Help with Naming a Class, Also, Ideas!

I’ve been invited to teach at the Golden Gate Fiber Institute in Winter of 2009. The Institute is a joint venture of Judith McKenzie McCuin and Morgaine Wilder, and they’re setting up some seriously intense workshops. You can check their list of Summer 2008 classes for an idea of what caliber of instructors they’re getting; I’m honored and more than a little intimidated. Nancy Bush, Judith McKenzie McCuin, Sara Lamb… I haven’t seen the full list of instructors for the Winter session, but the names that Morgaine told me over the phone were similarly marvelous. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting Takako Ueki, proprietor of Habu – she and I keep missing each other, and I really want to pick her brain about silk.

What they want from me, is a workshop that starts on Monday reeling silk, and ends on Saturday with brocaded ribbons. It’s a pretty tall order – but I feel confident that I can do it. It’s mostly all stuff that I’ve taught before (except for the dyeing) – it’s just that usually I’ve taught it in multiple classes instead of one long course.

I’d love to get input on my ideas for the class, as well as suggestions for a NAME – I really would like something at least somewhat clever, but it must be clearly descriptive as well. I’m kind of liking “From Cocoon to Brocade,” with the details to be filled out in the description – but just not quite sure.

I’ll have a group of 15 for three hours each morning, and a different group of 15 each afternoon. I’ll have the same students all week. Each student will be taking two tracks – which kind of boggles MY mind, but these are seasoned, die-hard textile types. They will have some evening time free, which may or may not be used for practicing and finishing up. So many of these things are very hand-eye-coordination focused, and some of them are also tedious.

Rough class outline:

First day: Intro to silk, reeling. Each student needs to make several hundred yards of filament. Begin twisting.  Each student will need to produce at least 100 yards of 8-ply tram in order to brocade over 2/30’s silk (this includes plenty of “experimentation” silk).  I’ll need to bring LOTS of spools (I have plenty).  I’ll need multiple stands; may need to rig up a couple of extra ones, besides the pop-together ones. (doubling stands, for making the twisted thread.)  I have 3 silk reels, and can borrow 1 more, but there will be a certain amount of taking turns that will have to happen; they’re just not common enough tools that I can say, “Everybody bring your silk reel!” Students will be able to bring their own spinning wheels, lazy Kates, etc. Again, these are hardcore workshops, and they’ll have most of the stuff that isn’t weird and rare and specific to silk.

Second day: finish twisting, degum and dye. It will take appx. half an hour to boil off the skeins; then we’ll need about an hour for dye work.  I’m aiming for simple, solid colors, no fancy painting or special effects. What I’m thinking, is to have the ribbon warps in student’s choice of three or four dark solid colors – maybe forest green, deep blue, and black – so that the brocade will really pop. I don’t know if I want to teach them double-face as well, or just brocade… I think that having the two techniques together is much more versatile, design-wise, but I don’t know if it would be confusing, class-wise. If we do use two colors, then there would be a contrast color, like bright red, yellow, bright green, etc. I’m planning to get cones of 2/30’s silk already dyed for this, so that we can concentrate on design and working with the tram.

Third day: Intro to tablet weaving: the black-and-white class. This is the same as my usual 15-tablet weaving class, mostly… I will skip Egyptian Diagonals and go into brocade faster, because we’ll be using the brocade technique later on. I want to put away the silk, and work with 2/10’s cotton for this day. This will allow students to get a good grip on tablet weaving basics, how to control the edges, how to manage tension, read designs from a chart, etc. I’ll pre-warp the tablets for this class, as I find it helps students get a better grip on how the mechanics of the weaving work, and they’ll understand better what they want in their own warps.

Fourth day: Design ribbons for brocade and DF. This will be mostly a paper-and-pencil class, with demo of how to use the computer… if students have laptops, they can use Guntram’s Tabletweaving Thingy. I don’t have computers for everybody.  Students who get their designs finished early can start warping for the project. I want to try to stagger out the warping, so that only a couple of students are warping at a time – it takes up more table space than most of the activities, what with the waving of the arms and the tangling of the threads.

Fifth day: Warping up, and start weaving on project.

