It’s amazing how quickly it can all become a blur. Here I am back in the tropics…bananas, palm trees and clinging humidity. It is hard to imagine how it had felt being amongst the redwoods experiencing autumnal coolness and colors just a few days ago, snuggling under the covers at night and listening to the chirping crickets.
View from the weaving room at one of the backstrap weaving gatherings at Ace and Pam’s place in Humboldt County a couple of weeks ago.
Not too cold yet to be warping outdoors under the big ol’ oak tree at Janet’s place.
The view from my bedroom! at Cheryl’s place on a break between Humboldt County and Sacramento.
Although I haven’t settled back into my full Bolivian home routine, some parts were easier than others to pick up again….weaving and writing a blog post, for example.
I have managed to get back to the loom since I got home last Thursday and here I am back at the blog. I wove off the plain fabric on the ikat warp that I had taken as a display loom on my US trip.
I decided that this fabric could be sewn into a nice bag for the wee Kindle that I recently bought.
I thought that the top of the bag looked a bit plain and so I wove a teeny pick-up band and attached that to the rim. It was fun weaving that band in fine cotton. I have always liked all things miniature. The finished fabric was just long enough to make a pouch with a drawstring top.
Now it’s time to survey the three wall hangings on which I had been working before the long Fall trip and finish them off.
There are twined ends to be tidied, fringes to be cut, and a new set of red panels to be woven for the first flower panel. Yes, I will be undoing all that weft twining on that piece, removing the current red panels, which are darker and finer than the others, and replacing them with new ones. In that way, all three hangings will have identical red panels each with its own red-on-red pick-up pattern. It wasn’t something that I had had the courage to face before I traveled, but I have been away from my loom for so long and have been missing it so much that I feel I can attack this now with gusto!
And what about the blur and whir of activity in those last weeks of my trip?…
I stayed with Kathleen in La Honda where she gathered a small group for a workshop on advanced supplementary-weft techniques using fine thread. I taught Guatemalan techniques with traditional patterns which some people used for creating patterns outside the box such as autumn leaves and pre-columbian motifs of South America.
I have woven with all these ladies on several occasions on past trips and it was great to see them all again.
Dorothy had spent many weeks over the summer in Peru studying tapestry techniques with the internationally recognized Peruvian tapestry weaver, Maximo Laura. She brought the piece on which she had been working to show us at my insistence.
I imagine that the teacher must be very proud of this student! We all urged Dorothy to have this piece prepared for hanging and professionally photographed.
The design is Dorothy’s own composition. You really have to see it in person to appreciate how much of it is also about texture. Various sections showcase different techniques of color blending and texture.
Dorothy’s stories of her hours spent at the loom in the loud busy-ness of Maximo Laura’s workshop are priceless…the sounds, the colors, the characters, the excitement of it all…as well as the feelings of isolation and occasional loneliness associated with being far from home for such a long time and unable to communicate fluently. I hope that she is able to present her work and tell her stories at her guild.
Kathy and Dorothy also brought along large backstrap pieces which we had started in other workshops in which we challenged ourselves to go wider. Sometimes, when students leave their work untouched for some time, they need a little kick start to get back under way. We can see the value of going away to some foreign land for a six-week intensive weaving retreat where life does not get in the way of our weaving! Kathy tells me that her red and black backstrap in Plymouth Fantasy Naturale, pictured above, is now fnished.
I helped get Dorothy back on track with her piece. She is using Tahki Cotton Classic with three columns of bird motifs which are charted in my first book.
From there I headed up to Humboldt County to my friend Janet and the guild in Eureka. Again, there were lots of familiar faces to greet me…people I had met on previous visits as well as those with whom I had spent time at CNCH.
There was a Basics class followed by a more advanced session and lots of time in between to hang out in Janet’s mill and weave. Above, you can see Amber practicing the supplementary-weft technique we studied in the Basics class. She chose a pattern that I based on a traditional Bedouin motif to decorate her black bookmark. Janet can be seen refreshing her ñawi awapa skills using her own beautiful handspun wool.
During the Basics class, Janet accompanied us at her own backstrap loom weaving a piece with her handspun (of course) and indigo-dyed yarn using the intermesh technique. She chose a Mexican motif that is charted in my second book.
