Saturday, May 30, 2015

May Activities

May has been glorious here on Vancouver Island as evidenced by this ornamental crab apple tree.  It has been difficult to stay focused and in the studio when the weather is so enticing.  Nevertheless we have finished our guild projects, met with our study groups and even found some time to throw fiber into a dye pot (although that was an outdoor activity that took advantage of the sunshine).

colour gamp in neutrals

At our May guild meeting members were given a chance to see what the Colour Study Group and the More Than Four Study Group had been doing.
The colour group have been working on neutral colours.  First they had to identify what made a colour "neutral".  Then they considered how these colours react when woven in different structures.  As part of the learning process the members of the group wove samples.
log cabin colour gamp
They learned that a wide range of colours can be considered neutral under the right circumstance and that browns and greys are complex.  They also explored the concept of weight as applied to colour.

The More Than Four Group gave a brief report about their exploration into 3 dimensional surface effects. (More details can be found in the March 15, 2015 post.)  Sampling has been very important for this study topic as the effects depend upon many factors especially the materials and the finishing techniques.  Most recent efforts include experimenting with "dimity" as illustrated in the photo of the scarf.  Dimity creates raised stripes against a plain background.

double weave
The shawl in the photo on the right is an example of patterned double weave with wool and cotton.  After machine washing and drying the wool shrinks and the cotton puffs up to create ridges that follow the waves of pattern.  Double weave is a very versatile weave structure for exploring differential shrinkage.

To celebrate the good weather a group of guild members decided to hold a "dye day".  They fired up those old camp stoves and brought out their fleece and yarn.  The theme appears to be, try anything, sprinkle the dye on top of the fleece, dip dye or create variegated yarn.  Who knows what the result will be and that is part of the fun.  No doubt we will be seeing the finished products later in the year.

If all this activity were not enough to tire us out guild members have also been working on projects in the guild studio.  Look for the next post to see how the projects have turned out.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Learning from the Past

The study of historical textiles is revealing in many different ways.  Since every level of society used textiles, they give us a picture of life across the social structure of any given age.  They illustrate how changes in technology influenced everyday life.  They also tell us about migrations and relationships across space and time.
  The antique pieces displayed in the photo on the right include a simple rag rug that could have been made on a sturdy two harness loom.  It illustrates thrift and the art of recycling that was based on need not social pressures. When yard goods were scarce and expensive worn out clothing was recycled into utilitarian items.  Although the technique is simple elaborate patterning can be achieved.
The navy and white piece with the flower motif is part of a coverlet woven in eastern Canada and passed down through the family to a present day weaver.  The wool weft would have been hand spun and taken to the local weaver to be turned into a special bed covering that was both decorative and very practical.  This example was woven on a Jacquard or a draw loom.  The patterns would have been brought from Europe.  Different patterns reflected migration from different countries in Europe.  Today, technological advances have brought Jacquard weaving into the realm of the hand weaver.

Coverlets are important historical textiles of special interest in North America.  The overshot technique illustrated in the photograph below was developed in colonial times as a means of extending the pattern potential of a four harness loom.  The overshot technique is a favourite of hand weavers today.

Very few textiles survive from truly ancient times.  But even small fragments can be revealing.  Such is the case of a discovery at a grave site in South west China in the late 70's.  Here archaeologists found a fabric of twill construction and a plaid design.  The grave site was about 3,000 years old.  The find and subsequent study of the plaid fabric at Qizilchoqa contradicts the idea that the plaid is a recent invention from Scotland.  Taken with similar finds in Austria it suggests that the plaid was designed by the ancient ancestors of the Celts.

At our monthly guild meeting members were treated to a talk about the Qizilchoqa plaid by John Fitzpatrick.  John specializes in the study of tartans and has reproduced this very early Asian example. For more information check out John's web site at