefully cut.

IMG_4633[1] Image 11.4 – Left – folded and torn paper.  The symmetrical pattern in this sample reduce the look of disintegration;

Right – crumpled into a ball and distressed using a cheese grater.  I think this is a very effective approach as it looks as if it has disintegrated through natural means e.g. wear and tear or weather.

IMG_4634[1] Image 11.5 – crumpled paper, sandwiched between the hotplate and lid of a Rayburn stove until brittle, then crumpled again until it disintegrated.  This approach was very effective as it made the paper look as if it had crumbled through age.


Image 11.6 – paper stitched by machine then soaked and rubbed away.  This creates an effective look of disintegration and lovely textures.

Paper shapes – experiments in disintegrating a paper shape

IMG_4642[1] IMG_4643[1] IMG_4644[1]

Images 11.7, 11.8,  11.9

 IMG_4646[1] IMG_4647[1] IMG_4648[1]

Images 11.10, 11.11, 11.12

IMG_4650[1] IMG_4653[1]

Images 11.13 and 11.14

From the experiments above I found that the quality of the edges has an impact on the appearance of disintegration.  For example, whilst the sample shown in 11.14 has actually been disintegrated more than that in 11.12 (i.e. more paper has been removed) I think it looks less disintegrated because the lines are clean cut as opposed to having a rougher torn edge.

 IMG_4673[1] IMG_4676[1] IMG_4675[1]

Images 11.15, 11.16 and 11.17

In these samples I experimented with placing paper bits in different positions to note the different effects on the appearance of disintegration e.g. randomly spread (11.15), disintegration from the centre(11.16), and from the bottom (11.17). 

IMG_4678[1] IMG_4679[1]

Images 11.18 and 11.19

In these samples I experimented with using threads to give the appearance of the paper disintegrating all over (image 11.18) and from the edges (image 11.19).

I think the effect achieved by disintegrating a particular area, rather than all over, is interesting as it represents the way that an object decays due to mould i.e. it starts in one place and travels across the surface.

Disintegrating fabric shapes

IMG_4661[1] IMG_4662[1] IMG_4663[1]

Images 11.20 – cut and folded cross;  11.21 – cut and folded cross; 11.22 – positive shapes from sample 11.21


IMG_4665[1]IMG_4664[1]  IMG_4666[1]

Images 11.23 – cross frayed,  11.24 – square with lines snipped in and frayed, 11.25 – 1 square and 4 triangles frayed


IMG_4667[1] IMG_4669[1]IMG_4668[1] 

Images 11.26 – square with hole in middle, frayed, 11.27 – two straight strips frayed, 11.28 – 5 squares frayed


IMG_4670[1] IMG_4671[1] IMG_4672[1]

Images 11.29 – straight strips with lines in centre cut out and frayed, 11.30 – square with lines snipped in and frayed, 11.31 – cross made from threads and bonding material


Stitched shapes


Image 11.30

Left – sparse all over pattern using machine thread shows some disintegration and has an almost jigsaw-like look suggesting that the shape could fall to pieces.

Centre:  heavy all over pattern shows suggested more disintegration

Right:  zig-zag stitch was used in a more concentrated way at the outside edges suggesting disintegration from the ends of the cross.


Image 11.31

Left – hand-stitched cross stitched in perle thread suggesting disintegration around the edges

Centre:  chain stitch was used in a more concentrated way at the outside edges suggesting disintegration from the ends of the cross.

Right:  bits of thread and muslin bonded onto the cross suggest heavier amount of disintegration

Time:  7 hours

Cost: Nil

Module 1 – Chapter 10

Making ripples – chenille or slashed reverse appliqué

For this sample I made a stack of fabrics in highly contrasting shades of blue and yellow.  I mainly used shot silks for the layers as they fray well and give interesting colours when frayed.  I used blue Lurex for the top layer, partly as I thought it would create a dramatic effect and because it would fray and disintegrate well once slashed.  Image 10.1 shows the lines of stitching on the reverse of the sample with a simple cross shape set on the diagonal with ripples, or stripes, emanating from the cross.  I used a narrow zigzag stitch to ensure the sample would be strong enough to hold together once slashed. I used a contrasting gold thread.

IMG_4613[1] Image 10.1

IMG_4614[1] IMG_4615[1]

Image 10.2                                         Image 10.3

Image 10.2 shows the lines of stitching on the front of the sample, and image 10.3 shows the sample with slashing.

