September 2018: The tale of two dye projects- but mainly dyeing with lichen.

September 30, 2018

 

Given a choice between the two which would you choose? Both are dyed with lichen. I heard that there was a chance that I could dye the “purple”. My Canadian friends had a dye bath and I was visiting post Convergence in July. Of course you can dye they said. And of course I was going to. The tan skein had been dyed last year.

This is the story of my Canadian souvenir.

At Convergence, I acquired 2 skeins of silk from John Marshall. I now had something to play with.

There were two dye baths. Both used a lichen called by its common name “rock tripe” or Umbilicaria Vellea. This lichen is brown/black and has curling edges. It is slow growing as many lichens often are and grows on rocks. This was collected in Ontario.

This is the process that two friends carried out and that I took advantage of.

The lichen was dried scrunched and pulverised. It was then put in an airtight jar and covered with one part ammonia and 2 parts water and left to ferment. There were two jars of liquid prepared by two people with slightly different approaches.

The first was left to ferment in a dark cupboard and stirred 3 times a day for 4 months before it was used for the first time when it gave a dark purple.

The second jar was not in a dark cupboard and was stirred vigorously daily. Its initial result was a lighter shade of purple.

However I arrived when the dye bath was now six months old. We wondered if it was still viable. My wonderful friend Bev elected to dye my two skeins in the two dye baths while I went off to do something else.

I decided to keep one skein as a solid colour while the second was tied for ikat. That was an interesting process as I didn’t have any of my usual ikat tape so I resorted to strips of plastic which of course stretched and were pretty useless. After wrapping loosely (up to stretch point), I closely wrapped some thread to create the resist. The thread was actually loom waste from another friend.

I had carefully tied it so that each end mirror imaged itself. It was carefully measured as I wanted it identical. I knew that the end project was going to be half the width of the skein so they had to match.

Here’s the basic procedure as described by Bev. Thank you Bev for granting permission to use your images and of course for allowing me to share your process.

Both skeins were soaked in warm water overnight.

The skeins were put in the two dye baths. Here’s one.

The next day the skeins stirred, squeezed and rolled in towel, then air dried.

The unbound skein ended up in the “dark cupboard bath”. It turned out a beautiful shade of purple.

The other skein was thought to be too light so the process was repeated by putting it I the “dark” dye bath.

Now something interesting happened. Bev was not sure whether this has happened previously but she noticed that when it was removed from the dye bath it morphed from tan to purple when exposed to air!

Later she tried it again: I kept thinking that the skein was not taking the dye, as it looked tan with purple blotches when I pulled it out of the dye bath. Walked outside with the skein in my hands and witnessed colour transformation. This time she got to record it. This series of images shows the progress of the colour change. This will be worthwhile testing with a new dye bath.

 

 

 

 

I came home with my two skeins. This is the bound skein with the binding partly removed.

 

 

But what to do with them? When it came to unwinding both skeins, I realised how fine they were and decided to take a safe option and put on a warp of 60/2 silk that I had in a similar colour.

This balled yarn shows no correlation to the original skein. When weaving care will need to be taken to keep the colour spacing continuous.

 

The width of the project was determined by approximately ¼ of the circumference of the skein.

I was very happy with the pattern. The width related closely enough to the skein dimensions that the resist/dye areas shifted slightly each row of weaving. It has created an interesting progression of pattern I think. One was woven in plain weave.

 

And a close up view of how the ikat shifts and progresses.

 

I then had enough for a second scarf, woven in a combination of simple twills. Here are both scarves finished. The weft for solid colour used in the bottom border is form the other dye bath.

 

On another dyeing experiment: Another friend gave me two skeins with the direction that they could be woven together. So here they are. This project also fits very nicely into theory for the next studio class.

 

And the finished scarf. Weaving with a warp faced twill has resulted in both sides having a different colour effect.

 

In passing I will mention a series currently on ABC TV (Australian Broadcasting Commission). Joanna Lumley is following the Silk Road. It may be worthwhile watching. The first episode opened with a look at velvet weaving in Venice. Maybe there’ll be more textiles. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/joanna-lumleys-silk-road-adventure.

Coming up:

This week coming is the Weaving with colour class. They’ve got some great challenges coming up.

12-16th November: Woven shibori with only 1 place left.

10-14th December is The Special where students can weave anything, explore any technique and weave on any of the looms.

Last Monday was the first BYO loom class. There were four attendees, all working on different projects. I look forward to seeing their efforts in a month’s time. These classes are held on the 4th Monday of the month till and including November.

21-25th January 2019: Linen and Lace.

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August 2018: The Bradshaw rock art and weaving in the studio

September 8, 2018

A trip away and then a week of studio class has resulted in a very late blog.

In the main, I only report on textile related matters and of course weaving on my blog. So you will not be seeing images from The Kimberley in N W Australia. It is extremely remote and has featured on my wish list for many years. It would not even rate a mention here apart from an unexpected and amazing encounter with ancient Aboriginal rock art.

