Peg wrote (in a comment):
Is it necessary for the stripes to be the same width, either narrow or wide? Is it necessary for the stripes and the lengthwise design to fall together? Is it necessary for the length of each the colors be the same? What I see is just plain boring, and you are not boring”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦..
Good points. However, there are quite a few design constraints on this particular piece that, together, constrict the possibilities a lot. I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the design thoughts going through my head on this particular piece, so here are the constraints, explicitly stated:
- Must look good on the runway as well as up close.
- Must be easy to weave and to sew; a novice to intermediate weaver/seamstress should be able to handle it.
- No complicated equipment; eight shafts or less.
- No yarn that is not commercially available.
- Must be woven, sewn, etc. – at least enough to photograph – in 10 weeks (entry deadline April 1).
- Can be reproduced exactly (or close to exactly) as it appears in the photo.
- Can be clearly explained, well enough that a novice weaver can do it, in 3-4 magazine pages or less.
The last item, of course, is the real kicker. I have 3-4 magazine pages in which to explain the entire process of creating this piece. This basically means that I can only do one fancy thing; if I do two things that are complicated I’ll never fit the directions into 3 pages (most of which, let’s remember, are either ads or photos). I’ll also make it too hard for a Handwoven reader to reproduce (please recall that Handwoven is targeted mostly at the novice/intermediate weaver).
So I get to do one fancy thing. What can it be? Well, if you are talking about a handwoven runway garment, that one thing is COLOR. The reasoning is pretty simple. Beautiful as handwoven patterns are, they are essentially invisible from more than ten feet away. Color and garment design are all you see on the runway.
(I noticed that at Convergence; there were lots of beautiful handwoven garments that got passed over basically because the patterns were too subtle to show up on the runway. I do not believe it was coincidence that a surface design garment won the top prize – handwoven fabrics are beautiful, but by and large need to be viewed close up to really catch the eye. And I like fine weaving, which does even worse at a distance.)
So it’s basically color and garment design. I can’t fiddle with the garment design because drafting a fancy sewing pattern would be totally unexplainable in the space allotted. To fit the parameters, it pretty much has to be a straight-up commercial pattern with no design alterations. So the one unique thing I can do that will play out nicely on the runway is color.
Now, what to do with color? You can do stripes, or plaids, or complex designs, but again, you have to explain it in 3 pages or less. The most complex-looking simple thing you can do with color is to paint the warp. But then you have to include explicit instructions on how to paint the warp to get exactly the look of the garment in the photo. (I have written a couple of essays about why trying to reproduce someone else’s work exactly is a bad idea for your own creative development – see here and here, for example – but since the whole raison d’etre of Handwoven Magazine is to provide projects for people to reproduce, them’s the rules. Whether I should really be contributing to a magazine that encourages people to do things that I think will eventually stunt their creative life is, of course, an interesting question, but alas, the proof is too long to fit in this margin, so I will have to leave that as an exercise for future generations.)
Anyhow – instructions on warp painting are not that hard to write up, but I want to do something more complex than a simple painted warp with a single “run” of colors. Now I run across two constraints: first, however I combine the painted bouts of warp, it has to be simple enough to explain to the reader in just a few sentences. Second, it has to be something I can weave up easily using my equipment. This is significant because I have no warping board, only an AVL warping wheel, which is mostly used for sectional beaming. Since I’ve got a total of 10 weeks to design, weave, and sew this garment, I don’t have much time to spend on developing and refining new techniques. So, for various reasons, I’d prefer a warp that I can beam on sectionally. That means 1-2″ stripes.
I could get fancy and do stuff like alternating threads from two bouts. That type of approach can produce utterly gorgeous work – see master weaver Inge Dam’s lovely gallery here, especially this photo! However…I’d have to figure out how to do the sequencing while beaming on sectionally, which would be complex, time-consuming, and error-prone. Also harder to explain to the reader. So I am focusing on stripes composed of a single bout.
There are still some more design considerations. I could make the stripes irregular by making some of them 1″, some of them 2″, and so on, irregularly across the width of the fabric. That would make the fabric more interesting, but would also make sewing up an attractive garment considerably more difficult, especially if you wanted it to coordinate at the seams. Not that it has to coordinate at the seams – but again, adds to the complexity of the design and sewing, makes it more error-prone, and takes up time to design. Simpler just to make the stripes regular and more symmetric.
Two more thoughts and I’m done:
First, the color and repetition. Color is largely dictated by what I’ve got available, as I don’t have time to do extensive dye sampling, and/or order more dyes. The three colors I was planning on – fuchsia, gold, and turquoise – make pleasant combinations (I know that from prior samples) and can be mixed in very simple ways to give bright orange, purple, and green. Mixing up more complex hues (moss green for example) would be beyond what I could explain in a magazine article, and I don’t have time to order in a stock of premixed (commercially available) colors. So bright primary and secondary colors will be my colors.
I want a regular repetition of color for two reasons. First, it is much easier to explain: “paint two inches of yellow followed by two inches of orange followed by two inches of fuchsia” is much simpler than giving instructions for an irregular distribution of color. Second, it is much more reproducible – if I used a random order (which would be much more fun) – it would be impossible to reproduce.
Second, weave structure. Why do a complicated advancing twill? Why not let the warps shine by using plain weave? I don’t have a good answer to this besides that I like the complex pattern better. I like to do pieces that reward the close-up viewer as well as the viewer 15 feet away. And I like complex patterns. This is about the only design choice that is total artist whim. 🙂
Anyway, this has been a looooong blog post, and perhaps I’ve tried your patience – but I hope it’s made some of my creative thought process clearer. There really are a lot of constraints on this piece – I would have expected that to be frustrating! But in fact it’s proving quite interesting, as it is really forcing me to think about design, and why I’m making the choices I do!