2009 Weave of the week #15: Knitted web
April 12, 2009

Knitted web

Knitted web - photo by Steve Butler

This week’s “weave” is a knitted fabric, but it isn’t just any knitted fabric. It was co-designed by Junichi Arai — the man Jack Lenor Larsen called “the most creative weaver in the world” — and Mr. Arai’s wife, Riko, a well-known graphic artist.

This gossamer black silk fabric was knitted on a rascheltronic lace machine. As far as I can tell, that means on a sophisticated, high-speed, warp-knitting machine that produces fabrics that resemble hand crochets, lace fabrics, and netting. Mr Arai’s stated belief is that “fine contemporary cloths are the results of the human spirit and new technology working hand in hand.”

I first saw this spiderweb around 1990, in Zona — another trailblazing lifestyle Soho store that co-existed with Ad Hoc Softwares (described in an earlier post ) — and dropped enough hints to receive it as a gift from my husband. The shawl is about a yard wide and two yards long and weighs only 1.5 ounces! I think that it is too fragile to wear, but I treasure it, and I had it photographed, and now it embellishes my blog pages and serves as my avatar.

For more information on Junichi Arai and innovative contemporary Japanese textiles, see Structure and Surface Contemporary JapaneseTextiles, by Cara McCarty and Matilda McQuaid, published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, or see it online if your web browser is up to speed.

2009 Weave of the week #9: In the garden
March 1, 2009

Woven tulips

Woven tulips

As W.C. Fields famously said, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” Well, this week I would too because the Philadelphia Flower Show will be open from March 1 to 8. I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show one year and the warmth, the day-glo tropical plants, and the earthy-floral aroma transported me right out of the grey northeastern winter.

But since I can’t be in Philadelphia, I chose a flowery woven fabric to be this week’s weave. It is as sweet and dainty as a petit four, and may be French too. The mills that I worked for subscribed to European swatch collections, and this lovely fabric came from one of them.

It is finely woven cotton with approximately 80 ends and picks per inch. The supplementary-warp tulips — with shaded petals and green leaves and stems — are surrounded by corded frames. Actual size of each section is only about 1/2″ wide by 1″ high because the supplementary warps are packed in with the ground ends.

I thought about what the intended use of this fabric might have been and decided that all the extra ends, plus the cording, make it too stiff to be a garment — except possibly as trim — but it would have made exquisite curtains or table linens.

This fabric perfectly embodies the beauty and serenity of my fantasy garden, which would look very much like Childe Hassam’s painting of Celia Thaxter in her garden.

2009 Weave of the week #8: Classic worsted plaid
February 22, 2009

Classic worsted

Classic worsted plaid

This week’s weave was brought back from Paris sometime in the 1970s by a fabric designer I worked for. She bought the one-meter minimum sample, cut her swatch off the end, and gave the rest to me.

It is a classic plaid design similar to many that are manufactured today, but high-quality worsted cloth like this is becoming increasingly rare. What is most remarkable about it  is the hand. If you could touch it you would feel a smooth, compact, drapey fabric, suitable (apologies for the pun) for men’s or women’s tailored clothing.

Worsted-spun yarn is smoother than woolen-spun yarn because it starts with longer-staple wool that is combed to make the fibers lie parallel to each other. In this case, fine worsted wool singles yarn was densely set and woven in a 2×2 twill weave, so that the finished cloth is approximately 56 epi x 48 ppi. Worsted fabrics get a hard-press finish that gives them their characteristic clear surface.

Here is a contemporary take on a classic plaid.