Monday, June 14, 2010

good design, re-assessing old ideas and finding new ones

The last little while, I've been feeling a bit stuck in my production weaving. A bit static, a bit frustrated. I think a part of it is feeling like once I've designed a scarf for production, I must stick to the specifics of that design, even if I have a nagging feeling that the design could be improved for aesthetics, function, etc. Part of this (somewhat silly) idea comes from initially gearing my production weaving towards wholesale and consignment retail clients who want consistency so they know what to expect when they order, with the exception of one or two new designs a year. There's also that sinking feeling that once I've been weaving scarves a certain way for a while, and then I modify the design - all that time weaving the old design was wasteful and now I have all these scarves that I can't stand behind as strongly as I should. Now that I'm focusing more on production for the fall craft fair season, this notion of never changing a scarf design is unnecessary, and ultimately an impediment to challenging my design skills which should really be improving and becoming more sophisticated as my work advances with designs that are always considered, deliberate and evolving.

The big thing I've been thinking about lately is modifying the sett of my warp threads through my reed. Even a small adjustment of switching from 16 ends per inch to 18 ends per inch can make a big difference in the subtle quality and character of the cloth, as well as the time it takes me to "finish" the scarf after it's off the loom. The more spaced out those warp threads are, the more likely they will get pushed around during weaving so the pattern is disrupted and that means a lot of time spent sitting on the couch afterwards, fiddling with a needle to get the weft threads looking neat. My weaving teachers told me this when I was at NSCAD, but it always pays to make samples, especially when it comes to determining the density of the cloth and what sett is needed for the desired effect. It's also very important to me that I make scarves that are going to last and last - I am not interested in contributing to a throw-away consumer culture - and good design is essential to aid that goal.

I've also been pouring over a great book called "Keep Me Warm One Night", all about historical handweaving in eastern Canada with tons of photos. I'm particularly inspired by this stripe composition on page 100 in a rug woven in Quebec in 1925 and am working through adapting it for a wide cotton and raw silk scarf. I quite like what seems to be at first an asymetrical composition, but is actually quite balanced, though the stripes on either side of the center line are different.


  1. Lovely post Rilla. I'm sure your sensitivity to your fibres, colour and technique will take you where you want to go. I certainly understand the 'inner debate' that goes on (constantly) when you live the life that we have chosen. I am inspired by how well you do it. :)

  2. I enjoy seeing a window to your process. I love how thoughtful you are with the quality of your product.