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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • A Composite Surface Made from Joined Pieces of LinenApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-04-19 16:42:13 ... Most recent comment 2019-04-21 00:47:28
    Flexible Supports


    I am researching ways to sew together individual pieces of linen (like a patchwork quilt) to be stretched over a rectangular stretcher. Eventually, I would like to do this at a very large scale, but for the moment I am just making studies. I am currently working with Claessens oil primed linen #13, which I have on hand. I wrote to Claessens to inquire about the weight of the thread they use in weaving this particular product, and they said it was nm 40. I have ordered a linen thread that is two-ply and advertised as 40 (though I wonder if there might be a difference because I am purchasing it in the US and we don't use metric?). My thinking is that matching the thread weight/strength as best I can will help keep the seams from slowly destroying the linen squares under tension over time. A friend suggested that using a sewing machine will help keep the seams even, and thus will spread the tension more evenly across the matrix than a hand-stitched textile surface would.  

    I wonder if anyone on this forum has suggestions for me (aside from the obvious "don't do this," lol!) Do you think linen is a good choice? The person I corresponded with from Claessens suggested that a synthetic fiber might be best. Linen has historical resonance that I appreciate, and it is strong, but I'd be willing to work with polyester if that seems more adapted to my purpose. I work in oil paint and use a simple gamsol/linseed oil medium. Do you think the Claessens pre-primed oil primed linen is a reasonable choice here, or do any of you think I would be better off with a different sort of priming under my paint layer? (Ideally I would like to paint on it and then cut it up and sew it together, not sew it and prime the resulting matrix as one surface). It seemed to me that a commercially made product would be likely to be more consistent than something I primed myself. If there is anyone out there who knows about large-scale textile display (quilts and rugs and the like) are there technologies I should consider for supporting this textile painting-quilt hybrid from the back? Any references you could give me would be much appreciated! 

    Thank you!

    Krista Schoening


Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Stitched/joined artist's canvas was more common before loom innovations in the early 1700s made it possible to weave fabric wider than the distance a weaver could throw the shuttle by hand. 

    Strong seams are important in joining sailcloth, so techniques used in that craft might be useful for this project. I believe sailcloth can be joined with zigzag machine stitching over seam tape, or multiple, parallel straight stitches over a felled (folded) seam. Both techniques help distribute tension across a wider band of fabric, reducing puckers and tears,

    One other factor to possibly consider: bias-cut fabric (diagonally cut) drapes better than pieces trimmed parallel with warp and weft- that's why better suit jackets have bias-cut panels. 

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-04-19 17:17:50
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Hi Krista.

    I have forwarded your question to a textile conservator to see if they have anything to add to this discussion.

    Brian Baade
    2019-04-19 22:13:31
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you, Matthew and Brian. Matthew, your suggestion to look at techniques derived from sailmaking is a very promising idea. I will look into it! 

    2019-04-20 12:56:31
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    From the description of the project, it seems that you want to prime and paint the canvas, then cut it up, sew the pieces together, and display vertically on a wall but with a strainer. I think that your choices of fabric, primer, and paint are all very personal – each will have advantages and limitations.

    If your goal is long-term structural stability then I recommend that the seams be worked with relatively small and even stitches. If you aren’t an experienced sewer, you may get better tension with a sewing machine instead of hand stitches. I recommend a small running stitch or backstitch if you are hand-sewing. I think a straight stich on a sewing machine will be fine. You will probably want to create some test pieces so you can determine what stitches are best, how large to make the seam allowances, and if you need to finish them in any way. The dimensionality of the seams will impact your work, and you may want to experiment to find the system you like best.

    I don’t think you need a sewing thread that matches the diameter of the threads in the fabric. A smaller diameter for the sewing thread is fine and will be less disruptive to the woven structure. Also, you should be fine with cotton or linen thread.

    If you want to use a mounting system like a quilt, here are some good options: (the Velcro and sleeve mounts are very effective. You can also use strip magnets along the top edge)

    If you display the piece stretched over a strainer, you may want to support the back with some fill (like a piece of archival board) so that the textile is fully supported.

    Also, regarding Matthew’s comment – fabric cut on the bias does have a great drape, but it can continue to stretch over time. When bias-cut fabric is used in garments it is allowed to hang out for at least 24 hours before hemmed to make sure that the fabric has stabilized in its stretch. Even so, bias-cut fabrics need more support over time to prevent unwanted distortions.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Best wishes,

    Laura Mina

    Textile Conservator

    Winterthur Museum

    2019-04-20 16:08:54
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Ms. Mina, Thanks for the additional information!

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-04-20 18:12:08
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you Laura, 

    That is extremely helpful! In case you are curious about this project, here is a link to a picture of a small study (6"x6"):

    Thanks to all of you for taking the time to give me suggestions. This forum is an amazing resource! 

    Best wishes,

    Krista Schoening

    2019-04-21 00:47:28

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