Today I analysed this cushion design by the Welsh weaving mill Melin Trygwynt. It´s a particularly pleasing, geometric design and the mill produce the design as cushions, blankets and other products in wool.
Below you can see the fabric window view of my weave software which I used to “discover” the “formula” behind the pattern.
It has been an interesting exercise to analyse the design and see how it was woven. You learn a lot from this process. In theory I could weave a design which uses the same colours and type of yarn and the result would be similar to the Melin Trygwynt piece, but it would be questionable to do this from an ethical viewpoint. When there is so much scope for creating original design why imitate or copy someone elses? It´s often because of a lack of knowledge and skill.
From a personal viewpoint, the idea of copying designs just doesn´t interest me and never has. For this reason I find the idea of using pattern books as ready-made design sources quite boring. I am also reluctant to tell my students exactly how pieces are woven – because I´m far more interested in showing them the principles behind the design so they can go on to create original designs themselves. It takes a long time and experience to start to master this though, probably a lifetime.
I am more interested in learning about how patterns work and how woven structure and colour can work together in original and interesting ways in order to develop my own style. Sampling using standard patterns is a useful first step, although even then I always introduce elements of my own and use that as a springboard. But increasingly the idea for the design comes first and then I look for ways to translate it into a woven textile.
Ths leads me on to suggesting that small-scale, high-end independent fashion designers in Spain can also approach the issue of fabric in a different and more interesting way. I am sometimes approached by young designers wishing me to weave fabric by hand. I have yet to meet a designer who is actually aware of the work involved and the time a craftsperson needs to work on an entirely new weave project and most projects founder because the designer hasn´t realised just how time-consuming it is to create a bespoke textile. Designers often lament how little craftspeople know about design, and often they have a point. But designers are also pretty ignorant about how craftspeople work and see them simply as suppliers of labour and have a lot to learn as well.
A textile designer contacted me only last week to ask me if I could wave a short length of fabric for a prototype range of clothing using a very classic, simple pattern. The idea was interesting in principle and I suggested that the classic design could be updated and given a contemporary twist rather than weaving the existing, standard design. Because I understand how structure and pattern works I know how to adapt a classic style and give it an original touch or flavour, adding value and interest to the final garment design. I´m not really that interested, as a hand-weaver, in replicating standard, classic designs; hand-weaving is an incredibly time-consuming process so if you´re going to commission some expensive hand-made, limited-edition fabric then the quality and appropiateness of the design is fundamental.
But if weavers in Spain don´t develop these these design skills or knowledge of how to adapt classic designs they are limited to copying standard designs and this can only lead to dull, stagant design. This is quite common. In fact classic designs have always been re-worked in fashion because they are so successful, but they do need to be adapted as tastes evolve.
My own view is that to keep a competitive edge requires innovation rather than replication. And this depends on skill and creativity and the ability to develop one´s own style. And although it takes time, it´s a lot more satisfying than copying or weaving traditional patterns.