Thursday, December 18, 2014


There are some aspects to weaving that are more...challenging...than others.

People can approach weaving any way they like.  Some people find the combination of warp and weft colours, texture, or the more 'technical' approach more intriguing.  Some people like all of those, all together or serially.

A weaver can focus on honing their technical skills, or they can just go with the flow.  As long as the individual is happy, it doesn't really matter.

However, if a weaver is going to enter a juried show or in some way put their work into the world to be judged, they really need to be aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it.

I have juried exhibits on a number of occasions and while how I mark is a reflection of my opinion, it is an informed opinion.  I have gone through the process of being judged and while it's not always pleasant to have someone point out faults, it is always educational - if we accept that perhaps the judge/jury may know more than we do and then see if their comments are applicable.

One time I agreed with another juror that a particular textile we were examining did not deserve first place.  When the third juror questioned why we would not give first place to that item, I pointed out a rather (to me) glaring technical fault with it.  In the end we all agreed that while it was a pretty impressive piece of weaving, it could not be given a first place ribbon.

So what's the story with the above photo?  And is it 'perfect'?

Well, first of all, no, it's not 'perfect'.  The weft used is actually a little bit too thick and the pick count is 'off'.  So I would never submit this textile to a juried exhibit.  But it was never intended to be on display for anyone but my family and friends.  It lives on my dining room table, covered with clear plastic so that it can be seen but doesn't get dirty.

The whole project came about because my Swedish neighbour desperately wanted this particular design which is traditional to the province she hails from, but wide enough to properly cover her large dining table.  She also wanted three cloths, one for each additional leaf to extend the table for small, medium and large family gatherings.  And she wanted each cloth to have a 'proper' border all around the edge.  In order to get the width required the cloth had to be woven double wide.  Whew!

I would not even consider doing it until after I got the Compu-Dobby - I simply did not have sufficient bars for the mechanical dobby to execute this design!  (The Swedish Snowflake design is a large one - twice as long with the double width thing happening, plus another chain for the borders?  Not happening until I had the computer assist.)

I decided to take a sabbatical from production weaving at one point and told her I would do the table cloths for her.  The warp was wound at 36 epi per layer (72 epi in total) 30 yards long, just in case I messed up one or more of her cloths.

Once I got the loom dressed and started weaving it became apparent that every single shed had to be checked and cleared.  I used a small hand mirror to check from each side to make sure the shed was clear before throwing the shuttle.  Out of the four sheds for each two picks, only one was clear some of the time - the other three always had to have some threads re-aligned to make a clear path for the shuttle.  And the fold.  Oh, the fold, the bugabear of weavers who try to weave a double wide fabric!

After managing to successfully weave her three table cloths (she got to hem them!) I still had some warp left over.  I also had enough of the singles blue linen to weave myself a cloth to fit my table, plus one for a friend.

The 30 yards took about 3 months to weave as I could only manage 9 inches a day instead of my more usual 10-15 yards a day.

It was an huge technical challenge.  By the end of it I felt enormous satisfaction.  There wasn't a single pick that wound up in the 'wrong' place - not one area where the two layers were 'stitched' together.  The cloths fit my neighbour's table 'properly' and she was thrilled.  I have a piece to display on my table and I gave a gift to a friend who had been very generous to me.

But it was a once in a lifetime project.  Been there, done that, got the tablecloth!


MegWeaves said...

Putting something in a juried show is supposed to be educational, whether a piece is accepted or rejected. Totally. I hope you and your peers explained the glaring errors to the maker, however, because I had a comment once saying, "Beautiful piece, too many errors," and I showed it to two weaving guild groups and nobody could tell me what they were, and there were past national presidents and other big wigs in these two groups.

Laura Fry said...

Yes, that was a rather cryptic comment! How much feedback depends on the organizing body. Sometimes they have forms to fill out with room for comments. If I find something 'wanting' I try to leave the weaver with suggestions or at least explain why I found the piece lacking. Usually it's the wet finishing. :(


MegWeaves said...

I wish we had conscientious judges who really want to teach, like yourself. No wonder younger members don't stick around.

Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

Now I get curious. You write: "The weft used is actually a little bit too thick and the pick count is 'off'."
Does that mean that, for juried shows, only balanced cloth is acceptable? So, for instance, warp rep would be "out"?

Examining cultural differences is always interesting, but often incomprehensible...

(And about juries being "educational" - all rejected pieces I have sent in have come back w/o comments, except perhaps "lovely piece, but we don't have space")

Laura Fry said...

Hej Kerstin,

No, cloth with warp or weft emphasis is fine. It is just that this cloth is a twill variant and ideally ought to be 50/50. The motifs are not square but stretched out. (Astrid's cloths were done with a finer weft which did square. Those I would happily submit!)

Knowing that the blue weft was thicker I had the option of re sleying or accepting that mine was going to be imperfect. And, knowing they are off, I would never submit for jurying.

As for cultural differences, I suppose this is another. I have judged shows where entrants were highly incensed over receiving what were meant to be helpful comments. Not everyone wants to hear that they could have done better. I learned that a judge needs to be able to defend their comments or simply not make any. :-/. Some juried shows don't provide feedback, all that happens is that ribbon winners get announced.

The last time I judged a show was ANWG in Bellingham. I and another judge did the guild booth display. No feedback other than the ribbons was given. But I suggested to the other judge that in addition to the ribbons provided by the conference we give Smiley Face awards. I got a pad of small post it notes and a marking pen and drew smiley faces which we then awarded to individual pieces because they were outstanding and made us smile to see them.

I don't know if the awards were appreciated but we felt good awarding them. .:)

Jurying is not always easy, for the judge or the judged. I have no answers.


Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

It is OK not to have answers!
Thing is (was): I weave this (whatever), in a pattern that is not square. ('cos it isn't - either different # of ends/picks, or "off" as yours) It reminds [judge] of something "traditional" - but is, well, off. So judge says "no, 'cos it is off"?

(Getting no feedback makes one (ok, makes *me*) curiouser every time...)

Laura Fry said...

Yes, I always tell people that if you are doing something on purpose, to let the judges know you did it on purpose. But sometimes they still say 'no'. :-/