I’ve been waffling for the last few weeks over the next warp. My designs are still evolving, which means rapid changes to the required setup. But once your warp is on, you’re committed – for the next few months, until it’s done, that part of the design is fixed. So I have been going around in circles trying to choose my warp.
But at some point, you have to quit waffling and commit. So here are two of my three warps:
The third warp is white, a wool/alpaca mix, but it’s less interesting, so not shown here. (The piece is triple weave – three layers of cloth at once – so I’m using all three warps at once.)
I’m sure you’re shocked, absolutely shocked, by my choice of colors. At some point I will have to move beyond fiery oranges and reds contrasted against deep blues and purples. However, that day is not today, and I’m still enjoying exploring my two favorite color families.
The triple weave warp is 20 yards long, and the two dyed warps are composed of silk, mercerized cotton, and unmercerized cotton. These all take dye slightly differently, so would add subtle color variation in the warp. This almost led to disaster, though. I did an initial sample using red dyes, and liked the results, so I launched into dyeing the full warp. To my horror, one of the yarns did not absorb much dye, and came out as a pale pastel – not so bad in the red warp, but highly visible in the blue warp:
I couldn’t figure it out. Unmercerized cotton sometimes contains waxes that result in poor dye absorption; maybe that was it? I simmered the yarn in hot water, a bit of alkali, and detergent to remove the last of the waxes, soaked it in soda ash again, and dumped a bunch of blue/purple dyes on top. This gave me deep, dark colors – but the pastel shades remained stubbornly pale:
I was ready to throw up my hands in despair. The unmercerized cotton still wasn’t taking dye, even after heavy scouring. I’d have to wind and dye a new warp, substituting a different yarn.
Then I took a closer look and realized that I’d fingered the wrong suspect. Both cotton yarns had dyed beautifully. It was the silk that hadn’t absorbed the color. That was a shock, since I’ve dyed silk quite successfully with fiber-reactive dyes before. However, that suggested a new line of attack, so I said a few Hail Marys and then dumped the entire warp into a blue/purple dyebath – this time using acid dyes, which are designed for protein fibers such as silk and wool.
And it worked! Here is a closer look at the blue warp:
The silk threads look much more harmonious now.
Of course, after three dyebaths and a second scouring, the warp may turn out too tangled to use. But I think there’s hope. We’ll find out once the warp is dry and I can start beaming.
At 20 yards, this warp should be sufficient for the three pieces I’m envisioning, all about bipolar disorder.
Speaking of which, some people have asked if my current artistic focus means that my own bipolar disorder is resurfacing. No fear, it’s completely under control. (Modern medications are wonderful!) My work is born of the conviction that we (as a society) need to talk more about mental illness, so people understand it better. One of my goals, since I have chosen to be “out” about my own experience, is to open up that conversation, both to educate people and to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.
Denice McMechan says
Tien, you are so very amazing in so many, many ways. Thank you for sharing.
Eileen Crawford says
Your comments and willingness to share your personal experience in a public way is inspiring. I share your sentiments. As a registered nurse, I use my voice to express the same sentiments. A cast is easily seen, and attracts empathy. But, mental illness is poorly understood, affects millions of people, and deserves our compassion and research dollars.
You walk with integrity.