Archive for July, 2009

An Action-Packed Week (Part 2)

July 29, 2009

I shouldn’t be writing this blog. I haven’t got time right now. At the end of this week I’m off to Farfield Mill in Cumbria to be ‘composer and weaver in residence’ for a fortnight. There is just so much to do before I go. That said, it would be a shame if I didn’t write up Part 2 of my last Bradford HNC weekend, because then it leaves me clear to record my forthcoming residency daily once I get to Farfield Mill.

I left the story of this action-packed week as I finished the required number of Double Weave swatches for my fourth project. I’d completed compiling my sketchbook and had a little time to spare for some helpful criticism and a trip to the Platform Gallery. What I hadn’t discussed or shown was the mood and market research boards, so here they are.

Between the Sea and the Sky - mood board for project 4

My mood board for Project 4

 

Market Research board based on Melin Tregwynt

Market Research board based on Melin Tregwynt

The descriptive title I chose for my double weave project was Between the Sea and the Sky. This is a line from one of my favourite books, The Waves by Virginia Woolf. This book, along with her To the Lighthouse, has become a touchstone in my creative life. I remember the very moment I first opened The Waves – in a bookshop. I can still picture myself as a fourteen-year-old standing for a whole afternoon, reading and reading. It was as though I had been waiting for such a book to define my life, to fashion my dreams, to explain something of the mystery of growing up and how to live with love and friendship, mainly the latter. But I digress – the mood board is created with a folder of photographs from Wales and the Processing software developed for my first mood board. The images ‘play’ on the computer screen, overlap, be opaque, transparent, and disappear along random pathways. I watch these comings and going for a bit and then ‘capture’ the screen image and print. The market research board could not be other than a page from the Melin Tregwynt catalogue. If you remember those throws I studied in the Tonnau Gallery in Pwllheli . . . well, it seemed entirely appropriate to look further at their extensive range of handwoven products. The bags and the skirts seemed best for my developing designs.

P4 display x

My Project 4 Display

The HNC weekend began with a day devoted to Professional Studies and an extensive discussion of the second year of the course. I had expected this to be a little hard going, but as it turned out it was a most valuable and illuminating day. Professional Studies encompasses a range of subjects and issues, which, at the outset, appear challenging to say the least. Because of its HNC status the course must meet certain vocational requirements laid down by the textile industry lead body. These requirements include gaining knowledge and understanding of environmental impact, sustainability, and ethics, along with legislation such as copyright and health and safety. Our response to this formidable range of subjects is to assemble over the next few months a resource file of information. To start the ball (and the discussion) rolling the class watched a recent BBC Panorama ‘special’ on the Irish company Primark. I realised viewing this just how little I was aware of the enormous impact of the low cost / high volume mode of trading we’ve become seduced by in the High Street. Food for much thought here – when a single cotton tee shirt requires 10,000 litres of water in its production.

What impressed me about the Professional Studies component is that it asks the student to respond from a position of how he or she imagines their professional future. I was pleased and relieved to note that ‘fine artist’ was a legitimate category. This is definitely where I feel my own work is going – but more on that anon.

Next, our tutor discussed the requirements, options and expectations of the final year. Showing us examples of 2nd year work from the Summer Show was a good way into this, and some useful discussions and questions ensued. Changes to the course outline now make it possible for a preparatory or linking project to be in place prior to the final 6 month project. For me, this will be a great help because I am intending to devote my energies to studying tapestry weaving (but probably not as we know it, Jim) during my final year. This plan has been kindly agreed with my tutor (who gave all the appropriate warnings of course). At the moment I’m really aware that two years study – at this intensity – is all I’m going to be able to commit myself to (unless life takes a very different turn of events). So if I’m going to explore tapestry weaving, it has to be next year. The demands of my other creative career just won’t allow me the time – the cultural goings-on (read opportunities for artists) in 2012 are, for me, important and necessary. I already have quite a full portfolio of commissions brewing, including ‘the big one’ – the Arts Council’s Artists Take the Lead (a possible £1/4 million to spend on a regional extravaganza). You can read about my proposal here.

