The tencel warp is drawing to a close – I’m guessing there’s only another yard or two that can be woven – and I am starting to think about what comes next. I want to do more work with the “Autumn Splendor” theme – developing the concept into something more concrete, something I can actually embody. Right now I have a vision of falling maple leaves, glimpses of gold glitter, and brocade over flowing silk. I have to figure out how to transform that into something I can actually make.
One of the ideas I have been playing with is the transient nature of autumn. As a child, I was fascinated by the leaf bookmarks that my parents would bring home from Taiwan – leaves treated with acid to burn away the soft parts, leaving only the spidery, skeletal veins. It reminded me a little of the decorations people put up around Halloween – except this was a skeleton leaf, not a skeleton person. Same thing: beauty in transience, delicacy in death’s remnants.
So I really liked the idea of “ghost leaves”, skeletal remnants of a woven design suggesting a leaf.
Skeletal remnants of a woven design, of course, leads directly to devorÃ©, a technique in which the cellulose components of a fabric are “burned out”, usually with sodium bisulfate, leaving only the protein/synthetic components. It’s frequently used with silk/rayon velvet, burning out the rayon pile in patterns while leaving the silk “backing” intact. Anne Field has written a book on devorÃ© for weavers and knitters, which was really helpful, and Holly Brackmann has done considerable work with devorÃ© in handweaving, plus written a book on surface design techniques. She was gracious enough to give me some advice.
Based on that I’ve decided to try using cotton-wrapped polyester thread to make my “skeletal leaves”. It’s apt to be stronger and finer once burned out than a blended yarn, and because the yarn stays intact, it won’t produce a ragged edge in the burnout areas.
The ideas that I am gradually developing, if I had to put them in words, would be:
- beauty in death/transformation
- the ghostly “veil” between worlds
- secrets revealed when covering is burned away
And here, plucked from my Evernote notebook, is what I am envisioning:
Something fancy using devore and double weave – for example, a rusty orange-and-metallic gold backing layer (in silk or another protein fiber), with a black layer on top of that. Weave the top layer (black) in a cotton-covered polyester yarn. Burn out the cellulose content to reveal the double weave layer underneath. Could get some interesting leaves that way!
I’ve spent some time the last few days contemplating how exactly I would achieve that, and came up with some more scribbled plans in Evernote:
Description for sample:
- Basic cloth is stitched doubleweave:
- top layer:
- warp: deep brown cotton-wrapped polyester, dyed before weaving.
- weft: medium (warm) brown cotton-wrapped polyester, dyed before weaving. Possibly space-dyed for very minor color variegation, possibly not.
- Structure: network drafted with long curvy lines, reminiscent of a leaf’s path as it falls.
- bottom layer:
- warp: white 60/2 silk.
- weft: pre-dyed rusty brown 2/60 nm wool, stranded with metallic gold weft. Or maybe just a metallic gold weft, need to experiment.
- Structure: unknown. Something that would go well with maple leaf design.
- Treatment post-weaving:
- Simultaneously devorÃ© and dye remaining polyester on top layer:
- Mix disperse dyes with burnout compound, two or more colors
- Paint or stencil onto top layer (doesn’t matter if it gets on bottom layer) in maple-leaf shape
- Iron to burn out cotton and dye polyester. This reveals the bottom fabric.
- Dye bottom layer:
- Use fiber-reactive dyes to dye the silk in colors that will contrast with the solid rust brown weft: brilliant red, golden yellow, etc. This will also dye the top layer but, because the top layer is dark already, it shouldn’t result in much more than a little bit of visual texture.
- It may make sense to predye the warp a base color (golden yellow?) and then do a scrunch-dye (or stitched shibori) with tightly bound fabric, to produce sharp lines – reminiscent of veins in maple leaves.
I’ve since sketched out the ingredients needed for this witches’ brew in my notebook, and drawn up a list of the steps required. It will take considerable time to create and experiment with the samples, but I think the end results will be pleasing.
I won’t be able to get started on this, of course, until I actually get some polyester/cotton thread to work with. So this weekend will be a relatively quiet one – finish weaving off the tencel warp, sew the label into Kodachrome, write a promised article for Complex Weavers Journal, and review some DVDs from Interweave Press. And start designing the draft for the devorÃ© doubleweave, of course!