Olds Fibre Week 2012 Colour & Design Tea Towel Exchange

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This article was amalgamated from a series of posts on the JST Ravelry Group.

In June 2012, I taught my workshop Colour and Design at Olds College in Alberta.  I had 12 wonderful students who decided to do a tea towel exchange so that they could put into practice some of the theory we learned in the workshop. At the workshop, everyone chose 1 photo for themselves as a source of inspiration.  The challenge was for each weaver to create 2 sets of towels using the same colour palette and inspirational photo.  Each set of towels was to use the idea of graphic in a completely different way.  During the workshop, we broke the design process into 3 separate areas.  Architecture (epi, ppi, weave structure) and then once we had our cloth designed we added graphic division of space and then placed colour within it.  All of the designing was done by sketching and colouring, quickly and freely.  It has to be fun and nothing is written in stone.  I encouraged everyone to do several sketches, it is only through comparison of more than one thing that we see options. Once this process starts no one wants to stop or they can hardly wait to get to the loom.  It also encourages bodies of work.  Sets of towels that were all based on the same inspirational source creates a more wondrous whole.  As they say, the sum is greater than the parts.

Karen Martinowski’s Towels

Her inspiration: Karen made 3 warps.  The first one she interpreted in stripes and checks The next 2 warps used the identical graphic that she created with different colours inserted into each one.  Her graphic was based on dividing her canvas into 3’s and then she added a frame and interior zinger stripes. Her colours are analogous….purples into blues into greens with some white in there, just like in the photo.  Those last 2 towels are a great study in using a dark frame vs a light frame.  The turquoise and the magenta are identical in each towel with only the centre stripe changing from royal to green.  Framing in white is so different than framing in dark.

Elizabeth Thain’ Towels

Here is her inspiration, the noble eagle Elizabeth created 2 canvases…..by the way we all had the same canvas, 2/8 cotton sett at 18 epi, woven at 18 ppi.  This makes for a very absorbent towel.  I know that most sources say the 20 epi and 20 ppi is the recommended sett for 2/8 cotton but most of us who have sett it at 20 epi for plain weave know that you have to beat the living daylights out of it to get 20 ppi which means it isn’t as absorbent as we might like it to be until it has been washed and thrown into the dryer several times.  It eventually softens up but that is because some of the towel is in the lint trap.  Everything you take out of your lint trap has been stripped off your fabric.  Sorry, Elizabeth, I’ve run off on another tangent :^)  Anywhoooo, Elizabeth divided her two canvases two different ways. The first was to divide it into the bold 2 stripes, black and white with a little gold zinger stripe in the centre.  Stunningly simple. All of her towels had different interpretations in the weft.  She divided a couple of them into 2, symmetrically and asymmetrically.  She divided the bottom left into 3’s and the top left, in half and then in half again.  These were all systems that we learned in the workshop. Elizabeths 2nd set of towels divided the warp into 3 stripes with some zingers stripes as accents laid on top of the white with black and between the large stripes with gold.  She then played with many of the same horizontal divisions that she had played with in the first batch.  Brilliant job Elizabeth. Kristin Grant’s Towels

During the workshop, we learned a lot of ways to divide a canvas but the first steps were dividing in 2’s and then in 3’s.  It is so simple and so effective and so powerful.
So now I’ll introduce Kristin Grant and her doughnut photo. Isn’t this fun! Kristin made 3 warps, she is a new weaver and I always encourage new weavers to put on shorter warps for 2 reasons.  The first is that if you put on a really long warp as a beginner, it could take quite a while to weave it off and by the time you put on your next warp you may have forgotten most of what you did the first time.  When I train weavers to work for me, they make many warps in a row, then they dress loom after loom after loom in quick succession.  By the time they do that they can make a warp and dress a loom in their sleep. Then I put the shuttle in their hands.  The 2nd reason is boredom.  If your warp is too long you can lose interest.  If the project comes off quickly there is a much higher chance that they will get right back at it……again off on another tangent. Kristen’s division of space is almost identical to Elizabeth’s, a 2 stripe and a 3 stripe with some accent lines. Her colours are straight out of the photo just like Elizabeth’s were.  Pink and Teal, who would have thought to do that without the photo.  The photo is our muse, it gives us everything we need to create with, all we have to do is find the closest colours.  The towel on the left (the 3 stripe) also uses randomly threaded pinks which adds another dimension. Kristen’s third warp started as an asymmetrical 2 stripe and then the left side was divided in 2….a strong, bold graphic.  She played with her wefts, dividing her wefts symmetrically. This last photo shows 4 towels in a row. Pretty spectacular, don’t you think?
Sheila Grant’s Towels
Up next is Kristen’s lovely mom Sheila Grant.  It is so heartwarming to see our craft being passed down the generations from mother to daughter.  This is a rare occurrence these days but we are having a little rebirth so perhaps it will happen more.  I don’t have a daughter but my eldest son is quite a good weaver and I bought him a loom for his 21st birthday.  It was identical to my first loom. Shelia had a beautiful bold simple photo to work from and she too chooses a 2 stripe and 3 stripe warp to work with.  It is amazing how these 2 simple graphics have produced so many wonderful towels.  The great thing about this is that if I hadn’t been providing the colour commentary throughout, you may not have noticed that so many of them started the same way….you may have just thought, wow what great powerful towels. And here are her 2 pieces.  The one on the left is a very clean 3 stripe with simple accent stripes and the one on the right is a slightly asymmetrical 2 stripe.  Same, same, same.  The big message is you don’t have to change it up all the time, just change your colours, move them around, change the position of a stripe and off you go again. Another trick I shared during the workshop is cropping a piece and repeating it to create your next project.  Below I have cropped 2 snippets from Sheila’s towels and they could become enlarged to create her next towels.  Or she could take those snippets and repeat them using Fibonacci as our muse.  They could be repeated twice, three times, five times and she would have a completely different feel but they would relate back to the originals and would work towards the idea of creating a collection.  You may be thinking of these pieces only as towels, but for me, a towel has always been a woven sketch for a bigger project, a blanket, a section of a scarf, a panel in a curtain, one of ten blankets in a sale :^)
Now if only Charlotte had been here she could have taken those snippets and dropped them into photoshop and copied them beside each other 3 or 5 times and we would have an entirely new graphic.  Alas, she is not, sigh!

