Silk Blouse in a Wash of Color

I found Tracy Kaestner’s approach to designing her Silk Blouse in a Wash of Color (found in Handwoven May/June 2018) intriguing, and the resulting blouse spectacular. Using a colorful picture of a Guatemalan cemetery, she chose colors that emulated its colorful yet ethereal feeling and used them to hand-dye the silk. After she settled on her color choices, she selected a weave structure that also evoked an aspect of the cemetery and chose a columnar Finnish Stripe.

No one would look at this beautiful hand-dyed handwoven blouse and remark on its similarity to a cemetery, but when you know what to look for, you can see the relationship.

Weave well,

Silk Blouse

Tracy Kaestner’s Silk Blouse in a Wash of Color

Designer Tracy Kaestner’s Statement

The world is full of colorful inspiration— but how do you turn what you see into a piece of fabric? I work best from images, which give me something to refer to as I plan my fabric. I match the colors in the image to Color- Aid paper, a set of 314 colors often used for teaching color theory and design. I pull out every color I see and then cull the deck of colors to a workable number for my project. From there I choose my yarn, or in this case, dyes.

I’m a member of a study group that is weaving swatches inspired by the book Colors of the World: A Geography of Color. I picked images of a cemetery in Guatemala. The colors are vibrant with an overall ethereal feeling, and I wanted to get the same feeling in my fabric. I used Color-Aid paper to plan my color scheme, then I mixed blue, blue-green, purple, and pink dyes and used them to paint my warp in several shades of each color, plus a very light gray. Once the warp was on the loom, I needed to choose a weft color, and although it meant straying from the colors in the original image, I chose pink.

I found a Finnish stripe draft in The Virginia West Swatch Book that would give the columnar feel created by the structures in the cemetery. Following the draft, I crammed some of the dents to create warp- and weft-faced columns and left other dents uncrammed for columns of balanced weave. Finally, I adjusted the draft, adding 2 more ends to each block so that the total threading repeat was 36, which was also the sett I wanted for 30/2 silk.

I have several silk tees in my wardrobe; they are comfort¬able and easy to wear. I used those tops to design the pattern for this top. Because I hand-dyed the silk, you can’t re-create this blouse, but this draft would work well using some of the beautiful hand-dyed silks, cottons, or Tencel readily available for home weavers.

Project at a Glance

PROJECT TYPE: 6-shaft.

STRUCTURE: Rib weave variation.

EQUIPMENT: 6-shaft loom, 29″ weaving width; 12-dent reed; 1 shuttle; 1 bobbin.

YARNS: 30/2 spun silk (7,500 yd/lb; Treenway Silks).

SUPPLIES: Sewing thread; Synthrapol textile detergent.

Featured Image: Tracy Kaestner’s Silk Blouse in a Wash of Color combines the loveliness of hand-dyed silk with the comfort of a favorite tee.

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