We were headed up that dotted road heading north on the map to Mitchell Plateau and Ngauwudu Safari Camp. The road is not for the faint hearted (understatement). A turn off brought us to a significant Aboriginal rock art location. There are no fences or glass panels around this art but once you are here, it is extremely accessible. That in itself was great for us for viewing but with a significant concern for the preservation of the art. My later research pointed out that: In a detailed study of 66 Bradshaw panels, approximately 9% of the Bradshaw images have clearly been vandalized. Some were scratched with stones, some damaged by thrown stones, and some have been broken by hammering with large rocks.* There’s a fine of $2,000 and 12 months imprisonment for interfering with cultural heritage sites. Another cause of destruction is back burning. Since 2009 as part of the government’s fire prevention strategy to aid the exploitation of oil and gas reserves has caused paint to peel from over 5,000 of the 8,742 known examples of Bradshaw art. A survey by archaeologist Lee Scott-Virtue has determined that up to 30 per cent of the rock art had been completely destroyed by fire.* In the light of these facts I consider myself very fortunate to have seen these.

We were in Wunambel Gaambera Country. There were several styles of art here but of particular interest for me were what westerners known as the “Bradshaw rock art” after the pastoralist who discovered them in 1891. As the Kimberley is home to various Aboriginal language groups, the rock art is referred to and known by many different Aboriginal names, the most common of which are Gwion Gwion or Giro Giro

The Gwion Gwion are at the bottom of this image. The rock art at the top is from a later time.

It is common to have later paintings drawn over the top of Gwion Gwion. These later paintings are often not as permanent with the ochres wearing off. We only saw Gwion Gwion with only two colours though it is thought that many more were originally used. The pigments in these two colours have been chemically bonded with the rock. Research suggests that it is the result of symbiotic relationship between black fungi and red bacteria.*

This example shows the style known as the Tassel Figures and identified by their characteristic tassels hanging from their arms and waists, various other accessories can be recognised, such as arm bands, conical headdresses and boomerangs. This style is the earliest, most detailed and largest. It has been dated as up to 22,000 years old from a fossilised wasp nest.

These are finely executed drawings. The lines are fine. It is possible that a feather was used in their execution; an imprint of a feather found at one site may support this possibility*. There is no evidence of several tries being attempted in their execution. They would require an extraordinary amount of skill.

Wayne, our guide, pointed out that these are not the oldest rock art paintings (earlier crude drawings are up to 40,000 years old) but they are the oldest that represent ceremony and therefore well- established culture. This can be deduced from the postures of the figures. By the way, the well- known cave paintings of Lascaux,  France are thought to be 20,000 years old and are of animals.

So why am I so excited by this art? Here’s my observation: If, as Wayne suggests that Gwion Gwion is the earliest known rock art (world- wide?) where the human form is shown performing ritual, then doesn’t it also follow that these are the earliest rock art paintings that include textiles as part of ceremony. Well, tassels of some form are a textile aren’t they?

Additional information on the Bradshaw Rock Art and selected quotes* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradshaw_rock_paintings

Update: I have had a private email and whether I got any sense of a fringe/skirt and the formation of the tassels and whether it was too hard to see. Here are my comments as it was such a great question.

I gained the impression from both my research following and from what Wayne said that these are not “skirts” in the traditional sense and the figures are likely to be men. Women are drawn differently. I understand that these fringed ornaments/aka “skirts” are for ceremony and perhaps not daily use. I couldn’t see any detail but I presume they would be of twisted grass/bark or some fibre with an object on the end. You can gain a sense of what some of the objects were from the paintings. Remember some of the original pigments didn’t last so not all detail is here. These are 20,000+ years old and have been exposed to the elements somewhat so we’re lucky to be seeing anything. It’s mind blowing (a) what they are and the detail, (b) the subject matter and (c) that they are still around. Amazing, truly amazing!

Then reality returns. I have just completed a studio class in Doubleweave. There were three wonderful students: Jan, Barbara and Karen, who accepted the challenge of drafting, theory and completed some great work. A wide variety of techniques were explored. Even small samples have the potential to be turned into drink coasters. The following are images from the class.

Four versions from the one threading. The students developed the pattern on the loom.

Different aspects appealed to each student. While some projects are similar, others are quite different.

Karen’s collection.


Barbara’s collection.

Jan’s collection.

Jan and Barbara model their scarves.

Sometimes in a studio class, a student will come with an idea to explore. Karen brought one such project. She wanted to weave a dishcloth…. Yes a dish cloth! She wondered if her Vavbo Lin dish cloth from Sweden could be interpreted into double weave.  It is marketed as a very hygienic way to wash up with the natural qualities of linen meaning that they can be laundered over and over again, becoming softer and more supple with age. And when they eventually wear out, they can be compostable. She has acquired several but as a weaver thought it would be nice if she could weave her own version.

It caught our imagination. This is our version of a dish cloth. It has some elements of the original.

Karen weaving her dish cloth.

It is woven in linen.

We intend it to be compostable. We will avoid all micro fibre dish cloths in our kitchens in future.

It has an open weave body as the result of a stitched double weave structure. The stitching happens on the diagonal.

The selvedges and hem are in plain weave to give stability to the open structure of the main cloth.

We intend it to be compostable. We will not be adding to land fill or pollution.

It will be easily washed and quick to dry because of the linen and the open structure.

We know that it will be serviceable. Even though the structure is open the stitching provides a well- integrated cloth. Nothing will get caught between layers.

We intend it to be compostable. It is a plant fibre and will break down.

It has texture- ideal as a dish cloth. It is also flexible and will become increasingly so with wear and washing.

The double weave layers will enhance the absorbency of the linen.

And it will go into the compost after its lifetime of being useful!

I think I’m hooked on these. They’ll be a great addition in my kitchen.

