Back in beautiful Bolivia and already thinking about the next trip to the US for Convergence in mid July! But, first things first. In keeping with my policy of “new things in, old things out”, I have spent a few days tossing things to make room for the books and bits and pieces I brought back from the US. I do believe I have tossed out more things than I brought back – ah, more space…that is a nice feeling.
The other policy is to finish all the projects that I started on the road and I am pleased to report that I am ninety-nine percent on the way to completing them.
Project number one…the larger backstrap piece I was using for my demonstrations.
I had warped this up with nothing in particular in mind. I just needed something to demo with at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. This poor band had a bit of a hard life having been set up at different angles, worked under different tensions and constantly picked up, woven, and put down. My weavings always turn out better if I weave on them for a couple of hours at a time and having them tied up and worked on in the same spot helps a lot too. In any case, I got this off the loom and decided I needed another tool bag. Anyone who saw me rummaging around in my tool bags for that “special stick” or beater will agree. This new
bag should help to sort out the confusion a bit. I wove a narrow blue band which served as the sides of the tool bag. All that is left to do is make a braid and sew on a button for a closure.
Project number two…the inkle band that I wove on road trips and at the beach. I completed this with twelve spaced motifs so that I could cut the band and sew it into key fobs. It was woven in Andean pebble weave with pre-Columbian and contemporary motifs.
This was a bit fiddly as I hadn’t woven quite enough plain pebble weave at the start of some of the pieces for threading through the metal ring, turning over and sewing so I had to cheat and glue some of the ends down.
So now I have twelve purple and green fobs. To be honest, I think I prefer making two at a time on my backstrap loom as I can change color and offer people more choices but…there are those times when there isn’t anywhere to tie up a backstrap loom and I can weave on my new inklette instead.
Hmmm, seems that I was in a very purple-ish mood when I was traveling as, the third project which I was weaving to show Andean pebble weave at its simplest on a very narrow band, is in an eggplanty purple shade with apple green designs. I had no idea what to do with this band when I got home – more key fobs? No…And then I remembered a wee twill-weave sample I had made ages ago. It is nothing special at all but it was the very first balanced weave I had ever attempted on my backstrap loom and I had gotten quite a kick out of it. It was also the first time I had ever wet finished something. I had not been in the habit of wet finishing warp faced wall hangings and shoulder bags so it was all new territory.
The band served as sides for the pouch as well as to decorate the center. The picture at bottom right shows two other looms with projects that I took to show in the US. You may remember having seen these in other posts and I shall be getting down to finishing these in the next few weeks. The one on the left is the supplementary weft reproduction of a pre-Columbian fragment and the other is a warp float reproduction of a yurt band. I was lugging around quite a lot of sticks and string!
So those will keep me busy for some time and I have already decided on what will probably come after that. I would love to try and reproduce the Yemeni knife belt pictured above. It has been woven with a supplementary weft with a silvery sheen and is spectacular.
Now what about those yarn experiments? I have even had time to weave a few things in Andean pebble weave with two of the yarns I purchased in the US.
I have a finer number 10 merc cotton, also by Coats, to try out for next week and not in purple as well as some wool. People often ask me about respinning commercial wool for backstrap weaving so we can take a look at that too.
Other tempting project ideas that have been appearing in my inbox are pictures of belts and bags woven by the Huichol of Mexico as well as drawings of motifs woven by the Cayapa of Ecuador.
Teyacapan, too, continues to inspire me with her gorgeous photos of Mexican crafts and textiles.
Now it has occurred to me that this blog has been filled with images of the US the last few weeks and that it was about time I showed you all a little of Bolivia. I recently contributed some photos and information to Handwoven for a piece they wrote on Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia, and its attractions for tourism related to weaving. How frustrating it was having to narrow down the images to just three or four pictures! In May last year, I went to Sucre for what was probably my fourth visit but, this time, I went with my brand new and first ever digital camera.
So here is a little whirlwind photo tour of Sucre…
Sucre sits in a valley at around 3500 meters and it is obvious how it earned its nickname. From the hill tops to down at street level, both inside and out, Sucre is white – almost blindingly so in the mid morning sun! Wooden enclosed balconies adorn most of the downtown buildings as well as black wrought iron window coverings and flower filled window boxes. It has quite rightly been declared a UNESCO cultural heritage site.
I have spent many years traveling around and spending time with weavers here in South America. It is not so easy finding a weaving teacher especially in the cities and not all my attempts to learn to weave have been entirely successful. One thing is finding the weaver, another is finding one who has the time to teach you and, lastly, finding one who is also a good teacher is something else all together. I have almost always found a good weaver and teacher with some time to spare within a few days of my arrival in a place.
On my second trip to Sucre in 1998, I found that I had enough time to look for a weaving teacher. The museum in Sucre had given me the name of a weaver in Candelaria but I bumped into Felicia while I was waiting for transport from Tarabuco to Candelaria ,we struck up a conversation and she persuaded me to come and weave with her instead. I doubt that Felicia herself knew what she was letting herself in for when she took on the task of teaching me to weave. Youngsters generally learn by observation rather than through explanation and Felicia seemed to have long forgotten which designs she had learned first, how difficult it was to learn from scratch, and I doubt that she had contemplated how time consuming and possibly boring it would be sitting for hours with me and having to help me along with every little thing!
Somehow we ended up hitting it off and I finally showed her the motifs I had been secretly weaving at night. She was pretty happy about that but did not praise me by calling me “machita” as my other weaving teachers had. Probably not surprising as you can see at left all that I managed to weave in a week!
The white yarn used in the background area is a highly overspun cotton. You can see how the heddle strings, which are made from the same yarn, are curling up on themselves with the overtwist. The pattern warp is overspun acrylic-about three times thicker than the ground weave and not as tightly spun.
We just used twigs from the yard for the shed rod and heddle stick.
I was very surprised to receive a phone call from Felicia’s husband when I returned to Santa Cruz telling me that he had sent me a package by bus. Inside was a chuspa (coca leaf bag) and a wichuna which belonged to Felicia’s mother. Wow! I wonder if Felicia took on any other gringa students after I left!
One of the things I enjoyed a lot on this trip to the US, was the chance to play on other looms. I had a great time on what I had been calling my “first encounter” with a four-shaft loom but I had completely forgotten the quirky little four- shaft/backstrap loom that I had woven on in Zunil, Guatemala.
While staying in Guatemala’s second largest city of Quetzltenango, I heard about the hair sash weavers of Zunil and the strange four shaft loom that the weavers used.
The warp is attached to and tensioned by the weaver’s body.
I was intrigued by the loom but also keen on learning how to make the lovely sashes.
Zunil is a twenty-minute bus ride from Quetzltenango and I arrived to market day madness. You can see some of the women there using their hair sashes. A short walk uphill brought me to the relatively peaceful town square and church where I found the weaving cooperative. There I was politely told that classes would not be possible as women were not permitted to weave during Semana Santa (Holy Week). Disappointed, I left, only to be chased down the street by a woman who told me she would take me to a teacher. And so I was led up the hill to Clara’s house which had a gorgeous view over the town and surrounding valley. We negotiated the price and when I questioned the Semana Santa thing I was simply told that “some people get jealous”.
Amazing to think that a weaver using such a loom can produce these beautiful even sashes.
In the coming week on Weavolution I will be running a Weave Along. This will be for those of you who have been working their way through my e-monograph on Andean Pebble Weave and are wanting to extend their skills and weave a wider piece. It is also for those who have purchased the monograph but have been feeling a bit hesitant about getting started. Join in and weave with the group!