• The Disruptive Designer

Canvas Art


Currently my sampling is focusing on the manipulation and visual enhancement of the internal elements of a mans tailored jacket, particularly the chest area consisting of:

canvas, shoulder pad and chest pocket.


So far I have removed several canvas's from discarded RTW (mass produced) jackets in order to experiment with artisan and digital techniques for visual enhancement. From my intial observations I have discovered that each of the jackets used a different form of construction and different materials in the making of their canvas's, meaning that until the jacket lining is removed it is impossible to know what the canvas will be like and thus predict or anticipate what I will be working with. None of the RTW jackets so far has used a high end bespoke method of construction and instead opted for fusings and machine stitching overlaying the canvas's, however the size and shape of the canvas and fused area differs.

As far as I can see, I have two options here for Kingfly Tailoring:

1 - Refashion unwanted jackets and thus formulating a PROCESS of visual enhancement, that can be applied to any jacket canvas, regardless of shape, size, materials and construction method.

2 - Create NEW VIRGIN jackets using virgin materials. This would enable the designer to design and construct the canvas with not only the graphical imagry in mind, but also to redesign the facing, pocketing and shoulder pad to work cohesively as well.

The aesthetic outcomes of the above two approaches will differ due to the working limitations placed on the designer. Option 1 the designer is using already made garments and the approach to refashioning consists of deconstruction, re-manipulation and reconstruction. Option 2 uses virgin materials and thus requires no reconstruction of limitation of starting source. The process in this case will only utilise the manipulation and construction phase (unless TR cutting is involved for creative pattern cutting).

My canvas experimentation has focused on technique and process, simultaneously in order to maximise the canvas and invested time. Each jacket consists of 2 identical canvas's, one for the Left hand side of the jacket and one for the right. The canvas's tend to be of the same materials and construction methodology however do have four main differences that need to be taken into account when refashioning:

1 - Mirror - The canvas's are mirror versions of each other and therefore any graphic image (if the intent is for the same image to be used on both sides) has to be flipped on the horizontal axis.

2 - Buttonholes - Often (but not always) the AWLH (As worn Left Hand) canvas may have at least two button holes sewn through the facing. One at the top of the lapel and the other for the top button hole. If the canvas is a FULL canvas (main seen is the more expensive jackets) then there is likely to be more buttonholes down the centre from of the canvas edge. This makes separating the facing and canvas difficult with a high chance of damage and certainly a hole in the canvas once the button hole thread is removed.

3 - Internal Chest Pocket - This has to be considered as not all jackets have pockets on both side of the jacket. If the intent of the designer is to keep and refashion the internal chest pocket then consideration to its size and placement has to be considered as it will most likely cover a significant part of the canvas and thus hide part the image. It is possible to relocate the pocket, however this will require careful recutting of the facing and possibly the addition of cloth.

4 - Facing - Not all jacket facings are the same and differ in the width of the facing, construction method, amount of pockets and pocket frame types. Wide facings and framed jetted pockets will cover more of the canvas compared to a thinner facing and no pocket. The facing can be reshaped and manipulated to reveal more of the canvas. The facing is normal attached to a lining using a 1cm seam allowance, however if the lining is to intended to be reattached and the internal elements exposed, then consideration has to be applied to the finishing of the facing seam allowance, which can affect graphic of the canvas.

Manipulation Techniques:

Using my single needle digital embroidery machine, (Janome MC10001) I am keen to explore its capabilities and the role it can play in the visual manipulation of the canvas and felted (fused) chest area. In keeping with Morris and his passion for needlework, the canvas presented itself as an ideal material for embroidery and possibly painting (as seen in fine art).

The main difficulties encountered with using this particular machine as a tool are:

1 - Limited programmed Hoop size: 140 x200mm working area.

Although I do have large hoops which fit the machine (physically) the machine is only programmed to recognise hoop B (140x200) as the maximum size, and it appears this feature can not be altered by the operator.

