Krokbragd/Danskbrogd: A Bit About My Weaving and Design Process

I planned to write about my latest krokbragd/Danskbrogd piece once it is complete, but  an in-process photo on the Facebook Krokbragd Group generated questions that I will answer here.

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Below is a photo I posted a while back. It generated an enormous number of “likes” when I was at the “I have no idea whether this will ever work” stage, so I was pretty surprised.

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This piece is set at 6 epi on linen warp, and I am using part of a giant stash of  Swedish mattgarn (a heavy-ish singles) as weft.  I bought two kitchen-bags full of the yarn a couple of years ago, and I’ve discovered that the challenge of using the skeins is that they are almost all different colors, with very few sets of a single color.

IMG_1325It is the second of two pieces woven on the same warp.  The first piece was sleyed at 8 epi, and I used Norwegian prydvev yarn. (Read about that piece here.) When I switched to the heavier mattgarn, it just didn’t pack down well enough for my taste.  If I have to beat too hard, I prefer to change the sett, keep the warp beautifully tight, and cover the warp with an smooth, firm beat.

The green X piece with nuclear missiles is currently on view as part of the Textile Center of Minnesota’s annual member show, “A Common Thread.”

After weaving five in the Danskbrogd series, I thought I was done, but with enough warp for one more, who can resist?  In the previous five, I had not used any traditional krokbragd zig-zag-y bands, so I thought I would try that out.  This was my inspiration piece, one of a collection of Danskbrogd coverlets highlighted in a recent issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter. Do you see both the Xs and the zig-zags?

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Although I love the challenge (sometimes paranoia and panic) of designing at the loom, I generally start banded pieces with an overall plan.  For example in this one, I noted that the two lines of bright yellow are really part of a broad band that includes the Xs. Some zigzag bands are broader than others.  There is one basic dark color–brown–but I chose to use three dark colors–red, brown, and deep turquoise blue. See the other lacy sort of pattern of large and small diamonds?  I planned to use a couple of Danskbrogd bands similar to that one, too.  Could I pull off the disparate feel of these types of bands into a cohesive whole?  I have a short ways to go, and I’m still not completely sure.

IMG_2596I chose pattern elements from this coverlet, and began to weave. I think that one of the most important considerations in creating balanced and beautiful bands of color is to pay careful attention to value and look at the composition as a whole.  I use four tricks to help me compose a banded weaving.  First, I constantly snap photos of color combinations with my phone and look at them in edit mode, without color.  The difference in value between colors sometimes amazes me, both those that are close in value and those that are far apart in value.

Second, cell phone shots are also good for looking at combinations of narrow bands to see if they look as pleasing as I intended. Should the next one be narrower or wider?  Taking the cell phone photo allows you to “step away” from the loom, where you have been concentrating on the individual trees of your weft shots, and look at the whole forest of the pattern.

Third, taking photos of portions of the weaving will help you remember what is under the beam, as you work on new sections. It will reduce the number of times you need to unroll the piece to see the totality, so far.  I know I have read you should never unroll  because you run the risk of creating an unevenly-tensioned warp, but that is still my fourth trick: I unroll. I don’t do it frequently, perhaps four times in weaving a 50″ piece.  Still, seeing the entirety of the piece along the way is valuable in my style of designing as I go.

I wrote on Facebook, “I will be weaving this krokbragd/danskbrogd forever (it feels like) because I am composing as I go and I keep taking out WHOLE SECTIONS when I don’t like them.”

This prompted Joan Sheridan to respond. “What draws you to unweave? Color? Placement? New idea? It is through the process we learn. Did you start with a plan or do you weave on the fly? I want to sit and pick your brain over a cup of tea. This work is quite beautiful!”

My latest unweaving was a color issue.  One of the shades of yellow, a more lemony-y one, woven next to a bright blue in a zig-zag band looked just too pale and bright, too pale and pretty for the more saturated color feel of the rest of the piece.  In this case I had used both colors earlier, but the way the colors looked when woven in that particular piece of the pattern and right next to one another didn’t work. The juxtaposition of colors next to one another makes all the difference, and sometimes that is difficult to predict until it unfolds on the loom.

Placement is often an issue, too.  It’s always about the color.  For example, I rewove a section because I wanted the red background part to be a bit longer at one point.

Joan also had another comment that I thought was brilliant. “Designing on the fly is hard. When I do that, I find taking a photo before unweaving provides a different perspective and makes me see that maybe it is just perfect and doesn’t need to come out.” I’m not sure I did that the last time; I just kept walking by it and thinking, “Maybe it’s just the light,” until I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Here’s another mistake I noticed, and not until the middle of my piece–I skipped a dent when re-sleying the reed, from 8 epi to the 6 epi reed.  Happily, it doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in the woven fabric!

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Patricia Morton had suggestions for my un-weaving frustration.  “If you are composing just at the loom (which is fun, but as you indicate, not necessarily optimal), perhaps you should start sketching – either on paper with colored pencils, or electronically.
Might not be as much fun, but it might save you time.”  That’s true, and I plan to learn how to use Pixeloom sometime in 2018. I do often sketch after I begin, when I realize what would work well as I continue. Below, you can see that after I unrolled I made a sketch of some bands I thought would balance nicely after I made the giant X in this piece.

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That’s a bit about my process, and I hope to have the completed weaving ready to share soon.

 

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