Warp Painting (or how to make a bamboo scarf out of a sow's ear)

The weaving highlight of my summer was taking Warp Painting with Su Butler at the MAFA (Mid-Atlantic Fiber Arts) Workshop Weekend. Su is an amazing teacher and brought some of her beautiful work to show us. You can see some of it on her website .

As preparation for the class, Su had us wind 6 warps of cotton, rayon, silk and wool so we would get a feel for how the Procion dyes interacted with the different fibers. For most of the warps we laid them out on a table and used foam brushes to push the dye into the yarn. Where one color met another, you could push the colors toward each other to get a third color. After it was done, we rolled them up in plastic wrap and steamed them for 45 minutes. The real surprise was unwrapping them when they cooled. You never knew how much more the dyes would meld together and sometimes the results were quite unexpected.

One warp, though, was set aside for surface design. We stretched the 12" by 3.5yd warp tightly between two raddles so it was flat enough to be able to paint a pattern or design on it. Some people did circles, squares and abstract shapes while a few others did flowers, birds and landscapes. Here's the story of my attempt.

I started with 8/2 bamboo in pale gray and painted a long curvy line with circles in navy blue. There was a contrast between the two colors while I was painting it, but after the warp dried the navy blue had lightened quite a bit. (Left photo above.)

My thought was to use the gray as the weft in an undulating twill to mimic the curves of the design. As you can see this lightened the painting considerably. I tried a few other weft colors but nothing was working so I kept going with the gray weft. (Right photo above.)

Taken off the loom and washed, the scarf just looked blah! (Left photo below) What to do?

Su had shown some scarves she had overdyed after it was woven. Then I remembered Terry Henley had brought to Show & Tell a few years ago a beautiful wall hanging of fall leaves painted on directly on the warp. Hmm, maybe I could something similar. I once took a class at the Houston Quilt Show on painting fabric with Tsukineko inks.I still had two dozen bottles of ink just waiting for a momen like this. I selected several blues and teals and started painting assorted swirls, lines and stars. (Middle photo)

The new design was nice and bright, but once again it was much more subtle when washed. I'm happy with the final result - it just took a while to get there! (Right photo) Where did they ever get that silk purse and sow's ear saying anyway??!?