Archive for June, 2009

2009 Weave of the week #26: Deflected threads
June 28, 2009

Deflected threads sample

Deflected-thread sample

This week’s weave is an alpaca sample I wove in 2003,  and although it wasn’t right for my scarf collection, I saved it because I liked it and because it was one of the more successful deflected-thread experiments out of many that I did.  (In this article, I’ll use the words “deflected” and “distorted” interchangeably.)

I pulled the swatch out of my archive last week because of two unrelated experiences: watching the debut of the Weavolution website; and listening to a radio interview with film director Francis Ford Coppola. To explain:

Weavolution is an ambitious weavers’ networking site that in its first week has attracted hundreds of weavers from all over the world (including me), who are sharing photos and information about themselves and their work. I’m disappointed that I don’t have a current weaving project to post on Weavolution — and that’s where a comment of Mr. Coppola’s comes in.

Coppola said that the idea for the screenplay he wrote for his new movie, “Tetro,” came from a half-page of notes that he made in film school in 1962.  So (cartoon lightbulb moment) I went back through some of my earlier work to see if there was anything there that I might like to share. There was, and this post is about one of those pieces (image above).

At that time (2003) I was trying to create a three-dimensional effect that looked something like chain-mail mesh, so I used a weave that distorted both the warp and weft threads on both sides of the cloth. Yarn distortions are created by weaves that juxtapose areas with few interlacings (loose yarns) with areas of tightly interlaced tabby (firm yarns). I chose high-shrinking merino wool for the deflected threads and lower-shrinking alpaca for the tabby “cells.”

[Complete weaving information for “double-sided deflected thread weave” has been posted in Weavolution’s “projects” and “drafts” sections.]

After machine-finishing, the merino threads shrank snugly around the alpaca threads and drew them in so they puffed up and made the diamond shapes in the weave shown above. The sample came out very soft, a little fuzzy, and definitely three-dimensional. I haven’t come up with any exciting new applications for this idea, but even if I don’t, I’ve enjoyed looking back at it.

The way that practical considerations pulled me away from pursuing this idea further is another reason the Coppola interview resonated with me. As Coppola said: I’m returning to personal filmmaking as much as I can. There was a period of my career when I owed Chase Manhattan Bank a lot of money, when I made a film every year and I didn’t write the script and I didn’t write the story and I was lucky and grateful to have the job to make that payment but I think cinema’s also big enough to have personal filmmaking and heartfelt work — the artist is trying to look at his own life and understand better so that draws me back to the themes that I find interesting or touching.

I can’t wait to see the movie.

2009 Weave of the week #25: E-gasuri — Japanese picture ikat
June 21, 2009



Ikat” is an Indonesian word for the technique of resist-dyeing threads before weaving them in order to create a patterned fabric.

This week I am focusing on traditional Japanese ikats that are known as “kasuri.”

I learned about these remarkable textiles from Yasuko Tada, a Japanese woman we met years ago who imported Japanese folk art that she sold to museum shops.  She was knowledgeable about the Japanese mingei movement (which I had never heard of), and her collections were always first-quality traditional handcrafts, not tchotchkas.  We spent some very happy hours sitting in her apartment admiring the work.  We bought as many textiles, ceramics, and other goodies as our limited budget allowed, including about a dozen pieces of kasuri and e-gasuri, which are Japanese picture kasuri, like the textile shown at the top of this page.

Harold B. Burnham, textile scholar, author of “Japanese Country Textiles” (Royal Ontario Museum, 1965), and my source for much of the information in this article, divides kasuri into three groups depending on their pattern and scale:  splashed kasuri,  like the geometric design (from one of my jackets) shown below

splashed kasuri

small-patterned kasuri,

kasuri sm

and e-gasuri. The first two types of designs are used for clothing, while e-gasuri is used for futon covers and curtains.  It is always woven with white motifs on an indigo blue ground.

Kasuri textiles can have warp-dyed threads, weft-dyed threads, or areas of both in the same cloth. It takes great skill and patience to measure, stretch, and tie the threads for warp ikat, even more skill to dye weft threads (because they don’t usually get stretched and measured before being wound on bobbins), and still more extraordinary skill to prepare the double ikat yarns precisely enough for them to meet exactly where they should when they are woven, as in the window below.

Tiger detail

Tiger detail

After tying, dyeing, and unwrapping the threads — preparation that can sometimes take a year or more — the cloth itself is woven in tabby. All of these designs are traditional and have been reproduced exactly the same way in families and in villages for hundreds of years.

But today the extraordinarily time-consuming art of hand-tying ikat has largely been replaced in Japan by printing, painting, and stamping the yarns, except for some exceptionally fine kimonos, and the work of  international contemporary fiber artists such as  Yoshiko Wada.

Many kasuri motifs express messages of good luck, longevity, etc. Bamboo leaves symbolize resilience, and when they are combined with sparrows and tigers, as they are in the piece at the top of this post, are said to symbolize happiness.

In future posts I will write about other e-gasuri pieces from my collection depicting cherry blossoms, cranes, turtles, Darumas, and castles, but of course I had to start off with, well,  a cat image.

Cool? Relevant? Jacquard weaving? Janice Everett will explain
June 16, 2009

Photocollage by Janice Everett

Photocollage by Janice Everett

Janice Everett, a fabric artist, textile designer, consultant, teacher, and longtime friend, will give a talk about the history — and contemporary relevance — of Jacquard weaving, this Sunday, June 21, at Proteus Gowanus gallery in Brooklyn. Visit the gallery’s website for details.

Janice will discuss and use samples of historical and contemporary Jacquard textiles to show the connection between the Jacquard loom’s punch card system, the development of computer technology (remember that computers once filled entire rooms, used punch cards, and actually did use tubes?), and the use of computer-generated imagery in the work of such contemporary artists and designers as Lia Cook, Kiki Smith, and Chuck Close.

Coincidentally, Chuck Close’s remarkable Jacquard-woven tapestries are currently on exhibit at the Pace Wildenstein 25th St. gallery in NYC, but only until Saturday.