BALANCED WEAVE, DOUBLE WEAVE AND BALANCED DOUBLE WEAVE….
I made some New Year weaving resolutions. What about you? One is to weave at least one balanced weave on my backstrap loom per month. So I got one done in January which I’ll show you later and I am planning February’s project. You will see that I am all about process rather than product for this project as all I know is that I want to weave a shadow weave piece but I have no idea what I want the piece to be. I am counting on an idea developing as I go through my yarn bags.
Another resolution is to weave reproductions of the designs on some pre Columbian textile fragments that I have gathered over the years. How did I get hold of these tiny scraps and fragments? Well, some industrious Peruvian artisans have been recreating Chancay dolls and dressing them in bits and pieces of old textiles.
The Chancay culture existed on the Peruvian central coast from around AD 1000-1476. It is believed to have been conquered and incorporated into the Inca Empire in the mid to late 13th Century. The people of this culture were prolific weavers and, as the central coast of Peru is a particuarly dry area, many of their textiles have survived remarkably well preserved and are kept in museums around the world.
I was dubious for a long time about the authenticity of the textile pieces. However, it just didn’t make sense that someone would weave structures, some of which are no longer woven in Peru, take all the trouble to stress the fabric in order to make it look old, tear it up, sew the pieces onto dolls and then sell them for very little in the street market.
I have yet to find a good image of an authentic Chancay doll to make a comparison but apparently the originals did not have embroidered faces. Rather, the facial features were woven into a piece of cloth which was wrapped around plant fiber to form the doll’s head. As with most things, I imagine these dolls started out as quite faithful reproductions of the originals and that the quality of the work has since deteriorated.
The original Chancay dolls have been found in tombs and were possibly funerary offerings. Recently I found an article online which, not only confirms the authenticity of the ancient textile fragments used to dress and decorate the dolls, but also gives information abut the Chancay culture and speculates about the dolls’ purpose. It just gives me chills looking at and touching these pieces-something the museums won’t let you do! and wondering about the weavers, their looms and their lives.
I have been weaving the designs I have seen in photos of museum pieces for years. The two pieces above center and right were made by me in the 90s. Imagine the thrill when I found a fragment, on the left, with a very similar snake design some years later.
I copied the slit tapestry piece at left on my backstrap loom without the slits and made it into a small sewing kit purse with a zip on three sides.
This little purse goes with me on all my weaving safaris. Some people tell me that the design looks like figures from a 1980’s video game!
This was a very slow and tedious weave using split embroidery floss for the weft. I was quite happy to see the end of this one!!
Again, I had woven this little 4-color bird motif many years before finding the little fragment almost completely in tatters on a doll at the Otavalo market. I had to work hard to hide my excitement while cooly bargaining with the vendor-bargaining at the Otavalo market is expected. Although my bird is a little different and was copied from a book, it is still thrilling to see a similar original piece.
According to the aforementioned article, birds were highly esteemed in these cultures “because of their ability to cross between earth and sky” as well as due to ” their association with water…..and source of guano for fertilizing crops”.
I love these birds and they find their way into a lot of my weavings.
Which brings me finally to balanced double weave and my weaving resolution for the year. This structure is no longer woven here so there is no one around to teach it to me. I found out that the Huichol people in Mexico weave it and recently got Chloe Sayer’s Mexican Textile Techniques which has pictures of some examples. I had dismissed the instructions by Suzanne Baizerman in Double Woven Treasures of Old Peru as they were written for the treadle loom but recently returned to them to find, to my delight, that I understood them. So I set to and wove the above band using the pattern chart in the book which just happens to be the very same bird motif that I have on a doll fragment. I used four sets of heddles for this weave and kept the cross sticks in to help spread the warps. This was just a narrow band. Now I hope to make a large wall hanging incorporating bits and pieces from several of the fragments.
Something that is on the loom at the moment….supplementary weft patterning. You can see the tiny fragment from which I am copying the design on the right. This was another exciting find as, at least here in Bolivia, I have not seen this technique used for anything other than hat bands and on one old chuspa in a book. I would love to know the original use for this piece.
This is just a small selection of my fragments. I am sure that more will show up in future blog posts as I strive to reproduce them. There is one technique that I as yet have not been able to identify.
Now what about those balanced weaves? I am still very much into my recently gifted rigid heddles and have been using them to make samples and a few useful pieces.
The rigid heddles arrived while I was in the middle of this “strawberries and cream” pinwheel piece. Rather than struggle on with my multiple stick spacers, I added the rigid heddle to the backstrap loom and finished it in no time.
Last month we had a WAL at Weavolution weaving rosepath motifs so I used my rigid heddle as a spacer and beater and used four sets of string heddles for the motifs.
Sometimes I just mess around and make samples trying to discover what is comfortably possible on my backstrap loom. The above log cabin piece was the first balanced weave I tried before my rigid heddles arrived. I thought the squareness of the design would look good as a notebook cover. I’ll take this little notebook along for my next weaving classes wherever that may be. It is nice to find a use for even the smallest of samples. You can see my test piece for the llama bookmark has been padded with foam and made into a pin cushion saddle cloth for the ceramic llama!
As the title of this post suggests, there is also some warp faced double weave to talk about. The last of my weaving resolutions is to design some nice letters to weave in double weave. I have been very much inspired by Linda Hendrickson’s beautiful book Please Weave Me a Message where she has designed alphabets to weave with tablets. You may have listened to Syne Mitchell’s recent interview with her at WeaveZine. I hope to come up with something like that for double weave. My stick alphabet above looks very humble next to her beauties.
Lastly, I would like to show off some work by one of my blog readers. Ann Littlewood wove a supplementary weft patterned band using embroidery floss for her supplementary weft. It is a great way to “paint” in designs and play with colors. It absolutely makes my day when I hear from people who have used my instructions. 🙂
I will leave you with a cheery little Otalavalena, below, at her brightly colored market stall at the enormous Saturday market. Otavalo is a town in Ecuador which has a lively and popular craft market every Saturday and is where I bought some of my dolls. Goods from near and far are sold there such as braids and beads from Peru, molas from Panama and Colombia and belts from Bolivia and Guatemala as well as an enormous variety of weavings and crafts from all over Ecuador. While the market largely caters to tourists, locals also shop there for clothes, footwear and beads.
Thank you for the nice comments last week. I am glad you found the videos useful. One of the visitors from Argentina, who has a limited understanding of English, had one of those “aha!” moments when she watched the double weave video. I hope to be able to show you one of her weavings soon 🙂