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Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, the Fabrics!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

It is so nice to be able to step back in time and revisit past journeys through our photos. The digital age has made it so easy to click, click, click and I think I took over 4000 pictures on my first trip to India. While having that many photos is wonderful, it also makes it hard to pick just a few, LOL. In this post I’ll share some of my favourite pieces that made their way home with me on that trip that I told you about in the January 29th post (click here if you missed it!).

Just to remind you, the village is in West Bengal, north of Calcutta. This village is famous for its extraordinary weavers, very fine weaving, Saris and an inlay technique called Jamdani. The majority of the weavers wove on simple 2 shaft looms, with fly shuttle attachments. Warping is an extremely meticulous process due to the fine warp threads and the finished fabric is breathtaking.

The piece below was woven on 2 shafts with reeled silk. The warp was black and the weft was the colour of copper. If you look right down in the bottom left hand corner of the photo below you can see what the cloth looked like when it came off the loom….simple flat plain weave. All of the texture that you see in the body of the cloth was done by using the thumbs to force the warp threads apart after the cloth was taken from the loom. When I first brought it home it had a wide border all across the bottom about 6” wide but over the years I have been adding texture to the piece by demonstrating how the warps threads were moved. I don’t have much space left to demonstrate…so I’ll have to go back and get another one. When I hold this cloth in my hands I realize that another artisan used their thumbs on every square inch of the cloth shifting the warp threads exposing the weft threads.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

I have draped the scarf on Mary our wonderful model to show you this simple piece of plain weave in all its glory.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

The next piece is an amazing example of beater control. It is woven in plain weave with weft faced bands of 3/1 twill. The warp is like a cobweb, so incredibly fine it almost disappears. A band of gossamer plain weave is woven and then a band of 3/1 twill is woven that covers the warp as it becomes weft faced but because the threads are so fine it has a drape and effect that is absolutely stunning.

You can shift those weft bands into the open space but in the 9 years I have had this piece they have never shifted on their own.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Another of my favourite simple plain weave pieces has several things going on.  The warp is cotton with a silk weft. This scarf is so soft…..it is difficult to describe just how it feels in the hand.

At first glance it is easy to see the horizontal space that is left every few inches, again controlled by the beater but it also looks like there is denting in the warp.  Denting is a technique where you leave an empty dent open in the reed. Those black vertical lines look like empty space but upon closer inspection it is really 3 ends of one colour and then one end of black, there is no denting happening in the piece just the illusion of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to use my thread magnifier to figure out what is going on in these pieces.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

The last piece in this post is woven on 4 shafts and is plain weave threaded into blocks. Some threads are on 1 and 2 and another block is on 3 and 4.

It can be woven with a simple tabby tie-up where both blocks weave plain weave from selvedge to selvedge like you see at both ends or it can be woven with one block always weaving plain weave while the other block doesn’t weave at all. The is accomplished in the tie up. The threads on 1 and 2 are always changing places but the threads on 3 and 4 stay in the middle and have one pick that floats over the entire block of them and the next pick floats under them. When you weave this way through the entire length of the cloth you end up with stripes where your warp has no take-up because there is never any interlacement through them, just over and under them.
Those stripes are the wavy ones and they were warped in silk where the other plain weave blocks are warped in a very fine wool. The entire weft is the fine wool. There is also a fabulous graphic threaded into those blocks. It is such a simple idea and every part of this cloth, the hand, the drape, the shiny, the matte, the thin stripes, the wide stripes, the colour……screamed take me home! 🙂

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

I am so happy to be able to share these particular weavings because this cloth and the weavers of this village challenged beliefs that I had carried around since I started to weave 30 years before. They challenged my ideas around sett, use of reed and beater and about what you could and couldn’t do with thread or structure…it changed my entire thought process around design. I had always loved plain weave but I gained a profoundly deeper respect for it than was there before. I will be eternally grateful to these weavers, for their extraordinary skill and vision and for the gift they shared with me during my 10 days with them. Namaste.

Like this post? Please feel free to share their beautiful work on Pinterest using the graphic below!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

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A Weaver’s Challenge: 30 Tea Towel Designs in 30 Days

A few days before we broke for Christmas one of my dearest friends and longtime JST employee Susan Brown (25 years) called to say she was coming in to show me something.  She told me a wonderful story and Susan has graciously agreed to share some of it with you.  Once again, it reinforces the lessons in the previous few blogs.  I hope you’re inspired by Susan’s story and you give it a try yourself 🙂

 

30 Tea Towel Designs in 30 Days

For the month of October an artist friend of mine, Gail Sibley painted 31 paintings in 31 days. Yes, one per day! I was so inspired but I am not a painter. I decided to draw 30 tea towels in 30 days for November. It turned out to be a very worthwhile endeavour. First I went out and found a lovely little square (don’t you just love square) sketch book and then gathered all my pencil crayons. I loved the discipline of drawing one tea towel a day but must confess there was a night or two when bedtime came and no tea towel had appeared in my sketch book for that day. I am happy to tell you that every night but one, I managed to make it happen.

