Monday, December 11, 2006

where what and when: working with Jacquard

Where: The Montreal Center for Contemporary Textiles

5800 St Dennis Street studio 501

Montreal Quebec H2S 3L5

What: Beginners and Intermediate Workshops in Jacquard Weaving and Pointcarré Software

Instructor: Louise Lemieux Bérubé:

Graduated in History of Art, Louise Lemieux Bérubé has taken on courses specialized in textile design in France with the creators of the Pointcarré software as well as design for Jacquard weaving in the USA (Rhode Island School of Design). She has also studied Haute Couture, contemporary visual arts and interior design.

Since 1990, she is President of the “Conseil des métiers d’art” of Québec. Cofounder of the “Centre des métiers d’art en construction textile” of Montréal, she is also director of the school where she teaches textile creation on computers.

Or two weeks of play at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles.

First it’s repeat repeat repeat actually first it is arrive in Montréal at least a day in advance of the workshop and find your neighbourhood spot. A place where you can cool out (and believe me you will need it) this time around (this is my second time taking these workshops and my third visit to the centre) this time I was staying over by Concordia and found Café Fuego at 1846 Ste Catherine Quest in the block west of Rue St Mathieu. Great Patio in shades of Ochre, Beige and Black, strong coffee, great sandwiches and Gelato it is an envelope of comfort.


Day 1 introduction to the Centre, Jacquard Weaving and Pointcarré Software and repeat, repeat and repeat. It is a process of designing an image that can be repeated with the push of a button.

Well this was my second attempt like or not it is what it is. This design is created in a Pattern Window which has a set of tools and commands that are different then those provided by Photoshop and other design software. The way the Colours operate is very specific to the next step in the soft ware which is the Jacquard Cloth Window. In this window weaving structures are assigned to each specific colour.

A simulation of the weaving is generated by the software and gives you a fair example of what the final weaving will look like. 1 warp (white) 1 weft (colour)

But the reality is you are learning new software and it is weaving and you are required to check and recheck because if you don’t what you think is a nice one inch repeat ends up being a 8 inch wide image that repeats 4 and a half times instead of 42

I became obsessed with the idea of making my own upholstery for my couch, and played a bit with other designs (which where supposed to be a brocade which is learned on the first day of the second week) but I open the file while still have another file open and the structures where replace by the old file and blah blah blah. This is a unfortunate deficiency in the software I think, but knowing this can happen should make you more conscious of safe working procedures, but I find accidents and mistakes provide future source material so here is a mistakes from day one of week two ( again it is a repeat and should have been a brocade, but I lost the second weft when I open it after looking at the first repeat Jacquard Cloth Window)

Though this design had a mistake that means starting over they gave me a better starting point then my first design a sample of which was woven with an orange cotton weft on a white cotton warp and is quite frightening really looks like something a teenage girl of quickly approaching middle age pop starlet would wear as a skirt.

And now back to the first day and its only noon and lunchtime. A greasy spoon of the factory building which houses the Centre at 5800 Ste Dennis in Montreal makes you whish for a McDonald’s or Burger King.

Afternoon session

Shaded Satins and Twills, classics in textile construction and yet used artistically, efficient at rendering photographic images. I will let them speak for themselves.

Step One: First you take a scanned image, then using the Pointcarré software you bring down the number of greys in the image (and there are more then you can imagine) to 13

Step Two: Assign 1 Warp (white) 1 Weft (brown) a sequence of weave structures that go through a monochromatic grey scale of light to dark

Step Three: push a couple of buttons and tada a simulation, a Shaded twill (not woven) the obvious difference from image one to image three above is the stretching that has occur and it is at this point you go back into the software to make corrections to achieve the proper shape and scale.

There is of course more to it then pushing a couple of buttons. In this case the simulation was set of with a white cotton thread for the warp and a brown cotton thread of equal size for the weft to achieve the sepia tone I was looking for. The reality is you can make changes a pixel at a time by keying in a design window from the jacquard cloth window and with all three windows open at the same time you can actually witness the simulation reweave each change as you make it.