Tapestry by Jilly Edwards

Tapestry by Jilly Edwards

My tapestry interest is being fuelled by two of the most exciting tapestry artists around: Sue Lawty (who I have already written about at length) and the amazing Jilly Edwards (whose monographs and catalogues I’ve been studying these past weeks). Here’s an image of the loom I’ve recently acquired which I hope to have in place in mid August.

Soon to be my tapestry loom . . .

Soon to be my tapestry loom . . .

Saturday on the HNC weekend is Group Critique Day. Once again we have set up our boards and swatches in the Drawing Studio, and this time we are all well practised and pretty confident with our ten-minute presentations. As you know I like to make a summary of each student’s presentation, but I’ve been asked ‘not’ to take photos of work and present them on this blog. What I have been doing is allowing myself 50 words of description and a colour drawing. A scan of my notebook pages will go on my web gallery for anyone interested – if you can decipher my handwriting!

A Page from my Group Critique Notes

A Page from my Group Critique Notes

Much inspiring and seemingly confident work was presented, despite the almost unanimous difficulty with double weave expressed by the class. To look at some of the outcomes this was hard to believe, as behind much of the beautifully executed work there were stories told of warps abandoned and techniques simply not understood. There were some very, very adventurous projects. My prize for such adventure has to go to Gail, whose work with woven double weave jewellery using wire was astonishing, though she had clearly been through hell and back to realise just a little of her original intentions. Amanda’s ‘Eyes’ knit project interpreted the layers project title through photos of the textures of eyes from the layers of generations in her extended family: it was beautifully and imaginatively presented. Jane’s range of samples and swatches demonstrated an extraordinary industry and experiment – her sketchbook (a proper diary with fascinating evaluations) and technical notes were outstanding. I learnt a great deal from an hour’s close study of her work. Jane has, I discovered recently, a blog. What she describes as an online sketchbook. Worth a look! The sketchbook prize for me has to be shared by Mark (full of the most striking A3 size paintings in inks), Marina (a minimalist approach in neutral colours, beautifully executed), and Anneli who used an A4 size landscape sketchbook (the only student to do so) to great effect with the most effective painted illustrations.

Anneli's A4 sketchbook (next to my note book)

Anneli's A4 sketchbook (next to my note book)

My presentation – well, I brought along my little weaving frame and extolled the virtues of its use. I also confessed to beginning to finally understanding the Design Development component of the project and was able to show how the second of my two warps had evolved from pastel sketches and experiments with yarns. My tutor said some pleasing things about my efforts and, as always, provided some valuable criticisms and possible ways forward.

One of Andrea's many valuable examples

One of Andrea's many valuable examples

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we repaired to the workshop for session s on studying examples of woven pieces that illustrated how yarns (such as felting wool ) can manipulate the outcome of a woven piece. Andrea has assembled on one of the vast cutting out tables in the workshop a cornucopia of examples we could handle and study. I’m at last becoming convinced that this area of woven fabric design needs my personal attention. My former teacher Laura Rosenzweig used to tell me of long experiments with washing, drying and finishing to achieve some of the effects and qualities she sought – so I’m aware of the spectacular results possible. But this weekend was designed to make us more adventurous still.

I really liked this example!

I really liked this example!

One way of freeing the class up from the embarrassment of riches such experimentation affords was to ask each student to bring in a ‘lucky bag’ of recyclable items and do a ‘swop’. I got several balls of different thickness of string, a dodgy pink yarn I wouldn’t have given house room to, some dressing gown cord and a tub of beads . . . hmmm. Here’s my offering for what it is worth.

 

Exotic but different!

Exotic but different!

The vacation project we were sent away with has the theme of Recycle and Reuse. I haven’t begun to think how I might interpret this, but the coming fortnight might provide the stimulus to get something going.

Now to my vacation – and I use that word loosely because work is going to dominate a good part of it this year. I’m spending a week doing a residency in Cumbria and then off to North Wales for some time with my family – minus my boys for whom a lonely cottage on a Welsh mountain no longer attracts – and the weather and the surf has been terrible for the last two years. There is the small matter of my composition Facts of Life according to Gatto Marte that needs to be finished by early September, so I’ll have to work every morning I’m there.

