Archive for May, 2009

Double Weave at Last

May 29, 2009

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 . . .

Dawn on Anelog Mountain

Dawn on Anelog Mountain

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.

Both warps at the reed

Both warps sleyed and threaded

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.

Making a Start with Double Weave

Making a Start with Double Weave

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

Seeing the Warp from underneath

Seeing the Warps from underneath

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!).

The 3D Double Weave with Block Threading

The 3D 'Blades' in Double Weave with Block Threading

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 3D Double Weave Experiments

The 3D Double Weave Experiment

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!

My Draft of Andrea's 3D Double Weave

My Draft of Andrea's 3D Double Weave Experiment

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.

Holme Fell in the Howgills, Cumbria

The View from Holme Fell in the Howgills, Cumbria

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.

Mount Cottage - walking boots ready!

Mount Cottage - walking boots ready!

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.

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The May Weekend Seminar

May 17, 2009

It’s possible you might have missed looking at the evaluation of my third and most recent project ‘Conceal and Reveal’ for the Bradford HNC course. If you have, you can find it on the Pages section of this blog. I’m not that happy with it as an evaluation, it seems more like a summary. It isn’t a requirement of this course, but I find it useful, and a valuable way of bringing together what I have achieved (or not) over the project period.

Shadow - ss displayed for the Group Critique

Shadow - as displayed for the Group Critique

What the evaluation tries to explain is the range and variety of inputs that make up the outputs of my Project 3 response; Shadow & Light. Unlike some of my colleagues (who had already planned their next project before attending the project weekend!) I grope towards a response, exploring all kinds of highways and byways, until something acceptable appears. And despite acknowledging the need to tick the boxes the outcome has to fit with what I see as developing ownership of my learning.

A detail from my sketchbook flow-chart

A detail from my sketchbook flow-chart

When I started assembling my sketchbook (about 4.0am on the morning of the hand-in date), I put in first a number of flow-charts that show how the different and often disparate inputs connect together. You’ll notice it is the exploration and interpretation of the project theme ‘blocks’ that was at the heart of my efforts. So that’s why everything flows from that central ‘box’ in my flow-chart.

I admit that having finished the weaving about a week before the hand-in date I did have to put in many extra hours to complete all the satellite assignments: a report/essay on Dyeing, Finishing and Costing, the Mood and Market Research Boards, my technical ‘loom tickets’, the Sketchbook and Diary, the research file for my Ethel Mairet presentation for Historical and Contextual Studies. My studio looked at though a bomb had hit it by early Friday morning of the extended weekend course.

Sketchbook preparation in progress!

Sketchbook preparation in progress!

I have to own up to a little assistance along the way: my wife helped me tidy up, finish and add the all-important Vylene to my swatches (she also appeared from time to time with a cheese sandwich); my assistant Phil shot a batch of photos of buildings in Wakefield for my Mood Board ‘Shadows’. I also pulled in a number of my fellow artists to give a yes or no to assemblages in my sketchbook (and thanks Ian in the next-door studio for the mount boards – the local shop closed on the day I had planned to buy them).

Visual Realisation - before going into the sketchbook

Visual Realisation - before going into the sketchbook

A sample of Swedish home weaving

A sample of Swedish home weaving

By the first day of the extended weekend course I had so many musical things piling up on my desk I really should have spent the day at home. As it was, I, and my colleagues on the HNC course, had to give our ‘presentations’.  I’d love to be able to share these on the blog, but the task is beyond me. All I can do is offer my colleagues the opportunity to place something of their research on my on-line gallery and I’ll make up an index page on this blog to enable interested readers to explore further. If I pick any particular presentation out now I do so because it touched a personal interest and I makes no critical comment on the presentation per se. Mark’s research on painter Sean Scully aligned with  a series of interviews with weaver Jenny Wilkinson gave him an opportunity to unravel something of the mystery of abstraction that so dominates the business of woven textile design. By constrast, Anneli’s introduction to the history of Swedish weaving was tantalising in what it had to leave out! The icing on the cake of this presentation was undoubtedly the table spread of samples she brought woven by her distant relatives from a remote part of northern Sweden. Bridget’s exploration of the life and times of samplers opened up all kinds of productive thoughts and directions for me. What she achieved in her ethnographic survey was all about the relationship of personal history to the embroidered art and practice. It was a most telling and fascinating presentation.

