Wednesday, June 14, 2023

It's Conference Season!

 

I write this as I'm sitting in the airport in Grand Rapids, MI, waiting for a much-delayed flight to Detroit and then home. What better time to post about the just-finished Michigan Handweavers Conference in Holland, MI? And why not start with a classic conference photo -- that of a group of weaver-friends going out to dinner after a long day in the classroom?

Pictured above, from left to right: Cathy McCarthy, Janney Simpson, Martha Town, Susan Moran, Nancy Riele, Martina Celerin, Nadine Cloutier, and me. Everyone in the photo is either a teacher, a conference organizer, a student at the conference, or any combination of the three. You can imagine what we talked about -- for instance, the exhibits....


There are some 19 guilds in Michigan, and one exhibit featured collected works from many of these guilds -- including this beautiful series of blue vertical panels created by members of Woodland Weavers. Whether they were woven, knitted, felted, printed, quilted, or hand-dyed, these vertical panels all related to the exhibit's focus on the lakes and landscape of Michigan. Here's a closeup of one of the pieces, which included cyanotype prints and painted images of white-pine needles. (I apologize for not crediting the artist, as I did not take down the name.)


Here's an image from a rug-hooked piece by Nadine Cloutier, using hand-dyed wool strips to create a sun-soaked lake view. I love the tactile quality and the varying directions of the wool strips.


Martina Celerin was the keynote speaker, who spoke about her dimensional weavings. They all begin with a simple frame loom she builds herself for warping and weaving tapestry-like backdrops of natural scenes. She then uses a number of techniques, including felting and weaving, to extend her pieces beyond the plane of the the loom outward as much as 12 inches. It's difficult for a photo to portray the depth of her creations, but here is an image of one of her recent pieces, featuring a trail meandering through the forest. (The bright blue color in the upper righthand side of the image is from paper bags in the background, unfortunately, that you can see through the open yarns on the loom.)


You can find out more about Celerin by clicking here.

So much to see -- and touch! Speaking of touch, the workshop I taught was based on my book, Weaving Outside the Box: 12 Projects for Creating Dimensional Cloth. To my surprise and delight, people in the workshop took off with their versions of the projects in the book -- in some cases, improving upon them, in my view. 

This sample by Nancy Riele, using the ancient weave technique known as Rippenköper, had whimsical, flowing horizontal lines. It's woven in 8/2 Tencel on a warp of 60/2 silk in a turned-twill design. I consider her sample way better than the piece I wove for the book ;o)


Among the takeaways from this workshop is that textured weaves call for either specialized (energized) yarns, fulling and differential shrinkage, and/or structure -- any one of these or varied combinations of the three. Finishing is key. Below is a photo of the work of Cory Zann, showing the difference between her fabric on the loom and after washing. Again, this is a turned-twill structure on a 60/2 warp, in her case using a silk/stainless-steel yarn for the weft.


Cindy Root, president of the Michigan League of Handweavers, chose to weave a 4-shaft project on a gradient warp of 16/2 bamboo, using a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino and a supplemental weft of embroidery cotton. The supplemental weft is used to draw the fabric in horizontally, compressing it so that only portions of the wool are exposed in finishing. This means that only some portions of the wool will full, creating pleats where the weft yarns have shrunk and gathered the warp yarns together densely. Here's Cindy's shibori-tightened fabric before it's washed with warm water and agitated with soap. After it's dried a bit, but still damp, she will remove the shibori ties and have a permanently pleated scarf.


Gail Pilgrim was also working on the Rippenköper structure -- but weaving it in on a 20/2 cotton warp using 8/2 cotton in the weft. She's doing research for a story planned for Heddlecraft magazine looking at hand towels in a variety of structures. In addition to working with cotton wefts, she decided to try a weft of 18/2 Jagger Spun merino, just to see whether the results were worthy of weaving a scarf somewhere down the line (or down the warp). Here's that sample, below.


As it is with many workshops, not every project is complete at the end. And since this workshop emphasized the importance of using specific finishing techniques, some weavers chose to finish their projects at home, after the workshop -- as with this 4-shaft deflected doubleweave scarf by Naomi Fletcher, woven with 10/2 cotton in the warp and weft, with a mid-section that includes Colcolastic yarn by Venne, drawing the mid-section in dramatically. I'm hoping she'll send me some photos of her results that I can then share with the group.


Some samples were finished, however (finished meaning washed with warm water and soap and then rinsed), as with this sample below by Martha Town. She wove it on a hand-painted warp of 60/2 silk with navy stripes and jewel-tone-painted stripes and a weft of 120/2 silk, using a turned-twill structure that pleats naturally. Note the subtle yellow accents in the weft every few inches, which add interest to the sample.


Thanks to MLH for a wonderful conference -- and to everyone in my workshop for an experience that I didn't want to end! And finally, thanks to you for reading.


















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