Sunday, May 25, 2008

Unusual wefts

A few days ago, I asked the Tapestry list I'm on what unusual wefts they've tried. I thought I should post the ones I've tried.

1/ Cotton chenille: nice to work with, nice furry visual, kept together perfectly. I really want to try silk chenille.

2/ Metal thread: don't know what kind, ok to work with. The metal strip seems to be twined with thin filaments of some sort, then plied. Nice, because you can be a bit rougher beating it in than I would be with metal wrapped around a silk or rayon core.

3/ Rayon chenille: it was multicoloured and came out a nice speckly furry look, but either it didn't pack down well, or the core thread is showing because I have 'lice'. Lots of tufts pulled out. Could be a function of rayon chenille in general, or of this brand in particular.

4/ Moda Dea 'Dream': scraps from another project, long tufts sticking out all over.

5/ Handspun: (by someone clearing not practiced at it-possibly me!), wouldn't pack down at all, though it would probably be fine if it were evenly done.

6/ Boucle:weaves well, would make a great tapestry sheep!

7/ Mohair: weaves well, very 'hairy' looking

8/ I don't even know what this is: looks like a strand of unspun/soft-spun cotton that alternates between thick and thin, and it's stitched into a squiggle with a couple of fine strands of thread (in this case, popcorn-butter yellow -the class referred to it as the "popcorn yarn" which it does look like when woven.

9/Long eyelash yarn. A nuisance to weave, as you have to pull the tufts out as you weave if you want them loose, but it packs down well. Tufts are kind of long though. Not sure what it would be useful for.

10/ Beldings Artsyl for Crochet and Knitting. Apparently vintage thread. I'm having trouble finding out much about it. The Company was well known for silk production, and was founded some time in the later 19th century. They had mills in various locations in the US and in Montreal Canada (which is where this thread was apparently made). I can't find any info on this particular thread itself, though. "Artsyl" suggests artificial silk to me. Feels like it as well.

I HATE this thread with a burning passion. A few of the spools still had their paper strips on, but any one that the strip is off, the thread practically springs off the spool, like wire. Doesn't help that I only have it in pastel pink, pastel green and pastel purple. Bleh. Beats down without any fuzziness, with almost creepy perfection.

11/ Metallic plastic strip from a child's cheerleading pom-pom. Lots of lice. Can only be beaten down in a closed shed (it just springs back up if you beat it in the natural shed).

12/ Short eyelash yarn. I like this one a lot. Looks like funfur.

13/ Very odd yarn. A thick strand of unspun fibres (feels like acrylic), with a thin strand of tightly spun (single) of same, wrapped with a very fine strand, that spirals around the other two. My camera died before I could get a good picture, but some ares look like slightly fuzzy regular tapestry weaving, with scattered areas of fluffiness. Kind of like clouds, if clouds were woven. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Not much progress

Not much progress on this piece. I realized after the last post on it that the needle I was using was one of my sharp large needles and I was stabbing myself with it too often. I wasn't stabbing myself hard or anything, so not a big deal, really...except for being allergic to my needles! And since I'm not willing to destroy one of my lovely, expensive, gold-plated, I'm-not-allergic-to-these-at-least needles by using it to weave through wire, I had to switch to one of my blunt tapestry needles which I had thought I HAD been using.

Only, the tips are too thick to fit between the warps without pushing them aside far enough they don't spring back, so I had to pack down with my fingertips, which doesn't work very well when the warps are too close, and I'm not very good at doing that without pulling my wefts too tight. So now I have some warp-drift going on where the background meets the raven's head.

Also, several wires are crooked just above where I'm working and I can't straighten them out without making the ones beside them crooked in the process.

I really want to at least do one sample with an all-wire warp, just to see, even though I think in the end I'd be better off just inserting a single wire warp every so many warp threads. But I think, regretfully, I will have to write this one off, and try again with a lower warp sett. Especially since I keep procrastinating working on it, and designing other tapestries instead. Anything not to work on it really.

