2009 Weave of the week #28: Faux ikat
July 12, 2009


Since I recently wrote about super-labor-intensive Japanese picture ikat, I thought that it would be fun, this week, to feature an imitation ikat fabric that I designed in 1976 for Wollman Industries, NYC.  My fabric is shown above, next to a photo,  in an unidentified catalog, of a skirt that was made from it (left).

The fabric was a yarn-dyed cotton (woven in western Pennsylvania) that I designed to look as much like a hand-dyed, handwoven Mexican textile as possible. My faux-ikat cloth was mostly tabby with irregular, supplementary-warp ikat-like motifs edged by 3/1 raised twill stripes. Since all of the non-tabby ends were sleyed more densely than the tabby ends, this was not a cheap knockoff and in fact it was probably pretty expensive fabric. The pattern sold very well in red and in other colorways, two of which are shown below:

faux ikat colorways

The 1970s were turbulent years for the New York textile industry. Wollman was my first solo design job, and they had hired me during a painful recession. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Wollman was in, or was soon to be in, Chapter 11, and almost as soon as I started working my salary was cut and the merchandiser whom I was counting on for help left the company.

We were competing not only with much bigger companies from lower-wage states, but also with two-dollar-a-yard cottons from India, so the market prospects for five-dollar-a-yard cotton fabrics weren’t promising.

But one of the benefits of being a designer in a small, family-owned business like Wollman was that I had almost unlimited creative freedom to come up with new and fashionable designs to entice the apparel manufacturers who were Wollman’s customers.  I was extremely anxious about my — and the company’s — survival but somehow ended up doing some of the best and most spontaneous (read panicked) designing that I’ve ever done. I don’t recommend fear as a motivator, but in this case, it probably was.

Below is a rare picture of me, from that period, taken at Wollman by my boss.

Designer (me) at work

Designer (me) at work

I wasn’t always as cheerful at work as I look in this photo, but it seems to me, now — all things considered — that it was a pretty good gig.

Update: The original textile was not from Mexico after all,  it was from Guatemala.  If you’re interested in how I accidentally discovered that,  and for information about the real ikat,  read this post.

2009 Weave of the week #18: Ribbons, ribs, and repps
May 4, 2009

Ribbed ribbon

Ribbed ribbon

The striped ribbon shown above is a rib weave and, like all rib weaves, is a modified tabby.

It has evenly spaced groups of warp threads that have been woven as a single end to create the vertical ribs. The warp is white but has been completely covered by very tightly woven filament wefts that create the crisp stripes.

Turning the ribbon horizontally made me think of battle ribbons,


British regimental stripes,

regimentalmandsand silk repp ties,

bb_reppall of which have ribs going across — instead of down — the fabric, like the ones in the mat shown below.


The mat, handwoven in the Philippines, has a fine, dense, striped warp (approx 100 epi). Several picks of the heavy white weft are inserted into each tabby shed to create even ribs across the fabric. This time it’s the weft that is completely covered by the tightly spaced warp.

As far as I can tell, true repps — heavier plain weave fabrics with prominent ribs — were once woven with two warps and two wefts. But since that construction is not commonly used anymore, rib and repp can be used interchangeably for any corded fabric.

All of the examples in this article happen to be striped, but rib weaves can be solid colors, too. They are versatile: the hand can be stiff or drapey, the fiber natural or synthetic, and the uses as varied as upholstery and ribbons.

2009 Weave of the week #17: Indigo mood
April 26, 2009

Japanese pieced textile

Japanese patchwork

This week’s weave, a 12″ square patchwork piece, is a skillful composite of five understated, handwoven, Japanese textiles.

All of the textiles are fine slightly textured cotton woven in tabby at approximately 60 epi x 50 ppi. The light stripes in the upper left corner design are outlined with the same golden brown that bisects the square (detail below). The chambray-like light blue patch in the lower right is a white warp crossed by a light blue weft. And the strips on either side of the center piece are woven with three shades of blue plus white in the warp, and have dark indigo wefts.

Indigo detail

Indigo detail

All the blue yarns seem to be shades of indigo, and I suspect that the golden brown comes from a natural dye too, although I don’t know for sure. But Japanese country weavers have traditionally woven indigo-striped cotton textiles like these for everyday clothing and for futon covers.

But this is a work of art. The artist chose — and maybe dyed and wove — the fabrics, arranged them harmoniously, and pieced them together almost invisibly to make a perfectly proportioned whole that I love looking at. It is another textile treasure from Old Japan.