This is the third workshop I have attended ( and the second time I have written about it: see Jacquard Journey in Fibre Quarterly 2005 Anthology or Surfacing Journal Summer 2002, Volume 24, Issue 2) and each time a philosophical question comes up about “Why weave a photograph?” The simple answer is you can clime Mount Everest because it is there. It is however a more interesting question than that. As the development of the Jacquard loom made a dramatic change in Western Weaving Traditions of Europe that were progressing through the racial changes of the on going “Industrial Revolution”, the invention of the Camera brought about a ground swell of innovation and radical change to the very essence of painting. The camera allowed/ forced painters and “art critics” and philosophers to see with new eyes. During the same time period of the mid 19th century science developed new pigments for paint and dyes that gave a new pallet to use, some dyes more destructive to the yarns being used at the time ( history tells use many things) then others. That is a different story.

With the Centre for Contemporary Textiles and these workshops under the instruction of generous and patience Louise Bérubé, give the opportunity for both practicing weavers and non weaving artist the time to experiment with this concept. Computers give us a variety of method by which to acquire or create and alter images/ patterns. The Jacquard loom also provides another set of choices and chances to sequentially alter images, weaving being a method of building surface a thread at time, weave structure and yarn composition and colour adding yet more elements to these chances to achieve effects within the constraints of the medium. The finished Jacquard cloth in itself becomes yet another medium to embellish, alter and manipulate makes the original question of “why weave a Photograph?” almost a mute point. Max Allen of the Textile Museum of Canada likes to say that textiles are a site of story telling let me get on with telling you about my two weeks at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles.

Shaded Satins plain and simple: The source material guy above and guy over to the right, The design below, The simulation and yes this one was actually woven. And why weave a photograph? Why not?

This shaded Satin has been woven and is entitled “two guys and a cigarette” is 40” wide by 18” approximately.

Next: Double weave: 2 warps (white) 2 wefts (2. different colours/ layers) stitched

End of Week one,

As weavers techinal langauge and graphic depictions of weave stuructures are recognizable and for non weaver it must be obvious that the grid is ultimately the basic source of all weaving design. This is information that is as complicated or simple as your personality allows it to be and it is the backbone of what these workshops are about: processing designs down to the technical instructions for the computer operated Jacquard loom to follow. You need to “Suspend your disbelief” in the Bretchtian sense when you approach most new software, you must believe it works, not necessarily understand how it works that will come with time

Too Weak need more coffee Week Two

Since I have already over loaded you with text week two will just be images. I have put this in the Aroundtown Blog for expedience sake to show my fellow workshop participants what I was working on and now invite the rest of them to submit their own images and thoughts. I have also put this in the Blog to let other artist and Textile people get an inside view of the work it is possible to contemplate doing through the MCCT under the tutelage of the gifted Louise Bérubé

Shaded Brocade 1 Warp (white) 2 Wefts A(brown) B (red, brocade)

Multi Coloured Satins
1 Warp (white) 3 Wefts A( brown) B ( light Brown) C (yellow)

Multi Coloured Shaded Satins , 2 Warps (white) 2 Wefts A (brown) B (orange)

Shaded Satins with Shaded Brocade
1 Warp (white) 2 Wefts A(orange), B (brown brocade)

Now the mistake would be to have not have had a naming strategy for keeping ones files in proper order. In the Pointcarré software as I have said there are several different windows in which you can work on your design and weave structures and the finally saving a the cloth window along with its harness tie up into a different software readable by the Looms computer and at any step along the way you can misplace or lose any one of them, because ultimately we are only human and when trying to provide the all mighty computer with all it requires we are capable of trashing the harness tie ups, placing the cloth page in the wrong file and ….

Needles to say I left the report pages of the weave structures to be woven with no cloth file or harness tie up to weave them into. A healthy sense of humour is a gift from the gods and I do hope you possess one it makes life and its (not to mention your own) foibles very entertaining

The End.

One of the workshop weavers Marilyn Bernier is a graduate of the Centre and has her own Studio Shop in Montreal the website is

You can visit the Centre's website at

and Louise Lemieux Bérubé may be found on line at

The schedule for the 2007 jacquard workshops can be found on the Workshop and Conference page of fibreQUARTERLY