Double Cloth or Double Weave, whatever you call it, is the focus of my next project. It has rather taken over my thoughts during past 10 days. I have to admit to finding the very brief demonstrations given at our last HNC weekend rather too much to take in at one go. The subject has required much reading, thinking, and careful preparation on my own loom. I am now able to look at my tutor’s notes and ‘really’ understand them. I’m sure this business of making it clear in the imagination is so important. I have to be able to explain the process to myself and see it in my mind’s eye. I get so very troubled if I see a diagram or read a description that simply doesn’t make sense.
Having had to devote a whole week to catching up with my other creative life, I’ve given time during the last ten days or so to the new project titled Layers. It’s really got to be about the seashore: the layering of water, sand, pebble, seaweed, mud. Two reasons: I haven’t yet worked with seaside colours; I’m about to spend a week at my cottage on the Lyn Peninsula. This is the reason I haven’t started my Visual Realisation yet; I’m hoping for sunny days on Anelog Mountain where there is sea on both sides and the sky is everywhere. Perhaps I can return with a bulging sketchbook . . .
During the HNC weekend we had the opportunity to try out a variety of techniques on seven different looms that had been warped up to cover straight draft and block draft Double Weave techniques. Undoubtedly many of the group found the whole business difficult. But perplexing? I wonder. I think many of us were still recovering from the stress of getting our third project and historical and contextual presentations together to really make the most of the workshop time on double weave. But that said, the possibilities of the Double Weave technique within woven textile design were certainly laid before us, and I particularly appreciated seeing some of the many samples made available for examination.
There are a number of books on Double Weave, and most instruction books on weaving carry a chapter or two on it. Ann Sutton’s Structure of Weaving has some beautiful and inspiring examples. Foundations of Weaving by Mike Halsey & Lore Youngmark I am finding more and more pleasure and value in as I reread it. Debbie Chandler’s chapter on Double Weave in Learning to Weave is very disappointing in that it misses out so many of those little practical steps and tips that the rest of her book is so good at explaining. Double Weave by Palmy Weigle is probably the most useful as a blow-by-blow guide. However, for me, the resource that has given me most illumination is the on-line workshop notes by Paul O’Connor, and I recommend them without hesitation.
Last weekend I had to stop reading and do it. I found two blue yarns of a wool / cotton mix about 7 epi each and made up two warps of 2 metres length, 12” wide, 76 ends. Double weave means weaving two warps (A and B) simultaneously. You can do this on just 4 shafts weaving plain weave using 2 harnesses for each warp. The magic of Double Weave is in how you make those warps interact with one another – and that is really what the technical side of Project 4 is all about.
So if like me you warp from front to back, you start by sleying one warp at a time through the reed – and one dent serves for each end of each warp (2 ends to a dent). Once you have both warps sleyed through the read you then thread the warps alternately through the heddles in a twill draw A B A B. Of course it pays to be careful in the threading and I made only 3 mistakes in all (getting better at this). I did, for the first time, use this ‘locked selvedge’ technique, which I have to say really makes a difference when you start to weave. Thanks to Graham, the workshop technician, for this gem.
Both warps tied front and back, I then had to grapple, and I mean grapple (on the floor), with the all important tie-down, that is tieing up (down?) the treadles on my floor loom to the appropriate shafts. This is where a table loom (or jack loom) really scores. I’m struggling with making proper sense of the countermarche mechanism and I can’t quite get the sense of arranging the tie-down to balance treadles with lams with shafts correctly. One can ‘do’ the basic double weave patterns with 4 shafts and 6 treadles, but only if you can tie up as for a jack loom – that is tie the shafts directly to the lower lams. The invaluable Don Porritt (who you’ve read about in this blog a few months ago) had not come across this notion and was a little dubious – suck it and see he said. Essentially, with only 6 treadles I need to be able to use both feet, pressing down two treadles simultaneously, something the countermarched mechanism doesn’t let you do. Anyway, after scrabbling about under my loom I have one tie down in place (1,123, 3 ,134) but not the multipurpose one I want – that would enable me to bring the bottom warp to the top. Here’s the tie-down for the treadles I’d like to use from left to right: 13, 1, 3, 4, 2, 42
So how does it all work? I wanted to weave the wefts with the yarn used for the warps. So I use two shuttles. To weave plain weave on the top warp layer A (in its respective colour) you need to be able to raise shaft one (make a pick) , then shaft three (make a return pick). To weave plain weave on the bottom layer B you raise shaft 2 AND shafts one and three, then make a pick in its respective colour. To make the return pick you then raise shaft 4 AND shafts one and three. Hence the particular tie-down described above.
