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Anatomy of a Craft Idea

Did you know that gladiolas are August’s flower? Perfect segue to today’s post.

The handwoven shawl in the photos below all began with a single one of these, in a deep fuschia. The technical details are: the shawl is an 8-harness twill, woven with three different tones of pink warp threads (those vertical and threaded through the loom) in mercerized (shiny!) cotton. The weft (horizontal, woven in with a shuttle) is a worsted wool and loopy mohair, plied together, each hand-dyed.


gladiola shawl handwoven by Lisa Allen Lambert gladiola shawl handwoven closeup by Lisa Allen Lambert

But what was the creative process between the flower blossom from a friend’s garden and a concept for the shawl? While a writer might find the genesis for a new project amidst ‘morning pages,’ a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a visual artist may rely on a run of sketches or colorway tests, to find their way to the next inspiration.


gladiola drawing discovery process Lisa Allen Lambert

So starting with the blossom, my pen and paper, I rendered the flower in a realistic fashion. Next, the stylized approach, which is the basic shape and dimensions of the realistic drawing, but eliminates specifics. This is the type of design that works well for embroidery — large areas that will take on personality with color, thread and textural stitch choices. The geometric treatment followed next. Reminds me of the cubist period, introduced in the early 20th century by painters Picasso and Braque. Lastly, the abstract interpretation, and perhaps my favorite. I love fill-in embellishments like the thin diagonal lines in the background. My own precursor to today’s popular zentangles?

Now, the elusive part of this process is the leap from abstract drawing to decisions about thread, weave structure, finishing details, and the finished object. My notes on the gladiola blossom include: velvety texture, rich color that shifts when rotated in the light, pretty. Add to this a personal predilection for functional handmade items and a purist commitment to natural fibers, and somehow the magical idea machine in my head came up with a shawl with good drape (twills are known for their drape quality).

Decorative embellishment as a finishing touch is my way of crossing the creative t’s and dotting the inspired i’s. This shawl’s pearl-embroidered tassels make me feel fancy, transport me to the days of Downton Abbey or czarist Russia!

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  • jenny September 28, 2012, 10:01 am

    wow. what an amazing artistic mind you have. I am seriously in love with that shawl. I must now investigate hand weaving…

    • Lisa September 28, 2012, 10:22 am

      I miss weaving and all that it encompasses – the drawing up of plans, the winding of the warp, threading the heddles, and then the actual weaving, throwing of the shuttle. Some day again …

  • Mary Lou August 24, 2012, 8:37 am

    Lovely! I’m an August birthday, so I have a fondness for glads. Mine didn’t do very well this year, I’m not sure why.

  • Lori August 22, 2012, 4:07 pm

    What a beautiful tour through the creative process! Only thing missing is the tactile feel of this lovely shawl. Thank you for another great post