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Nothing like a deadline to kick a slow simmer into rolling boil

Just like a rich, delicious homemade soup, weaving designs sometimes need to simmer a good long while on the back burner, or even rest in the refrigerator for a couple of days (or months), before they reach their full potential. However, there is nothing like a deadline to get them bubbling again.



Some may remember the picture of black yarn (above) I showed in my November 2020 newsletter. Since then I’ve kept ruminating--definitely on the back burner--while I tended to pressing matters like online guild programs and workshops. I’ve also expanded my stash of black yarn.


Meanwhile, in February, I received the invitation for the 2021 Southern Highland Craft Guild member exhibit, the theme for which is black and white. Perfect, I thought. My design idea for the black yarn was inspired by the paintings of Pierre Soulages, a French artist known as the “painter of black.” My challenge is to create visual or textural pattern in a solid black woven textile.


To fit more directly with the Guild exhibit theme, I began wondering how to incorporate white in a meaningful, but almost invisible way. An avowed structure weaver, I started sifting through the weave structures most familiar to me for possibilities. I’ve done one set of samples for the “black” study in turned Beiderwand/double two-tie, which share a common threading system. I used blue and teal yarns to test the pattern in color, as a pattern baseline.

These just came off the loom, and show potential, but I did not see a way to incorporate white to elevate the design in any way. Adding white for the sake of doing it isn’t enough.


Back the idea went to simmer, but it can’t stay there long because the delivery deadline for the Guild exhibit is Aug. 12, about 10.5 weeks from today. To suppress the recurring shudders of panic, I asked myself, “What is a structure that can make big blocks of contrasting pattern (the black), where a very, very fine thread is critical to the integrity of the cloth?”


Aha! Giant color-and-weave effects, like houndstooth. I have done several experiments with this idea, inspired by the large houndstooth checks that continue to show up on fashion runways. By merging shadow weave and thick-and-thin weaving techniques, I figured out how to expand a houndstooth motif as large as I wanted it. In traditional houndstooth, and similar color-and-weave effects, motif size is limited by yarn size.


With this technique, a very fine thread in warp and weft ties down long floats of the houndstooth pattern threads in a plain weave interlacement. Without the fine tabby understructure, the cloth falls apart. (By the way, I do offer a lecture and workshop on this technique for those who would like to know more.)


What if the thin thread is a very, very fine white on a field of black-on-black houndstooth checks?

I will have to use yarn style and sheen differences to make the pattern visible, but that is the whole point of the Soulages project, and the reason for the growing stash of black yarn.


Time to SAMPLE! I’ll let you know how it worked.


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