The tajibos have finished blooming and now the city is splashed with the red flowers of the ceibo, the national flower of Argentina, which grows equally well here in Santa Cruz attracting all kinds of small birds to noisily feast on its nectar.
And once again we are experiencing heat, smoke and humidity after a five-day lull where rain preceded low temperatures and provided perfect conditions for Anna from The Netherlands and her boyfriend Alistair to come down from the highlands to visit.
Many backpackers abandon the cold and dry highlands for a few days of sun, swimming pools and lazy afternoons swinging in hammocks in jungly lowland Santa Cruz but Anna and Alistair were quite relieved to find cooler more pleasant conditions. They have been riding their bicycles since May 2008 starting in Alaska and plan to finish their journey in Tierra del Fuego at the very end of the Pan American Highway in February next year.
Occasionally they leave their bikes behind for a side trip here and there and so, after having crossed the Salar de Uyuni by bicycle and taken some spectacular photos including some of their campsite on the salt on the night of a full moon, they took a bus to Potosi and on to Sucre before flying in to Santa Cruz.
Anna had taken backstrap weaving classes in Huancayo, and after having found my blog, we started corresponding. She proposed getting together to weave. She seemed so unsure of her route and movements…one moment she was coming from La Paz and then the next from Salta, Argentina… that I really didn’t believe she would make it.
But I know how it is. I am guilty of making grand plans to visit many people when I go to the US only to run out of time and money. I also know how difficult it is to keep to a schedule when one is backpacking. So, of course, I was pleased and surprised when I got her mail saying that they were on their way. It was a four-day visit and we crammed as much fiber fun as we could into that time and my small living space while Alistair, who happens to be Australian, went to the stadium to see a football game with my boyfriend and educated him on the finer points of Australian Rules football.
Day one was a chance to brush up on warping and shed making for Andean pebble weave. Anna’s teacher in Huancayo, at her urging, had warped up a long band and so Anna had only had the opportunity to see the warping process once. When I had studied there, I came away with at least four short bands and so had been able to practice warping quite a lot. I was tickled to see that Anna had downloaded my Andean Pebble Weave book and had been carrying its pages in her bicycle panniers.
The band on which she learned in Huancayo just happened to have been set up for eight revolution motifs and so she was able to weave many of the patterns from my book while on the road. While with me she practiced making the sheds the “Huancayo” way that I show in the appendix in my book.
Now she has several warps to take along for the rest of her trip and I supplied her with wider patterns to weave. She now has the technique totally under control and I am expecting to see pictures of some beautiful bands and especially of her weaving in some spectacular places between here and Ushuaia.
They are heading to beautiful southern Chile and Argentina and will probably pass through or very near to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of the continent where I spent my first five years in South America.
She also bought a bag with the typical red and black weavings of Potolo as well as a double weave belt which prompted her to want to learn this technique.
Above she is learning the basic steps of double weave while weaving some simple triangles. We made some more warps and copied some more complex charts for her to take away.
When first bought in the market, the wichuñas are really quite disgusting with scraps of meat and sinew still attached. They are not so bad in the very dry atmosphere of the high plains but once down here in humid Santa Cruz, they are not at all pleasant and need to go into a pot and be boiled before they can be considered tolerable!
I have a lot of llama fiber here at home and recently got some alpaca from the US so, of course, Anna got a quick lesson in spinning on a drop spindle and took some fiber away for the trip.
And…to finish it all off we did some braiding so that Anna could put a nice finish on her Huancayo band. I dragged out my journal to teach her a six-strand flat braid that I hadn’t made for a long time. Thank goodness I have recorded everything I have learned with diagrams and directions.
It was a fun few days of weaving, spinning, braiding and chatting. I lived ten months in a backpacker hostel when I first came to live in Santa Cruz and used to teach weaving to many foreigners who were passing through town. It has been many years since I have done that. We learned from each other and this is one of the things that Anna taught me…
Anna and Alistair are back on the road now and riding, if I am not mistaken, by back roads into Argentina. You can start reading about their adventures and enjoying their photos here.
So I had dug the old journal out to brush up on the six-strand finger loop braid and while flicking through stopped on the page with my cross knit looping diagrams and instructions for other edgings and finishes and decided it was time to brush up on some of these forgotten techniques. So you will be seeing some of those appearing in my projects in the next few weeks.
It seems that I had gone a little cross knit looping mad after I first learned the technique in Potosi back in 1997. The woven cover of my journal is edged with it and even some of the pages within. Pretty much anything with an edge got looped!
I always did triple columns as that is what I had been taught in Potosi and never thought to experiment with any other way until recently when I saw that the Montagnard weavers use single columns of this looping to decorate edges as well as to join two pieces of fabric together.
