Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gold, Silver, Blue and Gold Again

Every time I think about Japanese textiles, I have a mental picture of me digging my grave in the middle of a sunny day, passers-by smiling, laughing or smirking. Every time, I think, OK, this is the last time I post something about  it. But it doesn't work. Even within my deep lapsed-Japanese-ness, I seem to be interested in knowing the "rules" of Japanese textiles, a bit, just so I don't break them, or can break them intentionally. 

With that in mind, I do believe one's life experiences, exposure, and a general cultural/ethnic/geographical background influences one's taste.  A little.  I don't think it dictates individual preference to the extent every member of prefer the same thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is an instinctive/intuitive/subconscious/unconscious/gut feeling for something looking "right" in certain contexts.  And like many things we grow up with, it can't be explained in words, but "you know it if you know it".  Kind of.

And with that in mind, Silver Ratio appears more appropriate for Ben's Happi to me.  I also associate Golden Ratio or Fibonacci with movement because it's a staple in Randy Darwall's workshop on weaving scarves with "dynamic proportions".  Besides, Ben tends to sit around and tune out in a Happi jacket, so I don't want anything dynamic.  The universal width of the stripes also gives the static feel.

So here is the warp.

It has five colors, not four, but the two darkest look so close.  The second darkest and the second lightest feel different to the other three; the dye is far more saturated and the yarn harder and skinnier.  All the writing, on the cone and on their website, indicates all five are of the same size, so I'm hoping and praying they'll wash flat.  Because if this ends up in a sheer-sucker style stripe, Ben probably won't go near it.

Colors shift, from left to right, A-B-C-D-E-D-C-B-A-B-C-D-E.  I thought of swapping them around a little bit to create an irregular shift, but the yarns that feel thinner and harder (B and D) were evenly distributed in this arrangement so I stuck with the plan.

I'm operating in a different mode with this project.  Usually when I use a yarn for the first time, I experiment with setts and wet finishing to my heart's content and choose the best hand.  Because I weave mostly scarves, shawls and kitchen towels, a wee bit of change in the width of the cloth as a result of reslaying doesn't bother me.  But this warp is going to be garment fabric, and I need between 28 and 30cm of width and I feel a tad reckless not sampling before deciding on some of the numbers. 

The formula recommended I use between 17 to 18EPI, but I made the warp with the intention to weave this at 21EPI, because I'm using denim cottons, and I want it to be on the slightly stiff side at the start. I'll sample with different warps, but what I have in mind is a strange cotton made of five strands of two-ply threads in natural with a little bit of navy.  If I twist them between my finger slightly, they come up to about the size of a 2/17 wool. I am hoping the combination of these warps, sett and weft will create a hard-wearing fabric, but I've left leeway with the pick and the weft, and the length of weft repeats will be considered after sampling as well. 

Ben wants my usual shiny-gold-warp cotton fabric in ornate Rococo (??) look for the facing and lining.  I am wondering if I need a new drafts with shorter weft repeats, and a design that is horizontally symmetrical so the two sides of the front match.   I've also contemplated using either of the recently acquired silks, but they are too thick, and I have one last semi-serious problem.

The warp yarns' dye came off as I handled the yarns, almost as much as my hand-dyed indigo yarns.  After the fabric comes off the loom, I might have to put it through a washing cycle using warm or even hot water.  So over the years, the yellow cotton fabric will be dyed blue, too, and may start to look a little sad.  So, no Swiss silks there. 


  1. Meg, I don't understand much of this weaving thing but I find I enjoy reading about it. I love the colours of Ben's Happi jacket and I hope it does all you expect of it. It will look great. xx

  2. Carol, it's a tad unnerving since I'm not a great seamstress, and it's the first time I'm sewing a garment with my handwoven, but Happi is such a simple construction, I'm pretty sure I'll manage. As for what I expect? I'm not sure. I'm kind of flying blind on this one - which is probably better than having a definite vision of how things should turn out.


  3. The turn-out-able sleeve lining and facing in gold will be in Summer & Winter I decided. After all this research, I might as well put it to good use and use a sturdy fabric for those parts of the garment.


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