Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone
It’s always nice on my teaching tours to return to known venues. There is something very comforting in the midst of all the “what-ifs” and unknowns of travel to meet once again familiar faces and places.
However, there are always new people and venues to add and I have enjoyed visiting new guilds and new US states on this trip. This was my first time teaching in New Jersey, for example, and now I am about to venture into Nevada for my first ever teaching gig there. There are new experiences, like trying to navigate the New York Port Authority with loads of luggage for the first time, going flying in a Cessna over Cape Cod on a perfect spring day, and being made very much aware of the rather “shaky” nature of the California coastline! (see picture above).
The mysteries and trepidation of going to new places are always short-lived. The new landscapes are exciting and the new weaving groups without exception are warm and welcoming.
The western part of this weaving trip has take me through a variety of landscapes….from the beaches of lovely Santa Cruz to the big cityscape of Oakland and the forested high passes and lakes of the Sierra Nevada range.
I like to call my Santa Cruz group my “firsties and besties”. As it was my fifth time visiting and weaving with them, I decided that it was time to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. The challenge was to take one of the structures that we had studied on the last four visits and use it in something wide and/or fine. Some group members warped up something much wider than anything they had attempted before while others used much finer thread than they had ever used on a backstrap loom. The results were wonderful!
First we learned about different ways to set up warps for wider projects, for example, using multiple swords for creating picking crosses instead of fingers.
Jane is not actually one of the original “firstie-bestie” group but she has put in so much time and effort since her very first Basics class last October, that she was able to fit in perfectly with the skill level of this group. She has woven an impressive array of Andean Pebble Weave bands since that class only six months ago.
Here’s a closer look at the pretty bands and Jane’s basket without the giant cat-head distraction!….
Jane has tried patterns from both my first and second books…
The upper band is an adaptation of a pattern that was woven by Louise Ström using tablets. Many tablet weaving motifs can be easily adapted to the Andean Pebble Weave structure and I have charted some of these in my second book. The lower motif is a doodle I made in the second book where I am showing how people can go about creating their own pebble weave patterns. The hook motifs placed in various diagonal arrangements are, of course, classic Andean patterning.
On the first day at Yonat’s place, I found myself just “hanging out” as my students wove and planned their projects with increasing independence.
In the afternoon, we did a little “round robin” activity on my prepared warps to brush up on structures and techniques that we had studied in other classes and help in the decison making and planning process for the next days’ project…
The following day, after having looked at images and watched online videos of the cute Andean viscacha, Barbara brought in a tapestry piece which had been woven on a backstrap loom in Pitumarca, Peru. She had just realised that the critter at the bottom of the piece was the same as the one which she was weaving into her fine backstrap band.
Outside workshop hours, there was also lots of fun to be had. Yonat and I looked at experiments that the late Nora Rogers, former member of the Santa Cruz guild, had been performing on backstrap looms. Here is another kindred spirit and it was amazing and almost eerie to see how closely my backstrap weaving experiments have been following the path of her own carried out years before I came to be involved in this.
And then there were various beauties to be examined created by Yonat’s own hands…from tapestries to handmade beads to Ravenstail twining. I saw one of this set of Ravenstail leggings finished on my last visit. This time I got to see the completed pair….
Yonat and I also went to a local store that buys and sells ethnic textiles from around the world. We had a super time digging through loads of pieces to find some special treasures. Some pieces were long and large and required no digging at all….
The warp-substitution technique is another one on which I have spent some time experimenting. We had to resist completely unrolling this band to see how the motifs changed along its enormous length. The designs are crisp on the upper face in warp-faced plain weave. Colors are warped doubled and the weaver simply substitutes one for the other to create the patterns. The unused colored warps float on the reverse side of the textile until they are once again called into use.
Here are three bands from across the globe….from Bhutan patterned with supplementary weft….a three-color double weave belt from Bolivia and a supplemental-warp patterned band from Mexico.
But the jaw-dropper as far as I was concerned was this poncho from Bolivia (see below) patterned with strips of warp-faced double weave. Yonat uncovered this one at the bottom of a pile of mixed textiles on a shelf.
I call this technique “embedded” double weave as the strips of double weave with pick-up patterning are flanked by warp faced plain weave. The yarn is very fine synthetic thread and the weaving was superb! It is a beautifully finished four-selvedged poncho. I know from experience how maddeningly difficult it is to finish a double weave piece with four selvedges and the thread used in this piece does not have the advantage of the springiness of wool which can make the task somewhat less difficult. How I would love to sit by the weaver who created this!!!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know Annie as ASpinnerWeaver, creator of guitar straps and custom bands and sashes on inkle looms. She gave me the lovely strap, at left, to use on my camera bag. It is as much fun seeing what wonderful combination of colors she has come up with for her one-of-a-kind pieces as hearing the personal and inspiring stories behind her custom projects.
One of her latest challenges is to create a sash similar to one used by Johnny Depp in the Lone Ranger movie!
I shall leave you here for now. I am in Truckee now and grateful to my hosts Suzanne and David for their patience while I bury my head in photo editing and blog writing. I’ll be teachng by the shores of Lake Tahoe in a couple of days and can’t wait to see it!
I shall probably write from Portland, Oregon next with further tales of the Grass Valley group, the CNCH conference in Oakland and weaving at Lake Tahoe. Bye for now!