Before I was me…

Yes, there was a time, when I was just starting my professional weaving career, when I worked for others, when thoughts of my own ‘line’ of handwoven items was just that,  thoughts.  Back in 1978, having graduated with a pretty useless art degree, newly married, and looking for something to do with my life, I turned back to academia, which was all I’d known for the last few years.  I took another textile class, probably another independent study.  It cost a fortune, because I was paying graduate rates, but I immediately discounted the idea of going on for my master’s.  I was completely discouraged from pursuing it where I got my undergraduate degree, because back then, I was told it looked really bad to do a bachelor’s and master’s from the same institution, like you were inbred or something, didn’t expand your horizons.  Whatever.  I had no money for a graduate degree, and couldn’t really see the point. And there was no place else near enough to me to be practical.  So I took one class at my old alma mater, and spent it studying a technique, written in a book, published just a couple years before (1975), by Theo Moorman, called Weaving As An Art Form.  You can picked up used copies on Amazon for about $5.  I loved this little book.  I found I was torn between the practicality of weaving and the rigid academic training I received in art.  I’ve always felt conflicted with that.  Obviously tapestry is an exception, but I found I had to justify to panels of academic critics why I wove a tapestry and didn’t just paint the image I wanted to convey, wouldn’t it have been easier?  I did a number of tapestries the year before, I’ve blogged about them probably, will look for the link, but I was looking for a new direction. Here is a link, scroll down.  Here is another link, scroll down.

I worked through the exercises, I won’t bore you with all of them, and I’d have to spend awhile looking for them anyway if they still exist, but one of the first ones I did, required weaving additional wefts that floated over the background, held in place with little tie-down threads and spanned the width of the weaving.  The premise of Theo Moorman, which is technically a transparency technique, used in the way she described, is that you weave a plain weave background, and fine threads would raise up and hold a pattern weft in place on the surface so the imagery would float on top, and where there was no imagery, there would be a plain weave ground cloth.  

And because I did end up looking up some of my early Theo Moorman tapestries…

I’ve used this technique for years, mostly in my Weave a Memory pieces, and classes.  I used thin strips of silk habotai, ink jet printed with an image from the printer, and wove them back together using this technique.  I kept a four shaft table loom set up with linen for the ground cloth, and poly serger thread for the fine tie down threads. I wove all of these pieces on this set up.  The warp was quite a few yards long and 25″ wide.  

There was probably less than a yard left on this loom, and it bugged me.  The problem was, I couldn’t just weave one more piece, because the printer I used to print banner lengths long ago died.  You specifically need a printer with user adjustable settings for the size of the paper it takes.  Only Epson had that feature.  And the 8 1/2″ wide rolls I used all got wet when I had an iron water bottle, suspended from the ceiling,  spill all down a cabinet where they lived.  Because of the size of these pieces, I actually printed horizontal strips of 8 1/2″ wide and 20+” long and pieced them together and was able to do really large works.

Because work has temporarily stopped on my pattern development, because my daughter’s computer system is on life support at the tech hospital and a whole series of unfortunate tech events have ended up costing us a couple weeks on the project, I’ve been poking around my studios looking for something to do that wouldn’t become overwhelming should her system become usable again and we can get back to work.  (Which I’m hoping is imminent).  I started weaving again on this loom.  Noro weft with a vintage Harrisville singles warped mixed with Maypole Worsted.  I got into a nice rhythm…

And I kept staring at the 4 shaft table loom across the way, with what I figured was less than a yard to go.  I didn’t need the loom for anything else, I have 35 shaft looms in my studio, but I felt like it was forgotten.  Looms don’t like to be naked or forgotten…  And when I cut off the last piece, I hadn’t tied the threads securely in the reed, and the cat pranced through the back of the warp and pulled out a bunch of the threads.  So repairs had to be made.  Which I did.  Yeah, this cat, which surveys the space I work in and thinks about what it can get into…

Meanwhile, in the huge studio move there were lots of archives that were rediscovered, things that came together in logical places now that I had room.  I have exhaustive swatch libraries of early work of mine, production work, and some stuff I have no idea nor records of what it actually is, but I sort of remember weaving it.  I did though, keep pretty good records back then.  Not like I do now of course where I can grab my phone and take a photo and have weaving software to record drafts and create online archives.  

Sidebar: Way back, when I first left college, I started to weave professionally by answering an ad looking for a production weaver, a couple of women making up small design firm that specialized in mohair yardage sold to designers in NY.  The job was wonderful.  I learned how to weave efficiently, to get 30 yards of mohair yardage on and off the loom in just a couple days.  I learned how to sectionally warp, and I actually made a modest income back in the day.  Eventually I developed my own line of handwoven items to sell at craft fairs, but the point here, is that nothing I ever did when I became my own brand, related to the spontaneity of some of the work I did for that design team.  I’d be shipped a huge box of mohair, and told roughly what it should look like, but mostly, I had to make it up as I went along.  The mohair warp was sett 6 epi, but the wefts were doubled, 4 picks per inch, so I could pair randomly wefts of mohair into the bobbins  for different effects, and I happily had a system where I just “saw” what came next.  I came across some of the few samples I managed to hold on to recently in the move of swatch books.  Before the cloth was advanced, the top surface would be heavily brushed with a sweater slicker while the warp was still under tension.

