I have my first commissioned work! A friend wants me to make a scarf as a gift for a relative, and I’ve agreed to design, sample, and weave it sometime before June.
Normally I don’t work for hire, but this friend made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…he’s sending me two scarves’ worth of qiviut yarn in exchange for a single qiviut scarf! Since qiviut yarn trades on the precious metals market (or ought to – pure qiviut yarn runs about $90/ounce!), and since I can’t justify to myself spending that much money on a few ounces of yarn, this is the perfect opportunity for me to get some rare and fascinating fiber to play with. And I get to do a friend a favor!
Anyway, I’ve started the design process. I’m currently muddling around with weave structures – he wants imagery on the scarf, at a visible level, so I’m thinking that a tied weave might work well. With a double two-tie unit threading, I could make the motifs larger than with a typical threading (or use summer and winter for a threading that would be larger yet). Alternately, I could weave it up in diversified plain weave, but since the qiviut yarn will be about 7000 ypp, it would require a very fine yarn indeed to make it the “thick” yarn in the scarf!
The yarn hasn’t arrived yet – probably not for another month – which gives me plenty of time to weave up my diversified plain weave project. I figure I can fit the scarves into my weaving queue while I’m sewing up the diversified plain weave project. I’ll know more about what structures are suitable once I get the yarn – its “handle”, strength, and fluffiness will tell me a lot about what structures it “wants”. Then, once I determine the structure, I plan to weave up at least one “mockup” of the piece in a cheaper but similar fiber – like cashmere – to make sure it will work, before I start weaving the qiviut.
(Yeah, I know. I, too, have always wanted to use the phrase “cheaper fiber” and “cashmere” together in a sentence, and this was my golden opportunity! I can get cashmere for about $4/oz if I buy in quantity, which makes it less than 5% the cost of qiviut. The mind reels.)
Which brings me to the subject of sampling. I admit cheerfully to being a control freak. I’m all for random improvisation when you’ve got lots of margin for error or the stakes are relatively low. But when you want to control the results precisely and predictably, sampling – more than once – is absolutely necessary. If you look at my work you’ll see plenty of sampling, in theme and variation, before a finished piece develops. In fact, I’ll easily spend as much time on sampling as on the finished piece! The more experience in a given medium, the less sampling is required; but since I rarely have years of experience with anything I’m working on (days or weeks is more usual!), the only way to guarantee results is to sample the heck out of whatever I’m working on.
Which sounds laborious. It’s not! Sampling is fun because I get to try lots of different things without committing precious materials to any of them. It’s like playing around in the kitchen developing recipes before the big chocolate production run. Lots of fun and no pressure to produce. I think if more people saw sampling as play, sampling would be more common. Reminds me of my T’ai Chi instructor, back in the day, who said that T’ai Chi masters, on greeting each other, would ask, “Have you played T’ai Chi today?” rather than “Have you practiced T’ai Chi today?” I loved that saying because it shows clearly that one can be dead serious about studying something and still have fun doing it. Serious + fun = serious fun?
Well, maybe not for everyone, but definitely for me. I can’t wait to get back and weave more samples!