One of the closely-held secrets of life on Whidbey Island is that the summers are generally quite wonderful. Meteorology Professor Cliff Mass at the University of Washington says that July 9 is the true beginning of the season here, and my own observations tend to agree. What that means is that visitors swarm here during July and August, when the chance of rain is astonishingly low and the likelihood of sunshine on any given day is close to 100%. (We try never to share this information.) Tourists, families, friends, relatives, curious explorers — we see roughly double the normal population through the weeks of these two months.
Historically, there has been little of that impinging on my own life, but this year has so far been an exception to that pattern. The past few weeks have been quite the mad social whirl — sister and niece for several days, then a short respite, friends from Florida for a few days, another short respite, and friends from British Columbia this past week. And while none of them have stayed with me, still the process of juggling visiting and normal daily life has slashed away at loom time. Nonetheless, there’s been sporadic action on the weaving front, with something to show for it.
This run of ten designer towels is named “Good Vibrations”, for reasons which may or may not be apparent. It began as a discussion last fall with Kathrin Weber (Blazing Shuttles dyer) about weaving her a towel that would echo the colors in her North Carolina kitchen. Eventually, she dyed her signature ringspun cotton in those colors and sent two 200-thread warps off to me. I was not enthusiastic about the colors, so the yarn sat for many weeks in a spot where I had to see it many times a day while I mulled over how I wanted to proceed. Eventually the light dawned. For accent, I added in a thick/thin mercerized cotton in a clear burgundy which is close to the color of Kathrin’s new wood stove, and at that point things finally became interesting.
During the weeks when I was dithering, I designed a series of patterns to be used in this run of ten towels. I call them Dancing Mountains, which actually refers to the threading sequence for the warp (lengthwise) threads. The “line” in the draft (pattern) on the computer is similar to the jagged silhouette of a mountain range; the other half of the sequence simply turns the line upside down. This gave me some interesting possibilities for patterns in the cloth which would “reflect” each other in reverse. Hard to see in my photographs, since most of the weft (sideways) yarns I’m using blend with the warp.
Those who have read these narratives for some time will remember that I’m partial to random distribution of the accent yarns I place in the warp. For this series, I made the design decision to combine both random and carefully planned placement of the burgundy yarn. If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see that in the center section these threads are axially symmetrical, while in the outer sections they’re random. It was quite the exercise to work that all out.
It was also quite the exercise to get the 10.5-yard warp consisting of three separate and significantly intertwined chains wound onto the back of the loom without breaking threads or tearing my hair. Mission accomplished, and after the tension was adjusted and the whole thing took a nap overnight, the weaving began.
Overall progress has been slow, accomplished in fits and starts, but the homestretch is in sight. My original plan was to weave half of the ten with a bright red, and the other half with a bright turquoise. After the first few, I branched out — in the end, there will be two red, three turquoise, one navy, two silver, and two black. Makes it a lot more interesting for me on a long warp like this, and more variety for purchasers to select from.
Contrary to my usual boredom toward the end of a series like this, I’ve stayed interested and excited as I go along. Yesterday, I spent some time at the computer before beginning to weave, and designed two additional patterns on this threading, one of which I’ll use. The other will be saved for another time, another application. The combination of these strong colors, which seemed almost harsh to me at the outset, has become pleasing, thanks in great part to the areas of soft grey and warm magenta.
The last two will be woven with black and turquoise, respectively. I expect you can see from the photos that — as is my norm — no two pieces are the same. If you think any of them want to hang in your kitchen, or the kitchen of a friend, please let me know in the comments section below. Kathrin gets first dibs; after that, it’s a free-for-all, and you wouldn’t want to miss out!