Part 1: Project 5: Puncturing and Stitching

Project 5 Puncturing and Stitching

There are two projects in this section that work in tandem. This work is about exploring and creating samples using a range of tools and materials by puncturing and stitching into a surface. I searched the house, my art room and my husbands workshop and have come up with these tools:

a bradel
a set of screwdrivers in various sizes
a hole punch
a pointed chisel
various size needles
sewing machine
a pointed welding tool
any sharp instrument!

For my first inspiration I have drawn upon one of the harem window images I have collected from my trip to Jaipur.

The last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur was Sawai Man Singh(1922-1948), he was adopted into the Royal household by his father (Sawai Singh – also known as Madho Singh II ) who had 65 children by his various concubines.

Known as The City of the Temples due to its abundance of religious buildings, it seems extraordinary that slavery, especially of women, could exist side by side with disciplined religious practices and duties. Hundreds of women and children from the age of 12 would have been kept imprisoned for little more than sexual slavery for the benefit of the ruling elite all over Asia. (*1) However ‘religion’  hasn’t seemed the way for any other group of people to practice what they preach about love and kindness and it has not prevented the enslavement of people of almost any culture by their fellow-men for 1000’s of years.

The image below is one of the more basic ‘windows’ looking out from the harem at the Amber Fort, into the palace in where I visited in 2012. The shapes are irregular and looked almost like a block of cement that had been hammered into to create crude spaces.

Exercise 1 Puncturing

Harem window Jaipur
Harem window Jaipur
hareem+window b w
5.1.1 Paper copy
Punched and backlit
5.1.2 paper: Punched and backlit

5.1.1 I stylized the window in Photoshop to bring out the shapes and printed the image onto A4 printer paper, I transferred the image onto card using a light box.

5.1.2 Using a bradel and screwdriver I punched out large and small holes. I held the card up to the natural light and then the light box.  It was only possible to see through the holes to the other side with the eye right up against the largest of them.The light effects were interesting though.

5.1.3 vylene
5.1.3a vylene

5.1.3a For this sample I enlarged the harem window image and drew out the shapes onto Pelmet Vylene, I used the fine point of a hot welding tool to burn out the various shapes. There is a much clearer vision through these holes, especially noticeable with a light behind it. I am thinking to paint this sample and overlay this image with another of the harem windows images or perhaps a photograph.

Jiyoung Chung
Jiyoung Chung
“Whisper-Romance” series
Jiyoung Chung

I particularly like these textured pieces by the Korean artist Jiyoung Chung.. the photos above are used with her permission. She seems to have used the same layering idea I have been planning on taking my harem windows. I love the wonderful sophistication to her work with her layers of textured and layered handmade papers using simply water and scrunching techniques (an ancient Korean skill called Joomchi). In her artists statement she says of her work  in her “Whisper-Romance” series that it “….. has taken me on an exploration of the significance of women’s work in Korea to our relationship to each other across cultures and then to our connection with nature and ultimately to God“.

sewing machine punched

5.1.4 An image from The Book of Kells inspired the next ideas.

I ran an A4 printed paper image of an eagle from the Book of Kells under a sewing machine needle (not containing any threads). I set the stitch to the longest length available. The one good thing to say about this effect is that the punctured holes are very evenly spaced. The printer paper is very thin and fragile, I can imagine any stitching on this paper is going to damage it. I imagine this technique being useful with other thicker paper or materials or the idea could be used to obtain an outline of an image on paper via a sewing machine.

drilled branch
5.1.5 drilled branch

5.1.5 Next I took a branch from a tree that I found on a walk (a rare find on this almost treeless, scorched island).  The branch had been bleached and damaged by the sun and I rather liked its horned shape. I interviewed a Belgian artist, Cindy Batsleer recently, as part of my contribution to promote the 15 artists exhibiting for The Elements Exhibition in Lanzarote. Her drawings and paintings are almost exclusively abstract branch shapes. It was Cindy that pointed out the value of a branch find on this island, so when I came across it, I treated it with some reverence. And here was an opportunity to turn it into an art piece. I used three various sized drill bits to puncture holes, from the narrowest point to the thickest point where the branch splits into two ‘horns’. The horns were too fragile for drilling holes.

Cindy Batsleer, Artist, Lanzarote
Cindy Batsleer, Artist, Lanzarote

More punching samples on paper, card and wiremesh


5.1.6 For this sample I used 90g pastel paper and punched with two different sized knitting needles. The paper was quite fragile to work with.I took the image using a lightbox underneath.

watercolr paper
watercolr paper stitched

5.1.7 and 5.1.7a These sample were punched on 180g watercolor paper, much more robust than my 2 previous paper samples.I painted one surface with green acrylic paint. I punched with knitting needles and a hat pin into the reverse side . The resulting textures were very interesting, but difficult to photograph, hence the use of a lightbox.


5.1.8 This sample was done on card stock and I used two sized knitting needles and a hat pin. The card bent slightly as I worked, distorting the shape. I used a lightbox to take the photograph because ordinary light did not show up any detail. The shape is a very common paisley design that I drew in my sketchbook during my trip to India.