I've even done DISHES to avoid it! Blech!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Madder Dyeing

Madder dyeing experiments. Mostly for Viking Age Re-enactment (my hobby on weekends). These were just sample bits tossed in with a friend's very very organized dye sampling to achieve a specific shade of red made by the Dutch and/or Flemish people in the Late Medieval period. A couple of the dyes/mordant combinations can't be traced back far enough for me to use for Viking Age clothing and textiles, but I'm completely in love with the Brazilwood/Madder combination, especially on the wool. Sadly, I'm a little leery of using it over-much as Brazilwood is an endangered species of tree, even though Maiwa, my main source for dyes, uses only reclaimed wood for their brazilwood dye.

I think I need to try cochineal/madder, see what that does.

Unfortunately, I hadn't really thought through how things were going to be dyed. Normally, at home when sampling, I use a large canning pot with the rack in upside down, and put each of the dye liquors in separate mason jars* with all the wee pieces of sample fabric floating freely inside, and fill the pot until it covers the jars up to about 2/3. I can do 6 sample lots at a time, 9 if I don't mind putting 3 in the centre where they could get hotter than the other 6.

*Leave the lids off.

But since the dyeing was being done in large pots (which was kind of the point, seeing as how we were sampling how a couple different pots affect the dyes) I couldn't really do that. Some of the samples were only about 2 inches square and gauzy, and I was afraid they'd get lost, so they got stuffed in stockings my friend was kind enough to give me, which really isn't the best idea. My samples are kinda spotty. Next time, I sew a cord through the corners and spread them out like charms on a bracelet, if I'm sampling in larger pots.

Most of the samples are still useful. There's only one I didn't bother putting in; it had gotten rolled up inside a couple other samples and didn't really get any dye at all. And one skein of silk was also rolled in with it and only got dye in patches. Oh well.

I learned a bunch and got some cool samples, so I'm happy. My handwoven wool came out beautifully. The silk is definitely more finicky about being free-floating than the wool. Brazilwood seems to discharge indigo. Seriously! When I untied the knot holding the wool thread samples together, the only reason I knew which was which was from the way I'd tied them in. If I'd had to guess, I would have guessed wrong, the straight madder/brazilwood was DARKER than the overdyed thread, and the pale bit where the overdyed piece had been tied in showed no sign of blue!

Cottons. Yes I know, if I want reds on cellulose fibres I need to use tannins. I have, though, in the past, and still got pinks. I'm trying to find out what tannin sources (that don't dye the fibres themselves) were used in the Viking Age, but haven't stumbled across that info yet. Not that I've been looking hard either!

Linen. I love the pinks from the Madder/Brazilwood. Tin makes the linen too orange for my tastes, though my friend thinks the tinning in the pot dissolved and the orange may be a reaction from the metal the pot is made of, possibly cheap aluminium. The Madder and Madder in Copper are both quite pretty.

Silk is spotty. Madder and madder-in-copper are actually pretty much the same colour. The madder-in-tin is definitively orange. The madder/brazilwood is strangely weak on the silk.

The madder-in-tin was less orange on the wool than the silk, though still definitely orange leaning red. The madder and madder-in-copper were similar again. On the fabrics the madder-in-copper was slightly bluer-tinged, but the madder dyed the threads darker than madder-in-copper.I'm tempted to try some of my left-over sample packets in a cool madder vat, and one with pieces of copper in it, see if it turns out any redder.

The madder/brazilwood is just gorgeous. The picture doesn't do it justice.

The Madder/Indigo overdyes. The threads were dyed with indigo first, mostly because it's leftovers from another project, but dyeing first with indigo is apparently recommended anyway, especially with a chemical vat, since at least one of the chemicals is a bleaching agent.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Next in queue- "Notwithstanding, my heart to eat"

Next flat, square-ish miniature tapestry in queue. The Cartoon process (for my non-tapestry weaving friends being directed here from elsewhere in the web).

This is a fairly typical process for me, as I currently have no light-table or any better image manipulation program than MSPaint (we're working on that too).