While I wove for that mohair design team, I had another production job that I have vague memories of, I was actually subcontracted by another weaver who was overwhelmed by the job as she tried to develop her own work.  I remember the yardage sort of looked like tapestry, with thin strips of stripped fur laid in periodically, so from one direction, it looked like a fur coat, but from the other, there was glowing beautiful brocade tapestry peaking out. It was the kind of random weft that you made up as you went along.   Of course I have no photos or draft records, but there, in my swatch book, next to the mohair swatches, was a pair of swatches that I swear were from that assignment.  They don’t have any fur in them, but that would have made sense, since I couldn’t really use someone else’s materials for my own personal notebook.  I’m even thinking these swatches, if they are what I think they are, were the samples of what they were looking for, with the fur strips woven in.  It has always bugged me that I couldn’t exactly recall and had no record of what the fabric looked like,  because it was really cool.

Anyway, there is a point where these two stories converge.  As I sat working on the Noro fabric, I thought, what if I used the last bit of that linen Theo Moorman warp and tried to do a mock tapestry in an inlay, edge to edge, and added some fur.  I have lots of fur laying around.  Before anyone gets bent out of shape, people give me fur collars, cuffs, coats, and other pieces of fur that they can’t throw away, but have no use for.  Most of it is a bit dry rotted, but there it hangs like raw materials waiting for something or someone to give it a second life (and no, I’m not looking for more).  

So over I went to the loom, and started to play.  I found a huge basket of oddities on top of the wall units in my office, I had forgotten in the move that there were baskets of things I used for tapestry classes, and supplemental weft in inkle weaving.  I finally found our collection of rattail and mousetail rayon cord in one of those baskets.  So I dug through one of the baskets and assembled this.

I started weaving, just making it up as I went along, and pretty soon I had something I actually liked.

I kept going.  At this point, I’m thinking ahead that there isn’t much warp on here, too bad because I’m loving weaving this and what do I have on the shelf that I can reset up the loom and be able to weave randomly like this any time I want?  I could imagine all kinds of things to do with cloth like this.  I don’t want to call it Saori, because though that’s kind of random too, it comes with a whole philosophy of weaving, on special Saori looms, which I don’t and won’t have, but this technique is pretty cool for laying in a yarn on top of the ground cloth, and having it tie-downed with fine threads.  The warp/ground cloth doesn’t really have a voice in the piece.

The end result is about 30″ in length, about 25″ wide.  I have to experiment if I can wash it, the fur was pretty brittle and I’m not sure what water will do to it, but that’s for another day.  I revisited something from my past, and I satisfied my curiosity to find out what would happen if….  And now that little loom is clear.  And naked.  And calling for another warp…

Stay tuned… 

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peggy Bowman
Peggy Bowman
May 14, 2020 6:10 am

There’s no end to your creativity, and no end to a cat’s curiosity. With ours, if it’s not nailed down, it’s a toy!! Can’t wait to see what becomes of your random fabric.
What fun!!!

May 14, 2020 7:27 am

I saw a t-shirt for sale that said…”if the world were really flat, cats would have already pushed everything off it.”

Denise Dickson
Denise Dickson
May 14, 2020 7:57 am

Funny that you should write about this. I am currently finishing up a weave along on my rigid heddle using the Theo Moorman-ish technique. It is a random onlay and is so much fun!

Meg Wilson
May 19, 2020 11:45 pm

All of your conversations about the cat make me feel asthmatic! I am so allergic to cats that my lungs shut down. Creeps me out to think of having one in the house. But I know that cat lovers are, well, cat lovers! Me, I stick to reptiles…

The fur works great! Love the random colors that all go so well together. It reminds me of some upholstery that I have seen!

Judy Sheppard
Judy Sheppard
May 22, 2020 6:50 pm

Hi Daryl, Love your Moorman tapestries, I was just starting to work on that technique again, when I had to close down my looms for our move and due to some health issues on my husband’s part my studio has not yet materialized. I was also quite intrigued with your last piece. I was also interested on your comment about Saori looms. I can understand the theory behind saori weaving, but I don’t see why you need special looms for it, and some of the weaving I have seen that name applied to just leaves me appalled! Cheers Judy S… Read more »

Read previous post:
The asymmetrical dilemma…

This started a while ago, if you've followed me for awhile, you know that in the winter months, I keep...