For weaver and designer Jean Degenfelder, it all begins with color. Her one-of-a-kind jackets, shawls, bags, capes and specialty garments are infused with hues that can be rich, bright, and vibrant, or more subtle and muted in nature. Once she is comfortable with her color palette, the weaving can begin on one of three hardwood looms in her studio overlooking Lake Hodges in northern San Diego County.
“I work either on a 24” 4-harness LeClerc, a 45” 4 -harness LeClerc, or a 54” 12-harness Fireside,” she explains. “The width of the loom determines the size of the fabric that can be made and the number of harnesses determines the complexity of the cloth. I mostly work in plain weave on the LeClercs, and I use the 12 harness Fireside for more complex structures such as twills.”
Degenfelder blends cottons, rayon, chenille and silk in her work, and is now incorporating Tencel™, which has a silk-like quality and creates a soft cloth that drapes easily. And she is always on the lookout for what is different that will add to the unique quality of each piece. Right now, she is experimenting with silk from recycled saris produced at a yarn cooperative in Nepal. Degenfelder is known for mixing several different textures in a single structure.
Once Degenfelder has created the cloth, its size and texture helps determine which garments she will create. She uses a lot of traditional styles favored by weavers because she wants to preserve as much of the hand-woven cloth as possible. One of her most popular items is one that she has dubbed “the twisted shawl,” a tube of cloth with a single twist (similar to a Mobuis strip) that produces a flattering garment which sits comfortably on the shoulders and falls to a flattering “V” at the back.
Degenfelder, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Clothing and Textiles from San Diego State University, began weaving in 1994. She has continued her training at fiber workshops, seminars and conferences in the United States and in Europe and Asia. She shares her passion for weaving in classrooms throughout San Diego County, and during the summer, operates a summer school for young artists at her studio, which is housed in a yurt at her family compound.
Her work has been shown at Contemporary Craft Market, Santa Monica and San Francisco; American Art Festivals, San Jose, San Diego, and Santa Monica; Festival of Arts, Tempe, Arizona; Great Arts and Crafts Festival, Las Vegas, ArtWear, San Diego; and the Designing Weavers Show and Sale, among other venues.
Degenfelder is a member of Handweavers Guild of America, San Diego Creative Weavers Guild, Palomar Handweavers Guild, Poway Arts and Crafts Guild, Designing Weavers, and the American Association of University Women.