So I decided to take a couple of classes this summer at Fine Line, both in techniques I thought to use to add texture to my pieces. Lately I've been using a lot of different yarns and threads to stitch with; it seemed that the next logical step was turning those into my own trim pieces.
Let me state that any mistakes or failures to follow are of my own doing; both instructors (Heather Winslow and Michele O'Reilly) did a great and enthusiastic job teaching.
The first class was in card weaving (aka tablet weaving). This ancient method of producing narrow decorative but strong narrow bands involves some dexterity and awareness of things like opening the shed (a weaving term I knew but apparently didn't appreciate enough).
Here's the setup, but not in action. There are 16 cards, four holes each, so four threads each. They are strung following a chart. One end of this mess, I mean setup, is fastened to something solid, like a table leg--something that won't move. The other end is fastened to the weaver's waist. You lean back, turn the cards to open the shed, and throw a shuttle of the weft across. The key words in that sentence were, in my case, 'open the shed.'
If you're trying to discern the decorative pattern in this piece, stop. Towards the end I figured out that my problem was I wasn't being careful enough about the shed--some of the threads that should have been under the weft were above it. With practice, I could get there. I'll probably work on this some more, see what I can do with it.
My shoulders and back were a little sore afterwards; but part of that, I think, is because I was tense from the concentration needed to learn a new skill--proficiency breeds relaxation.
The second class was the next night--no recovery time, but that worked out ok. It was on split ply braiding, a technique developed in India, and brought to artists in the west by Peter Collingwood in the 1990's. It is similar to the way fishermen make nets, but also results in decorative braids.
This one I was better at. I even have a finished piece:
It's an about 6 inches long, twisty doodad. The cords were spun out of hand dyed cotton and tencel fibers by our instructor. They were way cool in themselves.
I caught on to this technique must more quickly. Since the class, I have been exploring other patterns. Michele uses them to trim her art clothes among other things--and the fact that you could dye the cord at the same time you dye the fabric for a piece lends itself well to the work I'm currently doing.
So, am I glad I took the classes. Yes. Will I use the techniques? Probably. The one issue I see with both of them is the cooperation of my body--arthritis in the fingers is impeding on my doing either one for very long at a time. As long as I can remember where I left off (or am able to reconstruct it from staring at the unfinished piece), that is not a deal breaker.
But the main lesson is don't be afraid to try new stuff. I have ideas matriculating in my brain just from seeing the class samples...