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Deborah Jarchow Talks About Her Creative Process

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Deborah Jarchow, guest weaving instructor at the Raging Wool Weekend Weaving Workshop

Our Weaving Workshop is coming up soon, so we sat down with our guest instructor, nationally known weaving expert Deborah Jarchow, again to get a peek at her process. She's created some stunning pieces, just take a look below. We asked about inspiration and process that goes into her work.

Cascade, by Deborah Jarchow, guest weaving instructor at Raging Wool Shop's Weaving Weekend

Color Series, by Deborah Jarchow - guest weaving instructor at the Raging Wool Shop Weaving Weekend

Q: The Color Series (seen above) is a gorgeous variety of color and texture. Can you talk to us about its creation process, the color choice, and how this collection came together to be just what it is? We'd love to hear about working from oranges to greens to blues to reds and how this series developed. Also, the texture and stunning color of the red Cascade  (top right) immediately demand attention. What do these pieces mean to you? What was on your mind when you were weaving them?

The answers to these two questions have many things in common. When I’m designing any project, I plan the entire thing ahead of time. I have a concept of what I want it to look like then I make drawings to check out proportions and placement. Then I choose the type of yarn that will create cloth that conveys the feeling I want the piece to have. Then there are lots of samples to make sure I get the sett correct for the yarn and the density of the cloth desired. Shrinkage is calculated so I can weave the project to fit the desired finished dimensions. For wall pieces I hang the samples on the wall to see how they will drape and whether or not there is any stretch that I need to consider. After all of that, I begin to plan the color sequences.

Color
For both of these projects I knew I wanted color blending to be the outstanding feature. In the Color Series, there are several distinct colors going all the way around the color wheel so the changes are more dramatic. This piece is made from three separate warps, using different yarns in the weft to create two panels that look different from each warp. These are wool and were woven very loosely then put in the washing machine to shrink and lightly felt. I wanted them to be slightly skewed to convey a whimsical feeling and not be as symmetrical as some of my other pieces.

In Cascade, the color changes are created with many shades of red in the warp - I think seven. The color variation is very subtle from light to dark across the width of the warp. These were all made on one warp that was extremely long - about 20 yards. Then in the weft, I used shades of blue for the panel on the left, shades of red for the center panel and shades of yellow for the panel on the right. (This doesn't show up too well in the photo.) The ratio of both the color changes and the horizontal gathering is based on the Fibonacci Sequence, so it’s subliminally pleasing. There was lots of math involved in charting the design. This piece was originally conceived as part of an exhibit for the space in the top right photo so it would fit into the peaked ceiling and flow onto the floor to draw in the viewer.

Cascade on display in Grand Rapids, MI.

The photo at right is another image of Cascade as it was exhibited at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The piece in the foreground, Mono Falls, is the same idea but smaller and in shades of black, white, and grey. In this image, Cascade is folded over several times to accommodate the length.

The process
These pieces were all woven on a floor loom. However the techniques used in the Color Series piece are explained in my Craftsy class Simply Stunning Scarves in the directions for the Open Weave Felted Scarf. I also give a class that teaches this technique. Cascade is woven using rayon chenille for both warp and weft and is a more difficult weave. In my book that will be out next year, I give directions on how to weave on a rigid heddle loom using rayon chenille. (Editor's Note: We'll also talk about color blending in the Embellished Dishtowel class in the Weekend Weaving Workshop.)

So, for me, the planning, designing, calculating, and sampling are usually the biggest part of any project. Once I actually begin weaving the piece most of my work has already been done. That’s true whether it’s a floor loom piece, or something for the rigid heddle.

Incidentally, Cascade opened the door for me to begin weaving liturgical pieces. Someone saw it in the first exhibit (top right photo) I made it for and when their church wanted to purchase new banners for behind the altar, they remembered this piece and contacted me. I ended up doing four sets of banners for that church and then banners and altar cloths for many other churches.

Q: What inspired you to try wire on the rigid heddle loom? Can you talk about this piece for our readers?

I love trying new techniques and using interesting materials. I’d played around with weaving wire on a floor loom and thought it might be fun to try on the rigid heddle. And I’d been working on a series of wall pieces using ancient symbols as the basis for my designs. Several pieces were based on crosses. I love creating interest with color changes so for this piece, each "warp thread" is actually four very thin wires in the same slot or hole.

On the outside edges, the four wires are all the same color, but moving towards the center of the cross, the colors change to three of one color and one of another, then two of each color, and so forth. It’s more gold tone on the sides and red in the center.

This piece did surprise me, though, because when I started to take it off the loom, my intention was to bend all the warp wires to the back and hide them. I’d left the top of the arms of the cross for last and when I started twisting them they looked like flames to me. It reminded me of a burning cross, so that’s what inspired the name Crossed Wires.

We are so excited to work with Deborah at our Weekend Weaving Workshop coming up. It’s scheduled for Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 in our South Florida shop in Pembroke Pines, and we have three classes to choose from! Click here for more information or to register for our Weekend Weaving Workshop.

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