Archive for July, 2011

A textile filled weekend

It’s been a great weekend (which for me, working part-time, lasts 4 days).

Thursday, lunch with a friend (particularly sumptuous home-made pumpkin soup) and an afternoon sitting in winter sunshine chatting about textiles. Friday I finished weaving the P2P2 East Neuk piece. Saturday was meeting day for the Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild  of NSW, with a presentation on the Australian New Zealand tapestry group by Marie Clews and Yvonne Eade plus lots of show and tell including some fabulous textiles brought back from a trip to India by Linda Chee (see http://www.weaversstudio.in/ for an idea of some of them).

Finally, the pièce de résistance today – the Love Lace exhibition at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. At the entrance to the exhibition lace was defined as “any openwork structure whose pattern of spaces is as important as the solid areas”, giving an ambitious scope that touched all types of textiles and well beyond. No photos here today, but if you can you should get to the exhibition (on until April 2012), or failing that there are photos and information on all the works on the museum website.
Well, not exactly finally – Sydney Design 2011 is on, so if you are here in the next couple of weeks check the website and go see something exciting!

Bead leno detail

With seven wefts tried on my leno sample there was a clear and totally unexpected winner. Which will remain unseen until the Big P2P2 Reveal.

In the meantime I have a few detail shots of the bead leno setup.

In leno warp threads swap positions instead of running along neatly beside each other. Check my photo in this post from February to see a diagram. Back then I used “doups” to get the swapping. This time it’s “beads” – or pieces of a drinking straw in this instance. The first photo shows the setup between the heddles (at the top) and the reed. I used a straight threading for the warp – that is, starting from the right, a thread on shaft 1, the next on shaft 2, then shaft 3, then shaft 4, and repeat in sets of 4 threads, so looking at the loom from the front you have 4-3-2-1 – 4-3-2-1 – 4-3-2-1… Note that each set of 4 go together through a single dent of the reed – very important because otherwise the swapping wouldn’t work.

Here’s a closeup of a 4-3-2-1 group (click on the photo to see bigger). The threads on 4 (beige in this example) and 1 (light blue) are threaded through a piece of plastic straw underneath the threads on shafts 2 and 3 (both dark blue). Underneath – another very important detail. This is still with the shafts behind and the reed in front. (I just put a pickup stick under warps 2 and 3 to make it easier to see.)

While weaving leno the threads on shafts 2 and 3 just sit there – the world revolves around them.

The third photo shows what happens when shaft 1 is lifted. The light blue thread on shaft one goes up (yellow arrow). This pulls on the straw. The beige thread on shaft 4 is pulled over because it is threaded through the same piece of straw. The red arrow points to where 4-beige has been pulled across under the dark threads on shafts 2 and 3 and up. The photo is still between shafts and reed, but in front of the reed the order of threads is now

3 (down) – 2 (down) – 4 (up) – 1 (up)

I put through the weft in front of the reed and that order is captured. Thread 4 has swapped position.

Next (photo 4) I put down shaft 1 and lift shaft 4. The beige thread on shaft 4 goes up (yellow arrow). The light blue thread is pulled across, under the dark threads (red arrow), and up. In front of the reed we have

4 (up) – 1 (up) – 3 (down) – 2 (down)

A pick of weft captures that swap.

Repeat those two picks. The warp threads on shafts 1 and 4 appear first on the right of the group, then on the left, then the right, wobbling their way down the length of the cloth. You can see it a bit on the loom in the last post, but you don’t get the full wobbly goodness until off the loom and wet finished.

I think it’s amazing – magic! Easy to set up, not too tricky to weave. The shed is not as good as standard weaving – after all the warp being pulled across is pulling down on the straw, and also pulling up on the stationary threads as it goes underneath them. Plus in this particular example I am using textured yarn with blobs of cotton and I have to be gentle given the abrasion of all the warps rubbing as they are pulled around. So I am gently separating and spreading the shed with my pickup stick every single pick. This sounds slow, but the main work has already been done automatically by the bead setup and there are so few picks per inch that it’s wizzing along very happily.

