Saturday, May 25, 2013

Today's (?) Weaving Trend

I've blogged about guild challenges before; I know many weaving guilds (and perhaps spinning and knitting guilds as well) do these.  Another great activity you can do if you're a member of a group is a focused study group.  I'm certainly getting a lot of mileage out of the color study group that is a spin-off group of my guild.

Here is an excerpt from an old weaving bulletin of the 1950s. The periodical was called "Loom Music" and was published by two Canadian women, Mary Sandin of Edmonton and Ethel Henderson of Winnipeg.

Today's Weaving Trend - Experimentation

One of the most rewarding ways of weaving, in terms of time spent, is a directed, concerted effort by a small group of enthusiastic weavers. In such an experimental effort, weavers of little experience work on an equal basis with those of greater knowledge. Why? One reason is, surely, that in being expected to experiment widely without reference to accepted rulings, the junior craftsman is free from the penalty of being told she is "wrong". In experimentation, nothing is wrong, unless it is deficient in utilitarian qualities. In this way, new designs are brought to attention.
We have noticed, by long observation, that a great many weavers consider themselves unavailable for these experimental sessions for several reasons:
1. "I don't know enough" -- to counter which, see opening paragraph.
2. "I don't want to tie up my loom"-- we say, a small experimental loom becomes almost a "must" for a serious student. They can be homemade with string heddles for a very small sum, and are easily stored.
3. "I haven't the time this coming month". Most people can make time -- it's thinking about it that's the deterrent. Once begun, the fascination grows.
Let us say, then, that it is the duty of each weaver to spare one period per year for non-objective weaving, so far as a finished article is concerned.

The language may seem quaint and outdated today, but I think the sentiment still applies.  Consider it, is it the duty of each weaver?  If not, there still must be a benefit, both to yourself as a weaver and to the growth of today's weaving community.  To some extent you could participate in such a study on line, but there's so much more to be gained if you can actually get together, see each other's work and discuss "in real life".  Do you belong to a weaving, spinning, knitting or other craft guild?  Have you participated in a small-group study?  If not, is there a study group that you might start?  Have you participated in an online study group, and was it as rewarding as a real live group?  Leave a comment here about your experiences or ideas.

You can read archived copies of "Loom Music" at the Digital Archive, along with other out-of-print weaving literature.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weaving to weave

Lately I've been working toward some deadlines, and right now it seems right to take a break.  I have some more ideas I want to explore, and some specific goals I want to pursue next, but it seems like all those need to percolate a little.  So I got the urge to do what I am calling in my head "weaving with abandon".  No real plan, no definite end project in mind.  No sprang.  (What!?  No sprang!?)

I took a bunch of odds and ends from my stash mostly from the cool side of the color wheel, measured a color until I ran out, picked up the next color... until I had enough warp ends measured to make the width I wanted at 20 ends per inch.  How did I pick 20 epi?  I don't know; it just seemed right.  If this were a "real" project, I would have measured each yarn on the McMorran balance, taken a weighted average of their yards per pound, and used Ashenhurst's formula to figure the sett.  But I didn't.

I sleyed the reed with each color randomly until it was full, threaded, wound, tensioned, tied it up for plain weave.  Yes, just plain ol' plain weave.  The weaving of this fabric is taking me back, remembering what it felt like to be a beginning weaver, teaching myself from books some 20-odd years ago.  Right now I am weaving and enjoying the simple pleasure in the wonder of taking yarn and making cloth.  Finding a rhythm in throwing the shuttle, laying the weft, pressing the beater back.

If I like the cloth when it is done, maybe it will become something to wear.  Maybe not.  Either way, I think it will have purpose.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Warp weighting for weaving with sprang

Remember my initial tensioning system for weaving with sprang, using soup cans?  Since then I have acquired quite a little collection of fishing weights.  And last Christmas, my Secret Santa added some more to that collection.  Plus he introduced me to something really cool called Tool Dip.  I guess it's for coating your hand tools with a rubberized coating.  But it works great at coating lead fishing weights, too.  You can get it in clear or colors, but I found a kit with the clear stuff and additives so you can mix your own colors.  My weights are all different shapes and sizes, so I color-coded them according to weight.

When I am weaving with weighted sections of warp, I will experiment to find the "right" weight to tension a section to weave well, and adjust the tension on my beamed warp with the warp beam and brake system.  Then I will use a weight proportional to the width of each section I am weighting.  For example, if I had sprang sections with 24, 36 and 48 threads in them, I might use 8 oz, 12 oz and 1 lb weights on them respectively.

