Simple Weaves for Fabulous Yarns

SimpleWeavesI love spring. It is probably my favorite time of year—especially down here in New Mexico. The weather is beautiful, flowers are starting to pop up among the cacti and yucca, and the produce selection at the farmer’s market is getting bigger and more varied with each week. What I love about spring produce is how easy it is to prepare—the flavors are so bright and fresh that the simplest preparation is often the best so the produce is front and center. From steamed sweet peas to grilled asparagus, rarely anything more than a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil is needed.

Much of the same can be said about weaving. Sometimes you find a special yarn that is so lovely that you build your piece around the yarn, carefully choosing a weave structure to show off color changes, texture, or (often in my case) the glitter. In these cases the structure chosen is usually something fairly simple so it doesn’t compete with the yarn. For example, I had a gorgeous skein of hand-dyed, variegated yarn—a luscious wool/silk blend. I knew I wanted to weave it into a scarf, but I didn’t know how. Specifically, how could I make certain variegations of the yarn were shown off without making everything muddy?

Then, while warping the loom for another project (of course), I had an epiphany! I spotted some leftover black alpaca on my stash shelf. It was the same sett as the wool/silk blend and the two next to each other looked wonderful as the black set off the oranges and pinks in the dyed blend. Next up was choosing the right structure. I did a little looking and eventually found a draft for a simple undulating twill with long floats that I knew would show off the variegated yarn beautifully. The floats were in the warp so I turned the draft (easy peasy!) and got started calculating warp length, warp ends, and the rest.

My scarf turned out beautifully—the dyed yarn stands out beautifully from the black and the color changes pop beautifully in the weft. I love how soft it is and how warm, and how it almost looks like tiger stripes. The only thing that makes me sad about the scarf is how rarely I get to wear it down in New Mexico.

Of course, I’m not the first person to “discover” the beauty of weaving with beautiful yarns in simple structures. For example, in the January/February 2016 issue of Handwoven Susan E. Horton used some gorgeous linen/silk and wove it using simple modified log cabin to create a delicately patterned shawl that is all about the yarn. One yarn was a light purple while the other changes from cream to lavender and other related hues. Combined in the log cabin they work so well together to highlight the color changes while also creating an interesting pattern that makes you want to reach out and grab the shawl to investigate it further.

As a cook, I admit to loving complicated recipes with lots of seasonings, herbs, and steps to create complex flavors. At the same time, I also love the simple recipes from summertime salad of tomato and basil to a roasted butternut squash in fall—the flavors are simpler but no less wonderful than their complicated cousins. In weaving, it’s the same. I treasure my simple twill scarf as much as I do my overshot towels with many colors of weft or my pinwheel napkins, all woven in different variations of the same pattern. In both disciplines, it’s all about knowing your ingredients and how best to make them shine.

Happy Weaving (and Cooking)!

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Christina Garton

About Christina Garton

I'm Associatet Editor for Handwoven where I get to interact daily with all sorts of wonderfully creative people. I'm obsessed with twill and weaving dishtowels, although I'm also in love with deflected doubleweave. When I'm not weaving twill towels, I love to try out new fibers and structures and blog about it as I go!

5 thoughts on “Simple Weaves for Fabulous Yarns

  1. Hi Christina, I love reading your segments on weaving & life in general in USA. I am lucky enough to be visiting New Mexico in a couple of weeks & have done a fair bit of research on things to do. I am from South Australia & run an alpaca farm & a mini mill. I am also a keen weaver & hope to visit alot of fibre related places whilst in NM. I was wondering if you could recommend any particularly relevant place to visit. You could email me privately if its more appropriate.
    regards
    Anne

        1. That all sounds wonderful! There’s lots to do and see in New Mexico related to weaving and other traditional arts and crafts. If you can make it up to Taos, there are lots of wonderful galleries and museums to visit, and just a town away in Arroyo Seco is Weaving Southwest, a wonderful yarn and weaving store full of hand-dyed local churro wool. There are some other wonderful shops in Taos for yarn and fabric—I went to one fabric store off the square that actually sold handwoven cloth by the yard! The square is fairly small, so it’s easy to explore.
          Between Santa Fe and Taos you can also visit the small town of Chimayo. Known for their beautiful church, Chimayo is also home to some wonderful traditional weavers and weaving studios. There you can find pieces woven in the traditional Chimayo style and patterns, as well as modern interpretations of it. (Chimayo is also known for the excellent red chile produced in the area.) Chances are if you go to Chimayo, you’ll see plenty of small weaving studios on the way, too, as artists are plentiful in some of the small towns. (I also suggest visiting any old Spanish colonial churches you see—there are often beautiful works of religious art done in the traditional style, some of which are hundreds of years old.)
          Santa Fe is a wonderful town. The square is full of shops including a few weaving studios and shops where you can view amazing Navajo rugs and blankets. I also highly suggest visiting some museums, even though it’s devoid of weaving the Georgia O’Keefe museum is wonderful. The Art Museum and The Palace of the Governors are also great museums. Speaking of the latter, most days local Native Americans set up shop on the ground in front of the Palace and sell their art: jewelry, ornaments, pottery, etc.
          Last, if you make it down to Las Cruces, the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum often has some great exhibits on various fiber crafts—check their website to see if they have anything when you’re in town. They also have lots of sheep in the sheep barn and some great exhibits on the history of New Mexico from the original natives to today. Tres Manos in the nearby town of Mesilla is a weaving studio where low-income women are taught to weave and where they can sell their beautiful handwoven cloth to earn income. They have some stunning pieces there—lots of Tencel and other light-weight pieces that makes sense in the hot New Mexican climate.
          There’s so much to do in New Mexico! I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of the fiber-related places to visit. We also have many wonderful National Parks and BLM sites you can visit (although make sure you check how far off the beaten path they are—sometimes the signs for these parks neglect that it’s another 50 miles from the highway). There are also lots of Native Ameican pueblos and old Spanish Colonial towns where there are arts festivals and fiestas. Here’s a link to the New Mexico Fiber Arts trail where you can find lots of wonderful places and events.
          Most importantly: When they ask you if you want red or green at a restaurant they are talking about New Mexican style chile. The green chile is fresh chile that has been roasted, peeled, and diced and put into a sauce while the red has been dried, roasted, and powdered before being turned into a smooth sauce. I tend to prefer green chile at most places (and New Mexicans will try to sneak green chile on EVERYTHING), but if you’re not sure you can always ask about the restaurants specialty, spice level, or get them both! (And if you want food recommendations I can give you those as well—although that’s would be a totally different post!) Have fun!

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