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  • Sara Nordling

Following a design from start to finish

I have been thinking, one thing that may help you all in the design process is to follow my thoughts and processes from start to finish.

I have been thinking of designing a scarf, because that is what may people weave. It gives you a lot of freedom and choices in the design process yet it is not overwhelmingly large.

The first step is to set my limitations. I decided I would design with the elements of line and texture being dominant. That can go in many directions. At first I was toying with some lovely rayon boucle that was a recent purchase plus a ball of ribbon yarn that was given to me. Before I could sit down and design with that, a guild member said she had many cones of black polyester, thin, she was giving away so it would not end up in the dumpster. That got me thinking…I had not yet tried a crimp cloth project. Last spring we had a guild presentation on crimp cloth and I want to try it. With a gift cone of polyester, well the moment is now.

But what to use for warp if the black polyester is the weft that I will heat set (steam) to set my pleats after pulling the threads (much like for woven shibori)? I found in my stash many small balls of 20/2 cotton left over from previous projects, many of them bright colors. Just the thing! I can now make stripes of colors that I can gather to have line and texture! Just what I wanted to use for a design!

Now, how exactly do I go about it getting the effect that I envision in my head? I am thinking of 3/1 twills, warp and weft faced, alternating in stripes. Okay, that will take 8 shafts, one for each “block” or stripe of twill, one warp faced and one weft faced. Then I thought, I could alternate, every so often, which ones were warp faced and which one weft faced. Great! But there comes the tricky part. I also want the pulled threads to alternate faces. I figure if one pull thread goes in front of warp and weft faced stripe pair, then goes in back of the next pair, it will force one set to bend one way and the other to bend the opposite way. To do this I will need to be able to lift up one set 8 shafts, while another set of 8 shafts is down, so I can place the pull threads where I want them. In doing this I now need 16 shafts. Luckily, that is what I have on one of my looms.

Draft for first scarf and first scarf on the loom.

So, I began winding the warp, alternating hues in no particular order, just what I felt should be the next one, balancing light and dark values and distributing the hues somewhat evenly. There was no mathematical plan, just varying lights and darks according to the amounts I had of each hue.

On further thought, I doubt if I will need the shibori tie threads to make this design work. So, I could have threaded this on 8 shafts, 2 blocks of 3/1 twill, to get the results I want. It may have been better to use a 10/2 cotton as the differences in width between warp and weft will help exaggerate the pleats. Still, this may work as it is. When in doubt, sample! I have enough on the loom for that.

After weaving the first scarf as stated above, I realized I did want to try the shibori tie threads after all. However, I did not want to keep the same tie-up I had. So, I alternated the directions of the twills and made one pair warp-faced and one pair weft-faced and then switched them every 6 to 8 inches with tie down threads every 16 picks. These tied down threads went over the warp-faced twills and under the weft-faced twills. This draft could have been done on 8 shafts. I am glad I used all of my 16 though as it allowed me to change the scarves while weaving, instead of having to make a new warp or re-thread my loom.

Draft for second scarf and second scarf on the loom.

Tied and ready for steaming.

I did two additional scarves using this method. Off the loom and washed, the first scarf did not pleat, not even a little. I think I would have needed fatter warp threads to make that happen without tie threads. The 20/2 cotton was too similar in size to the weft yarn. I used a fine monofilament for the shibori threads. I pulled the threads and tied them. Then I steamed the scarves over simmering heat for half an hour. I let them cool in the pot and then laid them on a rack to dry. Once dry, I removed the tie threads and have wonderful pleats! The pleated scarves are much narrower than the one without the pleats. I am now glad I have the two for comparison, even if it would be fun to have all of them pleated. Two of them are off to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art for a wearable art sale next week. I will try to remember to let you know if they sell or not.

Scarves after finishing. On the left, the first scarf with no pleats.

On the right, the second scarf with set pleats.

So, that is the design journey of the scarves. I did succeed in using both line and texture to make scarves. I even succeeded in getting a visual texture in the first scarf and some actual textures in the second scarf. It is as much about experimenting as it is about design. These scarves have also given me valuable information that I will use in future designs. Maybe that is the real lesson here. Designing has to start somewhere. I can give you information on the elements and principles. However, ultimately, designing is up to you. It is your journey. The more you do it, the more you learn. The more you weave the more it informs you for future projects. Great work isn’t created in a vacuum. It is a process of working and developing. One step, or project, informs the next one.

Enjoy the journey.

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