What's Weaving Got to Do with Quilt Art?

21 Apr 2011

handwoven quilt art loompokey boltonHave 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.

ellen seeburgerQ. 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.

handwovenQ. 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. 

handwoven scarvesQ. 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!

handwoven pillowsSo 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!


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Comments

CarolineA wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 2:47 AM

hi Pokey, I spin, I weave, I crochet and have designed my own cloth dolls ( in another life)  and having hit a slump in what I was doing, over the summer I discovered mixed media crafts and then this fabulous site! Its a completely natural progression as what you learn enhances those skills you already have, and gives you another dimension to your craft. It also helps you look at things in a different light and I am going back to my older crafts with renewed enthusiasm, while happily embarking on my new ones. Weaving and quilting  involve making fabric out of the materials at hand, and creating a new and unique piece of cloth, and for me its a perfect fit, and I can happily incorporate all my old and new skills into the one piece.

on 21 Apr 2011 6:53 AM

Although I am awed by Ellen's ability to weave and applaud her creativity, I immediately thought OH NO! when I read about cutting up vintage dress patterns. The sewing community's great interest in vintage clothing and vintage patterns continues to grow. I hope that these were not the increasingly rare designer patterns that many couture sewers regard as treasures and want to preserve. We can learn so much from examining the designs of the past and building upon them.

kateribears wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 7:19 AM

I have a loom, sadly put away in storage right now.  But seeing this makes me want to get it out and WEAVE!  I have mostly made rag rugs and the one in my kitchen has lasted for years.

on 21 Apr 2011 9:04 AM

Hello SKPOWERS. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I completely agree with you. I love old dress patterns for making dresses as well and understand your concern. The dress patterns  I used were from a local thrift store. Most were from the 1970s and were already damaged (missing key pieces of the pattern) so it felt like it was a good way to recycle them. I agree that it is important to save rare designer patterns and that their value for inspiration and research cannot be overlooked!

Lindy101 wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 9:12 AM

I get tickled when I 'step back' and view myself alone in the room, sitting at my computer reading your article, nodding and smiling as I read! About the third time I nodded I became embarrassingly aware of what I was doing!!! I have plans to weave natural vegetation, as Ellen has done, but what I was nodding about was the 'drift' from craft to craft to art form...I was going to blissfully do counted cross stitch the rest of my life-until quilting! Then through exposure to QA I am being sucked into the art quilt world. And thanks to Interweave, I subscribe to almost all the newsletters, because you never know what might spark another genre might be to your creativity !

LynnM@65 wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 9:26 AM

Hi Pokey,  I'm also one of those people who work in multiple media, and have not only experienced fiber creep, but also multiple media creep!  I just love to learn, and  along with quilting, my other current favorites weaving, spinning, knitting, and beading / wirework, basketmaking, etc.,  and usually have something in progress in at least several media at the same time.  I've also taken time to venture into dyeing, screen printing, stamping, mixed media, watercolor, lacemaking, and many other things at one tie or another, so much that one of my boys jokes that when someone asks what different things I do,  it would be easier to list the things I don't do.

As far as my weaving and quilting goes, I usually plan to make a longer warp than necessary, not only so that I have space to experiment, but I almost always weave off the remaining warp, just so I can save it for crazy quilting or patchwork.  Some warps that were originally planned to be towels, are now yardage for sewing projects, and the scraps will be saved for patchwork.

Diane BS wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 11:04 AM

I weave, crochet, sew, quilt and do several other crafts that don't use fabric or fiber, but those two elements are definitely my muses.  I have picked up a technique that I am totally obsessed with.  I found bits and pieces about it on the internet beginning with a article at a Threads website and it intrigued me.  Called PIN WEAVING, it is similar to the card board weaving that you did as a child, but done with pins which give one much more control.  I use fabric and fiber  strips, which allow for a great deal of color and expression.  I take my finished "fabric" and then quilt it with batting and free motion to stabilize it.   My husband says I am painting with thread.  I love this weaving technique, and am working to make it my specialty.

on 21 Apr 2011 2:43 PM

I love the term - fiber art creep.  It so perfectly explains how I've traveled thru the fiber arts - I started embroidery when I was 3 or 4 - made all my clothes by fourth grade and started weaving a few years out of college.  I've always considered myself fickle - I started beading in first grade - no macaroni for me - only seed beads!  I combined them with my sewing and weaving and paper arts.  I picked up a torch and fell in love with glass for a while -I absolutely consumed me!! But now it's just one of my many passions.  Some hobbies sit on the back burner for a while - but they are all there - in my repertoire waiting to come back when needed!

on 21 Apr 2011 4:18 PM

Hi Pokey, I was a weaver before I was a quilter, and I still have my Handwoven magazines from over 20 years ago! (I learned so much from them!) Due to space limitations, my floor loom is unfortunately in storage. However, a few months ago, a neighbor surprised me by giving me a vintage, 4 harness, metal Structo Artcraft table-top loom, which is the PERFECT size for weaving small patches and thin bands to add to quilts. I haven't had as much time as I would like to play around with it, but I did weave and incorporate a small twill band into a this little art quilt, which you can see here: www.etsy.com/.../rural-roads-patched-and-stitched-textile

CarolineA wrote
on 21 Apr 2011 7:10 PM

I just had to chime back in! We are all sooo alike, in our approach to what we do. Pin weaving and small loom weaving should be a part of the art quilting movement and I could see a series of articles being well received. They do call the small square and triangle loom patchwork looms, because they make small squares and triangles, but think of the possibilities that pin-weaving introduces!  You can use all sorts of techniques there, including chain /crochet stitch, some of the 3D embroidery stitches,  the more traditional rug weaving stitches as well as regular weaving - its a real free form technique because its easy enough to pick up knitting stitches as well. There are a lot of us out there doing this and turning up on mixed media, stitching and similar sites; there is no one category into which we comfortably fit because of our multi-skilling. I'm only just starting out on my adventure, but I know there are artists out there who work across different media like this regularly, and others who would love to try, if they could find out how.

So how about it Interweave? Its not traditional weaving or crochet, or beading or knitting, but would fit quite comfortably into the QA  area. Its where I am finding most of my inspiration, and I don't quilt - well not yet, lol!