I was keen to try it as a joining stitch to join two pieces of fabric side by side. I had woven a narrow table runner some time ago and, as it wasn’t being used, I decided to cut it in half and use it for my joining stitch experiment.
Above left is the front of the fabric. At first, I ended up with a not particularly attractive column of diagonal stitches on the back. Unless the diagonal stitches are exactly the same length and at the same angle they just look untidy and I unhappily pulled out the stitching and redid it several times. I then looked at an article by Lila O’Neale which contained a diagram showing how the looping can be worked simultaneously on the back of the fabric and so that is what I did. The photo above right shows the back with its row of looped stitches and I am much happier with the way that looks.
And now…finally a tool bag long enough to fit my longest shuttles and a few of my medium sized beaters.
Then I wanted to try it out as a decorative stitch in the middle of a piece of fabric rather than along the edge…
Here it has a different appearance to the work on my tool bag. On the tool bag the looping had to hold two pieces of fabric together and so the “legs” of the stitches had to be spaced widely in order to span the two pieces of cloth. In the example above, they did not.
I have to thank Sue Prior of the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers for kindly giving me the link to the Lila M O’Neale article on Peruvian needle knitting which proved to be so very helpful. Sue is part of a Peruvian Textile Study Group in the Cambridgeshire Guild in the UK and a very interesting article about the group’s studies was published in the Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers this summer. In this group Sue has managed, amongst other things, to needle knit some three-dimensional figures using this looping technique. An article on this technique also appeared in the September/October 1993 issue of Interweave’s Piecework magazine and was more recently re printed in Interweave’s Knitting Traditions magazine.
My aim is to be able to work many columns of stitches flat incorporating color changes and pre Columbian patterns.
While investigating on the net I found this short slide show of the work being done by a Chilean artist to make jewelry with this looping technique – beautiful!
And on re reading the artcile on the Peruvian Textile Study Group I see that Peruvian knitters are also using the versatile bicycle spokes, in this case as knitting needles.
After some more rummaging through my gigantic journal, I found my directions for a nice two-color edging that I was taught by my sling braiding teacher in Peru and so out came another table runner for a refresher on this technique.
Some instructions for this two-color edging…
I am right handed and was taught to hold the fabric wrong side up with the edge on the right. The two threads will be on two needles.
- With color one sew an “X” which sits along the edge and bring your needle and thread back up to the wrong side of the fabric as shown.
- Sew a small stitch into the wrong side of the fabric with color two to anchor the thread before passing it under the “X” formed by color one (the needle does not pierce the fabric as it passes under the “X”) and bring it back out to the wrong side as shown.
- Color two will have formed an “X” in this path. Color one then passes under the “X” formed by color two and so on.
My mind is swirling with ideas….! Now I am thinking that I might decorate the piece of felt that I made with my friend Lisa on my last visit to North Carolina with this looping technique. I just have to find the right design.
Lisa is a skilled felter and was kind enough to give me a chance to learn a little about the technique when I was visiting her. I had made felt many years ago in Chile, following instructions in the Ashford spinning book, rolling it around on the kitchen floor and taking all the color out of the plastic tile! I had not felted my piece enough and had no idea about what a physical activity it was!
When we were satisfied that felting was underway and that the various design elements were clinging sufficiently to each other and the base, the fun began!
I have just about caught up on all pending projects. The guitar strap came off the backstrap loom, all six feet of it and so there will definitely be some left overs to sew up into something.
And here are those blue bags again. I sold the original two and made up two more from the piece I warped up for demonstrations at Convergence. My belt shuttles and sticks once again have a home. You can see the six-strand finger loop braid on the left that I used for the zipper pull. My weaving teacher in Potosi taught me this braid which we used to make a strap for the chuspa I wove with her.
Online weaving friends have been posting pictures in the forums…
Amber dove into the deep end earlier this year and wove mug rugs on a backstrap loom following my one-weft double weave tutorial as her first backstrap weaving project and is now weaving simple warp float bands on an inkle loom which allows her to weave in a more confined space.
Marydargie is continuing to follow the lessons in my Andean Pebble Weave book and is also working on an inkle loom producing great-looking bands.
I have a new project in mind for next week which involves charting, which, fortunately, I love so I will be down on the floor once again with paper and colored pencils to see what I can work out. I am very excited about a design I have found and can’t wait to weave it.
Finally, helloooooo out there to Anna and Alistair. I hope you are enjoying smooth riding where ever you are!
I will leave you all with some gorgeous shots from Anna and Alistair’s time in the hotspring and salt lake region on the Chilean/Bolivian border…The little animal is a viscacha and is one of the motifs in my pebble weave book.