Other samples for punching holes have come from copper wire mesh (5.1.9), some strips of palm bark picked up on a walk and some circular cardboard shapes that I rescued from the recycling bin. The photographs I took of the cardboard and bark samples, for some reason were too distorted to use. See them below after the stitching process

5.1.9 copper mesh

Exercise 2 Stitching

cardboard wire
5.2.1a cardboard & wire
close iup

5. 2.1a and 5.2.1b.  After puncturing three cardboard circular forms (inserts from kitchen roll) with a paper punch, I cut up some discarded electrical cable and threaded them through the holes that were deliberately created in lines to be either horizontal, vertical or diagonal. The cable was flexible enough for threading, but not knotting. I next drilled smaller holes in the forms with a smallest electrical drill bit I could find (I held the drill in place with a vice). I decided this was dangerous, my fingers were too close too a spinning drill. I experimented with threading 1.25mm plastic coated garden wire into these holes. However the lack of flexibility of the wire for this particular sample didn’t work very well. I then used a large eyed sharp needle to create horizontal lines of holes so that I could use a finer thread between the wires.

I didn’t pursue this particular idea further. The cardboard is crude, with printed matter on the surface. I imagine a sample going further if I had painted or decorated the surface before proceeding to punch and stitch into it. I can take this further, I can imagine a series of these,  one on top of the other in layers, like a totem pole.

palm bark
5.2.2a  Palm bark

5.2.2a and 5.2.2b and 5.2.2c I am an avid collector of natural ephemera, (one reason I like the work of Shannon Weber.) She notices nature, right there in front of her, she says she is …”amused and inspired by observing nature…”. She weaves and winds, stitches and paints as well as adding all kinds of ephemera to her original works.

Inspired by nature, Shannon Weber
Inspired by nature, Shannon Weber

On a recent beach walk, I found long strips of dried palm bark (which look very much like fragile driftwood) and also I found an almost oval-shaped, grey piece of sea-softened, volcanic stone with a hole in it. I immediately saw the potential for puncturing and stitching.

Palm bark close up
5.2.2b Palm bark close up
palm bark3

On another walk I collected a handful of sea-washed mussel shells, pale blue and beautifully iridescent. At home I used a hole-punch to make a number of holes in the palm bark and then drilled holes with a fine bit in the electric drill into the mussel shells. I had intended to stitch the shells into the bark. Unfortunately most of the shells either split and cracked, so I discarded them and threaded the bark instead with a thick, naturally colored yarn. I looped in the stone at the bottom of the piece as contrast of textures and colour, but also to give the sample weight as the bark is very lightweight.

kells stitch a4

5.2.3 I took the work from 5.1.3 above (the Book of Kells eagle) and using a very fine needle & silk thread, stitched the outline with the finest thread I had in my stash. The paper was fragile and not only was it very fiddley to work with, the outcome wasn’t very satisfying. I can see this idea could be carried out on thicker paper to give it more interesting textures, or contrasting textures.

crop enlarge eagle

5.2.6 Working with the same image above, I cropped part of the eagle and enlarged it. I then printed it onto fabric.

Kells eagle in color

5.2.7 Next, I painted the surface in some exciting coloured fabric paints to make it look more contemporary

kells quartered

5.2.8 I cut the surface into quarters. Then each quarter was cut into four pieces. Then I punched holes in the four corners of each piece.  Then my creativity took a nose dive,  I was tired from working all day and creatively stuck! It took overnight to come back to the pieces to see where I would go next. I had thought of punching holes in each edge and stitching the edges together to creat a box, but I only have once size hole punch and the placement of the holes would be critical to the piece, and the holes I had practiced on were not aligning as I had expected. Even if i got the holes right or used a smaller tool to make holes, would it be strong enough to stand alone?

I read through Janet Edmonds advice about the designing process in the first chapters of her book three dimensional EMBROIDERY. She suggests that models are essential if you are taking your pieces into three dimensions. She takes the artist on a journey from flatland to a 3D world using a tried and tested process.

5.2.9a After reading her advice I decided to created a mock-up of my next idea using paper (in layers) on a wooden baton, before I continued the experiments on the fabric pieces. I am subliminally aware that my island home is surrounded by giant mobile installations on roundabouts. It is all the work of the artist Cèser Manrique. His work is bound to influence me, the one below is in Tahiche, the village where I live and I drive past it nearly everyday. .And I feel that this is where an element of my idea is developing from.

Cesar Manrique mobile Tahiche
Cèsar Manrique mobile Tahiche
Cesar Manrique
Cèsar Manrique mobile Lanzarote

Edmonds reminds the reader that drawings have only one view, and that many drawings are needed to work on a design. ‘Drawing’ in 3D requires the making of models. This was a solution that pushed the work from flatland.

