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29 September, 2010

Double cloth texture – stitched double cloth

Filed under: Life — admin @ 4:46 pm

This is one of my favourite structures as it is so easy to create.  You start off with a simple double cloth, on 8 or more shafts, with one cloth being in non-shrinking yarns in shrinking yarns on 2 shafts (plain weave), and the other cloth being on 6 or more shafts (patterned weave).  You can choose to make the ratio 1:1 or change it to 2 of the non-shrinking warps  to 1 of the shrinking warps, or expand it further to other ratios depending on the effect you want to achieve.

You use plain weave for the non-shrinking warp, and whatever structure you like for the patterned warp.  You can thread the patterned warp in whatever threading pattern you wish, using blocks, or straight and pointed threadings, advancing or networked threadings.  When designing your weave structure for the shrinking cloth, you need to bear in mind the length of your floats and how much you actually want the fabric to shrink. 

With ratios of 2:1 or more, you are going to have much longer float lengths in the warp and weft of the patterned cloth.  Even plain weave will give a certain amount of shrinkage as the floats are twice as long as normal 1:1 plain weave, and even more in greater ratios.  Twills are good structures, and even longer floats such as waffle works brilliantly well.

What creates the puckering in the top cloth is the stitching of the bottom cloth to the top cloth at specified intervals.  You specify the intervals, and you specify when and where you want to use them, but raising just one shaft of the patterned layer to be woven along with one pick of the plain weave layer wherever you want it. 

Here I have used plain weave for layer 1 on shafts 1 and 2, and an advancing threading over 6 shafts for my second layer in a ratio of 1:1.  When weaving this, I lift shaft 1 for my 1st pick, shaft 2 for my 3rd pick, and whatever weave structure I wish to use on the bottom layer for picks 2 and 4, remembering to lift shafts 1 and 2 out of the way.  When I want to join the two layers together, I simply select one of the shafts from 3 – 8 to be raised with either pick 1 or pick 3.  Those warp threads from the shrinking layer are then combined with the top layer (weaving with the top weft) and are stitched in place. 

You have total control over what sort of pattern you wish to weave into the top layer, and how frequently. 

The finishing treatment then does the magic.  If you are using wool as your patterning layer, and cotton as your plain weave layer, you will find that, depending on the amount of shrinkage you apply, and the properties of your yarn, you will get crinkles, bubbles, convolutions and collapse effects.  The looser the underlying pattern structure, the easier it is to full or shrink.  The more agitation you give it, the more it will tighten up and the more the top cloth (non-shrinking) will pucker. 

This is a really versatile weave, and it’s great fun to experiment with.  Try different ratios, different combinations of shrinking and non-shrinking yarns, different finishing treatments.  Even the different types of water that the fabric is washed in will have different effects because of the amount of agitation you will need. 

Have fun!

26 September, 2010

Cobwebs and dew

Filed under: Life,Nature — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

This time of year is just wonderful when you have lovely sunny mornings after clear nights, and the dew is not too thick.  My walks with Charlie are a great excuse to get out and as the mornings are drawing in, I am getting later and later….  If I’m not too late, the sun is at the right angle to catch the dew-drops suspended from the cobwebs hanging on the fences and between the gate posts and the stile-posts on my walk round the valley.  This morning, they were glorious, and my breath caught in my throat as I gazed on the visible results of the spiders’ industry. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera to hand, but whether you live in the country or in a city, you can see these little miracles of construction everywhere if you take the time to look.  I have plenty in my house, so I have no excuse!! 

What is just so amazing is the strength in these feather-light mazes.  The amount of water contained in little droplets (and not so little droplets) must be quite considerable compared to the weight of the web itself, and the suspension of the individual strands and the elasticity they have is phenomenal.  I know that spider silk is stronger than similar size steel, but is spider silk stronger than silkworm silk?  I’d be interested to know. 

The ones that are wrapped around the dead sead heads of the cow parsley are incredible!  Fly paper of the highest magnitude, and a wonderful silhouette against the stream and the mist rising off the water and the meadow behind…. 

Enough for me that every morning these little marvels are congregated where I can see them and that the sun shining on the dew makes them magical.  Would that I were a better photographer and be able to capture their elusive beauty!

