I'm pleased to announce that I'm partnering with everyone's favorite Baltimore sewing shop Domesticity to teach an exciting tapestry weaving workshop. Come learn all the basics to create your very own wall hanging, no experience necessary. Register through Domesticity's class page (linked just above); space is limited so grab your spot today!
I've been sitting on a healthy stash of hand spun wool for a few months now, so it was time to dress the loom with a sturdy cotton warp to match. I typically work with yarns around 24 epi in my warp, but for a more balanced weave I went with a 12 epi cotton carpet warp. Why cotton instead of wool with an all wool weft? This may be leftover suspicion from my student days, but I don't always trust wool in a warp. Wool is very toothy and easily felts itself, and I've seen too many projects fall victim to broken threads and sheds that won't easily open because the wool is sticking together too much. Because I like to avoid conflict, I find that a cotton warp provides a strong foundation to let my hand spun yarn really take center stage in a weaving.
Much of the yarn used on this project was spun with the intention to weave. It was a first step in thinking more critically about my spinning process, thinking about composition and color variation right from the get-go. Interesting yarn makes for interesting woven compositions, with or without elements of tapestry or fancy cloth structures.
Whereas I'm particularly fond of plain weave when working with my hand spun yarn, I had a student recently use a vertical herringbone and I found myself wanting to do the same.
It's a structure that translates to a subtle texture when viewed from a distance, but is more of an optical delight up close.
I was left with enough warp for this pillow project. I'd been itching to weave a pillow cover with handwoven material, and I think it came out wonderfully. Backed with a super soft Robert Kaufman flannel, it's pretty from all angles.
I have always equated weaving and writing in my studio practice. Not only is storytelling integral to my studio, but I work within the correlations between how cloth is woven from line to line and how we construct words and sentences to make meaning. From my earliest days as a textile artist my practice has reflected this relationship in my process and the way I present my work.
Weaving for me is both a literal representation of the way language is built (line after line, grammatical precision), and a language all its own that speaks through the relationships that form between pattern and color. Yesterday I wrote about a piece (above) that explored this theme by 1. Creating a multi-colored warp with extensive variations in color combinations and 2. Using an overshot pattern, a highly complex draft with a lot of line and movement. The two together create a confused ground, one in which the lines of the pattern are in constant motion, pushing its way to the foreground before disappearing again almost immediately into the background. This is...satisfying to me. It feels rich, it feels like a cloth with depth, with infinite depth. And it also feels flat. All of these things feel true to me.
This new piece plays off the old, but is more subtle (and looks, I think, more traditional), and draws inspiration from my other favorite textile theme: cloth as history. I find that when pattern disappears into a piece of cloth as a result of color manipulation, it mimics the look of faded and moth eaten textiles found in dusty trunks and museums. I can't help but think about rug and tapestry fragments, especially those on display at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Instanbul, which I visited in 2010 and continues to have a big impact on the way I read the decorative arts.
And of course, history is a story, so cloth is always a story: a history of where it's from, how it's made, the hands that have wrought it and the hands that have touch it. Everything that touches cloth, happens to cloth is part of the story: stains, the light of a sun millions of miles away causing color to fade, runs and pulls, the unraveling and accidental felting.
Cloth is my favorite storyteller.
Not every weaving begins with writing, but it often does. Whether based on poetry, prose, or a meditation on a stream of consciousness, I cannot separate my cloth from a greater story.
This piece actually began with a poem I started at Attean Lake Lodge in Maine in 2016. I always knew it would grow to be something else, so at the start of this challenge I dug it out, thought about how I've changed and what I wanted to say at this moment on the loom, did a bit of rewriting, and made my warp. The process of weaving is a reflection on those words, but also a breeding ground for further explorations of the how and the why I make this way.
on the lake i am a queen
no- a god
on my back
the mountains rising up
at my feed, as if
i summoned them there
strange, the mist,
the stranger loon
crying, calling out
across the lake
i thought i had been
released from gravity i thought
i could still feel the gentle
rolling, rocking, endless
small fingers pressing on me
but i was only drowning
and you were only watching
from the dirt path down
the dock was sinking
you were holding her
by the wrist
and you wouldn't