Weavers Tell About Weave!
Watch Weave! the Movie itself
The Story of Weave!
A couple of years ago I came across an amazing animation composed of over 700 machine knitted images by the band Tricot Machine. It occurred to me that weavers could create something similar. I began experimenting with extracting frames from my own family videos and weaving them on my TC-1 (jacquard) loom, then scanning them, and re assembling them into animations with the software Photo to Movie.
I then thought of ways weavers on dobby looms could use their equipment to weave sequential fabrics that could also be scanned and animated. I put out a call for volunteers on WeaveTech and the Woven Animation project was born. Twelve weavers (eleven from the U.S. and one from Spain) agreed to participate. The only requirement was that all the weavings be in black and white, and the panels be of a size to fit on a scanner bed. Some of the weavers designed their own fabrics, and some collaborated, with one weaver designing the drafts and the other weaver doing the actual loom work. Two of the weavers used jacquard looms and the others wove on dobby looms of from 16 to 40 shafts.
We formed a Yahoo Group to keep all the far-flung members in touch with each other. Discussions in the group were lively and productive, with weavers offering guidance and inspiration to each other.
The completed fabrics were all mailed to me, and I scanned them on my flat bed scanner, cleaned the scans up in Photoshop, and assembled the digital scans in Photo to Movie at 10 frames per second. The complete movie, including titles and credits, is four minutes long. Hank Childers, husband of one of the weavers and a talented musician, composed and performed an original guitar soundtrack for us.
We approached the planners of Complex Weavers Seminars 2010 to be held at Albuquerque in July with a proposal to present our movie premiere at their conference, and they agreed to include us in their program. We will also be mounting a small exhibition of all the animation weavings at that conference.
We entered our animation in the juried exhibition ITAB: International TECHstyle Art Biennial, to be held at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles August 17 - October 31, 2010, and it was accepted!
List of participants in Weave! :
- Ruth Blau
- Margaret Coe
- Matt Eardley
- Sue Farley
- Bonnie Inouye
- Penny Peters
- Neki Rivera
- Sandra Rude
- Pat Stewart
- Janet Stollnitz
- Margaret Thorson
- Alice Schlein, animation
- Hank Childers, soundtrack
It is our wish that other weavers will be inspired to do their own animations after they have seen and enjoyed our work.
Greenville, South Carolina
Marg Coe and Ruth Blau
Our collaboration consists of two different animated concepts, "Boadicea" and "Swine Flew." "Boady" (as we came to call her) grew out of a brainstorming session in which we threw out possible ideas of children's games or other activities that could be animated. At one point, Ruth said, "How about jumping rope." It clicked immediately with both of us because of the action that we could portray: as the jumper went up, the rope would have to go down (so she could be seen to be jumping over it). Then, as the jumper landed on the ground, the rope would have to be over her head. And we would need all the points in between.
In our first rendition, we used about 21 panels to portray Boady jumping rope. At this point, we were not looking at woven panels; rather, Marg was animating the drafts as a means of getting a feel for what our final project would look like. It was at this stage that we discovered a flaw in our thinking: we couldn't just have Boady and the rope changing position from up to down. We had to show the rope both in front of her and behind her as she jumped up and down. That change was quickly made, leading to our final design. With a little more tinkering, Marg (who did our designs) managed to reduce the number of panels to 18 for Ruth (who did our weaving). Marg chose a double two-tie threading on a point, woven in a summer & winter treadling.
While we were working on "Boadicea," the rest of the world was worrying about the 2009 outbreak of Swine Flu, first in Mexico and then eventually worldwide. Picking up on a delightful pun that Marg found on Rob Ives's paper engineering website (www.robives.com), Marg designed "Swine Flew," our winged pig flying along above a roadway. "Swine Flew" was woven on the same threading and with the same treadling. It took a mere two panels to execute, one with the wings up and one with the wings down.
