Disclaimer: I am about as much of a novice as you can get with respect to weaving. My artistic experience is largely in music and writing (and, previously, espresso and a career in hair-styling). I have not been typically drawn to “handsy” artistry, but took up weaving to satisfy an urge to try it out over the past 30 years. Anything written in my “Tangled Skein” posts should read with that consideration in mind. I am not an expert and I may have misleading or inaccurate information as I explore and experiment. That said, I hope others can learn something from my folly as they read the unvarnished exploration of those urges.
Well, you can say I am improving. A bit.
The big box yarn supply was out of the black yarn I was using and needed to replace after using some of it to widen the scarf I was working on, so I ended up getting some more teal and decided to play around with an asymmetrical “plaid” of alternating blocks of 28 black rows with 10 teal rows on the weft. I figured, not only will it give the pattern more “texture” in terms of colorscape, but the asymmetry might give the scarf a bit of visual “motion” that might be lost in a standard even-row composition. I might also be talking out of my ass, but I do tend to lean towards asymmetry when I do things (loved it when I was allowed to cut asymmetrical haircuts, for example) . To me, odd numbers in art and unbalanced looks feel more active. I am not a visual artist, I know very little about any theories about the matter — I just know how it feels to me. Also, for being involved in science and a field that strongly favors balance, I have never much cared for balance in these things and, while I could have used a 30:10 (3:1) distribution of weft counts, I just plain didn’t want to. 28:10 (14:5) adds to the unbalanced feel and I will darned well do it, even if it is only whim.
Here is a picture of about the fourth pattern repeat with about half of the black weft rows woven in:
This is still on the loom and stretched out, but once the tension is gone and I “wet finish” the scarf, I expect the spaces to fill in and tighten up. I’m getting a better idea on how to approach beating the weft and setting my selvedges for a cleaner look, but I’m still firmly on the low end of the learning curve.
Some of the wavy look is due to me learning how to maintain the tension as I roll the weft onto the front roller. Those knots that I made too big are making the waves, even though I am slipping in cardboard as I roll it up. Again, I hope/expect those will go away a bit after finishing with a wash. Otherwise, I’ll have to pay attention to see if I can locate the real issue if I am wrong. Those weaves were straighter before rolling up, looking closer to the teal ones in this picture.
A smart person would be keeping track of progress, but I am not that smart. I would estimate I am about half-way done with the scarf, maybe slightly less.
Overall, considering that I do zero crafts involving working with physical media, I think this is a fairly decent first foray. I’ll reserve judgment until it is off the loom.
Ideas moving forward
I was prompted by a relative who saw the previous pictures on Facebook. She mentioned when I bemoaned my lack of consistency and the initial flaws that, in some cultures, flaws are a sign that something was indeed handwoven or handmade — and that they were valued elements in a product as they were a sign that someone’s energy (and spirit) were put into the creation and not soullessly “manufactured”. [She didn’t put it exactly that way, but that was the gist.] She was a doctor with the Peace Corp when I was a teen and worked in parts of Africa that were far removed from what we think of as “Western Culture” for a number of years. I’m thinking she might know a little bit about such things, so I’ll trust this assessment.
And I got to thinking about some of the Japanese art that reveres imperfections, impermanence, and the incomplete: wabi-sabi. Per Wikipedia: Characteristics of wabi-sabi aesthetics and principles include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and the appreciation of both natural objects and the forces of nature. There is also a related concept, kintsugi, which is tied to the idea of mushin (“no mind”), “which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change, and fate as aspects of human life”.
In other words, I can see some value in placing less emphasis on symmetry and perfection and more on letting the flaws be self-evident. That doesn’t mean trying to create flaws, but to look towards finding “less perfect” working materials than the machine-made big-box yarns. I want to use the “cheap stuff’ to get my core technique down, but I may favor handmade fibers after I get the basics down.
A casual look on the internet didn’t turn up any resources for wabi-sabi weaving, but I think I’m going to pursue this idea a bit further…