As my presentation fell last – I felt everyone had had quite enough – so I departed from my script and simply talked to my slides. I was ‘not’ satisfied by my presentation at all. I’d hoped I could explain something of Ethel Mairet’s achievement and ‘story’ through discussing the two pieces I had so closely studied and handled. It didn’t work – I think my ‘audience’ wanted (probably rightly) more of the background. I spent much of my discussion trying to explain what the woven item itself can tell us and asking my audience to ‘look and think’. Sorry folks!

A Page from my Diary

A Page from my Diary

On Saturday morning we had the Group Critique on our Project 3 efforts. Last time I set myself to write a hundred words on each presentation accompanied by a distant photo of my colleagues presenting their work. I was asked not to do this again. So I’ve just made my own drawings, sketches and notes and I present above just a single page here to give you an idea of what I’ve done. I do this exercise partly because, in what amounts to a long morning of presentations, it helps me keep alert and focused. I’m also becoming interested in observing woven textile design critically – and this is one way to do it. There is, quite rightly, a fear by some students that by showing their work at all on any blog their ideas might be ‘stolen’. Fair enough. Let me illustrate this fear factor  by relating a little recent event – one I’ve kept silent about until now.

In April I spent a day visiting Levens Hall and Farfield Mill in Cumbria (written up in an earlier blog). As I was travelling from the one location to the other I passed a specialist interior design and fabric shop. I stopped and went in for a look. I had my diary with me, and thought it might be useful to me to note down any names of designers and makers the shop featured (in the interests of the Market Research component in the project brief). The owner appeared after a few minutes, insisted on examining my diary (all College stuff fortunately), and asked me to leave. She clearly didn’t believe I was a bona fide student and accused me of stealing her ideas. She thought I was ‘in the business’ and made it clear what I was doing was unacceptable and ‘theft’. She said she had to safeguard her investment. I left, feeling rather sick.

What I will say about the Group Critique is that I gained so much inspiration and information from it. This time around the timing of each presentation was carefully monitored and the whole experience was certainly better. I did take a small number of photographs of work that interested me, and I shall put these up on my image archive. Permission has been requested from the students concerned and the images will be in low resolution and can’t be downloaded from gallery. There were two collections that particularly really interested me:  

Bridget's lace mobile

Bridget's lace mobile

Bridget’s work with the lace carriage on her knitting machine. Her visual realisation had begun with the use of different papers, particularly mulberry paper – lots of collage and experimentation with tissue paper and embroidery. All this on the subject of the acapanthus. She’d used linen and spaced-dyed yarns and produced origami like pieces, even a mobile of lace structures.

Marina's Manipulation & Distortion

Marina's Manipulation & Distortion

Marina’s collection focused on distortion and manipulation. She had devised a single warp which by its design produced block patterns of different width configurations. Very clever and so effective! Some great sketchbooks as before – Mark’s series of studies of a nearby River Lew were outstanding, and I’m looking forward to revisiting these (and reading the accompanying texts) when I get to visit his beautiful Devon home in a few weeks time.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to workshops and demonstrations on double weave, the focus of our next project titled Layers. There is far too much surrounding this subject to begin a description or discussion here.  I’m still trying to digest the very speedy demonstrations given and decipher the handouts. Our lecturer brought in some intriguing samples for us to handle and examine, along with copies from the Textile Archive of the famous Leclerc sample books, which I’d never seen. The three volume L’ ABC du Tisseur was published in 1899 and written by Edmond Leclerc (whose name survives in the Canadian loom making company). Two of the volumes contain samples: planches (II) et échantillons (III). Sadly and surprisingly, none of the three volumes are available at the University of Arizona archive.

A Double Cloth sample

A Double Cloth sample

We also had the opportunity to experiment on a number of looms set up with warps for plain double weave, and with double weave in block threadings. In the past week I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about all this, and spent part of a day in the workshop examining the loom threadings. So until mid July this blog will be featuring my journey towards dealing creatively with double weave, and I hope to start purposefully on this next week.

sample page from Leclerc L'ABC du Tisseur

Sample page from Leclerc L'ABC du Tisseur 1899