Many years ago (don’t remember how many), I took a large piece of commercially-made linen/rayon fabric, cut it into four equal-size pieces, prepared each piece using different shibori methods, then dyed each one in indigo. The fabric was originally about 56 inches wide by 3 yards long; I divided it in half lengthwise and crosswise, so each piece ended up about 28 by 54 inches.
The first piece was a radiating series of lines of ori nui stitching, where you fold the fabric, then stitch along the fold and gather. The second piece was a radiating series of lines of a simple running stitch and gathering. For the third piece, I machine-stitched and gathered several rows, then left the remainder of the fabric unstitched, but hand-pleated and bound it with a rubber band at the end. Piece number four was hand-pleated in large folds then bound with a few rubber bands.
I dyed all the pieces in indigo, then tried to figure out how to combine all of them in a single garment design. They sat on a shelf and years went by. Every now and then I would take them out, sketch some design ideas, give up, and put them back on the shelf. This year it dawned on me I could make two garments of simpler design. I used an old Burda pattern (3221) and made one pullover tunic with the fabric pieces oriented vertically, and another pullover top with the pieces oriented horizontally.
Another project involving woven panels. For this one I made two warps of a rayon/flax blend yarn. I folded the warps into packages, then bound each bundle tightly with plastic strips, and dyed in indigo, for an ikat-like effect. Thinking the weaving would go quicker if I dressed the loom with two similar warps, separated by a few inches, I threaded the loom with side by side warps about 8 inches wide and approximately 4 yards long. Live and learn – this did not hasten the process of weaving, which required throwing the shuttles separately on each warp for every row. I used a navy fine rayon boucle yarn for a textured weft.
This project is similar to the Mexican-inspired one, but I added enough extra warp for sleeves. I wove two long panels and 4 shorter ones: two for the center panels and two for sleeves. I folded over one short edge of the center panels and trimmed the warp ends to an inch. I just overlapped the long edges and zig-zagged with navy thread. The sleeves are made by folding one short edge on a 45° angle and stitching the other short edge to the folded portion of the long edge. See Virginia West’s A cut above: Couture clothing for the fibre artist for an illustration of the technique. The top is soft, drapey and comfortable, and will be cool for summer.
A recently completed jacket made from cloth I wove and dyed over the last couple of years.
A few years ago I acquired some wonderful yarn on sale as a close-out. It is a blend of alpaca and Tencel, both of which are soft (and slippery) fibers. I wove a few yards – enough to cut and sew a jacket, but I learned what other weavers probably already know, which is that alpaca does not full like wool does when wet-finished. The fabric is fragile and unravels easily because alpaca, unlike wool, has no little scales reaching out to grab onto their neighbors. About a year or so after taking the fabric off the loom, I folded and clamped it and dyed it in indigo, itajime-style.
Another year on, I serged the edges of the pattern pieces as I cut them out, but if I pulled a bit too hard on the serger thread, that slipped right off too. I primarily used Vogue 8676, designed by Marcie Tilton, with elements from a couple of other patterns as well. I stitched every seam twice for strength, but that ended up perforating the cloth. This yarn was really meant for scarves and shawls, not tailored clothing. But I persisted toward my goal of a jacket, which I lined with Bemberg rayon, and fitted with snaps instead of buttons for closures.
Coming this summer: a 2-day weekend workshop on Shibori techniques and dyeing in an organic indigo vat. Please join me the weekend of July 29-30, 2017 at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the beautiful Oregon coast. On Day 1 we will view an inspirational slideshow, then build the natural indigo vat and practice a variety of resist techniques on fabric samples. On Day 2 we will dye the samples in indigo, then complete a cotton or rayon scarf to take home. Bring up to 8 ounces of your own fiber to resist-dye, if desired.
Last November, I had the good fortune to attend the 10th International Shibori Symposium, held in Oaxaca. Three hundred or so participants came from all over the world to gather and talk about tie-dye and related matters. There were exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops, talks, studio tours and assorted opportunities to meet world-renown textile artists, teachers and scholars. After a week of immersion in everything textile, on my way home I felt like excess information was leaking out my ears. Many thanks to the Portland Handweavers Guild for the study grant which helped me get there!
November is a great time to visit Oaxaca, when the tourist load is somewhat lighter, but the weather is comfortably warm during the days and nights are comfortably cool. A lot like late summer is here in the Pacific Northwest. The food was fantastic; I never had a bad meal. Not everyone speaks English, but the locals appreciate when you try to communicate in your rudimentary Spanish, augmented by signing and gestures.
My hotel was two blocks from the zócalo with its restaurants, cafés and nightlife, and directly across from the Museo Textil and neighboring San Pablo Cultural Center, where a lot of the symposium activities took place. I loved being centrally located, within a few minutes’ walk from restaurants, shops, markets and local sights.