Silk Degrees

Remember Boz Scaggs’ breakthrough album, “Silk Degrees”? It came out in 1976, and it was just about the sexiest thing I ever heard.  The recent sultry days in Memphis brought back the memory of his seductive voice from that album.  And believe it or not, that was what inspired me to do some work with silk which is something I rarely do.

I made two pieces of silk fusion paper by layering some carded tussah silk noils between two layers of soy silk roving. I added embellishments to each piece to give it color and texture. Most of these were  items that I had in my stash:  cochineal  dyed Lincoln wool fiber, angelina fibers, gold metallic flakes, skeleton leaves, angel wings.

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

So, you’re asking, what is silk fusion?  Silk fusion is silk paper fused from silk roving or sliver  using a textile medium or adhesive.   Treenway Silks has a good description of the process as well as a little bit of history. A good source offering instructions for a variety of silk fusion projects is Kath Russon’s book, Handmade Silk Paper.

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Here is a free tutorial on making your own silk fusion presented by Sue Bleiweiss. A project can be completed in a very short time.  The longest part is actually waiting for the silk fusion to dry as that takes 24 hours.

The two pieces I made will probably become covers for blank journals.  But I am hoping to experiment more with 3 dimensional silk fusion such as masks and small sculptures.

As far as journals, I have been working on those as well.  I made one with some left over Kaffe Fassett fabric.  For this I made two covers with Peltex sandwiched in between the fabric. I used a zig zag stitch all around the edge of each cover. To attach the covers to the signatures, I used a double needle coptic stitch.  That is, each binding station required two needles, and as there were 3 stations in this binding, I was sewing with 6 needles at the same time. That beautiful handmade Thai mango paper that I love so much makes its appearance again as an end paper here.

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Inside cover of Journal

Inside cover of Journal with handmade Thai mango paper as end paper

Now I still had some covers left  that I had made a few months ago using the handmade Thai mango paper. I decided to try out one of the stitches I admired in Keith Smith’s book, Non-Adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue. This one is “long stitch with chain” found on page 164 of volume I.  My book didn’t have a spine cover, so instead I used sewing supports that were cut from ultrasuede fabric, then the supports were glued to the inside covers of the book. I used a gold 5/2 pearl cotton that I rubbed on a block of beeswax for the stitching.

Book bound with long stitch with chain

Book bound with long stitch with chain

I like the effect of the long stitch alternating with the chain stitch.  It adds a decorative element to the spine. I can see after doing this, that long stitch can probably be used together with several different stitches to add some interest in the binding.

Still hot here in Memphis, 96 degrees is what I hear it is.  But I am still hearing that luscious voice whispering in my ear: Three a.m. its me again and wouldn’t you know things would have to end this way…..

The Dog on My Baby Wolf

I have a very early version of  Schacht Spindle Company’s Baby Wolf .  It is an 8 harness loom that I purchased in 1983.    Of all my looms, this is the one that gets the most use.  The width of 25″ is just right for most of my weaving projects, and I have a variety of reeds to use on this loom.  A reed of this width is much more affordable than purchasing a reed for my 56″ wide Macomber for example.

But at the moment, there is a dog sitting on this loom, and it’s been there since, oh I’d say January. For the non-initiated, or for new weavers,  “dog” refers to an unsuccessful, ugly or unwanted piece of handwoven fabric. I had wanted to weave a rep weave fabric to use as book covers.  Rep weave is a tightly sett block  weave where  the warp pattern is dominant.  Here is the sketch I did on graph paper.

Sketch of Rep Weave Fabric

Sketch of Rep Weave Fabric

And here it is woven on the Baby Wolf.  This is the state it’s been in since January, that’s 6 months ago!

Rep Weave project still on my Baby Wolf

Rep Weave project still on my Baby Wolf

Somehow, the woven fabric doesn’t match the sketch.  And do you see the separation of  blue warp threads a little left of the center of the piece?  This happened when one of the dents in my (only used once before) 15 dent reed buckled while beating.

Broken dent on my 15 dent reed

Broken dent on my 15 dent reed

Very frustrating indeed!  So this has become the dog that just won’t go away.  And I’m very hesitant to put it to sleep, as I just don’t like the idea of wasting several yards of lovely 5/2 pearl cotton. So it looks like it will just lie on my Baby Wolf  until I have the courage to take my extra sharp Gingher scissors and cut.  It may also take a few glasses of lovely shiraz before it gets to that point.

Meanwhile, I am preparing to teach a one day workshop on inkle loom weaving at the University of Memphis Department of Continuing Education. I was inspired by an article in Handwoven Magazine’s September/October 2008 issue. It was Bands, bands, bands, and more bands! by Christi Eales Ehler.   After a trip to Guatemala, the author designed several inkle woven bands inspired by the jaspe cloth she saw there. Before the jaspe cloth is woven, selected areas of the weft yarn are dyed.  This is the same process known as ikat in Indonesia and other  Asian countries. In Guatemala,  jaspe cloth is sewn into traditional skirts, called corte.  Incorporating the design concepts, that Ms. Ehler presented in this article, I adapted an inkle band that looks like it may somewhat be inspired by jaspe cloth.

Inkle woven band inspired by Guatemalan jaspe cloth

Inkle woven band inspired by Guatemalan jaspe cloth

The pattern looks a lot different than the more traditional inkle designs of checks, ladders, railroad tracks and wavy lines as described in Helene Bress’s classic book, Inkle Weaving.   The warping for the jaspe inspired band required a lot of attention as there were frequent color changes.  Overall, I was quite pleased with the result, and the pattern is a refreshing change from the more easily recognizable inkle woven patterns.

I’m sure that I’ll find enough interesting weaving projects to complete while the dog continues to sit on the baby wolf.  But as my list of projects grow, I think that this dog’s days are numbered.