December 2018: More on the work that will appear in the next exhibition.

December 30, 2018

Research has taken me in several directions that somehow have influenced my work. While you don’t get to see finished pieces, I will share research and thought process that I have used.

I have become hooked on visiting Trove, the National Library of Australia web site where I can trawl through old papers. www.trove.nla.gov.au/newspapers. There you can select your choice of state and a whole lot of newspapers come up. Because of the time line that I’ve been researching, I’ve been looking at three: Brisbane Courier (1864- 1933), Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane 1846 – 1861) and in particular, The Queenslander (1866-1939). It is a fascinating way to pass a lot of time. I can find births, deaths and marriages, a whole lot of classifieds and some interesting articles. I even found one on earth closets (Saturday 10 Feb 1866 pg. 11) I have been caught up in looking at page one and births deaths and marriages.

A look at The Queenslander for 3rd March 1866: page 1, Family notices, provides a typical style of presentation. I don’t always find listings for this area. It’s a bonus when I do.

Please take note of the wording. It can give an insight into the status of women. It also reinforces the perception of the invisibility of women in the mid 1800’s, a theme that I began in the October post.

Births. These are two notices that follow a standard format.

Strachan- on the 26th February, at Cleveland, Mrs JW Strachan of a daughter.

Grenier- On the 26th February, at her residence, Mrs G A Grenier of a daughter.

And then here’s another standard format one that really reflects on the importance of women. It is not unusual that “the wife of Mr………………..” is used. But this one also lists what he does.

Smith- On the 23rd of February, at her residence, Duncan’s Hill, the wife of F. T. Smith, builder of a daughter.

Marriages

Here’s one for my area:

McLeod-Gray On the 24th February at Cleveland by the Rev Lacy H Rumsey, M.A., Edward McLeod, Esq of Cleveland, to Hannah, widow of the late Walter Gray Esq of Ipswich.

Deaths

There were 6 deaths listed: 4 children and 2 women. Again here are 2 typical formats. Sometimes the wife gets listed in the death of a child, while at other times there is no mention of the mother. It is sobering to read of the child’s age in the mid 1800’s.

Bartley- On the 1st March, James Norman, youngest son of James and Mary Ann Bartley, aged 12 months.

Hawkers- On the 1st March at the Military Barracks, Emily, infant daughter of Sergeant Hawkes, 12th Regiment, aged 22 days.

And then one contemplates how life has changed. Thank goodness for improvements in medicine and medical practices. Thank goodness for improvements in the status of women and thank goodness for the things that have made daily life that much easier. Progress indeed!

When I first started spending many hours in the Cleveland Library I came across old maps and references to roads.

Early white explorers often followed aboriginal tracks that later became roads. The current Mt Gravatt- Capalaba Road is one such example.

Before there were roads into this area, supplies had to come in by boat, a very treacherous undertaking. There were many instances of boats being stuck or overturned. At one stage Cleveland was identified as becoming a port. Squatters coming from Warwick area through Cunningham’s Gap were keen for it to be a place to ship wool from, until there were one too many mishaps. An early explorer, Alan Cunningham had an 1829 sketch that showed a “road”.

IMG_4306 - Copy

 

This 1861 map shows both “Old” and “New” Cleveland Road and identifies the “road” as being “a line of trees marked on either side of the Road- being one chain long”. Both roads are still in existence. Over time roads were improved. Bridges built over creeks that needed to be forded especially in times of flood. Drays, mail coaches pulled by horse and bullocks were replaced by early cars. Early settlers required roads.

This drawing of early roads came from a publication “The Cleveland Roads to 1900” and shows how Cleveland was connected to Brisbane.

IMG_4315 - Copy

The roads of course brought more settlers to the area. Progress came.

Of recent time there has been much discussion in the news about development in this area and the need to allow for growth of more people and the ensuing impact on the environment.

And again one reflects on what we call “progress”.

What can I use to symbolise progress? What can I use to symbolise “development” and to identify the mark that both early development and those who came after have left on the land?  There seems to be a link between progress, roads and thereby tyre tracks. Tyre tracks are also impermanent: they can be washed away or covered up by whatever comes next.

Then the fun began! For inspiration, I collected images of tyre tracks and played with printing tyres. Sometimes one just has to play to incubate ideas.

Bike tracks on the beach with a delicate pattern made by a small crab.

IMG_4434

Car tracks in dried up mud.

IMG_4445

A print from a car tyre. My son just shook his head over what his mum sometimes gets up to. It was his tyre.

IMG_4438

This led me to thoughts of developing profile drafts using the word “progress” and to use this to replicate a tyre print format. This is some developmental work.

 

progress 2b

This is detail of the woven profile using two tie unit weave or Summer and Winter. It’s such a great structure for weaving imagery. How this sits in the whole piece will be unveiled later. At this stage it’s very difficult to identify the word, progress. I guess you sometimes just can’t go back in time.

