The Spring 2016 Competition of Babywearing Weavers brought us the theme "Under the Microscope". This was my fifth competition and by far the most fun for me! In this competition, I discovered the world of photomicrography - a world rich with imagery and color. I also found a love for painting silk - a technique I had not previously tried. And I finally used all 16 shafts on my loom - something that took quite a bit of tinkering!
My inspiration for this wrap was a polarized light micrograph of the rhizome of the cup fern, created by Dr. Stephen Lowry for the Nikon Small World photomicrography competition. Some qualities I tried to capture in the image - along with the colors - were the sheen and the intricate, linear texture of the plant structure.
To best represent the sheen, I chose to create a hand-painted silk warp.
I painted 10 individual skeins - each with one dominant color (at full concentration and diluted to produce a tonal effect) and highlights in contrasting and complementary colors.
The skeins were then steamed to set the dye. This part was messy and caused my husband many headaches trying to fix the stovetop that I broke in the process.
The skeins were organized on the loom as a gradation from primarily purple tones through blue, turquoise and green. The effect is one of a smooth gradation across the width of the wrap with subtle variegation along the length that offers up the occasional unexpected change in color.
A 16-shaft draft was chosen for the linear quality produced by the subtle diamond pattern in the cloth. The draft can be found in the book 2500 Armature - Intreccio Per Tessuti Di Lana, Cotone, Rayon, Seta by Eugenio Poma.
One last thing to do before weaving - dyeing of the weft. I chose to dye Pima cotton in a brilliant Sapphire blue. Immersion-dyeing is not my favorite thing in the world (more on that below) and this one took 2 tries to get the depth of color I was after!
After the dyeing and rinsing and washing (and rinsing, rinsing, rinsing) and tinkering with the loom...the weaving begins. This is about the time I named the wrap - it's meant to be ironic considering all the work that went into this one single wrap!
It is important to note that all the photos above were taken pre-wash. The wrap required more washing to completely discharge the dye than I would expect from a wrap woven with commercially dyed yarn. The type of dye I used on the silk is highly wash fast and light fast and the heat-setting method worked really well to affix it permanently to the fiber. It was the weft (dyed with fiber reactive dye) that caused me more trouble when I was wet-finishing the wrap. The result of the washing that was required to discharge the dye is a loss of sheen on the silk yarn. The weft also has more of a washed appearance than in the pre-finished photos. It is still quite lovely (and oh, so soft!) but be aware that it has the look of cozy cotton with little sheen on the silk. I think the weave structure still reads very nicely in the finished piece. It is a flat weave that has a nice amount of cushioning. The selvedges are un-hemmed as I prefer this simpler finish. As one might expect of a more experimental weave, there are a few missteps that may be noticed on close inspection. These are minor, cosmetic in nature, and do not affect the integrity of the wrap.
The wrap is 5.1 meters long, 70.5 cm wide - it is approximately 280 grams/m^2. There will be information on how to purchase the wrap in my chatter group - wonder woven love - on Facebook.