Information sources:

  • notes from my weaving teacher, Liz Calnan.
  • “A new twist on Bead Leno” by Kathryn Wertenberger. Handwoven November/December 1989.

Getting distracted

Last week I had a sample based on one of Cally’s photos and was making plans for a scarf. But I’ve allowed myself to be distracted.

East Neuk by John Bellany. This image was one that really attracted me from the beginning. I could imagine standing looking down at such a harbour, cheeks glowing from the walk up the hill, hair a bit sticky from salt spray, a slightly chilly breeze buffeting me. I’d play with the image in my mind at odd moments, trying to figure a weaverly response.

Perhaps a scarf to wear against that chill, not too heavy, blending into the sea colours. Leno could be a good structure – the twisting of the warp ends (threads) provides stability and allows lighter, more open weaving. The threads move back and forward, possibly reminiscent of waves. The image from a post in February gives an idea of the effect – although then I used wool and mohair, too fluffy and warm for the current idea.

It took a while to find a yarn that I thought might work, but I had a big surprise when I got home and compared my colours with the picture – nothing like!! It’s not just a matter of colours not matching in different lights. More that there simply is no dark blue in the image, just for starters. I’ve been remembering times I’ve stood on hills, looking at harbours and sea, and my memories definitely tinted my purchasing!

At this point I’ve decided that the idea is to use the image as a starting point for a design, and if I’ve continued on to somewhere a bit different then that’s fine.

Yesterday I wound a warp with lots of room for both sample and a finished scarf. The photo shows a section that was a third of the width on the loom – 4 inches. I really enjoy using the warping wheel to mix colours in the warp (and be nice to my back), however I really need to improve my methods of getting such warps onto my table loom (which I often prefer for samples and experiments).  It didn’t get nasty or tangled, just very slow, painstaking and inefficient.

Today I finished dressing the loom and have started sampling. The warp is Patons’ Sorrento – 62% viscose, 28% cotton, current sampling at 10 ends per inch average, although obviously not evenly spread. I really wanted a yarn with some shine and some slubs (ruffled waters). This might be a bit tender and catchy for weaving leno, but seems to be standing up OK at the moment. I’m trying out bead leno and gently easing the shed with a pickup stick every pick. Fiddley but rather pleasantly absorbing. I’ve tried a few wefts so far – cottolin, Xie bamboo and 20/2 silk. I need to do a bit more then will see how it behaves off the loom and in the finishing.

Meg asked me about where I was going with my sample last week. I guess my approach has been to take some of my impressions of the photo and mix that up with ideas that occur to me as I think about it. For that sample the idea that the photo was taken in Switzerland became important, and self expression in a structured society, in addition to some colour and texture cues from the photo. Some of my weaving is focused on building skills, adding techniques. P2P2 feels quite exposed in a way – starting from the other side I’m trying to express at least a little bit a mix of thoughts and emotions, looking for the right mix of yarn and structure to do that. I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying it 🙂

P2P2 Round 2 sample

The sample on the loom here is now cut off and finished (vigourous handwashing using olive oil soap and very hot then very cold water to promote fulling/felting/shrinkage). The photo shows before and after finishing.

The resulting fabric is quite soft, reasonable drape, and would be fine as a scarf. Both the novelty supplementary warps are reasonably attached to the base cloth – not enough for hard wear, but shouldn’t catch/snag too much as a scarf. I tried some fine gold foil type thread in both warp and as a weft inlay (plain weave, no floats). It didn’t felt in at all (as I expected – too smooth, wouldn’t absorb water). The warp looks generally OK, just a few slightly loopy spots (given it didn’t shrink at all). The weft inlay has larger loops at each turnaround point – not attractive. The long weft floats of the base cloth, which catch in and give wriggle room for the supplementary warps) are almost all OK in the sense of attaching in enough – just a couple of long ones in the central area aren’t great. However I do find the horizontal lines (vertical in the photo!) visually distracting.

In term of the wriggly lines I was looking for it’s definitely a success.