You will often use weights to tension supplementary warp as well, especially if whatever you are doing with the supplementary warp causes it to "take up" at different rates.  The same approach would work for that type of application.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stumbling blocks to stepping stones

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit. - Conrad Hilton

Another idea I got from one of the students' projects in my class was to use both interlinking and interlacing in the same piece.  In addition, I want to also use both of these with loom-weaving.  I warped up a narrow width on my loom to test my idea.  The two samples in the photo below have a woven length made with the loom, then interlaced sprang, then interlinked sprang (and of course then the mirror image of the sprang - interlinked then interlaced), and finally another length of regular weaving.

The top sample has some of the warps omitted from the sprang section (and later cut off), so the sprang section is narrower.  I had omitted the green warps because my brain took a vacation and I was thinking that all the warps from my weaving would turn 45 degrees so they would be too close together.  What actually happens, though, is that yes, half the warps make a turn, but the other half turns the other way and acts like weft to the first half (and vice versa).  I must admit this is one of my many V-8 moments.

So for the sample in the bottom of the photo, I didn't omit those warps.  That of course messed up my carefully-planned color sequence but the size is more what I wanted.  There are some interesting accidental patterns happening, too; the red and gold area has sort of a houndstooth going on.

So then I thought, what if I use a loom weave denser than the plain weave in the above samples, like a twill.  I could make the sett even closer, and my interlaced portion won't be so open.  I want it closer to a piece of plain weave fabric set on the bias.  So I put a 3/1 twill on the loom, and...

...well, that was certainly not what I was after.  The interlaced sprang is now all lumpy and "gathered".  It wants to be much wider than the woven portion, even in a relaxed state.  What I learned is that spacing the woven portion closer does not encourage the interlaced area to have a spacing anything like a loom-woven weave.  But it does have some potential dimensional appeal:

Fodder for a future project, perhaps.  For the project at hand, it's back to the plain weave.  And for my experimentation, rather than a failure, I now have a new bit of knowledge and another aspect to explore.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sprang and other fabric structures

 By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn.
         -Latin Proverb

This old adage is brought home to me again and again.  In preparation for teaching a class on sprang, I made some samples of different fabric structures, to help put sprang in context and get our focus on what we were about to make. Some samples were sprang, and some were not. I tried to think of as many different ways of forming fabric as I could: knitting, weaving, looping etc. Making these samples was an enlightening experience for me.
Above is basic 1/1 interlinked sprang, and below is interlaced sprang,  See the difference in the way a warp element (illustrated by the one black yarn) traverses the fabric in these two samples.

Here are a couple aha! moments I had.

A late addition to my little collection of samples was gauze weave. I got the idea to add it from a chapter in Chieko Aihara's beautiful book Sprang, in which she compares sprang with gauze weaves, particularly in the context of the techniques indigenous to South America. Sadly I don't read Japanese, but the connection is apparent from her illustrations.  I have never done allover gauze, just a few pickup leno borders on table linens and the like.  While making the shed for the gauze weave I chose (this time with a needle as a pickup stick), I noticed that the warps I was picking up were going under two adjacent warps, in the same manner we look for when forming 1/1 interlinked sprang.

Another of these structures which was completely new to me was "fingerweaving" which is actually a form of braiding. Working from the book The Basic Book of Fingerweaving by Esther Warner Dendel, I chose the basic Peruvian flat braid, and as I set out to create the first shed, I almost got a shiver up the back of my neck as I found my fingers making the exact same motions they make when working interlinked sprang. The finished product doesn't bear much resemblance to sprang; rather it's the process that is is related.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Texture in sprang

One of the students' projects in my class used thick and thin warps alternating, two thin loops and one thick loop repeatedly. It was coming out so nicely that when I got home I wanted to try it myself.  I used the warp I had on my frame already, and added some thin cotton seine cord between the thick cotton twine/cord I'd been demosntrating with in class.  Here's how the structure looks when stretched.  You can see clearly what the thick pair of warps does in the fabric.  I love the cabled look between the lacy bits:

But look at all the folds that happened when I took it off tension and sewed it up into a little bag!  I think this is so cool, all the movement that it has.  It's doing this on its own.  I have not tried to block it out.  This seems kind of like the "tracking" patterning that sometimes happens spontaneously in plain weave fabric.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Firestorm and Regeneration

One of my "tree" pieces, Regeneration, has been accepted into the Woven Together: Firestorm exhibit sponsored by Pike's Peak Weavers Guild and the Business of Art Center in southern Colorado.

Regeneration, 22" x 34", wool, in twill weaves & sprang, painted warp.

The exhibit commemorates the many fires that occurred last year in Colorado.  My piece is depicting a sunrise signifying hope, and the resilience of the forests and the people as they recover from the devastation that occurred.  This is particularly poignant to me today as I have the TV news on as I type, with the coverage of several fires right here in Southern California, threatening people's homes.

The exhibit will be from June 21 through August 3, 2013, in the Hagnauer Gallery, Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Now the challenge will be to figure out how to box it up for shipping.