Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Weaving the Bamboo

There's really not too much to say except I love taking picture of weaving on the loom. I will pass on a piece of advice I failed to follow. A professional photographer told me I should put the date on every picture I take. Now that I have been taking digital photos for 4 years, I can see the value of her advice. I wish I had done it back then, but I am starting to now.

One of the great things about adding ikat to a warp is the great delight in seeing the patterns change. Those of you who weave complex patterns know this joy on a pick by pick basis, but we plain weavers have to find a way without having to think too much:)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wahoo Bamboo!

Yarn made from bamboo is the chenille of the 21st century:) Very un-technically speaking, bamboo is chopped up and placed in a solvent. Once in a viscous state, it is extruded (like pasta). If you haven't felt bamboo yarn or fabric, you will be totally amazed. I have yet to find anyone who could guess the fiber unless of course they already had experienced bamboo. It feels like silk, fine wool, and cotton all rolled into one. It takes dye beautifully and seems to wear well. I have been road-testing a horoscope/ikat shawl which is holding up just fine. The colored yarn here is from Silk City, and the ikat-dyed stripes are from Habu. I will go into greater detail if anyone asks.

This warp is two horoscopes side by side with ikat bands placed at regular intervals. I will have more bamboo examples in my web gallery as soon as I can remember my password. I have been wracking my brain, but my brain refuses to be wracked.

I have been working with bamboo for a couple of years now, so I am building a wonderful set of samples. Too bad you can't see them yet, but stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

Chenille: The Pet You Don't Have to Feed

Color Horoscope Chenille Shawl This isn't my favorite picture, by any means, but it is the one that shows the shawl right after I cut it off the loom before washing. Seeing just a small part of the weaving on the loom, you couldn't tell I threw all of the warp colors into the weft sometimes in a random fashion and other times following the color wheel.

The best method (and the most time consuming) for finishing off chenille ends is a pigtail braid. It doesn't worm and looks really terrific. It actually takes me longer to create the fringe than it does to weave the piece.

The only thing I really love about this picture is how well you can see the luminosity of the chenille. It is almost alive. I always tell people, "Don't wear chenille if you don't want strangers to touch you when you walk down the street." I can wear the most beautiful silk shawl without receiving a single comment, but when I wear chenille I always have people stop me. That said, I've been wearing bamboo a lot lately and will talk about it in my next post.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Who's on Grace

When people come into my studio instead of saying "What's on your loom?", they ask "Who's on your loom?" This is a chenille horoscope weaving of an old friend from back East. This is the first time I have woven a chenille horoscope on the small loom.

As you can see, I warp the loom from back to front. Warping from back to front is easier if you are doing a short warp. This may well be because it is the only way I have ever done it. I would be happy to talk about this some more if anybody is interested.

Weaving in action. I am inclined to vary the colors in the weft just to keep myself interested. Finished piece to follow in a couple of days.

Ok, I can't lie. I have already finished this piece and sent it off. I have another on the loom already. I don't want you think that I actually work as fast as it will seem when you see Grace's next warp.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Easy Ikat Becomes Turned Weft Ikat

Ikat is an ancient technique in which the yarn is tie-dyed before it is woven. Most ikat is painstakingly planned out ahead of time. I call my ikat "Easy Ikat" because I have eliminated the pre-planning step completely. The long name for my process is "Spontaneous Designing on the Warping Board With Space-Dyed Yarn" and works equally well with commercial space-dyed yarn as with ikat dyed yarn. For years I claimed the true secret of Easy Ikat was to get someone else to dye the yarn for you. I started playing around ikat in 1975, and it wasn't until 2000 that I started to do a little dyeing myself. Now I say the secret of Easy Ikat is to get someone to dye the yarn WITH you.

This is a detail of my first bamboo ikat weaving 2005. Bamboo yarn takes the dye really well. I will go into ikat in greater debth in later posts.

Here is a detail of a group of silk scarves done back in the late 80's. Michelle Wipplinger dyed everything except the black and white scarf. Cheryl Kolander dyed the black and white. I was strongly committed to not dyeing back then, and I didn't dye yarn with the best dyers I could find:)

The last 3 posts give you an overview of the basic techniques I use, but they are not the only ones. I am anxious to take you into my studio to show you what is currently on the loom. I will go into greater detail as I go along and will also touch on the other techniques and variations that appeal to me.

Woven Words

Alphabet Gamp towel warp 10/2 cotton

I developed Woven Words to be a less threatening color system than Color Horoscope Weaving. I think everybody loves the alphabet. I came across a book with color associations to each letter, but I have tweaked the colors a bit to suit my palette.

