Making Art Out of a Beautiful Silk Taffeta Shawl – That was Much Too Big and Slippery to Wear

Introduction:
I’ve been wildly putting together fabrics the last few days. Seems every time I turn around I get out more fragments and not-so-fragments that I’ve stored away. I find them exciting and then excitedly look around for background fabrics for them. Last night I was getting ready for bed at midnight and I kept getting more and more ideas that it was 1:00 before I turned out the light. For example, I found places on a table mat from Japan for the tiny velvet pieces that I had left. The most exciting idea was to put together a white wool felt pleated cape from China and a handwoven skirt also from China that had woven strips for fringe. I thought to put the fringe at the top of the cape instead of at the bottom where fringe normally is! It will take a good while to get all the pieces made up. I’m also in the throes of writing another Kindle book. The days are not long enough!!

A closeup look at the gorgeous silk taffeta shows fine ikat detail where the borders begin. I bought this “dupatta”in a shop in India years ago. I loved the fabric because of the edges of the borders. I thought it was to be worn over the chest for modesty sake. The internet says they are 2 meters long and can be worn over one shoulder. For years I’ve tried wearing it in a variety of ways. Finally I asked a well-dressed Indian woman what to do and she said, “That isn’t for the body.” What a relief, but a disappointment that I couldn’t have it to feel and look at. I got the inspiration to make it smaller but save the borders for a wall hanging (scroll). I pleated it vertically then horizontally and made small tailor tacks to hold the folds in place. It took a few more iterations to come to what it is now—an official scroll.

Here is a view of the middle section of the wall hanging/scroll. When friends saw me working on it (took a good while over the past week) they thought it was 2 pieces of cloth—not one single fabric.

The bottom. More border. The whole fabric is ikat—warp and weft wise. Looking at the tiny red dashes, I can’t imagine doing the tying for the ikat. Ikat means that the THREADS were tie dyed BEFORE the cloth was woven! Such precision and the care in making the tiny blurry edges of the borders!

Here is the top again and I hope you can see the ruffles that happened when I pleated up the middle section. One neighbor thought the ruffles very elegant and feminine. I think I love the black ruffles as much as the ikat blurry edges. And the center part seems to really set off the very black borders. It is very white with the red dashes.

Here is the result. It started out 98” long plus fringe and 24” wide. Now it is 50” long and 13” wide plus fringe.

Finishing, Finishing, Finished!

It’s not finished until it’s finished
a quote from my teachers

When our teachers told us this, it always meant that the woven cloth needed to be washed so the threads would relax and settle into the weave. I do wash or at least wet my fabrics and usually give them a hard press. That means when they are very damp, I iron and iron until they are dry or practically dry. I love this process and I do it as soon as I bring home the cloth if I can. I get to really see what my cloth looks and feels like. And it is always transformed into something much different from the “raw” cloth.

I have realized that a cloth needs to be made into something to be really finished. I am working at getting some of my woven pieces to be art. My basic idea is to make “scrolls” with fragments and background cloths. Sometimes a piece is for a background and sometimes it’s for the “art” to be mounted on the background. They don’t necessarily need to be long and narrow like traditional scrolls. I’m trying to match the background and the “show pieces”. I want the viewer to enjoy the textiles themselves as well as the overall “scroll”. And, I’m enjoying handling the pieces again and remembering how they came about.  [click photos to enlarge]

This scroll sort of came together by itself. The top 2 pieces were lying on my table together like they are here. The background fabric I wove with the idea of dyeing it someday. I liked how they didn’t match up at the edges, too. It is 8” x 26”.

The background cloth is from the warp I designed to make the needle pillows in a previous post. The slubby warp and weft are of handspun singles cotton from Bhutan. The skeins were horribly snarled and I spent a whole afternoon in the hotel trying to unwind one and finally discovered that there was a cross in the skein! I’d never heard of such a thing. Then I saw a woman unwinding a skein using two swifts—one at each end. When I tried this at home, the skein unwound beautifully and perfectly. I spent a lovely afternoon balling the yarn! I unwound one of the skeins and part of the second—the rest is still on the swifts waiting to be wound into a ball. I never thought of it as a warp but wanted to try it. I used some sizing for the first time. It was so easy to make with flax seed and brush on, I don’t know why I’ve always been afraid to use it. I brushed it on the loom—what was unwoven at the end of a weaving session. Then I left it to dry with the shed open.  The dyed pieces are also from that warp. I dyed the various cloths I got from that warp with black walnuts. I really like to see what different cloths I can make from one warp. I like the white one so much that I’m loath to dye it. I think it really shows off the yarns.

Here is a start at a little scroll using the satin and velvet cloths from previous posts.  I hope it works but am not sure. Any thoughts? It’s just pinned in place now.