Enlightening errors

The last few days have been exercises in disaster recovery…

I had planned to make my entry to the Firestorm! exhibit by the Pikes Peak Weavers Guild a scarf, woven with a color-gradient weft going from scarlet to golden yellow. This would have made the phoenixes fly in and out of view, gold against a changing background.

Something like this:

phoenixes, with color gradient weft

phoenixes, with color gradient weft

Unfortunately, I made a number of errors. The first was pure impatience: I didn’t wait long enough for the dyes to “set” on the knitted blank, with the result that golden yellow washed out almost completely from the weft, leaving me with a color gradient from scarlet to very pale yellow.

The second, and more serious, mistake was in writing down the measurement of my sample length. I don’t know how I did it, but I wrote “2.5 inches” instead of “1.5 inches” and as a result all my calculations were off. I didn’t realize it, however, until I had already woven the first foot or so, leaving me with not enough warp to do it over. Aargh! Now I had a piece about eighteen inches long, with a very pale color gradient.

All is not lost, however, and my mistakes may turn to inspiration. It occurred to me that I could use the lack of golden yellow to add visual texture to the background, by scrunching up the sample and pouring golden dye over it. The gold wouldn’t have much effect on the scarlet bottom, where the phoenixes are distinctly visible, but would add golden crinkles and swirls against the whitish background at the top. Finally, a way to get my inferno look!

I also like a few other things about this small piece. First, if you look closely, the phoenixes start out very short, then gradually lengthen. I have no idea why that happened, but suspect it was because the warp started out rather loose (I left a length unwoven for fringe at the beginning) and gradually tightened as I got further into the weaving. As weaving goes, unevenness is typically a defect, but I really like the effect in this small piece: the phoenixes look like they’re further away at the bottom, flying into view at the top. This piece will be perfect for a wall hanging – if I don’t botch it in the overdyeing. But if I do, no matter – I have another four feet of warp left in this color, so I have enough to do another version if I don’t like this one.

It’s also given me an inspiration for the final section of warp, a lemon yellow background warp with bright scarlet pattern warp. This was also a mistake; I meant to have a yellow pattern warp and a scarlet background warp, perhaps to weave an entry for the Handwoven Garment Challenge. However, I was dyeing shortly after I got up (around 5:30 am), and in my not-quite-awake brain and the dim light I managed to switch the two colors. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the resulting warp, but now it’s occurred to me: because the phoenixes will be darker than the background, I can overdye the finished scarf in oranges and yellows without really affecting the color of the phoenixes. So I can experiment further with “inferno” backgrounds – either by airbrushing on flame patterns, or by scrunch-dyeing in orange and golden yellow. Truly, loads of possibilities here!

So there you have it: serendipity strikes, and a series of disasters turns into pure inspiration.

Finally, I thought I’d mention that Tegan Frisino, who is starting up a weaving business, is writing a blog about weaving and her work. She interviewed me recently for one of her blog posts – if you’re interested in reading the interview, you can do so here. I thought she asked some intriguing questions! and had a lot of fun writing up my answers. And, of course, I’m quite honored to have been profiled on her blog. Thanks Tegan!

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