Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Assignment 4 - Project 9, Stage 4: Developing Design Ideas Into Weaving

There's a choice of approaches for this stage.  Either linking to the Analysing Colour, Texture and Proportion exercise and transforming piece of source material into tapestry, or working intuitively to describe a word in weaving.  As I felt my first sample was intuitive, I decided on the first option here.  Also the image I wanted to use was the same as I'd used in Feltmaking Experiments and one I'm considering developing for my final project.  I thought that the more I study this image and capture it in varying techniques, the more closely I'll be observing and understanding it before my final piece.

I'd already done wrappings in the analysis exercise.  However once I'd done the graph paper stripes and considered the proportions, I wasn't convinced that there's be enough of some of the yarns to complete the weaving. I also wanted to have some varying thicknesses so I could blend colour in some areas and add more variety of texture.      

From my stash I selected alternatives for each yarn and tied them to a numbered card to use as a key.
One idea that I'm really glad I had, as it saved a lot of time looking for the right shade, was to add the yarns to clear bags which I labelled and put in a large box.
I also found that squared tracing paper was really helpful for placing over the image when planning the design as I had such a large number of colours. I thought that to interpret my design though, I wouldn't have to be too precise with shape placement.  I planned three main bands with the craggier, raised area at the bottom, a slightly smoother central section then a darker upper section.

When I was done, I warped up the loom to the width of the image, using a ruler to make sure the knots were horizontal.  

I completed a few centimetres of plain weave that will be turned back for presentation.  As I was doing this I considered whether I might have rust dyed the warp threads so that they could have deliberately been left visible in parts of the weaving or perhaps knotted and hanging underneath.  However this would have taken days or weeks I did not have.  I've also noticed how my fabrics have sometimes become brittle and holey after rusting so perhaps they would become too weak and break during weaving.  Maybe painting or dyeing them would work better?   

I completed the bottom section with more hairy and slubby yarns using eccentric weave and areas of Soumak, to make it appear raised.  When I began on the central section, I immediately liked the contrast of the texture, which had changed to something flatter with a slight sheen due to the inclusion of a ribbon yarn.  However after a few rows I was regretting the slight variegation in the yarn I'd chosen.  When I began to add the lilac shapes, they weren't standing out as much as I'd hoped.  The background was too distracting and light in colour.  However, I'd gone a bit far to start unpicking, I didn't think I had a suitable alternative yarn at home and the advice in the project guide is to wait until the design is completed before judging it. I did though; decide to make some adjustments to the yarn selection I had planned for immediately above the bumps, to stick with a similar texture for the whole area.  I'm pleased with this decision as I think it makes it more cohesive as a section.      

Before the top section, there's an area of dark, deep cracks where I've used dark brown and purple yarns.  I've varied between single and multiple rows of weave to make the lines look broken in some places, solid in others.  This section also has spots of white which looked right as I was weaving but once pushed down either disappeared, looked flat rather than rounded, or they seemed to end up in the wrong position.  I re-worked some of these by wrapping the warp end a few times.  I'm not sure that this would be the correct technical method to add spots but it seemed to work.  

I added more areas of Soumak to this area to create the ridges and made some gentle curves to follow.   

The upper area of the image is mainly blue and lilac with small touches of oranges and turquoise.  The rusting metal has a slight sparkle and here I introduced a metallic thread. I combined thinner yarns and worked with a number of butterflies on the go.  Every so often, I dropped one of the strands at the back and picked up another from a neighbouring weft hoping that this would result in the colours blending rather than standing out as spots.  
Finally, I wove a few plain rows.  Like the blue bottom border, these will be unseen once folded back and stitched as a hem. This time, I felt more confident that the whole thing wasn't going to fall apart and unravel as I cut it from the loom and trimmed the threads!
Standing back and considering the finished sample, it's not quite how I envisaged.  The three areas which look quite distinct on my image are less clear cut. The central right area that I had concerns about still irritates me and in hindsight, I wish I'd followed my instincts and dealt with it then by picking it out and replacing the variegated yarn with something self-coloured but still smooth - combining some embroidery floss with 3mm ribbon would have worked I think.
Though some of my yarns have been stubborn about sitting flat or curving nicely, I'm pleased I managed to select from my existing collection for Project 9, rather than spending on specialist rug wool. Something I learnt from Kaffe Fassett when compiling the Textile Artist Research Point is the infinite variety of colour that can be created by combining what you have available.  I felt weaving is similar to how he describes his tapestry, as painting with wool, though as you can only weave bottom up, it does need some planning if you are following an image.  I was happy with my source material which I could follow fairly loosely and think if I had worked a design with sharp edges that had to be precise, it might feel a bit limiting, like painting by numbers! 
I found the graph paper planning tedious, though once I'd started weaving; I really appreciated having the chart to refer to.  There were still decisions to make on sequences and texture, but having the colours already plotted simplified everything.  I'm sure that there's a better relationship to the original image as a result of the planning.
Although the central area was not captured quite as I intended, overall I am happy with the sample and its proportions. Having spent a lot of time recently observing rusty objects, for me, it does capture 'rust' in colour and texture, even though I'm using soft materials to convey something hard.  Close up, I can see and feel the change the in texture of each area and I've found I much prefer the dynamics created by eccentric weaving over plain weaving.    
It was interesting to weave the same image I used for wet felting and needle felting in Stage 8 and compare results.  Weaving is more predictable and cannot be rushed but it is something I'd try again.  Perhaps because it is winter and it's cosy to sit by the Christmas tree and fire, that it's easier to enjoy the quiet contemplative time and I liked getting into a rhythm on the larger sections.  Handling so many fibres has improved my understanding of their properties and I've particularly enjoyed making unusual combinations and seeing how differently a yarn can appear once beaten down and condensed.   


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