Weaving Scarves to Weaving Jewellery

I thought I’d start this blog by showing how I got here – about to start a business weaving jewellery. I didn’t start weaving on a loom until my first year of uni, so that seems like a good place to begin.

My first major project at university was inspired by Indian design and it was through my research that I first discovered ikat, a technique that would influence all of my future weaving. Ikat is a resist dyeing method similar to tie-dyeing except that you tie the threads before it is woven into fabric. I was originally drawn to it because I liked the possibility of having both a 2-dimensional pattern through ikat dyeing, and a 3D pattern with the weave structure. I have stuck with it both because I love the process and because the blurry edges it produces are a nice contrast to a normally very structured woven cloth.

During my second year of university, my work was very similar to the first year in that I continued to combine ikat with a more 3D weave structure. However, it was in my project inspired by waves that I first used spun silk. I had used tussah silk in my India project, but that doesn’t have the shine or silky feel that spun silk does; and I had been spending the rest of my time experimenting with cotton and linen. Spun silk is, of course, such a pleasure to touch and it drapes beautifully, but it also a pleasure to weave with. I had been struggling a lot with linen breaking constantly, so I fell in love with silk.

Finished ikat shawl.

In the final year of my bachelors degree I continued using ikat and spun silk, although my designs became bolder, inspired by Art Deco, and focused more on the 2D pattern both with ikat and structure. It was during this year, however, that I first started using natural dyes. Working with natural dyes is more of a challenge: matching colours is very difficult as each batch will turn out as a slightly different colour, and the process also takes longer. But I really enjoy creating gorgeous earthy colours from flowers, berries or wood chips, and I love the history too.

Through ikat and natural dyes, I had fallen in love with dyeing. I wanted to try more techniques.

During the summer in between my bachelors and masters I tried my hand at solar dyeing. I made bundles of silk with dye stuffs rolled up in them or just placed in the jars with them and some water, and left them on a sunny windowsill for two months. They smelled absolutely awful when I opened them, but they looked amazing.

My tutor didn’t like that they couldn’t be reproduced, but I kept good records and was able to create something similar every time; and I like that each one is unique, just like working with ikat and natural dyes in general. Trying to control these somewhat unpredictable techniques is a very appealing challenge to me.

Also during the summer I made a matchbox pinhole camera and managed to capture some very interesting and ethereal looking photos which I used as inspiration for my masters work. Although I worked with white undyed silk a lot during the project, exploring its beautiful simplicity and playing with different silks and weave structure, I also brought colour in by starting to paint with natural dyes. I painted threads before weaving them, like a more unstructured version of ikat, and worked with the fabric after it was woven, but I also painted pre-woven fabric in the colours and patterns of my pinhole photos. I then cut these into strips and wove them into my fabric. I like that more interesting shapes and subtle changes in colour can be achieved by painting with the dyes. The most fun thing about weaving is, to me, the challenge of finding ways to soften the very blocky, linear and repetitive forms woven cloth tends to take all while being bound to the limitations of the loom.

Now, I am going to start to make woven jewellery. It is a little bit different to the larger pieces I have been weaving in my previous projects, although I did weave some ribbon at the beginning of my masters. I have also taken a couple of jewellery making workshops. Armed with the knowledge I have, I am confident that I will be able to adjust to this change in outcome, and am very excited to get started!

For my first collection, I am going to be looking back at my work inspired by Art Deco because I want that boldness and luxury for my statement necklaces. More on this in the next post.

I am really enthusiastic about this new project, and can’t wait to see how my first pieces turn out.

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