Inlaid Transparency: The Moorman Technique - Daryl Lancaster

Daryl Lancaster
Daryl Lancaster
Photo: Terry Henley

Daryl Lancaster comes into the room and begins to unpack. Her bright smile and gentle demeanor attract us to the table. We begin to ply her with questions. She answers a few and then very gently and politely indicates that as soon as all is ready, she will happily share her experience and knowledge.

Daryl begins her presentation, in her own inimitable way, thanking us for our support - one result of which is that she revisited the Moorman technique that she had experimented with years ago and had long forgotten. This talk is primarily about Theo Moorman's inlaid technique and its practical applications.

Theo Moorman was born in 1907 in England. She attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. The stress on craftsmanship was so great that Theo was known to have said that it might not have been such a waste if she had at least learned to draw. Then she worked at designing fabrics for interiors. She studied at the Bauhaus in 1919 and there began to bridge the gap between strict craftsmanship and designing fabrics. At the Bauhaus there was this emphasis of linking art and handweaving. When Theo Moorman died in 1990 she left behind at least 37 commissioned pieces of which at least half were for churches and cathedrals. She worked with architects to include the necessary spatial aspects of those buildings. Although traditional church symbols were in use, she felt the need to use more universal symbols like the circle and the square in her works.

Books available on this subject are:
Moorman, Theo Weaving As An Art Form 1975 ISBN 0442260024
Harter, J. and Sanders, N. Theme & Variation: More Weaving That Sings 2002 ISBN 0-9720248-1-6

Daryl explained that the basic technique of the inlaid transparency weaving is to weave an open plain weave, which will be the ground, and then you will insert colors in between the plain weave structure. This means that all of the colored thread lies on top of the plain weave ground, the back of the weaving is blank and the weaving is tied down with very fine thread. A four-shaft loom is needed. For every two shafts that carry the plain weave there is one tie down thread. One way of achieving this is to do 1,2,3 alternating with 1,2,4. This is for treadling 1,2,3,4. If you are using 10/2 cotton for the weaving then 20/2 can be used for the tie down thread or even as fine as sewing thread for the tied owns. Thin, invisible, metallic thread is sometimes used for the tiedown; then you can't see it but there will be a shimmer across the material.

Daryl the asked if everyone is comfortable with reading weaving drafts. Seeing that the answer was yes, she gave a handout that shows four different ways of weaving this inlaid transparency. Daryl then went on to explain in very exacting detail each of these four techniques. You will need to tie down every third thread. You can alternate using 3 and 4 for this tie down thread. For example to do plain weave with additional ground weft; assuming using 1&3, 2&4, first raise 3 with 1/2 tie down, lay in the supplemental weft. Second do another 2 rows of plain weave, beat down. You will see that the plain weave ground is covered and the new weft is floating on the top being held down by the tie down threads. If there is too much of a tension differential you can use one beam for the regular warp and a second beam (or perhaps a dowel) for the tied owns. In other words, first do a plain weave, (1 & 3, 2 & 4). After 1&3, leave up 3 and lay in the new color. To start a new area of color, insert the end in the previous plain weave row. Now do 2&4, keep 4 up and lay in a row of your new color. A cartoon pattern can be pinned to the back of the warp. To end the inlay, insert the shuttle into the shed and out the back of the piece and trim off the end.

As exercises you can experiment with using various thicknesss and textures of yarn. Because the ground weft is there, many different yarns can be combined. This technique can be used to make background shadows.

It can also be used to inlay various colors in small areas and in different shapes. In basic tapestry weaving, you need to fill in every space. Using this Moorman technique weaving only the images that you want, the weaving of a large piece can be done in a much shorter time. Many variations are possible. For example wider strips of fabric can be accommodated or the ground can also have a pattern, the plain weave can be wider and you may find it possible to use small or leftover batches of yarn that are just sitting around your house not being used.

Another hint is to use treadle A on a four-shaft loom for 1 &3, then treadle B for 2&4 and the third treadle for the tie down threads.
Daryl brought with her several inlaid transparency pieces of weaving, one more beautiful than the next.

Particularly striking was a shore scene with sky, clouds, waves of water and seaweed. All this against a white background was vivid proof of the value of this technique. Thank you, Daryl.

-- Sara Briggs