Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The making of a weaver

This story has been in progress for a long time.  I've always known I wanted to weave.  But it took Golden Gate Fiber Insititute, Judith MacKenzie, and Laverne Waddington to make it all come together.
At GGFI in August, I took Judith's Color on Cloth class and dyed a warp, progressively tying resists and immersing in color.
Yes, that really was the first color.
Other lovely warps drying:
Compared to these, mine ended up looking rather dull, but I have to admit I was not giving it much focus.  I was concentrating on trying to finish the woven shibori piece that we had to warp, weave, and dye in record time. (Also trying to turn part of my hair indigo - thus the plastic-wrapped knob.)
When I got the warp home on its own, I decided it's not dull, per se, but subtle.
The woven shibori turned out okay, too.
I was actually very proud of myself for getting this done, to a decent scarf length.  It was an immersion in the deep end for a new weaver like me, but that was a great way to learn, and I deeply appreciated Judith's method and message of trust in simply getting me started and letting me do it.
Once home, I had to rig up a way to weave my warp.
I have no loom, and a longstanding interest in backstrap weaving, so the way was clear.
With the aid of Laverne's tutorials, I began to weave with a backstrap, practicing on a narrow cotton strip, then moving on to handspun wool.
Once I had this taste of backstrap weaving, I could not wait to start on my dyed warp.  It took some wrangling, since the warp yarns had gotten sticky with the dyeing, but I enjoyed this part, too.
This is the grey base yarn.  I also dyed 1/3 as many warp yarns over white, and when I prepared the warp for weaving, I integrated them as two stripes.
It was very slow-going at first.  With such a long warp, three times as wide as my previous one (this is about 12" wide,) I had a steep learning curve.  The cotton I'd used for a string heddle was sticking to the wool like crazy, so I eventually abandoned it for a new one made of plastic tape.  (The rejected heddle string will make an interesting addition to a yarn someday: pale blue cotton with felted rust-orange nubs every several inches!) Here is the plastic heddle, and some actual woven cloth, which was a thrill to see:
Making this cloth, and watching the colors interact as the weft joins it, has been a deeply satisfying trip.
This piece will be significant on so many levels, and I cherish every aspect of its formation, not least the people who have guided the way.
I think I'm more than halfway finished, adding a few inches each day.


jude said...

loving all the weaving here.

namethatmolnar said...

T, that's gorgeous. I can't wait to see what happens when you start in with your handspuns! (I love love love weaving with stuff I've spun on a charkha)

Beware: you may not have a loom, but looms have a way of finding their way to new weavers. I have a four-harness floor loom, given freely to me by its former owner when I started weaving. It's sadly still sitting wrapped up in an unused porch. This makes me want to carve out space for it in our little house. Perhaps I can kick out some toys...

Lynn said...

Woo! Look at you! Great work!

Laverne said...

Lovely post, Tracy. It's great to see the entire process come together and especially nice to see a picture of you. You have jumped into this fearlessly, wide warp, wool.... and have been really resourceful trying out different materials for your heddles. Can't wait to see it finished.

knit said...

I'm speechless, really and truly.

Tracy said...

Thank you, everyone - It's a joy to share, and I'm moved by all the response.
Erika, is that you?? Hi!

namethatmolnar said...

yep, it's me. hi!

Elizabeth said...

Lovely work! I use a floor loom myself and have often wondered if the back strap loom is hard on your back?
I like the way the fabric is coming out warp faced, it really shows that warp off nicely.

Wesoly said...

Hi, Tracy! I'm a weaving convert too, from Laverne's site as well, and I was impressed with your use of "plastic tape" for the heddles. Could you tell me exactly what tape you used for them? This looks like something that might solve a few problems on my own end. I was thinking of trying a roll of strong, shiny Christmas ribbon if I can't find the tape you used. Thanks for the inspiration, and beautiful work! :D