Update: Charlene has requested details of the draft. I believe that this is such a great thing for the environment that I am happy to share. If you share it please acknowledge the fact that it is my draft. Here is the basic draft. Shafts 7&8 are for the selvedge. Repeat the rest of the draft as required for your width, sett and yarn. Weave plain weave for the hems.

Next month’s studio class: Colour in Weaving. We’ll be exploring colour theory, colour and weave effects including log cabin and shadow weave amongst other structures. There’ll also be the opportunity to explore dyeing techniques such as painted warps or skeins, ikat and how to use these. And perhaps we’ll even get to use the newly acquired fan reed. There is currently 2 places left. 1-5 October.

The BYO loom series starts on the 24th September. It will be held on the 4th Monday of the month finishing in November.


July 2018: Convergence and Complex Weavers Seminars.

August 2, 2018

It was the gathering of the international weaving clan. Weavers came from around the world to attend Convergence organised by Hand weavers Guild of America (HGA) and then for a very focussed group of weavers, Complex Weavers Seminars at Reno, Nevada, USA. This was the first year they had been run at the same time for a number of years. It was great that I could again attend both easily as now it just took one return airfare.

Both were held at the Peppermill Resort, a very large casino and convention centre.

I arrived a few days before CW was due to start primarily so that I could check out Convergence and in particular the vendor hall and the exhibits. Here are some highlights from those first few days.

I came in the doors and saw all the traders. One did get used to the carpet. Large bold designs were typical of the over the top décor.

As well as ethnic collections, yarn, books, looms and all things textiles, there were two new pieces of equipment that took my eye and that I will mention.

TempoTreadle is a very neat electronic device and provides amongst other features a way of keeping track of shaft lifts for weaving sequences for a table loom. http://tempotreadle.com.

There’s a new loom out by AVL. It looks totally different to their past looms and functions like a countermarche.

Next door there were several exhibitions. I was in particular interested in those chosen for the fashion parade and the yardage exhibit and of course those that were hand woven. Congratulations go to all those who exhibited here and in outside venues. It is always interesting to see other’s textiles. Here’s a list of exhibitions listed in the gallery guide. I got to see them all.

City Lights, Festive Nights, the wearable art exhibit that was put up following the fashion parade. These are some of the winning entries. Each entry was accompanied by a handling piece.

First place: Mimi Anderson. Friday Night Fever:  4 colour double weave.

Second Place: Inge Dam with Manon Pelletier, Band of Northern Lights, Tablet bands integrated and woven with a 32 shaft twill.

Third Place and the Seattle Weavers Guild- Virginia Harvey Award for Color: Lillian Whipple with Sharon Bell, Red to Blue and Green All Over Jacket.

Here’s a general view of some of the exhibits showing how they were displayed.

 

 

Trukee River, the yardage exhibition was very accessible this time. In the past the exhibits had been hung above the heads of attendees often from a balcony. It was great being up close to the full length. Here are some selected pieces.

 

First place: Slip streams by Kathryn Arnoldin turned taquete.

Second place: Secrets in the Water, Dottie Weir, handwoven shibori on ice dyed warp fibre reactive dyes, discharge, overdyed with vat dyes.

Third place: Water is Life, Nancy Peterson, Handwoven crimped tencel with polyester sewing thread.

Complex Weavers Award: Tablet Woven Triptych John Mullarkey.

While this piece did not win an award, I was very excited and delighted to see that Joan Namkoong represented by two pieces. Both were delightful. However it was this piece that really made me stand still and think “Wow”.   Tapa (Hawaiian stamped bark cloth)  was woven in a 6 shaft satin on a drawloom. Joan had worked in my studio and it was there that she discovered drawloom weaving. She became hooked and went home and acquired her drawloom. No wonder I was excited to see this piece.

It was announced that Convergence in 2020 will be in Knoxville, Tennessee in the last part of July.

And then finally Complex Weavers Seminars began. It started with the exhibition opening of Complexity 2018: Innovations in Weaving. It was a great way to provide a very focused start.  I was honored to have been asked to jury it along with Janice Lessman-Moss (USA) and Jette Vandermeiden (Canada); a very international jury. The initial jurying was done on line using a five-foil Likert Scale in the Submittable format. It was a tough job as there were many fabulous entries. We scored them blind and from this score, the gallery staff selected the 27 works from 23 artists. Jette and I had the difficult though rewarding job of selecting the awards prior to the opening as we were both there. We also consider ourselves very fortunate as we could handle and check what was on the back of the pieces: a very decided benefit! Complexity was hung in Metro Gallery in the City Hall. Many people got to see it purely because of its location. This is what it looked like with an early crowd at the Opening.

For a Gallery guide and the list of awards and winners go to http://www.complex-weavers.org/gallery/complexity-2018/  This will provide a much better way of viewing the exhibit than I could ever provide here.

One of the wonderful benefits of Seminars is that there are many opportunities to meet other like- minded weavers and to catch up with fiends from around the world. Meals are held together. There are a wide range of events: an informal fashion parade, traders, the silent auction, meetings of study groups and of course, the seminars.

There were a wide variety of topics presented. I was honored to have been selected and I presented Ties: Decorative, Practical and Unconventional and absolutely delighted with the buzz after the presentation.

 

I must admit I don’t have too many images to share. I was just too busy having a great time.

There is an exciting publication that will soon be available. It celebrates the 40th anniversary of CW. After the fashion parade, those weavers who had a piece in the forthcoming book took the floor. There were many interesting pieces. I can’t wait to see it. It is now available for pre-sale on the website. http://www.complex-weavers.org

Here’s some of the weavers with work in the book.

