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Tablet Woven Complexity

Tablet woven patternTablet weaving can be complex indeed but to start weaving it can be one of the most enjoyable achievements out. Over the years I’ve mostly used the backstrap method to weave with the cards but I think a decent and strong inkle loom does the job better because I need to be physically ‘disconnected’ to the weaving to concentrate…at least in my household. The soft mauve and lemon band here is one of the simplest patterns in threading and turning (4/4) and the pattern magically appears with minimal effort. From Tablet Weaving – Ann Sutton and Pat Holtom.

There are alot of people investigating and deciphering old historic patterns and much new material available for tablet weaving. The SCA movement has propelled much of this in Europe. One of the very best explanations of tablet weaving I’ve seen is here. Eva Sandermann Olsen does a remarkable job, in my view, of explaining tablet weaving in a humble yet thoroughly authoritative way. Also the long running Phalia’s String page offers alot of information. Another lovely new book is Applesies and Fox Noses from Finland. This is certainly a must have, very delightful addition to a tablet weaver’s library.

Tablet Woven purse from Bhutan

Tablet woven purse from Bhutan – 2008

But one publication which is absolutely fascinating on many levels is the Willful Pursuit of Complexity by Kris Leet and Linda Malan on the Icelandic Vacant-Hole technique. I can’t go past the broader perspective of this publication under ‘Collateral Issues’ and I quote directly.

First, there is the pervasive perception, by weavers as well as non-weavers, that prehistoric and early historic weaving was in some sense primitive, that it was crude, not very well done, that it lacked either elegance or sophistication or an acceptable level of craftsmanship.

What seems to be true, however, is that no matter how far back toward the genesis of weaving one travels, one encounters sophisticated techniques, skilled command of the materials, and elegant objects. Archaeologists consistently push back the dates at which they think weaving was invented because they keep finding evidence for well-developed textile production at earlier and earlier time periods.  In addition, as more archaeological sites are discovered and catalogued it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that the human race has forgotten much more than it currently knows.

We are so defined by our current technology that we cannot conceive that people without our “advantages” could have produced objects that we cannot seem to reproduce.”

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Imagining Textiles – The Art of Dyeing

Bucket with dyed warp in itFor many weavers dyeing yarn requires a big leap of faith. Starting out without copious dye recipe books and sample cards to refer to most of us just jump off the edge then gradually acquire knowledge for more precise decisions in colour. But it can be easy, fun and very successful from day one.

Dyeing is an imagining of a textile for a weaver because dyeing the warp and weft is only the first part of a journey.  The weave, colour juxtaposition and mixing on the loom can potentially change what you start with.

In my recent Easy Ikat and Warp Painting workshop I encouraged the three participants to ‘jump’ off because you just have to attack dyeing to see where you go and gain the confidence I think. At least that’s what I do.

painting skeins of yarnPainting a warp is just so special. It’s exciting to weave with because the colour changes all the time –  so no boredom, and it always looks great on the loom. It also looks pretty good just in the bucket waiting to set the colour and wash out.

Each of the participants had strong colour confidence and all did very different work with a wide range of cellulose and silk fibre. There was handspun bamboo, hemp cord, silks, ramie and linen. Sometimes the yarn had a light base colour changing the subtlety of the colours. We painted warps and skeins for weft and warping. See Barb here working her magic!

The warp ikat was interesting too. Mostly I use an immersion method with this but I think painting the warp with the ikat resists in place is rather more interesting for some types of weaving.

Painting warp ikats

We covered a few methods of failsafe dyeing like creating different strengths of the same colour. There are no white dyes in textile dyeing so dilution becomes the white.

Stepping across the colour wheel is also another easy method to success. For example, purple to yellow, mixing proportionately as you step to the opposite colour.

We finished up with my extra speedy way of creating a dye sample reference.  This is the start of knowing your colours more intimately and what you can do with them.

Blues painted on skein

I demonstrated the painting method with expensive gloves on. This was a big fail and I had to walk around with deep blue hands for the duration of the weekend. Don’t do that!  Susie was sensible and used a painterly method with a brush and our better, cheaper gloves which worked. Sponge brushes work well too and I think I paint the warp differently with a brush in hand too.

I loved the workshop and a very warm thank you to the wonderful dyer/weavers who came to share their colourways. Gail, Barb and Susie – thank you!

