Friday, February 29, 2008

Warp painting: a family affair

A few weeks ago I started getting the itch to weave. It came over me that what our house NEEDED more than anything RIGHT NOW was some cushions for a beautiful but uncomfortable rocking chair. And they needed to be made of handwoven fabric. And probably some handspun yarn, and I could dye it, and it could be a family project .....

Next thing you know, I had my family out on the back porch, painting warp chains. This is something I've never done before, and I've only painted yarn or roving a couple of times. So obviously it was a great thing to take on with a couple of little kids!

(we have all chosen our own "dye day" clothing)

Actually it worked out fine, despite a few hair raising moments. I wound the warp into several chains, then split them into two groups which were painted separately. I mixed up many little cups of different colors of dye, and we poured or spooned them on in different sections. I was hoping for vertical stripes from the two different sets of chains, and horizontal stripes from the dye. We used far too much dye, though, so most of the horizontal detail was lost.

You can see that the kids were very serious about their painting. Charlotte really only painted about 10" of warp but boy did she get it all! She must have used about a quart of dye!

My husband was also painting; he took all the pictures so he's not in any. I wish I had taken one of him; it was really nice to all work on a project together. It would have been nicer if it wasn't 40 degrees with constant wind gusts. In fact, it was chilly enough that the kids only made it through one set of warp chains. Then I sent them inside and did the second batch myself.

Next I wrapped the chains in plastic, trying to ignore the excess dye that was running out. THEN I realized that I hadn't spritzed with vinegar or added any acid to the dye cups, so I had to unwrap everything and spray. We had used up all the plastic wrap, so I would have to steam them in ziplocs. As long as everything was so screwed up, I decided I might as well wring out the skeins to get rid of excess dye. After all of this I was pretty sure the chains would come out uniform colors; I only hoped that the two sets of chains would be different colors, so I could at least get vertical stripes.

To my cautious relief, they looked pretty good after steaming, cooling and rinsing. The next day I dyed the weft (handspun shetland) and the edge warps a single coordinating color.

You can see the stripes better in the warp than in the web. There's a three inch stripe of solid red on each side, then stripes of warp chains A-B-AAA-B-A and more solid red to finish it off. It's much more subtle than I had planned but still very nice (I think).

I had hoped that the kids and I could weave this together, but the warp -- a millspun wool & mohair blend -- is too sticky. I'm raising each shaft separately and having no trouble, but I really couldn't get Charlotte to treadle that way, and she says it's no fun if she can't step on it! So the next project will have to be more kid-friendly.

The warp is 5 yards long and I've woven perhaps three of those without incident. Now I'm developing loose selvedge threads -- I guess I'll have to rig up some weights. My other concern is that this fabric might not be sturdy enough for cushions in which case I might be forced to make a garment out of it. With a silver lining, maybe.


Caroline M said...

It looks great fun although I had to laugh at the thought of you wringing the skeins out. I like family projects but it's a rare day when they come out just as planned. You hope that it's creating memories for the future and that makes it worthwhile.

Shan said...

I've read on other weavers' blogs that you can never tell what the fabric looks like until you remove it from the loom - is that right?