Sunday, February 20, 2011

Woven Shibori

I belong to a Complex Weavers group called CADE (Computer Aided Design Exchange). Each year, members are required to write an exchange paper about some aspect of designing handwoven cloth using the computer. Weaving drafts aren't the only way to work on design, of course, but they are the primary way in which most of us go about our weaving design work. It takes a good bit of time to put together one of these papers, so a lot of us agonize for weeks or months beforehand, trying to come up with a good subject and something original to share with the group. What follows is my submission for the current year.

My first experience with loom controlled shibori was at CNCH in 2007 in a three day, hands on class with Ellen Good. I learned the basics of adding a gathering thread at intervals throughout the plain weave pieces. We dyed our cloth, pulled up our gathering threads and painted on more dye. The results were spectacular. I decided right away that I wanted to add pattern to my ground cloth in addition to the shibori designs. The principle would be the same: several picks of a structure, a pick of shibori pulling thread and repeat.

For weft gathering threads, the method I have settled on for designing drafts and liftplans is to take an existing ground cloth draft and add a space at even intervals in the treadling sequence. Working with tie up and treadling seems the easiest way for me to manipulate the drafts. Using WeavePoint software, I am able to add blank picks (or ends) at a specified interval. Depending on what my sett and expected ppi will be, I put a blank space in the treadling sequence between four to fourteen picks apart. For the shibori part of the tie up, I add additional treadles for another tie up. (If I'm designing for a dobby loom, I can add lots of treadles for an elaborate design, but if I'm weaving on a four or eight shaft loom, six treadles is about right.)

I've designed a great many drafts using this procedure and recently found something that helps me to visualize both the ground cloth and the shibori patterning. The first part of the draft shows the ground cloth with the pulling threads in a contrasting color. Then, I drop the ground cloth picks and let the shibori pattern show on black background, with the picks in color. This allows me see the emerging pattern and gives me an inkling about what the cloth will look like after dyeing. Part of the charm of woven shibori is the element of surprise and the drafts only give you a blueprint, not a guarantee!

There is always the question of how long floats should be in your gathering threads. Long floats will create deep folds in the cloth when gathered. Therefore the resist to dye will be greater in the valleys and your patterning will be clearer. If your floats are short, the resist isn't all that effective, so the cloth will have a stippled effect. Both are interesting and good, but you do need to think about how much your ground cloth will be stressed during the gathering process. Delicate ground cloths need longer floats so that you aren't picking up just one thread in your gathers.

I started out designing drafts with dyeing in mind, but found that permanent pleating could also be achieved when using polyester and, in a happy accident, soy protein fiber. This lead me to think about collapse fabrics in which warp and weft face twills are combined so that the fabric will pleat. Erica De Ruiter wrote an article in Weaver's magazine about drafting for diagonal pleats. I decided to use her draft and add supplemental wefts to pull the pleats into place, the idea being that they could also be dyed at the same time or polyester yarns could be used in the weft to make the pleating permanent.(see references). The next step beyond this was to make my own design with a curving twill line using Photoshop® and add the pleating threads to the liftplan.

Woven shibori is an adventure in design, dyeing and creating textured surface. I have just scratched the surface of what can be done with this technique and know that I will have many hours of pleasure ahead in my design work.

De Ruiter, Erica. “Scarves in Diagonal Pleats.” Weaver's. Fall 1997: pg. 41.
Ellis, Catharine. Woven Shibori. Colorado: Interweave Press, 2005.
Faulkner, Kay. “Loom Controlled Shibori.” Weaver's. Summer 1998: pgs. 34-35.
Faulkner, Kay. 24 Shaft Sample Exchange, Complex Weavers. November 2004.
Good, Ellen. CNCH Class Notes for Loom Controlled Shibori. May 2007.
Hamilton, Dawn. “Catharine Ellis Muerdter's Woven Shibori.” Handwoven. Nov/Dec2000: pgs. 76-78.
Harvey-Brown, Stacey. Woven Shibori for Textural Effects. United Kingdom: The Loom Room Publications, 2010.
Muerdter, Catharine Ellis. “Woven Shibori.” Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot. Winter 1999/2000: pgs.32-35
Schlein, Alice. The Liftplan Connection: Designing for Dobby Looms With Photoshop® and Photoshop Elements®. South Carolina: Alice Schlein, 2010.
Stollnitz, Janet. “Pleats ---- at Last.” Complex Weaver's Journal (Collapse, Pleat & Bump Study Group). February 2010 pg. 30.

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