Ours was a cross-country collaboration. Marg lives in Arizona, Ruth in Virginia. Once the weaving began, there were many emailed exchanges of photos of samples until we felt that we had gotten everything right: the sett, the beat, and the amount of contrast between black and white. We both learned a lot in this collaboration: the pleasure of working together, the difficulties of working long-distance, the fun of learning to animate drafts prior to actually setting shuttle to warp, the agony of resleying to get everything looking just right, etc.
Would we do it again? In a heartbeat!
This piece has an abstract design consisting of 10 frames. It shows an "X" shape smearing out and morphing into a more rounded shape. Our project coordinator, Alice Schlein, designed the weaving draft. The fiber is 10/2 cotton yarn, with a white warp and a black weft. The piece was woven on a 16 shaft AVL Production Dobby Loom with a computer assist. Weaving the project on the loom was an exciting process, from seeing each frame appear as the warp and cloth advanced, to seeing the final animated video.
This project pushed my design skills to the limit in many ways. I used the Woven Pixel method to lay out the numbers and sprockets in PhotoShop, and took advantage of some of its automating features to animate the image. My original design looked great in summer and winter (nice sharp edges) but I was daunted by weaving over 10,000 picks with two shuttles. Needless to say, turning the draft was not an option. So, I went back to the drawing board and modified the design for a 5-end satin, again in PhotoShop. The threading was then expanded using pixeLoom's network drafting tools. The resulting draft contained 4200 picks, which I did manage to weave just in time to meet the deadline.
My woven cranes were inspired by the sandhill cranes that I watched with my husband in March of 2009 at Fruitgrowers Reservoir in western Colorado. I attached some of our photos but the sound was nearly as impressive as the sight. I was very impressed by the grace of these birds and the way they co-ordinate their movement in flocks. We took a lot of photographs. I used some of these images, looking for isolated birds and for pairings of two images that would show an illusion of movement when I clicked rapidly from one image to another. I had woven cranes before, based on Japanese images from textiles, a different species of crane but a similar silhouette. They are symbolic in Japan and often used in art.
The waving hand was inspired by my younger granddaughter. She waves to me on Skype. A December visit from her family coincided with my weaving for the animation project. She was 14 months old and waved to people walking past our house. It felt like a cheerful and universal message, easily shared without text or sound, but actually there were some challenges involved with only 22 pattern blocks. I liked the idea of weaving white hands and black hands at the same time.
I used Beiderwand for the flocks of cranes. This warp was already on my loom and I took advantage of the last few feet of warp. The other images were woven with alternating black and white cotton using a summer and winter threading. The drafts are explained in my articles on woven imagery appeared in the CW Journal in February, 2006, and May, 2003.
Alice asked us to write something about our process.... actually all I did was weave what Pat [Stewart] did. I am thinking that I want to say my biggest contribution was getting Pat involved--she was initially very skeptical.
This has been a love project for me:
It has love of weaving, animation, and Japanese combined under one roof.
Last December as Alice was musing about a textile animation project I jumped and asked to be included if it ever happened.
Indeed it happened and I asked to weave one of her designs.
Later as I was working on a design of my own to be woven I received a message from Sandra Rude. I had very excitedly blogged about a newly found kanji dictionary and what a good study tool it was. Sandra proposed a collaboration using kanjis which would serve as a maiden voyage for her just acquired jacq loom.
A golden opportunity not to be missed.
So with a trembling hand I wrote the kanjis that spell handwoven and she wove the characters .
As i said, a love project.
For the frames I wove on my 24-shaft dobby loom, I didn't want to weave figurative designs because I hoped to weave those on the new jacquard loom. So I concentrated on abstract designs. Early in the discussions about the project, Pat Stewart described an 8-shaft draft that used the "wrap" function on the tie-up to create the illusion of motion. Her draft combined straight and advancing twills. I made a 16-shaft draft that consisted of blocks of advancing twills with a point, and straight twill borders around and between the blocks. The treadling is tromp-as-writ. The tie-up consists of bands of 3/1 and 1/3 twill and plain weave (3113111113). For each frame, I wrapped the tie-up to the right by one step.
