Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Can't Make the MAFA Conference? How About 'MAFA Mini'?

Coming this July to a computer near you: MAFA Mini! For those of you who can't make it to the on-site Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference in Millersville, PA, this June 22-24, you can Zoom into MAFA Mini. No traveling, no room and board, just lots of learning about fiber art.

I'll be teaching a half-day workshop on how to make Dorset Buttons (see the photo at the top of the poster) -- one of some three dozen online classes in weaving, spinning, dyeing, garment construction, and more. Plus a keynote, lectures, movies, and even yoga. Here's the full schedule. 

Registration begins April 1. For details, click here. Hope to see you online!


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Not-So-Random Acts of Color: Johannes Itten's Color Chords


In 1921, Johannes Itten -- a painter and teacher at Germany's famed Bauhaus School -- published The Color Star, a small book featuring a 12-point color wheel that's been valued by artists ever since. The book included eight templates that one can place over the color star, displaying a variety of what he termed "color chords". Every point on the star represents one color in the spectrum, and every color is shown in a range beginning with the lightest tints (white added) and moving outward to the three darkest shades (black added). 

The pure colors are in the center band of the circle.

Itten's Color Star

Itten's first template shows you the two-tone Dyadic Chords, giving you all of the complementary colors: yellow/violet, yellow-orange/blue-violet, orange/blue, red-orange/blue-green, red/green, and red-violet/yellow-green. 

His Triadic Chords can be created using either isosceles or equilateral triangles, as seen here with the template for an equilateral triangle (and some yarn possibilities).

Without going into more detail, I'll get to the point: I use these chords to choose warp colors for extended-parallel threadings, which use two, or three, or four colors in the warp. The results can create beautiful iridescent shifts in the fabric. Like this sample, using a four-color parallel threading on eight shafts with a turquoise weft.

Or this variation, with a burgundy weft:

Or this, with a violet weft:

For the warp colors, I used the one of the templates for Itten's Quadratic Chord, which can be a square or a rectangle. In this case, I chose the square and based on this I went with saturated colors. Go big and bold or go home, right?

The samples will be used in a workshop I'm presenting at MAFA this June: "Echo and Jin: Playing with Color Chords". My aim is to familiarize weavers with Itten's objective theories about color chords and then let them choose their own colors within that framework.

Everyone's rods and cones are different, we know. Not everybody likes olive in their warp, correct? These subjective decisions are what makes our creations unique.

Here's the warp I'm threading right now, using a Quadratic Color Chord that's a rectangle rather than a square. 

It will be used with a 12-shaft pattern -- and I really love these colors. Consider that you're looking at two sets of complements: blue/orange and green/red (except in this case the red tilts more toward a berry color). 

My next plan is to try a trapezoid as a color chord. Itten doesn't offer that in his templates, but I think it's worth trying. Mother Nature seems to range freely and quite joyously around the spectrum, so why can't we?

This discussion doesn't venture into the importance of value. At this point, without having focused on this topic, my thinking is that it's best to avoid extreme differences in value in a parallel-threaded warp, particularly in a four-end parallel-threaded warp. Some differences in value are OK, but I try to avoid colors like navy, deep purple, forest green, and the like -- or, on the other side of the value scale, yellow, beige, pale pink, baby blue, silver, that range of hues. 

Why? Because the warp color with a very dark value may tamp down the effect of iridescence, while a warp color with a very light value may overwhelm the other colors -- sort of like a singer in a quartet who is louder than anyone else. 

Looking at values, here's what I chose for my first warp (the one I wove on eight shafts, samples shown at the beginning of this post).

The red on the far left is darker in value than I'd like -- and surprisingly, it's darker in value than the blue on the far right -- but I went with it anyway because that's what I had in my stash. (That can overrule a lot of rules.) Still, if you look back at the samples at the top of this post, it seems to work well.

Another question: What do we choose for weft? Sampling is so important for this, of course. Typically, I start any project by winding a warp that is about a yard longer than I need for the finished piece and then I use the first yard or so to experiment with different weft colors.

