Saturday, April 29, 2017

Basic and Beautiful

Ikat technique
Today hand spinners and weavers have a wide array of tools and materials at their disposal.  Many of those tools save time and physical effort so we can produce more products with enhanced consistency.  Consider how efficient a drum carder is compared with using hand carders  Other tools, such as design software, support an advanced level of complexity in our designs.  But modern tools can't replace good design and excellent technique.
Maybe that is why we tend to have a deep appreciation and a sense of awe when we see a master work created by hand using simple tools and techniques.  Maybe that is why so many fibre artists feel compelled to help preserve or revive skills that maybe lost in the name of efficiency or advancement.

Salish Blanket

The first nations people of the pacific northwest were noted for the fibre arts.  They worked in cedar, mountain goat and dog hair.  Blankets and other woven items were used in commerce as well as for personal or ceremonial use.  Fibre art is an important cultural heritage for all people.  We are lucky that it is being preserved, revived and in some cases reinvented without loosing its meaning.

Salish blanket 
 The photograph above shows a typical but newly minted Salish blanket that was created on a large frame loom that we refer to as a "Salish loom".  Many of us tried weaving on a "Salish loom" in the 70's and can appreciate the skill that it took to create this piece.
Traditional patterns have been used in the border of weft stripes.  As with other forms of traditional weaving the patterns have meaning and would tell a story about the blanket if we knew how to read it.

The thick yarn is spun using a large headed spindle attached to a wheel but in the past a spindle would have been used.
jewellery set

The set of pendant and earrings is a fine example of modern Chilkat weaving.  The same technique is used to create large ceremonial dancing blankets.  It is hand worked in on a simple loom using a complex combination of twining and weaving.  Traditionally the warp would have been a blend of cedar and wool.  The yarn would have been spun and plied without the use of a spindle.  
Salish weaving in progress on loom
The colourful photograph shows a "Salish style" weaving in progress.  It is being woven on a small frame loom.  The warp is thick hand spun yarn that has been plied to create a multi-coloured yarn with a lumpy texture.  The piece is a riot of colours that are anything but traditional but it is being constructed in keeping with the traditional techniques.  A very nice example of the artist expressing their own personality while keeping in touch with their heritage.

If you are interested in the Chilkat weaving you might want to check out "The Chilkat Dancing Blanket" by Cheryl Samuel, Pacific Search Press, 1982  ISBN 0-914718-69-X

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Exploring More on Crackle

There are several interest groups within the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild.  They meet at intervals to work on their shared interest and periodically they share what they have learned with the larger group.  The photo shows the Exploring More Group in our resource centre at the Train Station, in Qualicum Beach.

The Exploring More Group is studying "crackle".  This is an older weave structure that is highly versatile.  It can be used very effectively with just 4 harnesses or with a higher number of harnesses.  It is adaptable to almost any fibre and colour combination and so it can be used to create a variety of items. There are numerous references to crackle in weaving books and magazines.

crackle with glitz
crackle wool rug sample

The weave structure is based on a 4 thread unit that at first glance resembles a lopsided point twill threading with one arm longer than the other.  There are rules for creating a crackle threading that can appear quite complex at first.  When paired with a 2/2 twill tie up this threading produces 3 thread skips. On a 4 harness loom there are 4 possible threading combinations which gives 4 pattern "blocks" for designing.

 Another interesting feature of crackle is how warp and weft threads combine to produce tones and half tones as illustrated in the green crackle table mat.

crackle table mat

Traditional crackle designs often involve either diamond shapes or blocks of different colours.  The photo to the right shows the detail from a scarf that uses alternating blocks in a thick pattern weft to create an all over design of chevrons.  By contrast the table mat is a large graphic design.

crackle blocks

There are many different ways to weave crackle.  It can be woven with a tabby weft and a pattern weft as in Summer and Winter or Overshot.  It can also be woven as a twill or twill blocks, as drawn in without a tabby weft or in a poly-chrome fashion.  The possibilities are endless.

crackle treadled as twill in fine threads
When woven as a simple twill the effect is a small overall pattern with distinctive twill lines that can mimic texture if the colours are muted.

Summer&winter treadling

as drawn in blocks with tabby

Both the peach on yellow diamonds and the brown on yellow pattern were woven on the same warp using different treadling sequences.  One is reminiscent of overshot and the other of summer and winter.  Both have a tabby weft and pattern weft but the effect is quite different.  Both still have a "blocky" appearance as the treadling is repeated to build up the pattern.
crackle scarf

Non-traditional crackle designs may involve long pattern repeats, oval motifs and delicate lace like patterns.  They are less "blocky" and more flowing in nature in part because they are woven as drawn in without a tabby weft.  The cloth also tends to drape well and has a good mix of plain weave areas and twill like areas.  It is a good structure for rayon yarns or other slippery threads.

based on a random number threading and treadling

non-traditional crackle on painted warp
Having just scratched the surface on the topic of crackle, the next challenge for the Exploring More Group will be poly-chrome crackle.