Research point one p.71 of ATV

Susan Lenz Research point 1- Analyse how they select, apply and alter their chosen materials

“Generally my work is conceptually driven and meant to articulate the accumulated memory inherent in discarded things. I seek a partnership with my materials, their purposes, values, and familiar associations. Memory, universal mortality, and personal legacy are central themes.”

-Susan Lenz from an interview on

“Vintage and recycled materials are combined with meticulous handwork and self-guided, free motion machine embroidery. I am drawn to textiles for their tactile qualities and often make work that is meant to be touched.”

-Susan Lenz from  

I chose Susan Lenz for this research point as her work spoke to me on a deep level, her graveyard rubbings have a poignancy that I really connected with. Preserving memories is important to me so maybe that is why I connected so strongly. So although Susan’s work is not about mending or repairing, she does use found and discarded textiles but in a way that tries to recapture and immortalise precious memories. Her work asks us to look at our family heritage and preserve it for future generations to look back on.

Her Grave rubbing quilt series can be found here

For this series, Susan uses a crayon to take rubbings from gravestones. She does the rubbings directly onto fabric and sometimes on actual vintage clothes and textiles.She visits graveyards wherever she goes and takes rubbings. She looks for interesting motifs, quotes, symbols and words but rarely takes rubbings of people’s names, preferring for the final pieces to remain anonymous, maybe adding to the poignancy as you will never know whose graves these rubbings came from, or who they were, their memories lost.  She gathers vintage items such as child’s nightdresses, ladies gloves, tablecloths, hankies, doilies and she adds these to the bases of her quilts. She cuts out the rubbings and applies them to her quilts and art pieces with applique and she likens this to ‘graffiti’ that surrounds the vintage items. She adds hand stitching, free motion machine stitching, vintage buttons and trims to complete the pieces.


Image from

Susan visits antique stores to find her materials for her work. Sometimes people give her items if they know what she does so that although they don’t know what to do with family items/heirlooms, they will be used and remembered in Susan’s work. She also does a few commissions for people using their family’s vintage textiles and memories.     – my Pinterest board        – Making plans for your precious possessions | Susan Lenz |


Assignment two Stitching: Placed and spaced

Brief: Explore the creation of a series or small collection of stitched textiles inspired and informed by your drawings and your stitched paper explorations.

Develop a series of three stitched pieces showing

  • A sense of repetition
  • variety of scale
  • A placement design

Project11 (Small)

These are the three pieces I chose to work from; the tyvek paper and stitch samples based on the chard leaf, the paper sample based on the collage of the moth damage on the child’s blue velvet dress and the paper sample from the collage of the lace veil.

Piece one: From tyvek samples

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I had enjoyed heating the Tyvek paper to make samples and wanted to take this a step further to see if I could get a similar effect with heating fabric. I knew I would need a man made fabric, something with polyester or nylon that would melt. I rummaged around my supplies and found some green satin lining fabric. It did say to not introduce any new colours at this stage but, this was the only piece of this fabric I had and the green was a similar colour to the original chard leaf that the tyvek samples were inspired by, so I felt it was justified. I cut a small square to experiment with. I used a heat gun and placed the fabric on a teflon mat to heat it. I used scissors to hold the fabric in place as I didnt want melted fabric sticking to my fingers. The fabric heated really well. Heat from a distance took longer and created larger bubbles, up close created more dense, clustered bubbles and really close and concentrated heat melted the fabric creating holes. I moved on to bubbling a larger piece. I worked on small sections at a time from a distance and then I went back into areas with more concentrated heat for smaller bubbles and holes. The fabric retained a soft silky quality but had an added ‘crispy/crunchy’ element to it. Before the fabric was soft, silky,shiny, slippery, loose and flowing, now it was smaller, crispy/crunchy, hard around the hole edges where the fabric had melted, it still retained some drape but had lost a lot of its shine and slippery surface.

I decided to combine the free motion machine stitch from one sample and the cosmic shimmer ‘feathery’ wool from another sample onto this bigger piece.

I started with the free motion stitching. I used a variegated polyester sewing thread and a pink sewing thread. I sewed around the bubbles and circles creating areas of stitch which was quite intense in places. I really liked the overall look when i had finished, the pink and green together and the bumpy texture ( the back of the piece looked like some kind of bizarre random smoking which I loved!), but felt it may have been a bit basic so I decided to continue on with my original plan of adding the cosmic shimmer wool. On the tyvek samples I had couched the wool on but as the machine stitching had taken a good couple of hours already I decided I would use the machine to sew down the wool as well.

Evaluation: Although I had liked the cosmic shimmer wool on the white tyvek sample, once I had completed my fabric piece I really didn’t like the wool colour against the green. The orange part of the wool clashed with the green and it also covered up a lot of the machine stitching. I liked the feathery/vein affect the wool gave but I think the two together was too much. The piece felt like it had lost a lot of its bumpy texture. On the bright side, the reverse of the piece still looks good and captures the effect I was trying to create.  Although the machine stitching was repetitive in its nature, because it was applied around the bubbles of texture it gave the piece a very organic look before the wool was sewn on.