When I'm weaving Echo or Jin on a four-end parallel, I tend to use muted colors in mid-range values, such as bronze, violet, teal, olive, mustard, terra cotta, even gray. Also, as a rule of thumb, you'll want to use colors that do not appear in the warp -- that is, colors that are found in between the colors you've chosen from the color wheel. 

Then again, for every rule there seems to be an exception, as you see in the fourth photo down from the start of this blog post. For that sample, I used a bright turquoise weft. I love turquoise and find that I often default to that color, for warp or weft.

Itten would say this is a subjective choice, of course. 

Thanks for reading!

Doubleweave on 16 shafts 
using a four-end extended-parallel threading

Friday, January 6, 2023

Book Launch!

Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth is now available for purchase! It's been a long road but at last it's ready to launch.

Front and back covers (right and left respectively) for printing

The book is 122 pages long, in full color, with a soft cover and a coil binding so that you can lay it flat as you read and weave. It's also available as an eBook and in hardcover. You'll find all these options on this blog site under the page titled "Publications for Purchase".

Here's a brief description:

"Color and structure are key elements in weaving, of course. But we often overlook the importance of texture. Dimensional fabrics, with their pleats, puffs, and curves, take us 'off the grid', reflecting the organic forms of nature. We can both see and feel the tactile quality of dimensional cloth, which adds much to the beauty of handwoven fabric.

"This book gives you tools to optimize texture in your weaving. Starting with background on the techniques involved, it then offers step-by-step instructions for 12 projects for four to 16-shaft looms: four for beginning weavers, four for intermediate weavers, and four for advanced weavers. As a bonus, there are two patterns that allow you to weave three different projects on a single warp.

"Weaving Outside the Box provides the tips and resources you need to move beyond the two-dimensional plane and rectilinear patterns of warp and weft."

Here are a few of the projects offered.

Among the four projects for four shafts: woven shibori using fulling techniques

Doubleweave layers and ruffles for eight shafts 
using differential-shrinkage techniques

Deflected doubleweave on 16 shafts 
using differential-shrinkage techniques

There are diagrams and even microscopic photos of yarn throughout the book, to help you understand the mechanics behind these designs, all using some combination of active and inactive yarns, structure, and finishing.

I will teach a workshop straight from the book June 11-16 at the Michigan League of Handweavers Conference in Holland, MI. Participants will choose one of the 12 projects from the book and start by weaving up samples so they can learn how to finish their projects to get just the right textured effects.

Dimensional cloth is a specialized area of weaving, one that is sometimes overlooked but has been woven for centuries. My book begins -- and this blog post concludes -- with this quote from Anni Albers, from her definitive book, On Weaving

All progress, it seems, is coupled to regression elsewhere. We have advanced in general, for instance, in regard to verbal articulation -- the reading and writing public of today is enormous. But we certainly have grown increasingly insensitive in our perception by touch, the tactile sense.

I hope my book inspires weavers to explore all three of the wonderful tools we have in our craft: those of structure, color, and the tactile sense.

Thanks for reading!

Detail of Echo threading in four-color doubleweave on 28 shafts, 
using cotton/stainless-steel yarn for one of the wefts 
to achieve crinkled layers

Sunday, December 18, 2022

This Pattern Is More than 400 Years Old... with a Few Changes

 It all starts with a 1626 portrait of John Erskine, 2nd Earl of Mar and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, painted by Adam de Colone. 

The painting hangs in the National Galleries of Scotland, where researchers have found that the canvas is in fact a linen tablecloth, a practice that was common at the time. The tablecloth was woven on 14 shafts in this Gebrochene pattern.

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you may recall that I've written about this before -- most recently, on September 18, 2022, in a post that gives you more details on how I altered the pattern but kept the original design line. I learned of it maybe 20 years ago from Marjie Thompson, who calls it "The Earl". 

It was not a stretch to take the threading and create a parallel threading 14 shafts above it, which I did just to see what would happen. I figured it could be woven as Echo or, by adding tabby to the treadling, as Jin (aka Turned Taqueté). The Jin drawdown I designed looks like this.

Here's a detail to give you a better idea of the design.