Sixth day: Continue weaving, hopefully finish the piece, or get to a good point with it.  I can weave a ribbon bookmark with brocade and double-face patterning in 3 hours, but I’m not sure how many new students would be able to.  Hopefully they can get it done, or at least get enough done that they’ll have a feel for it, and can finish it at home.  Fortunately, the tablets are very portable, and they can slip them off the loom for transit.

Do you think this is do-able?  Thoughts, suggestions, cautionary notes? The average background training is likely to be fairly high (i.e., these are mostly people who have been spinning, weaving, working with string for years), but I’ll still be working with people who have probably never reeled silk, and many of them will have weaving experience, but not tablet-weaving.  My concern, is that the scope is too ambitious – I am torn between having a day of teaching design, and using that time for more weaving… I know that the students are more likely to take it home and use it, if they can understand how to draft and design their own patterns.  Likewise, I’m tempted to start them up weaving on the silk – but the cotton is SO much cheaper to mess up on, and I can pre-warp those packs to save time. Also, I’m not sure whether to focus ONLY on brocade, or to include the Double Face, which will allow them a lot more design possibilities.

I had thought about offering the option of sewing thread for those that were very ambitious – but I think we’ll skip that just for ease of being able to see and correct students’ work.

short summary:
“Students will learn to reel, twist, degum, and dye silk yarns, as well as how to warp, design, and weave silk ribbons using tablet (card) weaving techniques.”

Longer description:
“Silk is a truly spectacular fiber. Working with filament silk is unlike any ordinary kind of spinning – the fiber comes coated with special glue, and the staple length can be over a kilometer! We will start with reeling the filament from cocoons, and work our way through the whole silk process, including throwing (twisting), degumming, and dyeing, to yield a high-shine soft yarn called “tram,” perfect for filling weft, brocading, and embroidery. Instead of a heddled loom, we will use weaving tablets to design and weave ribbons of 2/30’s spun silk, brocaded using the hand-made tram. You can see examples of my work at: – look under “silk work” for the silk processing, and under “projects” for tablet weaving.

0 replies
  1. sskipstress
    sskipstress says:

    Is there enough sitting around doing nothing much during degumming and dyeing to use that time to teach some of the weaving stuff?

    How hard is it to slip the weaving onto a new loom? If it’s not easy can you make looms available somehow? (instructions online, recommended retailer, sell the ones you use for the class)

    And in your longer description…are you weaving with commercial spun silk? or with the tram you create in days 1&2?

  2. admin
    admin says:

    There’s some sitting around and waiting, and yes, putting some of the design in there is a good idea.

    It’s dead simple to slip the partially-finished weaving from loom to loom. Most inkle-type looms are adjustable enough that you just find a set of pegs that gives you the right length, and tension up. We won’t be making terribly long warps, so it won’t tangle too easily.

    The warp yarn will be commercial 2/30’s silk; the brocade weft shuttles will be the tram we make in class. They really wanted a class where we made enough silk to weave the ribbons out of… but there just aren’t enough hours. I can get them to produce 100 yards of four-strand tram; it would take up most of the class to produce the 300 or so yards of organzine for warp (the twisting is really, really tedious and time consuming). This will yield a ribbon like the “Dream” ribbon:

    It really ticked me off that they wouldn’t let me explain that the warp was spun silk – they wanted to lie by implication and make people believe it was all silk from those caterpillars.

  3. czina
    czina says:

    It sounds like a VERY ambitious class – although not un-doable. I would take it, in a heartbeat! (just gotta figure out how to get the kids to power a car ride to SF, and then not get into too much trouble while I took the class)

    If you want to do double face, you might consider having a few ‘pre-set’ designs available for the class, like your celtic knotwork, and some other pretty, but not too difficult designs. That way, you already have your graphs, and people can SEE what the end result will be. That way if they aren’t in a ‘design’ mode, they can skip ahead, or play with your designs as a beginning point, etc.

    Since you can sort of ‘give them homework’ – you may try to fit the basics of graphing/designing at the end of the class, and have them take it home to start out. This is esp. true if they have laptops and can do GTT – easy to get lost in the details – which is great for a hotel room – not so hot for in class. If they can come in with an idea for a band, you can spend more time perfecting it and have more time for warping, which will take LOTS of time – esp. if they aren’t used to speed warping or tablet weaving warping.

