Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mad Scientist

weighing fiber
It's "mad scientist" time at Convergence! The class in natural dyes is about to start, I hope it is very "hands on" and we get to take home samples. I've only done natural dyeing with plants I have gathered in the neighborhood. That beginning into the world of plant dyes has been very interesting and entertaining for the neighbors to watch, but I mostly get yellows, greens and browns. The class today will play with the materials to get reds and blues -- finally a whole range of colors from natural sources!

cooking dyestuffs
We got right to work, going over the basics and getting the amounts for mordant worked out for the different fibers. Moved onto straining the dyestuffs (that the instructor had soaked overnight.) and putting the samples into the dye. After alternating from info bits and figuring out percentages for more dyestuffs and taking out the samples and washing them -- a lot of juggling of tasks by the instructor to keep things moving forward -- we ended up with seven plant samples in wool and cotton.
chopping madder

Our dyestuffs are: Osage Orange (yellow), Sage (yellow), Madder (reds), Brazilwood (reds), Cochineal (reds), Logwood (purple), and Cutch (tan). Many of these plants are altered by hard or soft water, ph levels and temperature - I can understand how modern science could figure this out, but how did our ancient peoples figure all this out? Smarts and time -- passing down information for generations. Amazement and respect for those that came before us!
cooking the yarn

Tomorrow we'll put indigo and iron into the mix and end up with 42 samples plus whatever we do with the indigo.
samples drying


Friday, July 23, 2010

Wedge Weave

I'm at HGA Convergence in Albuquerque and spent the last two days in a class on wedge weaving. Wedge weaving is easy to identify by it's scalloped edges. It was originally done by the Navajos but possibly fell out of favor when interior designers equated straight selvages with quality. I had not heard of this type of weaving until reading about the class in the Convergence class catalog. I have been wanting to learn tapestry techniques and this was the closest I could come to at the conference. I googled "wedge weave" to find out what it was and looked at some traditional images (on right). I also checked out the instructor Connie Lippert and liked the contemporary way she was interpreting this traditional technique(below left).

Wedge weaving is unusual because the weaving is done at an angle, changing colors to create wedges, diagonals and arrow shapes. We all started out working on little cardboard looms learning how to begin each wedge, and how to change colors.

At right is my beginning cardboard sample.

We then moved on to our real looms and began our projects. I chose to go for the big shapes, minimal color, bold approach. I also used colors that were totally unlike me, I don't think I have ever used blue, red, and gray together.

Below is my beginning, middle and end of class project. I think I'm about half done after 10 hours of weaving. This did include some time for "unweaving" my errors and general slowness trying to figure out what to do next or begin the next section.

My weaving technique was in general, not great, but that would improve with practice. I also was using heavy yarn, which on one hand made the weaving go faster, but I also think it was harder to make it smooth and even since the three yarns packed differently. Or I could be making excuses...

I'm also including (below) the weaving starts from some of my classmates.

I probably won't get into wedge weaving in a big way, but the techniques are interesting and could see myself using this together with other tapestry techniques in my future work.