The Garden at Brigflatts - the inspiration behind 15 Images

The (Autumn) Garden at Brigflatts

The Title Page of 15 Images

The Title Page of 15 Images

I’m not going to take up blog space now about my residency at Farfield Mill, but invite you to look at some of the information and presentations that are already online. I’ve written quite a bit about Farfield Mill throughout my 40 or so blogs this year, so no further descriptions are necessary. What I would like to share is a link to the major project of my residency as composer and weaver. This is called Fifteen Images (Le Jardin Pluvieux). It is a collaboration between myself, textile artist Alice Fox, technologist Phil Legard and jazz pianist Matt Robinson. For me this is very significant piece of work that feels like the beginning of a new thread in my creative journey, and one that is all about the interaction of textiles, music and technology. Of course I’d love you to come to Farfield Mill to hear and see this adventure, but for most of you that’s impossible – so the web will have to do. We aren’t able to manage a live webcast, but a few days after the event a full web presentation of the music and animated textile images will be available at this link. Be there in spirit for us!

I spoke to Anna of the Farfield Mill Weaving Group earlier this week and discovered I can use either a 4-shaft countermarche Glimakra loom that has a 10 dent reed, 6 treadles and a weaving width of up to 36″or an 8-shaft jack loom (mighty wolf) which has a 12 dent reed, 10 treadles and also has a weaving width of up to 36″. I’m planning to weave every afternoon and join the weaver’s group on the Wednesdays of my residency.

The Garden Colours

The Garden Colours

What I’m proposing to weave is ‘my’ response to the beautiful garden of Brigflatts Quaker Meeting House, which is the subject of my Fifteen Images. All I can tell you about my initial ideas is that I intend to use the same colour palette I defined in my composition. I had originally intended to weave all the images myself, but in discovering Alice Fox’s beautiful work I realised that I had the opportunity of collaborating with someone who has not only a real affinity with the garden and its location, but also a special gift with print and embroidery and was prepared to enter into some experimental work with textiles and digital animation.

The 15 digital images by Alice Fox

The 15 digital images by Alice Fox

But I don’t want to be left out! So I’m going to weave a garden piece myself and invite you, my online readers, to get involved too. Do you think you might like to join me over the web in ‘weaving the Brigflatts garden’? 

Nigel’s ‘Weaving the Garden’ Project @ Farfield Mill and on the Web

Here’s what you do:

  • Go the web presentation and on the Downloads page listen to the MP3 of the music of 15 images – think of it as background music, music to weave by. It’s very gentle, and some of the pieces are actually ‘made’ from converting common weaving patterns into pitches;
  • Each ‘image’ presents one, two or three colours in combination;
  • Check out the colour palette illustrated on this blog – and use these colours as a starting point;
  • Download the PDF of the musical score to check out the colours associated with each image;
  • Chose just one  image (with its colour combination);
  • Join me over the next fortnight to weave, knit, embroider a piece that we can bring together as a garden of textiles developed and exhibited online – and in digital print version at Farfield Mill on my final weekend 15-16 August;
  • For a collection of photographs of the garden explore these pages on-line;
  • If you feel you can take part, write to me here or leave a comment on this blog. I’ll post your details (blog / website) on my virtual notice board at Farfield Mill so visitors to the Centre can discover more about the online community that has been so supportive of my journey into woven textile design. 
  • Enjoy!
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An Action-Packed Week (Part 1)

July 23, 2009

 This is going to be a blog in two parts, because there is just so much to describe and discuss. Part 1 is mostly about my final preparation for Project 4 (Layers) and a visit to Clitheroe’s Platform Gallery. Part 2 will discuss the HNC July Study Weekend: the group critique, the lectures and workshops. There will also be a preview of my forthcoming residency at Farfield Mill in Cumbria – as a composer and weaver.

