Wednesday, 21 October 2009


In 2008, the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers held its Biennial Exhibition and one of the classes was 'an item which fits in a CD case and is inspired by a song'. The next three months were spent driving round the UK, muttering 'What a stupid idea' and trying to fit something in the way of weaving to an (any) opera aria. Until one day - I suddenly saw how to fit to 'I'm Gonna to Wash that Man right outta my Hair'. See the South Pacific series for what happened over the next few months. I ended up by entering 6 different items in CD cases.  They were all exhibited at our recent Guild Exhibition and admired by a Mayor. The private view was full of chains of office and I never worked out who was which town.

My favourite is 'You have to be properly Taught' which is a startling anti-racist song given when South Pacific was written. In the weaving, each pillar of colour is a different race and the pink/grey dominates all the rest.

 The warp was often painted (SEKA silk paints) on the loom with two different colours, one for each cloth and cloth interchange was used. The weft was often space dyed.
The basis of the weaving was a stitched double cloth in 60/2 silk which means 90 ends to the inch. The back cloth is a twill on Shafts 1 to 4 and the front cloth is a point twill on Shafts 5 to 32. Have I said this was on my 32 shaft Megado? I have been thinking about this for the last year and decided to try again (only more ambitious). In 2008, each piece fitted into a CD case, so it was a single 'picture'.  This time I wanted to weave four different pictures together, turn the cloth on its side, sew the ends together and slide the loop of weaving over a 5 inch square Perspex box. The warp is now horizontal. At one time, I thought of weaving four separate pictures and sewing them up each edge so that the warp was vertical but decided that it would be too untidy.

It all turned out to be much more difficult than last year's ideas. Firstly I have to get all four sides right in the same piece of weaving and secondly having the warp horizontal is quite restricting. Thirdly the shapes were done in 3 and 1 twill while the background was in 1 and 3 twill to start with. The colour contrast was poor (3 to 1) and so there was a lot of experimenting with colour. Also, while the twill background was okay in the South Pacific series, it dominated in Annuals so I changed it to a broken twill. It is VERY much more difficult to see an error in a broken twill background in the draft but any error sticks out when it is woven. I work with Fibreworks and, for these weavings use a liftplan which is extensively edited.

The first series is 'Annuals'. Side 1 is Seeds (black weft) on the ground (warp painted in swirls of different browns. This is for winter. There were various experiments with colour but this turned out best. I 'framed' the pictures by putting a strip 10 mm wide of brown broken twill between each side.

Michael painted the inside of the box top with several coats of black acrylic paints  for me and then glued the box to its base. 

The second side is Seedlings, green weft on a warp painted with swirls of green. Apart from experimenting with different shades of green, there were no problems here.

The problems started with trying to weave the third side, Flowers. I tried all sorts of colours including some spaced weft I dyed myself. That came out as very pronounced stripes. I also tried some silk thread from Oliver Twist. That was too thick and also too stripey.  In the end, some dark red and brilliant purple Shantung silk from Fibrecrafts was best. But still a dull picture. What I wanted was lots of flowers of different sizes, colours and types.

I investigated various additional techniques which are shown here. On the left are the striped dyed wefts, then to right, the woven flowers are purple. On top, there is machine embroidery, collaged blue cotton flowers plus embroidery and some pink flowers put on with paint on a toothbrush through a stencil cut in stiff card.  The collaged flowers were best but I could not make a good job of them at a smaller size - I thought these were too big. The width of the warp is only 5.25 inches and these blue flowers are an inch across. The machine embroidery was quite good but I am not an expert at this and it was all a bit uncontrolled. I am going to a private class on machine embroidery next week so I might go back to this. 

Another option was to interlace leaves and flowers and then stencil pink flowers on top. I applied gold paint as well. The pink painted flowers are less than an inch across and are not strong enough.

The best so far has been to dye some lace ribbon, cut it up and sew the flowers on by hand. There are two sorts of lace flowers here.

And now for the last side which is Petals and consist of a weaving of broken flowers and petals. This is painted with pink and gold and is not bad.

This one has dyed ribbon flowers cut up and sewn on and some lace flowers which are dyed a brown/red.

Not sure about this. We now have two versions put where I see them a lot and I am thinking about it. I have put on a 20 m white silk warp using my AVL warping wheel and a sectional warp beam and have used about less than 8 metres so far. So there is plenty left for more experiments.

There is another series called ' The Vale of Evesham' which is coming on really well and I am much more pleased with that. But more of that series another time.

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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.