A Good Reason to Warp Front-to-Back: An Afghan Woven by Helen Pope

Introduction:
One of my mentors, Helen Pope, wove gorgeous afghans while warping “front-to-back”. My students know that I prefer the other way, “back-to-front” but in this case, she is using the better technique. I realized that I would never have thought of designing such a project with my back-to-front mentality. It would be nearly impossible to wind the warp with all the yarn changes going back-to-front. Her afghans proved that even something that isn’t very efficient, can be done and can be lovely—and the effect is worth the effort. (Read at the end for the pattern for knitting her fringes.)

Helen made two very different afghans on each warp and gave them to family members and special friends for over thirty years. (She made mine to go with my sofa at the time.) She had one loom devoted to them. Mohair was always in the warp (and weft, I think.) and she brushed one side to raise the nap.

The weave structure was double weave in three blocks so threading was complicated.

Helen carefully chose and dyed her textured yarns. She often combined more than one thread to make up a warp yarn.

There were many warp threads per dent. She tied each new warp onto the end of old ones so she never had to thread the heddles again.

I saw her beam on a warp one day—there must have been 6 or 8 warp chains! It was a tedious business untangling the yarns while beaming—but was worth the work. Threads in each dye bath were in separate chains. She had baby bathtubs as dye pots.

Helen was very particular about her fringes. In this afghan, she kept the warp threads from each layer separate. Often the fringe color was so changed by the wefts she used that the fringe no longer worked with the woven part. In those cases, she knitted the fringes in appropriate colors and sewed them on to hide the original threads.

From Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book:
“Knitted Fringe: Any yarn can be used. This can be used doubled, trebled, or quadrupled, according to the yarn used and the weight of fringe desired. A cotton fringe is better quadrupled, which necessitates the simultaneous use of four balls of cotton, the four stands being held together and knitted as one.

“Cast -on a number of stitches divisible by three. (Helen cast-on 9 stitches for a 5” fringe with 1” braid. I think her notes on the page meant that she knitted 2 1/6 yards for 5” fringe with 1” braid.)

“With 6 stitches on the needle, cast-off three only, and finish. Unravel the remaining three stitches, unravelling the entire length of the knitted strip, until one side presents a fringe of even loops, while the opposite side has the appearance of a knitted braid. This is then attached to the fabric with an overcast stitch. To straighten the fringe, dampen it, and allow it to hang straight, and dry.” From Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, page 128. 1938. Printed in Great Britain for Hoddder and Stoughton Limited, St. Paul’s House, Warwick Lane, London, E.C.4 by Cox & Wyman Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenbam.

Weaver’s Block? Try a color blanket

Introduction:
While I was taking my first classes at Pacific Basin School of Textiles in Berkeley, I took a class at the College of Marin. I wanted to make a color blanket which I thought would be a nice shawl. My teacher, Nancy Soper, picked out the yarns for me. I didn’t appreciate her wisdom at the time but liked what she chose. Instead of taking each color from the Color Wheel like the samplers we usually see, she chose colors that were related. And they ranged in steps from yellow to purple using colors in ½ of the color wheel. She used an interesting array of yarn types to get the right color shades in the warp. The edges were quite uneven given fat and thinner yarns but for a shawl that wasn’t a problem then. Usually all of the colors in the warp are then used as wefts to see how they act when crossed with one another.

Choose colors you like or are likely to use. For example, you might like olive green and use that instead of a harsh pure green or yellow-green. Most color blankets I’ve seen are made with pure colors from the color wheel. Colors that I will never use in real life. A color blanket can be for reference or for a project, such as a scarf, table runner, or actual blanket. Watch out for yellow if you want to make something for its looks. Yellow is so light and that makes it show up much more than other colors. Use less of it than the others and you will be happier with the overall look of the finished project.
Here is a color blanket made for reference. A business in India needed to know how the threads they were going to use blended or not. It was made primarily for reference only. However, some thought went into the organization where the warm and cool colors showed up. Thus, a scarf was made as well. I suggest using colors in your stash that you are likely to use—NOT every color there is, but ones you relate to and like.

In my case, this color blanket was basically made for reference it turns out. Because of this, the color chosen was more important than the type of yarn. Woolen, chenille, worsted, mohair, and novelty yarns were used. These differences resulted in the edges bowing in and out and the cloth being somewhat puckered.

I wove half the blanket/shawl in plain weave. I discovered the colors blended quite well with this structure. The closer the colors are on the color wheel, the more they blend. The edge colors (yellow and purple) are farther apart on the color wheel and don’t blend as well. That’s why I made those warp stripes narrower, especially I used less yellow than the other colors both in the warp and weft.

