SWG: Velvet Weaving with Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett

Today has been one of “those days.”  For example, I just found out that the form to email me on the Contact page was going to the wrong address (I’ve fixed it now) and that there are about 290 emails and queries waiting for a response.  Argh!

So if you used that form and didn’t get a response, I’m terribly sorry.  It’s one of those hard-to-detect “hands up everyone who’s not here” kind of website bugs.  I am able to wander through the back-log, they were all saved on the server, thankfully.  But all of a sudden getting 290 emails…this may take a while to work through.

So today, not my fave.  Let’s travel back in time to last Thursday.  That was great.

This past Thursday was the Seattle Weaver’s Guild September meeting.  We have two hour-long presentations each meeting, one before lunch and one after.  This week the speaker was Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett, a professor of fiberarts at the University of Oregon.

Dr. Barbara Setsu Pickett

Dr. Pickett has spent the past twenty years researching and weaving velvet.  She’s traveled all over the world, studying with master velvet weavers from a host of traditions, and then come home to build the custom gear needed to build velvet in her studio.

If you’re not familiar with velvet weaving. It’s a technique that uses two warps, one that forms the ground cloth, and another that’s pulled up between the ground-cloth picks to form pile loops.  You insert wires or channels into these pile loops and continue to weave until you have several rows of pile.  And then, like a magician performing a trick where you pull the tablecloth and leave the dishes standing, you slice open the tops of the first row of pile loops and–if all has been set up correctly–the cut pile warp does not pull out.

Japanese Velvet Weaving

There are macro-velvets that you can weave with just two warp beams; this produces an edge-to-edge velvet.

And then there are figured velvets (places of velvet and voids) where each pile has to be wound on its own little warp beam.

figured velvet

The loom set up to weave this involves hundreds of individually weighted bobbins.  It looks like a thousand trained spiders on roller skates are following your loom.  It’s simply mind-boggling, and should never be attempted by anyone with a cat, small children, or random breezes in their studio.

During the first hour-long presentation, Dr Pickett showed pictures of velvet weavers from all over the world, and displayed actual fabric samples of the different velvet traditions.  The basic problems of how to handle the differential take-up in the pile warp, how to tension things, and how to cut without destroying everything were solved in different locales in a variety of intriguing and mind-boggling ways.

During the second half-hour, Dr. Pickett explained how to set up something like this in for your own loom.  She made it sound, if not easy, at least possible.

And I’m finding myself terribly, terribly tempted.

Anyone know where I can buy 400 sewing-machine bobbins, wholesale?


And as a parting happy thing from Thursday, here is Lynn who took my “Woven Shibori on the Rigid-Heddle Loom” class at Weaving Works.  The only down side to this class is that we spend one day weaving the fabric, another tying and dyeing, and then the students take home what look like large black snakes of fabric to wait for them to dry and then cut open to reveal the pattern within…and I usually don’t get to see the finished results!  So kudos  to Lynn for her lovely scarf, and a big thank-you for bringing it back to show me how it turned out.  It and your lovely smile made my day.

Woven shibori from class

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