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!


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Summer Is the Time to Play... with Yarn

A friend of the late, great Kay Faulkner remembered how Kay would phone her and begin with the words, "I've been playing...."

My reaction was, if that's "playing," then I need to do more! But seriously: Creativity and play are related, if not joined at the hip. Allowing our mind to roam when we're making something -- or even walking away from the work altogether -- lets our imagination roam, without pressure. Taking a shower, going to sleep, daydreaming, lolling about in bed as we wake up -- or playing the violin, in the case of Einstein and the Theory of Relativity -- gives our subconscious the time and space to explore.

So I've been playing, as you can see in the photo above. The structure is four-color double weave, with 16/2 bamboo for the two warps and one of the wefts and 28-gauge wire as the other weft. It was definitely tough to weave with (and my selvages show it), but I think there's an idea in there. What if I wove yardage like this? Could it be a sculpture? Or what if I used wire in random picks in the weft, as Liz Williamson has done with her dimensional scarves and shawls? What if? Why not?

Maybe my subconscious can work on that. I'll let the weaving goddesses make the decisions. (Some days they're with me, some days they're not.)

I wove this sample en route to weaving a garment on the same warp, one that I hope becomes a dress or a mantle of some kind. But instead of using wire as one of the wefts, I used Gevolve S-twist linen crepe from Lunatic Fringe Yarns. Using this in double weave that has pockets (as Marian Stubenitsky describes the separate layers you sometimes find in four-color double weave), it crimps the fabric up nicely, creating a kind of natural stretch in the bodice, with no darts necessary. And if you switch out the active weft for an inactive weft (in this case, so that all the yarns are 16/2 bamboo), you can achieve gentle ruffles where the textured  fabric meets the flat fabric.

Here's a photo.

And here's a detail.

Finally, this is what the fabric looked like before washing, which allows the overtwist linen to draw the fabric in, creating vertical pleating on the opposite layer (that's woven with the inactive 16/bamboo in both warp and weft).

That dress would certainly work for someone more slender than I but maybe I could put gores in the side seams of the skirt... or maybe it's for an exhibit or a fashion show.... I'll just keep playing.

I've been messing about with beads also, ever since my friend Deborah Pope taught me how to make fabric beads.

Not exactly sure what they're going to become; most likely a bracelet. I used to think that any finished project, however humble, is infinitely better than any unfinished piece, however beautiful. Now I'm not so sure. What's wrong with an unfinished work, with finding out that you don't want to follow that trail anymore?

Questions to ponder. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Convergence 2022 in Knoxville: I Stayed Home -- But My Garments Were There!

 Tabard for a Gentle Knight

Detail: 24-shaft 4-color double weave on an Echo threading

Tabard for a Covid Warrior, 16 shaft double-weave, all natural dyes

My husband and I were all packed, just double checking everything before we headed for Knoxville, when he took one final rapid test for Covid. He was feeling pretty good, a little congested, nothing much, but he conscientiously took the test.

"I'm positive."

OK, all right, let's figure this out. (You kind of start talking to yourself when stuff like this happens.)

"What to do?" 

"Not much, because we're staying here." 

"First, we unpack." 

"No, I don't want to." 

So I didn't unpack my teaching supplies and samples and notebooks, because I hoped that, by Zoom and the grace of technology, the show could go on. I was going to give a seminar at Complex Weavers (my first, on how to weave collapse fabrics) and then give a 3-hour workshop on Dorset Buttons at Convergence.  

Quick pivot to Zoom presentations, which called for shipping a big box of materials, to be received by my intern, an MFA student at the University of New Mexico, Rosalba Breazale. She deserves a round of applause for all the work she did, way above and beyond what she signed on for! 

And how about a projector? Giovanna Imperia, a wonderful weaver and friend, came through by lending me her projector for both Complex Weavers and Convergence. The work got done, somehow....

Here's a look at some of the Dorset Buttons in progress at our Zoom workshop, "Beaded Dorset Buttons":

Top to bottom, on the left: Lyna Rizer and Joan Beebe; center: Rebecca Voris, Elizabeth Keller, and Jackie Heller; on the right: Brenda Osborn and Penny Morgan

Most important, my husband feels great; I continue to test negative; my 94-year-old Mom tests negative. My son and daughter-in-law-to-be both have mild cases and they seem to be doing well. You know how the story goes!

