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Gebrochene, Echo and Jin with Fiberworks: Putting 'The Earl' Through His Paces

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Ah, the old  Weaver's  magazine... such an endless source of inspiration! Recently, I was looking at an issue from 1997 and came upon a story by Marjie Thompson about the source of the above draft, "The Earl's Canvas." (Thanks to Thompson for sharing it with me.) She had given a talk to our guild about this years ago and I never forgot the beautiful silk scarf she wove.  The pattern was discovered in a portrait of John Erskine, second Earl of Mar in Scotland, in the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Painted in 1626 by Adam de Colone, it features an Elizabethan noble with a lace ruff and badge of office.  What's interesting to weavers, however, isn't the painting itself, but rather the canvas it's painted on. According to Thompson, a museum curator analyzed the pattern in the 1970s and found that it's actually a 14-shaft Gebrochene design that was probably an old tablecloth.  And what is Gebrochene (pronounced in German "geBROKena")? Lit

Finally... a Design I Like!

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In a way, the design is hard to see, isn't it? That's been the problem. This is a 16-shaft Echo pattern on a 60/2/2 silk/ramie warp that I dyed in two color palettes. (I really love doing this: You paint two warps in complementary colorways and then beam them together on the loom. For this Echo piece, I threaded the warps A/B/A/B, etc., so that the pattern and the colors create a lot of dynamic shifts.) I was really excited as I completed this design, which I call "North Star" in honor of the newspaper edited by Frederick Douglass when he lived here in Rochester, NY, in the mid-19th century. Rochester was a stop on the Underground Railroad and the North Star itself was a beacon for slaves fleeing to the northern states and Canada. It's a beautiful and tragic symbol of hope in dark times. And meaningful, too, at this point in our history. And so, after lots of experimenting on Fiberworks, I settled on a Jin (Turned Taqueté) design. I'm posting it here in black

Designing Echo as Double Weave for 16 Shafts

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Above: the front of a 16-shaft drawdown that I just finished designing.  My inspiration came from Pinterest, where a while back I came upon a design I really admired. It was for 24 shafts and I have just 16 on my Toika, but still I had to figure out what made it so appealing. It was for double weave in an Echo threading and the tieup looked like this: My first reaction was, "Oh boy, here's one of those irregular double-weave tieups that makes absolutely no sense." And my second reaction was, "How did they DO that?" My third reaction was, "I want to do that!"  I knew that the original tieup had been modified -- "carved" you might say -- to veer off a straight twill angle for some of the shafts, creating interesting and eccentric patterns in the cloth. So I set about adapting the design to 16 shafts, first by breaking the 24-shaft tieup into two sections, one each for the top and bottom layers of the original 24-shaft draft. Here's what the

Ready, Sett... Re-Sley!

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  I wove the sample above with a silk/ramie blend yarn -- which I love -- that has a grist of about 8,000 yards per pound. This is about the same as 30/2 silk, which calls for a plain-weave sett of 32 epi. But because silk/ramie has the look and feel of linen, I wanted to loosen up the sett a bit, to give it a lacy hand. So I decided to sett it at 28 epi. It was too loose, as you can see from the photo.  The square-shaped motifs (in orange) are flattened, making the pattern less appealing. And the selvages are way loosey-goosey, even for Deflected Double Weave. Just some background: For these samples, I painted two warps, one in warm colors and one in cool, and created an 8-shaft design in Deflected Double Weave that I thought would show off the changes in the warp colors. So, for the sample shown above, I re-sleyed to a sett of 36 epi, which was then too tight . The selvages are OK -- remember, this is Deflected Double Weave, which typically has two selvages -- but the motifs are now

Zooming Ahead with Deflected Double Weave

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8-shaft Deflected Double Weave sample by Karen Berk.  Warp and weft yarns are 10/2 Tencel/cotton (in fuchsia)  and 18/2 Jagger Spun superfine merino. Like many of us these days, I've been Zooming a lot with friends and family. All of my workshops through January have been cancelled, so I've begun teaching on Zoom -- in some cases, to replace my cancelled on-site workshops and in other cases because guilds are scrambling to offer remote workshops for this fall. While Zoom workshops can't replace face-to-face communication and hands-on learning -- not to mention the joy of actually touching a handwoven sample -- online workshops can offer a worthwhile learning experience. It all depends on the investment of the students, in my view. And I can't say enough about the investment of the weavers who took my recent workshop, "Deflected Double Weave for Collapse Fabrics." It served as a fundraiser for the  Weaving and Fiber Arts Center  here in Rochester, NY (the teach

Weaving Psychology: The End of the Warp Phenomenon

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I’d like to make an observation – there's a question in there, too – about something you may have experienced in your own weaving practice. I certainly have.   Why is it that, so often, something we weave at the end of a warp comes out really, really well? Sometimes even better than the first part of the warp that we planned and wove so carefully? The photo above shows you one of my favorite end-of-the-warp toss-offs. I'm being honest -- and I hope it doesn't sound boastful -- when I say I love it! And it just sort of happened, with less than a yard to spare at the end of my warp. I was weaving the fabric below, with Echo and Jin treadlings on 12 shafts. I had planned the colors for months, painting two warps of 20/2 silk and beaming them together on the loom; carefully designing the threading, tieups and treadlings; and dutifully weaving it all up on about 12 yards of warp, using a 60/2 silk weft. So at the end of the warp, I had maybe a yard left over and I got a little l