May 2015

For this month the primary focus has been on getting two solo exhibitions up and running and a workshop with the Gold Coast Weavers. In between times I managed to work a bit more on the Laos information.

Firstly the commitments before I share the play.

Interlacement was on show at Gatakers, Maryborough. It was a last minute invited exhibition to fill in a space on their exhibition schedule and was a collection of handwovens in a variety of styles and techniques: more of an exposure to hand weaving for the community. Here are a couple of views of the gallery.

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The exhibition came down at the end of the month. I’ve heard that the community gave it great reviews. I have now been invited to show Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon there next February.

What a wonderful venue for the workshop. Bonhoffen run by PCYC is tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland and is situated in the valley between two national parks. The group explored ikat; both warp and weft. One of the very exciting aspects of this workshop was that this topic allowed for 4 new/returning weavers.

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Here are some images of the workshop. My apologies to those that attended that I need to be selective in the number of images that I’ve shown so you all can’t be included. This post otherwise will be extremely long.

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On the first afternoon they wound a warp and dyed it that evening. It managed to dry overnight thanks to a line strung in front of a wood fire.

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The next day they threaded the loom, started weaving and did the calculations for the weft ikat. Some did ikat for their sample while others tied small bundles to get a shift of pattern. The fire helped again.

Images of weaving as progress was made.

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At the end of May, I drove my Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon to Emerald Regional Gallery. Opening was 5th June. By the way, I had forgotten to take one set of cables with me: the ones for my lap top so of course this is now a late blog. Isn’t it amazing how many extras you have to remember to bring: cords for the phone, the camera, the e reader and of course the computer?

This Regional Gallery is a lovely space. The exhibition looks great and will be up till the 17th July. It is always interesting how the same exhibition sits in a different space.

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The opening: from the outside looking into the gallery.

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Preparations for my school continues. Maureen has decided that she can no longer weave. I collect another loom. Yarn fills in all the gaps and prevent any movement.

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Now to what is an interesting project. This has been an ongoing project whenever I can find the odd spare minute. I had decided that I’d like to set up a loom similar to what I’d seen in Laos. Why? Apart from because I was interested to see whether I could do it, it is only by actually doing a thing that you really understand all the intricacies of doing it, whether making or weaving.

I had also decided that because floor space in my studio is at a premium with the looms already there, that like those in Laos, this loom could be on my back patio with some exposure to the weather. It is an experimental loom after all and I think I’ll really enjoy the freedom of weaving outside.

I had bought the system consisting of reed, shafts with heddles and storage system. Now all I need is the loom to go with it and make it work.

On that trip I noticed that no matter whether the loom used with either a vertical or horizontal storage system, the basic framework was the same. I had taken measurements. The basic rectangular framework was 99cm wide, 160 cm high and 220 cm long. In theory: The width is of course important for the width of what you want to weave. The height is important to accommodate the height at which you are comfortable weaving, the length of the vertical storage system (suspended vertically) and the height at which it is comfortable to reach the warp to tension as it passes over the top of the loom. The depth is necessary to accommodate movement of the warp threads in either the vertical or horizontal storage systems. I decided that as far as possible I would stick to the traditional size. Once I had made this first one then I could work out any modifications.

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This is the image of a traditional loom that has appeared in a previous blog. I have included it here again as a point of reference. On this loom the warp slants down to the weaver. Mostly I had noticed that the warp was horizontal.

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I had examined the loom and the basic construction is easy. But then I considered the cost of wood. There was a very old loom being sold. (Who ever thought I’d be interested in acquiring a loom similar to the oldest of those poorly functioning ones at Sturt that I’d been working at replacing.) I had decided back in March that it was cheaper to buy this loom and then the extra wood to extend it. (the treadles are stuck out the back out of the way because even then I knew I wouldn’t be using them. It does make for a strange looking loom!) The cost of the loom actually equalled the extra bits I needed for the extension.

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This basic framework is now 125 cm wide, 145 cm high and 220 cm long. The only important discrepancy is in the height. If required, I can always increase the height by putting it up on blocks. That may not be a bad idea anyway as the patio is not necessarily waterproof and if it rains heavily the water may come through.

It was mid- month and I realised that there was a lot of decision making happening as to the choices I was making. So unusually for me I decided to record step by step rather than waiting till the end of the month and trying to remember. This way you’ll get to share in my decision making as it happens.

So I have the frame constructed by early May. But what about beater, cloth and warp storage beams, treadles?

It is my intention that to start with I am going to keep the mechanics the same as the traditional in as much as it is possible.

So the reed will be suspended from a pole by rope and not be in a frame. Won’t that take a bit of getting use to when I come to weave? There’ll be no frame work to keep everything square.

The warp storage I’ll attempt to work with it as they do: knotted over a front bar with the warp in a plastic bag. I wonder how much of a mess I’ll get into. I’m predicting that I’ll change over to what I’m used to pretty quickly, but I’ll give it a go.

The cloth storage I’ve decided will be on a beam as normal. I’d love to have one of those front beams with a peg and hole mechanism (see previous post) but I decided there was no real reason to do so. Now if I had acquired one of those carved front cloth beams over there, I’d be more tempted. It is such a simple mechanism.

What about the treadles for the plain weave shafts? The shafts on the system I’d acquired will be tied to these. I had taken some video of the traditional looms working. It appears that to enable the shafts and storage systems to work efficiently, the treadles need to be kept as light as possible. So I have got rid of the heavy treadles that came with this loom and I’ll add in something lighter later.

