Thursday, 19 January 2017

Weaving and learning and being flexible

For some time now, I've wanted to extend my weaving knowledge so that I can vary the effects in my woven pieces. I've been working with weaver friend Rebecca Conolly at her studio in the peaceful village of Calmesden in Gloucestershire - a triple pleasure then - seeing a friend, visiting a lovely place and developing my weaving skills. What more could I want?

I have always imagined I preferred to weave tapestries rather than to produce lengths of cloth that use complicated and intricate weave structures because I thought it was all too mathematical. Through talking to Rebecca about ways to increase the techniques I use in my work, I've come to realise that variety can be achieved in many ways - including some (simple versions) of those dreaded weave structures!


In tapestry weaving, the warp threads (attached to the loom and generally running vertically) are usually purely structural. All the colour and texture that creates the design comes from the weft threads that are threaded through the warp as you weave. Since you see only the weft threads in the finished piece, this sort of weaving is described as weft-faced and can be seen in the plain red stripes in the small sample above. The vertical warp threads are in yellow and can be seen in the rest of the sample.


First of all, at Rebecca's suggestion, I worked a weft-faced sample where I varied the number of warp threads I wove over, and alternated the colour I used. In the sample above, I worked (from bottom to top) a small area of plain weave; several rows taking the weft over two warps at a time; then displaced this by one warp; then a small section of twill; and finally, I worked a simple plain weave, alternating two colours with each pick (row) of weft. It was fascinating to see the different effects I could produce with such simple changes.

Rebecca then introduced me to the idea of balanced weave where both warp and weft are visible on the surface with the suggestion that it might offer interesting effects for me. This was also further developed in a one day workshop with Rebecca that I went to at the newly-opened workshop space in Cirencester called The Bothy. During this session we worked on balanced weaves through back-strap weaving (more about this in a later post). Since talking to her, I've also been exploring possible effects on my small table loom. A sample is given below.


In order from the bottom in the sample, I worked mostly balanced weave: where both warp and weft were made using the same mixed yards passed through the loom together; then the same using different colours in warp and weft; a small section of weft-faced weave for contrast; a grid produced by weaving double threads of blue alternating with a single thread of green (especially effective?); then four areas where double threads were alternated with two picks of single; and finally a section where light and dark threads were twisted together before being wound onto the shuttle which produced an interesting diagonal effect.

Throughout all this, I've been trying to exploit the elements that seem to suggest patterns found in modern high-rise architecture. I think there is much potential here ... I will post further as I work more samples.

If you're new to all this and want further explanation, this abounds on YouTube such as here or can easily be found by googling tapestry weaving.


6 comments:

  1. What a lovely lot of input for you! I can imagine that your mind is buzzing, and that you are keen to experiment.
    I taught myself to weave with a Navaho backstrap loom when we lived in the USA. I also attended a great workshop on kilim weaving here several years back. Were I not stitching and printing etc. I would love to spend more time weaving - tapestry weaving. I agree with you about 'difficult'/tedious weaving! although I admire folks who do do it.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Olga. I am indeed enjoying all this input and it's triggering all sorts of things to explore. Rebecca is an excellent teacher who listens to my concerns, discusses options with me and tailors her help accordingly ... lovely, and not always what I've found in textile workshops! I only wish I could find someone of similar mind to help me with the other aspects of my work.

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  2. I have never been interested in cloth weaving, maths not being my thing but it is amazing what can be achieved on a small tapestry loom. I also have an Ashford knitting loom which is useful for experimenting with different weave structures. Very interesting post.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie. I'm toying with acquiring a rigid heddle loom for speed but I doubt it will give me the same flexibility and ability to adapt as I weave as my small tapestry loom does - something to discuss with Rebecca who has been helping me. I have so much to learn!

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  3. What delightful explorations with weft & warp! And I love the idea of architecture as weaving inspiration...the repeating vertical & horizontal elements that comprise high rises provide such a great theme. Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa, for your comment. I'm enjoying all this very much. I think the next step is to analyse my photos and look carefully at the nature of those repeating patterns. As you say. They offer so much.

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