Almost a year after starting to think about this project, I can finally post about it. On the way home to my parents’ place just before Christmas last year, I came across an announcement for a challenge that immediately captivated me. It was about showcasing old samples of jacquard-woven fabrics in form of a textile object. As it happens, the museum is located quite near to my parents’ place, so I had a chance to go there during the holidays and have a look around. It’s an interesting place, combining two quite different subjects: Car and motorcycle racing on the ground floor with the history of textile production in Hohenstein-Ernstthal on the upper floors. So there’s something interesting there for everybody!
I had a good look around, admiring the working jacquard looms on display and taking quite a few pictures for inspiration. At the end, I asked about the challenge and was guided to the director of the museum, who took me to the backoffice where I was allowed to select my own selection of samples to work from. Better than getting them randomly in the mail, but given the pile of fabric and the few minutes I had to look, I think the result was still fairly random.
Back home, I started brewing ideas. What was clear from the beginning was that the technology of jacquard weaving should play a role in my quilt. After quite a bit of thought, I settled on the ring of punch cards that creates the pattern as the central topic of my work. Next was the challenge of finding a way to sew what was in my head, especially since the samples are as far from normal cotton patchwork fabric as you could imagine. Think heavy upholstery fabric instead. So anything small and exact was right out. Luckily I found a grey-brown fabric on sale that went well with the other fabrics, so things started to roll. A few false starts later, my ring of cards started to take shape:
In this state, what’s missing are the holes that create the pattern when weaving. Instead of finding a way to poke thousands of holes into my quilts, I used sequins and beads. Coming up with a pattern also took some time, since I wanted it to be something that could be woven, instead of just a random arrangement with no meaning. In the end, I drew up a very simplified picture of a weaving shuttle:
Putting all the sequins in the right places on the quilt was quite a bit of work, but I like the result. But even so, the quilt was still very abstract. The pattern that could be woven from those cards wasn’t visible anywhere, so crazy as I am, I got out my simple rigid heddle loom and proceded to weave the pattern by hand—twice.
I used those in a separate panel to be displayed above the ring of cards. A few details later, voilà, a finished wallhanging:
After the usual frantic quest for a good picture, and the waiting for the jury decision, I finally found out that my quilt was accepted for the exhibition. There was no way I would miss the opening, I was really curious what others had come up with! And I definitely wasn’t disappointed when I got there. Lots of creativity around, using those fabrics in all ways imaginable and then some. There’s now a website showing the quilts that got a special recognition from the jury, go check them out, they’re amazing! Yep, the last one on that list is mine. I guess nobody was more surprised about that than me, since it’s certainly not a pretty quilt in any sense of the word. The grand price: A copy of the catalog and a real wooden weaving shuttle. I’m currently trying to figure out how to include that one into a textile piece, otherwise it will get lost somewhere in the mountains of stuff around here.
I’m back from two and a half weeks in the UK, and I have to admit, I could do with a holiday now. 😉 But I had an absolutely fabulous time over there and managed to see a lot of things and then some. In this post I’ll give an overview on what I saw where, but there’ll be further posts on some of the places I want to talk about in detail later. I started off in Inverness where I was delighted to find two craft and needlework shops in the Victorian Market, both having a really great choice in counted cross-stitch and similar embroidery packs. I was good and only bought a small greeting card with a celtic cross motif to go as a holiday project. It’s almost finished, so I’ll show it off then.
After that I had a fabulous week of walking in the Highlands. The weather wasn’t always great, but the wildlife is great and the landscape as well. Fiber content consisted mostly of the ubiquitous sheep. On our day off we visited the small Heritage Museum in Gairloch, which proved to be an unexpected source of textile exhibits. The museum has different displays of the day-to-day life of the people in the area of days past. Spinning, weaving, dying and knitting were a normal part of life, so one of the displays showed the equipment needed together with typical products. I especially liked a little board showing small skeins of yarn dyed with natural colours. On display in the school room is a folder showing a schoolgirl’s exercises in darning, which must have been a very important craft before we started to throw away textiles as soon as they are broken somewhere.