One of the results that I will share here came from the meeting of the Double Harness Study Group.. I had co-chaired the meeting with Jette Vandermeiden. I’ll also mention that the Double Harness Study Group is the oldest study group in CW. It was the first one formed. It was very satisfying to see a very enthusiastic gathering and is encouraging for the future.

From the meeting came the request to share two loom modifications. That has already happened and I thought that this was also an opportunity to share those here. They had happened over a number of years. The first I did in 2011 and my original article was presented in the International Damask Newsletter in Winter, 2011. A simple conversion for a Glimakra loom with an Opphampta attachment.     Jette wrote up her development, a variation of mine for the same publication in Autumn 2012. However the modification didn’t end there. The final modification for both Jette and I came about when her engineering husband became interested. The result was Medusa. I’ll put both a separate page on my blog under “Looms and loom modifications” for future reference.

Good times, great learning were had by all. I’ll look forward to the next Seminars in 2020. The last hurrah: a celebration great times at CW Seminars 2018.

Forthcoming classes in my studio

3-7 September Double weave and friends

1-5 October Colour in weaving: colour and weave effects, shadow weave, echo weave and optical colour blending.

12-16 November Woven shibori

10- 14 December Special also includes beginning weaving

Forth Monday September – November inclusive. BYO Loom: work on your own project with a review on the following month.

Full details under Kay’s Weaving School on my blog.


June 2018: My studio and other events.

July 3, 2018

This will be a short blog after the mammoth job of writing up the series from my textile tour to the Lesser Sunda Islands. However life has been busy.

Soon after arriving home I was off to Canberra for the weekend to teach for the guild there. There were a great group of weavers who were enthusiastic about learning Summer and Winter. Great results were achieved but unfortunately, I forgot to take photos. Twelve students had at work.

And then it was home for a 5 day “Special”. The three students had the opportunity to weave whatever project they wanted. Rochelle and Jan had both missed out on the twill class so decided that this was an ideal opportunity to expand their knowledge.

Jan took delight in weaving a set technique and then threw caution to the wind and developed some exiting variations.

Rochelle completed variations on a theme by exploring treadling sequences for her 3 scarves. They are all quite different.

Katie, from the USA had been travelling in S. E. Asia and stopped off for the class. Her project was to weave fabric for a tunic in weft ikat and silk. Here’s the fabric just off the loom.

A close up view of one of the sections. 3 dye baths were required to achieve this ikat. There’s a hint of olive or pink at either edge of the black.

I have finally got this piece of weaving off the loom. It’s taken a while but then again, I guess you have to be home to weave. And it was at about this stage that I wondered why I did weft shibori. Warp shibori would have taken way fewer threads to pull up.

 

 

And then some indigo. After my trip, there was a definite pull towards indigo as a preference.

And the great undoing. I’m very happy with the result.

I have been asked by several weavers about running a one day a month studio class at my studio. So on a Monday from September to November inclusive the studio will be open. I’m calling this a BYO loom class. Students will be required to bring their own loom. They may do any project according to their personal requirements. It may be to learn to weave or brush up on some skills for a beginner or something more advanced for the more experienced or even designing and planning a series. My intention is to provide the framework that allows students to decide on a project, have the month to weave and then bring it back for evaluation before starting a second one.

Other forthcoming classes include:

3-7 September Double weave and friends

1-5 October Colour in weaving: colour and weave effects, shadow weave, echo weave and optical colour blending.

12-16 November Woven shibori

10- 14 December Special also includes beginning weaving

 

All the details are on this blog under “Kay’s Weaving School” at the top of this blog.

I’m enjoying my Textile Wall. It is certainly bringing back great memories and it was certainly way too early to put away those wonderful textiles from my last trip.


May 2018: Part 5 of The Lesser Sunda Islands trip/Looms and weaving processes

June 23, 2018

This blog continues my experiences of the textile research trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands by Sea Trek. It will be the final in this series. This blog covers all aspects of weaving.

Back strap looms are nothing if not portable. They can be easily packed up at the end of the day and put away. They can be easily transported and set up somewhere else. All you need is some sort of structure to anchor it too. The other end is attached by a strap to a means (fabric or carved support) that when passed around the back of the weaver allows tension to be created. By bending forward, tension is removed, allowing the weaver to change a shafts. Here you see the basic elements: the frame provides both a seat and a means of slotting in the back beam. There’s the back strap ready to be put around the back of the weaver. Note that not all back strap looms have a frame. Sometimes it’s just a couple of posts in the ground.

The loom may fit into an existing structure or be tied to one.

The length of the actual loom correlates to the length of the weaving. One end will be anchored by a physical means, the other by the body. This warp must have a very long loom.

A weaver must be able to create good tension. To facilitate this, she or he must be able to push against the opposite end. Here extra pieces of wood have been put to shorten the distance.

How looms are actually used in daily life can only be seen when you look at home. Often they are outside under some sort of roof or under a house.  Sometimes they are in a favourite location. It is probably unlikely that the looms used in demonstrations are usually used on this site. On a wander around Umapura, Bettes and I came across a woman weaving beside a man making a canoe. It was away from the area where the demonstrations and selling were so one could suppose that this site may be used often. I was pleased that we both had an opportunity to weave. We realised how heavy the weaving was to lift to clear each shed or row of weaving. That warp is very dense and there were a lot of threads.

