3.2; More Sampling: Using a Heat Gun

SAMPLE 3.2.5

Next, I stitched several layers of different coloured organza to a base of muslin (for stability). I used a random branch like pattern to produce jagged lines across the surface.


I was surprised that the organza shrank and gathered, I was only expecting it to melt. It deteriorates very quickly, revealing the layers beneath. The visual appearance is soft and fuzzy but the edges feel crunchy and slightly stiff suggesting solidity.

I found it useful to pair some of the images I took of the samples with some of the photographs I have been taking of trees. This has really helped consolidate my thinking and helped me to understand where all this might be leading.

SAMPLE 3.2.6

These samples could almost be dismissed as a bit of lighthearted fun! I’m not sure that they relate to the rest of the work I have been producing? The coursenotes say to include things, even when they don’t work out so….


It was certainly exciting to watch these flowers ‘bloom’, maybe I should have videoed it and called it performance art! The strange shapes are peculiar and twisted and catch the light… perhaps I should hang them from trees?

These were also good fun- to begin with. Having made one, the novelty soon wore off! I had an idea to make a really long spiral wrapped around a broom handle. At that scale an assistant was required: my husband held the broom and slowly rotated it, while I held the heat gun in once place until I saw movement. It was a freezing cold January evening, we were stood next to the open kitchen door to ward off fumes. Suddenly, at exactly the same moment, about a third of the way down the broom handle, we both realised how ridiculous it was and laughed (a bit hysterically, in my case at least). It was going to take forever! I’m afraid the result was just not worth the effort in this case!

SAMPLE 3.2.7 (a) (b)

I like to incorporate knitting into my work because it reminds me how my love of textiles began. I made some yarn from a plastic bag and combined it with a textural cotton DK and Kid Silk Merino. The bag I used was of the ‘Bag for Life’ variety for strength.

The resulting swatch looked great. The warm orange and cool red balanced well. The textures were complimentary, smooth, fuzzy and lumpy. 

It also felt really nice, the photo above right shows me scrunching it. It was crunchy, yet soft. Springy, bouncy and really quite thick.


I shrank the surface with a heat gun (I left an area to the right to compare before/after). The biggest difference was to the overall size: it shrank quite a lot, the stitches actually pulled together, closing the gauge. This meant it became stiff and solid. Another thing I noticed is that the orange has deepened in colour, it is now no longer brighter in value than the red/purple, as a result they sit together even better than before. This makes the white stand out more, it is making some irregular loops across the surface that I find interesting to follow.

I was so taken with this sample, I had to produce another. I changed to a green/blue palette in similar materials adding some metallic DMC embroidery floss for shimmer. I wanted a more open piece so using the same size needle I knitted in moss stitch.

This time the swatch felt much more floppy. A combination of a change in stitch and a much thinner bag meant it was much less stable. I assumed this would mean even greater shrinkage.


Actually, the stitches barely pulled together at all. I was actually afraid to heat it any more in case the plastic disappeared completely. There was very little change in the size of the swatch after heating. The green plastic merely shriveled up, receding into the background, luckily it remained high value so still retained its presence. It is no where near as stiff as the first sample  In fact it still has enough drape to be considered wearable.

The inclusion of the metallic thread worked well, the overall effect is like blades of grass poking through a hard frost, to emphasise this I added a few sequins.

I feel really inspired by these last two samples, there are a great many combinations of thread, form and embellishments I want to try…. unfortunately I must move onto the next exercise!

I am sad to be leaving plastics. I didn’t think I would find anything for ‘me’ in 3.1 and 3.2, but I am really happy to have proved myself wrong!


3.2; Sampling: Using a Heat Gun

I felt like I ‘hit the ground running’ in this exercise, it seemed like a really natural progression from using the iron to the heat gun. Some of the exercises are so markedly different from one another it almost feels like starting again; this was different.

