Carolyn Wallis, Hand Weaver
I have been interested in textiles of all sorts since childhood and studied fashion in my teens. I discovered weaving through art school and since that time have woven floor rugs, curtains, cloth for making up into clothing, wraps and scarves, using yarns of many different fibres.
But for some years now I have specialised in silk scarves and delight in both the yarn and the process. I love colour and pattern and combine the two things in my designs, often using them to represent the beauty of something fleeting in the natural world that I want to capture. Autumn trees, birds’ plumage, flowers, fish, and the sky are particularly rich sources of inspiration for me.
Starting from this point, I first work on how to achieve a pattern that will best produce the look I’m seeking. This involves a long process of designing a threading order for the warp threads and matching that with a way of weaving the weft into the warp, to get the desired pattern and texture.
My 100% spun silk yarn is bought in the undyed state and dyed by me to the colours desired for the next piece to be woven. The colours are achieved with both synthetic and natural dyes. Occasionally though, there is ‘lucky find’ from a surplus yarn sale and if the colour is perfect, I’ll use it.
I always make a warp long enough for four scarves. This is partly to reduce time costs, as it takes no longer to set up the loom for four scarves than it would for only one, but also to allow scope to explore and expand the theme with other ideas and possibilities that come to mind as the weaving progresses.
When a piece is complete I check it over for imperfections and if any are found I correct them. Then the exposed warp at either end of the scarf is twisted into tassels and knotted to prevent unravelling. After that the scarf is thoroughly washed and rinsed, dried and steam pressed, which results in the threads bedding into each other and becoming a cloth as opposed to an interlacement of separate threads. It also brings out the natural sheen and luxurious draping qualities of the silk fibre. Lastly, I sew my label onto the work.