Adding the Dye Dimension

At a Weavers Interest meeting late last year I received a 1998 issue of Weavers magazine with an article by Kay Faulkner about woven shibori. I regret that I was not able to take Kay’s class on woven shibori as I learned so much in the two classes I was able to take with her.

So, what is woven shibori? Shibori is a Japanese resist dyeing technique where cloth is stitched or tied in intricate patterns, the stitching drawn tight, and the fabric dyed resulting in resist patterns where the tight gathering threads kept the dye away. Tie-dyed T-shirts are an example of shibori. With woven shibori, the gathering threads are woven into the fabric, gathered once the fabric is off the loom, then the fabric is dyed.

There are two schools of thought about how to weave in the gathering threads. Kay’s article used supplementary warp threads for gathering. Catherine Ellis, another expert on the technique, tends to use supplementary weft threads for gathering. As I was following Kay’s article, I used supplementary warp threads – the black threads in this photo.

Weaving with black gathering threads
Weaving with Supplementary Warps

The pattern in the article had both plain weave and broken twill options for the ground fabric. I wove my first sample as plain weave, but was interested in seeing how the placemats would look in a point twill rather than a broken twill. So I threaded the warp as an extended point twill on shafts 1-4 with the supplementary warps on shafts 5 and 6. Weaving the twill ground fabric required 4 treadles with shaft 5 up and 4 treadles with shaft 6 up, for a total of 8. The plain weave ground required an additional 4 treadles for a total of 12 treadles. I have several large cones of cotton acquired years ago. There’s no label, but it’s approximately 8/2 or 10/2 cotton. I sett the warp at 24 ends per inch which was a bit firm for the plain weave, but perfect for the twill. I had enough warp for three rectangular placemats and a square mat after weaving the plain weave sample. The three placemats were woven in different twill treadlings – straight twill, point twill, and broken twill.

Once I took the fabric off the loom, it was time to gather the supplementary warps tight.

Gathering the supplementary warps

Then, using fibre reactive dyes, I painted aqua on one side and grass green on the other side:

After setting the dye, it was time for the big reveal:

Dyed fabric

While I’m happy with the result, I thought there should have been some white fabric between the green and aqua. I think I could have either tied the gathering threads tighter or been less generous when painting the dye on. More experiments will be needed!

The final placemats are subtle, but effective.

Placemats hemmed and pressed. From top: Straight twill, point twill, broken twill.

Project particulars:

336 ends of white cotton sett at 24 ends per inch. 41 ends of gathering thread. 14″ wide in the loom. Final placemats are 12.25″ wide by 18″ long (after hemming). Source article: “Loom-Controlled Shibori” by Kay Falkner, Weaver’s Summer 1998 p 34.

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