Note my innovation of a plumber’s pipe over the beam at the back. That beam needs to be smooth as the warp will pass over this. The traditional ones had rounded edges and in one case the beam was wrapped in fabric. I decided that my wood working skills were minimal and if I could find an alternative to make it round then that was ok. I have taken the original back beam from the centre of the loom and just repositioned it at the back of the loom. The bottom height of this beam equals the top height of the beam at the front so that the warp will be parallel to the floor when weaving. It is basically at this stage a frame ready to receive the storage systems that I’d acquired.

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Now to organise the warp (12th May). I am constrained by the system that I’d acquired. I have got two. The one shown here has a stainless steel reed, the other bamboo. Both are the same. I’ll be using the bamboo when I get to start.

The sett is predetermined by the existing reed. The width is also predetermined. I had previously commented that the scarves that we’d seen in the market place had basic characteristics because of the yarn available and that it was very limited. Of course the reed that they used matched the yarn that they were using and only one size was available because of this. So while I have a variety of yarns in my cupboard, to use this reed I am also having similar constraints. So I used two points of reference, the reed and a scarf I’d bought. On close examination I realised that there were two threads per dent (slot). The sett of the reed was 9 epcm. This reed was 42 cm. It was interesting to have confirmed that the warp is also used double in the storage system but singly on the plain weave shafts.

What yarn will I use?

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The plain weave sett needs to be 18 epcm (approximately 45epi). In my cupboard I have some fine cotton and two sizes of fine silk. The cotton and finest of the silk is finer than the yarn used in the scarf, the 60/2 silk is a bit thicker. The fine yarns will be more likely to break and I am a bit concerned about feeding a warp out of a plastic bag. I’d prefer the sett for the 60/2 silk to be more open than 18epcm. I decided to start with the 60/2 silk because it is stronger, smooth (and will hopefully any tangles if there are any will slide out) and the sett while tight can be accommodated. If it is a major problem, I will change the reed to one of my own once I have seen how weaving progresses.

I wound the warp. It is only 6m, not the 90m that the weavers of Laos use. I have no intention of doing that sort of repetitive weaving and 6 m will surely give me enough to play with. I have tied it up very well with a number of choke ties. (I’m not trusting myself to use their loosely coiled system that I saw in a bag). This warp isn’t going places and in addition I’ve used my ikat clamp to guarantee no movement.

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16th May: Now I have to knot my warp onto that of the bundle: all 756 ends (I wish I hadn’t done that math.) Oh well, there’s no rush. This is play time and I’ll do a bit each day for a while. Because I will be suspending the warp and I really don’t want to mess with it too much, I am knotting behind the storage system. There’s all those loops! This isn’t like my heddles as there’s no defined central hole. Carefully does it. I select a pair of silk warp threads, identify the next loop coming through the storage system and then cut it. Then I knot these two before repeating for the next pair. I don’t want to mess this up. It would be so easy to drop a thread though one of those loops. Maybe I should have wound a longer warp just to take advantage of all this effort.

17th May. I have discovered an interesting side fact. The diagram below identifies how the bundle is threaded. I have noticed that there are loops where I am working i.e. behind the pattern storage heddle and there are loops at the front of the reed. This has to mean that the system was set up by winding a continuous thread (for the dummy warp). Later on the proper warp will be knotted onto this. This also means that the reed is constructed after the dummy warp is threaded. It also means that all heddles whether for the shafts or storage system are constructed as the dummy warp is prepared.


I’ve also decided that a cup of coffee = a chain in the dummy warp. The dummy warp is chained in sections behind the storage system and in front of the reed to keep everything in place. Today I have 8 chains to go.

27th May Just one day before I have to leave, the tying on is finished. I’m pleased as when I return I’ll get to start the next step of actually putting it on the loom and finishing setting up the loom.

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I discovered another interesting fact: there were more heddles threaded than through the reed i.e. there were some left over. You can see these at the top. This means that while the dummy warp is made in two sections: that for the heddles (plain weave and storage system) and then through the reed. The pairs of loops at the back are different to the pairs at the front. This allows for the reed to be added later. I have noticed to accommodate this at both sides there are 3 warp ends per dent.

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Some technical info: Deb McClintock has done extensive research on the looms of Laos. (She and I ravelled through Northern Vietnam together) The following are her definitions of parts of the storage system of the Laotian looms. She also does some great natural dyes.

Khao tam huuk = ‘the bundle’. By the way I think I’ll continue to use the bundle as I wonder about the use of language when it crosses borders and languages. It’s also easier to get my tongue around. It consists of reed, plain weave heddles and vertical storage system.

Feum = beater.

Khao Noi= set of two shafts. Each shaft has two clasped heddles/dill/diu

Khao Nyai= the pattern ‘shaft’ consisting of two clasped heddles (long).

On occasion the term feum also is used to describe the entire ‘bundle’- no wonder that I’ll stick with ‘bundle’.

So I have this loom on my patio. This is one of the benefits of weaving plein air. I wonder how much of a distraction all this activity was while I was making all those knots. The rainbow lorikeets are real characters.

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One Response to May 2015

  1. ahclaw says:

    Exhibition looks Great. Love the transparency….boy hasn’t your garden come on – all plants were small last time I saw it 18 months ago!


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