HANDWEAVING FOR SHEAR PLEASURE

Gina D’Ambrosio is a shepherd who lives with her husband in New Mexico in a home without electricity. Her flock of 20 sheep provides her with the wool needed to spin the yarn that she uses to weave clothes.

D’Ambrosio visited dallas in late june to participate in handweaver’s from across the natin attended the conference, which was sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America.

D’Abrosio was nervous the thought of having some of her own shawls and jackets modeled before an audience at McFarlin Auditorium. She was the only “sheep-to-shawl” weaver that she knew of at the conference.

DAmbrosio says its’ satisfying to produce garments from beginning to end. For eight years she’s bred lincoln and Romney sheep to get the kind of fleece that has the best texture and colothing. She says lambs produce the most desirable fleece because it’s extremely soft and shiny. Sometimes the lambs produce unusual colors of fleece that they don’t produce as adults. “The fleece becomes a palette of colors,” D’Ambrosio says.

The fashion show featured two of D’Ambrosio’s garments. One was a short, loose jacket in pale blues and greens; the other was a berry-colored shawl. Both were shown with elegant evening clothes. She said she was glad to see her clothes and those of the other weavers presented as “high-fashion” instead of “homespun” fashion.

Many of the clothes in the show had strong geometric cuts and patterns of weaving and dyeing. D’Ambrosio says she was surprised to see many weavers using the technique called “felting”: a matting together of yarn to produce a denser fabric. Also prominent was the “ikat” technique, a resistant dye process better known as a form of tie-dyeing. Another technique is “painted warp,” which involves painting dyes onto handwoven fabrics.

Some of the most elaborate garments in the show ranged from $500 to several thousand dollars. D’Ambrosio’s designs are priced in the $100 to $400 range, depending on the complexity of the garment. If silk and cashmere threads are woven in with the wool, the garment’s price increases.

D’Ambrosio sells her garments through art galleries and studios and often makes them on a commission basis. She currently has works on display at the Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She can be contacted by writing to: Studio, Highway 60, P.O. Box 484, Magdalena, NM 87825.

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