So the last study weekend of the first year of the HNC in Woven Textile Design has been and gone. I finished my fourth project (Layers) in time to present the outcome at the Group Critique last Saturday. In fact, I had it finished with a day or two to spare by committing myself to show it to a ‘critical friend’. Every creative artist should have at least one ‘critical friend’ , someone who can be trusted to be observant and honest, but not destructive or dismissive. I’ve appropriated this term from my time as a governor of my children’s school, a role that depends on such critical friendship being offered to the teaching staff. My valuable critical friend said very little, but as she gently looked through my work I seemed to know instinctively where I hadn’t hit the mark. But I step ahead of myself. Let’s start with those swatches woven on the ambitious double weave warp I discussed in my previous blog.

Swatch #1

Swatch #1

Over three days I managed to weave four swatches that, with my two two-colour double weave ‘bags’, just met the project requirement. The warp behaved itself very well, and there was only breakage, which I successfully repaired. I finalised the designs of the weft before I began weaving, and only parted a little from my original intentions when I discovered I needed to be able to weave both top and bottom cloths together. I had two treadles free in the tie-up and so was able to raise shafts 1 and 3 from the bottom and shafts 2 and 4 from the top. The pattern this revealed I felt added immeasurably to the weave (see the top and bottom layer – in light blue – of the illustration below).

Swatch #2 (Brooks Bouquet Lace)

Swatch #2 (Brooks Bouquet Lace)

You’ll see from the photos of the swatches that the colour sequence of the weft was pretty much the same across all four pieces. The differences included: a swatch with sections of Brooks Bouquet Lace on the top of the second swatch; a swatch almost entirely woven to highlight the pattern created by weaving both cloths together; the addition of linen and cotton threads wrapped around selected chenille wefts. Along with keeping the chenille panels separate from each other with blocks of wool and acrylic ‘blues and greys’, the use of orange, lilac, light blue and yellow linen and cotton threads really brought to life the rather dark tones of the chenille yarns I’d chosen.

Swatch #3 on the loom

Swatch #3 on the loom

When I got to the fourth swatch I had decided to make it so that the two cloths would be joined only on the left hand side, so as to be able to open the cloths out as one fabric. I took great care with the ‘open’ side selvedge, and was pleased with the result. However, when I came to take it off the loom and divide the selvedges I realised I’d ‘closed’ the cloth at both ends by weaving top and bottom cloths together, so I was a little reticent to cut and machine-stitch the top and bottom ends.

Swatch #4

Swatch #4

All in all I found weaving double cloth requires intense concentration – if there is the likelihood of any interruption then it’s a lost cause. It can be so difficult to remember when you are in the sequence of things!

Sketches ready to go in the 'book'

Sketches ready to go in the 'book'

After the weaving of course comes the creation of the sketchbook and the technical notes or ‘loom tickets’. For Project 3 on Blocks I felt I’d started to make progress with the sketchbook – detailing visual realisation and design development. My sketchbook is not one that gradually collects and assembles material as I’ve gone along. It is more of a compilation of ideas and existing work that I bring together, sometimes developing, fleshing out, re-doing in a different format or media before organising carefully in a sensible sequence. I noticed when looking through my HNC colleagues’ sketchbooks that this is common practice with some of them too. It generally makes for a more satisfying production. However, those students who do present the warts and all sketchbook do end up with something that can be both fascinating and revealing. I notice there is a tendency in such sketchbooks to be more self-critical and include valuable evaluations. The design development process also tends to flow seamlessly from the visual realisation recorded if approach in this way. For me, having got the measure of the compilation approach, I’m planning for Project 5 to start a new sketchbook and make it more like a progressive diary of observation and development.

Tesselated Sea & Sky

Tesselated Sea & Sky

When my tutor discussed my sketchbook with me I was intrigued by her enthusiasm for the excerpts from my little diary of text and images I’d kept during my week in North Wales, a diary that records my stay at the location upon which I’d based my theme for the project title Layers. She was also enthusiastic about some of the computer manipulations I’d made from my own paintings of sea and sky. I’d experimented with making tessellations from photos and, most significantly, revealing ‘unknown colours’ from digital images of sea and skyscapes through lowering the image resolution.

