Archive for February, 2010

Backed Fabrics

Weekly weaving class with Liz Calnan at the NSW Handweavers and Spinners Guild started up again last week after the summer break. Our first topic is Backed Fabrics.

Nisbet’s definition (Grammar of Textile Design, available here on the
On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics):

“Backed” fabrics are characterised by an additional series either of warp or weft threads employed for the purpose of increasing their strength, weight, bulk and warmth, or any one of those properties, without affecting their surface appearance”.

It seems traditional industrial use was to use cheaper/coarser/inferior quality threads, hidden on the back of the cloth, in very practical applications such as men’s clothing.

Liz had photos and student samples using the technique to showcase and make the most of some of the fancy and often heavier yarns now available. You can give them the space to shine without sacrificing stability by “stitching” them to a second layer of cloth. It’s a variant of doubleweave, but instead of the two layers of cloth (or blocks in the cloth) changing sides (see my 4 shaft sample here, and 8 shaft scarf here), there is a definite “front” and the two layers are just attached in spots.

I couldn’t make head or tail of the theory, so decided just to give it a go.

Here’s front and back of sample 1. The front layer uses a fancy textured yarn (slubs, glitter, loopy bits, you name it) for warp and weft in a 2/2 twill. It’s set at 4 ends per inch, which would collapse into a nasty tangle left on its own.

The back layer is a fine cotton (no idea of the formal spec – it was on sale at a knitting machine group get-together). It’s in plain weave, 20 ends per inch.

I’ve laid out the draft to try to make the concept behind it clearer. The thin cotton weaves plain weave on shafts 5, 6, 7, 8 – over on the right of the tieup. The fancy yarn weaves twill on top. Where a fancy weft is hidden between two fancy warps floats, a cotton warp is raised to trap it. You can see it in the draft – when 1,2 are lifted for the twill, up comes shaft 7. It’s pretty much invisible from the front, but it’s “enough” to attach the two layers together.

The trouble with this sample is that it isn’t really enough. There aren’t enough attachment points to keep everything firm. It would be nice to have a link on every weft – but either they would not be hidden between two warp floats, or I would need extra shafts (I was working on the 8 shaft Ashford loom).

Sample 2 solved the problem (well, Liz gave us the solution!).

Instead of attaching the layers by raising cotton warps, attach by lowering (ie not raising) fancy yarn warps. The fancy yarns are already on separate shafts for the twill, so I can move them independently (in each repeat of the twill) without needing extra shafts. The sample’s set was slightly different – I actually had only 4 cotton for each fancy on this one (I forgot when recreating the draft), with 20epi for cotton and 5 epi for fancy. I haven’t wet finished this one yet, but it definitely feels much more stable, although still a bit too loose for most uses. The fancy yarn is plied very loosely and could do with even more stitching points.

Sample 3 is exactly the same structure and epi as sample 2. The only difference is the fancy yarn used. This is also a thick and thin slubby affair, but overall thicker and more tightly plied. It is holding together very nicely. The back layer is a bit puckered (also not wet finished), but it’s quite  attractive.

Sample 4 is based on a photo in Doubleweave on 4 to 8 shafts by Ursina Arn-Grischott. This is the same warp, weft and set as sample 2, with a change in threading. Top and bottom layers are both plain weave. As well as stitching points there is an actual exchange of blocks as in normal double weave. The sample is structurally stable, but I think there is too much show-through in the cotton layer, so you don’t get a good impact from the exchanged blocks.

On sample 5 I used doubled cotton threads in warp and weft – a purple and a red held together. Everything else is as in sample 4. The thicker “back” cloth has much more visual punch. I really like this one. It’s very stable, the simple cotton squares and lines provide a good contrast and foil to the fancy yarn. I like both sides (backed fabrics are generally one “public” side). The only question is how to use it – possibly a cushion cover?? It’s not drapey enough for a scarf. BTW I don’t have a proper draft for this. The book didn’t give details (and the photo fabric was different and I don’t think could ever be done on “4 to 8 shafts”! – it had at least 3 blocks of double weave). I constructed this from the photo, input from Liz, some scrawls on a spreadsheet, then some trial and error on the loom).