Many weavers find it daunting to make color selections even after studing color theory. Woven Words solves this unending problem. I will talk more about this technique in later posts.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Color Horoscope Weaving

Detail of recent piece entitled: THE POWER OF GATHERING OVER TIME

I developed Color Horoscope Weaving in 1980. I was walking down weaving one day and walking down astrology the same day, and I bumped into myself. For those who believe astrology is of the devil, I suspect you have long since left the blog. For those who are curious as to how their own personal horoscope would translate into color, you have come to the right place.

Weaving is all about time. I know this to be true because the very first question anybody asks me when they see one of my weavings is, "How long did that take you to make?". I always say 15 hours. Half the people will then say, "Fifteen hours!! That's so long." The other half will say, "Fifteen hours! I thought it would take much longer than that." Pretty funny!

Weaving is time made visible, and time is where weaving and astrology meet. A horoscope is merely a map of the solar system at a particular moment in time from the perspective of a specific place on earth.

My interest in astrology began in the 70'ies as a tool to understand myself and make some sense of my life. I am not a professional astrologer but am extremely well conversant in advanced cocktail astrology :)

My long time interest in color weaving, color systems and color symbolism led me to translate my horoscope into color. My goal was to develop a product that I would know exactly how long it would take to weave, exactly how much yarn I would need, that it would be different every time, and couldn't be mass produced.

I use 12 colors, a spectrum. These colors combine to make over 5 billion color possibilities. The human eye can determine around 8 million color variations, so no two weavings will ever be exactly alike. (exciting for me, but a real handicap for marketing)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Meet Gary

About 10 years ago I decided I had earned a Fireside loom. The loom is cherry wood (horse logged by Amish loggers in the Midwest) 48"wide 8 harness and a custom tilted commuter bench.

In the 10 years I have only used all 8 harnesses once. I finally had to see what the loom would do at full capacity. It was really cool, but I am a plain weaver at heart.

Why did I name my loom Gary, you might wonder? Well, Gary Swett is the maker/owner of Fireside looms, and he hand signed the loom.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Meet Grace

Let me introduce you to Grace, my 32" 4 harness Gilmore. I don't usually name my tools, but I found her at a college that was selling off all of their looms. At the time I had just one loom since my studio is rather small. Grace was so compact and perfect for weaving scarves. I noticed a small metal plaque at the base of harness mount: GIVEN IN MEMORY OF GRACE HOSSACK WEAVER. After some research, I discovered Grace had been Anita Mayer's mentor years ago. I am blessed to have a loom of spirit come to live with me. To make it even more wonderful, the loom came with reeds: 6, 8, 10, 12, 14,15, and 16. I had never seen a 14 or a 16 before. Interestingly enough, for my first 20 years of weaving I only had a 12 dent reed. I guess if a person only has one reed, a 12 would be the one.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Purpose and Goals

The purpose of Weaving Spirit is to bring you into my weaving studio to see my latest weaving. I plan to share my ideas, process and weaving philosophy on as regular a basis as I can manage. Think of this blog as an online workshop. I would love to re-connect with folks who have taken a workshop from me in the past.

I have been weaving for 47 years now. When I first learned to weave at Rhode Island School of Design, I was told there were 3 main elements to weaving: color; pattern; and texture. To have a successful textile, a weaver should emphasize only one of the three. If all 3 elements are operating at equal intensity, you will not create a pleasing cloth. There are times when I have broken this "rule" with varying degrees of success, but for the most part I am a color weaver. 99% of my weaving is plain weave. I am strongly influenced by ethnic textiles, color symbolism, and color codes of various sorts.

I used to weave primarily in wool, cotton, and silk. About 10 years ago, I fell into a pit of chenille. It has taken me several years to climb out only to stumble onto bamboo yarn. Who knows how long this kick will last, but I am having a great time with this versatile fiber.

I wove for about 20 years before I decided to try and make a living at it. Why did I wait so long to jump in? I think I always knew I didn't want to be or couldn't be a production weaver. I suspected I would burn out, wreck my back, get carpal tunnel, lose the passion, and move further away from the sheer magic of weaving. I feared one day I would no longer be able to hear the echoes of the ancient weavers. Although it is often questionable as to whether I actually make a living from weaving, (metaphorically speaking) the Weaving Goddess communicates with me on a regular basis.

It's getting late, so I think I will sign off for now. I am not sure how blogs work, but I'll get the hang of it eventually.

If you have arrived here from my website, then you know about me and the work I do. If you have come here via blogger, please visit my website to see my complete gallery.