Yes, You Can Weave Velvet
Velvet’s luxury and grandeur make many weavers believe they’ll never see it on their looms. Anita Osterhaug, editor of Handwoven, is here to tell you more about velvet weaving and the new Supplemental Warp Weaving Collection, a digital bundle that brings all of Deb Essen’s work on supplemental warps together, including a lovely velvet wall hanging and 7 other projects to weave! ~Andrea
She Wore Blue Velvet
When I was ten years old, my mom made me a Christmas dress with a velvet bodice and a royal blue velvet skirt, and she bought me a pair of the shiniest Mary Janes ever to wear with it. I can still picture every detail of that dress. I don’t think any other outfit in my life has topped how fine and fancy that blue velvet made me feel.
Three decades later, I learned to weave, and a few years after that, University of Oregon art professor Barbara Setsu Pickett gave a program on velvet weaving for the Portland Handweaver’s Guild. We saw photos of silk velvet being woven on centuries-old looms in Italy, and I learned that there are many kinds of velvet even more luxurious than I could have imagined: ciselé or cut velvet that creates design with areas of cut and uncut pile; voided velvet, in which areas of pile make design against areas of ground cloth; nacré velvet, where contrasting colors in the pile and ground cloth create an iridescent effect; and more.
I learned that the pile in velvet requires a supplemental warp because as the pile warp is pulled up into loops, it takes up at a different rate than the warp for the plain-weave ground cloth. (This is different from fabrics such as velveteen and corduroy, where the pile is created with weft picks.) What I didn’t learn was that someone like me, with a plain old jack loom, could also weave velvet, and that it has a lot of possibilities beyond creating yardage for a party dress.
Velvet Weaving with Deb Essen
In the last couple of years, I have had the pleasure and honor of producing two videos on supplemental warp weaving with Deb Essen, and of editing her book, Easy Weaving with Supplemental Warps: Overshot, Velvet, Shibori, and More. In the process, I learned that velvet weaving is a versatile structure that doesn’t have to be woven with silk threads as fine as a gnat’s eyelash. You can use any size of yarn you like. (Bulky weight yarn doesn’t appeal to me, but who knows? It might be fabulous.) You can cut the velvet pile or not, having fun with the light. You can change or mix up colors in the pile, and you can vary the length. You can weave beautiful wall hangings or weave just sections of velvet to embellish fabric for a scarf, vest, or a fancy bag. Or you can come up with something that no one before you has ever tried. The fun of weaving is in the “What if?”
Besides being an excellent teacher and a heck of a lot of fun, Deb introduced me to a whole new world of “what ifs” with a weave structure I would never have thought to try before. And that’s not even counting the terry-cloth, piqué, Bedford cord, and other interesting textiles that are possible with my very own loom and an easy introduction to supplemental warps, nor all the design possibilities of turning drafts like overshot and putting areas of pattern anywhere I want them on the cloth.
If you’re ready for a new weaving challenge, one that lets you explore design in three dimensions, I recommend diving into supplemental warp structures with the Supplemental Warp Weaving Collection and seeing where they take you.
Velvet mug rugs, anyone?