Sunday, March 15, 2015

More than Four Reporting In

The More Than Four Study Group is a weaving study group for  guild members who are interested in making the most out of multi-harness looms.  At the start of the year the group selects a study topic and for the rest of the year members research and weave samples related to that topic.  This year the group decided to concentrate on creating 3 dimensional surface effects.
We soon learned that there were a variety of surface effects that could be created by a hand weaver.  They could be subtle all over surface effects with raised yarns or dimples.  They could be strategically placed pleats or puckers or they could be wild waves and ruffles resulting from movement across the entire fabric.

The sea weed in the photographs illustrates some of the more dramatic surface effects that can be produced with the correct yarns, weaving structure and finishing techniques.  High energy yarns or yarns that have different shrinkage rates can be used to distort an otherwise flat grid.

The woven examples have warp stripes of materials with different shrinkage rates.  In both samples the wool stripes shrink more than the adjacent stripes creating a seer sucker effect.
The highly spun rayon singles in the example on the left kinks upon wet finishing in hot water and pulls in the edges to form pleats.
We learned that it was important to do samples when working with these techniques.  Differences in sett, materials and finishing can make dramatic differences in the overall size of the finished piece.

The off-white sample with the intense pleating is an example of woven shibori used with an acrylic yarn.  The shibori pull threads are used to create narrow pleats then the entire cloth is steamed to set the acrylic weft yarn.  After the pull threads are removed the fabric is highly elastic.  The lower edge forms a natural ruffle as there were no pull threads in that section.  The fabric is ideal for a narrow sleeve on a romantic top.

More subtle surface effects add textural interest as illustrated in this photograph of tree bark.  There are raised areas as well as irregularly coloured patches that resemble a collage

 There are a number of weave structures that are designed to create surface effects and while the choice of materials can alter how dramatic the effect is, these techniques do not rely heavily on special yarns or finishing techniques.  They are often enhanced by the use of colour or fancy yarns.

 Waffle weave creates dimples in the cloth that appear as small squares.  The surface is similar to that on a Belgian waffle.  The weave structure is characterized by skips in descending order in the warp and the weft.  It is highly absorbent and makes wonderful towels.  The take up will depend upon the size of the units in the waffle weave and it can be considerable.

Honeycomb is another weave structure that creates dimples in the cloth outlined with a heavier or fancy yarn.  In this case the skips are on the back of the cloth making it more suitable for upholstery or an item that will be lined.  Where a deeper colour has been used the dimples appear to be deeper.

The More Than Four group will continue with the exploration of 3 dimensional effects.  Sampling has been important to understanding this topic and each person's experience, good or bad, has taught all of us a lesson.  The sampling has suggested some interesting applications for the techniques as clothing, accessories and house hold items.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Getting Started

At one point in time we were all novices in our chosen craft.  Technical terms were a foreign language that we had to master before we could participate in a conversation.  We had to develop hand movements akin to writing and learn how to coordinate feet hands and head as you would in a sport.  There were calculations and ratios to memorize too.
Our early efforts were far from perfect.  Our hand spun yarn may have been both over spun and under spun along its length but the marvel was being able to move your feet so the wheel turned with a consistent speed and the fleece fed to the wheel formed a yarn that did not disintegrate.  My first efforts were a far cry from the lovely dyed yarn in the picture.

For new weavers the biggest challenge is dressing the loom.  In the beginning, it is like trying to dress an uncooperative 3 year old for a winter day.  At least the loom does not squirm around but at times the warp show signs of having a mind of its own.  There are tangles to separate, broken threads to mend and order to be made from chaos.  But oh the satisfaction when you have that perfectly aligned and tensioned warp just waiting to be turned into cloth.

At some time, we all made that first scarf from our own yarn.  It may have been a little thick and thin in places but we made it ourselves, from scratch and it deserves a place in our personal history.  Here's to the place mats with the slightly wavy edges, the mug rug made out of yarn so thick we could hardly thread the heddles, the too short scarf of unknown fibres we got from the thrift shop and all the other first projects that got us started.

There is always something new to master no matter how long you have been working at your craft.  The dyed yarn in the photograph is the result of experimentation which is part of mastering a new skill.
The subtle colour variation in the woven shawl is another example of experimentation with dyes.  While these examples are lovely even experts have failures when trying something new.

Don't assume everything you see is so difficult you can do it yourself.  This bag is made of squares woven on a simple loom then joined together with stripes of material for form a bag.  Even simple weaving can create something that has a very complex appearance.

So, in closing the next time you see a beautiful hand crafted item remember that the person who made that item had to start somewhere and they probably have some cherished but not so perfect items in their creative past.  The struggles and the mistakes they suffered were necessary so they could learn how to do it better.  Take pride in your early works.