Category Archives: Textiles

Summer and Winter part 3

This is such a versatile structure. After exploring polychrome with my first threading which had a very blocky look I rethreaded and focussed on varying the colour and thickness of tabby binder.

Front on the left, reverse on the right. Once a number of colours are used the back shows all that are not visible on the front in each section. So it has a lovely slightly blurry look.

For the final exercise on this threading I designed a more traditional coverlet pattern. The pairs X’s texture on the front, shows as pairs O’s on the reverse.

I used a blend of yarns for the pattern thread which play quite nicely against each other.

The second threading creates an all over pattern. The pattern thread is almost the same colour as the warp and tabby binder which makes the ground. It is a doubled wool yarn and the fabric is almost sculptural. The tabby thread is changed at the top of the picture on the left.

The final experiment is shown on the right with a soft green cotton pattern thread and a few changes to the tabby. At the top the pattern is made with a blend of about six fine wools.

The reverse of the sample on the second threading.

Summer and Winter part 1 and Monkeys on typewriters document the first part of this sample.


Monkeys on typewriters

Summer and Winter part 2

Random is really hard to do. I sketched out an ‘on opposites’ design on paper trying really hard not to have an obvious motif. I then wove and it was alright but I felt I was thinking too much about how the next pattern row related to the one before. So I wrote down some treadle lifts without thinking about how they would look, just the numbers, and wove six of these. Still thinking too much about not having the same section repeating over and over.

To get a really random design I wrote 50 different combinations of lifts on slips of paper and drew them one at a time out of a hat. After weaving that section I tossed a coin, heads it went back in the hat, tails discarded. To get lots of different things happening along the cloth I wove half units so they take less vertical space.

The vertical lines are the tied threads texture known as Dukagang fashion because it is like that Scandinavian inlay weave. This is the only place you can see the warp threads, the others are totally covered by the blue grey and lime green wefts that take the opposite space from each other.

This is the complete pattern that I had started in my earlier post. In the next design I am going polychromatic.

Summer and Winter part 1

Every weaving structure I study seems to be more interesting than the last. Summer and Winter is one that had its heyday in the coverlets and rugs of Colonial America. The name comes from it’s two sided characteristic, the pattern on the front is reversed on the back, the lighter side can be displayed in summer, the darker side in winter.

Another feature is the pattern units can be repeated for as wide as you want. Unlike overshot where floating threads have to have a limited length, otherwise the fabric is totally unusable because they would catch and pull.

In Summer and Winter the weft is tied down by every fourth warp. You can see this happening in the photo. These tie threads give the background a texture and also alters the appearance of the pattern. For my first exercise I wove the same pattern using four different textures.

I am now weaving the pattern as it has been threaded or tromp as writ. I chose to use the O’s texture because it gives the pattern shapes a rounded look. The yellow cotton thread is used in every second pick and it is the same as the warp. To keep everything square, the pattern thread has to occupy no additional space, but swell out to cover the yellow, this is done with a blend of six fine one ply wools and firm beating. You can see that the interaction with the yellow warp and pink weft changes their colour, something else that you need to consider in planning.

By turning the loom up on its end I was able to photograph the reverse side. The photo has been flipped so you can see how the pattern is reversed.

This is just the beginning of my exploration, still to come are more patterns with the same threading, adding more colour and finally a new threading of the same warp.

A morning of weaving

It may be election day, but voting and democracy sausage have to wait. First thing this morning I was off to the monthly Weaving Matters group at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild. There I heard all about one members recent trip to very out of the way weaving studios in Japan. I also took a closer look at the sample for the class I have signed up for in Summer School.

The technique is called iridescent weaving and all I know is it must be done on an 8 shaft loom and uses lots of colours in the warp. You also have to be able to count quite well.

Then on to the Collingwood Gallery to see the Basketmakers of Victoria exhibition. This is on at 292 Smith Street until November 29.

This was a brilliant display of recent works from group members. I quickly learned that basket weaving refers to the techniques used, not the finished product. There were some traditional shapes using traditional techniques and materials. But many more used all sorts of natural and found fibres to weave beautiful vessels. I particularly liked the  quandong pits around the top of the fabric bowl.

There were lots of different shapes and textures in the work. In two different pieces gourds were used as a base for very precise woven forms, then beads or sliced walnut shells added and the whole work mounted on a stand.

Wall mounted works, which were not any sort of vessel used a variety of supports for the woven sections.

The Linen Project

Over the next few days I will be visiting two exhibitions by artists who create by cutting up discarded items and assemble them in new ways. Today I went to the Town Hall Gallery in Hawthorn and on Monday I am going to the Geelong Gallery.

Much of the work on display in The Linen Project was created during Louise Saxton’s artist residency at Caritas Christi Hospice in Kew and used her collection of household linens in ways to reflect its importance in home and clinical settings.

