Spoiler: Velvet coming to these pages soon!!
You may have noticed that there’s been no weaving content in quite awhile. This is partly because I’ve been crazy busy with developing and launching Color Courage for Weavers – working 12-14 hours a day for the last 2-3 months leaves little time for anything else. But it’s also because the warp that’s on Grace (my TC-2 jacquard loom) is incredibly persnickety and no fun to weave.
At the same time, rethreading a jacquard loom is not something one approaches lightly (read: without chugging a fifth of whiskey first), and since I just haven’t had the mental or emotional energy to deal with it, Grace has been sitting around moping for the better part of two years.
Hopefully, that’s about to change.
Out of the blue, I got an inquiry from an MFA student, Ricki, who wanted to trade studio assistance for training in how to use a TC-2. Now, I get this kind of request on a fairly regular basis, and I generally say no, because typically the person asking doesn’t have enough experience to make it worthwhile. However, Ricki is an MFA student with considerable weaving experience. They’ve been offered a jacquard residency at CCA, but CCA won’t teach them how to learn how to use the TC-2, so they have to learn how to use it first. Ricki sent an email to my weaving guild asking if anyone knew someone who owned a TC-2, and thus wound up on my doorstep.
This sounds like a wonderful trade to me. I still don’t have time or energy to rethread Grace, so having someone willing to spend the 20-30 hours needed to wind a 10-20 yard, 2,640-thread warp, beam it onto two warp beams (beaming a warp onto Grace bears a certain resemblance to watching grass grow), and then thread all her teeny-tiny heddle eyes, is manna from heaven. (Plus, Ricki is still young enough to chug that fifth of whiskey without regretting it for months afterwards.) And teaching someone how to design for and use a TC-2 sounds WAY more fun than sitting there doing endless threading.
From Ricki’s perspective, of course, it’s also a great deal, because TC-2s are rare, and getting a chance to learn all the aspects of how to use one, including threading one, is a pretty unusual opportunity. And I told Ricki that I’d be happy to let them weave on it as much as they wanted, if I weren’t in the middle of a project at the time – which is a VERY rare opportunity indeed. So it’s a good trade all around.
Now, what am I planning to weave? VELVET!!
I’ve gotten obsessed with velvet since my trip to John Marshall’s place. His collection of Japanese velvets is amazing. I’m going to rhapsodize over a few examples in my next blog post, and then obsess over a lot more examples in another blog post a couple days from now. They are gorgeous, demand virtuoso skills, and are also technically intricate – exactly the kind of work I live for.
Because I can’t wait that long to tell you about my new obsession, here is one small example:
This is a lovely velvet that has been painted with dye after weaving. Looks nice, right? But look at the white bits, the highlights on the peony. That’s not paint. That’s areas where the loops of velvet pile have been left uncut. (If you click on the image to get the big image, and zoom in, you’ll see little loops in the white areas.) The artisan used the fact that uncut loops of thread are more reflective than cut ends to create the highlights – not just in the big white areas but also in tiny little sections around the edges of each petal. Some of those areas are only a thread or two wide. Similarly, the veins in the leaves are created not with dye, but with uncut loops of thread. Cutting almost all of an area, but leaving 1-2 threads intact, requires amazing control over the velvet knife. Hats off to the artisan!!
And there is plenty of other virtuoso work in the Japanese velvets, but if I got started on them in this blog post, I’d never finish it. More in the next post, I promise!
I don’t plan to do anything that complicated, at least not initially. But I do plan to do some interesting experiments with velvet. This involves quite a bit of custom equipment, which is why most weavers don’t weave velvet. But Mike and I are hoping to change that. Mike is designing and printing velvet-weaving equipment for me using CAD software and his 3-D printer. Once he has the design down, and we’ve gotten them to the point where I’m happily weaving on them, we’re planning to publish the designs. That way any weaver can download them, have them 3-D printed, and start weaving velvet, too!
More in my next post…