The original rough sketch in my "Inspiration book", roughly done, just enough to remember the image I had in my head.

Since I kind of suck at sketching, and really, realistic birds are beyond my limited abilities, I went searching on-line for images of ravens in more or less the pose I wanted. I'm not going to post the original photo here, as it is someone's copyrighted image.

This what it looked like after I spent a few days "cartoon-izing" it. Colour gradations were simplified, colours in each section of the cartoon are all one of the colours that pixels in that section really were. Some manipulations of lines were also done, in places where I could see following the actual lines would cause problems in weaving the piece.

The hand is the same one I used in "The Marriage of Sir Gawaine". It was cartoon-ized from the hand in panel 5 of The Hunt of the Unicorn series of tapestries (c 1500 CE), "The Unicorn is Tamed by the Maiden".

This is the cartoon with colour, as I had originally conceived the piece. I was never able to get the blood drops in the rough sketch to look right.

This is the working cartoon.

However, after looking at it a couple days, I decided first, it was kind of boring, and second, the raven might be a bit too complicated and finicky for a miniature, at my current skill and patience level.

Then I was inspired, primarily by a number of contacts in Flickr who do beautiful image layering in their photographs (McNeney, Daniel Colvin, Teodoratan, Anke Merzbach), with an idea. So I simplified the cartoon...

took the head from "A mon seul désir", in The Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries (c. 1500 CE)...

cartoonized it...

simplified it...

and layered it under the image of the raven.

Sadly, MSPaint doesn't have a function that would allow me to colour it to show what the final piece is supposed to look like. The raven and hand will be solid images, as in the above colour cartoon, though simplified. The face will be done using the transparency technique I used with the ghost images in As Demented Spectres Dance.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This...this is a PIA.

Sample piece for an idea I'm working on. Copper wire warp, 16 epi. Weft, randomly selected from my stash of thread bits, cotton I think. First attempt at using wire as warp.

I've used wire as weft before, in pattern weaving, but due to the nature of metal wire, I haven't had much success with it in tapestry. In order to get the wire to bend around the warp, instead of the warp bending around the wire I needed to pass it under only one warp at a time and I ended up using wire so fine it takes forever. And it still didn't cover the warp.

Not really what I was going for. Sigh. But I need something to create solid structure in a 3D piece, without using something chemical.

Not surprisingly, it's a pain in the butt weaving with a wire warp. Surprisingly, not as big a pain as I feared.

I always use needles for weaving in the weft with my miniature tapestry pieces, at least so far, so I'm already used to it. And my warp is usually under the highest tension I can manage, so I'm not used to a flexible warp anyway. The biggest difference is that I don't want to bend the wires as I pass the weft under, so I have to go a lot slower and pass it under fewer warps at a time. Still, less of a pain than using it as weft!

The biggest two annoyances are the fact that the warps are shiny, and not very straight. No matter what I do, I can't get them straight, and with the light glinting off the wires, it's often difficult to see when two have gotten crossed or to get them uncrossed, sometimes until after I've pulled the weft through.

Since it is only a 2" x 2" sample, I'm doing it precisely the way I was told not to, by people with better knowledge of the properies of metal than I. Fixed at both ends, I have to bend the warps a little to get the needle between.
But if you warp up the wire with a little give (which actually makes it easier to weave anyway, I've noticed [one side is tighter than the other]), and you're careful to keep the needle as perpendicular to the warp as possible, it shouldn't be a problem for a smaller piece. Copper, at least, has just enough elasticity to when not pulled tight to bounce back from the amount of bending needed for the needle to go under it. On a larger piece I can see how what I was told about bending them too often and risking snapping the wire might be a problem. Though really, I think a lot of the problem there would be a problem of impatience and not wanting to take that much time when the piece was larger.

The other option would be to pass the needle from front to back, and back to front between each warp pair, which really would take forever.

I wonder if leaving the top of the warp loose would work?

Also, 16 epi was too high. I need to try this again at 12.

This....this is not helping either.