Woven Words: A Fashion Event For The Greater Good


Guest Post by Karen Page

This big idea combines weaving and words. My dream performance project is to create a stitched and assembled blanket constructed of woven strips of fabric inlaid with words. The words define or represent individuality and diversity in our community, or the understanding and hope for humanity. (Or course, there could also be a subversive piece!) The blanket composition represents comfort and protection.

Using two or more floor looms located in a public space, the project would encourage  participation through suggestions for words that would be included in the piece as well as actual weaving on the loom. Another loom could be set up for the participants to weave a section composed of yarns duplicating their skin tone. These strips could create a border or additional strips for the blanket.

The design of each woven strip would be 5 inches wide and 10 yards long. Using the technique of supplemental weft, words would be woven into the warp strip that could then be cut, arranged, and stitched together to create a finished “blanket of humanity”. This process references age-old weaving techniques such as African narrow strip band weaving and Kente cloth. It also references patching and quilt-making, and other woven techniques apparent in all cultures. Words could also be embroidered onto the woven strip bands.

Materials: 100 % mercerized cotton yarn (Supreme Corporation, NC) Looms and equipment to be supplied.

Colorway design: Red/rust background, representing the blood in all living creatures, with words black or in any color. The design would add a patterned layer of blue veins, either woven in or screen-printed on the weaving. Areas could be embroidered, dyed, or discharged in the shape of human hands.

Community participation: I envision this project set in various public places such as Alphabet City, The Mattress Factory, The Andy Warhol Museum, CAPA Gallery, Nova Place, The Children’s Museum, The Science Center, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Society for Contemporary Craft, The Jewish Community Center, various churches, schools, city libraries, senior citizen centers, and in parks or community events under a tent. The possibilities are endless. This idea presents an unparalleled  opportunity for community and inter-generational collaboration. The resulting finished woven pieces would be displayed throughout our neighborhoods and serve as inspiration to create this project worldwide.

My inspiration for this project began when I was a graduate assistant at Kent State University, during a summer session with a visiting artist. Several looms were warped for narrow strip band weaving and each participating student had to weave a section on each loom. At the end of the session the woven strips were cut and shared. The woven strip bands could then to  be assembled into a finished piece such as a scarf, cape, coat, or blanket. Later I made a cape for my first of four trips to Kyrgyzstan than included words of inspiration, protection, and my family members. Since I didn’t know what to expect on this journey, my cape became a blanket, sleeping bag, towel, and protective covering on this  incredible trip. It was a personal protective covering. The big idea of my proposed project is that it could be performed around the world and the woven pieces could be shared resulting in a truly international exhibition of community collaborated pieces.

During the school year I am an adjunct in the Visual Arts Department at CAPA 6-12 Pittsburgh Public Magnet School where I teach Textile Studies. I have a fantastic studio where I can teach my students weaving, sewing, construction and stitching, feltmaking, quiltmaking, stuffed sculpture, knitting, crochet, surface design such as painting, immersion dyeing, shibori and wax resist techniques, and whatever else we wish to explore My students would be actively involved in this project. Lesson plans and instructions would  be developed to enable this project to travel to any site. I envision this as a platform for an international, inclusive dialogue. Ideally all information would be shared and all woven strip bands could be combined.