Monday, August 19, 2013

Shot Cottons #1--introducing Peppered Cottons

I work with a fabric company called StudioE and after a long time, we've come up with a line of almost-solid colors that's getting a lot of attention. The line is called Peppered Cottons and is a 25 shade offering of shot cottons in luscious colors.

What are Shot Cottons exactly?  They're cotton fabrics in which the warp (lengthwise threads) are one color and the weft (side-to-side threads) are a
second color. The word 'shot' here means that the shuttle carrying the weft thread is 'shot' (thrown or mechanically moved) across the warp. What's intriguing about shot cottons is their mutability and interesting changeable color. While you'd think a blue warp and a yellow weft might produce green (as we've been taught in art class by mixing blue + yellow) instead the result is a soft green-ish blue. Or blue-ish yellow. You get the idea. The final effect of shot cotton combinations is not always predictable. The picture here is of Color #38-Moss-on the Peppered Cottons card. Maybe a blue + yellow combination? No, this is actually a deep purple warp combined with a bright lime weft and of all things, makes for very mellow green. Who knew?

 Another characteristic of a shot cotton is that the threads (called yarn in the industry) are dyed before being woven into fabric. 

The hanks stacked in the photo left to right are
Tobacco (#85) Paprika (#32), and Carbon (#23).

Yarn-dyed fabrics can achieve an intense color that's different than fabric dyed the same color after being woven. Call it richer and deeper. Side note here: chambray, as in chambray shirts, is also a type of shot cotton. In chambrays, the warp is a color but the secondary color (weft) is white.

The home of almost all shot cottons (and shot silks too) is India. Weavers in India have been using the two-color combinations for hundreds of years. When very lightweight threads are used, the resulting shot cottons are used for summer saris, the traditional Indian dress. A sari takes 5-9 yards of fabric so the fabric must be really light.   How to Wrap a Sari

Probably more than any other point, convincing the Indian weavers to try weaving shot cottons using thicker threads in the hope of producing fabric of a comparable weight to other quilters' fabric was a challenge. But they gave it a try and when we examined the samples, we were delighted. In the picture the color called Blue Jay (#85) is being woven.

Here at last are the rich and interesting shades of shot cottons but with the right feel for quilters. With the tactile quality of handwoven fabrics in the quilters familiar weight plus all the beautiful colors made possible by yarn-dying, Peppered Cottons fills a need in the quilters' palette. 

As soon as I received some samples of Peppered Cottons I put them to good use! Here is the little quilt I made for the Alzheimer Art Quilt Initiative. It will be auctioned with other quilts at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas in October. 

                               Hanging by a Thread by Pepper Cory
                                      in honor of Susan McKelvey