A Paper Fabric Tote Bag

In my previous post on Shifu and Shibori, I posted a picture of a handwoven fabric whose texture reminded me of canvas – too stiff and coarse for clothing, but great for something utilitarian, like a bag. It turns out I have been in need of a carry bag for my rigid heddle loom for quite a while and the piece of shifu fabric had the perfect dimensions, 21 inches wide by 2.25 yards long, to create a bag for a loom sized like mine.

This fabric is woven with linen and cotton threads in the warp; the weft is paper plied with rayon. The hand of the fabric may resemble canvas, but the weave structure is not as tight and the fabric is not as strong as true canvas, so I decided to line the bag with some of my stash of old denim recovered from worn-out jeans. The denim lining will withstand the stress of the load of loom and tools the bag will hold, leaving the outer fabric to coast on its good looks alone. (Thanks to Judilee Fitzhugh for sparking that idea!)

I cut a large rectangle for the bag, two for the side panels, two for exterior pockets and two long strips for handles. I pieced the denim scraps together and cut that into rectangles of similar size. I added interior pockets for small tools, including two long, skinny pockets for stick shuttles or pick-up sticks. I used a jeans foot on my sewing machine to ride over the thick layers of fabric and lining, and used up two of my largest size machine needles in the process.

The used denim lining of the bag, with interior pockets.

The bag comfortably holds my folded loom and a variety of accessories.

Packed up and ready for class or workshop!

Shifu and Shibori

Several years ago I joined with a few other local weaving guild members in ordering some washi, or paper, yarns from Japan. My order included 3 yarns: a very thin all-paper yarn made from twisting and spinning a 2 mm wide strip of paper, a thicker yarn made from plies of paper and rayon, and a flat, ribbon-like strip of 2 mm wide paper wrapped with criss-crossing cotton and rayon threads. The goal was to weave shifu, or fabric woven from paper yarn.

While twisting and spinning the paper yarn does make it stronger, it is not usually recommended for use as warp yarn, because it will not often stand up to tension on the loom. Shifu is frequently woven from cotton or other fibers in the warp and paper yarn in the weft only. I used my paper yarns primarily as weft in a variety of projects: a couple of scarves with Tencel and cotton warp, one length of fabric with cotton and linen warp, and one with an overtwisted rayon in the warp to get a crepe effect.

Later, on the advice of another weaver, I did try warping with the flat, ribbon yarn, which was a little stronger than the other two. To my surprise, it stood up to the tension of my Baby Wolf loom, so I was able to weave a fabric of approximately 95% paper.

I had enough of the flat yarn to put on a warp 3+ yards long by 24 inches wide. I wove alternating rows of the thick and thin paper yarns for weft, and got about 2.5 yards of this fabric before running out of the paper weft. I wove the remaining 24 inches or so with alternating thick and thin rayon yarns. I took the fabric off the loom and separated the two fabrics by cutting between rows of machine zig-zag stitching. Having already woven and washed some other paper yarn projects, I fearlessly wet-finished, line-dried and ironed my paper fabrics. They held up beautifully! Then I wanted to dye them in indigo using shibori methods.

On a warm summer day, I got my indigo vat set up outdoors and did some folding and clamping for itajime shibori. I wet out the fabric bundles and dipped them in indigo numerous times for a dark shade and high contrast with the undyed portions. Then came the rinsing and soaping and more rinsing. Who would have thought that paper could withstand so much washing? Not me, but I was very happy to learn what a strong fabric paper can make. I dyed a few other shifu pieces as well that day, so now all my paper projects have indigo shibori patterns on them.

Now I am taking the next step: cutting and sewing the handwoven paper fabric into garments. I made the largest piece into a top using my favorite old Burda pattern (See my previous post New Work from Old Fabric). The fabric of linen and cotton warp with paper weft has a texture and hand very similar to canvas. This will probably be made into something utilitarian, such as a bag or table runner. I will have to ponder the other small pieces for inspiration.

Learn more about the time- and labor-intensive craft of creating handmade paper yarn and shifu: Susan J. Byrd has written a book and posted online videos about making paper yarn. Hiroko Karuno also has authored a book and articles, as well as videos, on making paper thread and shifu.


 

New Work from Old Fabric

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.

Why didn’t I do this ages ago?

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Tunic front: radiating lines of ori nui stitching, gathered and dyed in indigo.

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Tunic back: radiating lines of running stitch, gathered and dyed in indigo.

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Top front: rows of machine stitching, gathered, and hand-pleating, bound and dyed in indigo.

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Top back: hand-pleated and bound, dyed in indigo.

 


 

Working with Woven and Dyed Panels

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.

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Dressing the loom with two side by side warps.

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Weaving the separate warps with two shuttles.

 


 

Indigo Shibori Jacket: Handwoven and Dyed

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.

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Detail of jacket collar, snap closures and lining.

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Detail of resist-dyed indigo on handwoven fabric.

 


 

2-Day workshop July 29-30, 2017 on the Oregon coast: Pattern on Cloth with Shibori and Indigo

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.

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Shibori, Ikat and Sustainability

the 10th International Shibori Symposium

Oaxaca, Mexico

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!

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Shibori Symposium opening remarks in the San Pablo Cultural Center.

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.

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The zocalo, or central plaza, is busy night and day with people dining, vending, or simply people-watching.

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Every bar serves a dish of fried peanuts and lime with your drinks.

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.

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The Bandhani Flags installation over the courtyard of the Museo Textil.

Highlights of the week included the exhibits in the Museo Textil, the Ethnobotanical Garden, trips to CASA (Centro de las Artes de San Agustín), the studio of the Chávez Santiago Family of weavers in Teotitlán del Valle and Tlapanochestli, a cochineal farm. There were other tours I did not have time for on this trip, but would love to take another time. Check out all the cultural tour offerings of Traditions Mexico. Oaxaca and nearby communities are a textile destination!

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The Sierra Madre looming over the Ethnobotanical Garden.

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Federico (Fe) Chavez and son Omar in their weaving studio in Teotitlan del Valle.

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At Tlapanochestli, a cochineal farm outside Oaxaca, visitors view a film, walk through an exhibit, learn about the “infested” nopal paddles, and purchase packets of the red dyestuff. They also have classroom spaces for dye workshops.

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The Sunday market at Tlacolula. My camera can capture images and even sound, but I wish some device could record the SMELLS! Here are flowers, fruits and herbs – an overpowering scent.

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November 20 is Mexican Revolution day. Parades, music, costumes and the cutest little revolutionaries!