Having taken Jane’s Colour and Design workshop the previous year, I drew on what she had taught in the class. Often I selected a few colours to start with, sometimes outside my usual pallette and then proceeded to work on the graphics. At times I forced myself to try layouts that did not come from my ‘go to’ designs. That was hard but very rewarding most of the time. While drawing a tea towel, the ‘what if’ question often came up which usually led to the following day’s design. Coming up with a different design each day was not always easy but when it wasn’t, I asked myself ‘what if I just changed one element of a previous design’ and presto, there was a new design.

A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

Drawing 30 tea towels in 30 days was fun, challenging, educational, interesting and (as I said), very worthwhile. There are designs that I don’t like so much, but there are definitely designs that I like and some that I can’t wait to try. Who knows, I may do it again or something like it!

-Susan Brown

A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

Ready to sketch?

The best part of this challenge is that you can start it any time you like! Don’t be afraid to customize it to fit your own preferences – for instance, if you aren’t  ready to commit to 30 days, try sketching 7 Tea Towel Designs in 7 Days. Who knows, you might enjoy it so much, you decide to keep going!

We’d love to see your design ideas, feel free to share them with us in our Ravelry group or on Instagram using the #janestaffordtextiles hashtag.

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A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

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Design for Weavers: Colour Theory & Practice

Colour is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.

Claude Monet

Colour is the child of light, the source of all light on earth.

From “Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments”

My weaving colour choices are an emotional response, a response to some stimulus that has moved me—a flower, a painting, a picture in a magazine. I see something that I love, and then I interpret it in coloured yarns.

Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong; sometimes it looks stunning, sometimes—less stunning. But the great thing is, there’s always more yarn and there’s always another opportunity to try again and make it better.

Talking Colour

Colour is a big subject, and it has a vocabulary all its own. In designing, I work most with three aspects of colour:

  • Hue
  • Value
  • Saturation

Hue

Hue is easy. It’s what we naturally think of when we think of “what colour” something is: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple.

Another way to think of hue is where the colour sits on the colour wheel:

Value

If you were a painter, you could easily achieve a wide range of colours simply by adding black, white, or grey to your hue. This changes the lightness and darkness of a colour. This changes its value, which is the lightness or darkness of a colour.

If you add white to a colour, you have a tint:

If you add black to a colour, you have a shade:

If you add grey to a colour, you have a tone:

Saturation

A hue at its purest and clearest, as it would appear in the colour wheel, is said to be at its maximum saturation.

As you add grey to a hue, the hue becomes more desaturated—making it less clear and more muted. In the picture below, the outermost ring is the pure hue at its most saturated. As you move in to the centre of the circle, the colour becomes increasingly desaturated.

Using Colour

Weavers can’t mix on a palette like painters do, so it is important to play with combinations that might strike you as unlikely, because you’ll be amazed how some of them work in the cloth.

You will see in the sample work on the online guild that varying colours that have high and low saturation can give you the most amazing, complex colour in your finished piece.—Sort of like having a party with your quiet family, and then the loud crazy cousins come in and it becomes a hootenanny. ☺

I have some favourite moves I like to make when using colour, and I’ll share them with you here.

Gradations

I love gradation work.  This is where you can put all the tints and shades of one colour that you might have in your stash. A gradation builds movement across your weaving from light to dark.

If you then add an overgrid on your gradation, it makes an entirely new graphic:

You can shift through analogous colours, or in and out of one set of colours—for example, dark on the selvedge to light in the middle, or vice versa.

Analogous Colour Harmonies

I use analogous colour harmonies more than anything else in my weaving. They are the colours right next door to each other on the colour wheel.

Analogous colours flow into one another. Gaia uses them all the time: just start looking at flowers!

Some colour systems include four colours from the wheel in a row, others three. Personally, I think you can use as many as you want to create your own personal rainbow. If you are working directionally around the colour wheel you can never go wrong.

Analogous colour harmonies are the perfect place to start if you are unsure about using colour. Then you can add gradations of light and dark.

