I have often remarked (from a straight girl’s perspective) that it’s really too bad that weavers are 99% female, because if you’re going to buy an expensive sports loom, you should at least be able to attract nubile young men with them. And I feel that the first samples for Seasons of Creativity would make anyone swoon:
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first step, of course, was to dye all the blanks. Here are the blanks once I got through painting on dyes:
I was a little worried that the dyes might not set well, given that it was cold out, but apparently Procion MX dyes don’t think a California winter (55-60 F) is cold at all – they set just fine with a couple hours in the afternoon sun.
Next, I unraveled the blanks. This should have been easy, except that my boss was breathing down my neck the entire time. Two bosses, in fact. Especially once it was suspected that String might be involved:
After I convinced both bosses that getting whiskers and paws caught in moving yarn would be a Bad Idea, Tigress decided to help by weighing down my knitted-blank samples. They might have blown away otherwise in the hurricane winds generated by the bobbin winder. Or been stolen by gremlins. Very thoughtful of her.
After winding the bobbins, I flung myself onto the loom for a four-hour weaving binge. It’s great to be back to weaving! A 3-4 year hiatus is way too long.
Okay, so what conclusions have I drawn from the samples, and where to go from here?
First, I’ve concluded that I like and will use pretty much all the weft combinations. I was using four different weft yarns: a very fine reeled silk, a fine silk with a metallic strand twisted in, a fine metallic sparkle yarn, and iridescent sewing thread. I bundled those threads together in groups of three and used them as a single weft yarn. All of those combinations worked and looked good, so I’ll use them in the final piece, just in different places. The less sparkly butterflies will go at the beginning, when creativity is just starting to develop, the brilliantly sparkly butterflies will go later on, when creativity is in full swing.
Second, I need to simplify the shading in the butterflies. The Photoshop file has complex and subtle shading. It doesn’t translate well to woven cloth because the motifs aren’t large enough. I think I’m going to change it from seven layers of shading to simple black and white and see if that makes the butterflies look more detailed, rather than blobby masses.
Third, I want to paint the background weft as well, to make it change colors. I really like the blue stripe in the background, and want to use it with a silver or gold sparkly strand to brighten up the butterflies in the far right of the piece, where creativity is in full flower.
In case you’ve forgotten, Seasons of Creativity looks like this:
I’d like to make the background shade from hints of chocolate brown with gold sparkle on the right, to flat, dull charcoal gray in the center, to deep purple (?) with very subtle metallic glitter in the center right, to hints of royal blue with sparkly silver or gold metallic glitter in the far right. Subtle – the background will be 87% black mixed with those colors – but providing a hint of color. I’m still considering what weft yarn to use, but I’m thinking 20/2 cotton with a strand of sparkle thread.
So what are my next steps?
Well, in case you haven’t noticed, Seasons of Creativity has gotten kind of complicated. Actually very complicated, technically speaking. We’re now talking seven different weft yarns, five or six combinations of weft yarns, four knitted blanks, and a bazillion color changes (and a partridge in a pear tree!). I’ve thought this through and have concluded that this is pretty much impossible to sample without simply weaving the piece and seeing what happens. The question is whether to weave a full-sized “first draft” piece, make corrections, and then weave a second draft, or whether to weave a half-size piece for testing purposes and then weave the full-sized piece.
Both approaches have merits – the half-sized piece would of course take only half as long to dye/weave, and I might be able to create files to test everything I need to test within the context of the half-sized piece. But I would have to recalculate all my numbers, which would lose some of the saved time and introduce more room for error. At this point I’m inclined to weave a full-sized “first draft” and see what happens. This is a non-trivial commitment, though, since Seasons of Creativity is about 12,000 picks long. I timed myself weaving the sample, and I’m currently weaving at about 500 picks per hour. So the weaving time alone on the first draft would be 24 hours. Plus time knitting and dyeing the blanks. Figure about 50 hours for the first-draft version. This is decidedly nontrivial. I will think about this for at least a day, and probably weave some more preparatory samples, before deciding anything. I think the best plan may be to prepare and plan as well as possible beforehand, give it my best shot, and simply reserve time to weave a second piece if the “first draft” doesn’t meet my expectations.
More to mull on…stay tuned!