    Can you send out a ‘prerequisite’ list for the class? If so, you could have them bring an idea for a design, and if they have computers, you could have them download GTT beforehand.

    If you could specify people who have done TW at least once – that would be even better, but many fiber artists can get the idea pretty quickly, so that wouldn’t be essential.

    Also – what be sure the class listing says what they will go home with – the loom, cards, etc. Since it sounds like you are doing 2 warpings (the cotton and then the silk) – people might really like to take home both sets if they haven’t finished both pieces.

  4. admin
    admin says:

    Thanks! Some excellent ideas there. I wish you could come, too – looking at the info on the site, it’s a beautiful place as well as being a neat experience.

    I will definitely be giving them several pages of “flash” – designs that I’ve done ahead – including an alphabet or two in case they want to do wording. Part of what I want them to get out of it, though, is the ability to design patterns that work – particularly with brocade it can be tricky getting all the tie-downs right.

    I definitely don’t have the option to specify that people have taken tablet weaving before – that’s the point, for them to get to do something new. I’m just glad that they’ve mostly got a high level of weaving/spinning/string experience. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get hold of them in advance or not.

    I was thinking that the black and white warp (15 tablets) could be cut up and the tablets used for the project warp (29 tablets) – I guess it’s not that much difference cost-wise (about $6 – $7) and you’re right, I think people might want to take that home for further practice.

  5. fiberaddict
    fiberaddict says:

    “Bug to Brocade” – I *love* it!

    You might want to specify that each participant bring their own inkle loom. Cards – those are cheap enough, and easy to make if you have to, but the loom….they can get them on eBay or from a specific vendor (or…you can, and add the cost of the loom to the materials cost of the class)

    That’s all I can think of….the other commenters have said what I’d like to have, had I thought of it. 😀

  6. admin
    admin says:

    I’m working with the organizers to see about getting inkle looms – I think that a lot of the folks there already have them, and some of the people who live nearby might be able to bring loaners. I’ve had people try the two-clamps-and-a-board route, but it’s so frustrating.

  7. habibekindheart
    habibekindheart says:

    OMG I want to take that class.

    I think that since your students will most likely be experienced, you shouldn’t have *too much* of a problem with your goals. I’d have a bit of a rough time, but I’m a fast learner so…

    I’d think that as long as you’re honest about what the class entails, people will (should, anyway) look at their skills and decide before they sign up whether they think they’ll be able to keep up with the class.

    I’d want the double face, even though I’ve never done tablet weaving, because when I see it in action I can start to understand what I’m doing.

  8. river_rain44
    river_rain44 says:

    Oh! I’d love to know how to reel silk! Especially because I’d really like to do more embroidery with reeled silk…

    And congratulations! That’s great company to keep; I’ve taken a number of workshops from Judith and she’s the best.

    Lovely bands, btw!

  9. admin
    admin says:

    The tram that we’re making is what I use for embroidery floss – although I’ve been considering twisting it into a two-ply to cut down on tangling during dyeing.

  10. starwefter
    starwefter says:

    I’m with the above posters — Cocoon to Brocade just sort of goes “clunk” in sound — I was thinking Cocoon to Ribbon or Cocoon to Card-Weaving or something. But I like the imagery of “Bug to Brocade” — the two terms seem so opposite to start with….

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Okay guys, let’s rethink this name thing. Where are the wordsmiths among us!!! You CANNOT us the word “bug” when referring to a silkworm! It’s unseemly! They aren’t BUGS, not to fiber people! Bugs are things like ants, and cockroaches, and rollie-pollies (I probably spelled that wrong, but I don’t like y’s).

    We can do BETTER! Michael, darlin’, does the word “brocade” absolutely have to appear in the title? Wouldn’t the first line of the description be good enough?

    If so, you can call the workshop something more regal: “Silkworm to Silk Weaving,” for example. (I like alliteration, too, and you’ve got both the s and the w thing going on there.)

    or maybe “Silk: From Worm to Warp.”

    Better, N’est-ce pas?

  12. admin
    admin says:

    I like “Silk: From Worm to Warp”!

    I had been thinking about using “Moth to Cloth” – but I think that one may bring up “clothes moth” to too many people.

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