Archive for August, 2009

2009 Weave of the week #33: Smallville
August 30, 2009


Smallville front view

Hi,  I’m back to blogging, and this week’s featured weave — which I call “Smallville” (though the mountains certainly don’t suggest Clark Kent’s  Smallville, Kansas) — is an unusual supplementary-warp weave from my swatch collection (see above).  It came from a book of vintage European swatches, and the fabric appears to be cotton.

Supplementary-warp designs (aka “embroidery weaves” or “dobby weaves”) were everywhere when I worked in the textile industry in the 1970s.  I have already written some blog articles about them, and will write more, but except for fine shirtings, like the ones in this post, most domestic fabrications looked more like this,


than like the Lilliputian scene in “Smallville” (detail shown below), which is less than 1/2-inch high.


I didn’t take the swatch apart to analyze it, but under magnification I could see that all the details came from threading the blue and green supplementary-warp stripes on twelve harnesses.  Allowing two harnesses for the ground tabby still leaves another four harnesses — on a sixteen-or-more-harness loom — free for the ribbed orange stripes.  The treadling is a different matter, which I did not try to analyze (too much like work).

Below is the back of the fabric, which looks a lot like the front, except that the weave shows up more clearly.  In a construction this fine and tight, floats are not a problem, but in a coarser construction, like the unicorn shown above, long  floats would not have been practical.  Floats can be clipped, as they were in fine cotton shirtings (see link above), but inexpensive synthetic fabric would more likely have been backed.

Smallville back view

Smallville back view

Yes, it is small, but what really impresses me about this design is that it looks like a drawing in thread.   I was surprised at how few lines it takes, if they are put together creatively enough, to make an entire landscape that can be woven on a shaft loom.

August 17, 2009


Off weaving dreams …

Paula Nadelstern, quilter extraordinaire, on CBS TV … tomorrow
August 15, 2009

Paula Nadelstern, "Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant Aftermaths." Photo by Karen Bell

Paula Nadelstern, "Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant Aftermaths." Photo by Karen Bell

I just got around to seeing the exhibition of Paula Nadelstern’s kaleidoscope quilts yesterday, and it was such an affecting experience that I had to mention it.  Take a close look at Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant Aftermaths, the machine-pieced, hand-quilted, cotton-and-silk quilt shown above (photo courtesy of the artist), and I think you will understand why I was blown away.

New Yorker Paula Nadelstern is the first contemporary quilt artist to be honored with a solo exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC.  Her work is of “almost unfathomable complexity of technique and composition” (to quote one of the museum’s wall labels), and opulent gorgeousness.  If you can, visit the museum and see her innovative kaleidoscope quilts in person before the exhibition closes on Sept. 13.

But there are other ways to see Paula Nadelstern’s work:  CBS’s Sunday Morning TV show is going to feature it in a segment tomorrow morning (Aug. 16, 9 AM eastern time), and there are two short videos on YouTube here and here of a Paula-led gallery tour that were produced by  The technical quality isn’t great but there are some nice close-ups of the work and interesting artist’s comments.  There is also an exhibition catalog, and a gallery of quilt images on Ms. Nadelstern’s excellent website.

*** Note to fellow NPR/WNYC geeks: Paula will be interviewed on Leonard Lopate’s show next Thursday, Aug. 20, at 1 PM.  Non-New Yorkers can get this online.

I’m grateful to my friend Brenda J. Stultz, who is expert in so many textile arts,  for introducing me to Paula Nadelstern’s work.  Last spring, Brenda was one of Paula’s students — and Brenda’s kaleidoscopic quilt block, Needlestars (shown here), should make them both very proud.

Brenda J. Stultz, "Needlestars"

Brenda J. Stultz, "Needlestars"

That should cover it (pun intended).