weaving personality

This is a subject which has popped up twice in less than a week, so I thought I would allow myself a few moments to muse on it.

Over at weaving today, which is the online extension of Handwoven magazine, a recent blog post takes the form of a “weaving personality quiz”. Based on your responses to the questions you are classified as a “colour/texture” weaver, a “structure/pattern” weaver or something in between that is undefined. A lot of the people posting comments seem to have come out in the middle, so perhaps it is not surprising that I did too: right bang in the middle of the middle with a score of 24. This presumably means I am either very balanced or very indecisive.

I’m not inclined to read much into pop quizzes, but I mention this one because of the other occurrence of the personality topic. At our guild meeting on Saturday I happened to be giving a talk about my experience of the Bradford course. I had been asked to do this about a year ago and blithely said, “oh yes, that’ll be fine” without really thinking about it. Fast forward >>> to a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself wondering what on earth I could say that might be relevant to other people and not just a self-indulgent bout of nostalgia. After all, the course-as-we-knew-it is in abeyance at the moment, so it is not as if I could help people decide whether they wanted to take it or not. Anyway, I settled on a structure for my talk that I thought would convey (a) something of what we learned, (b) something of how I developed as weaver, comparing my weaving personality “before” with my weaving personality “after”, (c) some thoughts on how doing the course contributed to that development and (d) ways people might be able to foster their own development sans Bradford.

So you see I had been thinking about my weaving personality — that was the phrase I chose — for a week or so before this quiz popped up. I hadn’t been trying to classify myself, however, just to identify some key characteristics. What I jotted down in my notes was this:

BB (Before Bradford)

  • still a novice, loved to weave, keen to experiment;
  • lack of experience led to some poor design choices, but responding to the consequences led to interesting discoveries;
  • straightforward warps, single colours or stripes, played with colour in the weft;
  • not much bothered by warnings about not using certain kinds of yarns, preferring to try it and see.


  • much more adventurous with colour — when in doubt, use all the colours (or as many as possible);
  • in love with warps, which allow me to “front load” the colour complexity and then concentrate on pattern when I am weaving;
  • still like to experiment and don’t like being told that certain things are difficult or “won’t work” — that just makes me have to try it.

Most of what I noted down was about colour, although when I talk about “experimenting” what I mean is experimenting with structure: experimenting with structure in order to show off colour.

And the reason why I started telling this whole long-winded tale is that what I said came as a surprise to many of my guild friends. They have seen some of my finished work, of course, but we had never spoken about what motivated me; so, because I am known to be “mathematical”, they had assumed that I am driven to weave by a love of really complicated patterns and some found this off-putting. Discovering that I was motivated by colour suddenly made me seem like a more normal human being! You see, I do enjoy complex structures, but when I say “complex” I just mean something that takes a lot of planning not necessarily something that results in intricate patterning on the surface of the cloth. I’m sure as weavers you know what I mean. My personal taste actually runs the other way: I don’t like intricate pattern nearly as much as big bold shapes.

All this adds up to my not wanting to be classified one way or the other, so the middle of the middle will do just fine. If you work, as I do, with computers, then it often comes as an enormous surprise to people when they find out that you are literate as well (especially if you happen to be literate in more than one language). Literacy and numeracy are not mutually exclusive options! Nor are colour and structure. Of course, it is as well to know for yourself what you are not interested in before you sign up for a week’s tuition in something which will bore you rigid, but what made you sign up for the history of stamp collecting* when you could have been weaving? Get back to the loom and weave something!

*apologies to any historians of philately: I am sure it is fascinating.

weaving personality” was posted by Cally on 9 Sept 2010 at http://callybooker.wordpress.com

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fallen off the map

This is a good thing — to be in uncharted territory — isn’t it?  It seems that I have been weaving warp-facd structures for such a long time that I had rather forgotten about weft. Weft? That thing that holds the cloth together? Well apparently sometimes you can actually see it too, such as when you are weaving lacy structures with weft floats. Surprise!

I started weaving a little sample piece at the beginning of the serious warp, and didn’t like what I was seeing on the loom at all. First I realised that I was beating too hard so had to relax and proceed more gently. But even a more open weave seemed to be much more, well, weft-coloured than I was expecting. I tried a couple of different colours, then an alternative yarn — some gentian silk (leftover from my trousers) which is a bit finer than the warp yarn — then I decided I had better cut it off and wash it before I got too depressed.

That was a good decision. Washed and very firmly pressed under a wet cloth, even this scrappy little sample is much more appealing. The warp floats have made their way to the surface, much to my relief, and so the colour is more balanced. Plus the lustre and drape of the silk make me do a little happy dance.