All weaving is done on a circular warp, resulting in only a small gap where it cannot be woven. Only one item is woven at a time.

Ikat.

Making sure everything is aligned when it is on the loom is the tricky bit. I have 5 warps and they are all secured differently to go on the loom.. From top to bottom the first is tightly bound at the top end and individual sections are loosely tied at the bottom. There are multiple warps here with different lengths, thereby indicating several projects. The second is woven at the top at the top , and loosely tied at the bottom with a short stick attached that would float. That might be useful in dyeing of finding the opposite end. The third is undone ready to go on the loom and only has a tight tie at one end. The forth has 10 short sticks bound along the length. The last also has sticks bound along the length and an additional series of knots across the top. All the weavers will have developed skills in how to make the imagery stay in place when it is put on the loom.

Here they are put onto a frame to be organised.

Once everything is aligned heddles need to be made so that every alternate thread will lift. This diagram explains the basics. Note that one heddle is made for every 4 threads or every 2 on the top. The heddle may be made over any combination of sticks or a single thick thread to create a required length. We saw quite a bit of variation. Sometimes there was a rod underneath to make sure the bottom  layer remained isolated from the top.

 

 

This video shows combining two warps, separating out the ikat threads making heddles and then adding in an extra solid colour warp with again their appropriate heddles.

Sticks and rods are inserted to enable the creation of the two sheds or the gap between one set of threads being up of down. This gap is where the weft yarn will be inserted. This yarn is often wound onto a long straight stick. In some places it will be used like this. At others, it may be inserted into a hollow tube. This video shows ikat being woven at Freddy’s studio in Sumba. There was an interesting variation here that we saw no where else: the fabric was beaten. That may be to loosen the threads and ensure they don’t catch with its neighbour. Note how much the warp slides forward sue to the force of beating with the sword. It needs to be continually pushed back.

When ikat is not a component and only plain weave is required or supplementary warps are used, it is possible to wind the warp and make the heddles at the same time.

Weaving pahikung (the name it’s called here) or with a supplementary warp.

This is an example to show the basic characteristics.: a clean finely detailed image on the front with the long floats tied down in a horizontal line at the back.

The supplementary warp is much thicker than the background thread. It appears that it is wound at a 1: 2 ratio. We did not see how the warp is made but I suspect that it uses a similar process to ikat with the additional warp being added at the same time. Perhaps 3 balls of yarn were used. We have seen 4 being used for ikat. Heddles will need to be made for the background fabric. Again we didn’t see this done but perhaps it is most logical to expect this to be done while the fabric is being warped.(as for ikat or a solid colour)

The design is picked up and stored on narrow very narrow sticks. They must be narrow as a lot of them may be required. The weaver here has an existing stored pattern on her lay. A long pin marks her current spot.

If the pattern required 2 stored patterns, one is completed first and then the other.

Sometimes you can find old stored patterns in a market or being sold by a trader.

This image shows the basic components to weave pahikung. From the front of the loom. On top of the weaving, there’s a temple or stick with points on the end to keep the weaving at the same with. This was used universally. Sometimes it may be placed under the weaving. It is constantly moved at very small intervals for the length of the weaving. A sword opens a gap (shed) to allow for the passage of the shuttle. Then there is the rod with all the heddles. A large diameter bamboo stick which is used to create the other shed. A series of sticks of the same width that hold the transferred pattern. A set of heddles that are used for the tie down row. A number of very fine sticks that store the pattern.

During weaving the stored pattern is moved to the front of the loom behind the heddles. They are moved forward and used in conjunction with the plain weave lifts underneath. At a regular intervals the ground weave anchors down the floating warp threads on the back of the weaving. As weaving progresses the supplementary warp because it is not used all the time as the plain weave fabric will lose tension and become slack. When this happens extra sticks are inserted to take up the tension. By the end of the project, quite a roll of sticks will be on the top of the weaving. On a western style loom, we would use either a second warp beam or some system of weights to ensure even tension is maintained throughout. This image shows the bundle of stick that take up the tension. All the pattern sticks have been used. A new set will need to be brought forward.

This movie shows transferring the pattern to the front where it becomes usable, tightening the tension and weaving. Note how the weaver has to keep moving the weaving edge back. It keeps moving forward due to the force of the beat used. This is a very dense fabric.

Finishing

Here are two unusual finishes. This decorative fringe was seen on textiles in Lamalera. (Lambata)

We saw several Sumba textiles with this woven fringe.

The warp of the textile becomes a secondary weft. Once the first textile is cut from the loom, it is turned and the warp becomes a weft for a second narrow circular warp on a back strap loom.

 

 

We were told that often beginner weavers do these. There’s quite a skill to keep the lower edge of the main textile from pulling in.

Once finished the second warp is left cut. And the left over fringe is then plied.

This movie shows the weaving.

On Reflection:

I have seen dyeing. How many ways can you dye with indigo and morinda? And then there was that feast of colour at Umapura. I have enjoyed seeing how textiles are produced and enjoyed the challenge of understanding process. There was a wonderful range of textiles. I have come to an appreciation of the diversity of regional cloth (especially as it was all woven on a back strap loom), its motifs and its role in daily life. It has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate in having been there. And that boat- what a magical experience! It really wouldn’t have been possible to go there to all those islands and weaving villages in such a space of time apart from by sea.


