Woven Shibori: November Book Review

Woven Shibori by Catharine Ellis was recently reviewed by Prue Hill.


I had a lovely time at Kay Faulkner’s workshop earlier this year. Under her guidance I wove some wonderful samples of loom controlled shibori. Several months later, still thoroughly inspired, I warped my loom with a prewound silk warp that I had bought in the past. It has one ply of shiny white silk and the other ply is a tussah type silk making it a pretty, beige striped yarn.
I found the local fishing shop and bought a large reel of pale pink fishing line, which was quite visible on the reel, but when mixed with the silk warp it disappeared. For weft I chose a slubby silk I had bought quite cheaply so was pleased to have a chance to use some of it. A fishing warp would occasionally sag and snap as it snagged the passing shuttle. There was no way of knotting the ends of the monofilament together so I pinned the loose ends to be pulled up short later. Undaunted I wove 5 yards.
Pulling up the fishing line was complicated by the short ends and the fact that if I pulled too hard it would snap. But I managed to compress my 5 yards to 12 inches of tight pleats and proceeded to paint it with the dyes I knew plus a new yellow dye that was a different brand. I was aiming for a grey-green cloth with brown earthy patterns moving across it like a forest floor. I spent the 24-hour curing time in a happy haze. When I unpicked the cloth it looked dreadful — like a psychedelic nightmare. Too many colours, too few shibori lines. Ugh.
I threw it into the washing machine with lots of detergent and washed away most of the colours to be left with a blotchy yellow mess. So I quickly mixed up a blue die pot and cooked it up hoping for a green cloth. Out it came looking very unlevel and completely blue. Back into the washing machine for more punishment. My poor cloth emerged green and grey blue still with yellow stripes resembling a murky underwater scene.
If only I had read Catharine Ellis’ book first. She sets out her and other weavers’ experiments with shibori on the loom in a logical, reproducible manner. Chapter by chapter you are introduced to the possibilities of simple threadings to more complex threadings. There are inspiring photos of the results of each step which demonstrate that less of often better than more.
She gives simple directions for dyeing with various classes of dyes and FAQ section (frequently asked questions) points out all the places where I went wrong. There is a chapter which describes the cutting edge of loom woven shibori (including shibori devoré which will interest Anne Field) which will tempt me to dive straight back into it instead of proceeding with caution by following her advice to Place some limitations on your exploration … Too many variables can become confusing, making refinement more difficult.
This is an interweave Press publication in the new series The Weaver’s Studio focused on artists sharing their know-how and designs. Another in the series is Rep Weave and Beyond by Joanne Tallarovic which we should perhaps buy so I can revisit the rep place mats that are wearing out after 10 years of daily use.
Prue Hill

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