I’ve wanted to weave velvet for years. I fell in love with it when I took Barbara Setsu-Pickett’s velvet class at Convergence, back in 2018, where I wove this spiffy sample:
The sample shows a few of the things that can be done with velvet: cut loops, uncut loops, tall pile, short pile, different fibers (orange rayon embroidery thread center, cotton in the purple and green sections), etc. (It was also a ton of fun to weave!)
However, on my return home, I was daunted by the equipment requirements, especially for the number of velvet pile warps needed for weaving on the jacquard loom. I also emphatically did not have space for a velvet cantra (the frame that holds the bobbins for the pile warps) in the garage. Nor did I have the time to study velvet or set up the loom.
But times change. This time the catalyst was selling Maryam. Yep, I’m down to “just” one TC-2. I hadn’t used Maryam pretty much since I got her, and she was taking up a LOT of space in the garage. I had bought her because I thought you could only do one project at a time on the jacquard loom, in which case two looms made sense so I could weave samples on one loom and a personal project on the other.
However, I discovered that you can have multiple projects on one TC-2! You can’t do that on a wooden loom (because the wood will flex, you always want to center your warp), but the TC-2 has steel beams that won’t deflect at all if the warp is beamed to one side. Since my loom is three modules wide, that means I can potentially have three different projects on the same loom, as long as I don’t mind weaving relatively narrow (14.5 inch in the reed) projects (and purchasing some extra warp beams).
That means I can weave velvet, samples, and another personal project and switch between them, quickly and easily, on just one jacquard loom.
So I had been considering selling Maryam for a while, but wasn’t willing to put forth the effort to make it happen. Then I was contacted by a textiles professor at University of Georgia who was seeking a used TC-2 for his lab. We struck a deal, and Maryam left for her new home three days ago. Here’s a pic of her as she was loaded into the truck, headed for her new home:
I’m pretty sure she’ll be well-treated there. The plan is to use her to weave electronic textiles, which sounds much more interesting for her than sitting around in my garage.
Anyway, Maryam’s departure freed up a tremendous amount of space in the garage, including space for that velvet cantra.
So I’m back to working on velvet. The design possibilities are AMAZING. Even with solid velvet in a single color (which can be woven on a 4-shaft loom!), there are so many design choices:
- cut vs. uncut loops – the uncut loops are typically much lighter and more lustrous than cut ends, though it depends on the fiber
- Pile fiber (silk is shiny where it’s uncut, but is much darker and plush when cut; linen produces a stiff pile; unmercerized cotton produces a matte pile)
- height of pile – shorter pile tends to produce a plusher result, while taller pile stands, well, taller; you can outline tall pile with a border of shorter pile, etc.
You can also do velvet where the pile appears in some places but not others, creating figured or voided velvet. You can cover the “blank” (non-pile) areas with brocading weft or another layer of cloth in a different weave structure.
And then if you want to get even fancier, you can do polychrome velvet, and have two or more pile warps going simultaneously. Then you have four options for design: no pile warp up, Color A up, Color B up, and both Colors A and Color B up. This allows you to do designs in Color A, Color B, AND the blends between them. The possibilities are endless.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Wendy Landry yesterday. She wrote the definitive book on velvet, Velvet on My Mind, Velvet on my Loom – and patiently answered all of my zillion questions. I have another friend who’s good at woodworking, and who will help me build the velvet cantra. I am also armed and dangerous with five hundred Style M bobbins (meant for sewing machines, but good for velvet pile, too), an automatic sewing-machine-bobbin winder, and one hundred sixty-two 5500-yard cones of rayon embroidery thread (mostly full) in 97 colors. This is going to be FUN!
The current plan is to weave velvet at a density of 90 ends per inch, using 20/2 mercerized cotton for the foundation warp, and putting on a polychrome (two sets of colors) pile warp. One of the polychrome pile warps will be solid black, 60/2 silk; the other will be a symmetric color gradient in shimmering rayon machine embroidery thread. That should allow me to create a nearly infinite array of designs.
Because I’m weaving only 14.5 inches wide, I’ll have to put on “only” 1,320 warp threads. That’s a lot, but not infeasible. I’m really looking forward to this project, and have already started winding the warp for the foundation cloth.
Meanwhile, I have been keeping up with the powerlifting. We recently tested my max lifts, and I’m pleased to say that I can now:
squat 305 pounds:
deadlift 315 pounds:
and bench press 155 pounds (sorry – forgot to video that one!)
That totals 775 pounds. I only need 703 pounds to qualify for USPA Nationals next June, so my goal is to do a meet in January to get an “official” number, and register for the national-level competition as soon as possible afterwards. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it doesn’t fill up before I can register.
Because, as you know…