May 2018: Part 4 of The Lesser Sunda Islands trip/Dyes and processes for ikat.

June 21, 2018

This blog continues a report from my recent textile research trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands hosted by Sea Trek.

The technical aspects of textile production: common dyes, ikat preparation.

Dyes: Indigo and morinda

These are the two dyes that we saw consistently through the trip. Localised dyes have already been covered; in particular those wonderful colours found at Uma Pura on Ternate Island.

Let me say first up that this section was the most complex to sort through from my field notes. We saw dyeing at many locations. I will give an overview and then note any variations.

There are no exact measurements used. The dyers put in an amount according to their experience- a bit like a cook who knows how much of an ingredient is required. Sometimes it was also difficult to interpret the identity of a tree or plant. And perhaps, it might be handy to remember that perhaps like any chemist safe guarding a recipe and the edge to their livelihood, there is a secret ingredient that we are never told about. We’ve all known cooks that don’t share the total recipe.

This was our first experience of a dye demonstration in Flores. Having the materials and plants in a nearby garden labelled was very helpful. However it was the only place where this was done. For any of the unknown ingredients we had to rely on our guides ( Anastasia and Narto) who also may have had to interpret the word before identifying or spelling.

It should also be acknowledged that the dye processes are usually speeded up for a demonstration. Often each stage requires several days for each step and a number of days for drying in between.

These are the recipes as recorded. I make an effort to keep an open mind and record what I actually see and not what perhaps I would expect to see based on past experiences.

Reds are obtained from Morinda. These are the 3 basic ingredients but there were variations with additional material being added to both stages.

Stage 1: The first step is referred to as “oiling”. This makes the cotton fibre receptive to the dye. Candlenut is the main ingredient.

In Savu, where the soil is limestone, there is no candlenut growing.  The nuts of the Nita tree are used in a similar way. Sometimes additional ingredients are added. In reality the oiling may take up to a week with the yarn dried in the sun for up to 3 days before dying.  The yarn will be used dry for the dying process. In fact at no stage did we see wet yarn being used for any dye process.

Additional information:

At Bolok (West Timor) the bark and some leaves (perhaps) of the “delas/deras” tree was added to the candlenut. Delas is a local coastal tree. I couldn’t find its botanical name.

At Ledetadu (Savu), we were told that ash (from nitas), fresh nitas, garak,lonton flowers, water, turmeric and para leaves were pounded together.  This oil water was left for a week before adding the yarn. Then it was left for 3 nights in the liquid and left 7-8 months to dry before being used for dying.

Stage 2:

The morinda comes from the outer bark of the root. In Ndona (Flores) we were told that the oldest trees and the smallest roots provide the best colour while there is little difference in the colour according to the season. See also the morinda  both as sticks and shredded in the first image.

The morinda is shredded to make it fibrous. Water is added. (image from Bolok, West Timor) Before dyeing, the morinda matter is removed, leaving only liquid. Morinda on its own will not dye cotton. It must have something that makes the dye “stick” to the yarn or else it will wash out.

This other ingredient is loba (local name). It acts as a mordant or dye fixer. Loba is from a Symplocos tree and is known for its high level of aluminium. In some villages the men go into the hills and harvest it. Other villages that don’t have access to local loba, trade it. We saw bundles that had been bought in the market. It looked like a bundle of sticks and bark.

In West Timor to Sumba, it may be bought as a powder (blog 3 image) or nita nuts used instead. This tree is also high in aluminium. For western dyers we would use alum as a replacement.

The loba may be pounded with the morinda (Ndona). In Bolok, it was added as a liquid to a morinda dye bath. We saw the morinda change colour as the loba was added. The more added, the deeper the red.

Ikat warp and yarn in a morinda bath. (Bolok)

Additional information.

The morinda bark is removed and the yarn immersed. The process may be repeated up to 8 or more times to get a good colour. (Ndona)

At Bolok, nitas are burnt, ground and the water strained and then added to the symplocos powder. This increases the alkalinity of the symplocos (loba).

It is worth noting that the dyed yarn may be left 7-8 months before weaving to gain optimum dye result.

Blue from Indigo: Fresh leaf process

From Flores to Savu we saw cotton being dyed with fresh leaves. This indicates that indigo is readily available in these areas.

The basic process is: the leaves are soaked overnight and removed. Lime is then sprinkled on top and the bath is vigorously beaten. It was then used. In this image you can see the indigo leaves, the next step of frothing and then indigo ready to be used. (Savu)

 

In Bolok, lime powder was sieved into the indigo.

In this series of images watch how the indigo changes colour as it was aerated.

Additional information:

In Bolok we were told that the yarn was put in the dye bath and left for a week. If you wanted a darker colour the whole process was repeated.

In Ledetadu it was quite a complicated recipe for the soaking of the leaves. As well as the indigo leaves, “raru”, betel nut and its flower were used with ash water. This mix was soaked for 8 hours.

Blue from Indigo: Using indigo paste/cake.

Raijua and Sumba use an indigo cake recipe. I understand the climate means that the indigo plant is subject to drought on these limestone islands and so to achieve access to indigo for dyeing the indigo is processed into a form that will keep.

This is the process seen in Sumba at Freddy’s studio: It was identified that hands must be clean and free of soap, creams etc. The indigo leaves are soaked for 12 hrs. A rock is put on top to make the leaves stay under the level of the water. The leaves are removed. This is the size of the vessel used for soaking the indigo. I wonder if it is also referred to as a jar in the process described below for Raijua. Note the lid for covering the jar and rock for weighing down the leaves in the background.