Moria Sandberg’s Towels Here is another beautiful set of towels. Doesn’t this make you want summer?  One of the ideas we talked about in the workshop was thinking about our canvas as being one colour…and that becomes the background.  On the background you add your stripes.  Moria Sandberg is the creator of these lovely towels.  Her background was the green from the picture and she overlaid the stripes on top.  The reds move across the green ground in gradation with a little asymmetry thrown in.  Her other towels use the random alternating idea in the reds right smack dab in the centre and then she has framed with the green and orange. Pretty darn striking!

Anna Stolcova’s Towels Some pictures just grab you and just have to do something with them.  Anna Stolcova had such a picture.  I want this in the my garden! Anna played with many ideas in her two warps.  One was based on using the Fibonacci numerical series in increments. The numbers work like this 1+1= 2, 1+2=3, 2+3= 5, 3+5=8, and so on.  You can use this system so many different ways.  As individual threads, in inches, in centimetres or you can multiply by increments of a set number.  The sample we did in the workshop worked on increments of 10 threads.  You have a stripe of 10, then a stripe of 20, then a stripe of 30, then a stripe of 50, 80, 130…..etc. 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55 Fibonacci gives us so much to work with. Anna used this system for her purple inspired towels and then she played with the other divisions in the weft. Anna’s second set was based on the greens from that wisteria photo above, I still want that wisteria! I have laid them on top of her purple set to show you the power of her collection.  If you were facing this collection of towels at a show you would be hard-pressed to choose one over another in which case you would buy 2! Her greens use the 3 stripe division of her canvas, while she played with her wefts dividing up her space.  The centre one has Fibonacci written all over it.  Look at the centre weft 1’s, 2’s and 3’s. These towels are simply stunning!
Michelle Wass’ Towels

Feeling Hungry? Michelle Wass chose this wonderful bowl of soup as her inspiration.  The pomegranate seeds are a wonderful zinger along with the bits of green herb on the golden base.  I love what she did with this photo.  The towels are just as warm and comforting. Her big plaid towel is followed by a striped variation that clearly started as a 3 stripe division of space.  I wish I had taken more close-ups of all of the towels.  Michelle’s stripes have a lot going on in them.  There are the 3 main stripes and within them, there are 3 little red stripes and or either side of the centre reds there are little stripes of gold.  Michelle wove this towel as stripes but you can see by the graphic used in the warp that she could have easily turned it into a fabulous check just by squaring all the stripes.  It is a reminder that a well-designed warp gives us bountiful options in the weft.  A well-designed warp leaves us wanting more when we come to the end.

Janet Pullan’s Towels

Janet Pullan chose this photo of a sunset over the water and did a wonderful job interpreting it 2 ways.

Here is a horizontal view of one of her towels and it really does capture those horizon lines in the photo.  The red stripes on the purple were created using Fibonacci again…1 red, 3 purples, 2 reds, 3 purples, 3 reds, 2 purples, 5 reds, 2 purples, 21 reds in the centre and back out again.  It creates a beautiful feeling of movement.  We could interpret Michelle’s stripes in the previous post the same way.  Turn them horizontally and you get a completely different feel. Imagine a blanket with those lines on it.

Janet presented her towels to the group so beautifully.  She took a photo of both towels together on a black background and then attached that to white card stock, punched a hole in each card and attached them to the towels with a string and safety pin…..it was a lovely touch.  Her 2nd towel was a big happy 3 stripe in oranges and reds with the purple zinger stripes overlaid asymmetrically on the towel.  So much Fun!  It is amazing what you can do with just a few colours.

