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  • Sara Nordling

Designing Weavers: Teena Tuenge

towels woven by Teena

Towels woven by Teena Tuenge, photo courtesy of Teena.

I first met Teena when I was a new weaver and joined my first guild. At show and tell she would bring these amazing woven items. She showed me what weaving could be and inspired me to grow as a weaver. Teena was one of my first “rabbits to chase.” That is, someone you want to emulate because they are at where you want to be. We all need those in life and Teena was one of the first weaving ones for me.

SN: So, Teena, tell us a little about yourself…

TT: I am one of many people who had an interest in sewing and knitting from a young age. That story is not very unique. I was going to be an English teacher but got married and had kids and stayed home for a time. Ten years after my first degree I went back to school and got a Master’s in Clothing and Textiles from Michigan State University and during my time there had an internship with a clothing company. I went to work for them after that second degree. It was a “real job” as I was not under any illusions that I could make enough money to live on by weaving. I continued with the company until being laid off in 2001.

I never lost interest in weaving and after a hiatus of about 7 years when I was first working and the children were in middle school and early high school, I began to weave in earnest again.

SN: How long have you been weaving?

TT: I have been weaving since 1970 when I found a small, 2-shaft Peacock loom in a hobby store. I was hooked by the variety in weaving; structures, colors, materials, etc, etc. And apparently I don’t mind the repetition that is required to change the sheds and throw the shuttle thousands of times. Or by now, is that millions of times?

I started out with a very small and simple loom, but have “graduated” to 16, 24 and 32 shaft computerized looms over about a 20-year period. I currently own two AVL looms and a Toika as well as a Mirrix and a Shannock for tapestry.

SN: Do you use weaving software, and if so, which one(s)?

TT: I began using weaving software for designing before I had a loom connected to a computer. It was pretty elementary and printouts were done on a dot matrix printer. I think it was called Generation II. Now I regularly use Fiberworks and Weavepoint, but am also trying to learn Proweave, just as a challenge.

I use Weavepoint most often for designing. I appreciate the Block Substitution function and “Expand” and “Overlay” in the Transform menus. I find it easier to define blocks in Weavepoint. I love their “Browse” feature that shows a thumbnail of the drawdown. This makes it easier to find files since the many variations that I may do of a design for a particular warp are hard to name distinctly. For designing for multi-shafts, I’m more familiar with Weavepoint. However, whenever I am teaching and need printouts, I take the files into Fiberworks. Fiberworks allows more customization of the printout.

SN: Now, turning specifically to design, where do you look for design inspiration?

TT: I get inspiration most often while sitting at the loom and thinking while I am weaving, then trying something new on that warp. But I read old and new weaving publications, look at other art works and like to try new weave structures that I have not done before.

SN: Are there any weave structures that you’ve yet to try, or want to explore but haven’t gotten to yet?

TT: I would like to spend a little more time with unusual materials such as the yarns sold by Habu and Giovanna Imperia. But I have a very large stash to use up and not as much energy as I used to, so I may not get to that. I probably weave about 16 hours a week on average.

Dress woven by Teena Tuenge

Dress designed woven and photographed by Teena Tuenge.

SN: How do you approach designing a new weaving?

TT: For tapestries, I do drawings. For profile drafts, I use the computer software design tools. I may also design from the tie-ups or lift plans using the software again. I don’t at all mind weaving samples and do quite a lot of sampling. When I was trying to investigate the possibilities of color-and-weave as an imitation of jacquard so-called “tapestry” for my dobby loom, I did yards and yards of samples to come up with effective weaves for that color work.

SN: It is great to hear you aren’t afraid to sample! Do you ever turn your samples into things or are most of them used for reference only?

TT: I make small items such as eyeglass cases, small bags and potholders with samples and scraps that I no longer need. Since I do a couple of art fairs a year, this allows folks who like the work, but don’t want to spend on a larger item to have something to buy. And it allows me to use up fabric.

SN: What is important to you in your designing?

TT: Working out the final object from my original idea is what I value.

SN: How close do you feel you get to the original idea in your head?

TT: That just depends on whether it was a good one or not, if I knew enough already to carry it out well. Sometimes it is an experiment that grew out of something I’ve already woven but wanted to take to the next step. Those are probably the most successful.

SN: Do you work in series?

TT: In the sense that I work on one structure for a while and do long warps that offer versatility and hardly ever repeat one design twice or at least in the same color way, you could say that I work in a series. However, that is not in the sense of an artist’s series. I’m making garments and household linens, so they can be related and similar but doing strictly production is too boring. Since I am retired, I can achieve a balance of designing, sampling, etc. and “production” that suits me.

SN: Do you have favorite weave structures?

TT: I find myself returning to double weave frequently, but also any kind of color work. Tied weaves make possible a variety of “pictures” in the fabric. I’m doing a lot of pleated fabrics for garments, lately since I am more interested in spending my time weaving than sewing and the pleated fabrics require much less fitting.

pleated vest by Teena Tuenge

Pleated vest woven and photographed by Teena Tuenge.

SN: What weave structures are you using to create the pleated fabric? Or do you use energized yarns?

TT: I’m using mostly warp and weft faced twills or satins as well as energized wefts.

SN: Thanks Teena, it’s been great having a chat with you about your process and your approach to designing. I am intrigued by your work and always like to see what new things you are trying out. You still inspire me. Hearing what you are investigating almost makes me want to drop my own investigations and try something new!

To find out more about Teena’s work you can find her member page at the Southern Highland Craft Guild website. (Note that this page is not fully functional at this time. It is just a listing of me and my medium with a short bio. The Guild is in the process of making it possible to add more extensive pictures and info and I’ve not completed that yet. To do a search for me, input: Teena E. Tuenge)

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