It is then mixed with lime and left for a day. That sinks the indigo to the bottom. The top liquid is removed till there is about 1.5 litres of “sludge”. The indigo liquid is put in a bag and hung to dry for 2 days.

To use the indigo, the paste is dissolved in ash water and an extra unidentified (secret) ingredient from a tree root was added. The dye must be used in 1 -2 days or else it will rot. Multiple dips are required for a deep blue. I have recorded that 500g of indigo paste = 4 times dipping of 500g of yarn. This time of year (May), the quality of an indigo is poor as it is sensitive to heat variations. Freddy’s dye master shows us the paste/cake.

This is the process as told at Ledeunu (Raijua). Indigo cake is made over a three month period. This would correlate to when optimum amounts of indigo can be obtained from the plants.

Indigo leaves (packed in), lime powder and salt water are put in a “jar” and left for a week. The material is then squeezed and removed from the jar. It is then put in basket and the water drips out. This process takes 3 days. Here’s the resulting cake.

 

To use the indigo cake is dissolved in ash water. Nitas are burnt to obtain the ash water. It “lives” for 3 weeks. The quantities that we were given for dyeing was 10 cakes = 1 sarong for 40 dips. Allow to dry between each dip. This is a very dark blue. I didn’t see the yarn go in but I presume it’s had several dips. I didn’t hear how long for each dip or how many or any other details. I just saw them pull this out.

 

Here’s some other interesting observations.

A plastic bag is used to exclude dye from an unwanted area. (Ndona)

 

This bundle consists of several warps all dyed at the same time. They are separate. (Kelompok Kapo Kale)

This warp is partly unwound. Maybe it will be having a second colour applied. However I understand that indigo is usually but not always the last colour. Maybe it will be a 2 tone indigo warp. (Freddy’s studio). How do you identify which bundle to undo if a second process is required? Freddy told us that different types of knots are used for identification.

I was shown that this small section of ikat will be one of the stripes used in a warp to achieve this sarong. (Lamalera, Lembata)

Ikat preparation for dying

As this is often a step before dying, I will cover this topic on this blog.

Ikat here is all done in the warp. So first step is to wind your warp. The warp will be the length required for weaving an item on a circular warp on a back strap loom. A frame is used. The length of the frame will therefor equal half the required length. In the case of a tubular skirt for instance it will be the distance required for the width of the skirt divided by two.

Mostly we saw the warp being wound in a continuous circle for the required number of threads. Usually two people work together. It makes it efficient to reach both sides. Strings were added during the winding process. This will be a means of keeping threads in order for creating heddles for weaving when it is put back on the loom and to keep the sequence in binding for ikat. (Ledetadu, Savu))

In Kelompok Kapo Kale each section of warp was tied in groups at regular intervals. I suspect that this will aid in the design not shifting.

Here’s a close up of the finished warp just prior to binding. Note the strings to keep everything in sequence. Each group of threads has the potential to be wrapped singly as they are clearly identifiable.

This warp is then wrapped for the required design. It is amazing to me how the designs are often just memorised and reference isn’t made to something to do the wrapping. The wrapped areas will be where the dye will not penetrate. The binding at the bottom has secured a straight line and stabilised the warp to prevent slippage. (Ndona)

It is worth noting that the bound design will weave as a mirror image on each side. The blue string was put in during winding the warp. It can easily be seen how it has been used to identify bundles for binding. (Ndona)

Here’s an interesting way to keep everything secure. A band of plain weave has been done by hand. There’ll be nothing getting out of sequence here. I only saw this in Lamalera.

Wrapping is done using this palm leaf. The long leaves are stripped into narrow lengths. (Nggela, Flores)

 

In some areas we did see plastic being used. (Savu)

According to Freddy (Sumba), the palm leaf is better for binding than plastic. It is stronger and plastic breaks when multiple dips are carried out over a long period of time.

The actual process of weaving with ikat warps will be covered in the next blog along with other forms and aspects of weaving.


May 2018: Part 3 of The Lesser Sunda Islands trip/ The Limestone Islands.

June 20, 2018

This post follows on from the previous one. It is a record of my experiences on a textile research trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands hosted by Sea Trek.

From Lembata Island we head south across the Sunda Straight to West Timor. (see map from Part 1). From there we’ll be heading west to create a loop that will eventually take us back to Flores.

The landscape changes. The mountains are less steep. No more volcanoes to be seen. Accessibility to plant materials for dyeing appears to be impacted.

I had been to West Timor in 2007- that’s 11 years ago. I wondered what Sue and David Richardson had planned for us to visit and whether I’d see any change.

We landed in Kupang and traveled in this bus.

We visited the Bolok weaving group and saw an extensive dye demonstration. Here an essential ingredient in morinda production, symplocos can’t be grown and candlenut may not be accessible. The conditions just aren’t right for the symplosos so they have to buy it in. In this case in a powdered form. Candlenut may be replaced by nita nut. More to follow in the technical notes in another blog,

We also visited the Museum of Nusa Tenggara Timor with some great displays of textiles.

Then it was onto Baun (Kelompok Kai Ne’e)  and then Barat . Our destination was to an audience with the King and Queen of Amarasi in their Royal Pavillion. The king and queen are in the background while the children perform an opening ceremony.