22 September, 2010

Double cloth texture – matelasse

Last week, we talked about pique and how it is a tie-down weave.  Matelasse is very similar, but without the tie-downs, so that means you have 2 more shafts available for the pattern warp.  Historically, matelasse was a quilted cloth with wadding picks in a double cloth.

As with pique, the designing is done in the lower cloth, with the top cloth comprised usually of plain weave (it gives the most effective dimensional results) on 2 shafts.  As before, the top layer is usually of non-shrinking yarns, and the bottom layer with shrinking yarns.

As with pique, there is a 6-pick lifting sequence as follows :

Picks 1 and 2 weave plain on the top layer with the non-shrinking yarn.

Pick 3 raises shafts 1 and 2 and weaves plain on the bottom layer with the shrinking yarn.

Picks 4 and 5 are weaving plain with non-shrinking weft on the top layer again, but with the addition of the patterning on the bottom layer.

And pick 6 weaves the bottom layer with shrinking yarn in plain weave whilst lifting the top layer out of the way.

As you can see, pique and matelasse are very similar in construction, but pique has the little indentations caused by the tieing down of the back cloth. 

  This image is of matelasse using 24 shafts (18 shafts used for patterning, 6 for plain weave top cloth).  You can see the crinkling of the top cloth caused by the plain weave structure being forced into convolutions by the pattern woven into the bottom cloth which has then shrunk during finishing.  The top cloth is cotton, the bottom wool. 

You can try lots of variations with the thickness and sett of the two yarns, and of course, the choice of pattern in the bottom cloth.

As with pique, you can put in a wadding weft, so making your pick sequence 8 picks.  After the first two picks, you raise shafts 1 & 2 and insert a thick weft.  This weft won’t be seen as it remains between the two layers.  Then you continue with picks 3, 4 and 5 of the original sequence.  Then after pick 5, raise shafts 1 & 2 again, and insert another thick weft.  You will need to have a floating selvedge or cut specific lengths of the wadding weft as it will undo itself if you try to do a continuous weft.  Then you finish off the sequence with the original pick 6 (now pick 8). 

When the wadding is used, it makes a soft, spongy, durable fabric which would be very useful where you want an interesting textured surface, but also softness and extra warmth, quite possibly for a cushion used for someone who needs extra padding on their seat. 

Next week we’ll be taking a look at stitched double cloth.

19 September, 2010

New meetings and re-unions

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:39 am

Last week I talked about the wonderful exhibitions that Laura Thomas has curated as part of the Warp & Weft series of exhibitions and symposium that she has put on in Camarthenshire - at the Oriel Myrrdin Gallery in Camarthen, and also at the National Wool Museum in Drefach-Felindre, just a few miles away.  Well, today I am able to show you a few photos, (thanks Laura) of the exhibition at the Oriel Myrrdin Gallery.  These are gallery shots rather than individual pieces, because if I show you one person’s work, I need to show them all!!  And we just don’t have room for all of them…. 

This first image shows the work of Ptolemy Mann in the foreground, Makeba Lewis directly behind on the wall, Peter Collingwood Macrogauze on the right, and Ainsley Hillard on the left. 

   This image shows Reiko Sudo (Nuno Corporation) on the left, Priti Veja on the wall at the back, Sue Hiley Harris on the ledge on the right, and another piece attributed to Reiko Sudo on the plinth. 

 The third image shows work by Hiroko Takeda on the wall on the left, Kathy Schicker on the wall nearest the door, and Ann Richards on the plinth to the right. 

There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition, called warp+weft, which can be bought from the gallery, Oriel Myrddin, and the ISBN is 978-0-9551434-2-7, costing £12.50.  Other weavers included in the exhibition are Ismini Samanidou, Ann Sutton, Laura Thomas, and Lucy McMullen, and my apologies for not having a group photo of their work. 

On the subject of re-unions, I went to my first re-union last night.  How on earth have I managed to avoid re-unions so far?!  Anyway, this one was for the musicians who went on the first tour that my husband Graham and I organised for the Moorlands Music Centre, Staffordshire, in 1995.  They were aged between 12 and 18 then, and we took them to Valkenburg, a town in Holland on the borders of Belgium and Germany.  I remember a concert in Maastricht, where a middle-aged man came up to us with tears in his eyes after we finished playing (was it sooo bad??!) and pumped our hands saying “Thank you for the war”.  That took us completely by surprise!  Other memories were of our 6-year old son taking himself off for breakfast down to the hotel (we had to stay in an annexe) and our panic when we realised he had disappeared, and his complete ease as he sat in an unfamiliar place, having his breakfast surrounded by all these teenagers who loved him!! 