The twill half was a disaster in my opinion, especially where the light yarns crossed contrasting dark yarns. (I had just learned to draft some twills as you can see.) Compare this with the same yarns crossing in plain weave above. This was an important lesson I learned. Structures with floats don’t blend as well as plain weave where every other thread is woven in.

The shawl was a disappointment as a shawl, but I hated to just throw it out or bury it in a drawer. A good friend suggested I use it on my bed. I look at different sections and don’t worry about the uneven edges or chenille yarns that are worming.

Organizing My Fabrics By Value


I had accumulated a large pile of fabrics I collected for collages and it was growing uncontrollably. I decided to organize them by value. That was too foreboding at first so I sorted them by color (hue) then I took each pile and took out the light ones for the box of light-values.

Next I pulled out the darkest value ones for the dark box. That made it easier to fill the medium box.

The fourth box was for larger pieces of cloth.

What fun. But I sure had a backache after all that working with piles on the floor.

My New Work

“Shiny” by Peggy Osterkamp – silks dyed with black walnuts [click to enlarge]

I was busy over the holidays making this piece. All the fabrics were dyed with black walnuts I collected in early December. Some I put in iron water for a short time to “sadden” or grey the colors. There were two different fabrics which were shiny  so I could play with the color differences when I turned them 90 degrees. I cut the squares and turned them 90 degrees from each other to get the same effect as changing the nap in corduroy or velvet.  I mounted the pieces on cotton fabric strips and moved them around to make the composition. Then I mounted all the strips on black fabric. Everything was joined with long straight pins. Some time ago I realized the straight pins in my pin cushion were too fat for silk fabrics so I got “Extra-Long Satin Pins”.

Last night when only one light was on in the room, the pins themselves shimmered for further effect.

When I got started I wanted to know what fiber my fabrics were made of. I went to my files to look up “burn test” and there was a page from my own book! I’m still not exactly sure of what I have—it came from a warehouse sale I went to in November. I think they are silk. Here is the chart from my book, “Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth“.

My Sampler Turned into a Coat!


Many years ago I took a class in damask and learned about satins and I focused on warp face and weft face and color. I don’t know why I thought I needed 11 yards, but I made the warp that long. I would say it was about 15” wide. The warp was blue and grey out of 20/2 pearl cotton. The threading was 2 blocks and then I played with how colors mixed and looked next to each other. I still have a large stash of a lot of colors and shades of sewing thread which I used for wefts.

Since I was playing, sometimes the “right side” was on top and sometimes the “wrong side”. Of course there was no repeat!

When I showed it to my students one day Antione Alexander said he could make a coat out of it. The next week he had a muslin and the next week the completed coat! WOW! Later I had a seamstress put in interfacing and a lining. I wore it to the symphony a few weeks ago and have gotten nice compliments every time I wear it. I really feel I lucked out! I think he did a great job.

Collages of My Dyed Fabrics


Each composition is made up of fabrics that were in the same dye pot. The differences in the tones are due to the different fabrics I put into the pot. I love these subtle “colors”. The yellows were from woad plants. The browns were from green persimmons over dyed with indigo. I especially find myself liking things that have almost no color at all. One of these is from oak galls. I can’t remember all the specifics but I like to put dyed fabrics in a bath of iron water to “sadden” the color.




More Boros: Dying with Oak Galls and Rust

Oak Gall Hammer
I discovered these oak galls under an oak tree. I have always thought they were gorgeous—and that they make a nice dye, too. I’ve given away all my dye chemicals and pots but wanted to see what color they would give. I smashed some of the less-beautiful galls and poured boiling water over them and let them steep with a couple of scraps from my boro project—silks and cotton flannel. I soaked them over night and was not impressed with what I found the next morning. So I went to the internet and of course there were entries about dyeing with oak galls (and more about the galls). 
I discovered I needed to soak the cloth in a solution of rust and vinegar or lemon juice after soaking the cloth overnight in the gall and water solution. You can see what I’ve gotten so far. [click photos to enlarge]
Oak Gall - First Samples
I’m seduced with the subtle colors so far and want to continue experimenting with longer gall-soaks followed by longer rust soaks. So far I’ve just done overnight. The info said I should get black with this recipe but I’m very far from that. Greys and darker shades would be fine. The two darker pieces were light indigo dyed before I did the two oak gall processes. I think they have a lot of possibilities, too.