IMG_4617[1] Image 10.4

Image 10.4 shows the finished sample.  In order to create the frayed edges, or chenille effect, I snipped the cut edges at right angles to the stitching and then gave the whole piece a rough brushing with a wire brush.  The edges of the shot silks and the lurex frayed very well and created a beautiful fluffy texture.  The frayed edges of the lurex catch the light and give an added element of interest to the piece.  The height of the pile is about 7mm.  I am very pleased with the contrasting colours in this piece; the slivers of gold silk showing through the various shades of blue produce a very dramatic effect.

Time:  2 hours

Cost: £1 for Lurex fabric

Module 1 – Chapter 9

Reverse applique – traditional and contemporary methods

Traditional method

For my sample using the traditional method I used four layers of cotton, three of which were patterned.

IMG_4589[1] Image 9.1

Image 9.1 shows my first attempt in which I made an error, I placed all of the three top layers on at the same time rather than doing one at a time.  I realised that I had made a mistake as I could not turn under and stitch the edge of layer one with all three layers there and so I removed the top two layers and started again.


Image 9.2

Image 9.2 shows my completed sample.  I think that the use of patterned fabrics has detracted from the shapes created by the reverse appliqué technique and make it less easy to identify the separate layers.  If I were to make this sample again I would keep the base layer fabric (as I think it gives the appearance of the night sky observed through an ornate window) but use highly contrasting plain fabrics for layers 1, 2 and 3. 

Contemporary methods using machine stitching


Image 9.3                         Image 9.4

Image 9.3 shows by first attempt at reverse appliqué with the outside shape stitched first and cut away on the inside.  Whilst this attempt worked, I wasn’t happy with the size of the ‘ripples’ as they looked too wide and so I had another go and reduced the width of each layer – see Image 9.4. 

IMG_4635[1] Image 9.5

Image 9.5 shows a sample made using reverse appliqué with the inside shape stitched first and cut away on the outside. 

Multi-coloured contour or ripple effect

For this sample I assembled a stack of various coloured fabrics including shot silks, plain cottons, patterned cottons and sheer fabrics.  Some of the layers were whole squares, many were just strips of fabric.  I used a blue dupion silk as the top layer, stitched around my pattern and cut out the shapes on the top layer (see image 9.6).  I used a narrow zigzag stitch to give the strength required to keep the piece intact after cutting fabric away.

IMG_4601[1] Image 9.6

For each subsequent layer of stitching I cut out either side of the stitching and frayed the edges.  The mixture of fabrics within each layer created a very attractive mix and I cut to different depths in different areas of the sample to give additional interest through the variety of relief created as a result.  See image 9.7 below.  I was very pleased with this sample – my favourite of this module so far.  From starting out as a very simple shape, the technique produced a very rich and varied result.  The use of dupion silk as the top layer added a very opulent appearance as well as producing beautiful frayed edges.


Image 9.7

Time: 7 hours

Cost: Nil

Health and safety:  Take care when using sharp pointed scissors to snip away section for reverse appliqué.   It is often necessary to stab into a piece of fabric  when cutting away a section that is not on the edge; caution is needed to ensure that the scissors don’t go through all the layers and that you are working on a cut-proof surface.

Module 1 – Chapter 8

Complex Samples

My first attempt at creating a complex sample was not very successful.  I tried to create a machine embroidered cross onto raw silk.  The problems that I had were:

  • I forgot to use a backing fabric and so would not have been able to stuff the centre
  • The silk gathered up as I was stitching as it needed something firm behind it to give it more structure
  • I found it difficult to find the right tension on the sewing machine to cope with the silky fabric and embroidery thread.

IMG_4558[1] Image 8.1

These problems alerted me to the steps that I need to take when using machine embroidery on fine/silky fabrics.

IMG_4536[1] Image 8.2

Example 8.2:

  • I used a background fabric of blue raw silk.
  • The first layer was made from muslin, bonded to the background and hand embroidered using variegated perle threads in a random circular design.
  • The top layer was made using hand embroidery to couch some very thick blue cotton thread.

I liked the contrast of the strong straight lines in the couched cross with the circles on the first layer and the mix of textures in the fabrics.

