It’s been more than a decade already since I studied Handwoven Design at Bradford College. I had gone back to college to get some training in art and design. While there I was pushed a long way outside my comfort zone but in the process I learned to create fabric from all sorts of starting points. Here are two of the fabrics I created for my final project at Bradford, based on the theme of water.
I have always loved looking out over bodies of water, large and small. I grew up next to a big river, the Yorkshire Ouse, spending many a summer afternoon sitting on a little wooden jetty hidden in the reeds above the mudflats, watching and listening to the tidal flow of the river, lost in my own world, usually with a book for company. I find listening to waves lapping a shore calming; hearing them pound against the shore I find superbly invigorating!
For my project I decided to focus on streams and ripples. With the first I wanted to capture the movement of water, how streams dance as they fall over rocks and rush down hillsides. With the other I was more concerned at capturing how almost calm waters reflect the sky yet still have a life of their own, always moving even in the faintest of breezes.
I also challenged myself to do something I rarely choose to do – include man-made fibres in my fabrics. The resulting fabrics were woven in quite similar ways – a basic 2/2 twill with some cramming and spacing in the sett – but using very different fibres. The one fibre they had in common was an over-twisted nylon. In one fabric I used it as the warp and in another as the weft. Getting an over-twisted warp that you can hardly see onto the loom was an adventure and a half. I had never woven with either over-twisted yarn or with nylon. It was worse than untangling a fishing line when I lost control of it, and the first warp went in the bin. But I learned how to tame it in the end and you can see below the final results.
My ribbon dress, ‘Stream’, was woven from organza ribbons, chenille and glitter yarn with an over-twisted nylon weft. The window panels, ‘Ripples’, were woven with the over-twisted nylon in the warp and a weft of paper yarn twisted with silk, and a glitter yarn. I’m happy to say that both fabrics are still in one piece! The panels have survived being hung in my window at home for a decade. I wash them every now and again, in the washing machine. The paper yarn is incredible, very resilient yet pliable, and the panels themselves allow the light to shine in while providing privacy.
The ribbon dress is really just a long length of fabric that can be wound around a body in lots of different ways. I envisaged it as a stream falling from the shoulders of a ‘goddess’ but one of the fashion tutors at the College saw it and dressed a mannequin for me to show me just how good it really could look on a real body. She saw the movement of the ‘stream’ and made it wind around and around the mannequin just as it might wind around the landscape of its inspiration.