Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fishing Line, Gold Gimp, and Wool/Lycra: What a Difference a Weft Makes!

You know what it's like when you're at the end of a warp -- and you decide to just throw something in to see what happens? And you LOVE the results? That's just what happened to me a few days back, as I was weaving up samples for my upcoming workshop at Convergence, "Deflected Double Weave as a Collapse Weave."

Let's start at the beginning of the warp, with a design I created for Deflected Double Weave on 8 shafts. I wove up the first sample with 10/2 cotton in purple and 18/2 merino in red in both warp and weft, aiming for a collapse effect using differential shrinkage. (The wool shrinks in the washing and the cotton doesn't, so it puckers and collapses and creates lots of texture.)

Here's the original draft.

Here's how it wove up, before washing.

I was worried, before I washed this, that it would collapse diagonally. But it didn't, because each diagonal "step," with a vertical line of red connected to a horizontal line of red, actually has two opposing vertical and horizontal lines on the back of the fabric, making a square shape of yarn that will shrink. That's the nature of Deflected Double Weave: not only do individual yarns weave plain weave -- but groups (blocks) of yarns will weave in and out of each other, as warp or weft floats.

Here's how the sample looked after washing with hot water and agitating with dish soap.

So, skipping to the end of my warp -- remember where I threw in an unusual weft yarn just to see what happened? In this case, I chose a lambswool/lycra yarn that would easily collapse. Here's what it looked like before washing.

I'm posting this photo extra-large in hopes that you can see the wool/lycra: Looking closely at the squiggly red weft yarns, can you see a bit of white here and there? That's the lycra, very loosely plied with the lambswool. It's hard to imagine it will collapse much -- but it does. A lot, to the extent that the fabric shrinks maybe 50 percent width-wise. And you can stretch it back to its original width! Here's the finished sample.

And what about the fishing line? It's also called "monofilament," and it's a great way to create interesting effects with yarns that DON'T shrink but instead make the fabric curve and undulate.

Here's the original sample, before and after washing, using the 10/2 pearl cotton and 18/2 merino in both warp and weft. (You'll note that I varied the tieup and treadling from the first draft.)

And here's what it looks like, before and after washing, substituting 14-pound fishing line for the 18/2 merino in the weft. (Picture a weaver walking into Gander Mountain to purchase weft yarns....)

Wild, huh? I can see this writ large, for a wall hanging or even a window hanging, much like a stained-glass piece that lets the light shine through. One of my favorite weavers of all time, Liz Williamson, uses monofilament as an accent weft in conjunction with a wool or other collapse weft, which makes her fabrics curve and wind in graceful and unexpected turns.

As for the gold gimp: Here's the original sample, before and after washing.

And here's what happened, shown before and after washing, when I substituted gold gimp yarn for the red merino in the weft.

Gimp is a metallic-looking yarn, typically used as an accent. (Gimp is made of a core, such as cotton, wrapped in a sparkly thread and used in embroidery and trims.)

Still more samples to weave for Convergence. This is why we don't get a lot of housecleaning done these days.... but it's way more fun. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Book Review: 'Hidden Tapestry: Jan Yoors, His Two Wives and the War That Made Them One' by Debra Dean

     Jan Yoors, "Written in Fire," 1977, 7' x 21'

"It is what is unseen in a person or drawing that makes them interesting."
-- Jan Yoors

Among the great tapestry weavers of the 20th century is Jan Yoors, a Flemish-American artist who was also an author, photographer, humanitarian and World War II Resistance fighter. At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, as a Greenwich Village bohemian, his massive works were shown in museums, galleries, public buildings and collections worldwide.

As a weaving blogger, I received a review copy of this book and pretty much devoured it, thanks to Debra Dean's eloquent portrayal of an extraordinary life.

Dean -- author of the best-selling novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad -- recounts how she came to write this: "Eight years ago, my friend Mitchell Kaplan and I were talking in his Coral Gables, Florida, bookstore, Books & Books. 'I've got your next book,' he said. Authors hear this a lot, and it's never, ever true. Except this time."

The story would be unbelievable if it weren't true. As a child growing up in Antwerp, Belgium, the son of a social-reformer mother and an artist father, Yoors ran away with the Romani Gypsies when he was 12, returning home six months later. He did this every summer for years, learning their language and free-spirited ways. As an adult, he wrote about his life with the Romani: I'm reading The Gypsies right now, a document of a vanishing way of life that has immense appeal.

The most gripping part of the story is his work with the Resistance during World War II, much of which couldn't be documented. As an adult in war-time France, speaking multiple languages and working with the secretive and elusive Romani, he risked his life in fighting the Nazis, first as a saboteur and later as a guide to freedom for Allied soldiers trapped behind German lines. He was successful to the extent that he was twice imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo.

Still he survived, marrying after the war and moving to New York City, where he gained fame as an artist. The life of mid-20th-century Greenwich Village, knowing Warhol and Pollack and the community of artists and free spirits who lived there, is another chapter in his amazing story. The details of his married life -- living with his first wife and her best friend, who had been one of his many models and lovers -- are noteworthy but somehow unsurprising for his culture and background. To me it's a side story, rather than a one of the most telling parts of the biography. (The fact that the three together did all of the weaving of his massive works is a lesson in domestic harmony, for sure!)

At the end of the day, I highly recommend this book as it captures the imagination in so many ways. If you're interested in art, in textiles, in the history of World War II, in the life of Greenwich Village in the mid-20th-century, in the mind of a free thinker and humanitarian, then read it by all means. Thanks to Dean and her team for sharing it with me.

Jan Yoors, "Conquerors Will Be Conquered," 1956, 7' x 6'

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Juried into the Convergence Fashion Show in Reno...

Every two years I set myself a challenge: weave fabric for a garment for submitting to the Convergence fashion show, a biannual conference sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America. This year, the conference will be held July 6-13 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada -- and I'm happy to announce that two garments of mine were juried into the show.

This coat took me two years to complete, from conception to winding warps to dyeing them to weaving the fabric to dyeing the lining and sewing the coat.... It's called "Summer's Lease I," after William Shakespeare's beautiful words, "Summer's lease hath all too short a date" (from his sonnet, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day").

I wove the fabric on my 12-shaft Macomber, using a draft I created with extended parallel threading. Then I wound two warps of 20/2 silk, painting one in a range of fuchsia, rose, pink, and lavender and the other in gold, lime green, sage green, and turquoise. The fabric is woven in Echo Weave and Turned Taquete and the weft was 60/2 silk in orange.

Here's the image that inspired my pattern and colors.

I kept it on my computer for years under the title "Paint this Warp." I have no idea where I found it!

For the lining, I purchased yardage of Habotai silk, then dyed it in a range of bright pinks using low-water-immersion dyeing.

I wove about 10 yards of fabric and, having taken Bonnie Inouye's workshop, "Opposites Attract," I began experimenting with other structures, alternating my treadlings for Echo and Turned Taquete and then venturing into Rep and Double Weave. The Double Weave wasn't successful because I did not re-sley my reed for a tighter sett. But the Rep turned out really well, with a weft of hand-dyed Habotai silk ribbon alternating with 60/2 silk.

Here's the second garment that was juried into the fashion show, this one named "Summer's Lease II."

The top is woven in Warp Rep and the skirt is Turned Taquete, cut on the bias. Here's a close-up of the top.

As for patterns: the coat is my own pattern, fashioned after a swing coat I own and love. The skirt and top are my own designs. Photo credits and thanks to Timothy Fuss of Pixelwave, who does a wonderful job photographing handwoven garments.

Hope to see you in Reno!