Linen Draw is a largely monochromatic piece of stitched and crocheted doilies attached to scrolls of tulle netting with careful attention paid to shape and colour. The names of the past makers are embroidered in red. Swathe is a very large work draped tent like across the ceiling and hanging down at one end. It is made up of uncut, unworked and partially completed embroidered pieces and ones that had been patched by the artist after the stitched areas had been roughly cut out. Both these large installations cause the viewer to reflect on those who laboured over these now discarded items.

I felt quite differently about them, because to me they represented that enormous amount of effort to create in the end something that is quite trivial. There is great technical skill, but no creativity in the tradition of fancy work as evidenced by the preprinted designs. The finished duchess sets, doilies and sandwich tray liners have little practical function and make a whole new layer of drudge work in maintaining them. To me they represented lost opportunity. What could these women have done if they had not felt compelled to follow such a strict domestic regime designed to prevent “idle hands”.

The artist uses a precise but impermanent technique to create delicate assemblages. Embroidered elements are cut from linens pinned to nylon tulle as a painter would layer colour onto a canvass. The pins are part of the work carefully chosen to blend or contrast.

The dominant piece in the exhibition is a sculpture after a work in the Louvre The Sleeping Hermaphrodite, an ancient figure lying on a carved marble bed created by Bernini in 1620. Saxon’s journal entry on the making of this work is worth reading. It has photos of the original work and her creative process.

Rest is a stunning layer of blue cut outs pinned to tulle and layered over vintage damask and linen sheeting and placed on an old hospital bed. The figure is the negative space with small stitched pieces placed to give the illusion of a draped veil and three dimensional form. The securing pins sparkle to add movement and luxury.

Rest – side detail

The figure appears to be floating on a raft of branches and flowers, it is a wonderfully serene piece.

Work created in a hospice does address the impermanence of life. The hand cut vintage doilies mounted on cotton velvet at first looked like they were the remnants left over from the extraction of the embroidered flowers. But on closer inspection grotesques in the style of Day of the Dead figures emerge. I found Hello/Goodbye to be quite an ambiguous, but in the end a very sad work.

Also included in the exhibition are a number of installations using items from the artist’s collection.

One glass case contains a tribute to past makers, whose families have donated their entire linen press to Saxon.

The Linen Project is at The Town Hall Gallery until December 16.

In the foyer, visitors are able to add a snippet to a community wreath, mine is the little green leaf on the left.

Silk and brocade

Last Saturday the Handweavers and Spinners Guild held their annual Textile Bazaar. I found a few things of interest, and then bought boxes of brilliantly coloured DMC cotton spools on Sunday at my weaving class.

But what I needed was silk thread. Fortunately I was able to find some at L’Ucello on Monday when in the city and more at Morris and Sons. I even picked up a heavier weight Italian thread at Mill Rose when in Ballan on Wednesday.

All this silk is for brocade weaving. I had done a sampler using all sorts of threads and found that silk was easily the best for this “woven embroidery”. But I only had white, silver and gold. I still had a short length of warp on the loom and after my shopping trips was ready to do another brocade sampler. Some patterns I did again from my first attempt but most of these are new. All are original. Designing is not easy, but very satisfying when it turns out as planned.

The topiary flowering tree was one of the first designs using multiple colours that I tried. The detail disappeared when done in wool, in silk it is so pretty. The width of designs is dictated by the number of shafts on the loom, I’m using eight shafts so the maximum size without vertical symmetry is 8 threads wide or 7 if motifs are not to touch. The butterfly is an example. I first designed it in profile with wings to the left, a body angling down and some legs on the lower right. When I wove this on point threading it looked like a butterfly with wings open, so I tweaked my design a little and now those legs look like a body outline.

Here is the full sampler and the back view where all the threads hide when not in use. The left side has a straight threading / / / / and the right side is point threading /\/\/\/\ .

The ends have not yet been darned in and there is one broken warp thread hanging around.

This shows how the patterns work. If a silk thread shows on shaft 1, it shows for all the 1s across the row, same with 2 through to 8. This means designs on the point threading are mirrored. My personal challenge was to come up with motifs that looked complete on both straight and point threading. The trellis was a great success. The bee only works on the point threading.

Even though brocade work is very time consuming, it is a lot of fun.

Sonia Delaunay


The inspiration for the October project for the Art Quilters was Sonia Delaunay, a Ukranian born French artist whose long career began in the early 20th century. One of her paintings was included in the recent MoMA show at the National Gallery. I was really struck by the bold colours. Here the photo I took of Portuguese Market 1915.

IMG_0312As well as painting she is known for her textile and clothing designs and it is this aspect of her work along with her geometric abstractionism that I focused on for my little quilt.

There is an excellent article on her fashion work here.

I chose one dress shown at 2015 Tate exhibition and one of her fabric designs, shown here in two colour ways, and combined the two. Images from this review and this blogpost about textiles.

Like most things, it was not quite finished by the Art Quilters meeting, there is still some trimming of the appliquéd silk chiffon to be done. Even so I am quite happy with how it turned out.

The geometric shapes overlaying the geometric batik print distort the pattern and add a new liveliness. The semi-transparent fabric allows for a shadow of the pattern beneath to show through.