Have you experienced fiber art creep? You know, when you learn one fiber genre, let’s say quilting, leads to dyeing your own fabric, which may lead to screen printing or felting…which may lead to spinning…or paper making…and so on?
C’mon, admit it. You know this has happened to you. It has certainly happened to me. My hand embroidery journey led me to quilting, wet-media surface design techniques, machine felting, and many other side trips along the way. And the adventure continues!
What I find is that once you enter the land of fiber art, it is almost certain that you will become curious about other forms and techniques than the one you started with. And even if you only take a taste of that form, it will open your eyes to new design possibilities and help you learn the principles of color, balance, emphasis, and so on.
When I learned Ellen Seeburger, our new assistant editor for Quilting Arts, was a weaver, I couldn’t wait to find a free minute to ask her about the overlap (pardon the pun!) of weaving with quilting.
Q. How long have you been weaving?
A. About a year and a half. I attended a craft school where I studied weaving and textile design for a year.
Q. What kind of weaving do you do?
A. I was trained to weave in Sweden, so I weave on a Swedish loom. I was lucky enough to find one in Illinois and when I moved to Massachusetts it came with me, delicately wrapped in layers and layers of bubble wrap. I don’t have a particular style I use, but I love to experiment, try new things, and new materials. I have woven with copper wire, vintage dress patterns, and items from nature like sticks and leaves.
Q. Vintage dress patterns? What prompted you to try that and what did you learn?
A. It was an experiment where I cut them into long strips (like yarn) and then wove them with a cotton warp. There was a nice variegated color that emerged from the black ink and how the paper had been cut. The patterns were very delicate, but when woven became stronger. At the time I was very curious about combining paper with yarn, to see what the result would be and if it would be a good quality for a rug or household item, and also about the idea of reusing something in a new way. I also wove a small project using zippers, with the metal teeth unzipped and facing up. The result certainly wasn’t beautiful, but I learned so much about tension, surface, and texture that it was well worth it.
Q. What do you enjoy about it? Is it difficult to learn?
A. There is something about crossing threads and making cloth that is captivating. There is so much history in the process and it is simple yet so complicated at the same time, and I enjoy that juxtaposition. I don’t think weaving is difficult to learn as much as it requires patience. There is a great deal of math and repetition involved. I feel lucky to have had wonderful weaving teachers who were inspiring and encouraged me to test my comfort level with projects.
Q. What kinds of similarities do you see between weaving and art quilting?
A. I think basic design principles are important in both weaving and art quilting. And of course I think taking the time to properly plan a project is essential. In art quilting it might be more about the sketching stage and then translating ideas to cloth through appliqué, stitching, or embellishment. Weaving is similar, I sketch my ideas, only I’m just working within different parameters and with different tools. The biggest similarity, though, I think, is the tactile quality of the fiber itself. People who love fiber and work with it-art quilters, knitters, spinners, weavers, have a knowledge and appreciation of the way fiber can be manipulated and also how omnipresent it is in our lives.
Q. How does choosing colors of fabric for a quilt compare to choosing fibers for a woven piece?
A. Using colors you love is essential. When you spend so much time and energy on a project, it is important to realize that you will be staring at those colors for a very, very long time! I think basic color theory holds for both quilting and weaving, though with quilting it’s a little easier to mix and incorporate more colors. With weaving, if you’ve selected a color for your warp and you decide mid-project that maybe it’s hideous, then you’re a bit out of luck. There’s less flexibility in some ways and more of a focus on making test pieces before embarking on larger projects.
Q. Have you ever incorporated quilting into weaving and vice versa? Do you have any ideas about doing so? What might you want to make?
A. Not yet! Though that definitely sounds like an intriguing idea. There could be some possibilities. It might be nice to quilt with hand-woven fabric.
Q. What creative “muscles” does weaving exercise that would be beneficial to art quilters?
A. I’m not sure I can address that directly, but one thing I’ll say is that I’ve found that there is great benefit in learning about different creative processes, even if you are not planning on using them. It opens doors to new ways of thinking and expressing yourself. Even things that are seemingly very different, like weaving and art quilting!
So this explains why Ellen is always asking when the latest copy of Handwoven magazine will arrive in our offices! Handwoven is full of design advice, technical help, projects, and instructions. Not to mention the colorful photos of gorgeous handmade cloth.
If weaving is something you enjoy or would like to find out more about, I can’t recommend a better way to learn more than with a subscription to Handwoven.
Have you tried weaving? How does it relate to art quilting for you? Did you learn any skills that transferred over? Share with us in the comments section below!