I particularly like the way the blue has worked out, and I think this is because I was getting the beat about right here. Here’s a scan to show you the structure:

Whereas when you look at the rust-coloured section…

…only the top third has holes of a sensible size — the lower part is much too dense. With the proper beat I think this would be quite appealing too, so for the moment I have decided that I don’t need to worry about buying more colours in the finer silk. My wallet says “Phew”.

fallen off the map” was posted by Cally on 8 Sept 2010 at http://callybooker.wordpress.com

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warps and leeks

Here’s a very quick update.

The first serious warp is beamed and ready for threading:

I daresay the colours will show up better when they are no longer in the shadow of the back beam…

And I also have a warp on my trusty sample loom, which has languished unused for over a year:

The story here is that I was asked to bring some table looms set up with sample warps to a guild meeting at the weekend. This one was all ready for double weave, but I couldn’t persuade anyone to try it!

Anyway, in the summer I signed up for the Complex Weavers Double Weave Study Group and at the moment there is some chat about deflected double weave which is a current project for some members. I made a half-hearted attempt at DDW a few years ago, but got a bit bogged down in the theory. Seeing this redundant warp made me decide to tackle it differently. I’m going to let my intuitive self have a go at DDW while my rational self gets on with other things.  I didn’t even plan a threading: I started in the middle with a six-end block in yellow and worked symmetrically outwards threading blocks of six or four ends as I felt like it, and occasionally discarding a few ends over the back of the loom so as to thin it out a bit. Then I resleyed it at 30 epi — it is cottolin and I had sleyed it at 40 epi for the original double cloth — and the blurry photo above is a few rows to check the threading and spread the warp.

Finally, here are the leeks:

These are not just any leeks, these are prizewinning leeks. They are each about a yard long with their topknots beautifully arranged and tied into shape. For some reason Stuart and I always find the veg competitions at the Flower & Food Festival absolutely riveting, even though the enntries look bizarre and barely edible. It is a subculture we can only gaze at in wonder. I find myself wondering what the gardeners would make of Convergence

warps and leeks” was posted by Cally on 6 Sept 2010 at http://callybooker.wordpress.com

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For the last couple of weeks I have been enjoying the shadows on our kitchen floor. To produce shadows like these you need: a west-facing kitchen, the afternoon sun filtered through very tall trees, a slight breeze to move the trees about, venetian blinds and Victorian glass. The cat hairs and other grime are optional.

There are zillions more of these pictures in my camera, so beware.

In actual weaving news, I am making progress towards the guild talk and demo – one sample loom is warped and ready, the other has the warp beamed and is ready to thread. Oh, and I managed to borrow a couple of books on colour from the university library – more on this when I find time to read them…

shadows” was posted by Cally on 2 Sept 2010 at http://callybooker.wordpress.com

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mud + cloth

While I have been wittering on about braiding, colour and drafts, there is actually a whole bunch of stuff about the Albuquerque trip I haven’t even mentioned yet. One thing that hasn’t had a look in is the class I took in making mud cloth. As you may have noticed, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I am not especially enthusiastic about dyeing. However, I did (a) think that playing with mud was right up my street and (b) want to try things I wouldn’t normally select. So I signed up for Judy Dominic‘s half-day class in “modified bogolan fini”.

If you read Judy’s page about mudcloth you will learn that the traditional process of bogolan fini (literally “mudcloth”) which is practised in Mali cannot be done outwith that region as the precise combination of water, plants and mud simply isn’t present anywhere else. However, Judy has adapted the technique, using skills from her other areas of interest such as papermaking, and come up with a way of making mud cloth wherever you can get mud.

Judy had asked the class participants to bring some of their local mud with them to the workshop — international students were exempted! — so as to get as broad a range of colours as possible. We then played with these colours, painting them onto large white cotton handkerchiefs and t-shirts. Well, other people made shirts; I was so slow I managed exactly one hankie in about an hour and a half! The colours were really amazing though. I can’t remember where the yellowish mud came from, but I used reds from Oklahoma and New Mexico and black from Michigan. Here is the result:

Yes, while other folks were painting portraits and sophisticated Escher-like interlocking fish designs, I was daubing big splodgy circles and feeling quite advanced. The fancy curlicues in the bottom right were from a stencil, so none of my own doing I’m afraid.

The final colours you get using this method are less saturated than the original mud colours, so if you want real richness then you have to apply more layers. However, I am quite amazed that I have as much colour left in there as I do — I had really expected much more to wash out. I am sorry that I wasn’t quicker though, as I would have liked to decorate a shirt. Nothing to stop me doing that at home, except that our mud is just plain brown! I’ll bet you can buy supplies of refined muds from craft catalogues, but … buying mud? I am not sure I am ready for that. On the other hand I did buy a box of ochres for a friend when we visited Provence — perhaps it is time for another holiday down there.

mud + cloth” was posted by Cally on 29 Aug 2010 at http://callybooker.wordpress.com

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