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I don’t usually call my weaving a pig’s ear (!) but sometimes, when things don’t go according to plan, it can feel that way!

I have been weaving a series of pieces for two exhibitions, one based on tree bark, the other on geology and erosion.  The tree bark series was largely an experiment (hint – it’s not usually advisable to do experiments on exhibition pieces!!)  I decided to use a technique called shibori, usually associated with dyeing, to create pieces with surface texture.  I also decided I would like to go tree-hugging, and if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will know that I hugged an oak tree this week!

If this sounds a little bizarre, stay with me…

Firstly, I prepared a cotton and silk warp with straight threading, and then wove a texture structure with silver weft.  The silver is the real thing and perhaps an extravagent weft to use, but I wanted a metal that was thin enough, and that would tarnish over time.  The silver I use is from The Scientific Wire Company (the name is enough to make you want to buy something from them!) and is 0.1mm, so almost as fine as human head hair.  It wove up beautifully, and once I had cut it from the loom, I went to my friendly neighbour farmer and asked if I could hug an oak tree.

You can imagine his face!

Anyway, permission given, I nailed the silver fabric to the oak tree and gently pressed it into the grooves of the venerable oak.  It held just as I intended, and I glued it to ensure it kept its shape.  Once the glue was dry, and the donkeys left me alone long enough to do the job, I peeled it off the tree.  Walking home with the piece was fun in a strengthening wind, and curious motorists nearly ran off the road….

Back in the studio, I have tweaked things a little and done a tad of tea-dyeing, finding out in the process that it takes 5 tea-bags to get the depth of stain I wanted…

The other two pieces both used shibori, one with a silk noil weft, and the other with a copper weft, again 0.1mm in dark brown.  I put both of them in the washing machine and after they had dried, the results were great fun!  I hadn’t really expected the silk noil to hold its shibori pleating, but it did!  I rather suspect that if I were to wash it again, it would all fall out, so I won’t be doing that for a while.  What was 38″ wide on the loom shrank down to 12″ wide when finished.  The copper wire weft also gave me wonderful results!

So now I am finishing them in a way that will suit the hanging requirements of the exhibition.  I can’t show them until the exhibition has been opened, but then I hope to post some photos to share my excitement.

The silk purse bit was from a stainless steel/wool mix weft (from Habu Textiles via Handweavers Studio in London) which I wove in a willow type weave, then pressed against a willow tree.  It didn’t work and looked a mess, so I shrugged, and put it in the washing machine, just to see what would happen to the failure.  Wow!  When it came out of the machine, I though Christmas had come!  The stainless steel has collapsed to a wonderful undulation which I would have loved to have planned!!

Willow detail (stainless steel/wool)

Willow detail (stainless steel/wool)

So when you get a piece that didn’t work out like you planned, don’t despair….  turn to the washing machine!!  You never know what alchemy will work its magic for you!