SUPPLEMENTARY WEFT PATTERNING
Lately I have been playing with supplementary weft patterning and, once again, have been inspired by Weavolution members. One member joined my Backstrap Group as she is interested, amongst other things, in reproducing a Central Asian yurt band. She has introduced me to many beautiful Central Asian designs and often sends me photos of pieces she has seen at reenactmant events that she attends.
When she sent me this photo (at left) of a Central Asian piece she had photographed at one of the historical events, I couldn’t wait to weave the design into something. The technique wasn’t clear in the photo and, as I wasn’t concerned with reproducing the original technique, I decided to weave it in either double weave or supplementary weft patterning. I chose the latter as, since studying this technique in Guatemala in 2008, I hadn’t put it to much use.
In this technique, it is really important to get the right balance between the weight of the warp yarn and that used for the supplementary weft and so I quickly wove a sample and then went ahead and made the table runner below in 4/2 cotton (24wpi) warp with 6 strands of the patterning thread that I had brought back from Guatemala as the supplementary weft. You can see that I added a little embellishment of my own to the pattern.
My colors are rather bland compared with the original. I love that orange zigzag next to the main design. Perhaps I will be more adventurous with color next time!
My other source of inspiration has been a Brazilian member of Weavolution who has generously shared what she knows about the weavings of the Huni Kuin people who live in the tropical forest of Brazil and Peru. They weave with backstrap looms using cotton that they spin and dye themselves. You can see a video of their work here and a photo of a Huni Kuin weaver here. Although they do not use the supplementary weft technique, I chose to use this method to weave one of their designs into a bag.
Here in Bolivia, the supplementary weft technique is used by women to weave bands to decorate their hats. It is in these hatbands that I have seen the widest variety of woven designs. Except for in Calcha, where it seemed that the women had decided on one hatband design to represent their village, I have never seen two hatbands alike.
Sometimes the supplementary weft is used to form the motif as in the small condors on the upper half of the center band above. At other times, it is used to fill the negative space to outline the motif on the ground weave.
From having purchased some hatbands here, I was able to see how they were woven. I made a few sample bands but, as I didn’t get the right warp to weft ratio, I wasn’t too pleased with the results and never really went on to explore this technique further- that is, until I went to Guatemala in 2008 and studied weft patterning with three teachers there. It was my first time in Guatemala and an absolute explosion of color and inspiration was awaiting!
So I would like to spend the rest of this post introducing you to my first teacher in Guatemala and showing you how I learned supplementary weft patterning with her.
Lidia lives in the very small town of Santa Catarina Barahona near San Antonio Aguas Calientes in Guatemala. The typical blouse, or huipil of the area has designs woven in single and double faced supplementary weft patterning. The large areas of double faced patterning are those that most distinguish the huipiles of this area.
The ”abeja” was topped off with another section of ”tijera” and that completed my second day of classes. Finally, on day three, I learned the ”arcos” (arches) pattern. This is a combination of weft inlay and warp wrapping.
It looks like my teachers did all the weaving and I just stood around and snapped pictures! Well, I can tell you that it wasn’t so. Lidia was a very ”hands-on” teacher and she would take over only when I got up to stretch and take photos.
But it wasn’t all hard work. Other family members and neighbors came to visit, we paused to make and eat tortillas, chatted and played with the nieces and nephews in Lidia’s shady yard and walked to town to go yarn shopping.
I went on from Lidia’s home to study with two other weavers in Guatemala but, more about that in another post!
I will be doing a tutorial on suplementary weft patterning with lots of step-by-step photos here on my blog in the following weeks so that you can add designs like the Central Asian and Huni Kuin ones, that I showed you above, to your projects.
I hope you enjoyed this little trip from Central Asia, to Brazil, to Bolivia and onward to my teacher’s home in Guatemala. If you did, I would love to hear from you 🙂