My next stop after leaving the Highlands was Edinburgh. I was really impressed by the city, landscape, architecture, and all that. Fiberwise, I wasn’t too successfull. The obvious industry to show off would be weaving. There’s a tartan-weaving tourist trap next to the castle, where I managed to find the few exhibition areas in between all the merchandise, and then those started talking as soon as I went near them! I really prefer museum exhibit only to talk to me if and when I want to, since I’m usually much faster when reading the information instead of listening to it. I was Sunday, so the actual weaving workshop wasn’t in operation, which might have been slightly more interesting, so I tried to find the exit as fast as possible. A bit of rain in the afternoon steered me in a better direction, though. The Royal Museum of Scotland is currently closed due to major work being done, so I amused myself in the neighboring National Museum of Scotland. There’s a small exhibit on the textile trades on level 3, tied in with the industrial revolution. Spinning and Weaving machines are shown in close connection with the steam engines that were used to power them. A few pieces of knitting, embroidery, dying and lacemaking are shown as well.
Before leaving Scotland and heading south, here are a few links for future reference:
- National Museum of Costume in Dumfriesshire
- The National Trust for Scotland Weavers Cottage at Kilbarchan
Much more interesting stuff to come, but I’ll leave that for the next post.
I finished the weaving experiment I started last week, and I’m quite pleased with the result. Here’s a close-up of the fabric:
The fabric looks just fine, although the weft has not the absolute same density throughout, it’s pretty regular. The selvedges are a bit uneven, but I have the feeling that a bit of practice will help here. I really like how the colour combination works, what I’d probably do differently next time is the succession of colours. I think it would really help the look if the warp and weft colours at the selvedges wouldn’t have such a high contrast. I’d probably use the dark pink as a contrast stripe in the middle and not right at the edges.
Here’s a picture of the complete scarf:
To finish, I just used overhand knots to tie the warp threads in groups of four. A knitting needle or similar inserted into the knot before tightening helps to move the knot into the intended position. I also figured out that when tieing the fringe, the waste yarn should be removed just before each thread is used, not wholesale at the beginning, since the first couple of weft threads tend to become loose otherwise. The second edge I finished looks much more regular than the first because of that!
The scarf is quite a bit shorter than intended since I run out of the white yarn. Therefore, it’s not much use as a scarf (the colours are not really me, either) , but it was good practice and it gives me room for thinking about the next project I want to tackle with this loom. I think place-mats or a pillow cover are the kind of things I might realistically make with this loom, since the fabric will always be quite coarse with only 40 warp threads per 10 cm.
After seeing some beautifully woven fabric in plain weave on Woven Thoughts, I decided I had to do some Weaving, too. Never having actually used my rigid heddle loom for a real project, I dug out some cheap yarn I have lying around for “just playing”, and warped the loom:
The comb of this loom has 40 dents/10 cm, so the yarn needs to be quite thick to be able to do plainweave. But from the looks of it, my play yarn has just the right size. Here’s a close-up of the first few picks:
The violet yarn at the start is waste yarn that will come out at the end, the dark pink being the first color of the weft. I’ll be using the same colors in the weft that I used in the warp, in the same order, with a large area of the off-white going in the middle. So far, I really like how this comes out, although I probably wouldn’t use those colours on a “real” project.
This is a belt I wove for use with some of my summer pants, after I found it impossible to find a fabric belt in any other colours than loud and screaming (pink anyone?). The yarn is 100% cotton and quite heavy, which made this a reasonably quick project. Except for the finishing, of course, which took a couple of months lying around and considering ideas on just how to finish it. While looking for a buckle or some such I found those bamboo rings, and I kind of like the effect. The warp on the other end is just cut off, and I don’t really know what to do with them. There’s just too much of them for any knotting or braiding to work. Since the weft is secured nicely, I might just leave them as they are, maybe a bit shorter. I’ll have time to consider this now, since summer is definitely over.
Some technical details: The pattern was created with a simple 8forward/8backward turning sequence and two adjacent holes of each colour in the pattern cards. The belt ended up a bit smaller than expected since I was running out of warp yarn.