This before-and-after photo show the silk crepe cloth I wove before and after dyeing. It took the dye much stronger than the other silks. The cotton flannel hardly took any color at all. I think it was darker because the threads were undegummed silk—silk organza is made of this type of silk. I clamped the middle to make the resist that formed the diamond in the center.
Oak Galls and Rust in Glasses
You can see my “dye pots”. Dying in my tiny kitchen(ette) in the retirement place where I live is a challenge. I found a chipped latte glass and glasses from Starbucks and The Oakville Grocery. That way I can keep them separate from the glasses I drink from. I heat water in the microwave and stir with a chop stick. This is perfect for the small scraps I want to use in a new boro piece. On the left is a solution with just the pulverized oak galls and galls. The right glass has just the solution of rust and lemon juice (and some water) and some rust before it was pulverized. Getting the rust was a lucky break for me. I told a friend I needed some and her son chipped off a jarful of it with 2 cups of gorgeous rust. When I pounded the rust into a powder it worked much better giving darker results. Rusty nails or steel wool is supposed to work for the rust. Taking the photos was a challenge. Bob, my photographer and web guru, had me lying on my stomach to shoot me pounding the oak galls.
Oak Gall Peggy

Putting My Color Class to Work

Blue Scarf on JacketLast weekend I bought this gorgeous blue scarf made by the artist, Jean Cacicedo of Berkeley, Ca. Then I couldn’t decide what to wear with it. I painted these samples to see what I liked and what I had in my closet. I love the yellow-green, but don’t own anything that color. The reds I have and found this red jacket. It’s much bolder than anything I usually wear so the color class is making an impression. I never really liked the red in the jacket until now that it has its blue scarf around the neck.

Yet Another Color Class

Peggy Osterkamp’s color class watercolor – click to enlarge

I’m taking a color class for ordinary people in an Osher Lifetime Learning class at Sonoma State. It’s mainly for people to be able to put colors together in their own lives–clothes, furnishings, etc. I’ve taken dozens of color classes and hoped this would help mesh all the rules I’ve learned. It has. The teacher is a quilter but she knows how to teach people who have no innate talent for color. Last week we talked about Intensity–and its two aspects. Saturation is how much dye there is (weak or strong) and also how “clean or dirty” the color is.

The page from a book by Gunta Stolzl that I used as my example - click to enlarge

The page from a book by Gunta Stolzl that I used as my example – click to enlarge

When everyone else in the world was watching the Super bowl I went to my studio and tried to paint light colors (unsaturated) as well as a little bit “muddy”–not kindergarten colors. It was fun. I found a page to copy in a book by Gunta Stolzl. It was a challenge to try to mix my paint to match her colors. You can see I didn’t get nearly light enough. Oh well, the next time. My next assignment to myself is to try different values of colors mixed with their complements. She didn’t use the word complements but said they were mixtures of the other 2 primaries. These should be neutrals or colors that are not easy to name.

My Thoughts about Color Wheels

screenshot.02-04-2013 15.43.36A color wheel that was introduced to us in our guild program on Optical Mixing is the first one shown here. It is called the Magenta, Yellow, Cyan (turquoise) color system or color wheel and the one more suited for weavers. Our speaker told us it was better to use this one than the one we all learned and are familiar with which is the Red, Yellow, Blue system or color wheel (which is for mixing light). This is the second one shown here.

 If you look at my previous post screenshot.02-04-2013 15.44.02showing my own stash of colors, you won’t see anything like on either wheel. That’s because the color wheels show us intense colors. In real life, most of us don’t stick to only those intense colors—we darken, or lighten, or dull them, or mix them optically with other colors.

 So, how do you use a color wheel if the colors aren’t what you like? The colors on the wheels are NAMED. That is what is important. You need to name the colors or read them first. For example, red and red-orange and red-purple are names of three colors (officially called hues). Then you can use the wheel for relationships of the hues to one another or to put together color harmonies. For example, harmonies might be hues that are opposite one another or beside each other on the wheel. THEN when you know the names of the hues you are looking for, you can “doctor” them us (so-to-speak) so they aren’t so intense and to my mind, more beautiful or interesting.

 You can change a hue these ways:
Change the value,
Change the intensity
Change the temperature

 That’s how you get nice interesting colors that don’t look like kindergarten colors.screenshot.02-04-2013 15.48.20

 One of my teachers, Cameron Taylor Brown, had us make different color wheels. We named the colors from the regular color wheel we were used to. Then made these: one color wheel with all the hues being light in value (pastels), one with all dark hues, one with duller hues, etc. You see, we named the hues but then made up color wheels (like pallets) with the same hues but changed in the ways I listed above: value, intensity and temperature. There were some I liked screenshot.02-04-2013 15.49.00better than others. Using the yarns from one wheel makes your work look coordinated: to add punch, she suggested adding something from a completely different pallet (color wheel).

 For our talk on Saturday about Optical Mixing, we will be talking about value. Threads that are of the same value will blend or mix.

 One important thought: You don’t need to have all the colors in the wheel—just work with the ones you like or have.

 Use what you like and used the color theory color when you are stuck.

