Aug 17, 2018
Last year I was scanning the shelves of the Providence Public Library looking for books on dyeing and shibori, when a title caught my eye: Woven Shibori. (An aside: PPL has an incredible collection of textile books.) I immediately checked out this book by Catharine Ellis, and eventually bought myself a copy of the second edition, which focuses on natural dyes.
Inspired by the book, I immediately put on a warp and have been experimenting with this technique these last few months. Woven shibori is done by weaving with supplementary weft (I use cotton, color-safe embroidery floss) to make the pattern on the loom. Once off the loom, I pull these weft tight and dye.
With each experiment I’ve learned something new.
Soak the fabric for a few hours before dyeing.
In fact, overnight was even better. Once the threads are tied, the fabric is very tight. Soaking it overnight made sure it was very wet, and took the indigo much better.
Take very good notes!
Why is it that I seem to need to learn this very simple fact over and over again? I recently brought a box of notebooks home that had been stored in my parents basement and was in awe at what good notes I used to take. Woven shibori involves many steps, and each step is another decision. It’s so frustrating to see a finished piece and not know what I did to get it.
Add in elements slowly.
It’s tempting to try and add in many different design elements. An interesting ground weave, an interesting pattern using the supplementary weft, and then there is still dyeing it. I find it’s been better to take my time and add in elements slowly. There are already a bazillion design choices all while only using a plain weave ground! It’s funny how it's often harder to keep things simple.
Woven shibori really is an exercise in patience.
While weaving, I really have no idea how it will look once it’s off the loom and dyed. Will this pattern look good? Will the ground weave work with the pattern created by the dyeing? Maybe this is why it’s even more exciting when I undo the threads after dyeing, there are so many steps before I see what the finish fabric will look like.
Here are a couple examples of the woven fabric off the loom, and the finished dyed fabric. These are all made using an 8/2 Tencel yarn in the warp and weft that I bought from Gist Yarn. This yarn has a gorgeous hand when woven, and dyes beautifully. My warp is set up with a sett of 24 ends per inch.
For the supplementary weft, I’m using an inexpensive embroidery floss. This floss is color fast and won’t bleed when dyed. It’s also very smooth, with helps for gathering, and also ties easily and tightly. I cut off the excess after I tie it to try and get the most out of the floss as I can, as there is a lot of waste otherwise.
On my loom at the moment is a warp from which I’m attempting two scarves. Since I actually took good notes on my last sample warp, I’m seeing if I can recreate a pattern based on these notes. Hopefully I’ll have something new to wear this fall!
Feb 19, 2018
Urban living has it drawbacks. Such as, having to ask myself “Will my loom even fit into this place?” every time I’ve looked for an apartment. Also, sitting on a set of dyes for years because I have no space to rinse anything messy. And often, creating alone in my studio.
Enter my friend Cathy and her brilliant idea to host an outdoor indigo dyeing party. I could not accept the invitation fast enough and joined fellow textile artists in sharing dye baths. Together we explored indigo dyeing, shibori techniques, and I attempted ikat.
I accepted the invitation because I wanted to dye again, yet I came to realize it was about more than just the dyeing. Participating in these indigo dyeing parties filled a creative void that I didn’t really realize I had. My 16-harness Macomber loom is anything but portable, and I no longer work in the textile industry. I miss the days of working in a space with creative people, all of us working on our own projects, sharing ideas and offering feedback.
I also don’t push myself to learn about new techniques or research textile history and culture. These projects and these gatherings connected me with other artists, and also reminded me of the value of slowing down and taking the time to learn new skills.
By working together, we inspire each other to try new techniques, and share tools, resources and ideas.
I came away with many interesting samples, and a burning urge to try more ikat. Technically, it was the biggest challenge for me. My first time wasn’t great, but good enough to make me want to try again. My second attempt seems better, and I’m already planning out a third.
Creating can get lonely, it’s important to get out of that rut every now and then and be inspired by your community and hopefully inspire others.
Where have you found a creative community?
And there’s good news for those of you in Southern New England. What started out as a group of friends getting together, has evolved into actual workshops taught by the talented Cathy Wilkerson of The Indigo Squirrel. Sign up if you’re interested in learning shibori techniques.
Resources I found helpful:
Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shape Resist Dyeing
Japanese Ikat Weaving
This post was originally published on The Common Thread.