A Tale of Two Towns

Deb Turner


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Graduated double-woven shawl | hand-dyed silk in 6 colours | 88 x 23

With the amalgamation of Turner Valley (incorporated in 1930) and Black Diamond (incorporated in 1929) this year into the newly-named Diamond Valley, I envisaged a two-colour, double-sided piece in honour of their two stories merging.

That was the easy part.

First, hours of design time. Given Turner Valley’s history as the site of Alberta’s first significant oil field, I thought to create a design line emulating slicks of oil. I love to play with structure and colour and I envisaged an elaborate multi-weave that would meld equally from one side of the cloth to the other so that each side was mirrored.

I use weaving software: a modern tool for an ancient art. The use of a computer to aid in weave design requires deep knowledge of weave structures, your design sense and familiarity with how you can use the program. I’ve spent many years studying the fundamentals of weaving, and two decades learning aspects of the program which drives the loom. My original plan would have produced a double-sided cloth, woven with two shuttles, but I wanted to create something much more complex, so I decided on 12 more iterations of the original pattern. This meant changing the the plan of the weaving process in order to maintain the integrity and patterning of the cloth, while simultaneously trading the front weft colour with the back weft. The changes with each iteration changed the weave structure, which is a combination of plain and twill weaves. This is why the motif design changes size; those structures interlace with different densities. 

In order to do this, I had to program a file for each step. In any other weaving I’ve done, I only created one step; this weave uses 13. There were over 1000 warp ends of silk in 4 colours in this piece.

I chose silk for the piece and hand-dyed six colours – four for the warp and two for both sides of weft. Blues to represent the rivers and the sky, golds and reds for wonderful sunsets and all pure and vibrant colours we see in our clear foothills light. The twill structure in the weave creates jagged areas, which reflect the mountains we see every day.