Weaving Across the nth Dimension
"I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music."
"One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in the same pattern, but in different colors."
|Catherine Griffiths's twill and ikat jacket
uses handpainted warp to great effect.
One of the reasons I fell in love with weaving is that there are infinite dimensions to it. You could weave every day of your life and never run out new possibilities or delightful surprises. I dream of someday learning every weave structure that there is – of knowing each as intimately as an expert weaver like Madelyn does. But the beauty of the craft is that even if I were to know every possible structure and pattern, there would still be the ten million colors visible to the human eye, yielding endless opportunities to transform the character of the cloth.
My first fiber art was knitting, and back when I started, there were lovely, high-quality yarns available in solid colors, to show off your cables or intarsia, or you could get heather, if you were feeling tweedy. Then Cowichan-style sweaters came into fashion (they’re back, by the way) and there were more natural colors on the market. But none of us could have anticipated the riot of colors and color effects that are available to us today. There are self-striping yarns, variegated yarns, and continuous color yarns, each of them capable of creating fascinating effects with woven patterns. I have some gorgeous hand-painted seacell yarn that I’m dying to weave with for next March/April’s issue of Handwoven, about plant fibers. (BTW, if you have done something fascinating with seacell, please send us a picture!) And I’ve been hording a little pile of Kauni Effekt yarn, dreaming of what its long, long color changes would do to some interesting twill if I used it in both warp and weft.
Tien Chiu's painted warp stripes make her
Kodachrome Coat worthy of its name.
But I think some of the most mind-blowing dances of fiber and color happen when a weaver creates everything from color to cloth. Look at how the pattern materializes, literally out of the blue, in Catherine Griffith’s twill and ikat jacket, in the September/October issue of Handwoven, and at Tien Chiu’s Kodachrome coat, where offset color stripes in twelve painted warp chains give a whole new dimension to an advancing twill. These are dramatic, but even subtle variegations in color and tone can lend depth and interest to weaving.
Creating your own color also enhances the ultimate dimension of weaving: fun! This weekend I watched Deb Menz’s new video, Dyeing in the Kitchen, and it reminded me how enjoyable and easy it is to create custom-dyed yarns. I’ve always loved Deb’s books and the way she de-mystifies color theory and brings it down to earth. This video does the same with dyeing. Using minimal equipment and vibrant non-toxic dyes, she shows how to paint yarns for self-striping wefts or painted warps, and how to do resist dyeing for ikat effects, low-immersion kettle dyeing for those lovely variations in shade, and dipped and painted yarns for pools and spots of color.
Seeing Deb working in Linda Ligon’s sunny kitchen also reminds me that dyeing is a great group activity. Our local weaving and spinning groups often and get together for dyeing days, so we can “Ooo” and “Ahhh” together at the delights flowing from the dye pots. Whether you do it by yourself or in a group, dyeing can be more fun than opening presents! The days are growing shorter where I live, and the kitchen is cozy. It’s a perfect time to invite some friends, set out the paintbrushes and dyes, fire up the dye pot, and dive in. I wish you great fall color, too, whether it’s fall or spring where you live, whether the color is on the trees or in the kitchen.