2 - Stitch density - The amount of stitches in the design. Even if the design can physically fit in the hoop, if there are too many stitches, then the design needs to be SPLIT into separate design files and stitched independently. If the hoop is not be rehooped then the chances of stitching misalignment is low, however if the design requires a rehoop before stitching, then matching the image is more difficult and the risk of misalignment increases.

3 - Rehooping - This is one of the most difficult aspects of machine embroidery as if incorrect the canvas work could be ruined with obvious areas of misalignment. The chest canvas tends to be larger the maximum hoop size and therefore multiple hoopings are required in order to fill the desired working area. If embroidering the fused top layer only the area to be covered is reduced and thus less hoopings are likely (dependent on design and stitch dentsity). Until the design has been digitised it is unknown how many hoopings are going to be required for the design. This can range from 3-9 from experience. More hoopings results in more chances of error.

4 - Splitting the design - With a larger design that workable hoop size the design needs to be split into smaller designs. In theory this sounds straight forward, however in reality it requires a high level of skill and designer judgement. The software program I use to digitise my artwork (Janome digitiser pro) is not able to split designs or allows you to export/save designs that are bigger than the maximum hoop size. This causes a lot of issues if I want a larger design. In order to get round this I have adopted the following methodolgy:

1 - Create artwork on Adobe Illustrator - clean the image and apply constrasting distinctive colours.

2 - Import image into Janome Digitzer Pro, reduce size to fit into hoop B - Image trace and select amount of colours.

3 - Digitiser Image - check, amend and refine manually.

4 - Save/Export as a .JEF file

5 - Open file in EMBIRD embroidery software

6 - Editor - resize to match canvas size, check it is proportionally correct.

7 - Either - Select all - Split > Automatically (insert maximum hoop size) or - Select area manually - EDIT, SPLIT (Check it will fit in hoop size).

Splitting automatically can save time, however I tend to find it splits the artwork based on hoop size and stitch density and not based on design and complications matching during rehooping. Manually splitting enables the design to split the design based on difficulty of matching, within the scope of the designers skill level of rehooping.

8 - Save as separated sections.

9 - open each file in Janome Digitizer Pro - Amend, apply and adjust based on designers artist judgement. At this point the designer can recolour, reshape shapes and apply differing stitch types to areas.

Canvas and Felt Working area:

Producing a design to work in a given area(S) is not straight forward, especially when it varies considerably from canvas to canvas. Therefore a process needs to be developed that allows for this flexibility and can be applied regardless of the canvas or felt area given.

This process appears to work best and has taken some time to develop:

1 - Remove Canvas from jacket, lay flat on a solid coloured contrast surface.

2 - Photograph from directly above.

3 - open file in Adobe Photoshop and reduce image size to approximately the height of the canvas (the width will alter proportionally.) ensure resolution is 150ppi

4 - Open in Adobe Illustrator and lock layer.

5 - On a new layer trace the outline of the area to be embroidered using the pen tool. hide original photo.

6 - import graphics and image trace> Expand> Ungroup.

7 - Produce clipping mask, to ensure graphics appears in the outline area only.

8 - Maniplualte graphics and apply colours - try to ensure artwork is clean and reduce areas that could be problematic when converting to machine stitching.

9 - Export as jpeg - 150 ppi.

The artwork is now ready to be digitized using Janome Digitizer Pro.

During Embroidery production:

