I was on the lookout for a simple pattern to continue my sampler of supplementary-weft patterns and the positive/negative space studies that I have been writing about these past two weeks.
After weaving some patterns based on Bolivian hatbands where the weft is used to fill the space surrounding the motif rather than the motif itself, as seen below, I wanted to weave a motif where the same shape appeared as both motif and background
Several of the classic warp-float designs found in the Peruvian and Bolivian highlands have this very characteristic. In the hook motif pictured at left, it makes no sense to talk about “motif” and “background” as the same hook shape flips and turns and dances along the band changing from red to white and back again. Is it a series of white hooks on a red background or vice versa or none of the aforementioned?
This was the kind of thing that I wanted to weave with supplementary wefts. So, I set about trying to adapt it to the structure with which I have been working.
As it turns out, it wasn’t that straightforward.
So, I spent a lot of time with paper and pencil and eraser (I still like the old fashioned way). The only way I could get the shapes to interlink well was to make several changes to the basic shape and, even then, the black version of the hook is not exactly the same as the gold one. The gold has an extra warp or two in a couple of places. There was a fair bit of weaving and unweaving involved too. But that’s what “sampling” is all about, right? I had to remind myself about that as I was starting to regret having set myself this challenge as I seemed to be spending more time planning out the design than actually sitting at my loom.
Where to go from there and how to best use all the work I put into figuring out those hooks? Chris Buckley writes about pattern building in traditional textiles in his article on warp-ikat weaving of SE Asia:
A further important feature of ikat, and indeed of most traditional textiles, is that weavers tend to use a narrow repertoire of simple shapes such as dashes, hooks and curls, in a ‘building block’ fashion to create their designs. This approach makes understanding and copying complex designs manageable for the weaver, and aids their transmission from generation to generation. Recognition of this repertoire of basic shapes (which I call primitives) is also of considerable help to the researcher with analyzing and comparing motifs between traditions,…..
So, I took one of my many discarded charts of the hook motif and used it as a “building block” for a new design, joining hooks together, reflecting them and flipping them upside down in the same way that many Andean weavers do with their warp-float motifs. The result is the band of red pattern above the gold in which there are four red hooks with just the hint of a black hook outline around them.
What had brought me, yet again, to Chris Buckley’s interesting article was a romp across the internet in search of hook patterns when my initial attempts at charting something suitable for supplementary-weft patterning were not working out. It is so interesting to see how the hooks show up in all sorts of woven structures and cultures. Of course, certain structures only allow a fairly limited repertoire of shapes to be produced and so, regardless of the culture, it is inevitable that a hook motif will appear if those particular structures are in use. Techniques like ikat, on the other hand, can be used to produce a limitless variety of shapes and patterns.
I have woven the hook motifs used in yurt bands of Central Asia…
I wove the pieces above and below using the same single-faced warp float structure as the yurt bands. You can see how the basic hook motif can be placed in different ways to create patterns and how dark and light hooks interlink so beautifully…
Chris Buckley writes that Indonesian ikat weavers sometimes copy designs, for example, from imported luxury textiles, particularly those from India…
When copying a design from a foreign source, weavers are likely to re-interpret the copied motif in terms of their own vocabulary of basic shapes rather than produce an exact copy. This is analogous to linguistic borrowing, where the pronunciation of a borrowed word may change from one language to another according to the repertoire of sounds available.
My own particular “weaving vocabulary” comprises the various structures that I am able to produce rather than a group of shapes. I have not dedicated myself completely to a study of the patterns of any one weaving region and so have not developed a vocabulary that is limited to certain shapes.
I love it when I see the Bolivian highland design that I call “rolling river” woven by indigenous weavers in both complementary-warp-float and double weave structures. Perhaps a weaver saw and admired this pattern when she traveled to another region and returned home to interpret it in her own weaving vocabulary which, in this case, happened to be a completely different structure. I can only speculate.
I taught Juan to do pebble weave when I was studying in Salasaca, Ecuador. No one in the area was using this structure. It was part of the deal…I teach pebble weave and they teach me to weave their supplementary-warp patterned traditional belts. Eighteen months later when I returned, Juan showed me his finished pebble weave band. Until then, he had not known how to weave at all. His final motif is a rooster which he took from one of the traditional supplementary-warp belts of Salasaca and interpreted in the only weaving “language” he knew…pebble weave. I thought that was brilliant!
I had not become completely familiar with that swirly hook and made it a part of my vocabulary, as skilled Tarahumara weavers surely would have, before attempting this piece and, as a result, it was very tricky to weave! Just as I got a grip on the swirls going in one direction, they changed to the other direction. It was much easier to weave it using another structure in my weaving vocabulary…double weave…in which it is generally much easier to “read” the cloth. However, I don’t think the pattern is as pretty in double weave….maybe slightly more so in my handspun llama fiber on the right (spearmint leaf and cochineal dye).
And so I go playing with structures and shapes. Even as I sit and look at the last red supplementary-weft hook pattern that I wove on my most recent sampler, I see the motif on the very right hand edge and think…hmmm….wouldn’t that look good on a narrow double-weave band?
By the way, many of the patterns I have shown in this post are charted in my second book.
Here is one of her bands in which she has adapted a tablet weaving pattern to pebble weave and…yes…there are hooks!