Random Design Thoughts about Loom Theory 2018
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how hard it can be to create random weaving designs. I’ve found this to be true when threading a mixed warp, with five or more colors held together in the warping cross. I try to ignore that there is an abundance of one color threaded together and that I haven’t threaded a specific color for a bit, but I can’t seem to stop myself from “tweaking” the randomness of the colors. I once threaded two very similar colors in a warp, and since I was working in less-than-perfect lighting, I couldn’t tell one from the other while threading. This resulted in very interesting, truly random patterning, which should have taught me a lesson but didn’t.
When it comes to weft, I really am not able to do much randomly as I weave. I’ve heard of people putting their bobbins in a bucket and pulling them out indiscriminately, but I can assure you that I would again “fix” the randomness if I wasn’t happy with the color pattern. I’ve found that I need a plan when I’m weaving; otherwise, I lose interest in the project, even if that plan is to use one color for the entire length.
There are actually methods and, perhaps, tricks to devise random designs. You can take a picture of something—such as a bar code or cars in a parking lot—and use that to set your stripes. You could assign colors to numbers and then throw a couple of dice multiple times. Online, you can find random-stripe generators that are simple to use. Sarah Jackson used the Biscuits and Jam random-stripe generator to help her design the similarly named scarf in Handwoven May/June 2017, although even she admits to tweaking the stripes a little. I recently found a kitchen-wall-tile pattern generator that was interesting and made me wonder whether it could be used to design weaving patterns.
Random design is a fascinating concept, but well-designed is also wonderful, and a good designer can do both. We didn’t randomly choose designers for the three Loom Theory 2018 lookbooks. We specifically chose the designers, and you can see by their designs that they carefully chose their colors and designed the scarves in far-from-random ways.
In contrast to her Biscuits and Jam Scarf, Sarah Jackson’s Turnabout Scarf (featured image above) in Loom Theory 2018: Four-Shaft Scarf Collection features carefully planned squares of color on a solid background. Clearly she didn’t use that kitchen-wall tile pattern generator!
The very nature of the turned taqueté echo designs that Bonnie Innouye developed for Loom Theory 2018: Eight & Over Eight Scarf Collection and Loom Theory 2018 Four-Shaft Scarf Collection requires that the colors be perfectly chosen and balanced to create iridescence and movement in the resulting scarves. At first glance, you might think they are random, but further investigation says otherwise.
For Loom Theory 2018: Rigid Heddle Scarf Collection, Stephanie Flynn Sokolov achieved the look of randomness by using a space-dyed warp with a planned pick-up pattern for her Silk Scarf.
Good design can be perfectly planned or can take advantage of some of the unexpected wonder that occurs randomly. Choosing the right balance is the key.
Featured Image: Sarah Jackson’s Turnabout Scarf in Loom Theory 2018: Four-Shaft Scarf Collection uses the beauty of chenille in a planned checks pattern. Photo by Caleb Young, Good Folk Photography