Saturday, April 9, 2011

Symmetry In Sectional Design

The design of my latest beam is pushing my limits in many ways:
I've never worked with so many colors.
I've never plied colors to give such a rich effect.
I've only once done a gradient over multiple sections.
I've never used multiple types of symmetry simultaneously.

In the image above, you can see the overall effect I'm going for. The cloth will be dark navy in the center, fading through bright blue and teal to a light, bright grey-blue at the edges. This effect is pretty easy to achieve. Every time I move over a section I swap out some threads from the color I'm fading away from and replace them with the color I'm fading toward.

It's a little more organic than that. When I say "color", I really mean "color group". My assistant is working hard to stay one step ahead of me, winding up cones plied from multiple threads within the color group that we're working on. Each color group has 3-5 colors in it so we have dozens of possible plied combinations. The effect of plying threads and putting them next to each other is a complex set of organic stripes like a forest of saplings. Sometimes similar colored threads end up near each other and create a little stripe of that color. Those stripes are pretty random, being the result of several steps that are too complicated for me to have complete control. And that's just how I like it.

These natural stripes create a fun challenge for the detail-oriented: find the symmetry. Do the stripes repeat? This I where I've added another layer of symmetry: bookmatching. As I move out from the center, I flip each section before I swap out the threads that are getting replaced.

The finished effect will be similar to bookmatched wood or stone. In those materials, a good part of the interest comes from the fact that the stripes are not identical. As your eye moves from stripe to stripe, they are similar enough to catch your attention, and different enough to keep it.

The organic stripes I was just talking about should simulate the grain in wood or the veins in marble and create the same visual effect in my cloth. The color progression should act like the difference in veining from one slice of marble to the next, drawing the eye across the whole piece of cloth.

In order to make the bookmatching symmetry a little easier to spot, I've added a few contrasting threads that will stand out and draw your eye to it. Oh, yeah, and the threading pattern is designed to highlight the bookmatching effect, too. It will be the same meandering pointed twill that I used for the white beam. Since that pattern is mirrored and repeated with each section, it will only increase the similarity to marble veining.

All-in-all, I'm pleased with the thread colors and the progression that is on the beam so far. I can't wait to see the cloth! Just 4 more days of beam winding, a day off, 3 days of knot tying, and a day of sampling. Then, when it's too late to make any significant changes, I'll get to see the result.

Production weaving is not for the impatient!

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