Still, I really wanted to see my garments on the runway at the Convergence fashion show, "Seasons of the Smokies." My good friend, Mimi Anderson, took this video of my piece, "Tabard for a Gentle Knight," which was fun to watch.

Hard to see, but this is the garment in the first photo of this blog post.

The conference went well, as far as I can tell from reading about it on Facebook and talking with friends, but I think that the pandemic still played a role in keeping folks away and even, in my case and that of one or two others, changing the way courses were run or cancelling them altogether. I think I appreciate even more how wonderful it is to gather with friends and talk about our favorite subject.

Until then, take care.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Weaving on the Curve in 20/2 cotton

Sampling on 16 shafts with different wefts (top to bottom): 
S-twist linen crepe, Z-twist silk crepe, 60/2 spun silk

16-shaft sample with 60/2 silk weft after washing (and coaxing the pleats to curve)

Same sample with pleats before washing

Take note: I wove these samples on the end of a black-and-white warp that was left over from another project. Really, I was just curious about how to weave curving pleats. No way would I use black and white yarns if I were weaving this for a garment! 

Anyhow, I'll get to the point. As we all know from that inspiring book, Fabrics That Go Bump, when you weave a turned twill on 8 shafts or more, you can create vertical pleats. The secret lies mainly in the structure, which is basically a turned twill that alternates between weft-emphasis and warp-emphasis blocks.

Here's a look at a design from this book by the late, great Erica de Ruiter. I found it inspiring.

De Ruiter designed her treadling in the liftplan, which looks like this.

I think it's ingenious -- but I decided to use a networked curve instead, which looks like this in the liftplan.

Truthfully, I think de Ruiter's design is better, as there are more warp floats per pleat. But why compare? The important factor is that both designs allow for floats of three in the warp yarns alternating with floats of three in the weft yarns.

How does this structure create pleats? It's the mechanics of how yarns relax after washing, really. The weft floats (in white on both drafts) relax and draw in, creating a concave shape, pulling on the warp floats on the other side (which are vertical, so they align vertically, sort of like Venetian blinds folding up on themselves, and create convex pleats).

The ratio of grists -- warp vs. weft -- can help with this effect, in my experience. In my sample at the beginning of this post, the warp is 20/2 cotton threaded in black and white at 8,400 yards/pound, while the weft at the bottom of the photo is 60/2 silk in black at 14,800 yards per pound. So the ratio in grist of warp to weft is about 5:3. I prefer a ratio of about 2:1, but I didn't have any other yarns in my stash. (You know how that goes.)

Another way to achieve pleats is to use the same design (warp floats alternating with weft floats) with an "energized" or "active" weft, such as crepe or overtwist or elasticized yarn. First, I tried an S-twist linen crepe from Lunatic Fringe. (You'll see this sample, vaguely, at the top of the photo at the beginning of this post.)

Gevolve Yarns linen crepe in S-twist at 10,400 yards/pound

The sample is definitely textured and pleated, but you can't see curves at all.

I don't really have a theory on this, other than that the yarn draws the warp in so much that the curves are lost because they are too subtle.

The same thing happened when I tried silk-crepe yarn from Habu, a Z-twist gossamer-weight yarn that's about 33,000 yards/pound (and not at all fun to wind on a pirn, because it's constantly plying backwards on itself). The photo at the beginning of this post shows this sample in the middle of the fabric.

The spool above has lasted forever: I purchased it back in the day when Habu was based on West 29th Street in Manhattan! This yarn shrank the sample about 50% width-wise -- again, overkill as far as the curves I was looking for.

What did I learn from this? 1) That it's useful to design in the liftplan, especially when you want precise curves and patterns. 2) That you don't necessarily want to use active yarns for collapse effects, especially when you're working with turned twills. 3) That sampling, sampling, and sampling some more always pays off.

