Curiousweaver studio is woven together by Kaz (Karen) Madigan. A weaver for almost 40 years, since 2011 she has been specialising in Saori weaving and is the first registered Saori studio in Australia. “As a weaver for many years I have explored and tried many types of weaving. I love it all. I’ve walked in shoes of the artist, craftsman, designer, maker, author, teacher and artisan.
This Japan trip I had a little time in Tokyo and had the opportunity to visit some wonderful people and do a Temari ball making workshop at Temaricious. A major thank you to Nomo-san who helped make this happen. I learnt about the little shop from String Harvest as she stocks the Temaricious threads. One of the owners, Naho, is quite the inspirational crafter and artist. She explained that the balls have not purpose other than to delight.
Temaricious specialises in balls with naturally dyed cotton. This makes the colours and patterns very appealing to our aesthetics today. The natural dye process on cotton is a more dedicated operation and they had dye suppliers from all sorts of people, including farmers turning over specific plants that they didn’t want.
The Temari balls are potential masterpieces of geometry as seen in these examples created over a long lifetime of work. Such beautiful patterns and ideas.
I had made Temari balls before but some of the instruction was quite different to what I had learnt previously. You can see here my start up with the wonky spherical shape which gradually becomes very even and hard after winding. The inside of the ball was rice husks.
The divisions of the ball were quite easy to achieve without rulers and using a strip of paper which is much more friendly and gives a better sense of where you are going with it all. Using a long needle I just built up the stitching following the guide lines and instruction from Naho. Our three hour session was soon over and I’m yet to fully complete the stitching on the ball. It really was a joyful afternoon and the owners made that possible with their friendly, passionate and dedicated style. Certainly a highlight of my Tokyo visit…different to the 5.1 earthquake!
Back from Japan and so much to write I don’t know how to approach it all. So I thought I’d start with making a garment at Saori no Mori in Osaka with Hiromi. She is the resident staff designer with so many ideas. I took along my six metres of linen/cotton fabric to learn more about draping directly as I really think this is far better than following patterns. I tend to use written patterns as a crutch but our fabrics aren’t ‘normal’ so need different treatments from each other.
You can see here the design is a direct drape and wrap around the model. Hiromi made good use of shaping with the tucks at the side of the neckline and the cord on the other shoulder was the suggestion for a strap. After pinning we decided to make less of the ‘flaps’ at each side which gave me enough fabric for the shoulder strap. Surprisingly the garment only took about an hour to stitch up because it had so few tricky bits.
Saori no Mori in Osaka
Saori no Mori – or Saori weaving of the forest is a very peaceful place. It seems like the world and its worries are a million miles away and it’s a chance to just think about the good things in life.
We were in the studio for a few days and it was great to be around the looms and the Saori way again. Each time I appreciate more deeply what Saori is. It is much more that weaving, although that would be enough for me! It is really a way of weaving that involves the whole body in a creative idea. That idea is different for everyone and the personal process evolves as the fabric is woven. A way of weaving yourself into the cloth.
How I wish I made a Sponge Cake this weekend! If only I could. As we talked about the wonder of tablet weaving and how on earth some human thought of it, Vicki also spoke about the wonders of the Sponge Cake – who would have thought to create that. All that whipped eggy wonderment. Just the same wonderment that strikes about the interlacement of threads to create a cloth that nurtures and enriches our lives. The Sponge Cake is on the menu for the next workshop. Weavers be prepared.
Vicki is an established and passionate spinner and weaver who wants to focus more on weaving and is inspired by the Saori philosophy. Here she is weaving with the beater bar. This simple add on to the loom really helps some people keep their backs in a better position for weaving. Handspinners really fall into Saori weaving because their love and knowledge of the creation of yarn kicks off in the weaving.
Vicki weaving with her handspun
Kylie is mad about weaving! She has also had extensive experience with the rigid heddle loom and really pushed it to its full potential. Now she is learning about 4 shaft weaving with the 4 shaft spring system conversion kit that is available for the Saori loom.