In my experiments shown in the photos above the light blue on the top layer has been woven so each warp is separate, the darker blue on top has been woven to catch the selvedged thereby binding both warps together. So far so good.
Now we move from my studio to the college workshop where I intend to set up a project that allows me to use at least 16 shafts and explore all the different tie-ups I can’t manage at home (yet). I made a start on planning this yesterday. I had a long discussion with Graham, who, inspirational and so helpful as ever, gave me lots of practical ideas. I can even take an 8 shaft table-loom home if I want to. This can be one with two back beams, the rationale for that being it gives me such scope for doing more experimental things like making pleats (good for depicting waves he suggested!).
Although I’m still deciding quite which loom medium I’m going to work with (I have the choice of Louet and George Wood dobby looms or the Harris 8 shaft), I gave serious time to deciphering one of the warps left from the last HNC weekend. This was an experimental block draft warp to enable a 3D structure called ‘Double Cloth Blocks’. It was set up on one of the George Wood looms and had two warps (on one beam): a mix of an orange linen/cotton mix and a tussak silk. It was in two blocks using 8 shafts with a very straight-forward threading. But the tie-up (peg plan in this instance) was a different matter altogether. Well, I transcribed it from the dobby lags and it made absolutely no sense at all! After half an hour I sought Graham out. Oh, he said this is one of Andrea’s (my tutor). It’s a bit experimental . . . have to go home now! (and he did). So, there was nothing for it but to work it out. And I did, and learnt so much in the process.
The diagram I append below attempts to show the colour mix (the silk wasn’t yellow but ecru though – but needed to be yellow for this digital image). I’ve presented the peg plan exactly as on the lags, although I have to say it’s a little obtuse at times and could be tidied up to make more sense! The colour guide on the right shows I hope how the panels will come out, some with both yarns together, some singly. The next step is to actually make the thing! My colleagues on the HNC weekend had had a go (evidence above), but were probably as confused as I was initially!
So I feel I’m on my way with Double Weave. As the weeks go on I’ll discuss the different approaches one can take with this medium. I aim to try most of them out, and, as last time, I’ll try to divide my work between studio and workshop.
During last week instead of going to the workshop I took a day out to visit a small area of the Howgills in Cumbria. This is where this time last year I began my weaving odyssey under the tutelage of Laura Rosenzweig. Before my fortnightly lessons with her I used to make time to walk for a couple of hours in this glorious part of the southern (and largely unspoiled) Lake District. So on a lovely May morning, dodging the showers, and a whole fleet of different cloud formations painting the landscape with shadows, a friend and I walked up Holme Fell through woods full of bluebells to the fell wall and up to the top and a 360 degree view. Wonderful! And then later, down in the valley below, I spent an hour or so with Laura showing her what I’d done on this course since September last. A former Bradford student herself she surprised me by owning up to panic over Double Weave, but then qualified that statement by saying she now uses it all the time in her woven work. It was a special moment to share the fruits of my progress with the person who this time last year was so patient with my complete inability to chain a warp! She continues to inspire me with her beautiful creative work.
Tomorrow I leave for Wales and a week to think, compose and write, and maybe weave. I shall beach comb for the bits of a makeshift frame loom, pick up baler twine from the farm, fields and beach, there’s lots of wool about on the mountain, and, of course, down by the sea, I’ll have to do my bit for Sue Lawty’s World Beach Project. I might even be inspired to write the next instalment of this blog from Mount Cottage (ah the magic of portable broadband) – but I think I’ll leave double weave alone until I get back next Friday.