A Weaving Project for Handwoven: Rising Shed, Sinking Feeling
I asked Elisabeth Hill to weave a project for Handwoven November/December 2018 and to write 5 posts about the experience of doing so. Unexpectedly, her first attempt at the project didn’t work out as she wished. I think most of us can relate to having what seems like a great weaving project fall apart on the loom. Here is her first post about that experience.
Rising Shed, Sinking Feeling
One of the best things about being a weaver is that when one gets that intermittent feeling of acquisitive desire, commonly solved (a little depressingly) with retail therapy, one can easily and happily turn it into a weaving project instead. For the last year or so I have been carrying on a fairly innocent flirtation with cloth napkins. I would look at them online, and when doing errands, I would nonchalantly examine table linens at restaurants and friends’ houses. As my passion grew, so did my determination to get a set on my loom.
I started with 2 sources of inspiration. One was a recent delivery of 13(!) colors of 10/2 naturally-colored cotton, and the second was a huck lace sampler in fine linen that I wove while enrolled in the Hill Institute weaving program . I added an obsession I have with circles, dots, and curves in weaving and began to imagine a whimsical set of huck polka-dot napkins using one color of color-grown cotton in the warp and a different color for each pair of napkins in the weft. I proceeded to draft and calculate.
To make a longish story shortish, I wound a warp long enough for 8 napkins plus a sample, I cut my sample napkin (woven using a weft color very similar to my warp) off the loom, washed, pressed, and liked it. So I proceeded to weave the other 8 napkins moving from weft colors very close to my warp color to weft colors that contrasted more and more. (Here a sinking feeling began.) I watched my beat—having experienced the huck hazard of more resistance in the plain weave areas than in the pattern areas. I improvised a temple (not owning one in the correct width ) to help with my beat and keep the selvedge threads from abrading too much. I made a measuring ribbon with inner hem, hem and napkin body marked, and I wove 8 napkins, all the same size, beat evenly, with nice selvedges. (The sinking feeling gets stronger.) I serged, washed, and pressed the napkins, and oh boy! They were ugly – dull and sad instead of happy and whimsical.
Huck, polka dots, lovely cotton fiber, attention to detail, whimsy—How did it go so wrong? As I look critically, I have a few ideas, but what I want to relate here is that whether you have woven a lot or a little, whether something goes wrong technically or aesthetically, “getting it wrong” is part of the process. Sometimes defining what you like is a process of determining what it is you don’t like. So I have a set of napkins that turned out to be a “dud.” I’m not discouraged; In fact, I’m already rolling the dice again re-imagining my dream date . . . in cottolin. . .
Featured Image: Naturally colored cotton bounty. Photo Credit: All photos by Elisabeth Hill