I spent this past weekend at CNCH, where I took Giovanna Imperia’s class “Weaving with Non-Traditional Materials”. There wasn’t a whole lot of theory in this class – instead, Giovanna brought a large selection of non-traditional materials and turned us loose to experiment. I wove two sets of samples – one using a very fine warp of black silk yarn (about the weight of sewing thread), and one using a medium size monofilament combined in stripes with glow in the dark thread.
My first two samples were woven in retro-reflective thread, and 42-gauge stainless steel wire:
Both of these are much more interesting than they look in the photo. The stainless steel thread (top sample) sparkles, and the section where I packed it down tightly looks like pure metal. But it flexes like cloth! I have been told that if I wash it, it will crinkle up in interesting ways, and it also has “memory”, so creasing it would produce interesting effects as well.
The thin textured “stripes” are reed marks, where the thin pieces of steel dividing the sections of the reed left spaces in the cloth. With regular cloth, these marks generally come out in the wash; metallic thread, of course, is much stiffer, so the marks cannot be removed. Which is fine – there’s nothing wrong with reed marks, they just produce a different result.
The retro-reflective thread (bottom sample) is also interesting. Retro-reflective thread is the same stuff that manufacturers put into the trim on cycling jackets, the backs of runners’ shoes, etc. to make cyclists and runners more visible at night. It’s made of plastic coated with a ton of tiny reflective glass beads, and appears dull gray until you shine a light directly at it – then it is brilliantly reflective.
I couldn’t get a really strong light on it because I didn’t have one, but here is a photo of the same sample with a small flashlight pointed directly at the cloth:
You can see how the fabric “lights up” even with weak directed lighting.
Here is the next section – steel-core thermoplastic yarn, 42-gauge copper wire, and coated copper wire:
Working from bottom to top, the steel core thermoplastic yarn looks utterly boring in the sample, but it has some interesting characteristics. Thermoplastic materials can be shaped with the application of heat, and will keep that shape once cooled. I haven’t enough in the sample to do lots of experiments, but I am tempted to order some and try more complex experiments with it.
The 42-gauge copper wire, which is the very thin copper-colored section, is beautiful too. Because the wire is very fine, at this sett (36 ends per inch), it weaves up entirely weft-faced, so it looks like an interestingly textured piece of pure copper! But it is very flexible. I didn’t weave much of it, though, because the thread is so fine it takes forever to weave. That 1/4″ sample took almost 20 minutes to weave!
The coated copper wire, the top sample, wasn’t nearly as interesting to me as the pure copper wire. But it weaves up a lot faster, and (unlike the copper wire) won’t patina with age, plus it apparently does interesting things when washed. So I will have to judge after wet-finishing the cloth.
Next up was a vinyl yarn, “superfine jelly” yarn:
I didn’t find this particularly interesting, but it is also thermoplastic (keeps a shape once heated), so I need to try steaming it to see what happens. It is also translucent, and the colors are appealingly bright, so it may be worth further investigation.
Next up was a sequined yarn from my own stash. I wove it both tightly and loosely, to see what would happen:
Unfortunately the width of the sample was close to the spacing of the sequins, so they tended to clump (particularly visible in the top sample). But I like the effect, and the base yarn is polyester, meaning it will also be thermoplastic. I can see doing some very interesting things with origami-in-cloth with both this yarn and some of the metallic yarns.
Next I experimented with inlays using fancy yarns:
From bottom to top, the samples are the sequin yarn, a very unexciting blue monofilament, black silk ground cloth with a thread of rainbow fancy yarn, an opalescent ground cloth with a thread of fancy yarn, and a spectacular pigtail yarn from my stash.
The opalescent (green background) ground cloth really isn’t done justice by the photo. It has a shimmer and sparkle that vanishes in the photo. It’s actually a transparent nylon thread with an opalescent coating, and looks different depending on what’s in the warp. Here the warp is black silk, so it takes on a darker, “solid” look.
And ah, the pigtail yarn! I am disgustingly happy with this sample, for no reason other than that I think it’s super cool. Here’s a better photo that also shows a bit of the unwoven yarn:
As you can see, the yarn has little “pigtails” coming out of it, and is a lovely heathered purple/pink plied with an opalescent thread. This results in a thick, textured fabric that I’ve fallen in love with for no good reason! I am racking my brains for how to use it, though – it’s far too scratchy for a scarf (unless I use a different yarn in the part that goes around the neck) and it doesn’t seem quite appropriate for a wall hanging, table runner, or other decorative item. Nonetheless, I love this sample. Someday I’ll figure out how to use this yarn!
Finally, I rewarped the loom with a transparent monofilament, striped with glow-in-the-dark thread. This was useful for transparency effects, of course, so I started with a small plaid of glow-in-the-dark thread and monofilament, framing an inlay of a fancy yarn:
I love the light and airy feel of this piece – it would be great hanging in a window, I think.
Next, I wove a sample (bottom of photo) in a very fine clear monofilament, with an inlay of copper wire:
I’m very fond of this sample, though I didn’t weave much of it because the very fine monofilament took forever to weave! Nylon is thermoplastic as well (I think), and you can see that the cloth is both tightly woven and translucent. This would look fantastic as a three-dimensional piece using Chris Palmer’s Shadowfolds origami techniques. Super exciting!
The rest of the samples were relatively unexciting, but may change interestingly when washed – I have to do that as well, perhaps this weekend.
And that’s it for today!