Bench Notes

Bench notes are the notes on experiments that I take to remind myself of the steps I took, and what I was thinking, and what I thought the next steps would be. These excursions start when I see a piece of artwork or a scrap of something and my head spins with ideas about how I might translate that to fabric, and whether it would be interesting if I did. This batch started with the images below.

I saw pictures from Guo Pei’s Fall 2019 collection, and I was struck by the construction of the garments. I mean, one model is straight-up wearing a bathtub filled with flowers, which has to be strenuous, while a conjoined dress for two women looks like it could sow dissension between even the best of friends. But the fabrics are amazing, the techniques bear close examination, and these two constructions made a huge impression on me:

The dress on the left, and the sleeves on the right seem to be made from hundreds of fine pieces of silk sewn vertically onto the base garment. The silhouette on the left, in particular, is created almost completely with the shape of the vertical pieces. The idea of sewing something that densely was intriguing.

To begin, I used some pieces of silk dupioni, sliced in wavy lines, and stitched onto straight vertical lines.

Color changes depending on light and orientation. I like the way the edges echo across the piece, like overlapping waves. I forgot that sewing a convex curve to a straight line made the outside edge too short, bending the base fabric. I think the silk needs to be cut more on the bias, to prevent unraveling, and also to add ease to the outside edges.

For a first test, I think I can see some ways to go on the next experiment. Next step:

  • make the stitched edge straight

This makes everything lie flatter, and I miss the movement of the concave edges stitched down with the longer edges ruffling and standing off the page. When I stand the page on edge, instead of flat on the table, the shapes become more interesting.

Some possible next steps then:

  • bias cut
  • make the outside edges more unified – more regular
  • change the weight of the silk? dupioni is fairly stiff, find something more drapey
  • sew in the folded center of a piece? 2x the edges for each seam…

I’ve ordered more silk so I have more raw material to work with!