Kylie threading the 4 shaft loom
I had a great time with Kylie because she knew about weave structure and was very much primed for the four shaft loom and what it can do for efficiency, creativity and primarily woven cloth length in general. She threaded the loom with a straight draw. This means 1,2,3,4, repeat. This is the simplest threading to produce a twill weave. The pedals were firstly set up with pedal 1 – 1,2 , pedal 2- 2,3, pedal 3 – 3,4, and pedal 4 – 4,1. The other two pedals were set up for plain weave.
twill woven by Kylie
This set up produced a wonderfully drapey cloth with a thick yarn. Typical of the twill set up.
Pedal set up is in the top right quadrant. This is a standard twill threading and treadling
But there are many, many patterns that can be developed with the straight draw on the four shaft. It just means changing the treadling. The pedal set up and which pedals you use for each row. So we ventured into reading drafts because I think you have to for four shaft. You have to know how the structures and notations are comprised – just like notation in music. We took a pattern that needed eight pedals rather than the six pedals on the loom and used a skeleton tie up to make the weave pattern.
A skeleton tie up uses two pedals to create a plain weave, i.e 1 and 3 vs 2 and 4, and the other four pedals hooked up to shaft 1, shaft 2, shaft 3 and shaft 4. This means you will have to press up to 3 pedals at a time to achieve the pattern rows.
Kylie tried a two faced weave which was wondrous…just like a Sponge Cake. The back and front are woven with different yarns, like a double weave but not.
Kylie also had time to wind a warp for another project!
It’s great when I come across inspirational people and Andreas Moeller, from Hamberg in Germany, is one of them. I’ve always been a fan but now have embraced the Flying8 Loom ideas that he has developed.
The looms are built in many parts of our world. It has many advantages for small scale weaving production and ‘freedom’ to create more complex patterned and repeatable products quickly and efficiently.
Of course, small scale unique weaving products can be produced on the Saori loom, but if you are looking at competing in a ‘niche’ market with costs the Flying8 can do this.
Larger production style looms for home/small studio use are expensive (starting from the cost of an older car) but we can find them in Australia. But in other countries the expense is beyond most people’s means.
Weaver Andreas Moeller, Hamburg St. Pauli, Germany (english subtitles) - YouTube
The Flying8 loom is designed to be built from local timber sizes and the pieces are all squared and not cylindrical. This includes the warp and cloth beams. The whole loom can be nailed rather than screwed which also adds versatility and capability for building and rebuilding.
Looms are all different and some can be infuriatingly frustrating in operation and ease. Andreas Moeller has used his extensive experience with looms to pick out the best bits for production weaving, thinking about body ergonomics at the loom and agency over the loom you build yourself.
Some advantages are:
the bench is part of the loom and the seat is slanted down towards the loom.
the loom has 8 shafts on a countermarche system which is light to use. All of the lamms are pivoted on the same level rather than on two levels found on many conventional countermarche systems.
the treadles are pivoted at the front of the loom underneath the bench to provide more stability when you are treadling and the pedals don’t fly away all the time.
the warp release is effective and can be done at the front of the loom.
construction of the fly shuttle beater, an essential component for efficiency, is quite unique. Cardboard houses the shuttle for quiet action and cork blocks soften the sound of the shuttle landing each row.
the cord for the fly shuttle is adjusted from conventional set up to accommodate the way our shoulder is used in the pulling action. As our shoulder is on the side of our body, not the centre, the cord needs to be adjusted to suit this.
a weaver’s ‘best friend’ is used to maintain tension on the warp as it is wound onto the loom. This makes beaming of very long warps possible with one person.
Andreas has used an older idea for efficient warp winding, making very long warps easy to wind on a warping mill at constant tension.
Andreas has developed an easy way to build a fly shuttle and shows how to make end feed shuttle bobbins from paper, which are used in the shuttle.
Fast weaving on a Flying8 contemporary loom - YouTube
Now I have to find some space to build the loom but will start with refitting my existing loom with a similar fly shuttle! The loom is a tool and tools must work in the best way for you. And although I like to beauty of them and don’t like drilling into the wood all great weavers are prepared to do that to take their tools to the next level.
