Salt and Pepper Transitions Scarf

I’ve mentioned many times how much I love commissioned projects. Not only for the ego boost, but because it encourages me to try things I might not have done on my own. Even if the request is pretty open ended, it will likely send me in a direction I wouldn’t have otherwise. Basically, I think of some commissions as free inspiration.

This woman who requested this scarf wanted a gift for her friend. Her friend had decided to stop dying her hair and start embracing the grey hairs. So she wanted to give her friend a black and silver reflective scarf in honor of that.

I really enjoyed thinking about that transformation as a concept; the transition from solid black, to mixed “salt and pepper,” to solid silver.  What would that look like in a weaving? How would it look around someone’s neck?

To achieve this look, I set up the warp to be solid black on one side, and then start alternating silver, until it ends up solid silver on the other side. Then, I used the same method to change the weft from black to silver in the same way. This gave my an asymmetrical scarf, with one end thats black and mixed and the other that’s silver and mixed.

I like that the scarf shows the combination of colors every step of the way through transition. From the first scattering of fine threads, to the dense mixture. And of course, with the twinkle of the reflective light all the way through.

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And of course I couldn’t resist doing one of these:

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If you’d like to commission a scarf, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 🙂

Sea and Sky Scarf

I had a lot of fun recently working on a commissioned scarf for a woman in France. She wanted a scarf in her favorite colors, dark grey and blue. One of her favorite memories is of looking at the sea one day, and where it met the sky, and seeing so many shades of blue and grey together. I didn’t have yarn in the specific shades she was looking for, so I had a lot of fun dyeing it.

I dyed the yarn while it was tied up in “braids” specifically to get an “uneven” dye effect. I like that there are areas that are lighter or darker. My favorite yarn is the one that is part blue and part grey. I first dyed it in the same grey bath as the warp, but removed it early. I then unbraided it and re-braided it to expose different areas of the yarn. Then I partially dip-dyed it in the same dye as the blue. This created lovely randomness in the transitions between the blue and grey.

I’m definitely pleased with how this scarf turned out. It was lots of fun to sort of spontaneously dye a whole lot of yarn and just see what happens!

Penland Project – OndulĂ© Weaving

I wrote before about my experiences at Penland this summer, but I have yet to show off what I actually made! If you’ve been waiting, I finally found some time to take good photos of my projects.

I attended the OndulĂ© Weaving class, taught by Amy Putansu. OndulĂ© is a very special weaving technique I was super excited to learn about. OndulĂ© – meaning “wavy” or “corrugated” in English – weaving is done by using a special reed to create curved lines in the warp threads. Most loom weaving is considered very grid like. You have vertical (warp) threads and horizontal (weft) threads that always meet at 90deg angles. There are techniques you can use to create the illusion of curves in a woven piece, but the threads themselves are always straight and parallel; except in ondulĂ© weaving!

Weaving on a floor loom uses a piece of equipment called a “reed.” They are usually made of stainless steel in these modern days, and consist of many tiny bars of steel set evenly. Each thread in the warp goes in between these bars to keep them evenly spaced across the width of the cloth. The reed is also used in conjunction with the “beater” to “beat down” each weft thread as it is cast. The bars in a standard reed are always parallel, and always evenly spaced – that is the point! But an ondulĂ© reed, often called a “fan reed,” is different.

As you might have guessed from the name, the bars in a fan reed are set into fan shapes. They are not parallel, but instead group together in crammed and spaced areas. By raising and lowering the reed, or the warp going through the reed, you can control how the individual warp threads are crammed together or spaced apart. By carefully orchestrating where in the vertical space of the reed you beat your cloth, you can create “undulations” in your weave structure. The warp threads are being guided back and forth in a wavy shape, sometimes squished together and sometimes spaced apart, and held in place by each successive weft beat.

I was so thrilled to take this class. It was something I’d come across in passing, but could never find more information about. How do you weave ondulĂ©? Where do you buy equipment? What’s the magic sauce? Are some fibers better than others? How can I weave this?!?! OndulĂ© weaving is something of a mystery, there isn’t a lot of information out there about it. Very recently, in fact after our class ended, a book about ondulĂ© weaving was released by Schiffer Publishing: OndulĂ© Textiles. It’s a great place to go for more inspiring photos and some of the history of ondulĂ© weaving.

Amy Putansu was a pretty amazing teacher, and she taught a great workshop. We were at Penland for a full 16 days. The first week of the workshop, Amy had organized a “round robin” style rotation on the looms. Each loom was set up with a different size of fan reed, and different fiber-type yarns in different arrangements. The idea was that we could learn the basics of how to manipulate the reeds and our yarn, while also experimenting with all the different looks that can be achieved. This was an amazing way to learn and experience some of the possibilities, without having the anxiety attached to also trying to plan a full project start to finish before even knowing how ondulĂ© works.