After the reception we were taken to the complex where we saw textiles and a demonstration of papermaking. I had been here before.  My impression is that it was now a much more active and viable community. It seemed much more prosperous than what I remembered.

This is the royal motif being woven, interspersed with some float work stripes. Note that the additional design element is being picked up as it is being woven.

At the nearby village of Barat we saw yarn skeins of yarn in an extensive colour way. This is just one section of line.

There were also a variety of textile techniques.

There was ikat with lots of morinda, though there was some pale indigo too. The designs were bold. Obviously the design is popular or they have an outlet requiring textiles of the same design. It had a commercial feel.

 

There was also some warp float work done on alternating coloured warp threads. On one side there were warp floats while on the back there were weft floats. Note the appearance of uncut circular warps. From my previous trip, I knew that this was a way of identifying desirable new textiles. There were other designs but it is interesting to note that the design while woven individually is the same.

The patterning was very familiar and it stirred memories of other great textiles and interesting techniques I’d seen in 2007. Maybe I need to come back again. It was only a fleeting one day visit.

We sailed west to Sawu or with an alternate spelling: Savu. Here we visited Ledatadu and Namata. Here was another demonstration and with a couple of noteworthy aspects. Here they were removing the seeds from cotton not with a gin but rather by rolling the fibre on a piece of wood with a round stick.

Plied cotton in 2 colours is used as an extra design element in a stripe.

Some areas of bound ikat were being hand painted. This enables isolated areas of motif being dyed as opposed to whole areas being bound and redyed in the required dyebath. The process is repeated at least 4 times with drying time required between each application.

The motifs in the textiles to have an elegance and to be quite refined.

 

These children in their ikats are just too good not to share.

As well as warp ikat there was some textiles using float work (warp floats on the front and weft on the back)

The village of Namata provided us with a dance performance. It was a chance to check out the textiles.

And of course there was another opportunity to buy. There was evidence of more chemical dyes used for the ikat. This piece has a more contemporary feel.

On Raijua Island we visited two textile villages: Uoja Dima and Namo. It was the second village that proved the most interesting.

There was another indigo demonstration. Until now we had seen only indigo being used from fresh leaves. We were told that because of the “extended drought” indigo was being converted into indigo paste. There will be more on this actual process in a later blog. I suspect perhaps that it is an effect of living on the “limestone islands” with what I understand is their lower rainfall. It seems a well-entrenched process.

Cotton is spun using the drop spindle in a different manner: “upside down”.

The textile motifs here remind me very much of damask patterns from Europe.

There is also a strong Dutch influence. Note the crowns and the KN which stands for Koningsland der Nederlands or Kingdom of the Netherlands

We also saw these solid indigo dyed cloths with tie dye patterning. We were told that these are often worn for funerals and other important ceremonies.

Our last island was Sumba. These textiles were one of the reasons I’d joined this trip. They didn’t disappoint. We visited the villages of Uma Bara (King of Pau), Pau and Rindi, Waingapu as well as the studio: Tenun Ikat Sumba at Prailiu. Freddy, the owner acted as our guide for the time on Sumba.

Here’s some background to the social hierarchy. Sumba has “slaves”. They can never move up the social ladder. They can never own land. The children will also be “slaves”. However if they weave and sell textiles they do get the money. Some textiles are sold as being done by royalty. This may mean that they are produced by the “slaves” of that royal. The word “slave” didn’t seem to imply that they were abused but rather describes a position in society.

The importance of textiles in that community was confirmed. We saw a burial tombs for royalty. There was often a weaver carved into the stone as well as other auspicious objects.

When a royal person dies, the body is wrapped in a foetal position and over time till an auspicious date for the burial textiles will be added. This princess has been covered with 75 textiles in 6 months. The burial we were told will probably be in September at which time there will have been many more textiles added. Apparently the best two textiles will be next to the body and on the outside. A slave always sits with the body.

We saw demonstrations of dyeing at Freddy’s studio. I’ll note now that indigo paste was also used, however actual technical details will come later.

There are two main textile techniques: ikat and weaving with supplementary warps. They may be on their own or combined. The actual technique of weaving with the supplementary warps will be covered later. These are the textiles. The motifs are often strong and bold.

I love the large scale motifs found on the ikat. Here are a couple of examples.

 

 

Just blue but look at the complexity and detail with shades of blue.

This one is just a bit extreme though it did make me smile.

Supplementary warp fabrics are different on both sides. The front imagery is definite with the back having the negative design but with long floats being tied down at regular intervals. The back can just be seen on the underneath fabric. This image also shows the stored pattern behind the heddles on the left. The weaving edge is not shown. As the fabric is woven, the supplementary warp is not used at the same rate as the background fabric. To take up the slack and to control tension, it is wound onto extra sticks. This is the roll of sticks on top of the loom. The full process will be shown in a later blog. The colour showing behind the heddles is not a dyed warp but rather the background warp showing through.

 

 

 

A fuller look at the two sides of the fabric. The wrong side looks as though it has lines in the design.

 

 

Supplementary warp on a striped warp woven beside ikat for a woman’s tube skirt. The top fabric is woven separately and joined.

After weaving, the supplementary warp fabric may be hand coloured.

 

Lastly, here’s an interesting fringe treatment. A weaver sits with a small circular warp and the fringe of a completed weaving is woven as the weft. Here’s a completed fabric. The warp of the finished narrow weaving is just cut. The remaining original fringe is then plied.

The next blog covers all those technical details I’ve been promising.