Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Computers in Weaving

Most weavers these days use computers in one way or another. Almost all of us use them to do our designs. While there are project-related articles in weaving magazines, the weavers in our gallery all use original designs for the pieces they put in the gallery. Before computers, these used to be done using pencils and graph paper, usually accompanied by lots of language not found in a standard weaving glossary. It was a very tedious and error-prone process.

The designs we use for weaving are called drafts. This is what a typical weaving draft looks like:


Even though this pattern looks complicated, the draft is actually a fairly simple one. Without going into a lot of detail, three of the parts look like graph paper with some squares filled in. These are at the top, at the right, and in the upper right corner. Using weaving software, the weaver fills in these three parts and chooses the colors of the threads and the software fills in the large design in the center, showing what the woven fabric will look like.

Before computers, the designer would also have to fill in the large central part of the draft by hand. This was a complicated process involving figuring out the connections among the other three parts of the draft to determine what color to put in each of the squares in the central area.

Today, there are a variety of weaving software packages available, all of which do pretty much the same thing and allow us great flexibility to produce designs and to fairly quickly change them to see what effect the changes have on the fabric. That means we can spend less time fussing with pencils and graph paper and more time at the loom producing our work.

Five of us from the gallery share blogging responsibilities, each taking a month. Today is the last day for me until, I guess, August. Maybe then, I’ll talk more about some other uses of computers in weaving.

Bye for now. – Larry

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Blogger Makes a Tote Bag

Today, as a guest blogger, we have one of our gallery’s artists, Merle Thompson, who designs and sew garments. She says:

“Having recently finished a jacket on commission, I found myself with many strips of fabric remaining. Before I put it all away, I decided to create a tote bag for the current show’s Asian theme.



“I used the traditional log cabin quilting pattern. However, I used the random sized strips that I had already cut. For the Asian theme I chose a square featuring a Japanese lady.


“For log cabin piecing, you sew one strip at a time, beginning on one side and working around, enlarging the square as you go until you have the desired size. I sewed the strips to a flannel backing to give some body. Because the tote bag size is oblong, I didn’t make complete squares but just added strip lengths as needed.

“A traditional log cabin pattern would usually use two tones of fabric, working a pattern between lights and darks. As you can see, I abandoned that idea also, using random colors in my general gray and pink palette.


“To finish the bag, I added an additional pellon lining for more body, a heavy cotton lining with pockets and a pieced handle from more of my left-over strips.” [Sorry for the small photo of the completed bag].


Thanks, Merle, for submitting the description of your work. It not only shows your creative process but your thrift in reusing left overs from another project.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Juror’s Recognition #3

The third piece in this month’s show to get juror’s recognition is Janet Barnard’s wonderful top made from a kimono.


Here’s what Janet says about her process:

“Every so often, a Japanese cultural group has a fundraiser selling used kimonos, which is where I most recently have gotten my supply. When I am in the processing of reconstructing a kimono into another garment, I try to allow the painted artwork to remain the focal point. The paintings, by nature, are delicate and flowing, so the garment cannot be too heavy, nor have lots of seam lines to distract the eye.

“With a more sheer silk, the inside must look as finished as the outside so the lines of the garment aren’t compromised by unsightly seams. Since kimonos have no hardware keeping them closed, I try to minimize the number and types of closures I use. It often takes many hours of simply looking at the paintings before I actually come up with an idea. But they look beautiful just hanging in my studio.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Juror’s Recognition #2

Another piece that received Jurors' Recognition this month is Floris Flam’s art quilt, Through a Japanese Window.


Here’s what Floris says about her inspiration and process:

“ I started Through a Japanese Window in a workshop with Roberta Horton where the focus was on the improvisational use of large pieces of ethnic fabric. I brought mostly Japanese fabrics to the class, though I added some coordinating prints and solids from my stash. I came away from the workshop with several large pieces of fabric pinned together, but it took some time to decide how to fill in the rest. I wanted to stay with the asymmetric balance one often finds in Japanese art and kept trying ideas on my design wall until I was happy with the result.

“The wall hanging is machine-pieced and the butterfly and circular shapes machine appliqued. One example of problem-solving that pleased me is that the motifs in the lower left weren't strong enough for the design on their own, so I appliqued them to purple circles, which I appliqued to the quilt. Similarly, the flat piping above the right side of the bottom border lent a needed linear element and visual weight to that section of the quilt, helping to balance the bowl of flowers and the butterfly at the upper left. I machine quilted using traditional Japanese sashiko patterns in several of the large areas and free motion quilted following the lines of the print in other areas.”

In another few days I’ll post about the third piece that won Juror’s Recognition this month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Month’s Juror’s Recognition #1

Yesterday was jury day at the gallery and a whole new show was hung. The jurors awarded Juror’s Recognition to three pieces in the new show. Over the next few days I’ll post the other two artist’s description of their inspiration and process.

Today, Paige Garber, one of the award winners explains her quilted wall hanging Red Happiness.


“My inspiration for the Red Happiness quilt wall hanging was, as you might guess a Japanese wood block face, which I bought at a yard sale. At the time I had a collection of red scraps of cotton fabric, and really it was just an extemporaneous exercise in framing the face with all these fun red strips, many of which had an oriental theme to them.
In fact most of my work is done on figuring out a next step and doing it and then figuring out the next. Rarely do I plan an entire composite before embarking on a project.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Loss of a Giant

I should start my month blogging about weaving in our gallery but I’m so saddened by the sudden death of a true giant in the weaving community, James Koehler. He was just in our area the week before his death, teaching a workshop and giving a presentation at the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore. He had been ill for a number of months with an illness that was difficult to diagnose but he thought he was now on the mend. That turned out, unfortunately, not to be true.

James was an extraordinary tapestry artist, a former monk, and a wonderful teacher and mentor. Even though the artists in our gallery don’t usually submit tapestry pieces, a number of us took workshops from James and were influenced by his incredible work and his ability to teach both technique and color sense. He recently published a book on his tapestry art and was hoping to publish a book on technique.

You can see more of his work and read more about him on his web site: