Yesterday I worked for nine obsessive hours getting Amazing Grace ready to weave, culminating in this thrilling sight:
The warp is theoretically ready to weave, but in practice the next phase is debugging, which I expect to take a week or so. Debugging means finding all the broken threads, loose threads, sticky heddles, etc. and fixing them. For me, debugging is usually the most frustrating part of warping because I am so so so close to being able to weave, but countless small problems prevent forward progress. This time, however, I’m so excited about the prospect of Actual Weaving that I think it will go quickly.
Finishing the warping means that I need to start thinking about what to weave. The next piece is going to be a commission – a stole for Everett, who is training as a Unitarian minister and wants a stole for his eventual ordination. This is a very special occasion, calling for a very special piece. And I aim to deliver.
Back in January, Everett and I came up with this sketch:
The design will actually be divided in half when worn, one half around each side of the neck. It will look like this:
I’ve been thinking hard about the logistics of creating the stole. The first step is to figure out what colors I’ll be working with, and the overall structure. There are a lot of subtle shades in this piece, but it looks like I can create them all using mixes of eight weft colors: indigo blue, teal forest green, medium green, gold, orange, dusty lavender, and metallic silver. (I may throw in some navy blue at the very top, but haven’t decided yet.) I’ll be using four colors at any given time, rotating colors in and out as appropriate and interlacing them with a black warp. That will enable me to create a piece with literally hundreds of colors.
The warp is silk, alternating black and white, and is about 25% finer than sewing thread (for any weavers reading, that’s 60/2 silk). It’s sett at 120 ends per inch, suitable for double weave. I’m actually weaving the piece in two layers – the top layer weaving with the black warp, and the bottom layer weaving with the white one. The white layer will not show at all in the finished piece – its only purpose is to stabilize the wefts that are not being used.
I am mentally laying out the process for developing this piece. It involves developing hundreds of color combinations, and each color combination requires creating a separate weave structure. It also requires selecting, dyeing, and weaving samples with the hundreds of weave structures and all eight weft colors. Then I need to do some Photoshop work to convert the image into something weave-able. After that, I’ll weave selected parts of the design and make adjustments as needed – and I expect there will be quite a few of them. Finally, I’ll be able to weave the finished cloth.
And then, after that, I’ll be ready to make some muslins for the stole and sew the finished piece. While I’ll be careful, of course, I’m not that worried about screwing up – 90% of the time in this piece is in developing the design, not weaving it, so if I screw up I can re-weave the fabric in just a few days’ work. I’m estimating 15-20 hours to weave (for the weavers, that’s 12,000 picks), but that is dwarfed by the time spent designing and weaving samples.
Since this is only my second commission, I’m keeping a time sheet for the piece – so I can figure out what I’m actually earning per hour while creating it. Then I can adjust my rates for future work appropriately. (Given all the work involved, I suspect Everett will be getting a pretty good deal!)