20-shaft advancing points
The threading for this 20-shaft abstract animation is a series of network drafted pointy shapes that start smaller on the right side and get larger as they advance to the left side. The treadling is tromp-as-writ. The tie-up has a little of everything in it: 3/1, 1/3, and 2/2 twills, plus plain weave. This combination gives lots of subtle shading when woven with a black warp and a white weft. For each frame, I wrapped the tie-up to the right by one step.
Te Ito Ori Ri
This long sequence, which reads "handwoven" in both Japanese Kanji characters and English, was a collaboration with Neki Rivera. Neki was learning to write the Kanji characters with the strokes in the proper order by watching animations of the characters on a Japanese website. It was her idea to animate the characters as brush strokes. Neki used brush and ink to write the characters, scanning the image between each stroke. We decided to add the English word so everyone would know what the Kanji characters meant.
Neki emailed me the scans and I used Woven Pixel techniques to fill them with 1/4 (ground) and 4/1 (pattern) satins, sacrificing one pixel on each side of the warp for a faux floating selvedge, and 4 pixels for a border between each frame, as they were woven 4 across on the warp.
It was a perfect choice for a first warp on the jacquard - threads coarse enough and sett wide enough and a structure simple enough to make it easy to spot lifting errors as they occurred. When certain hooks made consistent, repeatable errors, we could easily reach in between jacquard modules to replace small parts and correct the problems. This would have been nigh unto impossible at a closer sett! (And you don't want to know how many needle-woven repairs were required...)
Ruth Blau suggested a sequence consisting of hearts that would appear to beat if one made a range of heart sizes - small, medium, large - and looped the frames several times. Pat Stewart designed a sequence along those lines, but didn't think she had time to weave it. Since I had enough warp on the jacquard to include this sequence, I used Photoshop to make hearts of 4 different sizes. Naturally, I couldn't stop there, and had to figure out how to make the heart break into pieces. The background is 1/4 satin, the pattern 4/1 satin.
This one was an easy and obvious design. Sue had created a "3, 2, 1" opening sequence like a film frame countdown, so I thought we ought to bookend that with "the end." Again, the background is 1/4 satin, the pattern 4/1 satin.
My approach to designing these animations for my 24-shaft loom or Penny Peter's 32 shaft loom was to select weave structures which would both enlarge the image and contribute to the expressiveness of the figures or their appearance of movement. For my first attempt I chose Summer and Winter weave structure with two pattern ends and two tie-down ends for each block. An advantage of Summer and Winter is that, depending on how the profile image is placed on the base (the two treadles that control the "tie-down" shafts), the outline can be made bumpy (birds-eye style) for the frog and lizard or feathery (x-style) for the goose and ducks; and details such as eyes and wings can be added inside the profiles. I drew the profile shapes in Photoshop Elements on a rectangle 24 pixels wide, reserving one pixel (1 shaft) for background and two for the base. Using Image Size>Resize I increased the length four times to match the four ends of each Summer and Winter threading block before copying each profile into the liftplan of my weaving software. I next edited the weft pattern picks of the profiles to make the figures less blocky lengthwise and added internal details such as eyes and wings. Tabby picks (shafts 1and 2 together alternately with all the other shafts together) were added last. Because there was no room for the figures to move widthwise in subsequent frames, they had to move vertically or rotate in place. The frog was made to jump slightly by using Resize in PhotoShop to extend the shape. Silly goose was made to shuffle in circles by flipping the figure horizontally on the liftplan. The lizard was likewise flipped horizontally to reverse the angle of his head and tail so that they appear to wag as he moves up the liftplan. Even in the design for Penny's 32 shaft loom, figures could not be made to move selvedge to selvedge so the ducks were designed to walk vertically and turned horizontal after photographing.