I used 12 square pieces of the printed Kells image on printer paper, painted them and punctured holes in the four corners as well as one in the centre. I threaded the central hole onto a wooden plinth with a central painted wood dowling. It seemed to fit in with the layers theme  that I wanted to create. And the black wood enhanced the thick black lines of the imagery.

kells paper stand

5.2.9b  Next, I stitched a piece of yellow raffia through all layers in two of the corners, knotting it at the top. I am quietly pleased with its evolution. Now I’m asking more questions, does it enhance the piece to have the raffia thread through the holes? Does yellow enhance or detract? Will the idea work with the fabric pieces? Could I, or should I change the thread? What impact will it have on the pieces if I add a thinner or thicker ‘thread’? Or, how can I stop the pieces moving around? Should I have shaped the pieces in different sizes from top to bottom or bottom to top? Should I twist the pieces at different angles?

However, the pieces are cut and ready, so I will go ahead with the fabric pieces and pierce them through the dowling. I will make a decision about whether to add more thread when it is done. The fabric will have more strength to do this than the paper sample.

5.2.10a underneath view
5.2.10b front view

5.2.10a and 5.2.10b After threading onto the wood dowling, I decided not to stitch further into the pieces. The dowling itself, I consider to be a  ‘thread’ and it made enough of a statement. The pieces of fabric stayed in place due to the tension between a slighty smaller punched hole in the fabric, compared to the width of the dowling. It all feels very solid and does not move around. I liked the drama of the colours and the thick black lines on black wood.

An art acquitance suggested I make a project investigation to Dublin University of this piece.  It would look good  placed on an enlarged scale using  black metal and reinforced glass and placed in the University grounds along with their other sculptures, especially as this work has the Book of Kells imagery embedded into it, albiet in an abstract way.

Stitching into the branch

stitiched branch
stitiched branch2

Sacredness in trees

There are many traditions that revere trees, the oak tree for example has been used by the Druids in their sacred ceremonies (*2) and some traditions believe in wood spirits living in the tree. Magicians wands are made from tree branches (ie beech, apple and ash). I decided to embellish the branch I have found, as an act of devotion.

5.2.11 and 5.2.12 Having already drilled holes into the branch (see 5.1.5 above)  I used Antwerp edging stitch in thick brown thread along the whole length of the branch. Next I overlaid it with another Antwerp edging stitch, this time in a red shiny thread with a similar thickness. The stitch has some attractive knobbly features, which I increased by double knotting each stitch. I wanted a stitch that I could act as a web, so that I could attach other objects. I wound a fine gold wire around the whole length of the branch.

I practiced a few embroidery stitches that would be able to sit on the surface of the web of Antwerp stitches already in place. I discarded any stitches that required more than three holding stitches.

5.2.13 Using an elongated version of a woven picot stitch that I learned from Three Dimensional Embroidery Stitches by Pat Trott, I used a hat pin to keep the picot  in place whilst I worked it. In effect it is a tiny weaving. I added an embellishment to the end loop.

wrapping tree branch sample
5.2.13 wrapping tree branch sample
5.2.14 mesh joined in

5.2.14 The experimental part of embellishing the branch is purely intuitive and devotional, I can’t find any artists working on physical branches to do any research. I knitted a mesh on large needles using a thick thread to make a web like structure for the fork.  I have not done any drawings yet, which might bring out more ideas if I spend time and effort studying its shapes, and knots. The branch project has cost me over two and a half days in research, making decisions, practicing stitches, working out ideas, photography and writing up the blog. I won’t spend any more time on this idea for now, but at some point in the future I will finish it as an art piece.

Paper and Card Stiched samples


5.2.15 This sample on pastel paper was stitched into with a fine white embroidery thread. It seemed to loose a lot of the nobbly texture that had been created by punching on the reverse side.


5.2.16 This card sample was damaged by the punching process, but I did like the textured effect of the punched holes, I stitched two thicknesses of flat thread into the card as contrast the the knobbly texture of the holes in the card. I felt It would have been too much to stitch over the whole surface.

Stitching into wire mesh

5.2.5a and 5.2.5b These samples used copper wire mesh and 1/8th” copper wire form which I stitched together, using the folding ideas from an earlier project. I used fine gauge copper wire as a ‘thread’. I created a cylinder of the folded shapes by stitching all the edges together.


5.2.6c For the third sample I threaded both pieces of copper with plastic coated electrical cable after punching holes in both the pieces, which wasnt as successful as I had hoped. The wire form was damaged by the hole punch and was further stressed by the thread. But this might work better on a more robust wire form and on a bigger sample.

5.2.7 pin holes and stitches

5.2.7 Pin  holes were punched into the surface of an earlier sample from fusing plastic and stitches were unevenly threaded through this sample.


5.2.8 This sample used leather, suede and canvas stitched together with various gauges of threads. It was a sample from my coursework for A Creative Approach To Textiles that I had worked previously as a collage. I wanted to include it because I can see that it looks quite crude now, and I can see how far I have come and what I have learned since starting the course. There is a germ of an idea here all the same.

I would like to rework this, using the various textures, thicknesses of thread and the colours in a better way and on a larger scale. The work needs a stronger, more refined message.


*1 Andrea Major, Slavery, Abolitionism and Empire in India, 1772-1843, ISBN:9781781388426

*2 Porteous, Alexander (2002). The Forest in Folklore and Mythology. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-42010-8.

*3 Robert Graves, The White Goddess.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2 edition (October 8, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-0374289331

*4 About the work of Jiyoung Chung