Weaving with Cotton

Weaving the cotton scarves was, as Kiwis say, a hard slog. With the first scarf I had so much problems with tension, I should have stopped and restarted, but like a machine I kept on weaving. (And I now have a not-so-short scarf-length of cotton cloth, which I'm going to cut up and frame, and from which I will make postcards and little purses.)

The right is the second scarf, which was the easiest to weave; the weft is what I think is a Delft blue, but in the daylight, it looks almost light-blue-brown in combination with the yellow. The draft is a straight twill in network treadling, tweaked to keep the maximum float at around 9.

The left was the last; the weft is in a bright teal, and looking at the warp and the weft separately, I wondered what kind of a deranged mind would use these two in combination, but together, they take away each other's brashness, and take on a copper-like appearance. I was tired and couldn't remember if I had enough warp, so I had to unwind to make sure; I wouldn't have had enough to pull to the front to tie the next one on. This is a plait tie-up treadled in network, again tweaked in the lift plan to keep the float under 11.

The colors are truer towards the bottom of the less-than-exhilarating photo.

This was a labor of love. I loved the way the cloth looked. This is exactly the kind of cloth I had in mind when I "pushed" that stick shuttle for the first time on my rigid heddle in August 1995. I would love to weave a wider cloth of this style and have someone make me a vest or use it in parts of a jacket some day. So in that respect, it was a joy.

But I was unwell, and had little previous experience with cotton, and it was a struggle to push on. And I wasn't sure about the viability of these scarves as a product; they look either traditional, ("waistcoats!" my art historian friend Rosie said,) or South/Central Asian, and I would be competing with the lovely but inexpensive textiles from that area in that case. And the material is cotton, so I won't be able to command as high prices as merino or cashmere. So even if I weave these for the gallery, they will remain a true labor of love.

Not that the others aren't, but you get my meaning.

While weaving the teal piece, I started making a mental list of how many things can go wrong in weaving. I'll post them separately; it was "you gotta laugh, or else you'll cry" kind of a day.

I was exhausted after this, and after finishing the teal piece, I decided not to tie on the second yellow warp, not that there was much left to tie on. In fact, on impulse, I did the sensible thing (I know this sounds strange) and started to partially dismantle the loom and oiled it and washed the heddles.

I bought this loom in July 2002 and it was only the second time I oiled the entire loom, though I had been doing so in dribs and drabs. I thought I better show my appreciation for the hard work it has done for me, especially in the last couple of years.

I was in autopilot after that.


Peg in South Carolina said...

Cotton or not, I think the scarves are beautiful, so beautiful that I would encourage you to think of them as the first in a series. As for cleaning and oiling the loom, cleaning the loom is a ritual for me after each piece I weave. It is a part of the letting go and beginning anew process.

Meg said...

Peg, I love vacuuming in general, and around the loom after each warp in particular. But oiling? Nah, can't stand the smell, and the fact I have to wait a bit to put on the next warp. Perhaps if I oiled more often, the smell may be less and the waiting time shorter...

Peg in South Carolina said...

I'm really more interested in your comment on my response to your scarves. (grin!)

Meg said...

Peg, the scarves. I love them enough to make another identical warp directly. But they were terribly labor-intensive, and they drained my energy. I think I would alter the drafts to make the scarves a bit shorter, (a style thing), and would experiment with different setts.

In one sample, I used the 60/2 cotton in the weft, which colorwise almost disappeared, but it allowed the warp 20/2 to pucker a little and created different kind of cloth, which was also interesting.

I'd love to get back to it straight away, but I've a few other things I need to get out of my way.

So I guess this is my long way of saying, yes, there is most likely a series coming. I'm also terribly interested in producing a slightly stiffer hand for a narrow yardage, as I think they look like, well, fabric!