The Maker: Constance Collins
Weaving together bold, geometric designs and sustainability, Constance Collins is bringing an ancient medium into the 21st century. The Indy-based textile artist specializes in what she calls “art couture,” crafting one-of-a-kind scarves and capelets with all-natural fibers. She spends considerable time perfecting each pattern, as well as choosing environmentally responsible materials. “When people are done with their textiles, they’re going into landfills,” she says. “Look at how much of our clothing comes from manufactured fiber like polyester and nylon. Those don’t break down for hundreds of years.”
By contrast, Collins loads her 16-harness, 48-inch loom with sustainable alpaca, silk, and bamboo. “My signature line is a silk-and-bamboo blend that is very fine yarn,” she says. “It’s really lightweight and drapes beautifully.” Just how lightweight? Such a scarf measuring roughly 11 inches wide and 86 inches long includes over 1 mile of yarn and weighs just four ounces. Depending on dimensions and material, Collins’s scarves cost $250 to $345.
Long before she handles a single thread, however, Collins uses computer-aided design to draft patterns and experiment with color combinations. She continually asks herself, Where am I going to place these colors so that the pattern is still front and center? Once she has a design in mind, she “dresses” the loom, which can hold four or five pieces at once. Inserting the hundreds of delicate yarns takes a few days, and the actual weaving takes up to 15 days.
To finish each piece, she gathers, twists, and knots its ends to create decorative fringing. She also “wet-finishes” each item with a gentle soaking in water and an ironing at a low temperature. “Anything you weave is really stiff when it first comes off of the loom,” she says. “It’s that wet-finishing and ironing that gives it the softness and luster.”