I really liked the varied geometry of the pattern, so this is what I used for the motifs in the center of the scarf, using two different weft colors, violet and gold. (The gold is in the central section, where the fabric scrunches up into pleats, seen around the neck on the mannikin. That's because the yarn is a combination of silk tram and stainless steel, which has memory.)

The mountain-like motifs at the beginning and end of the scarf -- in purple and orange -- are woven in a doubleweave pattern using what I call a "carved" tieup. (The idea is outlined in Marian Stubenitsky's definitive work, Weaving with Echo and Iris, which provides all number of tieup options for Echo woven as doubleweave.)

When you're weaving four-color doubleweave on an Echo threading, these "carved" variations in the tieup make for lots of color shifts, so that a color first appears on top of the cloth and then shifts to the bottom. This maximizes the potential for color blending.

Adding to the potential for color play: I used a painted warp combined with a black warp for the parallel threading. The technique is quite simple: You wind a two-color warp of natural and black and then paint the entire warp. The natural-colored yarn absorbs the dye and the black does not. 

I love the yarn that I used for the warp, and I doubt I will ever find it again, because I got it at one of those wonderful guild sales. It's a 24/3 unmercerized cotton, so I really didn't have to worry about threads breaking and selvages fraying. For the doubleweave weft, I used 16/2 bamboo in blue, orange, and burgundy, and for the Jin wefts, I used 60/2 silk in deep violet and, as I mentioned, tram-silk/stainless-steel in gold, purchased from Lunatic Fringe, which pleats and bends in the center section.

To me, the motifs look like mountains and the colors remind me of a western sunset. So I've named the piece "Colorado", which means "ruddy" in Spanish. It reminds me of the sunsets over the Sangre de Cristo range, near where my daughter and her family live. The Earl is well traveled indeed.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Anni Albers, "Work with Materials," at the Syracuse University Art Museum

Wall hanging designed by Albers in 1925 and woven in 1983

A few guild friends and I took a road trip last week to see the Syracuse University Art Museum exhibit, "Anni Albers: Work with Materials," curated by Fritz Horstman, education director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. The exhibit is up through December 11 and we were thrilled to view some of her designs up close and personal.

The title of the exhibit comes from an essay she wrote, "Work with Materials," in 1937. Here's a quote from that essay:

But if we want to get from materials the sense of directness, the adventure of being close to the stuff the world is made of, we have to go back to the material itself, to its original state, and from here on partake in its stages of change.

Such eloquence and insight! To me, she writes as well as she weaves. In her classic book, On Weaving, she devotes a chapter to "Tactile Sensibility," to explore and emphasize that unique aspect of our craft. 

We touch things to assure ourselves of reality. We touch the objects of our love. We touch the things we form. Our tactile experiences are elemental.

This tactile sense, in addition to the powerful tools of color and structure, is what I love about her work. She explores and exploits the textural aspect of weaving and in so doing appeals to two of our senses -- those of touch and sight. Below, a sample woven on a clear plastic warp with a rough fiber (perhaps jute, I'm not sure) in the weft.

The exhibit included more than 100 objects from the collection, from rugs to prints to textile samples. Small as they were, they revealed her keen mind and powerful design sense. Here's a leno sample that uses a gold metallic yarn in the weft:

Below is a room divider designed by Albers for a textile company in the early 1980s.

By 1968, at the age of 69, she had given up her looms and, as Horstman writes in the exhibit pamphlet, "embarked on a breathtaking decade-plus in which she worked almost exclusively in drawing and printmaking". Her appreciation of tactile sensibility, as she termed it, can be seen in her embossed prints, some of which were included in the exhibit. This one, below, is particularly striking. It's described as "zinc plate embossing on metallic laminate on paper" from 1970. (If you look closely, you can see my reflection as I'm taking the photo, which adds another element to the image.)

Our guide for the exhibit was museum curator Melissa Yuen, who began by showing us a series of flat-woven wall hangings designed (but not woven) by Albers. The piece featured at the beginning of this blog post began with a screenprint on paper from the portfolio "Connections", created by Albers while studying at the Bauhaus in 1925. 

