Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Busy Weekend

This past weekend was the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH) held close by in Sacramento. I attended on Saturday, shopped the vendors and wandered through the various galleries of work on display. I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful woven shawl by Tien Chiu called Liquid Fire. It is just that, in silk, an amazing combination of color and weave structure.

Tien dyed the silk for this shawl in several batches, grading the colors so that the color changes are very subtle. It is woven in a multi-harness pattern weave, and the color and weave structure are complementary. The shawl is a tour de force: often a colorful piece will have a simple weave structure, and a structurally interesting piece will have simple colors. This shawl combines both color and weave structure in an exceptional way, and is truly stunning :).

I wrote to Tien and asked her permission to quote her dyeing information:

It's actually interesting from a dyer's perspective - the color
transition looks continuous but is actually forty stripes of color in
the warp, and another forty stripes of color in the weft. I mixed up
eighteen combinations of red to gold, and another two combinations of
gold and lemon yellow, to give a total of twenty different colors of
yarn. I then ran it gradually from red to yellow (twenty stripes) and
back to red again (another 20 stripes).

The weft is also 40 stripes, from red to yellow and back again - which
is why it has so much "color motion" in it.

Tien says she tried several combinations and colors until she came up with this seamless blend for the warp and weft. The idea is wonderful and Tien's execution is flawless!

It is also inspiring: what would happen if you tried to knit this? I can imagine a knitted blank painted in grades of colors, to be re-knit into a shawl (or scarf, let's start small). But I don't think I am a good enough knitter to re-knit and have everything come out where it is supposed to be. Weaving (in that sense) is easier, you put the threads where you want them and they stay there :)

Spinning the color into yarns would also be possible, especially if you dye a set of colors and then blend the gradients. Even with that, my mind sets up the finished project as weaving not knitting: I think my weaving skills are just more honed than my knitting skills, and certainly my weaving mind jumps to the forefront ahead of my knitting mind.

Dyers certainly seem to have the leg up on color ideas like this, and spinners maybe even more so. How do people function when they can't make colors?? I know you can strand colors to blend them, and some lines of yarn are particularly good for this: I'm thinking Paternayan tapestry yarns, with three components of two plies each, plenty of room to grade colors. There are some yarn lines, like Tahki Classic Cotton, which have several tints tones and shade of every hue, but not the 20 Tien produced. There are probably lines of dyed silk, but with 20 colors from red to gold? Not commercially.

Thanks Tien, for displaying your shawl and being so generous with the information on how you made it! It is lovely.

I also went to the Maker Faire this weekend, and it was inspiring and exciting on a very different level than CNCH. There were lots of crafts vendors and displays, lots of activity and experimentation, and tons of potential. It reminded me of the 60's, clothing-wise, population-wise and excitement-wise. There were arts and crafts, but also electronics, music, outdoor art, sculptures, demonstrations, classes and food :). Lots of silly things and un-polished ideas: just the type of inspiration which can help develop the new ideas we will need in this world. People came in droves (65,000!)and the level of excitement was palpable. It was crazy like Burning Man, without the heat and dust.

There were knitting and crochet classes, vendors of finished crafts and craft supplies, recycled clothing make-it/take-it with lots of sewing machines set up to help people right there.

I saw Kristine whose business partner Brooke was at CNCH the day before. I wondered at the different venues: CNCH focuses on weavers, the Maker Faire is focused on DIY of every stripe, woodworkers, engine mechanics, computer geeks, electronics nerds, and artists of all kinds. The Maker Faire was definitely more exciting for the whole family, but CNCH and other fiber festivals reach a small self-selected audience of fiber aficionados.

Which did I like? Well, both. The Maker Faire has such potential for changing more than just the fiber world, with interaction between various fields of thought. But fiber fairs of every kind are my focus and my orientation. Even at the Maker Faire, what I liked was the fiber.

I can ramble on, but you get the picture. Spring has sprung and fairs are here, with all of the excitement and inspiration they bring. A busy weekend indeed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just looked on her blog for Liquid Fire...small pic, BEAUTIFUL. Wish I could see it in person. So fortunate you are to have these two fairs nearby.

Yes! For Maker! So many dear friends there...hopefully next year I can attend and perhaps a workshop.......

9:19 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Tien does amazing things!

The colors are Sara colors, aren't they?

9:41 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

When I listend to the GeekSpeak podcast interview with the editor of Maker magazine and developer of the faire, I knew that I'd have to go next year. Our little family in SF popped down and also gave it an A++ so I know where I'll be next year at this time. When he said they'd had weavers and circuit benders last year, well he caught my attention. And the Fashionist blog is posting entries from there. He said last year the attendance was 30,000 and he wasn't sure if they were equipped to exceed that, but I guess they did!

4:35 PM  
Blogger Tien Chiu said...

Hi Sara,

I just thought of an interesting variation on your idea of dyeing a knitted blank and then reknitting it. What about dyeing a knitted blank and then disassembling and WEAVING it? I was thinking that Knitpicks' sock blanks would make a really interesting (and easy) opportunity to dye it. If you set the spacing to coincide with the repeat on the sock blanks, you could get a "painted-weft" look rather than the static you get when you try weaving with space-dyed yarns. Neat idea!

I don't have time to pursue this thought right now but I thought I'd pass it on just in case you did...

9:31 AM  

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