Friday, August 17, 2012

Plying The Green

Many people have noticed that there is not one piece of green cloth in my booth. It's not because I don't like it, it's because my customers do. I wove a batch starting last September and it was all sold by Spring. Green thread was a large part of the yarn order you saw me unpacking a few days ago.

The temperatures here are still hovering around 100 degrees so I've set up the winding operation in the downstairs of the studio, also known as the garage. At night I open the doors to cool down the giant concrete slab that makes up the floor. During the day I keep the space sealed up and run low-wattage CFLs only above the table where I'm working. These two habits keep the temperature below 90 until the afternoon.

Here are a few shots of the plying setup and a rough outline of the gradient that's emerging.

I've repurposed my pipe and joint booth again to hold the task lights.

In this shot you can start to see the gradient taking form. It will run from dark blue-green through pure green to a bright yellow-green.

I've been thinking of how to explain the various parts of my process and how these parts contribute to the whole. My finished garments really are a form of abstract landscape painting, and the process of creating them is much the same.

Step 1: ordering yarn = squeezing the paint tubes. In painting, there are a finite number of pigments available. A painter chooses how much to squeeze from the tubes to the palette. I choose how much of each color to order from the suppliers. To make the analogy work, imagine that the painter needs to decide how much of each pigment to put on the palette a month before beginning to paint and that there are only a few colors of pigment available at any given time.

Step 2: plying threads = mixing paints. When the yarns arrive, there are a few colors and they need to be combined before they're ready to be used. A painter mixes colors on the palette. I blend colors onto cones. Again, imagine that the painter can paint with only the colors that are on the palette at the end of this step.

Step 3: winding the beam = painting the base layer. In painting, the base layer provides the groundwork for everything that comes later. My warp design is the color basis for every garment that will be woven from each batch of cloth.

Step 4: weaving = painting the details. In painting, the details of a finished painting build upon the base layer to create specific effects. In weaving, the warp threads are more apparent in the final result, but the idea is the same. Each garment uses the same warp threads but the final pieces are sometimes vastly different from each other depending on the choice of weft threads.

Step 5: finishing = curing, sealing, framing. Once the colors are on the canvas, there are often more steps to ensure the usability and longevity of the piece. Same here. The cloth needs to be cut from the loom, wet finished, and often sewn into garments before it is ready for a customer to take home. The difference is that a painting doesn't change much at this point. Cloth can be dramatically different after finishing. Surprise! forward...

After two long days in the dark (but relatively cool) garage, the thread plying is almost done. Here are the colors available for the next step, warping the beam. And yes, these photos look weird. It's a combination of the CFL bulbs, the dim lighting, and the iPod camera. I make my decisions by natural light and then come in here to do the work. But you can get the idea.

Tomorrow I have some tough decisions to make... Do I move a loom down to where it's cool so I can warp it? Do I install an air conditioner upstairs? Do I move my morning meditation to the afternoon so I can work in the studio from before dawn until it's too hot to move? Stay tuned!

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