A very low resolution image

A very low resolution image

In the past the loom ticket has been a final hurdle that I’m ashamed to say I have often fallen at. I’m not comfortable with keeping detailed notes as I weave, but in my work on the dobby loom at college I devised a method for recording weft picks as I went along. It was pretty unorthodox, but it worked! For project 4 I felt it necessary to get my act together and produce a loom ticket like many of my colleagues tend to do. I created a sheet in the Excel application and did the business, albeit at the last moment (just before my final tutorial). I received some valuable advice from my tutor about notating double weave information and now feel more inclined to get the loom ticket in place after finishing each swatch.

The Excel Loom Ticket

The Excel Loom Ticket

Along the way I did acquire a book that seems more and more valuable to me in this area of recording and drafting. It is The Complete Book of Drafting by Madelyn van der Hooght. There’s a lovely introduction, in which the author gently describes how easy it is to try and weave something that has a design and process you don’t understand. ‘Everything in weaving is so simple after you understand it, but before you do, it seems so hard’. The author goes on:’ Remind yourself as you struggle with concepts that feel complicated, they are simpler than they seem. If you persevere, you’ll learn the special joy of sudden understanding – which will bring a special joy to me’. I can vouch for that.

I think the majority of my HNC colleagues had really struggled to understand double weave, and there seemed to be quite a lot of ‘painting by numbers’ going on. Hand on heart I think I can say I understand double weave, but blocks in double weave I have yet to be able to ‘do’ properly on the loom. All that reading I did during the early stages of the project, particularly the book Double Weave by Palmy Weigle, really paid off.

Hanging by Norah Ball @ The Platform Gallery

'Silently we multiply' (foreground) by Norah Ball @ The Platform Gallery

After nervously showing my Project 4 work to my critical friend (see above) she kindly took me off to look at an exhibition that ties in with research she is undertaking on the influence of gardens on textile design. We drove out of Yorkshire into Lancashire (Elvis Costello on the stereo! – a novel experience as I usually drive in silence), and almost in the shadow of Pendle Hill (which I’d never seen) we arrived at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe. This lovely gallery (a former railway station) describes itself as ‘the platform for craft in Lancashire’, and rightly so. The current exhibition is titled Botanic Gardens and brings together 24 artists and crafters. Two textile artists really caught my attention: Helen Slinger and Norah Ball. Helen’s work is ‘inspired by her photographs of plants and trees, selecting images for their qualities of light and shade, line and form’. I particularly liked her use of digital printing on fabric enhanced by some very fine embroidery, in a sequence of restrained garden pictures in a single shade of green. Norah Ball’s work was part of a supporting exhibition by Preston Threads called Threads of Nature.  She showed three large, adventurous woven textile hangings. I was very struck by these pieces and recently contacted Norah to ask if I might write about her work, which, as you’ll discover later in this blog, has some relevance to the next project I’m undertaking at Bradford. She most kindly replied to my e-mail enquiry with this description.

The warp for all 3 is a nylon from Lurex Co called Nigel.   I had no bother with it at all – the warps were just prepared on a warping board as I don’t have sectional warping at the moment.   The weft in the first piece (Morning Mushrooms) is the same fibre with varied beat depending on how much and where I wanted it to move once off the loom.  The other 2 pieces combined the nylon weft and a variety of natural yarns to achieve the effect I was looking for.  I used several structures in the natural yarns which are more obvious on close inspection and add interest for anyone who knows about these things.  The use of leno in the nylon helped stabilize the work.  After weaving, one piece was left natural.  The other 2 were stitched (in one case) painted (in one case) and dyed (in both cases) using wax resist and fibre reactive dyes.

Detail from Norah Ball's Morning Mushroom

Detail from Norah Ball's 'Don't Blink - we'll take over'.

Norah is clearly a textile artist who combines many different techniques and materials. She’s interested in using recycled materials, which just happens to be the theme of my next HNC project. She says: Much of what I know is self taught supplemented by judicious selection of courses. I started out with a rudimentary list of ‘must-do’s’ to expand my knowledge.  This means that I can readily combine all sorts of things from design, photography/photo manipulation, felt, weave, paint etc etc as I see fit for the subject I’m working with. I think this is a really ambitious (and probably necessary) personal approach, and one that I so admire. Norah, like me, has a high regard for weaver Sue Lawty and has had the good fortune to attended her workshops and be an assistant on a number of her celebrated pieces (like the Bankfield commission Terra featured on these pages earlier this year). Although I’m currently jumping through the necessary hoops of woven textile design and making, my heart is really more in the area of the experimental and fine art end of textiles – more Sue Lawty than Margo Selby. Norah’s approach is possibly more extreme – her experience with textiles really crosses over into making in other media. She certainly doesn’t want to pigeonhole herself into any particular category. Rather refreshing I’d say!