Once done with that, she was ready to warp another wider intermesh project. You see, she now has quite a stash of yarn that she has spun specially for warp-faced weaving and dyed with natural substances. In the past she has used both synthetic and natural dyes but has now decided to stick with natural. Lucky me, I was given some of her gorgeous yarn to take home.
I got into the dyepot with some synthetic dye and dyed some wool that Virginia in Arizona had given me…red and black…no surprises there. This is ready for another series of wall hangings using the ticlla, or discontinuous-warp technique. It is funny that this was what I had chosen to study last summer too. Wait until the weather gets hot and sticky and then let’s bring out the wool! Janet has a nice dye kitchen set-up on the porch outside her mill. These wool projects will be competing with more ikat studies that I have in mind.
One of my discontinuous-warp studies from last summer.
Another ‘ticlla’ study with some pick-up patterning included.
On the second weekend, we went out to Ace and Pam’s place (the place that has that gorgeous view in the first picture in this post). It was nice attaching our warps to the wooden posts in Ace’s living room and extending them from there in a spoke-like fashion.
We used lots of Janet’s wool bands around the posts for attaching our warps. There was time spent weaving but also time spent studying woven motifs and figuring out how to chart them.
Tracy was using a backstrap brought for her from Guatemala patterned with a beautiful double-faced supplementary-weft technique…
The guild meeting in Eureka was wonderfully busy and entertaining. There had been no fewer than three workshops the previous weekend which resulted in lots of Show-and-Tell…backstrap weaving, mushroom dyeing and eco printing.
Onward to Grass Valley again with a fun day that was organized by Diane. She invited people who had taken the two workshops that I have given there to spend some hours in a mentored study group with me. Even Jen, who had taken my class over in Truckee and South Tahoe, was able to make it. It was wonderful to be able to see what everyone was working on. Some people were finishing off the samples that we had started in class while others were well into new projects of their own.
In previous study sessions, Cheryl had warped, with Jane’s help, for a backstrap decorated with a pattern in the Andean Pebble Weave structure. She was able to almost finish weaving it in this mentored study group. Calculating to get the motif centered was tricky considering that Cheryl had not woven a sample with this yarn which we could use as a guide of her beat and take-up. We got close. The motif is charted in my second book. Cheryl uses the “thick border” structure that I describe in my first book and has created a thick and cushy backstrap. I call the backstrap that I made for myself with this structure my ”Rolls Royce”.
From top left to bottom right, you can see Jane, Shan, Wendy and Jen at work. Diane showed me the finished band that we had warped at the end of our last class together…the red, black and white one, below, (motif from the second book)…
With Cheryl and Ken’s ‘wee’ pup, Trace.
…and I loved Jen’s idea of combining solid color yarn with variegated for the plain Andean Pebble Weave section of her backstrap. She has a solid green “background” through which multi-colored pebble spots appear in the variegated yarn.
This is a solid group that gets together frequently for study sessions. I am so happy that I was able to be part of one and offer help and advice.I often long to be able to jump through my computer here in Bolivia to be able to help people who write with questions about their projects.
While revisiting Grass Valley and staying with Cheryl at her gorgeous lake house, Diane, Cheryl and I were invited by renowned fiber artist, Sara Lamb, to visit her home and yurt studio.
This had long been a wish of mine!
Being familiar with some of Sara’s work from her online presence, her magazine articles, and from having seen her in her own woven garments made from her own exquisite handspun and painted yarns, I had an inkling of what I might expect to see within that enticing yurt. Of course, what lay within was beyond my expectations and I am not even sure that I can begin to describe that space filled with the richness of colorful yarn and tools, and crammed with the signs and sources of creativity, production and inspiration. Where to focus, where to start…so much to see and touch and so many stories to hear. It was an impossible space to photograph…at least for me. I would never have been able to contain all that magic in one frame.
Then, we moved into the house where a simple glass-fronted cabinet, with just the right kind of magical muted lighting, revealed an Aladdin’s cave of woven treasures (of course, Woven Treasures, the name of one of Sara’s books…there could be no other name for her work as that is the phrase and vision that immediately springs to mind when you are approaching the display).
Flash photography of course spoils the mood of that muted lighting. Cheryl’s picture is closer to reality than mine.
Picture by Cheryl Taylor.