The amount of work that goes into producing the artwork for embroidering cannot be underestimated. It is a timely process requiring a lot of creative skill, aesthetic judgement and technical know how. Once the artwork has been transferred to the machine, then further creative judgement and design influence can be applied to the canvas work, during the production stage itself. During mass produced digital embroidery, once the artwork is prepared and the cloth hooped, it is generally the case that the machine takes over and embroiders the design accordingly onto the cloth, however having the capabilites to manipulate the artwork further creates an opportunity for greater designer interpretation adding more "soul" and individuality into the outcome. As the designer is making responsive, unplanned decisions based on what is presented in front of them at the time and their own personal judgement, emotional level, distraction, etc..then the outcomes will differ from one to another. In this way there are similarities to bespoke tailoring of the highest level, where the construction is predominantly manufactured by hand and not machine, and thus there are always going to be human inconsistencies in quality based on the artisans - skills level, health, mental frame of mind, physical limitations, emotional level, working enviroment etc... for this reason alone a bespoke tailored jacket can never be "perfect" in construction due to these factors, however the clients perception of quality is increased due to the amount of attention of hand craft work, not to mention "soul" that has been applied in order to create a bepoke, personal garment. Machine mass produced garments are valued less even though they may be manufactured to a more "perfect" quality. Digital embroidery and traditional hand embroidery have the same complications in perceived quality and value when comparing digital machine embroidery which is generally more accurate and certainly faster to produce with the less accurate and time consuming process of hand embroidery. Hand embroidery demands more expense due to the man hours invested in its production, however the quality and design maybe less impressive than the digital equivalent. This paradox is further complicated when it comes to skill level between the two. The skills sets required between the two methods are vastly different and cannot really be compared fairly. Hand embroidery often requires a printed template on a canvas, needle, threads, and the knowledge of stitch production which is applied by the artisan stitch after stitch. Depending on the approach the artisan my follow a mathematical system of design and not a visual printed template, but the actual hand stitching method is still applied. There are many stitch types and books covering hand embroidery, requiring considerable time invested to mastering the techniques to a high level. Digital machine embroidery requires the artisan to embrace digital technologies which can cover, photography, graphic software manipulation, digitising manipulation and stitch creation and creative manipulation during and post machine production. The digital embroider is most like to design visually on the software, but manipulate the stitches both visually and based on technical knowledge, particularly regarding stitch density.

Above these images show the CAD design intentions, and the process of embroidering onto the canvas itself. You will notice the importance of alignment, particularly on the first hooping and its consequence of getting this incorrect on subsequent hoopings. The bottom left image clearly shows the design has missed the felted area of the canvas.

This 2nd Zara Man canvas was an attempt to incorporate the shoulder pad into the design of the canvas. The main canvas itself I wanted to experiment with textures of stitch types, with the aim of increasing tactical quality, sense of depth while at the same time tying to develop a signature style that could be synonymous with my work and that of Kingfly Tailoring.

The design of the piece was created using CAD software packages and the the shoulderpad was designed to compliment the image of the canvas and tell a story. This was my third attempt to embroider onto a shoulder pad (this first attempt I kept the should pad untacked, but the bulk was problematic, the second I embroidered while attached to the canvas, again bulk being an issue.) In this attempt I removed the top felt layer of the shoulder pad, embroidered and reattached afterwards. I kept it seperate to the canvas and attached it as I would normal in the tailoring process.

I deliberately controlled and manipulated the design throughout its production, by changing the thread colours as and when I felt the urge, skipping stitching, repeating stitching and re-embroidering in contrast thread to bring the construction base layer on top of the decorative layer, which added a surprisingly effective element of detailing. One feature I had not considered was the ability to deliberately move the hoop during production using the control panel on the digital display, this could potentially allow for deliberate and controlled misalignment, adding to the illusion of depth and movement.

Overall the canvas, shows a lot of promise and feedback from external connections proved promising and they have not seen anything like this before within tailoring. The overall aesthetics for me needs work in order to improve the impact, particularly the colour application. Using a limited palette of colours I am somewhat limited in my choice of selection and therefore it appears that I select opposing contrasting colours, which gives a pop art affect. In order to improve the detailing and sophistication of the image, I will need to widen my palette of colours. The chest pocket and facing needs looking into, to see how flexibly this is to recut and shape in order to reveal more of the canvas. I could also consider turning the RTW half cheat canvas into a a full canvas by extending the canvas area to the bottom of the jacket. This would be expected in more expensive jackets and would not be out of place with my intentions and expected price point.

In order to improve the tactical qualities of the artwork and to introduce techniques that cannot be created on a digital machine, I would like to try to collaborate with a hand embroider to investigate the potential of a machine/hand embroidered hybrid.