My next attempt used a straight 5-end advancing threading to enlarge images woven as 4-end twills. This threading makes the edges of woven images fuzzy rather than sharp, which I hoped would add to a sense of movement. I used a regular (not networked) point to mirror or enlarge the figures further. The kaleidoscope was actually the first woven animation I thought of but the last I wove. The points in the threading and treadling act as mirrors in the kaleidoscope. Simply rotating the tieup enlarges or contracts different areas of the drawdown. Although there are 24 unique drawdowns from wraping a 24-shaft tieup, I only wove every other one (12 total) because I had come to the end of my warp by then. For all the other twill animations, I used Photoshop Elements in the method described in "The Woven Pixel" to make and fill the images using presets for straight 4-end twills. The spring was filled with 3/1 and 2/2 twills and the background with 1/3 twill. Resize>Image size was used to stretch theimage lengthwise and then Resize>Canvas size with the anchor at the bottom used to crop the liftplan back to its original size. To try to increase the sense of animation of heart, propeller, and top, the direction of the twills was changed from one frame to the next. The heart was made to throb by changing its outline and background from 3/1 twill (outline) and 1/3 twill (background) to the reverse. This gives the curious optical illusion of making the heart appear to expand and contract even though it is the same size in both frames. The bomb was an attempt to see if I could get the illusion of a sequence from spark to flash with only the light and dark of 1/3 vs. 3/1 twills. To weave heart, propeller, top, and bomb the last 16 selvedge ends on each side were threaded as straight 4-end twill for background. I then rethreaded those ends to an advancing threading for spring and kaleidoscope. I envisioned that each figure or form could be made to perpetually repeat one simple movement by "looping" it in the animation software.
When the animation project was being discussed, my first idea was to depict the phases of the moon. However using a point threading, only the full moon could be woven. If I used a straight draw, then I could weave the phases, but it wouldn't be very interesting. I nixed the idea'- at least for the time being.
My next idea was to have a boy holding a balloon; the balloon would float away landing in a tree and burst. The scenario was complex and would have movement. I was stymied not only as to what weave structure to use, but also how many cels would be needed to portray movement. Being lazy, I simplified the concept to a boy throwing a ball up and down. Marg Coe offered to take the drawing and create a draft using a modified tied weave. In addition to the boy and the ball, Marg added some grass and flowers to the original scene. Since the flowers were not easily identifiable, I replaced them with a dog. Further refinements included having the boy's arms move as well as the ball and dog moving up and down. Thus, "Dick and Spot Play Ball" is an animation using four cels.
Not wanting to waste the remaining warp after weaving the cels for "Dick and Spot Play Ball." I went back to my original idea - phases of the moon. I already knew how to weave a circle. The question was how to depict the phases of the moon. With the limited warp left, I wove the new moon, a quarter, a half, and the full moon. Perhaps more cels with a gradual movement would have given a smoother animation, but I ran out of warp.
I've been both weaving and knitting for over 40 years. I learned both in college, Weaving from a formal class, knitting from my roommate. They've both been part of my life ever since. and now they make a significatn part of the income from our small farm located on a little island in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. I also love movies. I almost got into film school once and my youngest daughter just graduated from the film school at Brooklyn College.
So when I saw the knitted film made by the group in Quebec I was delighted. And when Alice suggested that we weavers try and do something similar I had to be part of it.
Now if I were a young weaver just starting out or had loads of extra money as an old weaver, I would have a jacquard loom. I love the concept, the love the results. If I were young I would probably gladly mortgage the house for one. But I have settled for several 4 and 8 harness looms and a 16 harness table loom. When Alice said she could design a part for me on my 16 harness loom I was so delighted.
This did come close to a failure and a nightmare as the little loom arrived damaged. My husband, my hero, fixed that but when I put the warp on it it turned out to be way out of square. I cut and retied the warp several times before determining that that was indeed the problem. By the time we fixed that I was not sure I had enough warp left on the loom to finish. And then...the piece of wood holding the brake mechanism split. At that point I just about threw in the towel. But when I got an email saying that all the pieces were in and I knew mine wasn't I just couldn't not be part of this. My hero once more came to the rescue, glued the splintered wood back together and by shear luck there was JUST enough warp left to finish my piece. Phew!! I threw it in the mail and Alice was gracious enough to include it. Can't wait to see the finished piece.
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