In my first penland post, I shared these photos of a set of greeting cards we made for the end-of-session auction. Each card features a different sample of fabric woven by one of us in that round robin part of the workshop. This gives you an idea of the different yarns and setts and colors Amy had prepared for us, and how much we all enjoyed experimenting.

 

After the round robin was completed, we spend the final week of the workshop planning and creating our own project.

Planning and ondulĂ© project was pretty intimidating for me. Thread “sett” is a very important concept in weaving, and is basically a way of talking about the density of your yarn. You can imagine that the weight and fiber type of a yarn is important and impacts how many warp threads per an inch you’ll want to set up in your loom. With ondulĂ© weaving that becomes even more important, because at some points in your cloth your warp will be very dense. At the “bottom” of some fans, you can see how close the reed will push your threads together. And of course, at the other side of the fan, your threads will be very spaced apart. The angle of the fans is also important, because that impacts how dramatically the warp threads at the “outside” of each fan area will be forced to curve. Those threads will have to travel more distance, curving in and out constantly, than the threads in the “center” of each fan which don’t curve at all. This means that your chosen yarn must be strong, and be able to handle differing levels of tension. All of which is a lot of words to say: ondulĂ© weaving is hard! And I was very glad to have an experienced teacher there to help guide our choices.

I ended up completing two projects in the time we had. For my first project, I chose something based on one of my favorite experiments I had played with during the round robin. Not only did Amy guide us in the basics of onudlĂ© weaving, but she also used the round robin as an opportunity to show us countless other fascinating weaving and fiber techniques. Everything from dyeing, to felting and felt resist, to warp painting, to devorĂ© (burning out select fibers with acid or base solutions), and more! One of my favorite techniques was the warp painting we did with dye-na-flow. I intend to write an entire blog post about this one technique eventually, but for now just know that it consists of painting your warp threads while they’re on the loom. This simple concept blew my mind. I could make it up as I went along? I could just go with it, splash down color wherever and however I wanted? This was my kind of fiber dyeing!

Like I said, ondulĂ© weaving is hard! It takes a lot of work to achieve that “undulating” warp, and so usually the weaver wants to choose a design that really shows off the curved nature of the fibers. For my first project, I chose a simple solid white rayon warp and used the same yarn for weft. Everyone in the class looked at me like I was crazy, until I explained that I wanted to really exaggerate the curves in the threads by painting them as I went. And of course, knowing me, I couldn’t do it without also including some reflective threads! I don’t have a whole lot of photos of the scarf in progress, or after completion. I ended up donating this piece to the end-of-session auction. I was super proud of it though, and hope to complete another one on my home loom eventually.

 

After my success with that scarf, I wanted to experiment with something a little more exciting than white rayon. I’d been holding onto some absolutely gorgeous malabrigo silk-alpaca blend yarn for awhile, just waiting for the right project. I was pretty sure it would be great yarn for an ondulĂ© project.

I used two  colors of yarn for this project: a solid teal-blue color (called “teal feather”) and a variegated yarn that transitioned between spring green and hints of violet and blue (called “indicieta”). I planned out my warp carefully, because I wanted the two yarn colors to create noticeable stripes that would highlight the curved nature of ondulĂ©, but I also wanted to show a transition. I was inspired by watching the mountains that surrounded the school. They were never the same color twice, morning or afternoon, foggy or sunny, always changing every time you looked at them. I wanted to capture some of that feeling, of staring at verdant mountains in summer. I used the same transition effect in the weft. Each fringe end of the scarf emphasizes the teal yarn, while the center portion emphasizes the spring green indicieta yarn.

This scarf is my favorite hand made item I’ve ever made. It uses a unique skill I spent a lot of time learning. It’s in my favorite colors. The undulating shapes in the weave remind me of the mountains where I grew up, and that surrounded the school where I made it. The colors it uses also surrounded me during those weeks at Penland – vivid summer greens, with hints of blue and purple twilights and pink dawns. I’m so excited that its finally getting cold enough to wear it!

 

I will absolutely be weaving more ondulĂ© in the future. I hope to eventually document the technique that Amy taught us, because such a wonderful and unique style of weaving shouldn’t be lost or limited. I am very grateful that Amy chose to teach us, and that I could attend her session at Penland. I heartily recommend her as a teacher to anyone who gets the chance to learn from her.