Category Archives: Project 9 – Woven Structures

Project 9 – Stage 4 – Developing design ideas into weaving

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For this Stage we are offered a choice of ways to approach producing a final weaving sample.   Sample 1 suggests using a source image and producing a striped sample.  Sample 2 suggests an intuitive approach using a word as inspiration.  I found earlier work using words to suggest a mood very challenging so I decided to opt for Sample 1 – I know I could attempt both but, as always, I am pressed for time.

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I chose this sketch I made in pastels (click on the image to enlarge), inspired by greetings card – bottom left which is a photograph by Steve Lovi.  (Incidentally, I remember Lovi’s images being very popular back in the 1980s and he was the photographer for many of Kafe Fassett’s colourful books on embroidery and knitting but when I just tried to Google him, very little information seems to be available.)   The colours in this image are very Spring-like and I especially love the Primulas.  Once I started looking for yarns to use in my card wrap I realised that both the original image and my sketch lack texture – the overall impression is quite flat.  I decided to try to reproduce the shapes of the flowers in my woven piece by using the uncut Ghiordes knot to make loops.  I have used a combination of woollen, cotton, acrylic and silk fibres for this sample.

I reproduced the blocks of colour from my yarn wrap in coloured pencil on some squared paper and I used a scaled up photocopy of this to act as a cartoon whilst weaving, just to give me a guide for the colour changes.

I found that I experimented with techniques as I wove.  This is not difficult on a small scale piece like this but I can imagine that it would not be practical when planning a larger project.  I did need to double up quite a few of the chosen yarns just to get some more texture in to the sample.  Also this helped with producing blends of colour that more nearly matched my original image.  Along with the uncut Ghiordes knots I used Soumak and wove some rows with two colours to produce the checks and dots in some blocks, just to introduce some more interest and echo a little of the patterning on the plate in the background of the source image.  DSC_0155

I think using the uncut Ghiordes knot to make large and smaller loops to imitate the flowers in the original image has worked quite well but I should have woven some rows less densely to help the loops to separate better.  I wove some rows, the pale mint green and the darker green blocks, by staggering Soumak with gaps in between and this worked very well to improve on the texture of the piece.

End of Project Notes

* Did you have enough variety in your collection of yarns and other materials?  Which kind of yarns, etc., did you use most?  How do their characteristics affect the look and feel of each sample?

I definitely had lots of yarns, cords, fabric and other materials to choose from for this project.  I found that I used more knitting and tapestry yarns than anything else as I had these in a wider variety of colours.  Also, anything finer like embroidery flosses or even sewing threads would have disappeared using the scale of sample we were working on.  Also, anything too chunky would have dominated the pieces.  Obviously you have to work within a range that suits the loom you are using and the scale of the finished piece.  I enjoyed working with other materials such as fabric strips, wires and plastic bag strips and would like to do some more work using recycled materials.  I have done some willow basket weaving in the past and had a go at making a vessel by weaving strips of corrugated card.  This is fun and grows quickly but you need to learn new techniques to stabilise the work whilst you are building it as the weaving materials are a lot less easy to manipulate than using yarns on a loom.

Using wools and cottons gives a soft finish, the wools being a little more textured and hairy and the cottons being smoother, sometimes shinier and more uniform in appearance.  Also, using cottons and wools is very traditional and recognisable as a tapestry but when paper, foil, wire, plastic, etc. are used there is a lot more texture and unusual effects are produced so this gives more possibility for experimentation.

* How did you find weaving in comparison to the other techniques you have tried?  Did you find it slow or too limiting?

I found weaving just as fun as the other techniques we have used through this module, apart from perhaps embroidery which was my least favourite.  I find I am drawn to the more constructional techniques, like weaving, knitting and even applique.  Weaving is not too slow.  I suppose it depends on the size of project and the materials.  I did find having my little “toy” loom very useful and this definitely sped the process up, as I had hoped.  As for limiting, again, that would depend on the size and aim of the project.  For the purpose of sampling and learning new techniques this process was fine.  Obviously, there are limits with regards to the 2-dimensional construction of weaving.  But this is usually overcome by making up sections and joining them later to produce different shapes.

