a weaving blog

A blog about weaving, art, and family by NANCY FARR BENIGNI

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Have a Little Obsession

Yeah, I do. I am obsessed with textile printing blocks, and have been collecting them since I was a student at Kent State. At that time, a friend of mine had just returned from Africa and had brought these back for me...

They are hand carved wooden blocks, some of them quite old and quite well used. Textile stamps such as these have been used for many centuries to adorn woven fabrics and garments. Ancient
Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians were familiar with this process, and extant bits of boldly printed cloth from China date back to some time before 220 AD.
Woodblocks for printing are usually made from box, lime, holly, sycamore or pear. They are several inches thick to prevent warping, and larger blocks are made up of several pieces of wood glued together. The block is planed flat, the design drawn on the surface, and then painstaking hand carved.

Amazing, right?
I've used these blocks over and over, and have added many more to my collection over the years.
From time to time I'll post photos of some of them and talk about how they are used. My favorite, of the originals, is this rabbbit. He has appeared in many places. On a twill fabric...

And on rice paper... 

Printed with this, (but more on that later.)

Here is just one more...

Printed on paper with batik wax.

So... I  printed with batik wax, painted the paper, ironed out the wax, and painted again so that the color and pattern are layered and textural. I would have to say that using the textile printing blocks this way is the most spontaneous and fun.
That is just the beginning... much more to come.
Happy Holidays, and thanks for following!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Me and My Arrow

My dog, Max, and I had a day off today. We had some errands to do and it was the perfect fall day to be out & about. The air was crisp and cool and smelled of fallen leaves. The autumn light made me realize that, like Anne of Green Gables, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers (and Novembers.)"
This is fall in my neighborhood.....


And fall in my garden....

Good night!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time to Print...

Today, finally, was the day to print the Stevie Nicks Shawl. I chose 3 textile printing blocks from my collection. They are hand carved wooden blocks that were well used before I acquired them. I've collected them over the years from various places, from eBay to shops in Cleveland and Material Culture in Philadelphia. My favorites are the blocks that were used for printing yards of fabric and garments in Indonesia and India and are slightly damaged from years of use. I feel a connection to the person who so painstakingly carved the intricate designs as well as to the artisans who used them.

For the printing I used PROfab Textile Paint for the first time (available from PRO Chemical and Dye.) In the past I have used thickened Procion dyes, but have had some trouble with the printing bleeding through to the other side of the fabric. When this happened I considered it a happy accident, since my design process is constantly evolving as I work. "Mistakes" like that just lead me in a different direction, one that may not have otherwise occurred to me. However, for this project I had hoped that the textile paint would remain only on the printed side.... and it did! No biggie.. 
Generally I mix colors when I print, but the Indigo Textile Paint color was perfect. A test print on rice paper allowed me to experiment with the stamps and figure out the design.

Aaaand... the finished piece on the printing table.

Some details:

I'm liking the way this turned out:

Thank you for reading... more to come on Inspiration, Process, and Materials!

all my love,


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Stevie Nicks Project... or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

 A couple of weeks ago, a friend forwarded me this posting online... "Legendary American singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks invites fashion designers and stylists across the world to design a show-stopping shawl inspired by her mystical visual style and symbolic lyrics." 

With the September 22 deadline for submission rapidly approaching, I decided to weave a shawl with silver 10/2 tencel I'd been saving for some time. I planned to paint the warp prior to weaving an 8 harness twill, then printing on the finished piece. I have, over the years acquired an extensive collection of textile printing blocks from India, Indonesia, and Africa which I have used to print woven fabrics and paper. More on that later...

So, I gathered supplies on my messy work table...

Wound a warp & threaded my 60" Leclerc Loom...

Prepared the warp for painting...

These colors!

I took a little time off from my part time job and spent 2 days weaving like a mad woman while listening to Stevie Nicks' Silver Springs.... on repeat. 

Finished Weaving!

Next up: Printing. I've decided to print the reverse (unpainted side) of the shawl to give it more interest as it's worn in different styles, and as it moves with you. Below is an image of the shawl with a piece of rice paper, on which I tested the Asian and African fabric stamps:

Obviously I would be thrilled to be chosen as the overall winner of the contest, but this process has been exciting for me for a variety of reasons - it is wonderful to have a project, a reason to sit at my loom for hours everyday again, and to have a set of perimeters within which to find inspiration. There is a second prize - the community prize - where YOU can vote for your favorite. That would be thrilling to win as well! Please vote for me on Facebook!!! And stay tuned for more images of weaving - past and present. 

all my love,