Being a maker has been a long journey for me. I love that the work is never done and there is always a new challenge around the corner. So what actually happens behind the scenes? How are my textiles made?
I make quite a range of items and accessibility is important to me. So some processes are focused on meeting a specific price point, others are to lower my impact on the earth and many are just for the pure joy I get out of the technique. Below you'll find my main processes outlined.
Weaving the Cloth
I was lucky enough to learn to weave in graduate school at CSU. Wow! What a game-changer that was in my life. I'm so grateful to my teachers and all the richness this process has brought to my life. My loom is completely un-automated so all of the patterns, treadles, beater and any other parts of it are operated by hand. I like having this control over the process and product. You'll find in my product collections that I am IN LOVE with silk. My generous professor at CSU gave me an entire cone of silk I found in a cabinet and I made some of my best woven works with that yarn. I do sometimes work with cotton, linen, wool or hemp, but silk is always my favorite. The thing about silk is that its natural luster outpaces any synthetically shiny yarn a million to one. The soft feel, the incredible drape- I could gush on and on.
Before I get on the loom, I hand dye my yarns. I use a variety of methods. Currently I am working on an ikat warp. Read more about this specific process in this blog post. I like to work with simple weave structures to highlight warp patterning or give opportunity to create hand-manipulated details. The weaving process from dressing the loom to washing the finished fabric is long but it is always meditative.
Planning & Design
I do a mix of pre-planning and working on the fly. Weaving requires significant pre-planning. Doing the math to measure your warp and weft in advance is pretty much unavoidable. Once I'm on the loom, however, I like to set myself up to have options that I can play with along the way. I'll dye multiple wefts that I can play with and this keeps the process dynamic and alive. If I have any left overs I can always make them into earrings or Yarn Jars. One of my favorite exercises is to draw thumbnails of patterns. These get my brain rolling with inspiration. Color is just an obsession that lasts a lifetime. It never stops being new and it never stops begging me to name it.
Dyeing Fabric and Yarn
I use natural dyes to create some unexpectedly rich color. You can learn more about what natural dyes are in my journal entry What is a Natural Dye?
My textiles are immersion dyed in pots or buckets. Some dyes need to be extracted for over an hour before the fabric can be added to the pot. Every dye is different so I pay attention to which one I'm using when timing it. Some dyes actually require that the fabric simmers for an hour and then cools in the pot overnight to get the deepest color.
Fabrics have a lot of variation in how they take dye, how much dye is needed to capture the desired depth of dye and how vibrantly they will hold the color. Most silks are a dream with how they soak up and hold color. But they are more sensitive to water stains, snags and other little mistakes that send the fabric to the 'repurpose' bin.
I source my dyes from all over the world so that I can achieve the greatest amount of color variety possible. Many dyes are mixed to capture subtle shifts in shade and tone. The mixing is my absolute favorite part of the dye process. It has the same urgency as watercolor painting- every moment there are changes you can choose to create.
After the fabrics come out of the dye pot they need to be thoroughly rinsed. This is a time consuming and water consuming process. I spend just as much time rinsing as I spend dyeing!
I'm in the middle of developing new products that are painted with natural dyes. More coming soon! In the meantime, you'll find a selection of products in my collection that are painted with non-toxic silk paints.
Sewing Final Products
I learned to sew before I knew how to do any of my other processes. In college I learned pattern making skills and I used a lot of these to develop more sculptural works in grad school. I am ever-amazed by the relationship between flat pattern pieces and the 3-D finished product.
When fabrics have made it through the dye process and/or weaving process, they are ready to be sewn into the final products. I have two Bernina home machines that meet my sewing needs. I use the serger to trim edges and prep fabrics for the dye pot. My sewing machine does everything else!
I am working toward the zero waste model of production. It is still quite a long way off, but I am starting with what I can do now. Read more about my progress in this blog post!