What a weekend we had. Becca and I spent the weekend learning about weaving on Jacquard looms. If you aren’t familiar with this type of loom, they are considered the earliest computer (c. 1801) and are commonly used to weave images and complex patterns. They wove many of the old coverlets – those with eagles and flowers on them. Nowadays they are often used for “art” weaving and for creating short-run specialty fabrics for designers. The looms are powerful, complex beyond comprehension for most of us, expensive, and totally FUN!
What’s really interesting is that I went to the class because I thought Becca was interested and she went because she thought I wanted to go. Either we are way too polite or we know each other better than we know ourselves! Neither of us had an inkling what we were getting ourselves in for or how we would feel at the end of this experience.
Turns out we both took to it like, well, ducks to water! My background set me up perfectly for it: two years at the Center for Creative Studies studying photography, 20 years of graphic design, and my love of weaving. Becca’s love of weaving and her natural curiosity suited her just fine, too. Jacquard weaving is all about the computer. Throwing the shuttle is nearly an afterthought. In fact, there are several companies that will take your digital file, weave it and send back a piece of fabric.
The process (much simplified) we followed is this: 1) select an appropriate image or create a small design that will be repeated to create on overall design, 2) prepare the image in Photoshop by sizing it to the correct image area (each pixel = one thread intersection) and putting it in the proper color mode and file format, 3) open the image in JacqCAD and reducing colors via the posterizing feature until up to 12 colors remain 4) assign an eight shaft weave structure to each of the colors based on the value of the weave structure and your artistic desires 5) cut the weave structure into the image to make it permanent and ready for weaving – at this point it is a purely black and white image, with black representing lifted warp threads and white the visible weft 6) take the file to the loom’s computer and weave.
Here’s a short photo story about our weekend:
Becca weaving on the TC-1. Check out her bare feet! Isn’t there something inherently out of place about weaving on a $50,000 loom in your bare feet?!
This is a view of the loom from the side. How would you like to thread all those heddles? Actually, this loom is only threaded about once per year with 30 to 40 yards of warp, generally one warm and one cool color, every other thread. When the warp is changed, the threads are knotted together and pulled through the heddles so that threading doesn’t have to begin “from scratch.” The sett of this loom is 45 epi.
Here’s my weaving coming around the front beam. I wove a picture of my daughter, Mariah (from a photograph taken by Scott Orser, Orser Photography – it’s Mariah’s favorite photo from a sitting we did last fall), a “blanket” showing blocks of different possible weave structures, and stones in Lake Superior at White Fish Point (not visible here). The weaving following mine is a landscape – the bottom is at the right, it is tall and narrow – belonging to Urban, from Wayne State’s fiber department.
Here’s what they look like hanging on the wall after we cut them off the loom. A total of six different image areas measuring 1320 ends by 280 picks. Sizes vary depending on how hard you beat and the diameter of the thread used.
Here’s a close up of one side of Becca’s. That’s her mom and brother. She was a big heavy-armed, giving the images a big of a squish from top to bottom. The Jacquard-circus-mirror trick!
Here’s a close up of Mariah interpreted in fabric.
So, now Becca and I are trying to figure out how and when we can take the next step in our Jacquard education. At EMU this is a nine-day course held in the summer. There are three levels to achieve. After we take the next class, we will be able to rent the loom. Until then, we can practice getting files ready for weaving in Photoshop and doing lots of studying, reading and color work.