I’m in Chicago right now, visiting Mike’s family, and yesterday we drove down to Decatur to visit some family down there. On the way back, I had a burst of inspiration: instead of listening to music, I could catch up on WeaveCast podcasts! So I started streaming WeaveCast to my iPhone, and soon found myself listening to episode 53: an interview with Holly Brackman, a well-known surface designer/weaver.
The interview was fascinating, and Holly and Syne spent a lot of time discussing the possibilities of polyester, in devore, disperse dye printing, and permanently heat-set textures. This in turn fired off some interesting ideas, which I promptly captured in my Evernote notebook. (Evernote, is an online note-taking system that allows you to capture ideas from all over and store them, sync them to computers and mobile devices, etc. I started using it after a discussion on WeaveTech and have rapidly concluded that it’s the coolest thing ever. I can’t believe I ever lived without it!)
Anyway, there were two particularly interesting ideas. One idea that Holly mentioned in the interview was weaving with two different yarns, one of which burns away in the devore process, and one that does not. If you alternate the yarns in the right order, she said, you can start with a 2/2 twill and burn away one warp and one weft to reveal a plain weave section!
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a simple weave structure, either. I sense possibilities with network drafting – not sure if it would work, but it’s gone on my list to investigate when I have time, perhaps on the plane flight home.
Or, you could work with a thick yarn and a thin yarn in different colors. Imagine the 2/2 twill with a thick cotton warp/weft in blue and black, and a thin non-burning yarn in white and red. In the areas that are not burned out, the thick yarn will dominate, and the piece will appear blue and black. In the burned-out areas, you could plan it out to give a different weave structure and wholly different pattern in white and red!
Or – another interesting idea – make the non-burning yarn a thin, collapsing yarn. The sections with just the thick yarns will be too dense to collapse, but once the thick yarns are burned away, the thin yarns should collapse inward. Could produce some interesting textures!
What is particularly interesting to me about these ideas is that they use weaving as a fundamental part of the surface design process, something that is both necessary to achieve the desired effect and which contributes to the “feel” of a finished product. This, to me, is a much deeper melding than, say, simply screen printing on handwoven fabric.
This reminds me of a story:
Once upon a time, I had a garden. Actually it was more like a small farm: 1800 square feet in a friend’s backyard. The story of the mini-farm is an interesting one in itself (it’s pretty rare for someone to have a garden that large in the San Francisco Bay Area), and maybe I’ll tell it someday. But the relevant point is what I grew. I had loads of space – relatively speaking – and could have grown almost anything. I chose to grow 83 varieties of tomatoes, 6 kinds of green beans, four kinds of potatoes, 8 kinds of heirloom garlic, and, umm, stuff. Lots of stuff. Hundreds of pounds of stuff per week. (I kept the local food bank generously supplied with vegetables all summer!)
What I did not grow, however, was anything I could purchase, either in a farmer’s market or at a supermarket. I grew types of garlic that I’d never tasted before, exotic varieties of green beans, a rainbow of potato colors. I pored over catalogs to find the most interesting varieties of tomatoes (one was only four inches tall, another covered in white fluff, another with the most beautiful ruffled purple tomatoes, not to mention the one with beautiful red-and-yellow flame striping!). But I did not grow anything I could get elsewhere.
Why? Well, let’s be clear: I was gardening for the sheer love of it. (Nobody moves 25 cubic yards of compost into a garden, wheelbarrowful by wheelbarrowful, out of an urge for fresh vegetables!) But I also believe in efficiency, and it was simply inefficient for me to spend my time growing something that I could buy for $2.50/lb at the farmer’s markets. I wanted my gardening efforts to produce something that could be done no other way than by growing it myself. The growing was necessary to get the results I wanted.
I feel the same way about handweaving and surface design. I enjoy handweaving, and I enjoy surface design. But to meld them together efficiently, to me, means choosing a design for which handweaving not only contributes, but is actually necessary to the finished piece. It means designing something that requires handweaving, and that I could get no other way. Otherwise I could just as easily buy commercial fabric, which would be a much more efficient use of my time. Life is precious, and I don’t want to waste a single instant of my creative time doing something that isn’t necessary for my creative goals. Efficient as well as enjoyable is my goal, and interweaving many things together efficiently is the most enjoyable of all.
That is why these techniques are so exciting to me – they have the very real possibility of producing “elegant” meldings between surface design and handweaving. I plan to try them out when I get back to the loom.