Perhaps, like me, you tuned in to "Textiles and Tea" with Kathi Grupp from HGA interviewing Anita Luvera Mayer on Tuesday, June 21. That was a big part of Anita's message: We need to sample and, even if we feel our samples aren't successful, we have learned something, so we've moved forward. I've certainly learned something, even if I'm not thrilled with the results.... But then again, maybe a long scarf with curving pleats, using de Ruiter's liftplan along with a variety of active and inactive yarns in the warp? In beautiful colors?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Teaching and Touring in Oregon and California

Deflected double weave scarf by Robin Korybski, on the loom 
at the weaving studio in the Multnomah (Oregon) Arts Center

If you love to weave, you need to travel -- because you can gain so much inspiration from extraordinarily gifted weavers the world over. The techniques, colors, textures, and uses may vary widely, but there's a high level of fiber talent to be found almost anywhere, provided you know where to look. 

Let's start with Portland, OR, where I taught a workshop on Echo threadings to the Portland Handweavers Guild, thanks to the efforts (and beer, bread, and coffee) of program chair Lynne Fitzsimmons. It would take up way too much space to post all of the photos of all of the beautiful samples we wove, but here are a few highlights.

Echo sample on 8 shafts woven on two hand-painted warps (beamed together as one) by Bertha Kao

Another 8-shaft Echo pattern woven on two hand-painted warps by Kathy Goetz

Two 8-shaft samples woven on two hand-painted warps by Lynne Fitzsimmons, in Rep (top of photo) and in double weave (bottom part of sample)

Bertha, Kathy, Lynne, and others in this workshop had painted their warps a couple of months ago in a Zoom workshop I taught, "Paint Two, Beam One." The technique involves painting two warps in contrasting color palettes (varying in both hue and value) and then beaming them together on a loom to weave structures as varied as plain weave, twill, Echo, and double weave. It's a great preliminary workshop for my course on parallel threadings, because weavers can then thread their looms in the alternating color palettes (A/B/A/B) and weave them on an extended parallel threading. The results are a play of pattern and color, as you can see, creating surprises with optical mixing in the fabric.

Prior to the workshop, I gave a talk to a group of on-site and on-Zoom guild members, followed by a wonderful show and tell. I fell in love with an eco-printed scarf by Eva Douthit (below). The technique calls for cutting out rectangles of black kimono fabric (which contains indigo dye) and finding leaves and other plant life that you then sandwich between the kimono fabric and a silk-scarf blank -- a dye process that resulted in the other-worldly images below.

Detail of a scarf by Eva Douthit

So much to see and savor! I'm grateful to my iPhone, which to date has nearly 20,000 photos on it, which is ridiculous....

The second leg of the trip was to northern California, where I taught at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. From what I've learned from teaching on Zoom over the past two years, the entire West Coast -- from Alaska to San Diego, including British Columbia in between -- is full of weaving inspiration.

And natural inspiration, of course.

Take the redwoods, for instance. I have never seen anything like them. Walking through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton, CA, near Santa Cruz, was like walking through a grove of grand and ancient friends. We had stopped to visit my sister and her husband and son at their new home in Boulder Creek, CA -- itself nestled in the redwoods, but what Californians call young redwoods.

Redwoods near my sister's home in Boulder Creek, CA

Then on to San Mateo, to teach at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. It was a reawakening, of sorts, for most everyone there, because everyone had been quarantining for the past two years....

A photo of my classroom, taken by conference organizer Nancy Williams-Baron

Again, I was struck by the degree of talent, as you can see below on this 24-shaft sample woven by Donna Kaplan of Seattle.

Susan Maturlo wove an 8-shaft parallel-threaded version of the ever-popular pattern #728 that I adapted from Carol Strickler's book.

Rep variation of Strickler #728, parallel threading on 8 shafts, woven by Susan Maturlo

There were exhibits, of course, and vendors, of course, and wonderful food and friends. I ran into Suzanne Woodhead of the Reno Fiber Guild, who wore a shawl of  deflected double weave fabric based on a pattern in a Zoom workshop I taught, organized by Suzanne for her guild. The fabric uses energized yarns that create puckers and ruffles in the cloth in the washing process. She looked elegant!

Suzanne in her deflected double weave art-to-wear

The entire trip was about fiber, friendship, and family -- and wouldn't have been possible without the lovingkindness and support (and driving skills on those mountain roads) of my husband, Larry, seen here on the left with my sister, Buff, me, and her husband, Jim, among the redwoods in Cowell State Park.

Thanks for reading!

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 Universit...