Crimp and Create with Shibori
About eight years ago, I started experimenting with an idea I picked up in a Catharine Ellis Handwoven Shibori workshop several years before. At the time, I never thought I would still be discovering new possibilities using the technique that produces what I named “crimp cloth.” I have so many ideas rolling around in my head waiting to be sampled. When I am planning yardage, I usually add an extra half-yard of warp to sample for future projects. I may be testing out new color combinations, new pull patterns, or just satisfying the “what-ifs” that have been on my mind.
The technique is really a thought process. It is pretending you have two looms, one for weaving the ground cloth and one for weaving the pattern. Weft crimp can be created using any threading; therefore, the thought process can be applied to any threading, including one you may already have on your loom. Warp crimp needs some pre-planning as the pull threads need to be in the warp. I use both warp crimp and weft crimp when creating my garments.
How do I decide which method to use when planning a project? I often start by looking at my stash. This technique has been a good stash-buster for me! Sometimes, I will pair two or more yarns together to create the color I want. Sometimes, I will over-dye to get the desired color(s). If I have chosen a combination of several yarns, I plan for weft crimp rather than weave with several shuttles to achieve my color order. Two shuttles are always needed for weft crimp: one for the thermoplastic synthetic yarn–usually polyester or orlon–to weave the ground cloth, and one to carry the pull thread. For warp crimp, the synthetic yarn and the pull threads are in the warp. Only one shuttle is needed for weaving the ground cloth.
Another consideration is the style of the garment and how much sewing I want to do. The easiest garment to make is a weft crimp vest. It can be sewn by the most novice seamstress as it only requires three seams and an edge finish on the bottom edge. A garment out of warp crimp yardage is a little more time-consuming.
There is another consideration. For a garment, the stretch or give of the crimp goes around the body. For weft crimp, the warp in the reed needs to be twice as wide as the desired finished width of the cloth. The selvage edges become the finished edges of the center front or the long edges of a scarf or shawl. For warp crimp, the warp in the reed is as wide as the desired length of the garment and the weave-able length of the warp is twice the length of the fabric needed. The selvage edges become the hem of the garment. Simply put, thread more, weave less for weft crimp; thread less, weave more for warp crimp.
I find the garments to be very wearable. I like how the fabric just kisses the body and is flattering on a multitude of figures. A bonus is that one size fits many. My students will attest to that. For shawls and scarves, I mainly use weft shibori because I like the stretch or give of the crimp to be between the selvages. I like wearing crimped scarves because they can be pulled to their full width and serve as a shawl if I get chilly and need something around my shoulders. As for shawls, they are hassle-free to wear as they don’t slide off.
The minimum number of shafts needed for this technique is four. One difference between using a 4-shaft loom or multi-shaft is the scale of the patterns. The number of possibilities to create different designs increases as the number of shafts increase. A basic understanding of the components of a draft and the ability to dress the loom independently is all that is needed to give this technique a try. For the experienced weaver, the freedom of design and the unlimited possibilities will keep you at the loom.