Last night was great fun – not only to see how everyone had physically changed (or not!) – but also to hear from them what their memories were, and how big a part the tour, and the music centre, played in how they grew up.  It was amazing to hear how many of them have now gone in to teaching, and fascinating to see how much the music and the playing they did with us enhanced their life experience and helped them with confidence, self-belief and consequent academic and personal achievements.  I’ve always had a special bond with my oboe students, and it’s incredible how that special relationship has had a lasting effect. 

Graham and I couldn’t help but feel proud of the part, however small, that we have played in these young people’s lives. 

A final thought – in these straitened financial times, it brought home to me just how much more music is than learning and playing an instrument, and the long-term positive effects it has on everyone who takes it to even an intermediate level.  I know that without the discipline imposed by learning an instrument and taking part in music groups of all kinds, I wouldn’t be the person I am, and wouldn’t achieve the things I am achieving in my life.  I only hope that politicians and decision makers are/were musicians and appreciate the hidden benefits that music (and arts and sports in general) can bring to people’s long-term lives and not cut them because they are easy ways to save money.

15 September, 2010

Pique for texture

Filed under: Life — admin @ 12:00 pm

Last week I gave a very brief overview of texture through double weave, and today I’m focussing on pique which is a tied structure.  If you look back through technical books, pique and the technique called matelasse are frequently called each other and crossed over, but there is a slight difference.  Matelasse is very similar except that it is totally a double cloth, and not a tied cloth.  My interpretation is that pique is a tied double cloth. 

Using differential shrinkage, in other words, with your main cloth in a non-shrinking fibre such as cotton, and your supplementary warp in a shrinking fibre such as wool, you can create quite puckered effects with pique.  Because of the tied nature of the weave, any potential floats are kept short which was very useful for upholstery and soft furnishings.  One UK company that used pique really well was Arthur H Lee, based in Birkenhead, near Liverpool.  Some of their fabrics are held at the Whitworth Museum and Art Gallery in Manchester.

One of my pique samples, woven with 24 shafts, is shown here and you can see the wool ties pulling the top cloth into smaller ripples, as well as the bigger undulations caused by the secondary warp. 

The principles behind pique are as follows :  when threading, put the plain weave, non-shrinking layer on shafts 1 and 2, and leave a space between them as indicated.

In the alternate gaps between the cotton warps, put the wool tie-down warps on shafts 3 and 4. 

Then, in the remaining spaces, put in your pattern threads (wool)

The pattern ends (shafts 5 – 8) are always on the bottom cloth, in this instance, the wool one, as are the tie-downs threads on shafts 3 & 4.

For the treadling, there is a sequence of 6 picks for the complete treadling unit.  The first 3 picks raise the tie-down ends on shafts 3 or 4.

Pick 1 :  Raise P (shaft 3 or 4 (tie-down thread) + shaft 1.   Throw face weft.

Pick 2:  Raise P (same tie-down thread) + shaft 2.  Throw face weft.

Pick 3: Raise top cloth and tie-down threads – shafts 1-4.  Throw backing weft.

The second three picks raise the selected pattern shafts.

Pick 4: Raise P’ (all pattern lifts marked) + shaft 1 .  Throw face weft.

Pick 5: Raise P’ + shaft 2 .  Throw face weft.

Pick 6: Raise shafts 1 & 2 (+ all pattern warps on 5 – 8).  Throw backing weft.

Here it is in draft form for you to see.

Picks 1 & 2(cotton)Pick 3 (wool)Picks 4 & 5(Cotton)Pick 6 (Wool)

If you want to get a more raised look, you can put in a stuffer weft, after picks 2 and 5.  This entails simply separating the two layers, so you raise shafts 1 & 2 and insert your thicker stuffer weft. 

Next week, we shall look at matelasse.

14 September, 2010

Warp + Weft Symposium

This past weekend, I have been in deepest Camarthenshire at the National Wool Museum with around 45 other weavers and curators.  Laura Thomas organised a symposium specifically on weave – a rarity in the UK – and surrounded it with exhibitions, two specifically of weave.  I hope to cover those in future posts, permission permitting, but for today, I’d like to share with you the meat of the symposium.

