Irises

When I lived in Massachusetts years ago, I had a good friend from Tennessee who used to give me gifts of  irises.  I learned that they were the state’s official  flower.   And for some reason I’ve always remembered that.  Now that I am a resident of Memphis tucked away in the far southwest corner of the state and bordered by the Mississippi River, I’ve come to truly appreciate irises. Especially in early August.  I never realized how many varieties and colors there were.

Map of Tennessee

Map of Tennessee

Because of their rich colors and textures, irises have for a long time been a beloved subject for artists.  Though these irises aren’t from Tennessee, they were painted by an artist who shares my Dutch ancestral heritage.

Irises painted by Vincent van Gogh

Irises painted by Vincent van Gogh

And so this painting became my inspiration to create a rep weave wall hanging  based on the colors and design of van Gogh’s irises.  My weaving is not completed yet, but here’s a glimpse while it still sits on my loom.

Irises in Rep Weave on Loom

Irises in Rep Weave on Loom

Instead of a field of irises, I designed three large blooms in three different shades of purple.   When completed, this wall hanging will measure approximately 30″ wide and 50″ long.  I wanted to capture a “prairie style” block design with a visual imagery of long columns and squared off blocks – a suitable pattern to rep weave structure. My warp is 5/2 perle cotton doubled and threaded at 24 ends per inch. I find that the doubled cotton strands cover the weft nicely when sett at this epi.  My weft requires two shuttles as the weft rows alternate thick and thin yarn, as is customary in rep weave.  The thick weft is comprised of two strands of 100% cotton, Peaches and Creme by Elmore-Pisgah. The doubled peaches and cream strands are wound around the ski shuttle.  The color is olive which is primarily seen at the selvages.  The thin weft yarn is a 16/2 cotton in turquoise that I just found in my stash. This is wound on the bobbin in the boat shuttle.  And so each shuttle is thrown alternately in successive rows to create the design in the pattern.

This piece is almost finished, and once the ends are hemmed and sewn , then I will post a photo of it here. But as with all my other work, during the weaving process I am always thinking of my next project.  And I so fell in love with van Gogh’s painting that I think that I’ll stick with the theme of irises.  But I may try to design narrower columns and smaller blocks  of color so that the finished piece will  more resemble an entire field of irises instead of just three individual beauties.

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Basket Case

I hit the wall this summer.  I was in a desert of creative ideas.  I played around with lots of media: book arts, silk fusion, beading, needle weaving and sadly spent little time at my looms.  My Macomber and Baby Wolf sat mostly empty. Only my Leclerc saw a little weaving action.  I managed to finish these few things which are now in my etsy store, MemphisWeaver.

"White Stripes" handwoven cotton scarf with warp floats

"White Stripes" handwoven cotton scarf with warp floats

"Pretty in Pink" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Pretty in Pink" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Purple Passion" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Purple Passion" handwoven bamboo/cotton/metallic scarf with warp floats

"Luscious Lavender" handwoven shawl in twill weave, cotton/flax/rayon/metallic yarn

"Luscious Lavender" handwoven shawl in twill weave, cotton/flax/rayon/metallic yarn

All my weaving years I had been struggling with commercial vs. art. I wove scarves and purses in limited production to sell to those who appreciate a fine handmade object.  Though always keeping in mind price points that the market could bear. And so the time and expertise involved in the production  had to be largely ignored.  Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be weavers. (Thanks, Willie!) Doing what you love only to be under-appreciated is frustrating indeed.

Then there it was. I was reaching for yet another medium, this time my knitting, when I noticed what my unfinished projects were sitting in:

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Handwoven Papago basket

Papago Indians live mostly in the northern desert of Sonora and Arizona.  They are known for their narrowly coiled baskets made from yucca splints. More of their baskets can be seen here. One of my best friends in college is originally from Tucson, and over the years, her family has given us these beautiful baskets.

The simple yet striking designs of these baskets reminded me of a weave structure that I favored in many of my wall hangings, but that had given way to the demands of the fashion accessories market. The weave is of Swedish origin, known as ripsmatta and often referred to as rep weave by American weavers. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed weaving this structure as the actual weaving takes very little time.  It is the designing and dressing of the loom that is most time consuming – but that is the weaving component that appeals to me most.  A few of my earlier wall hangings done in rep weave:

"Turkish Kilim" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Turkish Kilim" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Night Crawlers" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Night Crawlers" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

Untitled handwoven wall rug, woven in rep weave

Untitled handwoven wall rug, woven in rep weave

"Moonshadow" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Moonshadow" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Nesting" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

"Nesting" handwoven wall rug woven in rep weave

The Papago basket designs in their simple beauty will inspire me to weave more of these rep weave wall rugs. After revisiting my handwoven pieces, I see how much fun I had designing and weaving them.  My three looms are empty now, but not for long.  Rep weave wall rugs will be the next sensation!