The exhibit gives proof of her strengths in several media and techniques. Below is another wall hanging woven in 1984 according to a design by Albers.

As most weavers know, Anni Albers is one of the great lights in weaving and textile design in the 20th century. What some may not know is that she was one of the first women ever -- and definitely the first textile artist ever -- to have a solo exhibition at MoMA in New York City, which took place in 1949. 

The press release for the exhibit called her "one of the most imaginative and daring of modern weavers in the United States". Her ability to take textiles from the realm of utilitarian craft to abstract art was admired by 20th century artists like Philip Johnson and Jack Lenor Larsen -- as was her versatility. As Fritz Horstman writes in the exhibit brochure, "the exhibition highlights the nimbleness with which Albers moved between mediums, and her fluid transitions between creating artwork and designing more functional objects."

The show also provides evidence of her meticulous study and process, shown here in her diagrams of doubleweave structure. (I had to take the photo at an angle to avoid capturing the shadow of my iPhone.)

It is as if she was perpetually striving to understand "the stuff the world is made of" -- and the results continue to bring joy and inspiration to weavers everywhere. 

"Red Lines on Blue" 1979

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Coming December 1: My Book on Texture in Weaving

You're looking at the cover of my soon-to-be-published book on texture in weaving! I've been working on it for, lo, these past five years and it's almost ready for publication.

I plan to begin offering it on Lulu on December 1. And after that, I might celebrate with a good brew or two ;o)

Why did it take so long? Mainly because it includes 12 projects for 4, 8, 6, and 16 shafts, which meant I had to weave them all and document every single detail. And check and double check -- 80 versions and revisions to date, which isn't all that surprising. Plus, with some of the projects, there was much sampling involved, meaning lots of warps and dressing of looms until I got it right.

The title, "Weaving Outside the Box," has two meanings: first, I'm referring to creativity in design and process, "thinking out of the box" about what and how we weave. Second, I'm referring to the rectilinear, two-dimensional plane of weaving -- "the box" that we are typically confined to in our craft -- and how we can begin to break those boundaries. Textural weaving is all about ripples and pleats and buckles and poufs, about bends in the road and reflections on the organic curves of nature herself. Take, for instance, this image of lateral curves of fungi on a tree trunk:

I see a reflection of these lines in a double-weave sample I wove on four shafts, in the style of Liz Williamson:

Different colors, of course, and less nuanced, but the two images share flowing horizontal lines, staggered randomly. I love the unpredictability of how the patterns shift and bend -- much of which takes place in the finishing. After washing these fabrics, the results are  always surprising, which makes it so rewarding to me.

The book is about 120 pages long, with 90 full-color photos and diagrams that aid in understanding the hows and whys of dimensional weaving. It includes a long bibliography to aid in further study, an index (to me that's a big deal, for some reason), and three beginning chapters on the theory of texture in weaving, its history, and some of the overriding techniques involved.

Here is a peek at some of the projects in the book.

Antelope Canyon Shawl in point twill on 4 shafts, 
16/2 bamboo gradient warp, silk/stainless-steel weft

Detail of 'Puzzle Shawl' in deflected double weave 
on 6 shafts, 18/2 merino in warp and weft

60/2 silk striped scarf in plain weave and turned twill 
on 8 shafts, with soft pleats in the middle

Deflected-double-weave infinity scarf on 16 shafts,
using hand-painted warps and wefts in 18/2 merino and 10/2 cotton

Right now, the final draft of the book is with a group of first readers, in alphabetical order, Marianne Antczak, Leslie Mendelson, Ann Richards, Joyce Robards, Sarah Saulson, and Linda Schultz. All of them are wonderful weavers who have generously agreed to serve as fact-checkers and goalies, you might say, to keep any errors from appearing in print. It's good to have smart friends!

As I mentioned, I will offer the book on Lulu, a print-on-demand site used by several folks I know. I will also offer an e-version at a slightly lower cost (and no shipping charges, of course). 

If you're interested in pre-ordering, please click on the "Downloads for Purchase" section of this site, where you'll find a link. I will be in touch as soon as it ships on December 1.

