Nina's Textile Trail 2

– Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Plaster, Concrete, Alginate & Modroc PROJECT 2


(Paper workbook p46-58)

Project 2 Casting the internal space of a vessel

The course notes indicate that the aim of this project is to use flexible vessels to contain the casting material, which should then be manipulated by using wrapping and tying methods and found objects to make impressions in the cast materials.

A bowl shaped piece of free machined stitch originally stitched on soluble film was my start point, laid in a disposable bowl, the stitch was lined with cling film and plaster poured in and the cling film tied.  The plaster wasn’t heavy enough to sink into the stitch through the cling film which was a bit frustrating, so I gathered the edge of the stitched bowl and pulled it up tight.  The imprint was slight.

Three bags were filled with plaster and rested on beads, an alphabet stencil and some buttons in a polystyrene half-dome.  Following the success of the alginate and plaster experiments, the results from this were a little disappointing.  Less detail from the found objects was captured than I expected.

Moving on, aiming for more impact, two sheets of bubble wrap, one large bubbles, the other small were combined with masking tape to make a bag with the ‘bubbles’ on the inside.  The pouch was filled with plaster, sealed with duct tape and gently pressed to encourage the plaster into all the crevices.  When dry, the bubble wrap was removed to reveal lots of captured texture.   The detail in each bubble of the negative cast was very satisfying and although a bit predictable, I hadn’t expected such an efficient cast with sharp circular edges to contrast with the creases in the air bubbles or the smooth almost ‘plasticky’ surface to the plaster.

Close inspection whilst drawing made me realise the casting was less uniform than first appeared where the bubble wrap had crumpled and distorted in the process.

I then had a very frustrating session with some freezer bags and plaster which I had great difficulty tying or wrapping.  Later I realised that my first batch of plaster was good quality and the second, an inferior, cheaper product needed a much higher ratio of powder to water. So, hampered from the start with extremely liquid plaster sealed in a plastic bag, I tried to tie and or wrap various materials around the material with no success.  Finally I resorted to some elasticated beads, a chain threaded on to elastic to make a bracelet and a piece of cotton cord, not really managing to control the wrapping or tying as I’d hoped.

Where the beads were embedded into the plaster, they were impossible to remove and the plaster broke up in the areas with heavily scrunched plastic.  The silver coloured bracelet made some nice marks but I felt challenged to produce something over which I had more control.

I looked at Lindsay Harris’s work Coming of Age, 2007, as depicted in the course manual and read that it was constructed with stitched lycra and old tights.  I could imagine lycra being firmer than a plastic bag, but looked at materials that were immediately available and considered how I might sew vessels.

Having used up my second batch of plaster of paris, these castings were made with Artex finishing plaster, a coarser product that easily mixed to a stiff consistency, very easy to control and manipulate but with a 90 minute plus setting time.

Small drawstring bags were sewn from Tyvek, washed linen scrim and a combination of nylon net bag and cotton.

The Tyvek bag was too small and the drawstring difficult to loosen when the plaster was dry, causing it to crumble as the tyvek was pulled away. The looser gathering in the middle of the bag worked better and the fold and stitching line left a good impression.   As a material, it could work well made into a bag with a ‘sugar bagged’ bottom and a fold over top.

With the net and cotton bag, the aim was to get the texture of the net, but contain the plaster with the cotton, which didn’t quite work as the net became embedded in the plaster.  The cotton pulled away from the plaster quite well.  The traces of orange showing through the plaster and the net extending beyond the plaster adds interest.


The small linen bag was very effective with a drawstring at the top in a machine sewn channel and two single lines of thread hand sewn around the centre of the bag one from each side which allowed a gentle gathering in the middle.

A combination of blind continuous line drawing and continuous line drawing whilst looking helped me to see the gently gathered waist in the plaster and the loose folds of fabric.

I also used a tiny found gauze bag, which seemed too small and had the seams on the inside so the seam allowance was well embedded in the plaster, resulting in some breakage when trying to wrestle the cast from the bag.  However there was some pleasure in the remainder, a delicately detailed cast of the texture and folds of the fine fabric.



Still working on the possibility of capturing the texture of the nylon bag, I decided to sew it to soluble film to see if the moisture released as the plaster dried would dissolve the film, this was partially successful.  The base was a circle of plastic, then the net, soluble film and stitch creating a circular pouch.

The plaster was spooned through a funnel in the pouch and the opening hand stitched with back stitch to seal the bag.  The soluble film made a lovely wrinkly surface which showed promise, and as hoped it began to dissolve. It didn’t dissolve fully, but enough to left an interesting texture, although the nylon net was embedded in the plaster.

Whilst I failed to achieve an impression of the nylon bag, the texture and the bag itself were well captured in the plaster!  More exciting was the prospect of exploring different soluble materials with machine stitch.

Last in the sewing session was the creation of a pouch from a plastic Selvedge Magazine wrapping stitched with free machined circles  designed to create holes in the cast material. This was really quite exciting.  Pouring the plaster through a funnel into the bag created an inflated pillow.  Removing the bag when dry revealed a gorgeous plum cushion, with softly creased petals radiating from neat holes with stitch marked edges.




Whilst drawing the cushion, the delicate edges of the stitched holes caught my attention.


Material: Modroc

  • gauze strip impregnated with plaster dipped in water to use
  • can be layered over wire framework, mould or former
  • Surface can be textured and reworked whilst wet
  • can be used as a support for alginate moulds
  • sets quickly, first layer 3-4 minutes, work fast.
  • one strip at a time, immerse in water without agitating for 3 or 4 seconds, run through fingers to remove excess water, layer and smooth down
  • use fingertips,small soft paint brush, sponge or credit card to press and smooth the bandage
  • When dry, seal before painting.
  • Can paint with diluted inks and watch colours spread.

Safety Considerations

  • Wear gloves to avoid drying the skin or causing irritation
  • Use a former in clay, foil, alginate to avoid applying to skin although the heat caused by exothermic reaction when using Modroc is lower than ‘normal plaster of paris thus avoiding a potential burn situation’.

When using alginate for anything other than small moulds, it needs a jacket, which can be made from modroc.  With the intention of casting the ‘cup’ in my daughter’s cupped hands, alginate was poured into the space and a layer of modroc applied to support it.  This was placed in a container with the the modroc down and the remains of the builder’s plaster poured on top.   Annoyingly there wasn’t quite enough to cover the mould but the result  was fun and effective with the sinister cut off fingers highlighted by the negative space created by the hole in the plaster. Alginate is an amazing product to capture fine detail.




2 thoughts on “MMT Part 3 Molding & Casting – Plaster, Concrete, Alginate & Modroc PROJECT 2

  1. Pingback: Part 3 – Stage 2, Project 2 – Casting the internal space of a vessel | Learning Log for Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

  2. Pingback: Bibliography | Learning Log for Textiles 1: Mixed Media for Textiles

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