The process of weaving went quite pleasantly.  (A tactful silence on selvedges!). As mentioned previously my improvised threading was way off, but using pickup to create the floats gave a lot of additional flexibility, was only every 10-ish more or less picks so didn’t slow things down too much (I used the Ashford table loom) and I rather enjoyed playing with it.

As for the draft, I was very interested to see Jessica-of-Sharing-the-Fiber-Fever’s cannelé post here. It looked very similar to the “spider weave” from Sharon Alderman’s book that I used as a starting point. (I turned her draft then hacked it badly). I tracked down an old article about cannelé on handweaving.net – Master Weaver No 12 1953. There are a few variations with Fig 5 looking closest to Sharon’s. The big difference that I could see is in the warps that float over the fancy weft (remember my samples are turned). In Sharon’s draft the warps weave in with the plain weave cloth when not required for floating. The Master Weaver has them floating on the back. Yet another structure that seems similar but different is a “novelty weave” from Doramay Keasbey (draft b on page 270, discussed page 271). It has something slightly different in a corner of the plain weave base – just a couple of interlacements, but in weaving that could be significant. Don’t know.

The major question for now – could one or more elements of the sample be used to make an attractive scarf?

The Luce yarn is probably out (just half of one warp in the sample). Something about the chunkiness and the quick colour change makes it less graphic and interesting to me. Although it might be closer in feel to the original photo. Gold in the weft is definitely out. I think some staggering and being mindful of float length will reduce the visual distraction of the weft floats.

Hmm. Any thoughts?

2 questions + P2P2 round 2 update

First a couple of questions.

Do you know anything about the Open College of the Arts BA Textiles degree? A friend has been researching textile courses for a while and we’ve both got excited about this one. I’ve looked through OCA website, plus found quite a few “learning log” blogs of current students – http://ocacreativeartsjourney.wordpress.com/ is a good place to start since she has links to other students in addition to her own work. I’d love to learn more about the course and peoples’ experiences with OCA, so please leave a comment.

The second question was left in a comment from Isa Vogle: “Please, I am wondering if you or anyone else knows how to put short z-spun singles on a sectional loom not using a tension box. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Isa” I don’t know the background of the various constraints Isa is facing (other equipment available, width of warp etc) and have never tried anything like this, but it sounds like a potential world of pain to me. I think you’d need a nice long leader to attach to, or maybe tie onto a ghost warp? Plus there could be challenges relating to the amount of twist/energy in the singles, avoiding tangles and/or the yarn simply falling apart. Any other ideas for Isa?

Finally a brief update on P2P2. I’ve started a sample using some of the ideas from here. I came up with a threading on 8 shafts which I thought would give me the plain weave background and some options in the positioning of the floats that allow movement. It was immediately obvious that I had no idea what I was doing and the threading was rubbish (well, the plain weave base worked)! Fortunately my good friend the pickup stick has helped enormously and I think I have the hang of it, with the bonus of lots of flexibility. The proof will be in the wet finishing.

When you’re juggling lots of things…

…some get dropped.

This ikat-ish project was last seen as a damp warp back in May.

I wound the dried yarn into a cake, then wound the warp using the warping wheel with little excess loops of yarn where I tried to get each end to line up according to the plan. This went moderately well. My ties to resist dyeing weren’t exact distances apart, then there was some slippage and various inaccuracies in handling, not to mention yet another muddle in my calculations (I really need to learn to read the planning notes I make. Going by memory, I gaily changed from 25 to 20 to 24 epi, and ran out of yarn while warping. Nothing like necessity to encourage flexibility!). Given all that was going on I decided to hand stitch the shibori threads in the finished cloth rather than adding extra warp ends to do the gathering.

Here is the warp shown from the back of the loom. The edge areas are narrower than intended. It’s not a great photo but you might be able to see that overall arrangement is not too dissimilar to the sketched plan. The dark dashes kind of line up – viewing from a galloping horse in the dark may assist in seeing it.

The actual weaving was straightforward – plain weave in undyed 20/2 silk. I had enough warp length to do a little extra to use in sampling the next steps.

