“If I were to do it over”….
I know that I am trouble if I find myself sitting in front of a warp and saying that phrase before I can even throw the first shot of weft or, in the case of my current ikat project, before I can apply the first tie to the area that will resist the dye. As I set the warp on the loom bars, I was thinking that I would warp it slightly differently “if I were to do it over”.
As I wrapped the warp threads, I was wondering why I had automatically started placing the knots at the edge of the wrap rather than in the center as I had in past ikat projects where I used cassette tape. Would it make any difference? Yes it did. “If I were to do it over”, I would put the knots in the middle of the wrap. There is far less chance of nicking or cutting a warp thread with scissor tips when unwrapping if the knot is in the center rather than at the edge.
The wrapping part didn’t take as long as I had thought. It was fun watching the design appear and satisfying seeing it take on the same proportions as my sketches. I had calculated and measured corrrectly…yay. No thoughts about do-overs there.
“If I were to do it over”, I would wash the thread in hot water before starting the project. I have dyed a lot of cotton in my time. I guess it has all been knitting yarn and crochet thread. Those have all dyed beautifully with the Dylon cold water dyes that I buy in small packets. However, my supplier of the UKI 20/2 weaving yarn that I am using in this project told me that this yarn is finished with a coating of wax. I only found this out by contacting them after my failed attempt to dye the warp black.
That explains the medium shade of blue I got with navy blue dye last week more than the fact that I had used a very watery solution. With this new warp, all I could turn out was an ugly steely grey instead of the black at which I had been aiming. What a waste of dye. I then overdyed it with far more dye than was necessary to ensure that I got black the second time around….another waste. So, that’s the end of my black dye supply…no do-overs possible for that part of the process.
Clearly, the dye had seeped under the tape in several places.
However, it wasn’t that bad after all. A very noticeable concentrated spot of color on a group of threads all squished together and tied, turns into a vague smudge when the individual threads are untied and fanned out. It is not like the marks disappeared, but they were something with which I could live. I couldn’t see why those particular parts had allowed dye to seep in, and so it is not a problem that I would expect to be able to eliminate “if I were to do it over”.
It was time to make heddles, put the shed rod in place and then unwrap. The unwrapping part was nerve-racking….take it easy and don’t snip a warp thread for goodness sake! And then it was time to weave! And this is where the “if I were to do it over” turned to “when I do it over” and there are several reasons for that.
I placed many…too many… thin strips of cardboard within successive sheds to start with. I can see now that not all those strips were perfectly straight and the accumulation of this flaw had the effect of having me start the weaving with a slightly askew weaving line.
I didn’t notice. Iwas concentrating so hard on the ikat motif and the alignment of the warps that I didn’t even notice until the whole motif had been woven. I had to weave in some short rows to get things straightened out for the supplementary weft patterning…NOT GOOD. It looked awful. Then I noticed that the ikat motif itself had also been thrown slightly off center. Oh well.
Maybe only I can see it but it just isn’t good enough. It was time to start the list headed “When I do this over” and get used to the fact that this will go on the sample pile.
However, I have to say that I am really pleased with the way the ikat pattern turned out. I didn’t get any of the dreaded “railway tracks” (my name for repeated single rows of lines and spots of undyed thread that get completely detached from the main motif.) There is fuzziness…perhaps more like a raggedness…it looks like ikat! Yay!
When I fished out my silk thread for the supplementary-weft patterning, it was plain to see that there are many levels of off-white-ness. The UKI thread is closer to white and the silk weft closer to cream. They weren’t going to look good together but I wove some patterns anyway. This piece is now a sampler and I may as well use it to learn as much as I can.
In the picture above, I have flipped the loom around and made new heddles so that I can add the supplementary-weft patterns to the other side of the ikat motif. More short rows had to be added to get things straightened out….stupid cardboard strips! grumble, grumble.
So, WHEN I do this again, I shall adopt some different ways of doing things, starting with the warping. Add to the list….don’t forget to dye the weft!! Weft went into the steely grey bath but not the black one which wasn’t such a problem until I broke two warp threads while weaving and had nothing with which to replace them.
I have loads of thread, a lifetime supply of ikat tape, and I think that I could probably get some embroidery floss here to match more closely the color of the UKI thread. What is missing is enough black dye…darn. Do you think that mixing navy blue and dark brown would work?
In the midst of this I had visitors who had not seen my weaving before.
I hate having to feel all squirmish about showing my work to people because I know what kind of questions and reactions I always get from local Santa Cruz people when I do so.
They are fascinated and delighted at first until they eventually ask how much time I spend on this kind of thing. And, when they find out that I don’t intend selling my work, and won’t even be hanging my wall hangings in this home (I am saving them for some vague future home-of-my-dreams!), well, that is the end of the story. Heads are shaken in bewilderment and I am left feeling a little deflated and almost foolish. My explanation of the ikat process was sheer madness to them!
Of course this and pretty much all my projects are all about the process.
I want to experience the ikat process and not merely create a large solid white motif on a solid black background. I could, after all, paint a white motif on black woven fabric if that is all I wanted, like my friend Sharon did when she hand-cut stencils and painted a beautiful set of tshirts for me with ethnic motifs.
Or, I could use the warp-faced double-weave stucture which would allow me so much freedom to create motifs on solid-color backgrounds…made up of straight lines that can be put together to resemble curves, like those in my last Shipibo-inspired wall hanging and other projects.
Below, you can see an experiment with curves and Celtic motifs that I made a long time ago.
Double weave, of course, creates a thick fabric when what you might really be after is something finer and more flowing.
It also does not favor the use of a lot of unpatterned area. The parts of the double-weave fabric that do not have pick-up patterning will sit as separate layers of cloth simply joined at the edges. This can create a sort of ballooning effect over large areas.
The simpler little brother of the warp-faced double weave technique is warp substitution. With this structure, you won’t have to worry about layer separation in large unpatterned areas but most people do not like the awkwardly long floats that form on the back of the cloth.
Another structure that allows motifs to sit on solid-color backgrounds is intermesh….
Patterning with supplementary weft allows you to have a light piece of solid-color fabric patterned with soild motifs. The drawback is that in order to make the woven piece practical, the length of the weft floats needs to be limited and that will restrict the kinds of motifs you can create. Large solid-color areas will need to be broken down into segments of short weft floats.
This is a pillow cover woven on a floor loom by a member of the Hipolito family of Zapotec tapestry weavers in California. (Which reminds me…my weaving friend Dorothy is currently in Peru studying tapestry techniques with master weaver Maximo Laura… can’t wait to hear more about it).
I love comparing the fine double-weave belt from Argentina, below, with its bold black and white pattern, to the precise black and white ikat work done by the Mapuche weavers of Argentina and Chile…two completely different processes that create superficially similar results.
And so, I will finish this post this week by showing you a fabulous ikat poncho created by Argentinean master weaver, Guillermina Cabral, from Victorica, La Pampa province and thank the Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina, to whom the image belongs, for allowing me to show it to you here. I found it on the Facebook page of MATRA (Mercado Internacional de Artesanías Tradicionales de la Argentina). The page has other images of beautiful ikat work along with other exquisite handcrafts of Argentina.