Let me know if you have any questions, of course. My email address is in the "Contact Information" page on this blog. 

Thanks for reading!

Front and back covers, ready for printing

Sunday, September 18, 2022

What's on the Loom?

More accurately, what's going on the loom? At this writing, I'm in the process of winding on a painted warp for a Jin design on 28 shafts (one of the versions of the pattern is shown above). Here's where I am at the moment, looking at the back of the loom.

It's kind of an unusual warp: Has anybody heard of 24/3 unmercerized cotton -- with about 1% of black rayon thrown in? Who knew? It was a big cone in natural that I picked up at a guild sale. Figuring that the grist of 24/3 cotton was equivalent or close to that of 16/2 cotton, I wound a warp two ends at a time, alternating between the 24/3 unmercerized cotton in natural and a 16/2 unmercerized cotton in black. 

When I went to paint the warp, I painted the entire warp at once, natural and black together. The dye colors don't affect the black at all, so you get a two-color painted warp, effectively, that you can thread for Echo. I appreciate efficiencies like that.

Back to the design. I love broken twills (most of us do, right?), a category that includes the old German designs known as Gebrochene. I've posted on this subject before, looking at a 16th-century pattern affectionately named "The Earl." Margie Thompson, an expert on historic textiles, shared it with our guild in a talk some time ago, and she was kind enough to send me the original draft, which is for 14 shafts. (For more on "The Earl" and Gebrochene twills, see my blog post of November 17, 2020.)

How did I get from the elegant, almost filigreed 14-shaft design above to the more primitive, tribal-looking 28-shaft design at the beginning of this post? It's a technique that I teach in my parallel-threading classes, using an Ms and Ws twill as a design line for Echo. I start designing by uploading the original Earl drawdown for 14 shafts in Fiberworks. (You need Fiberworks Silver for these functions.) Then, you click on the "Warp" dropdown menu and next you click on "Parallel Repeat" to Echo the original design line with a second threading 14 shafts above it.

Step 2: You see that the original Earl treadling is tromp as writ, for 14 treadles. This would work for a 28-shaft design, but it would give you squashed motifs, not very appealing. All I did (again, to achieve the design at the beginning of this post) was double the number of treadles for the entire treadling (so that treadle one becomes one and two, treadle two becomes three and four, treadle three becomes five and six, and so on). In other words, if the original treadling went from treadle 1 to 14 and down again in a point-twill pattern, I doubled the length of the pattern, so the treadles go from 1 to 28 and down again. 

Step 3: Here's where it gets a bit more complicated. I started by designing Echo using a twill tieup for 28 shafts. This is what I got. Just a detail shot. I really don't like it at all.

What to do? As I like to say, "Keep Calm and Add Tabby."

Of course, Echo has its charms -- but Jin also has a lot going for it: nice drape, one-shuttle weave, floats never longer than 3 in warp or weft, clear pattern definition, the ability to stretch out "squashed" designs, and the potential to play with the tieup to add a bit more color and interest, without risking long floats. That's what you see in the drawdown at the top of this post -- and also in the design below which uses another treadling but a similar tieup. 

I like both designs, the one above and the one at the beginning of this post. What they share are tieups for what Bonnie Inouye calls "Decorated Jin." Below is what a classic Jin tieup looks like, with half the shafts raised and half down in an ascending-twill pattern, with tabby tiedowns in between:

You'll see that the motifs above are simple and distinct, basically two colors, light and dark. This drawdown shows only a detail so that you can see the tieup more easily. Now let's look at a tieup for Decorated Jin.

Here, there are different colors and the motifs have more interest. The difference is that I've broken up the 14 up/14 down ascending-twill tieup, adding a bit of plain weave. Now, I see four different shades: pale blue, medium blue, dark rust/blue, and royal blue. It's all in the details! 

I'm going to sample at least two Decorated Jin designs and, fingers crossed, find at least one I really like. But first, of course, I have to finish dressing my loom....

Thanks for reading!


Can't Make the MAFA Conference? How About 'MAFA Mini'?

Coming this July to a computer near you: MAFA Mini! For those of you who can't make it to the on-site Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association con...