Complementary Colours

Colours that are right across the colour wheel from each other are called complementary colours, or complements.

Complements for Zingers and Accents

Complements make great zingers and accents.

When deciding how you want your complementary colours to interact, keep in mind that colour plus its complement (in theory, anyway) gives you a muddied look. For example, if you use one colour for your warp and its complement for your weft, the resulting piece can be very muted, possibly more than you expect.

If you want that big contrast, keep blocks of complementary colours larger in both the warp and the weft, so that the eye does not blend them into gray.

Our plaid sample is a great example of this. We have big red squares and big green squares. Where they weave on each other, they look muddy. But because our eye is drawn to the solid square of each colour, we don’t even notice the muddy areas.

Split Complements for Pairing

For a split complement, we first identify the true complement of a colour. Then we select the colours on either side of it to pair with the original colour. For example, the true complement of green is red.

To find the split complement, we look at the colours on either side of red.

If you are looking at one colour family and want to find some nice pairings, split complements always work. They make great zingers, too. Start looking for split complements in nature and you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

Many of the samples in the previous 2 posts use these principles.  Go back and have a look here and here.

So happy to share my approach to colour with you. To explore colour further, I invite you to join the JST Online Guild; our 2018 season focuses on Colour & Design, and you’ll receive immediate access to all published videos when you sign up! Click here to learn more (you’ll also receive our free PDF guide, Project Planning 1010).  Happy Weaving!

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Design for Weavers: Fibonacci & Division of Space

Division of Space In my colour and design workshops, we always look to the world around to gain our initial source of inspiration. Photographs, gardening, travel, and fashion magazines can provide you with images that make your heart sing. I have a huge stash of magazines for students to thumb through, and once they find the right one we get started on the second step of the design process.

It starts with division of space.

The weaver has a canvas in my mind—perhaps a tea towel, blanket, or a scarf. They have already decided what yarns they want to use, what the EPI/PPI is, and the overall size of the canvas. Then they divide up the space on paper.

You can divide a canvas anyway you want, but I usually start with a division of two and build from there. I draw vertical lines first that represent the warp and then I play with horizontal division of space which represents the weft. You can add a frame, you can imagine a darker line or zinger. It’s playtime!

Sketching should be fun, fast, quick. Leave your rulers in the drawer; this isn’t about straight lines.

Our guiding light for division of space is the Fibonacci numeric sequence. Basically, it works like this: Start by counting 1, 2.

1, 2

Now add those together. The sum is your next number: 3.

1, 2, 3

Now just keep going: add the last two numbers in the sequence to get the next number.

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

…until you want to stop. —Sounds a bit contrived, but this sequence underlies some of the most stunning designs in nature—including your own DNA, the spiral formed by the hairs on your head, the leaves of a lettuce, the seeds of a sunflower, and the shell of the nautilus snail.

Now that’s magic in design. And we can leverage that magic to help us make decisions in weaving.

There are so many ways to use this numerical series. My first decision is the big division of space. I can divide the canvas in 2, 3, 5, or whatever number I want.

I use it to help me create striping sequences, like in the example below.

  • 1 end of yellow
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 3 ends of red
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 1 end of yellow

I use it when I’m working with block structures and it helps me create with unit weaves, like in the example below.

  • 2 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 8 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 2 units of A

I use it when I trying to figure out how many inches…..hmmmm,

  • 1” of green
  • 3” of blue
  • 2” of purple
  • 3” of blue
  • 1” of green

The numbers don’t have to be used in sequence. Use them however you want.

I never let it lock me in a corner. Say I have a perfect gradation of 7 reds…..and they all move beautifully into each other, I don’t worry that is isn’t a 5 or an 8. I just put them all together.

But if I can’t decide how wide a border should be, then I trust that it will be either 2”, or 3”, or 5” depending on the width of the entire piece. It gives me peace of mind when I need to make decisions and I don’t get analysis paralysis.

After the initial division of space I think about other words…

  • Framing
  • Zingers
  • Stripes
  • Plaid
  • Checks

I can add any of these things to the big division of space. It is a development.

Look at the photos below and see all the different ways the Fibonacci Numerical series has been used.

Plain Weave: Division of Space in 2 with a black zinger. Weft stripes are 3’s with a little zinger between them.
Plain Weave: Stripes are 2,3,5,3,2. Division of Space in 2 with a border and stripes. Weft colours are 3’s and 1’s in the colour changes.
Log Cabin: 5 Blocks of Log Cabin, 3 grey stripes.
Repp Weave:Asymmetrical Division in 3: Solid Left, Centre developed into 3, Right hand 3 blocks.
Repp Weave: Asymmetrical Division 5: Log Cabin Blocks of 3 and 1, Zingers of 2 and 1.