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Piece 2: From the paper stitch sample of the moth damage

Project6 (Small)

I used just the middle part of the sample for the inspiration for this piece. My original thoughts for this second piece were to sew calico patches onto blue velvet but when I placed some calico circles onto the velvet I didn’t like the contrast of the fabrics very much. I wasn’t too keen on stitching them on either as this would mean they were raised slightly whereas from the sample piece the patches sort of meld with the blue underneath, its the knots that stand up. I found some muslin and decided to try needle punching that onto the velvet with my embellisher machine. It worked really well but was quite stark white so i did another sample with muslin I rubbed some tea over. This was ok but was still quite white. I then noticed the back of the velvet fabric where the muslin had been punched through and the reverse was just the texture I was looking for. I tried the next piece working from behind, still white, so I added some brown and fawn coloured wool tops under the muslin before punching through. This effect was great, gave me good colour and contrast of texture.

I cut a large piece of the blue velvet (Again, I know it said no colour but I could not find any White/cream velvet and the sample I was working from was coloured blue, so it wasn’t a new colour added in). Working from the reverse I layered the wool tops and the muslin into circular type patches and used the machine embellisher to punch the fibres through to the front. I kept going over it until i had the texture I wanted on the front.

On the sample I was working from I had couched on some blue velvet wool to represent the creases. I decided to see if I could needle punch the velvet wool onto the fabric. This worked extremely well and although the wool was embedded it was still raised enough to add dimension to the piece. The french knots were the final part. On the sample I had used chunky wool, 6 ply and 3 ply embroidery thread. I started off with using the chunky wool. Because everything else had been scaled up the wool knots looked too small so I started doing one knot on top of another to make them bigger and so they stood really proud of the surface. I then used a fawn coloured wool to do single french knots and finally 6 ply embroidery thread to do even smaller french knots.

Evaluation: This was my favorite piece to make. I love everything about it, the plush softness of the velvet, the french knot texture, the randomness of the cheesecloth and wool tops needle punched through to the front, the neutral colours against the deep blue. The wool tops and the muslin is really embedded into the fabric, in effect creating a whole new fabric in those patches. I could see this as a much bigger piece, like a wall hanging or maybe an art quilt. I enjoyed the techniques I employed- the machine embellisher and working from the back of the piece and sitting and hand stitching french knots upon french knots- I thought that might get quite boring as it was very repetitive, but sitting in the evening with the TV on, hand sewing was very relaxing. I also like the fact that the original moth damage on the blue velvet dress was such a very small, hardly noticeable part of the item and now here it is translated and transformed, scaled up into an art piece in its own right. It is a very tactile piece with so many textures.

Project7 (Small)

Piece 3– from stitched paper piece sample of collaged lace veil

Project8 (Small)

Working from the larger considered sample I had done in the previous exercise, I decided to just chose the bottom part of the piece with the black swirl. For the previous exercise I had stated that each segment could be a piece on its own merit so I thought I would put that to the test. This section of the sample also gave a really good placement piece with the swirl.

First I experimented with bleaching some patches on black cotton drill. I was expecting the colour to go to beige/fawn like it did on the black card but it went red, later fading to an orange colour. I looked at using calico and brown cotton but I felt I would have to hem the patches before attaching them to give a neat edge so I decided on felt as that wouldn’t fray. At first I was just going to use the seed stitches to hold them on but then i thought I would try the embellisher again so I could embed the felt into the cotton drill. I was really happy with the result, even the needle mark holes from the machine just added to the texture.

For the base I used calico. I wanted to use white cotton but I didn’t have any and didn’t want to wait to order some. I wet the calico and crumpled it, wrung it out and repeated this process several times to really crumple the fabric. I then put it in the tumble dryer. The calico came out with the crumples dried in but I had not allowed for any shrinkage so my piece was a little smaller than I started with!

I cut out the swirl from black cotton drill. I used this as it was quite thick and firm like the cardstock on the sample piece. I added Bondaweb on the back to stiffen it up a little more. I attached the swirl to the calico with a machine applique stitch. This gave it quite a ‘clean’ edge (although it has frayed a little since). I then cut out the felt patches and used the machine embellisher to embed the felt into the drill. I embroidered little seed stitches onto the felt patches with embroidery thread.

I then needed to do my loose scribbly stitches, inspired by Hilary Ellis. I used 2 ply black embroidery thread for this. I found it a bit easier this time to create the random scribbly look and I am please with how the stitches turned out. They are so different from the other stitches on the piece or from any of the other stitches I have used in this assignment.

Evaluation: I am happy with this piece. It combines a good range of different stitches. The loose stitches really contrast with the placement of the stark and graphic swirl and the neat applique stitch. I think my evaluation that this part of the paper sample could be a design in its own right is correct, it stands alone as a bold piece. I would have liked to have been able to achieve a more crumpled finish in the calico, so if I were to further this piece I might look at different fabrics and ways of maybe heat setting creases into fabric.

Project9 (Small)

Project12 (Small)


  • More notes, ideas and samples are included in my sketchbook and learning log such as the sample above which I ended up discarding.