Posted by: bschutzgruber | July 20, 2013

Recycle… Upcycle…. Fairs… and more…..

The past 30 days have been filled with projects coming to completion (deadlines are my friend!) with 2 major events this month: demonstrating weaving all day at the Saline Celtic Festival and co-chairing AAFG’s participation in the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

Deadline:  Have the ‘Surround Sound Vest’ completed for display at the Saline Celtic Festival

Earlier this year I saw a portfolio case woven from recycled/upcycled VHS tape at Ten Thousand Villages in Ann Arbor. Ten Thousand Villages is a national organization focused on Fair Trade working with artisans in developing countries around the world. Ann Arbor has a ‘brick & mortar’ store on Main Street where I volunteer. The case had a wonderful sparkle but was rigid and that got me thinking…. ‘Could fabric suitable for a garment be woven with magnetic tape???’ Audio cassette tape immediately came to mind – it’s thinner/lighter weight and being a performing storyteller….. I have a LOT of cassettes that I’ve acquired over the years!! I had a sample warp on the small loom I use for demonstrations so I wound the magnetic audio tape onto a bobbin and gave it a try… it wove OK. I put the sample through the washer and dryer…. it came out OK!!! The fabric is a bit stiff so it would be best for outerwear. I decided to make a long vest with narrow panels that I can wear for performances.

Library - 4968

I used 10/2 cotton (purple) and 10/2 tencel (accent) for the warp (12 yards long – 8 1/2″ wide – 24 ends per inch) and began to weave using a simple plain/tabby weave structure.

audio casstte weft

Several days and 150 min of tape (3 cassettes) later….. I had only completed 60 inches = ARG….. 9+ yards to  go. This is taking a LOOONG time. Weaving with the magnetic audio tape is slower than using regular yarns because I had to make sure that each pick (shuttle pass) lay smoothly and did not kink before I beat it. I was getting 15-16 ppi (picks-per-inch). Plus I discovered when my first bobbin was finished and I moved on to the next cassette that magnetic audio tape comes in different colors!! Now began the adventure of finding cassettes that matched as I wanted the fabric color to be consistent. Time to rethink my project…. perhaps a full garment made of this isn’t such a practical idea after all. So…. into my stash I dove and found a wonderful purple rayon boucle that would be perfect to use for the rest of the yardage. I was able to complete the 9+ yards in the same amount of time it took to weave the first 60″.

Library - 4928

Off the loom, washed and dried I had 9 1/2 yards of fabric, 7 1/2″ wide = no room for errors!! I made a muslin prototype to verify fit and did a lot of measure twice (or 3… or 4… times!) BEFORE  I cut anything.

Library - 4930

Pattern: #1028 Artist Vest by Dana Marie Design, Co.

The selvages on the magnetic tape fabric were very rough so I used my serger to give a smoother finish to the edge. I used a cotton/polyester bottom weight fabric to make bias tape for the bands. Sewing the magnetic tape had challenges as the sewing machine needle caused some snagging when it hit the magnetic tape but I was able to carefully work the tape back into place.

And here’s the end result!

Last Roll - 01Last Roll - 10Last Roll - 03Last Roll - 06Last Roll - 07

‘Surround Sound Vest’ made her public debut on July 13, 2013 at the Saline Celtic Festival.

0713130859Celtic Fest crop

Her ‘Celtic’ experience continues with her ‘international debut’ in August when she’ll travel with me to Carmarthen, Wales where I’m taking a tapestry course by Alastair Duncan – part of the biennial summer school by the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers in the UK.


  1. What a unique idea! The result is gorgeous!!

  2. Wow! That’s quite a garment Barbara. All you need now is to fit it with sensors and some sound recordings so the recordings are triggered as you move or perhaps different sounds are set off in different environments. Hmmm, I think I may be revealing my interest in sound as well as fibre.

  3. I’m so heartened to hear about another Spinner of Yarns (both real and imagined) like me; and so miffed to discover that we just missed meeting by inches. I was at the Guilds Summer School Trade Fair in Carmarthen on Saturday. If only I’d known about you sooner, I would certainly have sought you out. I hope you had a great visit to Wales. I dream of a trip to Michigan but don’t know if I’ll ever pull it off.

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