This is just a scratch on the surface of backed fabrics. I’ll have to come back to it one day, but class has already moved on to the next topic…

Cacophony

Cacophony. Part of The Maharajah's Garden exhibition

Many travellers to the Indian subcontinent talk of being overwhelmed and left disoriented by the colours, sounds, smells when they first arrive.

I imagine a Garden full of exotic flowers and birds, fountains, gazebos and sunshine – so many wonders, so bright and beautiful, that all I can perceive is a blur of colour and light. Slowly my eyes refocus until I can see a single bloom.

Detail

ATASDA (The Australian Textile Arts and Surface Design Association) is launching a new exhibition soon – The Maharajah’s Garden. It’s a suitcase exhibition – a collection of textile art pieces, banners to decorate the venue, techniques boards, publicity material, white gloves for handling work etc, all fitting into one large suitcase (actually two suitcases, due to the amount of work submitted). Each suitcase will travel independently around Australia for the next two years, visiting schools and communities. Anyone can ask to host the exhibition – the only cost is postage to the next venue.

Banner section

ATASDA has had a couple of suitcase exhibitions in the past which were very successful. This is my first chance to participate and I was keen to make sure weaving was included – ATASDA members use a huge range of textile and surface design techniques. We were asked to respond to the theme The Maharajah’s Garden with rich, brilliantly coloured artworks.

Banner detail

Each suitcase will include 20 – 30 banner sections, each with ribbon ties so they can be used flexibly to decorate the different venues. I used an offcut from my main piece on my banner, with a flower shape based on the sequinned bloom on the hanging.

Some specifics:

Handwoven wallhanging, unlined, 47 x 40 cm.

Warp: 22/2 cottolin sett at 18 ends per inch.  I put out all the cones I had in “garden” colours and wound with 4 threads at a time. Each trip round the warping board I changed 1, sometimes 2, colours. When threading I chose fairly much at random from each group of 4 threads. I wanted a not-too-stripey “sunlight dappled” effect.

Threading and liftplan: rosepath (slightly more detailed explanation here).

Weft: mainly torn and cut strips of fabrics – organza, chiffon, lamé, silks and synthetics. I created big piles of torn pieces, then knotted them together in a semi-random order (that is, I picked up a piece at random and threw it back in the pile if I didn’t want it at that point).

I have some big cones of metallic thread (from a knitting machine supplier), and two colours of metallic were wound onto the shuttle together with the knotted fabric strips.

There are also sections using some of my mother’s embroidery threads. Plus there is a fine cotton thread used as a tabby (plain weave pick between each “fancy” pick). The hanging will do a lot of travelling over the next two years, and the tabby gives some needed stability and strength.

Weaving: I used the clasped weft technique throughout. Kaz of curiousweaver has a great video tutorial here. Most of the time I used a weft from each side, but here and there I used three at once – a shuttle from each side and a third yarn source in the middle (in the photo some of mum’s embroidery thread). Also in the photo you can see the shuttle of fine cotton for the tabby weft. Although the weft was knotted randomly I could juggle placement by seeing what was coming up and choosing my clasping points.

I don’t know the age of the sequinned and chain-stitch flower. It’s worked on a fine purple silk chiffon and was given to me a few years ago (by another ATASDA member).

A major part of the exhibition’s purpose is to enthuse viewers (school students and others) to go home and try a new technique using textiles and fibres. We were all asked to include an A3 techniques board, giving basic instructions in a technical skill. It would be great if someone decided to give weaving a go after seeing the exhibition, but there will be such variety and such strong work from others that cacophony could get lost in the general blaze of colour!

If you’re in Australia and would like one of the suitcases to visit your area, check the ATASDA website for contact information. They are already taking bookings and have venues pencilled in for every state.


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