Last night, I took the shibori home to our lovely B&B and tied all the shibori threads ready for dyeing in the morning. As I tied them I realised how I could improve on my threading, to make it both easier to tie and easier to make those ties as tight as possible. My shibori threads weren’t the best, but they were acceptable and I managed to get them fairly tight.
Woven Wool Shibori ready for ‘cooking’
So first thing this morning we mixed some colours, and I gently spread them over this strangely shaped bundled up piece of weaving. While I didn’t want the colour to soak too far into the tied sections, I also wanted the colours to blend gently, without leaving too many areas bare. So I had to be very gentle massaging those colours through, being mindful not to get too carried away. Then it was time to set it on to heat and head back into the studio to our next project.
Leno on top layer double weave
I was keen to do some more double weaving. I’ve learnt so much with this project and today was no exception, with some Leno lace work, first the dark blue opening up little windows to the green below, and then reversing the colours and repeating the process. We could have done so much more but time was getting away and by now the shibori had cooled and was ready for that magical moment of cutting those tight little threads. It is always a magical moment when you first open up a dye project and see the transformation the colour has brought. I have to say I was very happy with the result. The colours were blended nicely, but you could also see patterns from the undyed areas. I like to think future projects will be a whole lot better, but as my first attempt I was happy. I think this one is destined to hang in my studio.
Today is my last day of this amazing week, so the afternoon was spent tying up loose ends. But we did find a moment to look into the world of Saori cloth construction and sewing. The large length I wove prior to our trip looks perfect for a long sleeveless jacket and while there was no time for the cutting and sewing, I can go home and confidently set about the work. We also looked at the versatility of cutting your woven cloth on the bias, how this simple style can create everything from loose summery tops to long stylish dresses. If stock on our Ashculme Textile website starts to fall it’s because I’m busy weaving some cloth for an exciting new wardrobe for myself.
Beaming the painted warp with the Kenzo system off loom.
So my highly anticipated week is drawing to a close. Our old dog is exhausted from all the walks on the beach (coming from regional NSW it was an exciting change to chasing alpacas!) my husband has breathed in lots of sea air and visited some great places with his own guide in Dave who has so many interesting stories and knowledge. And we have gained a ridiculous amount of weight with all the goodies we kept eating, both from Kaz and our wonderful landlady who would invariably leave a basket of fresh food by the door.
And what have I gained? So much – knowledge, inspiration, excitement and confidence in moving onwards with my own weaving studio, not only weaving the pieces I love to weave, but having that space available for people of all walks of life to come and explore their own creative side, or just to use the space for the quiet contemplation that weaving can bring. And I have gained in friendship, which really is the most important of all, isn’t it.
With two days of weaving and learning behind me it felt wonderful to walk into the studio and have no less than 3 looms up and running with different projects. I also still had the dyed warp ready for rinsing.
Meet the Weaver in Residence
But before any of that could begin we had some lovely visitors who were interested in seeing and hearing all about the residency. Like many arts, weaving can be a solitary activity, so it is always invigorating and inspiring to meet others, whether experienced weavers or just starting out. We can all learn so much from the conversations that flow so naturally with shared interests.
Painted warps drying on the Hills Hoist
It was a lovely change of pace and a very enjoyable morning. Afterwards it was back to the looms and first of all I set about finishing the shibori weave. I am keen to get it off the loom and ready to dye tomorrow. Yesterday’s dyed warp was ready for rinsing. A simple enough process and it was soon out on the line drying in the sun. The colours have come out beautifully, rich and deep without being too bright. We dyed a skein too, using the same colours, but mixed differently, a softer, earthier colour. It will be interesting to see the changes when they are woven together.
I spent some time on the rail reed weaving today too. The weave is a very loose and fine one, with pops of blue and green throughout. Today I tried to slowly change it, spreading some colour along the full width, still loose and translucent, but with some solid blocks of white to counterbalance it. It is an interesting way to weave, being able to vary the movement of the warp threads, but having to take it slowly, not rushing the threads into their new positions. It is a fascinating concept that I am very keen to explore some more. More to come
After a lovely morning walk on the beach I was keen to get back to the studio. With two looms already in action and plans for warp painting and more today I was itching to get started.
