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Kasuri Ikat Weaving with Beth Ross Johnson


I don't take weaving workshops very frequently.  It's the hauling and carrying and setting up and tearing down that usually keeps me from signing up.  Spinning workshops and dyeing workshops are easy.  Mostly you don't need a lot of supplies or heavy furniture.  Sure, you may need to bring your spinning wheel but they aren't grotesquely heavy and I move mine around often enough that it just doesn't seem like a big deal.  A weaving workshop is different.  You need a loom and looms are generally large and heavy and difficult to move.  Weaving workshops constitute the best reason in the world to own a small loom, preferably one that folds up and will easily go in the back of your car.

Now that I own a Saori loom, taking a weaving workshop is easy.  So I bundled my loom up, put it in it's bag and loaded it into the back of my car.  Off to Katy, TX for a fabulous three day workshop.  The Saori is a Japanese loom and what could be more appropriate than a workshop that studies Japanese Ikat weaving techniques?

Beth Ross Johnson is a consummate weaver who has spent years learning the careful nuances of Japanese Ikat weaving.  She  teaches frequently at various locations in including the John C. Campbell Folk School and Penland School of Craft near her North Carolina home.  We were so pleased that she could make time in her busy schedule to give us this three day workshop.

Our first day was spent winding our weft yarn between two posts, carefully measured to be the same or slightly wider than our warp.  We used 10/2, 8/2 or 5/2 cotton for this class.  My choice was 5/2 mercerized cotton.  I had brought more of the blue yarn that was my warp along with yellow, green and red cotton of the same size.  There were 13 of us in this class so there was much laughing and chatting while we wound our weft.  They we dyed the yarn bundles we had made.  All of us in the small kitchen was chaos but somehow we all got our yarn dyed.

Note to self - no matter how much you think you will be able to recognize your own yarn after it has been piled in a large vat of dye with the yarn of 12 other people - put your name on it somehow!

The next two days were spent learning about Japanese Ikat weaving through examples and slides from Beth and weaving the yarn bundles we had dyed.  It was wonderful!  And amazing!

This is a technique I will definitely include in my weaving although the idea of weaving yards and yards of fabric where each weft thread must be adjusted to make exactly the correct pattern isn't going to happen.  I envision a stripe of Ikat along the edge of a kitchen towel or down the center of a scarf.

One of the things I enjoy about learning new techniques is the level of appreciation that comes with it.  I certainly will look at Ikat weavings with greater depth of appreciation from now on.