All or some of these methods produced the textile landscapes included on the fiber art page.
Articles about these and other fiber art topics are listed on the publications page.
Making a Textile Landscape
Click on a photo to enlarge it. To return to this page, click in the top menu’s fiber techniques button.
1) When a location feels special, photos (upper right), rough sketches (upper left), and notes are made. Later in the studio more drawings are refined. One full-scale “cartoon” (lower centre) is needed as a painting guide to show shapes, colour areas, and degree of light/dark contrasts.
2) Tools and supplies need preparing. Textile paint colours are mixed. Hundreds of plain white “warp” threads are threaded on the weaving loom. The loom itself is shielded from paint with plastic covers. Paints and pictorial guides are placed near the unwoven, taut warp threads. The guide cartoon is under clear plastic which is beneath the warp threads.
3) The unwoven, cotton warp threads are carefully painted (see below for technicalities) individually. This creates the streaky, ikat-like background effects. One of the main challenges is accurately placing paint all the way around each warp thread, so colour will show properly when warp threads twist during the weaving process.
4) This is the side view of a “split shed” on the loom. Normally there is only one horizontal gap (shed) for the weaving thread to pass through. Jane has refined a technique of manipulating the threads via the loom’s treadles, so two gaps can be formed, splitting the normal shed. Now the weaving thread, the weft, can go in either the upper or lower shed at the choice of the weaver. (See below for technicalities.) Weft threads may be cotton, rayon, synthetics, silk, and metallics.
5) To weave the warp threads into fabric, a sewing thread is used as a basic, binding weft. Accents of texture and colour are added by extra wefts which may show on the front or travel unseen on the back of the basic fabric, depending if they are put in the top or bottom of the split shed. This photo shows the weaving progressed half way up the painted picture.
6) When completely woven the picture looks impressionistic. The weft threads that are not sewing thread are usually boucles or chenilles and add texture on the front of the picture. The fabric is cut from the loom, raw edges are finished, the paint is heat-set, and the fabric is carefully washed by hand. A removable backing is added for stability and the picture is tightly stretched in a hoop.
7) The embroidery process adds details and focus. In this critical, lengthy stage there are many decisions about types of stitches and threads. Much of the embroidery is done “free-motion” with the sewing machine needle set to simply go up and down in one place. Controlling the fabric’s movement is like drawing with the threaded needle to give different lines and surface effects. These are supplemented by hand stitches. Some of the hundreds of thread colours and types that make up the stitching palette are shown here. (See below for technicalities.)
8) A hoop holds the picture taught for embroidery work. Usually embroidered details are added beginning with the background and working into the foreground. Frequently stitches are removed and changed, a tedious but welcome option after years of the finality of interwoven threads in handweavings. The “spring needle” can be seen here, a replacement for a presser foot that allows free drawing motions.
10) A Morning to Savor – 17.8cm (7″)H x 20.6cm( 8 1/8″)W x 5c(2″)D – For final presentation the stretched image is framed within a linen-covered mounting system and a maple frame. No glass is added because it changes the viewer’s interaction with the seductive textile aspects and the colours. On the back are instructions for cleaning and information about the process and artist.
Notes about Warp Painting on the Loom
The two main textile paints (not dyes) I have used are:
– Jacquard brand’s “Traditional” line (available from Dharma Trading), which are simple to use but can lack full intensity of dark colours if thinned
– or the excellent ones from Pro Chemical and Dye, which can be mixed for more intense colors in any viscosity.
There are articles about painting warps on the loom listed on the publications page.
Notes about the Split-shed Method of Weaving
A split shed is pictured above (4). It literally is two low sheds piggybacked together.
Split-shed weaving works well on unit types of drafts on four shafts. Three types of drafts it enhances are:
– lace units (Bronson and Huck)
– 4-shaft twill blocks
– 2-tie unit drafts (like summer-and-winter, tied-Beiderwand, paired-tie).
Detailed articles about weaving these drafts in the split-shed method are listed on the publications page.
How to Make Split Sheds on Different Types of Looms:
– On a jack-type floor loom, a split shed is made by “double treadling,” that is, depressing two treadles at once. One treadle is tied to the warp ends that are to form the top layer of the shed. It goes all the way down. A second treadle is tied only to the warp ends that form the central part of the shed. This treadle goes half-way down, so its warp ends split the shed into two smaller sheds. The lowest level of the shed is formed by the warp ends that are not tied to either of the two treadles being activated.
– On a countermarche loom, only one treadle need be depressed for each split shed. The tie-up on a split-shed treadle is such that the treadle lifts the top-most warp ends, leaves some shafts untied so those warp ends stay in the middle of the shed, and lowers the warp ends that form the bottom level of the shed.
– On a table loom, use a square stick about 1″ per side and wider than the warp is wide. Raise all shafts that are not at the bottom of the shed. Put the stick in the shed. (On some looms this is better in front of the reed, in some it is better between the reed and harnesses.) Leave up the shaft which controls the threads which are to be the top of the shed. Drop the shaft(s) which control the central warp threads so those warp ends rest on the stick. This gives two sheds at once, one above the other. After weaving the pattern weft(s), remove the square stick, then beat.
– On a counterbalanced loom, this method may or may not be possible. It depends on how well the individual loom can be tied for sheds like the countermarche loom’s tie-up above.
Notes about Free-motion Machine Embroidery
This is a technique for having free movement of the cloth under a sewing machine’s needle so the thread becomes a line guided by the artist. The feed-dogs are dropped, all settings are at “0”, and the presser foot is removed. In its place is a “spring needle,” which is best with a topstitching needle in it. The fabric is stretched tightly in a low hoop. Stitch length and direction is fully controlled by the hands.
If you find this technique appealing, there is extensive coverage in books, magazines, and web sites.
Books – Many fine sources are out of print, so check for used copies.
Campbell-Harding, Valerie and Watts, Pamela,Machine Embroidery Stitch Techniques, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1989, reprinted 2002. ISBN 0713486015
Fanning, Robbie and Tony,The Complete Book of Machine Embroidery, Chilton Book Co., Radnor, PA, 1986. ISBN 0-8019-7648-0
Harker, Gail,Creative Machine Embroidery: A Practical Sourcebook, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 2004. ISBN 0713488786
Holmes, Val,The Machine Embroiderer’s Workbook, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1991. ISBN 0713464089
Hubbard, Liz, Gutermann Thread Painting, Search Press, 1985, ISBN 0 855325658