While I wove the shibori weave yesterday a design was forming in my mind, one that may take longer than I have time for, so I spent quite a lot of the morning working on that. It felt good to fall into the rhythm of weaving.
Winding the warp for dyeing
Ikat ties on the warp before dyeing
Today was also about dyeing, or more precisely, warp painting and ikat. So first up we gathered a varied selection of cottons and one linen and wound those into a warp. With some resists tied we then headed to the dye pots and mixed colours to paint onto the fibre. Using warm earthy colours, with rich deep shades, so different from the softer ones I tend to do at home, we massaged the colours into the warp and also into a skein for the weft. Needless to say I’m longing to get the warp on the loom and start the weaving.
Painting the warp
Colours of the warp
Much of the afternoon was spent working on the double warp – concentrating on trying different techniques, tubular, one sided opening, central opening and swapping and mixing the colours. Tomorrow I will add Leno to it. I’ve never been someone who does swatches and test runs, so this is a great discipline for me, concentrating on techniques rather than the end product. But of course design will always work its way in and I think the end result will be acceptable.
Rail reed work o the Saori loom
After the concentration of double weave, the rail reed was a lovely way to unwind and spend an hour or two. The rail reed varies the warp threads, spreading them out or bringing them in close together. This creates endless possibilities of structure, shape and form, with open spaces inviting a pop of colour or a fine translucent thread. This is a style of weaving that takes patience, allowing the threads to move into their changing positions over the course of the weave, rather than expecting them to just jump from spot to spot. This is what I plan to master tomorrow – giving those warp threads the time they need to move as they choose
When I thought about what I really wanted to learn on my residency I thought about the endless variations and scope of weavings and realised there is no limit to its possibilities. So I had to narrow it down. And narrow it down to those things not so easily learnt from a book. And to me, the double weave technique kept popping up. It seems to open up so many creative possibilities and holds a fascination that I have been very excited to explore.
So prior to my residency I wound on a warp of two distinctive colours, with the plan to thread this straight onto the loom for some double weave magic. It was good to start the week with the concentration of threading this warp on. I always think of threading as the discipline before the creative play that is weaving.
I am very much a freestyle weaver, loving the freedom that the Saori weaving gives you, permission to create how and as you choose, it’s almost like your hands take the direction and you follow on. Not so with double weave. This week is about getting out of my comfort zone, following charts, graphs and instructions and having a clear end result in mind. So I switched my mindset and focused on learning these new techniques.
I first worked some rows as a simple plain weave, before separating the dark and light into the two separate layers of weave. As I got used to following the chart and I could see the results taking shape, I found my mind starting to work on the possibilities double weave can inspire. By working on the basics of structure, the possibilities of building on from that are endless. Tomorrow I will extend on the double weave, adding more details and techniques.
I also brought with me a white warp ready for some shibori weaving. It took a moment to set it up on the loom (thanks Kaz) and I made a good start. This weave is all white, no colour changes as you go as the magic will happen with those extra threads we weave in to create the resist for dyeing. I am adding texture though and am also planning to add the texture with other natural yarns – silk, cotton, linen – I am fascinated to see the resulting play of colour as the different fibres take up the dye differently.
Fiona Durman from Ashculme Textiles is the first Weaver in Residence at Curiousweaver Studio. Fiona is travelling from Wagga Wagga and I am absolutely delighted that she is using this opportunity to really run with her ideas! She will be busy as the program of learning is full on. She’ll be dyeing warps, ikat wefts and warps, double cloth and woven shibori along with other free techniques including rail reed work.
Of course you’ll want to see her in action over a cup of tea and the studio will be open between 10am – 11am on Wednesday 28 March. This is an opportunity to see the studio and speak to Fiona. Morning tea supplied. Free but bookings are essential. Very limited numbers. Contact Kaz.