 My mentor, Helen Pope, always used to choose what ribbon for her pony tale by using a color that was one step from the opposite of the color of her outfit. In other words she used the harmony “split complementory”

My Color Stash for Weaving

I’ve been planning a little lesson for my weaving guild about color—especially optical mixing. I’m going to show color wheels we are used to seeing and talk about using yarns and threads that aren’t on the wheels, per se. That is, not the vibrant, intense colors you see but what I think are more beautiful colors. I’ll show how beautiful colors are made and how to use them, using the information on the color wheels.

My spools of weaving thread - Peggy Osterkamp

My color stash of sewing threads.
Peggy Osterkamp

My color stash of sewing threads.Peggy Osterkamp

My color stash of sewing threads.
Peggy Osterkamp

 

 

 

 

 

 


Here is my color stash of sewing threads. I just picked spools of colors that I liked when visiting a shop in the garment district of Manhattan on several trips. I expected to mix them together and whenever possible I took colors with different dye lots. Variations in colors make them more beautiful, in my opinion.

Optical Mixing in a Woven Table Runner

ALO Runner - Close Up - Peggy Osterkamp

ALO Runner – Close Up
Peggy Osterkamp
click to enlarge

A few weeks ago our guild had a speaker who explained the theory of optical mixing. When I got home, I noticed I’d been doing that without knowing it for a long time. I kept finding pieces that were examples of taking two colors and mixing them to form a third color. I was excited to see several examples so decided to do a study group after our next meeting to discuss optical mixing and show some examples.

I’m also going to talk a bit about using complementary colors. The table runner is woven of oranges and blues.

ALO Runner - Corner Detail - Peggy Osterkamp

ALO Runner – Corner Detail
Peggy Osterkamp – click to enlarge

There is so much to learn about color theory that I get overwhelmed easily and not much sticks in my brain so I just want to talk about these two subjects.

This runner I wove for my mother-in-law but I knew she wouldn’t appreciate it so I never gave it to her. It’s one of my very favorite pieces. The linen fabric is thick because I put together the two warps from a previous double weave project into a single layer.

ALO Runner - Peggy Osterkamp

ALO Runner
Peggy Osterkamp
click to enlarge

I ironed it hard with a rolling pin on a bread board while it was damp. I love the weight, the sheen, and the subtle colors.

The idea of putting two warps together as a single layer happened when I was sampling for making some table runners. I ran out of color combinations to try, so just wove the warps together for a warp face structure where the warp was completely hidden. It still made a thick cloth which I wanted and I loved the way the two warp colors mixed.

Weaving Has Begun! (but no photos)

I made this post yesterday–but suddenly the blog software isn’t allowing me to post any images. You” have to imagine. I hope when I get back at the end of the week it will be fixed.
Here is the back of my loom–weights are holding the purple supplementary warp and also the selvedges. I’m sampling to see what the colors in the warp will be like and to see if I can get sheer again. The extra warp isn’t threaded in the heddles, but between every 8th warp thread. They are in the same position as floating selvedges–in the middle of the sheds. When I want the  supplementary threads on the top, I shoot the shuttle under them. When I don’t want them to show, I put the shuttle over them. I learned this technique as “split broche.”

My New Warp

Sewing Thread Warp (click to enlarge)

Here is my new warp–sewing thread–for some art pieces. More ruffles, probably. You can see the 10 spools that I used on my warping reel with a heck block. Otherwise, for 10 spools you would definitely need to use a paddle (which is a good idea). See my book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle). The warp is on its kitestick, ready to load the raddle.

Spools for Warp (click to enlarge)

I’m using sewing thread and hoping for sheer again. I increased the sett a bit from the yellow warp so I won’t have to beat so gently to get the wefts not to pack in too much.
I’m making separate selvedges out of white rayon and using a supplementary warp (egg plant color) for the punch. The technique for the supplementary warp I’ll use is split broche. The threads will not be in the heddles as they are threaded amongst the warp threads which on are 4 shafts. More on this when I get started.  For now, you can see those threads on their own small kitestick.
I think I’ll put in some horse hair–I love the color of it.

 

 

A Color Lesson I Forgot

White Border Too Big (click to enlarge)

I wove what I hoped would be a narrow band to be sort of a border separating parts of my wavy wefts cloth. I used white because that was what the warp is and  it would blend in since a lot of white shows in the wavy wefts cloth. I forgot that light colors really advance and actually look larger than darker ones. I made my “border” 2 inches tall–it looked much wider. In fact it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Narrow Borders Look Better

What to do–it came near the beginning of my proposed hanging. Well, since the lam broke, it made me stop and think about it. I cut off what was woven and made narrow hems which look much better.  In the illustration the wide border is a little rigged up, but it shows an inch of white. Originally the border was 2″ tall and really looked too big. But that lesson of light colors looking larger really came home to me.