Post #6. On textiles and texture

It is gratifying when some experimental fun turns into more than just a bit of fluff. Let me be more specific. At a workshop last year I tried couching with hairy acrylic yarn (just to see what would happen) and that initial bit of stitching grew into a tree complete with a flock of birds nesting in it. Here’s a photograph.


The workshop where this tree originated was called “Talking Texture” and was given by Sue Cameron at the 19th South African National Quilt Festival in July 2017. Sue’s mantra is “how can I take this a step further?” She repeated this often and I can still hear her saying it! During the workshop she asked us to: 1) have fun (yay!) and 2) focus on making samples of each of the techniques, rather than on a completed quilt.

I came home with a “hairy tree” and, among my samples, a woven piece that I had also couched with gold and appliqued with gloriously shiny Indian fabrics. Here’s a close up


This woven bit and the hair tree got pinned onto my design board and, over the months, grew into the quilt. I named it Birdsong even before it was completed. And so, once the tree was quilted down onto its backdrop of velvet, I had to fashion the birds. I had thought to embroider them in gold, but that didn’t feel quite right. It took a while to realise I had just the right material for my songbirds – a sheet of “thread fabric” that I had made during the workshop. Here are some of the birds in the foliage of the tree.


We were told to keep all our threads and fabric offcuts and, towards the end of the workshop, we scribble stitched them between two layers of wash away film (water soluble stabilizer). Once the plastic film is dissolved with water one is left with filigree of thread fabric, made by your very own hand.

During the workshop Sue Cameron slipped in a lot of theory about design and the use of different materials while she took us through the various stitching techniques that can add lustre and richness to a quilt. Her explanation of texture is that it creates surface interest and that it stimulates our sense of touch. She showed how the following can be used to create a more textured surface: applique, brodeire perse, weaving, folded fabric, prairie points, fabric tassels, chenille work, couching, handmade cords, embellishment, beading, use of buttons, felting, and thread fabric. We had great fun trying out these techniques.

To end – here’s a musing on the words textile and texture. They are close cousins, if not siblings, for they come from the same root – texere, which means to weave. Weaving is the basis of many (most?) hand crafts and is said to be an ancient practice. There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Paleolithic era, as early as 27,000 years ago. The oldest known textiles found in the Americas are remnants of six finely woven textiles and cordage found in Guitarrero Cave, Peru. The weavings, made from plant fibres, are dated between 10100 and 9080 BCE. (Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “Post #6. On textiles and texture

  1. Thank you Mariss. I’ve been looking forward to reading about this gorgeous creation. Will you please explain what you mean by ‘couching’?


    1. Thanks Jacqui. Couching is when one adds a cord to the surface of the fabric with over stitching, either by machine or by hand. So the tree was made by couching a number of strands of the yarn up against one another


  2. It’s the musing that I find so interesting as I would never be as creative and as adventurous as you are, but to know that texture and and textile are closely related fascinates me.


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