Thursday, March 2, 2023

That Old Wet Magic!


loom state - alpaca

wet finished - alpaca  (samples from Magic in the Water)

The other day Sharon asked on an on line group for some advice on wet finishing her alpaca-silk shawl so I discussed things that could be done and encouraged her to be more 'aggressive' in her fulling.  Here is her report on what she did (with permission):

"Laura, Thank you again for all of your advice! A “bit more” aggression with the agitation and the temperature brought the threads together nicely at 20epi. Oh, but when I followed your directions and pressed the cloth while it was still damp; the cloth came alive! 

The cloth looked okay when it came off the loom. After my first attempt to full it, I thought I would have to increase the sett to have the pattern come together and not look like individual threads. The fabric looked bedraggled when it was wet. From it’s first washing, I knew the fabric would look better when it dried, but still wouldn’t look as good as I hoped/expected; I was loosing heart. 

Then the pressing! Voila! The pressing “set” the structure of this pattern, made it look crisp, and really brought out the sheen. I had forgotten everything I’ve read about pressing different fibers and your instructions in your video. Thank you for the reminder! I now see the beauty of just using the alpaca/silk yarn. Again, thank you!"

It truly IS magic when it happens - all the individual threads come together to become 'one' - whole cloth.  Suddenly all the individual threads join together and become 'real' as a different thing.  Cloth instead of threads.

Life is like that, too.  In so many ways we (I'm talking about 'my' culture) trudge along thinking that we have to do everything for and by ourselves.  But when we work as a community things generally go a lot better.

We see it here - we just had about 60 cm of snow fall over the past week and each household has been struggling to get their driveways cleared.  But there are some people who help each other - neighbours with snow blowers will do the neighbour to the other side who doesn't have one.  Some people even clear the snow off the roads in front of their house, which makes driving a lot easier.  (While others simply dump ALL the snow from *their* driveways ONTO the road making it that much harder for others to navigate the street.)

I see it in the weaving world at times with students wanting (or not) feedback or suggestions for improvement.  I had a person refuse to let me 'help' them by offering suggestions telling me that they were very intelligent and they could figure it out for themselves.  I had to quietly back away and watch them struggle for several days when they had my experience and resources right there - all they had to do was be receptive to additional information.  I was made to feel like my 20+ years of experience were of no value because THEY were smart enough to figure it out for themselves.  

And then I offer to help someone like Sharon and see success and the delight at finally achieving the effect they wanted for a very special textile.  And I keep offering to help people because the Sharons make up for the others.  

So I keep plugging away at writing my essays in hopes that they will receive a receptive audience, that they will help a few people who are struggling and maybe don't know why but are willing to open their minds and try, sometimes on blind faith.

It's a responsibility that I feel - to help others so they don't have to struggle or be disappointed.  

Another student another time took a workshop on wet finishing and the warp she had didn't look like much on the loom but would magically transform in the wet finishing.  She remained dubious during the weaving and I kept reminding her the magic would happen in the water.  She continued on faith that what I was saying was 'true' and on the last day we did the wet finishing and that light came on - the one behind the eyes.

"I get it!  You don't make what you want to see in the loom, you make it so that it can happen in the wet finishing!"


Creating cloth is a kind of magic.  Our distant ancestors began the process by figuring out how to make string, then manipulate it into something else, something useful.  Something beautiful in some cases.  And how when that assembly of threads was exposed to water, it could transform into something greater than the sum of it's parts.

For anyone wondering, the original version of Magic in the Water is sometimes seen for sale at estate sales or from weavers downsizing.  The pdf version is available via blurb.  It can also be purchased in a 'magazine' format.  It doesn't have the samples, but close up photos (as above) are included.

After another grey dreary windy day yesterday, the sun has just now poked through a cloud.  Must be time to get to the loom and weave a towel.  

And think about the next essay...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing! The difference is almost startling, at least it is to a non-weaver. Fascinating!