Before I get into Part 3 of my report on the Encuentro de Tejedores de las Americas (see Part 1 and Part 2 here and here), let me show you how I have been getting on with my latest experiment with supplementary-weft patterns.
You may remember from last week’s post that I was inspired by seeing textiles from Bhutan with their gorgeous motifs created by using supplementary wefts.
I was happy to see that I could decorate my own woven cloth with similar patterns using techniques that I had learned in Guatemala.
At left is the sampler I made to practice the techniques and experiment with the spacing of the pattern warps. I had some fine cotton from Guatemala that my friend Betty had bought about 30 years ago. How nice that this cotton could finally find its purpose.
The black cotton disintegrated as soon as I pulled it out of the closet. I guess that there is something in the black dye that causes the yarn to rot quickly. The other colors…red, green and purple….were just fine and, fortunately, there was plenty of white to dye black. I had my heart set on a black scarf.
There were a lot of ends to wind to make 7 inches…672!!
I am using it as is and need to be very gentle. I broke one warp before even getting started and my heart sank but it turns out that it was due to my clumsy handling of the pick-up stick…phew! No more breaks so far but there is still a looooong way to go.
Of course I made a wee sample before diving in to see how many ends I would need to make an inch. I also needed to test the ideal number of strands of tencel to use for the weft patterns.
In the picture you can see my tiny warp with its string heddles and shed loop . The two sticks are the pattern sticks that I talked about in my last post. Of course, the yarn was already showing signs of stickiness even on this tiny project but I decided to go ahead undaunted🙂
Sample done…width calculations made. Now, how long should a scarf be? Seems like a silly question, but I have never made a scarf before. Fortunately, I do own just ONE. After all those years spent skiing and then living in Patagonia you would think that I would be more scarf-wise.
I have lots of pictures that I have taken of Bhutanese textiles in friends’ collections for inspiration and David K Barker’s books are wonderful too. (See my RESOURCES page for information on how to download his books for free.) However, I decided to play it safe to start with and weave one of the patterns that I had already tested on my sampler.
So, I sat down to weave and that is when it hit me…wow, this yarn is really FINE….and….it’s black! All the clues that I usually use to make the pick-up easier for supplementary-weft patterning are dependent on actually being able to see the threads!!
Boy, had I made things hard for myself but, believe it or not, I got used to it and came up with other ways to eyeball the placement of the patterns without having to become a slave to pattern charts and endless counting. It became a very cool learning experience and, as with all things new and experimental, much un-weaving was done and all with my heart in my mouth as I don’t think that this yarn will take much “backing and forthing”!
Here is the first pattern under way. I placed several thin pieces of cardboard in alternate sheds in the warp beyond the cross sticks. This gave me a place to make quick adjustments to loose warps within arm’s reach and with the warp under tension rather than having to get out of my backstrap and crawl up to the end of the loom.
Sometimes you don’t get to choose when to weave. I would come back in from a break to find Her Highness reclining in what was, apparently, the most comfortable spot in the house. Would you dare disturb someone with a look like that on their face? You can see the next set of patterns in progress here.
And this is where it stands for now. I am just getting past the first warp break and have my fingers crossed that there won’t be more. I watched a gentleman from Chahuaytire weaving on his backstrap loom when I was in Cusco. A warp broke and I loved the calm and cool way he went about fixing it like he had done it hundreds of times before (well, of course, he probably had). He didn’t need to have anyone tensioning the warp while he leaned forward to fix the break. That is the part I find hardest.
Be prepared to see a lot more of this project in the weeks to come. Unless, of course, those warps start a- snapping, and then you will most likely see it finished really soon as a zippered pouch or journal cover!
ENCUENTRO DE TEJEDORES DE LAS AMERICAS – PART THREE – SPINNERS AND WEAVERS IN ACTION
The Encuentro…it was over two months ago now and I am finding it hard to sum up here but I will try!
It was about yarn being created with the simplest tools…
A spinner from Chiclayo, Peru showed me how she spins the natural brown cotton that is cultivated in the region. She told me that a heavy stone is usually placed on top of the cotton as she draws out the fiber to be spun. Not having one handy, she used the bottle of water that you see in the video. The spindle whorl is a piece of avocado seed.
It was about sticks…lots of sticks!
It was about threads being strung together in a stunning display of color and texture…
And it was about the wonderful hands and spirits of the talented craftspeople and artists who use sticks and fiber to create beautiful cloth….such an amazing variety of people from across the Americas!
And what about that belt loom with its twenty-four sets of string heddles? Araceli shows us how it is done…
And cloth comes off the loom and comes to life when draped around shoulders…
and wrapped around waists and heads…
There was time to watch and chat and share….
Time to look and learn from Navajo weavers and spinners and an alpaca fiber weaver from Tanta, Peru…
Time to sit or stand and ponder…
Time to listen to weavers talk about their communities and textile traditions and meet new leaders in the field of textile research…
And time to just stand in complete awe…time and time again!
Well, I hope that this gives you just a taste of what the week of ETAM was like. Thank you Maria Elena del Solar, Paula Trevisan and Luis Masa for organizing this event. And thank you Mara Elena for pushing me to go when I was dithering over the cost of getting there. It was the best birthday gift to myself ever!
Thank you Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco for the fabulous exhibit of textiles from your nine member communities that you organized in the Convention Center to coincide with this event and for providing outstanding teachers for the workshops.
As for Elvira Espejo and Denise Arnold’s books about which I know you will be curious, I have to find out if they are available in English and from where…stay tuned.