Tag Archives: Weaving

Stroud International Textiles and Site Festival May 2013


Recently a fellow OCA Textiles student and I visited Stroud to take a look at some of the exhibitions and open studios during Stroud International Textiles Spring Select.

I left my camera-phone in the car.   Major fail.  Typical.

However, that did not prevent us from having a great time looking at some wonderful textile and art work.

First stop was Stroud College where the SIT weaving symposium was in full swing in one of the lecture rooms.  We had a look at the books for sale in the foyer and I have now put Hand Stitch, Perspectives by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating on my Amazon wishlist.  Also on display here was a small collection of very well executed recent work by fashion and textiles students at the college.

We then went along to the Museum in the Park where we found:

  • tapestries by Hillu Liebelt – my favorite was Chasing the Summer (2011), a bold, blue and red, large, horizontal panel in silk, rayon, cotton and bamboo fibre.
  • a hand dyed and woven paper piece specially commissioned for the site by Japanese artist Seiko Kinoshita English Summer Fields Soundscape: Sound of weaving.
  • Mother Love by Ingrid Hesling and Jenni Dutton – two artists’ interpretations of the relationships between mother and daughter using traditional techniques in an unusual way.  Jenni Dutton was observing her mother over the time she was suffering with dementia and produced The Dementia Darnings, a series of large portraits of her mother, some reproduced from family photographs and all made using tapestry wool and other yarns through fine net fabric.  Close up you can see how the artist has blended the yarns to produce the required colours, very similar to the work of Cayce Zavaglia who uses stitch in a painterly way.  Ingrid Hesling’s work A Stitch in Time incorporates embroidery on vintage linens that the artist found after the death of her mother.  She explores her complicated and sometimes difficult relationship with her mother in a series of embroideries that also incorporate photographic images.

Brunel Broderers exhibition Suited was at the Lansdown Hall and Gallery.  Hobbs tailors abandoned their shop some years ago and then recently offered access to the Broderers who used the fabrics, haberdashery and notions to inspire their work for this show.  Tailoring techniques and luxury woollen and silk fabrics are used in novel ways.  Of particular interest to me were the artist’s sketchbooks which are available for visitors to view.

We went on to look around the Studio Seven textile workshop at Stroud Valleys Artspace open studios where we found work by Francesca Chalk, Sarah Jenner, Anne Rogers, Kathryn Clarke, Corinne Hockley, Jenny Bicat and Liz Lippiatt.  I especially enjoyed Corinne Hockley’s theatrical costume pieces and the gorgeously coloured devore prints by Liz Lippiatt.  Also at SVA we saw Zoe Heath‘s beautiful, intricate books and small scale artworks made from found objects.

Later we found ourselves at The Weaving Shed where Sally Hampson, artist and weaver occupies a disused shop in Stroud High Street, a residency assisted by SVA, and engages with visitors in the process of weaving.  Looms are available ready set up for introduction to weaving workshops where students learn to experiment with techniques, yarns and fabrics.

On the way home we stopped off at Frogmarsh Mill in South Woodchester where more artists work was on display as part of the open studios event.  Cleo Mussi‘s colourful and quirky mosaics feature old ceramics and found objects to make wall plaques.  We also saw Fiona Hesketh’s delicate jewellery, Annie Hewitt’s glowing cobalt decorated earthenware tableware and Jacqueline Kroft’s fair trade hand knitted clothing.  Finally we chatted with Jennifer Whiskerd, artist and printmaker who has also been an OCA tutor, and enjoyed looking at her woodcut prints based on the antics of the local wildlife.


Project 9 – Stage 4 – Developing design ideas into weaving


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.


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.

Project 9 – Stage 3 – Experimenting with different materials


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.

Assignment 4 – recommended reading and an interesting film


To anyone who borrows from the Libraries West consortium, I apologise for hogging the following books recommended from the course reading list for a long time.  Sorry, but they were too good not to get the most out of before I took them back.

Structure and Surface – Contemporary Japanese Textiles, McCarty & McQuaid is a beautiful book published to complement the exhibition of textiles jointly arranged by The Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Saint Louis Art Museum in 1999.  I had requested this book from the library whilst I was making samples for Assignment 3 but it didn’t arrive until after I had finished that section but it is definitely worth a look.  It is full of photographs of contemporary Japanese textiles that use novel and innovative processes, combining modern industrial techniques with handwork.  The designer Issey Miyake is featured, alongside the Nuno Corporation and many others.  There is a history of textile production in Japan and information on the designer’s inspiration.  The book cover itself is made of a very beautiful dyed and heat-treated fabric which has been creased and pressed to look like golden bamboo or willow leaves on a brown background.  Inspirational.

The Yarn Book – how to understand, design and use yarn by Penny Walsh is a really well thought out and detailed text book for textile artists.  I was impressed by the amount of information in this little book.  There are lots of colour photographs and line diagrams to illustrate each section.  The book covers everthing from the history of textile production, materials, techniques, fabrics and yarns, including a useful glossary of types of fabric and details of suppliers and places of interest at the back.  The book does go in to a good deal of detail on spinning – s-twist and z-twist, etc which would be very useful to anyone beginning to spin yarn seriously.  Highly recommended.

Tapestry Weaving – a Comprehensive Study Guide by Nancy Harvey is a classic text book for the practical study of weaving that would be ideal for the beginner weaver.  I have to admit that I did not get beyond the first couple of chapters as I felt that it would probably be more useful if I were required to go in to weaving in more detail at a later stage.  The samples we have been asked to make for Assignment 4 were using very simple equipment and techniques so I wanted to make the most of my time and left this book to one side.

Three-dimensional Textiles with coils, loops, knots and nets by Ruth Lee is a fabulous book crammed full of ideas for creating textiles with form and body using a range of materials and techniques gleaned from traditional basketry, knotting and net-making.  Again, this book is full of colour photography and good explanantions of how to reproduce the techniques used.  This is a book I would like to get for my own shelf as it is brimmiing with inspiration.  I still haven’t tried making cords using yarn and a zig-zag stitch in a complementary or contrasting thread.  So simple and yet so effective.

Finally, I requested Kim Tittichai’s book Experimental Textiles – a journey through design, interpretation and inspiration while I was working on the last assignment and it also arrived late.  It is not on the suggested book list but I think it should be.  Kim taught a popular course, Experimental Textiles, in the south of England for many years, offering students all the basic skills and encouragement to develop and work independently as textile artists.  The book goes through the stages of developing ideas and designs, colour and dimension, through interpretation and where to find inspiration.  The book is full of photographs of other artists’s work and how they developed their designs which is very useful.

I visited Coldharbour Mill in Uffculme, Devon a couple of years ago with the West of England Costume Society.  There is now a really useful video on their YouTube channel which complements The Yarn Book showing spinning at the mill on an industrial scale.

A Weaverly Path – Silvia Heyden


Selvedge magazine popped this up on my Facebook newsfeed today.  Silvia Heyden is a Swiss-born tapestry weaver who is inspired for her designs by the Eno River in Durham, North Carolina where she now lives.  A Weaverly Path is a film by Kenny Dalsheimer showing the artist during a year of weaving and reflection.  I would love to see the whole film, but here is a link to a trailer.

image from tyndallgalleries.com

I have Googled her work briefly and love the natural shapes and colours that she uses in these pieces.  Inspirational.