Saturday, June 18, 2016

God is a weaver!

A few weeks ago in church the message was based on Psalm 139, verses 13-15:

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

My pastor talked about the absolute unique character of every human being and emphasized that fact with information that is only recently understood regarding our DNA. One of those facts: Every human body contains about 10 trillion cells, and if the DNA strand in each of those cells could be strung end to end, they would total a length of approximately 744 million miles long. That's long enough to stretch to the moon (250,000 miles away) and back 1,500 times, long enough to stretch to the sun (93,000,000 miles away) and back four times.

I'm familiar with the verses from Psalms, but regarding them along with what scientists now know about our DNA gave me pause to consider further the mind-boggling, miraculous nature of each of us. I wondered, in terms of the weaving that is familiar to me, is there a way to understand the complexity of how we were "woven together"? Imagining those end to end strands of DNA as thread I questioned: How many miles of thread, how many yards of cloth were woven to create you? To create me? To frame the answer in terms I hoped to understand I chose the widest weaving width of my loom, 44", and a sett of 72 ends per inch (epi) for 60/2 silk, one of the finest yarns available for handweaving.  That much is imaginable: Well-known weaver Tien Chiu used 60/2 silk to weave fabric for her wedding dress; 72 epi, 15 yd long, and 23" in the reed.

744 million miles of thread (DNA) translates to 1 trillion, 309 billion, and 440 million yards of thread (over 88 million lb of 60/2 silk). For the sake of example I'll assume half will be used for warp, half for weft. Half of my yardage is 654,720,000,000 yards (note: that's 654 billion yards). Divided by 3,168 (44" @ 72 epi) ends means each end will be more than 200 million yards long making the woven length of cloth equivalent to over 117,000 miles long. If I weave 1 yard every day, 356 days a year, my cloth will take 566,210 years to complete. Let me repeat that: five hundred sixty-six thousand, two hundred and ten years.

Incomprehensible. Unimaginable. Impossible. We cannot begin to perceive the complexity and creativity that wove us together in our mother's womb.

May you be blessed by the knowledge of how masterfully you were formed, and when you sit at your loom or spin at your wheel, may your own creations remind you of how fearfully and wonderfully you are made.


44" in the reed x 72 epi = 3,168 ends
744,000,000 miles x 1760 (yd per mile) = 1,309,440,000,000 yd, divided by 2 = 654,720,000,000 yd.
1,309,440,000,000 yd divided by 14,800 yards per pound (60/2 silk) = 88,475,675 lb
654,720,000,000 yd divided by 3,168 ends = 206,666,666 yd, divided by 1,760 yd = 117,424 miles
206,666,666 yd divided by 365 days a year (1 yd per day) = 566,210 years.

*Note: 88,475,675 lb of silk at today's cost of $156/lb = $13,802,205,300.00 (over 13 billion dollars)

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Sense of Community

The following is a post I wrote for Handwoven magazine's newsletter with an introduction by Christina Garton, Associate Editor. 

Sarah H. Jackson
Weaving Editor, Handwoven

One of the reasons many of us weave (besides the fact that handwoven towels are the best towels) is the sense of community. Whether you are a regular guild attendee or an isolated weaver who takes parts in online discussions, we are all part of something big and wonderful. Sarah H. Jackson, frequent Handwoven contributor, guest editor for our fabulous new 
January/February cotton issue of Handwoven, and our new weaving editor, writes about her own experiences as part of this vast--and wonderful--community. --Christina 

In mid-January, I taught a three-day workshop on color for 16 members of my local weaving guild. Each participant chose one of several palettes that I provided and then developed an individual color study using their warp colors as a springboard for ideas. As I drove home on the last day, I found myself smiling as I thought not only about the beautiful samples and everyone's enthusiasm for learning, but about the many ways they had helped and encouraged each other (and me). Their generosity of spirit and a sense of community made the workshop a joyous time for all of us. 

Psychologists McMillan & Chavis 
define sense of community as "...a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together." They list four factors that contribute to a sense of community; as you read them, consider how they relate to the weaving community:

First, membership in a community is the feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of connection.

The second element is a sense of mattering. People in a community acknowledge that others' needs, values, and opinions matter to them.

The third element is integration and fulfillment of needs. This has to do with a sense of belonging, a support network, thoughtful conversation, and inspiration.

The fourth element is a shared emotional connection: Members with a history of experiences together will form lasting connections. This factor is believed to be the "definitive element for true community."