I did running stitch up each side of each red/orange stripe and gathered tightly, then dipped in a mix of yellow and brown dye and steamed.

It’s ugly. So, so wrong. The colours don’t work. The values don’t work. The patterning is a mess. There is no particular definition or variation in the brown. There are all the technical problems in winding the warp already mentioned, plus the previously dyed areas bled.

Lydia Van Gelder. Twice Dyed #8

I based my efforts on a piece in Lydia Van Gelder’s Ikat II. I didn’t expect it to be the same of course – “slightly” different levels of expertise (!), plus I was working from a photo and deliberately changed a few of the things I saw/understood, let alone the things I didn’t see/understand. I’ve included a shot from the book, which I think fits within fair use.

I was careful to wash the actual scarf before gathering and redyeing – there was no sign of colour in the water. I used the same stitching. I had some ideas to try in the hopes of a better result. The photo shows the gathered cloth ready to be soaked and dyed.

Then I dropped the ball. I put it to soak (a couple of hours is good), thinking I would have time for the dyeing later that day. Time passed – two weeks worth.

This morning I finally brought myself to look at the sorry, soggy thing. The soak water was a pale blue. The dyes had clearly bled and run. In a spirit of “let’s just get this over” I went out to the garage, grabbed the bordeaux dye stock and applied it, undiluted, with a brush. I’ve been writing this up while I waited for it to steam.

…Next day…

What do you think?

For me it very nearly works. All the dyeing errors are still there, but not so intrusive. The narrower range of colours helps. The stronger value of the overdye and its horizontal tendency gives some balance to the verticals. In person the fabric has a nice sheen, drapes well and is very soft and smooth to the touch. (I ended at 24 epi for the 20/2 silk plain weave).

I don’t love it, but I expected to hate it.

For my own memory, rather than that the world needs to know, what else has been happening the last few weeks:

  • Visiting The White Rabbit Gallery, a collection of contemporary chinese art plus lunch at the Mission Restaurant under the Ng Gallery nearby, rounded off by a quick visit and some remnant-box-diving at Elsegood Fabrics (can’t find a working website, but come out of the restaurant, walk across the laneway and you’re there). I’m usually a bit wary of contemporary art (I like happy and beautiful, not so keen to spend leisure time with tortured, depressed or self/society-flagellating). The current exhibition here had lots of beautiful, including very interesting textile work, with intent and meaning but not dark-dark-dark.
  • Nalda Searles drifting in my own land exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery.  Really beautiful, thought provoking textile artworks. Nalda had come over from WA and gave a floor talk – to quote the website “revealing the imagery and processes that have informed the art practice and vision of one of Australia’s unique and evocative practitioners”. And they didn’t over-promise. Nalda spoke very directly and personally. Plus lots of people to natter with afterwards.
  • The poetry of drawing – Pre-Raphaelite designs, studies and watercolours at the Art Gallery NSW. Stunning details and pattern-making. I always find it interesting to see preparatory work and all the adjustments and changes in the finished artwork. Sample, sample 🙂
  • The Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair – lots of inspiring work, talking (on the ATASDA stand and just running into people) and just a touch of shopping.
  • Family lunch (my original nuclear family) at Ottomans for mum’s 83rd birthday, which was so nice I took Geoff and the boys (current nuclear family) there this week for Geoff’s 55th.
  • Some clearing and re-arranging in my workroom-formerly-known-as-the-dining-room. The idea was to display as much as I could of previous work and larger samples (smaller odds and ends of sampling are in folders) – basically to remind me of possibilities and actually use the samples actively. The photo shows the area behind the loom, with two of the five hangers.
  • Mending socks – yes, there was enough to make this a separate item. I knit socks for all the family and with colder weather arriving there has been a mini-avalanche of holes to be darned and toes to be cut off and re-knit.
  • Plus bellringing, work, gym, shopping, cooking, laundry…
  • Which may not sound much to some, but I really like lots of quiet time pottering around by myself and all of this in a couple of weeks is … phew.

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