Ruth Sheuing - Jacquard weaving, TSA workshop, MakerLabs and more.

Ruth Scheuing is an artist who works in textiles, with a focus on how textiles communicate through patterns, as language and mythology and how they reflect women’s history as well as global trade. Her work often explores new technologies, such as computerized Jacquard looms and GPS (Geographical Positioning System) technology, Google Earth and Satellites. She uses an AVL Jacq3G jacquard loom and works out of MakerLabs in Vancouver, BC. We caught up with her recently after a workshop she hosted at Symposium 2018 put on by TSA.


Ruth, you have an extensive background in weaving dating back decades, but I’d like to focus on what you've been up to recently with your Jacquard weaving and other projects (such as the TSA Symposium Workshop) and learn more about how you got into MakerLabs and how that’s going for you.

I started weaving in the late 70’s as a typical west coast life style and later did a lot of multishaft weaving and dobby weaving and set up a computer assisted Dobby AVL loom at the Banff Center in early 90’s. And then got involved with Jacquard weaving in the late 90’s with Louise Berube in Montreal, and did most of my work there until I had access to a local TC 1 here in Vancouver and then later as we bought our own AVL Jac3 loom from Capilano University in 2011. I bought it on auction when my school decided to close our textile program in 2014. I did intend to make our loom available to many people, because I saw that often access to jacquard looms is difficult for those not attending master programs or any schools. And we have since learnt that maintaining a loom for others may not be always easy, but we find it works fine as long as one of us is here, watching and then we just do our office work, while people weave. 

AVL J3G loom setup with samples for the TSA workshop.

Nice! I always prefer weaving under supervision so I feel like I would fit right in! Can you tell us more about the recent TSA workshop you hosted? What was the purpose and focus? Who hosted the workshop with you? How was the turnout and what types of people attended? What did you weave?

I had met Julie Holyoke in 2010 at Lisio, Florence, where she taught Jacquard weaving. At that time I had been doing a lot of pictorial Jacquard pieces, using mostly ‘weft-backed satins’ or 2-3 weft satins that allow for multiple shaded colour graduation. I have woven many pieces with this setup, including my most recent work (When Ada Lovelace meets Penelope) shown at Canadian Craft Biennale in 2017 and most recently in Vancouver in 2018. 

Penelope Meets Ada Lovelace   © Ruth Scheuing --

But I missed the more textured weaving I saw in ornate 18th century and early Jacquard weavings, which I had seen in Europe, (I visited Lyon and Abegg-stiftung on several occasions). Over time Julie encouraged me to use more experimental weaves and that is how we started to focus on developing weaves that focus on warp rather than just weft. Also we decided to use quite thick yarns so we could really see what the warp was doing. By painting some warps, we could mimic different multiple warp set ups. We focused first on combining ground warps (that created the structure and stability) and pattern warps (that mostly created effects by floating above and below).

Sampling different multiple warp techniques. 

Then we looked at various double cloths and multi-layer weaves and finally Warp Samit and Taquete and Lampas. Lampas had always seemed the elusive secret and ended up being the most fun, mostly as it allows for solid colors to interlock as compared to the not quite solid colours achieved with satins and most other weft based weaves. Also the weaves are very much more tight structurally. Single weft weaves allow for pictorial gray-tones but create a fairly thin cloth; a combination of weft-faced multi-layered weave tends to always be a bit spongy, Also these new tight structures then hold up looser weave structures when applied systematically. This is all very old knowledge and well understood by early Jacquard weavers, but forgotten a bit now when the emphasis is on easy translation of pattern into pixels. 

Lampas Space Invaders designed by Julie Holyoke
Carp - Ruth Sheuing Lampas

Most of the people attending the workshop had some previous experience with Jacquard weaving and several taught at University programs and some were historians working with collections. Julie also taught a session on analysis of historical weaves. TSA has often taught a more detailed version of weave analysis at previous symposia. We combined the analysis with actually weaving samples and watching how the threads then behaved as most of these multi warp weaves are more difficult to draft and visualize.

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, MFA, PhD -Director, Textile Technology - CUNY/NYC College of Technology
"Layli" (detail), 2018; Designed in Photoshop and woven on the J3G by Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, MFA, PhD 


From left Fran White weaving and then Ruth Scheuing, Julie Holyoke and Mary Lou Trinkwon (the 3 instructors) and Elizabeth Van der Zaag.

Looks like you guys had a great time at the workshop! Also, the space looks fun. Can you tell us about MakerLabs and how you operate out of there?  

Makerlabs <> offers studio spaces that are all open generally; i.e. there are no walls or small cubicles (and we have never lost anything). Also our studio space is quite small, mostly just our loom and a few shelves or 160 square feet, but we also have a membership, which gives access to shared spaces, which we can use to work and meet and also hold classes (some space can also be reserved) but generally we just work around each other in the shared space. We also have a long line for our compressed air form the wood shop. We can access to woodshop, metal shop and lazer cutting, sewing machines etc. as long as we can prove that we know these materials and processes. We are on the 2nd floor in an older  wooden building, the lower floor is filled more with woodworkers and metal shop workers. There are also a lot of events going on and often teachers bring kids around for tours. Upstairs in our area are fashion designers, a glass artist, some jewelers, a person who build a bamboo bicycle, architects, painters, musician, "tech"ies, musicians and a Science group and people working with food

One of my project is working on fixing up and now maintaining and occasionally doing demos on an old card-operated jacquard loom at the local Surrey Museum (I can give you more on that if you want) and I ended up cutting a new set of cards on the lazer cutter. -- Sounds like another blog post!

On our Jac3 loom we weave both our own pieces (Mary Lou Trinkwon and I) we also weave commissions, although we do not really advertise that, but have done several recently. 

Sound File - Designed by Julie Holyoke, woven by Ruth Scheuing

But what we prefere is teaching short workshops, often it seems to non-weavers and they seem more able to translate designs into weavings. Because of our location at makerlabs we are closer to designers and artist and recently video and sound artists and as we work along each other a lot of people see what we do and have ideas for their own projects.  Makerlabs also promotes our workshops and encourages us to teach.

We are also part of the Culture crawl in mid November this year,> which is a very large public event in Vancouver for artists where the public is invited into artists studios and where we talk to a lot of people and we weave fun things like crows and bicycles.

For our workshops format we have tried different versions, but have now settled on 2 full Saturdays of teaching and sampling and then schedule everyone to weave individually their piece. And then we often work with these artists and designer afterwards, when they book the loom for 1 or more days to weave a new piece.

We find that people with good photoshop skills pick it up very quickly and tend to have interesting ideas or concepts and tend to have a sense of how the scale of our threads can work effectively. We have had some weavers and designers do quite experimental things with unusual textures and yarns, but people who have little Photoshop skills sometimes spend too much time on fuzzy design, that don’t quite work or photographs.

We find surprisingly that it is easier sometimes to teach non-weavers to weave on our loom as they tend to just do what we tell them to do; experienced weavers sometimes have more difficulties to adapt to our weaving process.

Those stubborn weavers. Thank you so much for sharing with us Ruth!

To learn more about Ruth Sheuing you can visit her website here.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published