The Conference of Northern California Handweavers is coming up April 25-27, and I’m signed up for the Sharon Alderman workshop on designing fabrics. The instructions/description for the workshop read like this:
Each participant must come with an idea about a fabric she/he wants to design. Be as specific as possible, use sketches, photos, commercial sewing patterns. If the design is for table linens, bring the plate/cup and saucer you will use with them. If the design is for a skirt fabric for a particular jacket, bring the jacket. For upholstery, bring photos, sketches, swatches of paint, carpet etc.
Each participant will design a different fabric. This is not a round robin workshop.
Weavers intending to design fabric to wear ought to bring a selection of yarns toward the finer side: cotton (16/2 or finer), cottolin (22/2), linen (20/2 or finer), wool (2/20 worsted or woolen spun yarns 1000 ypp or finer, and/or silk. Obviously the choice of fibers is influenced by the climate and when the garment will be worn. The yarns may be textured or plain, single fiber or blends. Bring a variety of colors if possible. Don’t forget neutrals and if, for example, blue is your choice, bring several blues.
This is a good time to bring out odds and ends; they will be sufficient for sampling, even small amounts are useful as accents. Think about the possibility of swapping with other participants to increase the pool of available yarns.
Since I have decided to design for a putative wedding dress, I’m thinking about what I have in stash that would be appropriate. Silk, of course (what else?!). I’d like to use the Lao silks if possible, mainly for sentimental reasons (I really loved my stay in Laos and would like to work it into something special). But I have plenty of 30/2, 60/2, and 140/2 silk on hand, plus some 2/26 Nm 75/25 cashmere/silk that would also be yummy. No problems there.
Pattern-wise, I have something fairly complex in mind. The sewing pattern itself is simple, Butterick 4732:
It’s basically an over-robe over a very simple spaghetti-strap gown.
The gown does not interest me; I’ve done that particular style several times over while doing AIDS Lifecycle costumes. I’d be fine with doing that in a commercial fabric.
But the over-robe! Now THAT has potential.
What I would like to do is an overall pattern of eternity knots for the body of the robe, then add a ribbonlike border along the neckline and front edges of the gown with woven Chinese double-happiness symbols. The eternity knots would be woven in something relatively subdued (cream against white? tussah against white?), and the double-happiness symbols would be something brighter, perhaps a metallic gold yarn on white silk.
(You may remember that I designed some double-happiness symbols back in December…and some eternity knots…it’s where I got the whole idea. I have no idea whether those drafts will work and be legible after wet-finishing, but that’s what one weaves samples for. 🙂 )
Anyway, this is obviously a pretty complex undertaking, which is why I want Sharon’s advice and insight on this.
I am thinking that since the ribbonlike border will likely be woven separately, and will be very narrow, the selvages will probably wind up looking awful. (I’m not that experienced a weaver!) It might make more sense to warp up with a very lightweight silk, like a 140/2 or 60/2, for the selvages and use a thicker silk for the main warp. This way I can tuck the selvages under without adding a lot of bulk.
I am not sure about the yarn weight. The pattern calls for dupioni, lightweight brocade, and/or linen, which suggests either a 60/2 or a 30/2 silk would be appropriate – 60/2 if I’m doing a satin weave and 30/2 if a weave with fewer interlacements. The Lao silk is about the weight of a 60/2, I think, though it varies so widely that it’s hard to measure accurately. I think this would work out nicely for a single row of double-happiness symbols (the threading repeat is about 50 ends). But colors and structures and yarns, oh my! There’s so much to think about and so many variables that I want some advice.
So I am going through my stash, seeing what might be appropriate, and trying to separate out/cone up some appropriate yarns to bring along. (I will probably do some dyeing in prep for the workshop, too.) I’d prefer not to bring a giant box of yarns since Sophie-the-loom is coming with me to CNCH, and she’s quite a load to bring along. I did think about borrowing a small table loom, but I really want to design for a “real” project, and for what I have in mind that pretty much means all 24 shafts.
But what the heck…I will also be bringing a warping board (for other students to use), my AVL warping wheel, two bobbin winders, shuttles, pirns, and a partridge in a pear tree, so what’s one box of yarns on top of that? Thank goodness CNCH is close by enough to drive!
Coat-wise, I have finished tailor-basting the interface to the right front, have sewn down the twill tape on the right front lapel, and am starting to padstitch my first lapel. It’s small and detailed handwork, but I’m enjoying it. But tomorrow night I have set aside to work on Weavolution, so I probably won’t make much more progress until Tuesday.