Saturday, September 7, 2013

Experiment: Embroidery Panel

So, the long awaited return. This post is something a little bit different. Not as much a prototype as an experiment. Not so much a model as a technique. I suppose the title ruins the suspense somewhat so lets get on with some embroidery!!! No amount of exclamation points is gonna make that sound rock and roll.

Now then... on to the rock and roll part. Originally I wanted to create a line drawing portrait but decided to make a test piece to try out the process and materials. I decided to pick a repeat pattern, something that would be simple to create through repetitive action such that I could get used to the process. With that in mind naturally I chose to recreate the insanely intricate pattern of one of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic architectural wonders. If you don't know Bucky google him and prepare to be amazed!

The Pattern

The pattern was based on the drawing above, which I found on this blog. It's the plan view of a geodesic dome structure, which I gather from the plans was destined for a golf club. I increased the contrast and other attributes of the image using photoshop to create a more significant difference between the drawing and the background also removing some of the other significant artefacts that interfered with the image. I then used the live trace feature of Illustrator to separate the drawing from the background and create a scalable vector drawing of the original content of the plans. This pattern was printed out to be transferred onto the medium.

The materials I chose for this project changed over time but were eventually chosen for reasons of durability, technical suitability and aesthetics. The pattern was originally going to be mounted on white foamboard for rigidity and maintaining structure, however after visiting a  great local art supply shop I found an unusual black foamboard which I felt would create a more striking contrast between the pattern and the medium. For advice about the best thread and needles to use I popped around the corner to a great local needlecraft shop where I bought a packet of various gauge needles and 2 threads one white 100% cotton spool and one green 100% silk spool. All the materials and most of the tools used for this project can be seen in the picture below.

The Materials

I began the process by transferring the pattern from the paper to the foamboard by taping the image in place and pushing a compass through the "nodes" of the pattern.

The holes produced at this point were not fully pushed through the board to avoid widening them too much as the compass needle is a thicker gauge than that of the sewing needle and I didn't want to effect the accuracy of the final pattern. I then threaded the needle with the cotton thread and began working on the outline of the pattern.


Next I built the first row in a simple zig-zag pattern and from then on continued using different triangular patterns to see which worked best and conserved most thread or was fastest.


The next three photos show a few of the different patterns I used to build up the layers.

Once the white layer was finished I skipped one of the circle patterns and began on the green layers. I believe leaving out this layer between the green and the white allows for a nicer transition between the colours. When the dot pattern became too dense to reliably reproduce I finished the pattern. The final product can be seen below.

The eye-like resemblance of the final pattern was intentional though the final decision to finish the panel like this only came when I'd reached a certain point. The silk thread gives the green portion a little more depth and the white cotton really stands out from the backing board.

I'm not sure what I might use this technique for again as I really underestimated how time consuming it was. The panel above took about a week, spending about 2 hours a night working on it, though that could be down to it's intricacy I do believe the repetitive nature of the pattern probably sped it up. It's hard to gauge how time consuming a less symmetrical pattern might be. It was an enjoyable project however and the final panel has a nice look and a wonderful tactility to it.

John O'Shea

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