I see this working on many levels in the weaving world; in the small group in my workshop, in my guild, and in the online community made possible by the wonders of the Internet. My association with Handwoven has afforded me numerous opportunities to expand my community by connecting with weavers I would have otherwise never known. To mention just a few: I've connected with weavers from my alma mater (University of Kansas), made a friend in Serbia (she's invited me to visit; wouldn't that be fun?), and had the privilege of participating in the Mayan Hands Dye Project where I got to "meet" the Guatemalan dyers and their dedicated team of mentors.
Handwoven's new weaving editor, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to be more directly involved with our contributors. I'm on the lookout for fresh ideas and inspirational projects, and I hope you will consider sharing your work with the community of Handwoven's readers. I look forward to meeting and getting to know you, and to the joy and excitement that I know our shared love of weaving will bring!  --Sarah

A trio of happy weavers. Photo by Claudia Mutialu.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Study in Greens

Color plays an exciting, vital role in the design process, and learning to use colors confidently can be challenging. In the past few months I've developed a workshop to help weavers explore color compositions and translate them effectively into woven cloth. One of my own recent explorations was in green. Inspired by a collection of photographs, I chose three colors of green, tobacco brown, and gold for warp. I wove the first section of the sample in plain weave and then re-threaded for 4-shaft, 2 block, summer and winter. Complimentary colors and accent colors were used as weft in both samples.

 So interesting to see what a difference the weave structure makes in how the color reads!

Before I started the next sample I had decided to weave fabric for a tote bag that would work well for a carry-on. Above is the second set of samples I wove using only greens in the warp and working to see how I could rotate the same greens in the weft along with a lavenderish taupe and a more purpley color called shale.Below is the fabric I wove for the handles--all green in warp and weft.
Below is a shot of the fabric off the loom alongside the fabric I chose for the lining. 
The woven part of the tote bag is finished, and I'm working on the lining. Yesterday I learned (thanks to a tutorial online) how to install a zippered pocket in the lining. 

More pix to follow when the bag is finished!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mayan Hands Dye Project

 Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

    When I was invited to design a towel for the Mayan Hands Dye Project I joined a team of people who have generously donated time, energy, and technical expertise to help a group of women committed to learning and perfecting the natural dye process.  Together, for over five years, they have worked to make the potentially life-changing project a reality.
    The publication of Deborah Chandler's article about the project in the most recent issue of Handwoven magazine (Sept/Oct 2014) and my accompanying towel design has sparked the hoped-for response. The first batch of kits sold out quickly, and Cotton Clouds (all proceeds benefit the Guatemalan dyers) has a waiting list for the next batch which is scheduled to arrive soon from Guatemala. Please contact Cotton Clouds to be added to the list.
    To say the enthusiastic reception has been affirming and inspiring for the women on the dye team is an understatement. The money they have earned is not just more than what they typically earn; because there is little or no work for them otherwise, the income from the kits is all they are earning. 
    In an earlier post I wrote that the dye project was done in collaboration with WARP when Mayan Hands is, in fact, an independent member organization of WARP. Founded by Guatemalans Brenda and Fredy Rosenbaum in 1989, Mayan Hands is a fair trade organization whose mission is to assist women in their quest to rise from poverty by giving a “hand up,” not a “handout”.
    More about the towel design: The huckaback block design first appeared in Handwoven in 1985 in towels known as "friendship towels".  My design is a variation of the original, but the name still fits, perfectly appropriate to describe the affiliation between the weavers who are learning the dye process and those who appreciate their artistry and reach out in friendship and support.
    It is my hope that the design of the towels honors the efforts of all of those involved in the Dye Project. I hope, too, that weaving the towels will prompt a deeper appreciation of the connections and the friendships we forge through our love of weaving.
    One of the team members who deserves special thanks is Rocío Mena Gutierrez.
She provided " information, nudging, inspiration, dedication, fun, and a will to push hard when everyone was tired." (quote, Deborah Chandler). For a fascinating look at Rocio's time in Guatemala with the dyers and their families please read her blog:

Friday, January 17, 2014

"One Thread at a Time", Concordia University

I'm honored to announce that an exhibit of my work, "One Thread at a Time" will be on view through February 12 at Concordia University. I hope you'll join me for the reception and lecture.


