Vicki takes cotton and wool fibers through many phases before laying a knot. These phases include cotton spinning and plying, wool fleece preparation, spinning and dyeing.
Shifting to low-impact production methods to dilute the intensity of consumptive technologies is imperative. Vicki uses only natural ingredients in the dyeing and mordanting process, much the same way weavers worked before harsh chemicals were introduced during the industrial revolution.
Read more about natural materials
Three Natural Dyes: A Primary Palette
Peter Romich, of San Francisco, Vicki's friend and fellow rugweaver, introduced her to Nest Rubio of Cambridge, England. A master rugmaker and dyer, Nest rediscovered the 28-day cold water mordant process from the ancient Middle East. This process is used before dyeing the wool with madder (red) and weld (yellow), and assures light-fast colors. Skeins of spun wool are un-mordanted before dyeing in the indigo (blue) vat. Vicki's primary palette is madder (Rubia tinctorum), weld (Reseda luteola), and indigo (Indigo tinctorum).
Vicki's son, Simon, designed and built the loom for the California Rug. In order to preserve the integrity of the knots with long pile, the loom allows 22 feet of warp to remain fully exposed during the rug's weaving. The loom was built from California grown timbers recycled from the rafters of a demolished lumber mill. Strong enough to bear the great tension of the warp, the horizontal beams protrude beyond the plane of the verticals allowing for easy shed manipulation. The warp wraps around upper and lower horizontal beams leaving the vertical weaving surface directly in front of the weaver.
This project welcomed co-operative working. Spinners, weavers, dyers, wool and cotton growers throughout California were actively involved in building the rug.
Creating the Cartoon
Cartoon is the traditional name given to the paper design followed faithfully by the weaver. In this case, it was designed using a computer graph format, then printed out as a paper graph, each square representing one knot of color. Emily Whittlesey designed the cartoon using an Illustrator program for the first two thirds of the rug, then MacstitchX for the last third.
Top Right: Tying Knots -Bottom Right: Vicki Fraser holding woolen roving