I’m almost done with my placemats and table runner, and am starting to design other projects. In particular, I’m obsessed with sea turtles and strip piecing.
The idea originated in the Handwoven editorial calendar for 2015-16, which details the themes for each issue. One theme is traditional handweaving, which got me to thinking about West African kente cloth, which is woven in narrow strips and then assembled. I’m convinced that strip-weaving has tremendous design potential that American weavers have never really exploited, so I set out to design a piece that harnesses the power of strip-woven fabrics.
At the same time, I was considering the sea turtle design I came up with a few years back, and which got put on hold in favor of Phoenix Rising. The original concept was this draft, done on a tied weave point threading (with network drafted ties):
The original idea of this design was to exploit the power of designing on 40 shafts, using a point threading and symmetrical design to allow me even more detail. But that forced the sea turtles to march in half-drop order, which looked rather rigid. I wanted something that looked more flowing.
Then I realized that strip piecing would solve the problem. I could weave a long strip with irregularly spaced sea turtles (and even other motifs, like seaweed), then cut it up and sew it together, like this:
Much better! But not quite what I wanted, yet. The lines looked rigid, and the sea turtles were still swimming in formation, all going the same direction.
I spent a few days ruminating over this, and finally realized that I’d been unconsciously assuming that the join lines needed to be straight. But what if I cut the edges of the strips into curves? Then I could transform the seamlines into water-current ripples. And if I made the sea turtles smaller and a bit less detailed, I could weave them on a straight draw threading, allowing me to point them at whatever angle I liked.
So I came up with this sketch:
On the front of the shawl, the curved seamlines are simply pressed open, though I may use embroidery to accentuate the line (won’t know until I see it). On the back, the seams will be pressed open and then covered with aqua-colored, silk bias binding, possibly with more decorative embroidery. The edges of the shawl are bound using more silk bias binding, and the ends are hemmed and then finished with a beaded fringe. Before applying the beaded fringe, the shawl will be overdyed with very pale aqua and light sea green, low-water immersion dyeing technique, to give textured ripples as in the background.
I’m considering weaving beads into the cloth as well, but suspect that might be gilding the lily.
I haven’t yet figured out how to weave the motifs. I had been thinking of a tied weave with discontinuous weft (if that is even feasible), with the heavy pattern weft only appearing in the area with the sea turtle or seaweed motifs. (Need to do some research there!) I’m also thinking of brocade, but that is complicated as well since I’d like the motif to be visible and attractive on the back. (Shawls are two-sided, after all.) So I need to do some more ruminations on that – suggestions welcome!
But overall, I really like the idea. I’ll likely do some more development on it, in the next day or two. Saturday morning I leave for my writing retreat, and at that point I’ll want to focus on writing.
Speaking of design, Tigress has repurposed my quilt design wall. It is now her personal climbing wall, and an excellent route to her new favorite perch, the top of my yarn storage shelf. Here’s a video of the intrepid climber, caught in the act.