I have started thinking about the fabric for the skirt. It needs to be very, very light, so it flows like fire as the wearer walks. That suggests very fine yarn, like 120/2 silk or maybe the tram silk I bought from John Marshall. Looking at the Fine Threads Study Group samples I’ve amassed over the years, and at my own samples, it seems that plain weave or a plain weave variant is the best way to go. Plain weave is considerably thinner than twill, and is beautifully floaty.
I also want more interesting patterning than plain weave. I believe a piece should offer something to the viewer at all distances. From thirty feet away, what you see is color, shape, and movement; at ten feet, you can make out details of the garment; and standing up close, you can see the details of the handwoven fabric. Plain weave can produce beautiful iridescence, but I want a little more than that in the skirt.
At the same time, I want the patterning to be quite subtle, so it doesn’t call attention to itself at the expense of the flames and the color transitions. It is not the main character, it is a bit character in the supporting cast. So I want it to be more or less invisible (except as a tiny bit of visual texture) from more than five feet away. It should reward the close-up viewer, but not interfere with the enjoyment of the ten-foot viewer.
I am still experimenting with structures, but I am increasingly liking the idea of shadow weave. Woven with colors relatively close to each other, and in fine threads, it should produce just the subtle pattern I’m looking for. I created a quick example this morning, in about five minutes. Here it is, in yellow/orange (top of the flames) and in red/black (bottom of the flames). I really, really like the way it flows, just like fire, and the subtle movement it adds to the fabric.
But that is not the only possibility. My friend Sandra sent me a most intriguing draft – it’s a crackle threading woven as lace, and is beautiful as well. I want to experiment more with this structure before choosing a draft to sample.
Designing the cloth – I will probably want to weave it about 30″ wide, and cut it on the bias to reduce raveling. This means that design lines should probably run diagonally in the cloth, so they appear more or less vertical after the cloth is cut on the bias. That will let it run up the flames so they don’t look like a men’s necktie.
The plan is to create a more carefully designed draft, and start with a 12″ wide sample at about 80 ends per inch. That is 960 threads, a manageable number, and will give me practice in setting up a warp in 120/2 silk. After I determine whether it will work, I can move on to adding color and width for the final yardage. I plan to weave about 6 yards, 30″ wide, which should be more than enough to do the flames.
That, however, will have to wait for a few weeks. I still need to finish getting the fly shuttle onto the loom and to install the auto-advance; after that I need to weave a few more yards on the color study warp to make sure I have everything adjusted properly. Then I can cut it off and start on my sample.
Meanwhile, of course, there are the feline “helpers”. I was getting ready to cut some china silk for more experiments, and left the room for some reason. When I got back, someone had tunneled between the layers of cloth, giving me this utterly adorable sight:
She loves tunneling under the sheets on the bed, too, but that’s somewhat less adorable. Especially when she does it at three in the morning and then starts pouncing on your feet! But we love her anyway.
You might want to look at the work of Hillary Steel. She has used shadow weave as the basis for some wonderful textiles, especially working with dyes, resists, and discharge. Hillary lives in Maryland, so next time you come east to visit your mom, you might want to consider setting up a time to visit her studio. She’s also a very nice person.
Tien Chiu says
Thanks Ruth! I think I will try to get in touch with her, next time I’m in town.
The shadow weave is an amazing choice for this!!