SAMPLE 3.2.1

At first it was a bit of a shock how quickly the plastic reacted to the heat from the gun. The results are much more unpredictable than using the iron and this took a bit of getting used to. I collated the resulting samples in the same way I did the fused ones, by machine stitching them together:

The two photographs above illustrate a problem I have been having recording the samples so far: daylight! I have set up an area of my desk with a strong lamp and white background but often find the multiple ceiling lights in our kitchen create unwanted shadows. Today finally the sun came out and what a different it made to my viewing of the samples!

The thicker areas that transverse the delicate plastic have produced some beautifully fragile images. The larger image on the right was drawn with watercolour pencils, the others are photographs. What I find most appealing is the biomorphic nature of the synthetic samples.

When I compare my new drawing to the first one I made in oil pastel of the fused sample I can really appreciate the benefit of drawing similar (or the same) image in different media. The watercolour has captured the translucency so much more accurately than the pastel, although this is partly due to lighting as well.

SAMPLE 3.2.2

I have been desperate to try working with Tyvek for ages! I brought some months ago and never really had use for it, now seemed the perfect opportunity to experiment.

My first attempts were scary, it shrivels so fast! So I returned to using an iron just to reassure myself I had brought the right stuff! Satisfied with the results above I turned back to the heat gun and did some experiments:

I tried painting with Lumiere, layering, appliqueing shapes and machine stitching. Making and then reviewing these pieces in my sketchbook helped me to understand how unpredictable the results can be and what potential this material has.

SAMPLE 3.2.3 (a) (b)

My initial thoughts about heating plastics were rather negative. Research caused me to surmise that the technique has become rather too popular, possibly over-used and much of the resulting work tends to look the same. I decided to challenge this view and prove to myself that I could use Tyvek in a way that still reflected myself and allowed me to be an individual.


Sample (a) above, was much more successful that (b) below. What I like about (a) is that just a small piece of Tyvek has been combined with other materials, accidentally made marks and purposeful stitch. When held in comparison (b) is a bit of a muddle! There is way too much going on, not nearly enough contrast and the shapes lack definition. 


Incidentally I made another really nice sample: the shapes were interesting, the colour was great: really strong and vibrant. There were some really exciting areas where the mica in the paint had gathered… I wanted to do something with it…. but didn’t know what!

I put my reluctance to work into the sample (above) down to demons about ‘spoiling work’, now on reflection I wonder if it actually needed anything else done to it? Perhaps a better course of action would have been to try to create a larger version in a similar manner? 

SAMPLE 3.2.4

This sample was made by joining four smaller, separate experiments that were created as I explored combining Tyvek with non-heat reactive fabrics. Muslin and Silk.

I machine stitched the muslin to a sheet of Tyvek, first with ‘vermicelli’ then ‘pebbling’ stitch in a lime green thread:

Heating these created two exciting, raised effects similar to shirring. For some reason it reminds me of Anne Kyrro Quinns soft smocking in felt, only in an anarchic fashion!

Sari silk was adhered to Tyvek using Bondaweb. (It was possible to iron the Bondaweb without distorting the Tyvek by keeping the temperature low). Shrinking was done using a heat gun.

The way the silk gathers and crinkles at the edges of the bubbles is great (mica in paint concentrates in exactly these places too). The effect is similar to what I discovered when I tried wet felting organza to wool, when one layer contracts it alters the appearance of the layer which doesn’t, (below left).

Finally, the pieces were assembled using hand stitching:


I was pleased that the four small experiments came together to form an effective piece. As well as recording my learning it is fairly well resolved. The gold Lumiere paint (in the area that displays the reverse of the pebbling) balances the deep colour of the silk. In reality the green is much brighter than in the photograph, it is in fact quite a yellow green that pushes itself forward, this counters the golds. The green motif on the silk is echoed throughout the piece by the crumpling and gathering. Overall the effect is Autumnal, an recurrent theme in my work and therefore feels quite personal to me.