Towards a Second Rug

At the beginning of last week I had put a warp of ecru bourette silk on my loom and begun work on a small 96cm x 48cm rug. The intention was to consolidate a number of the weft techniques I’d been practising over a series of samples. I also wanted to develop some of the colour and pattern ideas I’d played with on my last 4 samples. I left last week’s blog at about 12 cm into the rug. I’m now about to hit the half-way mark at 48cm.

Despite what looked like a promising warp and some confident pick and pick weaving at the outset I gradually began to develop problems with the warp pulling in at the edges and the outer ends not retaining the tension they should have.  Even  using the temple I got to a point where I thought I’d have to abandon this project. But I persevered and it may be OK. I know I’ve just got to take even more care with the warp preparation and not allow my concentration to falter! Even before these two problems asserted themselves I discovered this little error.

There was nothing for it but to unweave about 20 picks! I have unwoven before, but this mistake surprised me. It came about as a result of joining weft ended together. I described in my last blog how I’d decided to follow Collingwood’s advice and darn such ends resulting from joins as I wove. The reason for this is that with the tension on the warp such darning is easier. Well, as I admitted last week, I don’t sew, so darning was a challenge. But, with care, I’ve soon found I could manage it!

Now I can manage this I won’t be tempted to just chop the ends off flat with the weft – as I saw an experienced weaver do just this week. I think with a piece like this rug joins of weft and changes of weft colour are worth doing properly.  But I’m going to pass on Collingwood’s extension of the technique – the fashioning of a larger metal ‘eye’ at the top of the darning needle – because at the moment I can ‘just’ thread the wool I’m using through the needle’s eye. Although I started this rug off using a design I’d made on a small sample I reached a point where I knew I had to work out how this design idea might be progressed across the whole rug. Below you can see a very rough plan that I’ve drawn up to keep an eye on the proportions of the design and the possible colour play. I’d love to be able to paint a confident design, and I still might attempt this. But for now this plan.

All the way through my weaving this rug I have used the temple (see below). All though I know some weavers working on this size of rug wouldn’t see the need, it’s probably because they’ve mastered the business of weaving weft without the selvedges being drawn in. In this piece I’ve found the temple invaluable as a way of gradually correcting that drawing in and keeping a perpendicular edge.

As I approach the centre of the rug I’ve chosen a different design implementation of the pick and pick technique. Here in the image below the placing of the columns of white thread is changed every two passes of the white thread. This requires some care and experiment to keep the sequence going without getting muddled! When I first tried it I made regular mistakes. The care needed to execute this pattern seems worth the trouble as it seems to provide a much needed contrast to the patterns formed (with the same technique) at the opening area of the rug.

As for the remaining half of the design I’m tempted not to make it a mirror image, but to devise something a little different, probably simpler in pattern. I’m quite attracted by the idea of NOT following the norm in terms of patterning. I suppose you could say that I find myself following what I usually do in a musical composition, which is not to recapitulate at the end of a movement with the material I began with. That’s the legacy of Sonata Form for you . . . although my thoughts have been straying occasionally towards that musical device if only because I’ve been studying Benjamin Britten’s wonderful Sonata in C for cello and piano. This is a composition I heard wonderfully played last Sunday by cellist Miriam Roycroft at a concert that featured the premiere of my own 4 Commentaries for cello and piano. Come to think of it the design of these commentaries would make an interesting series of rugs!

During the week I was sent a link to the web blog of India Flint. This message was prompted by my recent foray into rag rug weaving. I have to say that this was pretty radical stuff in rag rug territory, very free weaving! But that said it stopped me in my tracks, particularly because the colours featured are made from natural dyes, something India Flint has published a highly regard book about.

Song 4 by India Flint

In her introduction to this image this artist explained her background in weave and listed three names as major influences. Anni Albers and Misao Jo I knew (the artist uses a Saori loom), but the third, Sarah Brownlee, was new to me. I was encouraged to investigate further after turning up some web  material published by the Textile Music of Canada. I also found an engaging website devoted solely to her work. No commentary – just her images. Although I’m still trying to work out just how she weaves these pieces, I’m seriously intrigued. The Toronto museum curator’s commentary simply says this: In Brownlee’s weaving  supplementary weft skips over and under varying-sized groups of warp threads, creating the design row by row. Here’s an example:

Weaving by Sandra Brownlee

Brownlee seems to me to be a most interesting character, and reading the Anne West’s essay I became curious that weave in her hands was able to produce such freeform images, images where the traditional intersection of warp and weft seems to have disappeared. Her images, almost always in black and white, appear to float, appear to do things one doesn’t even expect from tapestry weave. These are images one really needs to examine closely in the flesh.

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