Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Process: Harvest Home Soumak Study

I walked today.  We're experiencing unusually warm weather, 22C/71F at the moment, and I knew I'd regret it if I didn't take advantage.  So I wandered and roamed and tromped about. After more than 3 hours of jaunting, pretty much continually, I stopped in at our usual coffee haunt and was very glad to see Mr. DD, who had taken Morris out to the farm for a run in the summery weather.  I'd had enough walking and so had my feet, so home we went. I had a few destinations in mind for my walk, but the journey was mostly about getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the day.

The walking cleared my head and made me wonder more about Process. I'd spent the past few days clearing off my tapestry looms and exploring soumak weaving, a style of knotting on the loom which adds texture and line to tapestry.  (Click on the link for images.)  I had been wanting to work through Jean Wilson's Soumak Workbook, (long out of print), but I had never started.  There are better sources on soumak, but Wilson's writings came to me at a time when I was new to weaving; her books were fearless and explored fibre in refreshingly naive ways. So, in the category of "High Time," I set out to use up the warp on my copper pipe loom, the one given to me by a friend who has moved on from fibre (and who is now an accomplished painter and photographer), the loom still holding my "Winter Count" tapestry diary from the early months of 2014.

I had no plan for my soumak study.  Well, I did: I had intended to weave using only one yarn, a 2 ply hand spun Romney with flecks of dyed colours, but my coloured yarns soon came calling, so into the piece they went, along with bundles of raffia I've been waiting to test.  I did not stick to a pattern or cartoon and it shows-there is really no design here and only one excellent spot in this little piece.  The rest is, quite frankly, a mishmash of knots, built as I followed Wilson's book page by page, or as close as I get to following a straight path. When I cut the pieces from the loom, I was rather embarrassed to discover skips over the warps on the back of the soumak areas.  I take pride in having the backs of my pieces as clean as the fronts, so this was a reminder to take more care and use the mirrors I keep stashed in my weaving supplies.

Despite the lack of visual appeal in this piece, I learned a lot.  I take many notes when weaving and here are a few verbatim excerpts:

October 5: Wilson says (p. 21) that the appearance of open vs. closed is the same.  What she doesn't mention is that Z/S yarn doesn't twist up in the open fashion, making the texture feel softer/thicker.*. . .Using raffia in plain weave leaves warp showing...2/1 with 1 ground weft does twist yarn, probably because you are working in the same direction...(October 7): p. 41, Half-hitch Soumak, Single (Swedish Knot): Love, love, love this! No sheds, no needles, no background threads needed.  I can place the single knots wherever I choose and stop at any point...Wilson says the ribbed side is the top side, but I prefer the texture of the knotted side...*Note that the warp shows through on ribbed side in some places, even though it's completely covered on knot side....(October 8) Note how Wensleydale wool highlights more matte Romney in orange leaf. Beautiful! *The leaf segment is a tiny, perfect fragment....(October 9): The back of this piece is a disaster. The front (in terms of design) is no screaming hell, either.  That orange leaf surrounded by knots is still lovely.

Harvest Home is finished and will soon join my notebook full of weaving samples.  As a weaving, it's less than an unqualified success.  As a study in soumak, it's more helpful.  By the way, there were two happy accidents in this weaving process: the orange leaf and the Winter Count tapestry, which sat patiently waiting for me to finish weaving the warp.  It turned out to be a nice piece, worthy of framing (And, yes, the back is as clean as the front):

The "perfect little leaf."

Winter Count (4.5 x 11.5 inches)
The art of Process is difficult to explain, for, of course, when we attempt to put action into words, we lose Process.  Process simply Is. It exists only in the moments of our Doing. Process is the Yoga of Action and Activity; in trying to capture those moments, something is invariably lost.  I'll leave you with this, a short video of photographs I took along the way in my soumak exploration. It doesn't capture Process, but it may give you a glimpse into how my Process flows:


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