Hosted by Dr Jessica Hemmings who is well known to many through her contributions to Selvedge, FiberArts and other publications, the day featured different aspects of weave, exploring how woven structure informs far more than the textiles that surround us.  including Prof Lesley Millar with her wide experience of curating weave and contact with Japanese sensibility, architect Wayne Foster, who works with Laura, Andy Ross from the Ann Sutton Foundation, Shetland, with his unusual take of weaving and music, and Ruth Greany, a weaver who is now a textile trend researcher with WGSN, a trend forecasting company. 

Prof Lesley Millar talked about constructed narratives and narrative constructs (the weaver’s tale).  Prof Millar is a curator and educator and at times her talk lost me a little.  She read direct from her paper, so her presentation was a little stilted and not nearly as relaxed and informal as Dr Hemming’s introductory presentation. However, as ever from Prof Millar, it was interesting.  One of the points she made was about time being an important element which is woven invisibly but indelibly in the cloth.  Jessica Hemmings picked up that the time something takes to make is actually important in the making of the fabric, and shouldn’t be verboten to be talked about. I’ve found that most people’s first question is “how long did it take you to make …..?” 

Wayne Foster gave a talk about the links between architecture and textiles as explored by him and Laura. He sees distinct overlaps between architecture and textiles both in discipline and concepts and showed us many different projects that his practice have worked on which relate directly and indirectly to textiles, through patchwork quilts, double cloth, block weaves (think Bauhaus), designs that relate to the lay out of buildings, to the management of spaces.  He also illustrated these points with other architects’ work.


8 September, 2010

Double cloth for texture

This is a wonderful field of discovery for different textures.  The areas I have focussed on so far are different setts, different yarn properties, different weave structures, different ratios.

Today’s blog is a quick overview of how texture can be created through the manipulation of two different layers that can interact with one another.

In the first instance, you can sett your two different layers differently, and see what difference that makes to the finished effect.  You can use different yarns for each layer with differing shrinkage rates and watch the crinkles and puckers appear as you wash it.  This is particularly effective with plain weave as the non-shrinking yarn and a different weave structure for the shrinking yarn. 

You can vary the proportion of one layer to the other.  Bonnie Inouye has been working on this particular way of creating texture.  Bonnie tries different ratios of cloth in many different structures and has great fun with it.  I have also been using different ratios in both single and double cloth combinations. 

You can, of course, combine different ratios and different shrinkage rates for even more dramatic results.  You may be wondering what the difference is between sett and ratio.  The difference is that sett is how you plan one structure on its own.  Ratio is how you relate two layers to each other.  The simplest weave structures usually work the best for the non-shrinking layer, but weave structures that utilise floats are brilliant for shrinking yarns that pull the non-shrinking layer into all kinds of convolutions during finishing.

Finishing – now there’s a theme just ripe for playing with – is a great fun way of trying out texture.  The tumble dryer is a useful tool in this game – I usually combine my samples with a load of washing that I can’t hang outside (especially now we’re getting into winter which is a great time for experimenting with finishing treatments!) so I don’t feel guilty that I’m using unnecessary electricity because the weather’s bad anyway…. Try different wash temperatures, try different amounts of agitation, and different methods of drying.

In double cloth you have the wonderful facility of being able to interchange your layers, and designing different amounts of interchange can lead to some great textural results.  Play with your threading, create uneven sized blocks, vary your sett, use crammed and spaced sleying, try different beats in your weaving, try different ratios in your weaving too – 2 picks of one layer v 1 pick of the other, for example. 

You can see just with these different areas there is unlimited scope for combining different elements in different ways for different results.  You just have to be willing to make mistakes and not mind.  I try not to be too precious about my weaving which is why I sample such a lot.  It doesn’t matter if I make mistakes when sampling and I might just find something quite unexpected!

When I am designing for texture, I usually have an image of something that has inspired me and I pin it up on the wall and wonder about how I can combine different techniques to create that specific result.  Other people work in very different ways.  The main thing is to play and have fun.

Next week, I’ll take some of these ideas further and show you samples of the results….

