Module 2, Chapter 5: Weaving

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Weaving This was fantastic, and turned out to be very addictive – I’ve loved this chapter, but I think I enjoyed this more than anything. I started off quite simply, weaving strips of paper cut from two sheets of paper left over from some monoprinting experiments I did earlier in the year, using a home-made gelatin printing plate and very bright, very thick acrylic paints. At the time I didn’t like the effect on these papers, but when I took another look at them I changed my mind, so I cut them up and wove them together. I was going to try adding some stitching, but I left it as it is, because the colours are bold and I don’t think stitching will add anything, and I like it as it is. The colours are actually far more vibrant than they look here – strong reds, oranges, pinks and purples.

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Then I wove strips from a magazine page, making a nice neat, square, and used blobs of glue to hold things together before stitching over the edges with the embroidery foot on the machine and a fancy zig-zag (it’s made up of little stitches, rather than one big one). I tried to vary the width and length of the stitches, because I wanted them to look looser and untidy as a contrast against the rigid lines of the weaving. I worked on the red side it is red, not pink as it looks here), but when I turned it over I liked the other side as well, so I’ve pictured both.

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Neat woven squares are fine as far as they go, but I wanted to go a bit further, so next up I tried weaving torn strips from an OS map and a shiny magazine page, leaving gaps, and trying to lay the strips at angles, rather then straight. A couple of pieces tore, but I left them, and carried on. I used blobs of glue to hold it together, and was going to glue it on to a sketchbook page just like that, but I wondered if I could get lacy effects in the holes between the strips if I machine stitched over it. I used a straight stitch with a normal foot, and left threads hanging.  To be honest it looks a bit messy, but I really like this. I was going to just stitch over the strips where the gaps were, but I found the whole thing needed anchoring by stitching along the continuous bits of paper first. It had a tendency for the raggedy edges of the paper to catch on the feedplate. On reflection I wonder if the embroidery foot might have been better, with the feed dogs down. I did think of ironing Bondaweb to the back, but I wanted the holes as holes. Is there something like soluble film that isn’t soluble but will disappear without getting wet? The holes would show up better if I’d photographed it on coloured paper, but you get the general affect.

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At this point I spotted a children’s knitting frame in a charity shop. It’s a pink plastic rectangle, about 9 inches in height and 6.5 inches wide, and didn’t have any instructions with it, but there are hooks at each end, and I think it works on the same principle as a knitting dolly, so you wind wool round the hooks on one edge, and keep lifting it over, to form stitches. But as I looked at it I had one of my ‘What If…’ moments so I bought it, and wound wool round the hooks at each end to form the warp thread, and used flat strips of paper for the weft. The wool I used wasn’t ideal for threading up a loom, because I couldn’t get a tight enough tension on it, so when I removed the finished weaving it was very loose. I machine stitched a grid all over it (with straight stitch) to hold its shape and keep everything together. Overall I’m quite pleased with the effect – I think it works quite well, and the red cotton looks OK with the thick red wool.

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Then I tried it again, with blue ‘paper string’ for my warp thread which, surprisingly, stayed nice and taut, with shredded pages from an old book for the weft. I hand stitched all round the edges with blue thread before I took it off my ‘loom’, and trimmed the side edges a bit, and it’s made a nice little mat – it could almost be a bot of woven fabric. I’m really pleased with this.

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This is here I got completely carried away, and use thin copper wire for the warp, and  narrow strips of newspaper and tissue paper for the weft, and I wove stripes, in the different papers, using my fingers and a comb to scrunch the rows up as I went along.I had to experiment a bit, because you need a thinnish, softishish paper – anything too thick or shiny tears when you try to scrunch it up, and it’s better to push each row up as you go along . And you need to cut the strips fairly narrow – too wide and they don’t scrunch up very successfully. The following photo shows the little ‘loom’ threaded up with wire:

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I built up bands of colour by having lots of strips of one colour. It was tricky to work, but it is just fabulous. I love, love, love it. It is very textured, and the text on the newspaper strips disappears into speckles and lines, until it looks (and feels) almost like tweed, with the copper wire glinting through it.

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The downside on this is the edges…. I have no idea what to do with them!  There are a lot of strips of paper, and the ends are are all bunched up and very thick… And when I took it off the frame the warp threads at the 2 edge sprang out sideways….  I’ve threaded them (very untidily) through the wires at back of work, bent the loops over, and left the paper edges as a kind of fringe. I’m scared of wrecking it if I try to stitch it (and it’s a bit thick and bulky to go through the machine) but it seems to be quite stable.This next photo shows what I’ve done with the wires on the back, and gives a close-up of the texture.

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On all the piece I wove on this frame I worked mainly with my fingers. I tried using a plastic drinks stirrer as a shuttle for each strip (because it looked like a needle, with a long thin hole at one end) but it was too flexible, and large wool needles (metal and plastic) didn’t have a big enough hole. I would love to have another go this, and see if I could improvise some kind of shuttle or needle for the weft, and a heddle bar for the warp – slits cut in a strip of balsa or stiff card might work. I need to think about those edges though!

Still in ‘What If…’ mode, I wove bits of newspaper and magazine pages through an orange bag and stitched the end result to an oddment of thick khadi paper. I loved working on this, although it was quite fiddly, because  the orange bag did not seem to be evenly made, and as I worked it pulled every which way! And the paper strips are easier to thread if they are cut straight – otherwise torn edges get caught up in the mesh and twist and then they tear. I like the final result, but I wish I’d torn the backing paper to an irregular shape, or burnt the edges  or something, and left bits of orange bag and paper hanging over the edges, to make it look more raggedy.

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I did wonder if threading strips of paper (or anything else) through mesh counts as weaving, but I love the effect, and I am recycling paper and creating a new surface. Anyway, I’ve also played around with black, plastic garden mesh, which distorts to a rhomboid when cut to a square. Again, rough edges of torn strips of paper catch and tear on the mesh. This one is a small, unfinished sample, where the strips were woven properly though alternate holes. I ironed light-weight Vilene to the back, as a stabiliser, and started stitching some of the set patterns on the sewing machine,  but it’s all a bit too busy.

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And finally, a woven heart-shaped basket! My grandmother used to make these when my brother and I were small – apparently when she was a child in Norway they used to make them, fill them with sweets and hang them on the Christmas tree. Pictures aren’t very good, but you can see both sides.

NB: I kept notes as I went along, so I’ve keyed them in for this post and used photos of my work, asI am keeping all the woven pieces in a box, partly because I don’t want them to get crushed in the Sketchbook, and partly because I want go back and add some embroidery on some of them.

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About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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