Culture Victoria

Hard Labour

By Susan Mathews Posted Under Wangaratta Textile Project

When involved in intensive stitching of a repetitive nature one's mind tends to wander. One of the thoughts that crossed my mind today was that I probably had not made clear to the uninitiated what disperse dyeing entails. So I shall try and address this omission. Disperse dyes are also known as transfer dyes and to use them one paints the design (or draws with special transfer crayons) on paper and when dry the design can be transferred to fabric (with a high synthetic content) using heat. It is possible to use an iron but I have a heat press which I bought secondhand from a clothing store. The press was used to transfer images onto T-shirts. I often use this heat press to heat set fabrics printed with fabric paints as well. I am using disperse dyes to transfer my designs onto my (polyester sheer) fabric collages.


So today it was nose to the grindstone again. I'm working on a quota system at the moment. The goal is to use 10 bobbins full of thread per day. This is about 4 hours sewing time and also all my neck can handle in a day. I actually enjoy this repetitive stitching process as you can see the surface developing little by little, all the time. It feels active and there is a sense of progress. Surfaces can be problematic in that you might think that they are not working and then some decision about what colour to use next will just bring it to life.


Designs transferred to all panels.


I also spent  time heat setting the designs onto the other three panels so that I could work on a different one this afternoon. At the end of the day I have two panels of the four with their "underpainting" of thread. This  "underpainting" consists of up to 4 or 5 layers of stitching in places but I refer to it as "underpainting"  in the sense that it is probably not finished and I will make decisions about linking panels with colour and whether I want colours and shapes to stand out more or not and apply more stitching accordingly.


Panel two at the end of day two of stitching.


Stitching detail - panel two.


Meanwhile "back at the ranch" I am still thinking about the collagraph and linocut  images. Would love to do something with them. We'll see. There is more than enough substance in this project to fuel an entire body of work. If time wasn't an issue it would be difficult to stop at one piece!


And here's a little piece of information to think about. From the Wangaratta Woollen Mills Ltd book on it's first 50 years published in 1973:- "We spin enough yarns every day to encircle the earth more than four times".

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