Wild Buttons

woven buttonsMy last Craftsy tutorial was about creating Wild Woven Buttons. Using scrap Saori fabric or custom woven Saori fabric you can let your wild side show!

If a button is merely a decorative embellishment and not a fastener you can go as wild as you like. Use the button blank as a scaffold to show off your fabric.

Growing of Weaving

Learning to weave

Jodie weaving herself into the loom

Yesterday was coding and upgrading time. It’s not something I do everyday and it isn’t always without issues so I dance around the necessary job, cleaning the house more, weaving more, emailing more – anything to prevent the upgrade happening. I guess everyone is the same.

I recently read that most people feel besieged nearly 100% of the time.  I always thought the object was not to feel like that so now I’m thankful that I only feel that way about 95% of the time and have more admiration and understanding for the rest of you! It seems that most workplaces add to that feeling of besiegement, of being under attack, so once again weaving, feeling creative and sharing this activity in a positive healthy way becomes more than a ‘hobby’ …perhaps a necessary activity to save ourselves.

For me weaving is so much more than all of that and as handweaving and interest in constructed textile making is growing I’m delighted that so many younger designers are taking up the passion.

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Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Weave


Looms at Ockpoptok, Luang Prabang, Laos

Well, this is my last post for Thailand and Laos – :(

I just love looking at people weaving.  Perhaps I want to be a supervisor rather than a weaver! Well there is plenty to see in Laos. Looms and weavers at every turn.

One nice experience involved a group weave effort by three girls. Weaving can be a lonely business and it’s much more fun if you can share it with your friends. Each of the girls were taking turns to weave the cloth. While one was weaving on the loom the other two were winding the bobbins from the skeiner. One was turning the winder’s handle and the other guiding the yarn onto the bobbin. When they were tired of their jobs they swapped around. I hadn’t seen this type of group effort before but it makes so much sense it’s probably done all of the time, everywhere. Read more

The Yearning of New Weavers

collapse weaving

Instant collapse weave on the Piccolo loom

Just back from the Newcastle Weavers market demo. So good. I set up the two looms each with something different. One with an extreme version of the WWW technique and extremely loose weaving and the other with an instant collapse weave with my overspun handspun. I used an Aussie Polwarth breed from Wendy Dennis. Very nice indeed. After a few decades of weaving you would think I’d be a bit sick of it by now but no! Weaving is just so rewarding on so many levels.

The trading day was particularly rewarding talking to weavers, spinners and other fibre lovers but I also had interest from people who had never woven but had a burning desire to learn or know more. Several times over the last week I’ve had contact from people who just feel so excited about looking at textiles and looms. They remind me of what drew me to weaving many years ago. I think if you have an episode like this with intense yearning or funny feelings when looking at a loom you need to start weaving…for your health and sanity! Read more

Saori Woven Shibori Weekend

Woven shibori Saori style

Gail’s Saori Woven Shibori cloth at the unveiling.

That’s a mouthful – “Saori Woven Shibori”

But that’s what much of last weekend’s Saori cloth turned out to be. The full two day workshop was small but very inspiring and productive. It allowed more experimentation and the dyebath helped us along. As two of the participants were already Saori weavers and had done previous workshops it was time to step out again.

Woven shibori is shibori (tie-dye) using the loom and the weaving sheds to place the stitching threads to create resist marks on the cloth. This ‘stitiching’ is usually done with a more complex loom providing the pattern of the stitchers. (In traditional shibori stitching is done after the cloth is created.)With a two shaft Saori loom we manually pick up the stitching rows allowing a very improvisational, organic and potentially complex system of marks. Read more

Book Club Weaves

Trish with completed weaving

Delights by Trish

Hot off the loom Trish conquered Saori in the recent Book Club Saori workshop.

This was the first workshop in my new studio and once again incredibly rewarding. On arrival at a workshop I go through all the basics and let everyone know that each of them will produce a very different textile to the person weaving next to them. It seems a bit of hype because it’s hard to believe that it’s possible. And yet just a few hours later at the end of the day…it is!

This particular workshop was planned long ago so I think the participants must have dreamed their designs beforehand. Such different colour aesthetics and styles. In a day workshop we usually get enough cloth to make a cowl or neck piece. Sometimes the work is more intricate as though each insertion is one of intense respect for the technique and becomes a smaller piece such as Melissa’s weave. Read more