Constructing Community Jenni Sorkin

“In Local Industry, Wilson has embraced the structural limits of the woven object, and harnessed its process, creating an opportunity for communal weaving within the space of the museum. This has both contemporary and historic roots, echoing the traditional kinship networks that existed between women textile workers, both past (quilting circles, communal dye pots, settlement schools), and present (textile hobbyists and apparel workers).” Page 34

This reference of the communities that exists around different textile/fiber arts resonated with me. I feel like textile crafters form communities not commonly seen among other mediums. For example, knitting circles, quilt shop groups, and sewing blogs; there’s even a whole social media platform dedicated to knit and crotchet, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that these communities exist and thrive in a medium that can be, and historically has been, very gendered. It’s interesting to note how these types of groups have evolved with changes in society and technology.

I think the presence of these communities is part of what drew me into sewing and fiber crafting. I initially fell in love with the medium at a very lonely time in my life. The communities I was introduced to gave me companionship and introduced me to many people and places I would have otherwise not met.

My first shibori sample turned out phenomenal. I could not be happier with it. I’m sure this feeling can be attributed (at least in part) to the low expectations I set for myself. I submerged the fabric in the indigo dye for two minutes and allowed it to bloom slowly in water.

Following this success I wanted to try out a couple different stitch patterns—some inspired by our readings and others just curiosities. I cut my fabric into much smaller pieces for these experiments because my main goal was to try many different things. The fabrics I used were the gauzy bamboo and a cotton bamboo blend with a much tighter weave.

For my stitch patterns I experimented with two inspired by the readings: one was a circle pattern and the other was characterized by flowing, organic lines, reminiscent of a shoreline. The other two patterns were variations of straight lines: one followed the grid of the gauzy bamboo and the other was a dot-dot-dash pattern similar to Morse code.

This was my first group of shibori samples that I dyed in my home set-up. The consistently of the dye throughout each piece is slightly different than my in-class piece, and I’m wondering if I did something wrong in my initial set-up. Another possibility could be the different fabric used for some of these samples. I noticed that the two, tightly woven, cotton-bamboo blend samples have the most variation in dye consistency.

The cotton-bamboo weave was a bit difficult to sew through because the weave was so tight. This also caused the gathers to not pull together as tightly as the gauzy bamboo. Pulling the gridded sample was especially difficult. At the edges of the fabric, the vertical threads would slip into the channels of the horizontal row that I was pulling and cause the one thread I intended to pull to become three or more. I did my best to straighten this issue out and I think I would like to retry this pattern in the stiffer fabric to see if I can avoid this problem.

I soaked my samples in cold water for 2 hours while the indigo dye set up. I then dyed each, one at a time, for one minute and allowed them to slowly bloom in cold water. I was quite surprised with the results; the samples I was most excited for didn’t come out as expected and the one I was unsure about ended up being the most interesting.

Circles (fabric-cotton bamboo blend): This one was disappointing. I was expecting all the circles to be visible but instead some didn’t resist the dye enough. I suspect the fabric choice is partly to blame for the poor results. I intend to retry this technique with more flowing and looser woven fabric.

Shoreline (fabric-cotton bamboo blend): I am slightly disappointed with this sample as well. Some of the lines didn’t resist the dye as much as expected. Again, I think the fabric choice is possibly to blame.

Grid (fabric-gauzy bamboo): I was quite excited for this piece because I had not seen any shibori samples with intersecting/perpendicular lines in place of parallel ones. As mentioned above, pulling the gathers became a mess and I was immediately less hopeful. When removing the threads I was quite pleased to see the grid pattern was still somewhat visible. I intend to try this pattern again but with a different fabric and a slightly different stitching technique.

Dot-Dot-Dash (fabric-gauzy bamboo): This was the most disappointing and confusing of the group. The dots and dashes, as well as their placement across the fabric, were done in a repeating pattern but the results were not consistent throughout the sample. I’m confused as to why some of the space between stitch lines was able to resist the dye more than other places. If I could figure out what caused this I’d like to replicate it.

Overall I am intrigued to try more samples in a wider variety of fabrics. I’m hoping to get more samples sewn throughout the weekend and continue to experiment with stitched shibori.

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