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!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Halcyon Yarn News; Summer and Winter Towels

A friend from my weaving guild forwarded this newsletter from Halcyon Yarn today. What a nice surprise to find they are offering my towels as a kit! And I love that they are encouraging weavers to use other colorways as well. 

Thank you, Halcyon, for your support and for your lovely comments!

The Halcyon photo is a bit dark, so I've posted the original here:
Photo by Joe Coca, Handwoven magazine

Halcyon Yarn News, Notes, & etc.

Summer and Winter Towels, quick start colorways

The Handwoven May/June 2013 issue is packed with all things color. We were particularly taken with the “Four Blocks on Four Shafts: Summer and Winter Towels” by Sarah Jackson. The towels depend upon the interplay of colors in warp, pattern weft and tabby weft. Sarah uses 6 colors of similar value and 1 of a higher contrast. Wow – just choosing that many colors is quite a feat. 55213130-A
Handwoven May/June 2013
So in hopes of encouraging you to give this fantastic pattern a go we’ve chosen colors in 3 colorways using Homestead 8/2 Cotton Yarn ; blues and greens similar to those pictured, earth tones and sunset coral and pink tones. Click through to the ‘project colorways’ below and you can add the entire colorway to your cart with one click! You can also, of course, add only some of the colors and substitute / customize with your own creative selections!

Homestead 8/2 Cotton Yarn

Earth Tones:
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Picture of Halcyon signature

Friday, May 24, 2013

Recipes for Success

Tooting my own horn a bit this morning by sharing the lovely comments Anita Osterhaug made preceding a post I wrote for Weaving Today, the online resource for Handwoven magazine. Anita is the editor of Handwoven. Her continued enthusiasm and support are hugely appreciated!

May 24, 2013
Recipes for Success

Sarah Jackson is one of the most talented weavers and designers I know. I am perpetually in awe of her ability to marry structure, yarn, and color and produce just the right fabric for her purpose. Sarah blazes new territory in her weaving, but she also appreciates the value of having a path to follow. ––Anita

When I decided to resume weaving several years ago after a long hiatus, I wasn't sure I could remember how to dress my loom, much less figure out the specifics of a new project.

So for my first foray back into the world of weaving, I opted for a project from a book I found in the library, Handwoven's Design Collection 20, Weekend Weaving Projects. Wanting to focus strictly on the mechanics of weaving, I chose to use the exact yarn and colors specified and followed the instructions to the letter. The venture took decidedly more time than one weekend, but the result was two lovely tea towels . . . and renewed confidence in my weaving ability.

A year or so later, after joining my local weaving guild, I heard a member scoff, "Real weavers only need more technical information, not recipes for weaving," Well, I have to say, I'm all for recipes (and I'm a real weaver). Following "a recipe" for a weaving project allows one to learn a new technique or experience an unfamiliar fiber, color combination, or weave structure without the concerns of designing from scratch.

Case in point: a new weaver in my guild approached me recently to excitedly tell me she had just finished weaving cloth for a project of mine in the November/December 2012 Handwoven. "Squares within Squares Top" is an 8-shaft turned Atwater-Bronson lace project with a complex treadling sequence.

Quite an ambitious project for a beginning weaver, or so I thought! She had tackled it with confidence knowing all the details and information were at hand. Along the way she became familiar with a new weave structure, learned to treadle with both feet simultaneously, wove with Tencel for the first time, and discovered a new wet-finishing technique.

As a designer, I'm thrilled when others are inspired by my work. If their confidence and competence as weavers increases as a result of recreating one of my projects, then the joy of doing what I do is magnified as well. I'm going to write more recipes!

—Sarah H. Jackson

Sarah Jackson's Squares WithinSquares Top. The "recipe" can be found in the November/December2012 issue of Handwoven

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spinning Straw into Gold ...

Rumpelstiltskin is the name of the antagonist in a Grimm's fairy tale who tricks a miller's daughter into trading her first-born child for a room full of straw he spins into gold for a greedy king. 

I didn't spin straw into gold, but this warp seemed to hold some fairy tale magic, and I felt a bit like Rumpelstiltskin ...weaving, rather than spinning, this combination of yarn into a shimmery copper blend. Below is a shot of the warp (rayon boucle and 20/2 cotton) over the back beam:
The weave structure is diversified plain weave from A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, page 170, a variation of the treadling in the upper left corner.
The weft is rayon chenille and 20/2 cotton. Hard to see here, but if you squint a bit, you can see the square motifs:
While Strickler's book states, "The structural threading and treadling units cannot be enlarged", that is true only if one uses the threading sequence provided which alternates the tie-down threads for each block on odd and even shafts. In other words, the tie-down threads being 1 and 2, Block A is threaded 2 -3-2, Block B is threaded 1-4-1, Block C is threaded 2-5-2, and so on. If threaded in this manner, it should be obvious that threading two of the same block sequentially is problematic. For example, two A Blocks would be threaded 2-3-2, 2-3-2 which places two ends on shaft 2 one next to the other. In order for the tie-down threads to work, they must alternate on shafts 1 and 2.

A solution for enlarging the units can be found in "Thick and Thin" by Interweave Press which explains the "new" diversified plain weave. This method alternates the tie-down threads on shafts 1 and 2, but each block uses one of each. Block A is threaded 1-3-2, Block B is threaded 1-4-2, Block C is threaded 1-5-2, and so on. For example, two A Blocks would be threaded 1-3-2, 1-3-2. Using this threading system it's possible to expand the threading and treadling units without limitation. Sampling provided me with the information I needed to determine the desired size of the unit I chose as well as the final combination of yarn and colors. 

In my next post I'll show some of the samples and talk about the metallic foil I used to embellish the finished garment.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Atwater-Bronson Beaded Top

Looking over my most recent posts I noticed I hadn't shared the results of fabric I was working on ...last May! I was surprised to remember that I started it that long ago, and it makes me realize how long the designing, weaving, and finishing process often is. I finished the weaving in June and put the top together then. I took it with me when I attended Convergence in July, but found little time to work on the embroidery and beading then. It was finished and mailed to Handwoven magazine in mid-August for publication in the November/December issue. The description, "Sarah Jackson's snowy, showy Atwater-Bronson top..." really does describe the look of the fabric, although the beads and silky embroidery floss catch the light and shimmer more noticeably than the photo shows.
In the close-up below you can see more clearly the two threads I used--8/2 cotton which has a matte finish and tencel which is shiny--in both the warp and weft. The embroidery and bead placement was mapped out with pieces of freezer paper  ironed onto the fabric.
It was fun wearing the top around the holidays for a bit of sparkle and shine!