IMG_4528[1] IMG_4529[1] IMG_4533[1]

Image  8.3                            Image 8.4                          Image 8.5


Example 8.6:

  • I cut a Jerusalem cross from bonding fabric and painted circles onto it using gold acrylic paint (image 8.3)
  • I bonded the gold-spotted bonding fabric to a layer of yellow voile and bonded this to a piece of two-tone lining fabric (image 8.4)
  • I machine embroidered a cross on top of the Jerusalem cross using gold machine thread, as well as a diagonal cross on to the blue negative shapes (image 8.5)
  • I added hand embroidery using metallic gold thread (image 8.6)

I was very pleased with the opulent look of this piece.  The blue and gold worked well together, and the gold paint circles were very bold.  I did however, have a problem with heat in that the synthetic backing fabric puckered slightly when I used the iron to bond the cross on to it.  Next time I will try a few layers of thick brown paper between the fabric and iron as protection when using synthetic fabrics.

 IMG_4531[1]IMG_4530[1]   IMG_4537[1]

Image 8.7                          Image 8.8                            Image 8.9


  Image 8.10

Example 8.10:

  • I bonded a thin cotton cross to a muslin background
  • Created a cross by machine stitching using a variegated silk thread on soluble fabric, and then dissolved the fabric.
  • Bonded the machine embroidered cross onto the bonded cross
  • Hand embroidered using long and short stitch in a variegated perle thread, extending beyond the machine embroidered shape.

In this example, I was trying to create a rougher texture than my previous pieces.  I think the backing fabric and embroidery worked well, but a looser weave fabric would have been better for the first layer as this would have given more texture, particularly with frayed edges.

IMG_4540[1] IMG_4541[1]     IMG_4543[1]

Image 8.11                            Image 8.12                            Image 8.13


Image 8.14

Example 8.14:

  • I used raw silk as the background and machine stitched the first layer in gold embroidery thread using two rows of running stitch with a narrow zigzag stitch in between.
  • The second layer was machine stitched in pale blue thread also using two rows of running stitch with a narrow zigzag stitch in between.
  • The third layer was machine stitched in navy embroidery thread using a honeycomb shaped machine stitch.
  • The shapes of layer 2 were stuffed from the back.

I was pleased with the effects created in this sample.  I think that the effect of stuffing the shapes stands out well due to using just one fabric layer and having quite a formal style of stitching whereas it might have got lost if there were more layers and a more random style of stitching.

IMG_4559[1] IMG_4560[1] IMG_4564[1]

Image 8.15                           Image 8.16                       Image 8.17


   Image 8.18

For example 8.18 I wanted to create a less design and decided to recreate one of my designs from an earlier chapter.

  • I used a background of a loose weave linen dyed with Brusho ink
  • I traced a template to guide my hand stitching using a yellow thread and wove a metallic gold thread through the stitches
  • I then rotated the same design 180 degrees and stitched around the shapes in a variegated blue perle thread
  • I filled in the ‘squares’ with a darning stitch using the same blue perle and metallic gold threads.


Image 8.19

I was pleased with the textures and informal style of this sample.  The metallic thread contrasted very well with the blue linen and the course weave of the linen gave the piece texture.  Image 8.19 shows the comparison of the same design created using different techniques.  The top example in the photo shows the sample I made previously using three layers of fabric.

IMG_4572[1] IMG_4573[1]  IMG_4582[1]

Image  8.20                       Image 8.21                           Image 8.22


Image 8.23

Sample 8.22:

  • I used a background of blue raw silk
  • I made layer 2 from raw silk and hand stitched around the petal shapes using variegated perle thread
  • I made a greaseproof paper template to guide my machine stitching for layer 3.
  • I stuffed the pattern from the back – see image 8.23.

My decision to use a paper template for the stitching for layer 3 proved problematic when I tried to remove the template after stitching.  Because I used a very detailed stitch the paper became trapped and it took me about two hours using a pin to poke out all of the bits of greaseproof paper from the stitched pattern (see image 8.21).  Fortunately, the silk was able to stand up to this rough handling but a looser weave fabric would probably have been ruined.

I don’t think the stuffing works as well in this sample as it did in sample 8.14 because it is partly disguised by there being two fabrics.

IMG_4556[1] IMG_4557[1]

Image 8.24                                          Image 8.25


Image 8.26

Images 8.24 – 8.26 show pages from my sketchbook.



Image 8.27 above – Working page

Image 8.28 – Verification photo

Time:  20 hours

Cost: Nil