Kelly Bogle’s Towels Next up is Kelly Bogle. Nice jacket huh!  I just love the retro feel to the colours or at least they seem retro to me. She interpreted the photo in stripes for one towel and a striking asymmetrical 2 stripe division for her 2nd towel. The striped towels are made up of equal-sized stripes in the pale greens framed with a vertical frame of hot pink and teal.  With this type of striped warp imagine what you could also do with all the possible weft variations. I ’m glad we are seeing some stripes, they are so important.  In the towel on the right you see good old Leonardo again (that was Fibonacci’s first name).  Three asymmetrically place stripes made up of 8 threads framed with 2 pink threads on either side.  The large teal sections are actually made up of 3 alternating ends that are close in value which gives those sections greater depth. I have cropped a section of that towel to show you how cropping gives you a graphic for another project.  Imagine a whole towel that is just like that section.  If we squared it napkins would suit that graphic too.  I love these!

Margaret Sharp’s Towels

Margaret Sharp created one set of towels based on a sample that we did in the workshop. It basically divides the canvas yet again in 3’s but those divisions are overlaid with different styles of stripes.  You can have thin stripes, fat stripes and any size in between. You can lay stripes on a solid ground, use stripes for zingers and frames.  You can use Fibonacci to help you decide how many stripes, maybe 1,2,3,5,8 stripes etc.  I personally think that the best place for a stripe is in the warp because it can stay a stripe if that is what you want but when it is in the warp it can also become a check. Margaret’s inspiration was this lovely butterfly above.  Her towels are the same as our sample from the workshop just bigger and she divided her space horizontally in twos.  They are simply lovely.  Life got in the way for Margaret with some serious losses and she was unable to re-interpret her butterfly the 2nd way.  I know she had been thinking of getting those pinks in there with her oranges and hopefully, she will be able to do that soon. and a close up to show how she used the same system that Kelly used by warping with several colours and then threading them alternately to create greater depth. While we are on the subject of stripes I want to show you some of the towels that I brought to the workshop that had been done based on the same idea.  The first towel uses the exact same layout as Margaret’s in reds.  It is a great way to get a sense of graphic design when you are working monochromatically.  There may not be a lot of difference in the colours so mix up how you use them with your stripes. This towel was woven by Victoria Olchowecki from Salt Spring Island. Here is another towel where the canvas is divided in 3 but now the thin stripes are in the centre and the wider stripes are on the edges and the stripes are overlaid on a natural ground.  It is this thought process that I want to get across.  Eileen Pike wove this towel years ago and I helped her imagine a natural coloured ground that we then drew stripes on.  We used up all sorts of small cones of leftover linen from other projects.  We kind of arranged them following the colour wheel as best we could.  Her weft was just the same natural colour as her ground.  Eileen is no longer with us but we actually used up most of her stash in her last years using some of these systems and she created some stunning pieces.

Jane’s Towels

This is the last set of towels.  My source of inspiration came from 2 photos that I cobbled together. My first warp was imagined as a natural canvas with coloured stripes laid on top.  I’m not very good about weaving the same thing over and over but because there was so much colour in the warp I could overlay all the systems that I have talked about in the previous posts.  Every towel was different and each towel suggested what I would do next. The top right and left towels were woven with different background colours….they were the pale yellow from one of the stripes and the pale orange…this made all the other stripes look darker.  Everything else was just playing with division of space.  After a while, I decided I would cut off some edge warps to make the graphic asymmetrical.  I started by just cutting off one outside stripe of white and then I cut off the other side so that I then had a frame of hot pink around the whole towel.  Obviously they are a little narrower but still work great as a hand towel. The top towel shows the missing white stripe on the left.  The bottom towel was woven as a striped fabric with the pale yellow for weft and 1 green stripe right smack dab in the middle and framed with the hot pink on the ends.  Framing gives us a sense of weight on the edges.  I was sorry when this warp ran out because there were so many other things to do with it.  The little piece was the last bit and I wove it with the frame of pink and little pink stripes throughout on a background of natural.  My 2nd warp is so close to Sheila Grant’s….I laughed when I opened her package.  The main difference was that I added a frame to the graphic.  It was an asymmetrical 2 stripe with a zinger stripe and a frame. In the towel on the right above you can see a striping technique that I used in the weft. I alternated 4 threads of pale orange with 4 threads of pale yellow.  Because these two colours are so close in value it creates the effect of little waves.  It is another nice way to add a layer of interest.  We still have the strong asymmetrical graphic, a solid corner in the bottom right, but I got all that dancing light in the big area.  I kept one colour on each side and just carried them up the edge.  Because they were only floating 4 threads it won’t be a problem on the selvedge, it is a design element.  Below is a close-up. To end this portion of the thread I would like to thank you all for reading along and I would especially like to thank the ladies from Olds College who made it all happen.

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