One Thread at a Time

Handwoven Textiles

By: Sarah H. Jackson

January 15 - February 12, 2014
Artist's reception and lecture: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. 
in the John and Linda Friend Art Gallery in Grimm Hall.
Artist Statement:
Handweaving, simple or elaborate; it all begins with one thread. To sit at 
my loom and throw the shuttle while witnessing the interplay of color, 
pattern, and texture as it develops into cloth is endlessly fascinating.
My design process often centers on color as I work within the limitations 
of the loom to stretch and explore the possibilities of color interaction.
At other times I focus on the combination of structure and fiber, using 
only one or two colors, to create the desired cloth.
Whether designing for the home or one-of-a-kind garments, my weaving 
reflects a passion for marrying structure, fiber, and color to produce 
cloth that is unique, practical, beautiful, and just right for my intended 
About the Artist:
Sarah H. Jackson earned a B.F.A. in Design, concentration in textiles, at 
the University of Kansas. 
She owns a business dedicated to designing and marketing handwovens and 
reconstructed clothing, conducts workshops for guilds and conferences, and is 
a technical editor and designer for *Handwoven* magazine.

 Art Exhibitions and Lectures 2013-2014 | Art | Concordia University Irvine

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mayan Hands, Dye Project

One of the projects I've been working on since last summer is a collaboration with Weave a Real Peace; WARP. The organization is best described on their website:

"WARP serves as a catalyst for improving the quality of life of weavers and textile artisans in communities-in-need.  We provide information and networking opportunities to individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, and artistic importance of textiles around
the world.

Weave a Real Peace (WARP) is a networking organization of weavers, academics, and interested supporters who value the importance of textiles to communities around the world.

Founded in 1992, WARP has members from across the United States, Canada, Central and South American, Europe, Africa, and Asia.  A newsletter is published quarterly telling of weaving, spinning, and dye cooperatives and other member projects from around the world. Once a year we come together for an annual meeting somewhere in the United States in a place rich in regional textile resources or history."

One of the WARP organizations is Mayan Hands:  "...a small fair trade organization which works with more than two hundred women organized in twelve different cooperative groups. These talented weavers produce beautiful, high quality textiles which Mayan Hands is proud to market."  

The project I'm working on is for a subgroup of Mayan Hands that involves approximately two dozen women who are learning the natural dye process for yarn using materials such as indigo, madder, cochineal, and logwood. Eight or so individuals, from the United States and from Guatemala, are working together to aid in teaching and perfecting the dye process. My role in the project is the design of kitchen towels which will be sold as kits via Cotton Clouds.

To begin, I wove two color gamps to see how the various colors would interact. One of them is shown here:
From the color gamp I chose five colors for the warp in the towel sample. The dyes used (left to right in the photo below) are osage orange, madder, cochineal, osage orange with indigo, and indigo.
I wove them in a twill variation (4 harness) with an additional three colors for the weft; eight total. It's always fun to see what happens when one color crosses another, and often totally surprising.
I also wove a small sample with some of the lighter test colors that are being considered for another kit. I think these colors are lovely and would appeal to many weavers.
I'm waiting for a final decision about which colors will be offered in kit form; then I can weave the towels!

Via email, it has been a great pleasure to get to know Deborah Chandler, founder of WARP, and to be a part of the conversations between her and the team working on this project. I'm honored to be part of such a worthy project.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Riveting... Recycled Blue Jeans

Riveting, a new yarn by Kollage (available from Cotton Clouds) made of 100% recycled blue jeans, is what I used in my latest weaving project. Although available in 25 colors (15 solid and 10 marled), I chose to use a classic denim blue for the weft and and neutral greyish white that reminds me of the reverse side of denim.
The weave structure is an 8-shaft turned twill. For those of you who are not weavers, you might be interested to know that twill is the structure of denim. Take a close look at your blue jeans and you'll see the diagonal twill lines. If it's difficult to see, look on the reverse side and you'll find them there.

Here's a bit of blue jeans history according to

In 1853, the California gold rush was in full swing, and everyday items were in short supply.   Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old German immigrant, left New York for San Francisco with a small    supply of dry goods with the intention of opening a branch of his brother's New York dry goods  business. Shortly after his arrival, a prospector wanted to know what Mr. Levi Strauss was selling. When Strauss told him he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector said, "You should have brought pants!," saying he couldn’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last.

Levi Strauss had the canvas made into waist overalls. Miners liked the pants, but complained that they tended to chafe. Levi Strauss substituted a twilled cotton cloth from France called "serge de Nimes." The fabric later became known as denim and the pants were nicknamed blue jeans.

While planning the vest it occurred to me that it might be fun to combine the woven fabric with some actual pieces of blue jeans. Here is the resulting vest:

 Front; zipper removed and waistband extended for the closure.
The collar pieces were cut from the legs.

  and the back.

I'm happy with the finished vest. Now all I need is cooler weather so I can wear it! 

Now back to the loom!