The Painted Warp

Experimenting with ikat at home  

In my work as a dyer and weaver I have been developing the concept of 'the painted warp' and have been experimenting with ways of patterning and colouring the warp threads. I work primarily with natural dyes (woad, madder, cochineal, weld) but also use acid dyes in small quantities. My dye studio is in a rural location and any wastewater runs into soakaway drains – so I need to ensure my dye effluent is either recycled or returned to the earth with minimum environmental impact.
Over the summer I have been exploring new ways of adding colour to my warp and have been inspired by the beautiful Central Asian ikats – my journey started with my reading Carpet Ride to Khiva and continued, reading the third issue of Hand/Eye Magazine cover to cover on my two hour train journey down to Joss Graham's wonderful gallery in Belgravia, London, where I was able to touch and see first-hand beautiful garments in this distinctive style. I also saw the ikat-inspired prints of Basso & Brooke at the Design Museum earlier this summer and visited the Victoria & Albert Museum to delve into the collections in the textile archive (I believe there are more examples at The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) I also wanted to learn more about silk and loved the book by Mary Schoeser with beautiful images and in-depth technical information.
As a final year textile degree student with limited time and resources (always deadlines, not enough weeks, a very small budget and only two hands!) I thought about different ways of applying colour to my warp, which were less disciplined and allowed a freer approach. I did not want to merely replicate the traditional Ikat patterns but rather interpret them within my work into a more abstract design, incorporating the richness and fluidity of colour.
I have experimented in the past with various methods of resist-dyeing both textiles and more recently warp and weft yarns. Some of the methods I have tried recently include:

  • — Painting directly onto the warp on the loom – only do small sections at a time and you have to wait for it to dry in between! (This only really works with chemical dyes)
  • — 'drawing' directly onto the warp off the loom using a pipette - you can't be too precise with where the dye goes – but you get some lovely blended colour effects.
  • — Dip dyeing the warp to create interesting blends where the colours meet
  • —Resist dyeing the warp and weft to create 'kasuri' effects with indigo dyes

During my preliminary research into methods of dyeing I discovered the work of Bonnie Tarses who uses a 'turned weft to warp' process to create space dyed warps and ikat effects on the warping board.
I experimented with this method and tried two approaches:

  1. space dyeing/painting the warp flat using acid dyes
  2. tying in resists and dip-dyeing the warp using natural dyes

I also made a matching warp by dip dyeing using natural dyes, having different sections of the warp submersed in the dyestuff, allowing the colours to bleed into each other.
I have become totally immersed in this fascinating way of dyeing warps and will be developing my ideas further as I go into my third and final year at university. I will continue to investigate dyeing methods which take into account wastage and recycling of dyestuffs and would like to continue working with natural, locally grown dyes like woad and focus on developing my skills in using the red dyes like cochineal and madder.
References and bibliography
Carpet Ride to Khiva – Christopher Aslan Alexander Icon Books (2009)
Silk - Mary Schroeser Yale University Press (2007)
Central Asian Ikats – Ruby Clark V&A Publications (2007)
Bonnie Tarses turned weft ikat wonderful collection of world textiles located in London close to Victoria Station. Victoria & Albert Museum
Basso & Brooke Basso & Brooke
Local Norfolk woad grower who produces high quality woad pigment and sells other natural plant dyes
Join Aviva on her journey as she develops idea ideas at



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