Wednesday 28 February 2018

Cath's Problem with Yellow

I’ve never completely understood my problem with yellow. After all, I can think of lots of things I like that are yellow - it’s the colour of Spring sunshine, daffodils, egg yolk and custard, to name but a few. Sunflowers and wheatfields - Van Gogh certainly didn’t have a problem with yellow and I love the way he used it. The yellow ochre I saw in Roussillon (see my previous post) was so beautiful. It’s just that I would never choose any shade of yellow for home decor and the last time I wore it was an eye-popping combination of a bright, sunshine yellow cheesecloth shirt and a scarlet mini-skirt I made for myself when I was about sixteen. I thought it looked great but I was young and maybe I think of yellow as a young colour.

The topic came up on a Facebook group page recently and I was interested to read that several people, like me, rarely use yellow in their textile artwork and tend towards the orange side on the odd occasion that they do. 

Recently, however, in researching for our ‘Destinations’ exhibition, I was looking at landscapes from unconventional viewpoints and came across this amazing image of the Richat Structure in the Sahara, photographed from space by astronaut Scott Kelly …

… but there in the top right hand corner was … yellow!

I loved the image so much that I decided to challenge myself to work with yellow – in fact, I even increased the yellow area as it gave a better balance, aesthetically. All went well, initially, but slowly a more specific problem with the yellow area became apparent. I had used purple velvet for some of the shapes and they were shedding fibres everywhere. That was not so noticeable on the other colours, just the yellow area - it was just becoming grubbier and messier the more I worked on it. It just looked dull and I didn't like it.

I was not happy to carry on with it like that; I managed to brighten some sections with fabric paint but I couldn't salvage some areas. 

I decided to take drastic action – surgery was necessary. 

I pinned more yellow felt behind the problem area and then outlined the area to be replaced with machine stitching.

This allowed me to carefully cut out the dirty areas, revealing the new yellow felt underneath.

Then, to match the surrounding areas, I had to build up the layers, with shaped strips of felt and wool, which were attached first with a hand needle felting tool and then with my embellisher. 

I added texture with needle felting and hand stitching with yarn.

I stitched some loose French knots ...

... and twisted chain stitch.

I needle-felted the French knots (thanks to Jean Littlejohn - I would never have thought of doing that without her inspiration) ...

... before stitching free-motion circles around them.

I realised  at the end of the exercise that I had actually enjoyed the challenge of working out of my colour comfort zone. Admittedly, I had definitely headed towards the orange end of the yellow spectrum but I was really pleased, both with the original decision to work with a ‘difficult’ colour and with the way I had coped with the discolouration problem. The completed piece of work will be on display at the NEC as part of our upcoming exhibition on stand M11 at the Fashion and Embroidery Show, 15th - 18th March. We look forward to seeing you there.