It was fun to be able to spot a backstrap-woven band used as trim amongst the treasures which resulted from a class Sara had taken with Ed Franquemont.
Each piece had its story. It is an astounding body of work and we didn’t even scrape the surface. We are so grateful to Sara for having invited us over.
The beautiful mansion that houses the Sacramento Youth Hostel
Last stop was Sacramento and a chance to stay with Vonnie and her family again and see long-time online weaving buddy, Franco.
There was a nice combination of known, familiar and new faces in the group…people who had taken classes with me before, people I had met at CNCH and new people with whom I hope to be able to weave again.
I enjoyed the guild meeting and having people thank me for bringing back memories of their trips to Peru from years gone by. I hope that my pictures might inspire in people another visit to South America…maybe Bolivia next time…to see the weavers and the textiles with new eyes. And the guild meeting was a chance to see students again…not only from Sacramento but from other workshops I had given in the area.
Vonnie took me to a great local yarn store called Babetta’sYarn. We shopped for Plymouth Fantasy Naurale so that Vonnie could make her backstrap. As Vonnie paid, Babetta asked if she had taken the backstrap workshop as Jim, another student from that class, had been in the day before also buying the Plymouth yarn to make a backstrap….. that’s the stuff that makes a teacher smile!
Vonnie started her backstrap the next night, I set my alarm for 2am for the pick-up by Super Shuttle, and my work was done!
So, there you have the blur of those last weeks. While all that was going on, backstrap weavers from various countries were posting their projects online and sending me pictures by email…evoking lots of smiles!
Cheryl took the Basics class in San Diego and has already finished making her backstrap. It’s one of the things that I like to emphasise in that Basics class…warping and setting up to create good plain weave. She also picked up on a couple of techniques on which we barely touched by way of introduction and really ran with them! We prepared a warp for Lesson One in my Andean Pebble Weave book as a little kick start to the book. Cheryl took that kick start and went all the way. She also used the pick-up technique we sampled in class to weave the lower band using a traditional pattern that is charted in my second book.
Ruth, in Chile, used the Backstrap Basics article, which I have online in Spanish as well as in English, to weave her own backstrap. She has done a beautiful job!
Ximena, also from Chile, often sends me updates on her Andean Pebble Weave work. Here is a set of bookmarks that she made…
Father Kyriakos, in Australia, wove a wool piece of fabric decorated with Andean Pebble Weave patterns using a four-shaft table loom (instructions are in my first book). He included some soumak and weft twining and used a band woven on an inkle loom for a strap for his finished product….a gorgeous satchel.
And, speaking of gorgeous bags and straps, Julia is constructing one using several bands and wide pieces. She has two other bands off the loom as well and I can’t wait to see how she uses them. All these motifs are charted in my second book.
Father Kyriakos also sent me an update on his bookmark project. These he made using a backstrap loom…
Gwendolyn shows how she can comfortably set up to weave both indoors and out. She is weaving a plain weave band and decorating it with a pattern using a supplementary weft. The pattern is one that I have adapted from textiles of Central Asia that were woven using completely different structures. You can find that pattern charted here.
That piece is now off the loom with lining attached and ready to be made into a bag…
Camilla, in Sweden, is using both string heddles and a rigid heddle to operate her looms for Andean Pebble Weave, with its two sets of string heddles, and basic complementary-warp pick-up which is based on two sheds.
Amanda wanted to weave a banner band for her mother’s craft business, Crafted by Rozella, and used the lettering technique that I learned from the Montagnard (Vietnamese hilltribe) backstrap weavers in North Carolina. It always makes me happy to see those tutorials being used.
The critters on the table are wine bottle toppers.
Finally, Valtricot showed us a way to wind a warp if you don’t have pegs or clamps…
If you have managed to get all the way to the end of this long post, I imagine that you might also be feeling like everything is blur. That is what happens when I leave off posting for a while. I just couldn’t manage to squeeze in a space for it while on the road for the last part of my trip.
And speaking of blurs…as in objects moving at great speed…my nephew, Ryan, recently took third place in his first ever professional appearance in long-distance triathlon.
You may remember that he brought home the gold in the World Amateur Champonships in China in September. Once again he thanks all the supporters from the weaving world who visited and liked his Facebook page.