I spent the long weekend blocked on both book and ball gown, but I finally solved both problems yesterday. I’m splitting both of them into two projects, making a total of four projects total.
For the ball gown, Stephanie was spot on: there are really two garments lurking in the dress. The first is a very simple cut – most likely a kimono – to show off the phoenixes. The second is the ball gown I’ve been designing, sans phoenixes. The first has a simple cut to show off a complex fabric. The second has a simpler fabric, which flows with the complex cut of the dress. Both will be beautiful, I think.
Here’s what I’m considering for the kimono:
Very simple cut, phoenixes plus color gradation. I experimented with adding a sun in the center panel to provide a focal point, and decided it overcomplicated things. If I need to add interest, I will do it with beading and/or other embellishments.
Also very simple to weave: solid background and painted-warp phoenixes. Probably a hand-dyed commercially woven silk for the red background parts. I am fighting the temptation to “bling it up” with gold thread in some of the phoenixes. I am not doing hand-manipulated techniques at 100+ picks per inch, thank you very much.
My reasoning for this approach is pretty simple: the phoenixes are large individual motifs that do not take well to being cut. It is also impossible to seam lengths of fabric together because, unless you are a better weaver than I am, there will always be some uneven-ness in beat, meaning the phoenixes won’t totally line up, so the seam will be super obvious.
So if you want to avoid diagonal seams and vertical seams, loom-shaped garments are the way to go. I rarely go in that direction, but for this cloth, I think it’s appropriate.
I will probably use heavier thread for this and switch the threading to a double two tie threading, which will give smoother shapes, and keep the phoenix size about the same. I’m thinking 60/2 background warp with a 30/2 pattern warp. I intend to bleach the silk beforehand to get the absolute brightest yellow possible in the pattern warp.
The ball gown remains more or less the same, except with more painted warp “flames” in the two drapes, instead of phoenixes.
Which do I work on first? That’s an excellent question. I’d say the kimono, as I have a better chance of finishing that before the Convergence deadline, except that I’m halfway through putting a sample warp onto the loom, for the skirt of the ball gown. I hate to just take it off and toss it, but it will also take months to weave off, so I’m not really sure what to do. I am seriously dubious that, with a very fine silk warp, I can take it off and preserve it somehow.
With the book, I realized that I had really written half each of two books – one aimed at novice designers and one aimed more at intermediate designers looking to improve their skills. I need to decide which book I’m writing first, and fill in exercises, etc. for each audience. A difficult call since my heart is with the intermediate designer book, but the one for beginners will be much easier to sell, and will presumably fuel sales of the intermediate book, if it comes out after the beginners’ one.
Oy. I do have a way of complicating things in the process of simplifying them, don’t I?