Friday, November 22, 2013

Japanese inspiration for a new adventure

A long overdue post, but really, just the beginning of a new story.

My weaving adventures in Japan have lead to even more weaving adventures in Australia and I have plans underway to open Art Weaver Studio in Melbourne in 2014.

With a view to becoming an accredited SAORI studio, will soon be the web address to visit to keep up to date with what is happening.

Discovering the freedom to create at a young age
My wonderful full week of weaving training in Japan at Saorinomori in Osaka affirmed my desire to create a place where people of all ages and abilities can come together to discover and develop their own creativity. Saori weaving encourages, inspires and delights; enabling absolute beginners and experienced artists alike, to create individually unique cloth from the outset. 

Under the instruction of Kenzo Jo, co-founder of SAORI worldwide
Art Weaver Studio is the culmination of my lifetime love of colour and design, of the immense satisfaction in creating with one's own hands, and now of teaching and sharing this joy with others.

Here's a glimpse of what I enjoyed whilst at Saorinomori, a taste of what I hope to bring to others with Art Weaver Studio in the years ahead!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Absence of weaving

With my day job having to take precedence (out of necessity) over the past three months, there has not been any weaving since my brief Saori sojourn with Kax Maddigan of Curiousweaver, back in June.

SwingKnitting exploration

Hand-spun & hand-dyed Mohair
The only way I have been able to get through this weaving deficit has been to use the snippets of time available and knit. This has allowed me to (a) handle beautiful yarns (b) create (c) produce some functional items for self (d) contemplate ideas for future weaving.
  • I became intrigued with something called "Swing Knitting" and explored the techniques and potential for infinite variation through this fascinating approach to using short rows.
  • Learnt a little about Elizabeth Zimmerman and her approach to garment design through knitting a vest from a 1950s pattern.
  • Discovered both the pleasure and frustration in knitting fine silk yarn into a lace shawl. 
  • Knitted up some hand-dyed German sock yarn into a stunning collar.
  • Delighted in knitting mohair, hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn by a friend, into a lacey, floppy beret.
Kyoto in Autumn
Weaving is definitely back on the agenda soon though, as I am off to Japan shortly for intensive weaving workshops in Osaka at Saorinomoro. Spending time also in Takayama during their famous Autumn festival and also visiting Kyoto. Won't be at all surprised if these strong autumnal tones appear in my weaving on my return!
Saorinomoro in Osaka, Japan
The anticipation of this adventure and learning opportunity has kept me going these past months and I am sure to return to weaving with enhanced skills, expanded ideas and new friends.

Autumn in Takayama

Monday, July 22, 2013

Of Mills and Twills

I recently unearthed a full 1 kg cone of yarn, made by one of the USA oldest mills, Holt Williamson. A 1939 copy of the Fayetteville Observer tells me that this mill was opened in 1898 and was originally a cotton mill. The owners were known for their care of employees, building homes, schools and providing free electricity for them. If you want to find out more about the history of this mill,  and the man behind it, here's a couple of interesting links: About William Holt Williamson also Fayetteville Observer 1939

The label on the cone tells me the colour is Amarillo, composition 53% rayon, 25% flax and 19% cotton, with an S twist and count of 2300 yards with a stamp stating it is "Made with Pride in the USA". I have absolutely no idea when this yarn was made.

Amarillo, with its gentle sheen and variegated cotton slubs throughout, is the inspiration for weaving  a set of 3 cushion covers for a friend. This is the first time I have worked with a fibre mix like this for the warp and quickly discovered that an even tension across the width of the warp was critical. Within the first 50cm of the weave, I managed to break a fair number of warp threads on one side of the weave before getting the tension just right. Once that was remedied, I was able to progress at a much more satisfactory rate! 

Each cushion uses a different mix of twill structures, using the same yarn as the warp together with wools, in natural, red, blue, yellow and greens (echoing the colours of the cotton slubs). I planned the weaving so each side of each cushion cover is different, to maximise visual changes when arranging them. Three cushions that can do the job of six different cushions. How's that for versatility!

Off the loom, broken warps mended, washed, steamed and ready to sew into cushion covers. Decided on two 45cm square cushions and one small rectangular cushion just to mix it up a bit. Some strong zips and set to work on the sewing machine.

Twill cushions view 1
Twill cushions view 2
Complete, with their inserts, ready to wrap for my friend for a belated birthday gift. These cushions have their story woven in!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Saori Sojourn

I have recently returned from a weekend workshop of weaving and warp dyeing held in Yarrawonga (Victoria) by Kaz Maddigan of Curiousweaver. This was a first for me - in that I had never previously woven alongside others!

Having followed Kaz's Saori exploits for the past couple of years and explored this approach to weaving on my own, it was a real delight to learn some specific techniques from her and to share in this experience with a group of like-minded weavers. 

