Twill-tapestry Workshop

From 8 – 12 August 2011 a workshop took place at my home and studio in rural Ontario on the subject of twill-tapestry weaving, the technique used to produce the historic Kashmir shawl.  It was a residential workshop with three students attending, two lodged in the house and one camping in the orchard with her own tent; home-cooked meals were provided, with all the amenities taking advantage of warm summer weather and locally-available fruit and vegetables.  Plans for evening programming faded as we lingered over late suppers, conversation, and glasses of red wine.
Two students had background in tapestry weaving and one in loom weaving, and all lacked familiarity with the other specialty.  Each student brought her own quite different table-top loom, capable of the four-shaft treadling needed for twill weave – every one required some individual troubleshooting to prepare to weave a balanced twill fabric.  Tapestry designs could be prepared on a “brick” grid to coordinate with the twill structure, either on graph-paper or on computer screen, and student approaches ranged from one with her own laptop, one using a studio computer, and one designing on paper but sampling the convenience of the computer screen by comparison.  After introductory sessions outlining the history of the shawl industry, design and technological development, and demonstrating the on-loom routines, students set to work designing their individual projects.
Interestingly, none of the students took time to practise the shawlweaving processes, but launched as soon as they could into the start of their project designs.  By the second and third days of sessions, the studio atmosphere of quiet concentration and progress was gratifying.  At week’s end one had cut off a sample of a major part of her miniature tapestry design, and the other two were well into the first of two or more design panels of their scarf projects.
A friend recently commented how little tapestryweavers know about any weave structure more complicated than the basic plain weave we always use.  Straight twill, requiring four shafts, is perhaps the first step up from plain weave, but it is a big one, and I’m surprised my students made it so easily.  Besides the complications of working from the back of the cloth, and double-weft-interlock, traditional Kashmir shawl technique requires weavers to follow numerical instructions derived from the design, instead of judging their progress visually, and to not let the design get thrown off by the advancing diagonal grain of the twill treadling.  I thought the ease with which we incorporated these adjustments was reassuring, and I hope this historical technique can make available a new option for embellishing loom-weaving with tapestry designs, for weavers outside the tradition.

Red Fleet Fleeing by Pam Patrie

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~ by Peter Harris on 31/10/2011.

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