We go into this in great detail in the JST Online Guild – click here to learn more & download your free Project Planning 101 PDF.

Hope you enjoy Fibonacci. If you liked this post, be sure to save it to Pinterest for future reference!

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Weaving Architecture: Step 1 of the Design Process

I start every Colour and Design Workshop off by explaining to my students that there are hundreds of different ways to tackle the subject of design. Every designer has their own particular way of working, of organizing thoughts, and of bringing ideas to fruition.

All I can do, as a designer and a teacher, is to share my own system. It isn’t necessarily better than any other system. But it works for me, and it seems to provide my students with a good strong solid foundation around the process of designing.

I didn’t always work this way, early on there was a lot of hit and miss. But gradually, I paid attention to things that worked, I analyzed why they work, and I developed my system. I’m still refining it, and hopefully I will be able to work on it until the day I die. I want to weave forever. I will never ever tire of making beautiful simple cloth.

We all have pivotal moments in our lives, and one such pivotal moment for me was having the opportunity to be the Teaching Assistant for Jack Lenor Larson at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1984. Jack and Randall Darwall taught a course called “The Consummate Cloth.”

It turned out to be three weeks of doing nothing but studying sett and finishing our cloth. We wove everything mostly in white yarn and in 2 structures: plain weave and four-shaft twills. We sampled. And sampled. And sampled. And sampled. —And over a three-week period, the 12 students attending created hundreds of samples striving for our teachers’ vision of “the consummate cloth.” Their criteria were simple⎼the end product had to have all of exceptional drape, hand, and bias.

This experience formed the basis of my design process. I break this process down into three main components, which I identify as Architecture, Graphic, and Colour. In today’s post, I’ll start with Architecture. When I think about the architecture of a piece of cloth, I liken it to the architecture of a building.

  • Buildings have good foundations; cloth has hemstitching or a straight header upon which to build.
  • Buildings have studs; cloth has warp threads.
  • Buildings have floors; cloth has weft threads.
  • Buildings have a strong beam structure for exterior walls; cloth has a selvedge.

I build a piece of cloth the way I imagine a carpenter builds a house. And I feel that the most important decision that I make—the very first decision I have to make, right at the outset—is what my ends per inch (epi) are going to be. Ninety percent of what I weave is balanced cloth, because I generally make simple items—scarves, stoles, towels, blankies—things that we can wrap ourselves in. Highly functional and useful. Now, all of these items need to have optimal drape. And what I know is that a 50/50 piece of cloth will have the best drape possible, because it will have perfect bias. (For any newbies out there, a 50/50 cloth has the same number of ends per inch and picks per inch.)

I have spent the last 35 years weaving with many of the same yarns over and over again and I have learned that there is not just one sett for any one yarn even if the structure never changes. For instance, consider the number of setts possible for a 8/2 cotton:

For our visual learners, these photos of finished pieces should give you a better idea of the many possibilities for handwoven cloth:

8/2 cotton warp and weft sett at 22 EPI /22 PPI woven in twill
8/2 cotton sett at 12 EPI woven with boucle cotton at 12 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and weft sett at 18 EPI /18 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 18 EPI/18 PPI woven in Twill….crazy huh!
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 16 EPI/16PPI woven in PW
8/4 cotton warp and 7 gauge bambu weft sett at 36 EPI for Repp Weave and then resleyed and opened up to 12 EPI/ 12 PPI in Plain Weave….two dramatically different fabrics from one yarn.

Two things of note….

  1. We can only weave the open setts if we have great technique and know how to control our beater.
  2. As our sett increases there will come a point when we will no longer be able to weave the cloth balanced no matter how hard we beat because the fabric is heading towards warp-predominance. That’s not a bad thing, and under some circumstances might be just what you’re looking for.

At 40 EPI, 8/2 cotton will be totally warp faced. So if you want to use this yarn to weave Repp….you got it baby! One yarn, many different setts and many different types of fabric. How cool is that! So many possibilities hidden in one yarn and it is knowing how to use your reed that makes it all possible.

I sample in plain weave then twill and finally explore supplementary weft structures.

From this testing, I develop what I call my “canvases”—and once I have those canvases I get to add graphic and colour, which I’ll get into in greater detail on the next blog post. Click here to receive future posts in your inbox so you don’t miss out!

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