Looms warped and ready to go, I enjoyed focussing on the intuitive approach to selecting my yarns for both colour and texture in real-time. No measuring, calculating, preliminary sketching or charting here. Simply moment by moment decisions, totally absorbing me as the hours of the weaving day flew by. All these images are of the one piece of Saori weaving I achieved in one day's weaving at the workshop!

With my planned trip to Japan to study at Saorinomoro in Osaka later this year all booked up, this weekend workshop reinforced my growing desire to focus more on expressive forms of art weaving. Seeing the work produced by the other weavers was truly inspirational and the variety of individual expressions infinite.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Harmonies in Yellow and Green

Time to try out a striped warp for the first time! I decided on a wool warp in a fine 3 colour stripe, which included selecting the correct yarns for the warp. This was tricky as I found several of the colours I wanted to use broke much too easily. I eventually settled on a bottle green (ex Wangaratta Woollen Mills - doubling it up for strength), a pale avocado (Bendigo Woollen Mills 2 ply current colour) and two single ply soft yellow/pale gold (origin unknown, also doubled up for strength,).

An 8-shaft pointed twill threading, making sure to calculate the colours of the stripe to sit exactly into the threading repeat. I've now learnt to make sure there are enough heddles on each shaft before I start. Still managed to make the warp wider than I intended though - simple basic arithmetic gone awry once again!

Threaded, beamed and ready to start
This project was an adaptation from Margo Selby's book "Colour and Texture in Weaving" but with completely different colourways and yarns.  After getting the hang of the patterns Goji and Grape, in between bands of tabby, I decided to be brave (or misguided) and design a pattern repeat of my own! Looking carefully at the effects of lifting different shafts in different combinations - and writing it down - I came up with my own pattern which I incorporated into the project.

Bands of Goji & Grape on tabby

Section of plain weave with the beginning of my design
Currently called Pattern "H" (until I think of a better name), it gives an interesting texture and intersects with the warp stripe in quite a different way to the bands of pattern previously woven in the same piece. Staying with this pattern now for the main body of the piece, I then finished off with variations of the highly textured bands of Goji and Grape once again.

Here it is, fringes finished, washed and steam pressed. A lovely drape and soft feel with balanced scale of the stripe within the width of the piece (27cm wide x 180cm length).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Purple Peacocks Plus

I have always been drawn to peacocks - well, specifically their colours. In my studio (on which I hand-painted a peacock on the outside wall), hangs a single peacock feather that has been in my life since I was a teenager. The iridescence of its colours never fails to enchant me and has been the inspiration for quite a few creative pieces over the years. 

With plenty of the deep olive warp still on my loom (see previous post), I set out to select an array of colours which would drift across the surface of a plain weave, constantly change their relationships to each other and be a woven reminder of my favourite peacock feather.

Selecting yarns from my stash is always for me like mixing paints, so I pulled out an array of silvery-sea greens, golden oranges and coppery bronze yarns to add to the purple I was already using in the weft.

Twisted fringes finished it off, and after a gentle wash and steam, it's already had its first autumn outing in early April. I know there's not really any purple peacocks, but .......... wouldn't they be fabulous!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Next Challenge

I have a long history of never taking the easy road in anything I do. To make sure my brain and my skills are stretched yet once again, I decided to find a way to weave a wavy design (continual S curves) along the length of a fabric. This search brought me to network drafted advancing twills. Now, I can understand each of those words in isolation, but as a phrase, that was another thing altogether!!

Reading and re-reading (more than a couple of times) an indepth article on WeaveZine by Bonnie Inouye titled: Flowing Curves: Network Drafted Twill. I discovered how to do what I wanted on my table loom with six shafts. I took me quite a while to work out the process and I sure don't fully understand how to design my own weaving drafts, but I got to work deciphering the information. Bonnie is a highly experience weaver, so I was worried I may have been way out of my depth.

This meant a 42-thread repeat on the warp threading and a 100 pick (row) repeat in the weft weaving. And in between each of these pattern picks, were alternate odd & even tabby (plain) rows. Attention to detail at every level and step of the way was paramount to the success of this weave structure and design, but I was determined.

It's now complete.  A 2 metre scarf using a deep olive warp with purple and seafoam green weft. The set was possibly a little coarse and using finer yarns would have defined the pattern more, but it has a lovely soft drape. Once I got the hang of it, it was however quote boring to actually weave. I wasn't making moment by moment decisions about colours and different yarns and textures and all the things I really enjoy about weaving!  By following this weave pattern to the absolute letter (essential for the outcome), I became an extension of the loom. This process has produced a fine looking scarf, but without the personal input to design. To me, it doesn't have the life and energy that I bring to my art weaving.

Tiring of the repetitious weaving and abandoning the advancing twill pattern, I went on to have a bit more fun with a short scarf, introducing a multi-coloured yarn along with some silvery highlights. Just because I could!

Because I put on a 6 metre warp, I plan to move on to another 2 metre length which uses simple tabby weave BUT represents something much more, with use of different colours, yarns and their ever changing interactions.............

my next post will explore the outcome of that adventure!