A Concerted Effort

July 6, 2009
Tangierian Kelim

Tangierian Kelim

At the end of my last blog I had had to admit defeat with my attempt to make a counter-marche loom think it was a jack loom. I wrote that blog from a kitchen table in Jesmond, Newcastle where I’d gone to stay to review the Dreams and Ceremonies Festival at the Sage. This was a unique concert series given by the Northern Sinfonia. It featured a programme of music from 1909 to 2009 – Arnold Schoenberg to Thomas Ades, via Pierre Boulez and John Adams and 12 others. It was also a chance to spend time with an old friend convalescing from a heart operation and devote serious study time to the scores of some 16 works, some of which I had never heard before in concert. I also tried to write a little music myself – a start to a music theatre piece for an Italian quartet (violin, bassoon, piano and double bass) called Facts of Life According to Gatto Marte. My Jesmond home for 5 days  was a bachelor residence with a vast library (books, scores and recordings), a proper piano and some lovely woven rugs from Tangiers via Seattle. Here’s me looking like a proper composer for once, the only technology around being my friend’s grand piano.

composer @ the piano (in Newcastle)

composer @ the piano (in Newcastle)

In reality I did most of my work in the kitchen with its lovely red Aga.. . .

Where the real work happened . . .

Where the real work happened . . .

. . . as for weaving, well my attempts to find anything in the woven textile way of things in Newcastle didn’t amount to much. Very little going on, despite a serious search on Google. 

A Brooks Bouquet Lace

A Brooks Bouquet Lace

I got home just in time to get on the road again with my family for an eightieth birthday celebration (my father-in-law) in Andover – 200 miles in the opposite direction. This meant that the following week required some serious catching up in the office. In the middle of the week I did go to Bradford, but for a rehearsal, not to weave. In despair at my lack of progress, I was saved by my ever-friendly soprano, herself a student textile artist, who generously provided the most encouraging of suggestions and possible directions. Inspired and determined, when I got back to my studio I thought I would first sort out the mess that was my experimentally tied-up loom, now hopelessly unbalanced. In an hour or so I had the treadles re-tied to the default tie-up and lams and treadles beautifully balanced – Mr Porritt would have been proud of me. I then reversed the tie-up from my first double weave swatch so that the bottom layer was brought to the top: 124, 2, 234, 4. I then wove a similar piece to my first swatch, this time decorating the top layer with a Brooks Bouquet Lace and a solid bottom layer. I liked the result of this experiment.

. . . with a solid bottom layer

. . . with a solid bottom layer

Now I felt I’d really got the measure of the countermarche system I reckoned I could attempt (again) Palmy Weigel’s two-footed jack loom tie-down. Before I did so I thought I’d see if any of the Farfield Weaving Group had worked with a countermarche loom and could advise me whether this approach was practical or not. Over the phone Anna gave me some sensible advice:  you could weave some bits with your fingers and some bits with pick up sticks. It’s laborious but does allow you to be far more creative and you’d get more done that way of time is tight (which it is!)This encouraged me, but it was my former teacher Laura who got back to me by e-mail saying (after a long and helpful summary of the problems): Another way to think about doubleweave is to design with the loom limitations in mind so you explore what’s possible on a single tie-up sequence and put the interest in the size and shape of the doubleweave blocks, adding colour and texture for greater interest . . . and that was the advice I decided to take. Thank you so much Laura (and Anna). From that moment I started planning an adventurous warp – with a vengeance!

Porth Ceriad - watercolour and pastel

Porth Ceriad - watercolour and pastel

What I had in mind was to work from photos and sketches of the seascapes I’d witnessed from the cliffs above the Irish Sea during my week in Wales. There was one sketch in particular which seemed to capture something of the depths of blueness that included purple and a touch of teal. The grey and rust coloured rocks added another layer of texture. Further out at the sea the blues held swathes of greys, almost whites in shimmering, glassy pools.

