Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Clasped weft and colour design

This clasped weft is for a scarf I've been commissioned to do. The person who's asked for this liked the subtle interplay of blues and greens in another scarf I'd made, and I decided to take the concept one step further. I wound a warp rayon flake, graduating from navy blue through marine blue, sage green, grass green, light leaf green to yellow, with a small flash of golded thread at the yellow end of the spectrum. To mix things up a bit, there's an interleaving of the colours at the blue ends of the spectrum but not at the green-yellow end of the spectrum. For the weft, I dyed and spun silk cap in a cornflower blue and a variegation of soft blues and greens with a touch of yellow, in similar colours and hues to the warp. The variegation goes on the darker side of the scarf, the solid blue on the yellow wide of the scarf. I spin the silk cap very finely, as clasped weft results in a doubled weft.

I won't go into details of how to do clasped weft because Kaz Madigan at Curious Weaver does it much better than I could here. Logistically, I get around the concept of having a weft coming from either side of the loom by having one of the wefts still on a spinning wheel bobbin, and sit the lazy kate on the stash shelf beside the loom. Because the silk thread is so fine, it becomes very important to remember not to walk around that side of the loom! The structure is simply plain weave, so I depress a treadle, pass the shuttle from the right to the left of the shed, pass the shuttle under and back over the secondary silk thread (thus capturing the thread), and use the blue weft to draw both (now linked) wefts back into the shed. Then I can simply chose where to put the intersection of the two colours. This is where the fun comes in.

I try to let the varigations dictate where the intersection will be, but also work to keep the movement of the clasping looking random (a much less random act than you might imagine). Because I work in geology, this means that as I'm doing this, I think in terms of glacial or sea level advance and retreat - or in the case of this scarf, waves on a mossy shoreline. Nature rarely has straight lines. The edge is always wavy with little fingers of water moving forwards and some sections receding faster than others, and this effect looks more natural than a straight line.

With colours so similar in colour and value to parts of the warp, you can really have fun with the effects you make. Running green parts of the weft into the green section of the warp as in the image above can decrease the contrast between warp and weft and create areas of greater subtlety between warp and weft, but increase the contrast between the two wefts.

A different effect again can be achieved be creating a greater contrast in the darker areas of the warp: in this case, taking the yellow green right across to the left of the scarf, and allowing a contrast of yellow-and-navy with the cornflower blue of the left-hand weft:

I've taken these photos very close-up and from directly above to increase the contrast and make the effect as obvious as I can. From a distance and at an angle, the overall effect is much more subtle, and changes with changing angle. Running a part of the weft right across a similar colour can mean that the pattern fades in and out of focus in a very interesting manner, as you can see with both green and blue sections in the image below.

In addition to playing with the colours, the slight slubbiness of the woven silk cap gives this scarf quite a bit more texture than normal plain weave. This scarf is a great deal of fun to weave. I'm really looking forward to getting it off the loom to see how it looks as a whole but I'll miss the colours when it's done!


  1. The colors are lovely. I would love to try this on a 60/2 silk warp with 120/2 silk weft! More slow weaving!

  2. I do love the colours and the movement, the different interactions across the scarf, what a lovely piece of weaving.

  3. I love the colors, they're stunningly beautiful! The clasped weft technique makes it even more special. I'm looking very much forward to see the result.

  4. Peg: Oddly enough, the second image just misses the 60/2 silk I have lying out waiting to tell me what it wants to be: whether this with some 120/2 I have, or a form of echo weave!

    Dot, Charlotte: thanks. I'll post the results in the near future.

    Meg: loom-controlled tapestry. Hmmmm.....now there's a thought to germinate in the head....

  5. This is lovely! I've tried this technique once for a design board. You've done it with lighter weight threads than I did (mine was indeed more like tapestry) and i really like the effect. Very well designed.

  6. A timely reminder that there's nothing new under the sun! I'd love to see your take Leigh - is there a photo on the net somewhere?