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Part 2 of setting up the loom, sampling and methods of display

Ok, it’s time to update you on my work. I think I’ve made some good progress, finishing the loom set up didn’t take as much time as I expected.

Heddles

These are the heddles on the loom. I’m using 20 heddles on each shaft and there’s 24 shafts, which means I have 480 heddles in total to thread. The more threads I have, the denser the fabric will be, which is what I want. I’m trying to achieve that really satisfying fabric-y-ness, instead of quite an open weave or one that doesn’t feel very sturdy.

Threading!

For those of you familiar with weaving and using a loom, you’ll recognise this method of threading as point draft. There are several ways of threading the loom to get different repeats of a pattern. Straight draft, for example, is what you would need to just tile an image so it’s the same each time.

Mirrored teacups

Because I’m looking for a large, chunky pattern, I needed something else. Point draft mirrors my design on a vertical axis, and the software sets that result to mirror on a horizontal axis. So looking at my awesome diagram above, I only drew the cup with the purple background and the rest represent what is created by the loom.

Samples

Like I said in my previous blog post, I wasnt sure what material or colour to use as my weft. After a brief discussion with my tutor about colour it only seemed appropriate to stick to standard black. This is because then the colour doesn’t distract the viewer from the pattern which is what my work is really focussing on. If I had used any other colour, it would have evoked references that I’m not interested in and people would have wondered why I chose that colour. With black on white, it’s completely colour neutral.

Which is a shame, because as a knitter, I’m all too aware of the sumptuously dyed threads and yarns I could have used. I even considered a Habu Textiles 75% wool/25% stainless steel thread because the steel made it sound manly and construction-esque, but my tutor didn’t seem keen on it. I think it’s best in the end to try and keep the threads as simple as possible to make the pattern stand out more.

Changing my weft

These are my samples, from top to bottom I tried:

1. (Top) Rayon embroidery thread. I thought the silky smoothness of it would make the pattern bolder and more crisp, but I really hated working with it. It was far too slippery.

2. Wool 100%, and using two threads at once. I liked the idea of using wool, but I needed something thicker to pad my pattern out, so I tried two threads at once and it seemed to work.

3. Cotton 100%. This was too fine, it squashed the pattern and it left patchy streaks.

4. Wool 100%, one thread. As you can see, one thread of the wool is a nice deep black, but because it’s thin it shortens the pattern.

5. (Bottom) This is where I had forgotten to set the software to mirror properly, so it repeated only half my pattern and made a zig zag instead.

Single repeat

The double wool thread easily won the samples contest, so this is what I opted for. I think it’s nice that my work is now 100% wool (on warp and on weft) and it’s all British wool. I don’t think it makes a difference to my concept behind the work, but following the ongoing Campaign for Wool I think it’s nice to be able to use wool where I can.

Apparently, and I didn’t know this until I had already set up the loom, that ladybirds like to eat wool. Which means I have to cover over the loom with plastic sheets each night so I don’t come back to it in the morning with snapped threads. I think it will be ok once it’s woven, it’s just the loose threads at the back that they like to nibble on and I really don’t fancy having to thread the loom again…

So that’s where I’m up to at the moment. The finished piece will be 18″ by 24″, a 3:4 proportion. The next stage is figuring out how to display it. Display is a funny thing, it can make or break a work of art. I know I want to put this weave on a wall, as if it were a print or a photo, but there are traditional ways of displaying weavings that I’m not sure I should adhere to. For example, many are hung from one end inside a glass case, where the glass front is not touching the work, like a thick butterfly case. I do want to display this work ‘properly’ but I’m worried that if I choose to display it as a woven piece it will be accepted as a woven piece. I want it to be seen as art, on the same level as a print, painting, or photo on the wall so I wonder if I should frame it as such.

Screen print

I have made a screen print of the loom pattern taken from the software. It’s basically a diagram telling you how to make that pattern; which shafts to lift when and which heddles to thread. I’m considering displaying this print alongside the weave to compare the two.

I suppose in my own head, I see it like this. The weave may not be taken seriously because it was woven, it was “crafted”, and particularly in my university it won’t be understood and may be problematic. Whereas the screen print is a simple print, it’s easier to discuss a print in the language of art however, I don’t see this particlar print as art because it’s merely an instructional page on how to make the actual thing. Does that make sense? I admit the thoughts aren’t fully formed in my mind yet.

Thank you for reading and as always, please drop me a comment below. All the feedback I can get on this is helpful feedback and it will be much appreciated 🙂

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Part 2 of setting up the loom, sampling and methods of display

  1. I think you’ve hit the conflict between craft & art on the head. So many times that which is useful (ie craft) is dismissed by the art world. I’m always astounded that human kind took the time to develop beauty in everyday, utilitarian things, like fabric. I really like the idea of displaying the screenprint w/ the weaving…maybe a collage or mixed media between them as a tryptich?

    Posted by booktopiareviews | 16 November, 2011, 18:48
  2. Thankyou so much for your feedback. I’ve realised that just the two things, the print and the weave, would be too much of a direct comparison on their own so to make the numbers up to three I was considering drawing the pattern out by hand?

    I actually read something today – I might do a blog post about it – that made me wonder why myself, and other crafters and makers, would want their work to be considered ‘art’ at all. Craft should be celebrated as craft in it’s own right.

    I’m also wondering why artists hold still life in such a high regard, but not necessarily the pots, pans, lace, glasses, etc as objects themselves, without having to re-depict them.

    Posted by Bijou Zoo | 16 November, 2011, 18:58
  3. I dont know if you’ve seen Alice starmore’s book of fair isle knitting from 1988, but there is a picture on the create your own design section that really puts me in mind of your dilemma here. It shows a photograph of the knitted piece on the left that blends through a painted or drawn section through to the chart itself. Shows tge practical reality, to the beauty to the mathematical, I think this type of display would work really well for you.

    Posted by tracy | 17 November, 2011, 08:22
    • That’s a really interesting comment because actually, in my first attempt at taking a patchwork design straight onto the loom (where I didn’t change the design any), it did look exactly like fair isle knitting. Specifically Norweigian fair isle, and I’ve been trying really hard with this new pattern to make it look anything but fair isle or patchwork – without having to change the traditional pattern too much. So thank you, I’m glad you’ve brought that up and I kind of like that you mentioned it because of the beauty in charts and instructions, and not necessarily because of the pattern itself 🙂

      Posted by Bijou Zoo | 17 November, 2011, 09:11

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