One of the many pastel sketches for my 'adventurous' warp

One of the many pastel sketches for my 'adventurous' warp(s)

I made lots of sketches in pastel crayon of colour bands I’d observed, and gradually forming a colour palette I began to envisage as a possible warp. I’m just beginning to find I can mix colours in pastel and get some reasonable results, and more important still I started to think positively about mixing yarn textures. I had two lighter blues (cotton and acrylic mix) than my previous double weave swatches and decided that a collection of chenille yarns just might make a good textural contrast. So I then did two things: I went to Texere in Bradford and came away with five chenille cones in cream, purple, grey, blue and teal; I got out a little wooden frame (15 cm square) and made an experimental warp. This was my first attempt at modelling a warp, and I learnt so much from an hour of two trying out mixtures of warp and weft. It gave me such confidence in the process of finalizing the warp design. I feel sure this approach will now become part of my working method – once again a big thank you to Graham in the Bradford workshop who kindly provided me with the idea (and the frame).

Experiments on my mini loom

Experiments on my mini loom

My next step was to clear everything off my diary for a weekend: I did my final planning, wound my warp lengths in eight colours, and settled down to some pretty intensive loom dressing (punctuated with bouts of cooking for ( and keeping tabs on) my children while my wife was away – busy with a couple of concerts).

Skecth and possible yarns

Sketch and possible yarns

I’ll now own up to a most embarrassing mistake right at the outset: I calculated needing twice as many ends as I needed for the standard swatch. Stupid, stupid, but I thought I’d just go with it, even if the process took twice as long. The next dilemma was: did I really think I could bring together 8 different warp lengths using the Front to Back method? At last I began to see the possible value of the Back to Front approach and using the raddle. But I knew my own teacher Laura would definitely not use this method. So just how did she do it? (see her carpet in my blog on the Farfield Weaving Group).

Sketches and warps threaded through the reed

Sketch plans and warps now threaded through the reed

In my first double weave project I just had two warp yarns. That was fine, but eight? Wouldn’t they just get so tangled up? Once I’d threaded the warp ends of one colour into the reed (observing the necessary spaces), would I have to unravel and cut the warp bunches so they didn’t get in the way of the other colours being threaded. And how would the business of having one warp on top of another work out?  Could I thread one warp at a time? I could foresee difficulties here . . . so in the end I just kept everything together and ended up with a fantastic (what appeared to be a) tangle. BUT, I did manage to untangle it and raddle the warp through the reed and tie everything up with only 4 mis-threadings – a major achievement for me. I have to admit I kept thinking – this isn’t going to work and I’m going to have to stop and redo this double warp – but it finally came out . .  and I think it looks pretty good.

Warp Ends ready to thread through the heddles

Warp Ends ready to thread through the heddles

I took all day on Saturday to dress the loom, and on Sunday an hour or so to correct the very few mistakes. I did begin to feel so much more confident with my dexterity in handling the whole process. I managed ALL my warp chaining flawlessly – and you know, it feels like second nature to do it now – when I think how I struggled a year ago to learn this. Even with the tricky texture of chenille I managed to pick all the warps ends off the cross in my hand – you may remember my tale of an early experience with chenille that ended in total disaster. Threading the heddles just gets easier and easier, and I’m beginning to find more comfortable ways of sitting (rather than kneeling) at the loom to get this done.

The finished warp in place

The finished (double) warp in place

When my wife Susan looked in to see my progress on Sunday afternoon, she illuminated one of my problems in getting a nice even tension on the warp when tieing up to the front beam. ‘You know I’ve often watched you tie your shoe laces’, she said, ‘and you don’t know how to hold an even tension – didn’t anyone ever show you how to do it?’ Well, no. I went to choir school at seven years old and had to pick it up really fast by watching other choristers – I’d always worn sandals before that. And so this weekend I learnt to tie shoelaces properly and  learnt to keep a bunch of warp ends tight when tieing them to the front beam. As Garrison Keillor would say ’50-something composer masters shoe tying after a lifetime of self-deception’.