* How do you feel about your finished sample?  Are you happy with the relationship of the textures, proportions, colour and pattern to the finished size?  Is there any part that you would want to change?  If so, try to identify exactly how and why you would change it. 

I am quite happy with my final finished sample.  I was able to introduce some texture that seemed to be lacking from my perception of the overall look of the original source image by using Ghiordes knots and Soumak, along with the colour work.  I think the proportions of colour are pretty good and that there is a good balance between the size of the finished piece and what is happening within it.  As I mentioned earlier, I could have used the Ghiordes loops a little more sparingly in places, to emphasise the circular shapes.

* Was there any stage in the whole design process that you felt went wrong?  How would you tackle this process differently another time?

I don’t think there was anything glaringly wrong with the sample, although I am still not very good at keeping an even width to my weaving.  The design process itself was pretty straightforward.  My colour block diagram could have been better but I didn’t have a very good selection of coloured pencils and had to try and convey the colours using a combination of coloured stripes.

* Which did you enjoy more – working from the source material or putting colours together intuitively?  Why?

I have only completed Sample 1, rather than both of the samples.  As I mentioned earlier, I was not confident about putting something together using words to convey a mood.  This is obviously something I need to work on in the future.

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Project 9 – Stage 3 – Experimenting with different materials

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In this exercise we are asked to work freely and try out different materials in a new woven sample.  I chose to use a range of fibres and other materials from my “yellow” colour box.  This includes natural colours as well as brights.

DSC_0044I warped up with the same dish cloth cotton as before and wove a few rows in some tapestry wool.  To start I experimented with soumak using some chunky hemp string then went on to use some plastic gift wrap string – the type that you can unwind to make big bows.  I flattened it out a bit before weaving and it looked good on the loom but after it was released from the tension of the loom the plastic looks like it is trying to curl up again, an interesting effect in itself.

I then went back to some more soumak using some yellow sisal string which is stiff so loops quite loosely around the warp threads.  I should try again with something even more stiff to see the effect that gives.  Then I tried again with the thick hemp string to experiment with a darker and lighter background.  The chunky string obsures the plain rows a lot but the different coloured backgrounds give a subtle effect.  More experimentation needed again here.

DSC_0045Here I have tried some more curved shapes using a variety of materials including sari silk waste yarn on the bottom left, orange plastic fruit nets making the thick orange lines, yellow fruit nets making the yellow area to the right, gold chenille yarn on the left and some strips of plastic carrier bag, kept flat whilst weaving, making the light area at the top of the image.

DSC_0046In this section I have combined the plastic carrier bag strips with some variegated woollen yarn in the same pick which makes an interesting dotty line texture.

DSC_0047Here I just had a bit of fun with strips of Tunnocks Caramel wafer biscuit wrapper which I had heated previously with an iron giving the bobbly texture.  It works well for a novelty image but the plastic is quite fragile in the narrower strips.  Also, because of the nature of the image you have to leave the ends free at the selvedge so I had to use some sticky tape across the back to stop them falling off the edge of the warp.  If you wanted to see more of the original image you could use a Nylon thread for a warp instead.

DSC_0048For these rows I have combined materials within the picks, using strips of knit fabrics along with woollen yarns.  Plain yellow shetland wool sweater with some brown chunky wool that has coloured slubs to the bottom of the image.  Then some 1960s Nylon jersey in a gold and tan print is combined with some red/brown wool. Finally I cut inch wide strips of a black and gold lame jersey fabric and stretched them out a bit.  The strips start to curl when stretched and I layed some pure undyed wool pencil rovings inside the curl and wove these.  The effect is interesting but I didn’t have enough space to weave many rows.