5 September, 2010

Exotica – an exhibition


When the Midlands Textile Forum decided on this title for an exhibition to be staged at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, (on from now until 30th September), I had to smile!  I could just imagine certain men of my acquaintance brightening up with the titivating thought of what they might see!!  But they would be disappointed.

Not in terms of the quality of work on show, but in the subject matter. 

Exotica refers to the plants that can be found at the Botanical Gardens which, although not large (15 acres), is perfectly formed!  Just like the exhibition.  22 works are shown by 17 artists in a long thin gallery with good lighting and plenty of space around the exhibits. 

Themes are good for exhibitions.  One study day at the Gardens led to different interpretations from each artist, and the range of textile techniques used, the different approaches, the different subject matter taken from the Gardens worked well together.

Themes are also good for individual artists developing their work.  I used to be a total scatterbrain, tempted by a myriad of techniques, a wealth of subject matter and influenced by everything.  (Some would say that I still am but I suspect they don’t know what I was like before!!!) 

For me, finding weaving was a turning point in my life.  From living the life of a musician, I found myself pulled to weaving.  It stimulated my brain cells, helped me to look at life with the eyes of a visual artist, and challenged me in many different ways.  Then, in 2006, I got the book Above The Earth.  Casually flicking through this lovely coffee table book, I was taken over by a total certainty that I had now found my genre in weaving - a total expression through weaving of what I am about.  I still have that feeling today, and am aware that this will probably be with me all my life.  Satellite and aerial images of the unpopulated areas of the world, away from the obvious visual physical damage that humans have perpetrated on this lovely planet, inspire me with thoughts of how to affect people’s perception of their world through weaving. 

The limitations of having a theme can be a positive thing – a jumping off point for delving deeper.  Limits are good for stimulating creative thought and lateral thinking.  As a child, how often can boredom develop into imaginative ideas for play, for making something out of materials close at hand.  I know for me as a child that I developed some crazy ideas that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, but I always had fun finding out. 

Now I have found my theme for weaving, my world is opening up in ways unimaginable to me before. 

Do you have something that inspires you in a similar way?  Do you want one?  Sometimes just thinking about it can help address that overwhelming feeling that can come from too much choice.  Perhaps this week might be a good time to ponder what you want to be your special theme…..

1 September, 2010

Overshot for texture

Filed under: Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 12:30 pm

Overshot is wonderful for creating texture.  The secret is to have all the floats on one side only.  Where the floats are not floating, they need to be woven into the fabric.  Bonnie Inouye first taught me this during the online workshop Wendy Morris and I did with her a few years ago.  Once I got the hang of designing that way, I was really pleased with the results! 

Here is an image of one of the samples I did on that workshop.

  This image used a heavy wool overshot yarn to give me weft-ways shrinkage.  This is a bit on the clunky side for me, and once I had got used to designing for overshot, I worked on a series of samples (about 497 in all!!) exploring the possibilities of using overshot on a cotton warp, a worsted warp and a woollen warp, with 3 different finishing treatments, 17 different ground wefts and 3 different overshot wefts!!  I did all that work so you don’t have to!

Whilst I used 24 shafts, this can be done effectively on 8.  You could use it on 4 shafts too.  You want to keep a plain weave going so you need to use traditional overshot threading of alternating odd and even shafts. 


The draft on the left has the floats on the surface and the draft on the right is the reverse side, showing the half-tones.

When you are weaving it, it’s much kinder on your loom and your body to turn the fabric so that you weave with the floats uppermost, and thereby don’t have to lift so many shafts. 

The 8 shaft version my first image is using looks like this…

  This follows exactly the same principles as shown in the 4 shaft version, but when you have more shafts, you can use different tie-ups to affect how much of the warp you weave and how much you float over. 

The following images are from a short scarf I did at the end of the long run of samples.  This was on 24 shafts, with a cotton warp of 3/18, and the shrinking overshot yarn is a 2/15 wool.  The ground weft was 2/20 Polyester.  The sample was washed on the wool wash of my front-loading washing machine and then tumble-dried. 


The first image shows an area of a straight progression in the lifting plan, and the second image shows where I have used a pointed progression. 

There is so much more I want to explore with this technique, and I hope it’s given you a glimpse into the possibilities…. 

Next week, we’ll be looking at double cloth techniques for texture, and introducing different structures that can be used specifically for texture.