Composition with cochineal

Sticking with the pink theme for the moment, I’ve been putting together a composition with cochineal. These sugary pinks can be a bit much, but I’ve set out to use the cochineal-dyed fabrics as a kind of creative constraint – what can I do with them? Can I create a successful and interesting composition?

Here’s where I’m at with it – see the photo. Using cochineal-dyed fabricsI started with a base of lightweight calico and then tried out some bits and pieces of fabric until I was happy with the result. The piece of white silk gauze on the top right hand side of the picture is something I picked up off the floor – it must have fallen out of a drawer. Serendipity? Or just too lazy to find a place for it.

There are some recycled fabrics in here. The luscious raspberry coloured piece off to the left is linen. Once upon a time I had an unlined, white, linen jacket which I loved to bits. And wore it until it was literally falling to bits and I had to consign it to history in its function as a garment. I cut out all the pieces I could from it and have used it to great effect for dyeing ever since. The striped fabric is leftover from a City & Guilds project. I made a draught-excluder out of a couple of old shirts I bought at a charity shop. This took ages as it was all kantha stitching but I was quite pleased with the result. Our house is well-insulated so we don’t actually need it, but my daughter has been making good use of it in her draughty maisonette in North London.

The other fabrics are scraps of new materials that I’ve dyed. Most of the stitching is going to be with commercial threads that I have lying about although there is a bit of cochineal-dyed thread I can use, and some bits and pieces from my logwood dyeing sessions. Below the fabric in the hoop is a glimpse of the drawing that I was describing the other day, where I’ve worked through some ideas and got used to the idea of the colour contrasts. I’ve lined up some scarlet threads and hope I’ll have the bottle to use them.

This is turning into a bit of a series – it’s the fifth piece I’ve worked on that uses the Paul Klee-inspired approach to stitching that I wrote about in a post last year. I’m still getting a lot out of it, so I think I’ll just carry on until I want to move on to something else. I don’t even particularly like satin stitch but I do like the effect of these little blocks. I’m working this one in a hoop which should help to keep it reasonably flat. The last one I worked on, which was quite a large piece, had a lightweight felt padding, so was more substantial and I worked it in the hand. As expected, it turned out quite irregular and textured, which was fine. But this time I wanted to achieve a slightly different effect. I’ll keep on working on this in odd minutes here and there and I’ll let you know how I get on. I’ve got a few train journeys over the next few days, and I expect I’ll be hauling this out to fill in some time as the train whizzes through England.

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