DSC_0049Here I have used Ghiordes knots to weave some strips of yellow jersey lycra fabric which gives a good shaggy effect and between the knotted rows I wove a couple of plain rows using strips of cream coloured tights.  Finally I combined a variety of cream and yellow woollen threads for a couple more rows of Ghiordes knots and finished with some plain weave rows of cream silk threads.

In between experimenting with different effects I have woven some plain rows using natural raffia and hessian threads which seem to work well.  I also like the effect made on the back of the work by the soumak, it is like short vertical lines and might come in useful later.

Project 9 – Woven structures – Stages 1 & 2

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Stage 1 Preparation

I had done a little weaving during my previous college course and when I was making an initial scan of this section I looked at the weaving frame and thought that with this method, as you get to the top of the frame it will get more and more difficult to make the shed in the warp.  I had the idea of getting hold of a small “toy” loom which had a heddle to lift the warp threads and that I could use long enough warp threads so that I wouldn’t have to warp up too many times.  I also thought it would help speed the process up a little and I am always on the look out for labour saving ideas!  I discussed this with my tutor and she was happy for me to use this tool and showed me a children’s loom she found in a charity shop.

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I managed to find a nice little vintage Spears weaving loom on eBay and decided to go with that rather than a new one which would have been a little more expensive in the end.  It is in very good condition, apart from a slightly warped heddle but it does the job.  It came with 3 shuttle sticks which helps a lot too.

I am not sure what cotton warp yarn is like and when I went looking for it online it seemed quite expensive.  I used a dishcloth cotton yarn in the end as I thought it would be fine here where I was only making a small sample and it would not get too worn through the heddle.

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I used my desk legs as a warping frame and managed to warp up, although I found it difficult to tension evenly.

Stage 2 Basic tapestry weaving techniques

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This photograph shows my first few inches using some Jamieson & Son shetland yarn (dark green), some cotton knitting yarn (blue/green) and some of the woollen yarn that was in the box with the loom (green, red and blue), possibly part of the original kit.

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I continued with the suggested colour change patterns and would like to experiment more with this.  I used some chenille yarn and some different types of cotton yarns to see the effect.

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I continued with some rows trying out the curved or eccentric weft technique and would like to try some more making larger areas and using more chunky yarns.  I used some quite fine woollen boucle and silk yarns, along with some cotton yarn for some of this area and then tried using plastic fruit nets which worked quite well and gave a very shaggy result.  There is some narrow green ribbon in here as well to try and fill the gap to straighten the line of the weft for the next stage.  Also I would like to see the effect of using an outline colour around the shape.

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I next tried the soumak technique which I found quite soothing in it’s repetition.  Here I have used one type of wool blend chunky knitting yarn so that you can see the subtle ridge effect made by the knot.  I placed the rows such that it made the line look like arrows going one way and then after a few plain rows I did some more soumak to give the impression of the arrows pointing in the opposite direction.  With the last row I was using a double weft which raises the surface a little more again.  I found with the soumak weaving that the weft that remains to be woven seems to wind it self up very tightly.

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The Ghiordes or Turkish knot is something that I have wondered about before, having looked at the production of traditional Flokati rugs from Greece and not been quite sure how it worked.  I wove a portion using woollen knitting yarn of several cut strands which produced a thick pile.

ghiordes 2I then tried a row with slightly finer yarn, mixing a yellow synthetic and another orange woollen cut yarn together.

ghiordes contI then took the fine orange yarn and tried it using the continuous method.  This, I believe is the technique that is used in the Flokati rugs which, once felted, results in the distinctive shaggy pile.

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The final portion of this sample is made up of more experimentation with different yarns using soumak and plain weave.  Materials include chunky chenille and  eyelash knitting yarn, a cotton yarn similar to that used in fine decorative crochet, silk handkerchief fabric, synthetic raffia, old tights and some printed cotton fabric.  The chenille soumak section is interesting as I used a woollen yarn in a darker colour which shows through the gaps -another area to experiment with.