DSC06023

Lastly, another bit of experimentation. This again links in with where I live and it is in a very physical way. The Redlands is named that for a very good reason. It has red dirt. Originally all this area was productive farming. What was once prize agricultural land is now covered in housing. Now there are just a few isolated farms in the middle of suburbia.

DSC06286

I have been experimenting with mud dye. It might be interesting to add this to my story. Here it is applied to a sample of woven shibori and then undone. Fresh soy milk was used as a binder.

DSC06263

Isn’t it a glorious red brown? Base fabric is a cotton warp and linen weft.

DSC06266

Eventually all these separate threads do come together. All will be revealed in March.

parallel title        An exhibition celebrating 20 years of woven shibori with Catharine Ellis. 10th March- 14 April 2019, Redland Art Gallery.

Classes begin in the New Year. In just a couple of weeks there will be Linen and Lace. Check out the rest of year’s classes here.

Advertisements

November 2018: Studio classes including woven shibori and continuing behind the scenes for my next exhibition

December 2, 2018

This month’s studio class was Woven Shibori.  Barbara, Ronda and Judy worked on class projects in a variety of fibres, structures, effects, warp and weft shibori, in fact a whole range of techniques that could be fitted into 5 days. Jan worked on her own project. She had attended last year’s class and wanted to extend that work.

Here are some images from the class. It was a very successful week. Sometimes students chose to weave a project from a warp. On others they chose to explore a variety of approaches and completed a sampler. The choice was theirs. As a result they went home with a collection of samples and projects and let’s not forget a whole collection of weave drafts.

Weaving: A variety of looms used including the draw loom.

DSC05957

 

Pulling up.

DSC05958

 

Dyeing: watching the magic of indigo.

DSC05960

 

Undoing:

DSC05961

 

The results:

Indigo.

DSC05962

 

 

DSC05986

permanent pleating (not the bottom scarf).

DSC05963

 

the acid dye bath

 

DSC05964

DSC05997

Jan had to leave mid-week. Luckily she had finished the weaving of her rag rug but will return at a later date to finish the shibori process.

DSC05976

One of the things that was considered in Colour in weaving, the October class, was the repeat that happens when yarn is commercially space dyed. We often pick up cones of yarns that look interesting and then wonder what we are going to do with them. The length of the repeat on this cone of space dyed yarn just happened to nearly match the width of a left over warp. So here was an opportunity to weave a space dyed yarn as weft ikat. As this was a shibori class I also wove it with a resist.

DSC05947

DSC05941

Once the resist was pulled up, the fabric wanted to curl due to the resist being unbalanced in float length. So I worked with this, wrapped it around a rope and bound it before dyeing.

DSC05951

Of course it ended up in the indigo which of course it was always going to overwhelmed it. I must admit I do like this fabric much better than the original because that red, white, black ikat is so subdued.

DSC05970

DSC05972

Upcoming studio classes for 2019. All classes are limited to a maximum of 5 unless otherwise identified. Details under Kay’s weaving school.

21-25 January 2019          Linen and Lace.

18-22 March       Woven Shibori

13- 17 May          From a twill threading

10- 14 June         Special- own choice.

9 – 13 September            Colour in Weaving

21-25 October                   Weave a floor rug (class size limited to 3)

18-22 November              Double weave and friends

9-13 December                 Special- own choice.

BYO Loom one day a month class will continue next year.

Marja has been coming for the past 3 BYO loom classes. She had never woven crackle, so here was the opportunity to explore. As well as weaving a project a month, she has also come to understand the structure and how it is drafted.

IMG_4370

parallel title

The ongoing saga that was begun last month for the exhibition celebrating 20 years of woven shibori with Catharine Ellis.

At the start of the month: Hot off the loom. I look at this pile and I am overwhelmed- not by the quantity of weaving that has worked out really well but by the amount of resist soon to be pulled up. And then I wonder in over 20 years how much resist would have been pulled up. This exhibition is a cause for celebration! Onward….

DSC05937

 

Weeks later. The fabric lengths were finally all pulled up and ready for the dye baths. I decided that I wanted to get a range of colours to signify age. The colour had to come from sources that identified age to me.

I used pomegranate that I have had in my garden for probably well over 20 years. The original seed for this ornamental (unfortunately it can’t be eaten) came from my Grandmother’s property (50 years + ago) and then to my mother’s garden. I think that there is a lovely parallel there with my matrilineal line.

DSC06010 (600 x 400)

The other dye source came from the old Tallowwood, Eucalyptus microcorys that grows beside my fence. It has been here a very long time. It was a very mature tree when we moved in 40 years ago so would have to be well over 100 years old possibly older than 200.

DSC06009 (600 x 400)

Tallowwood were a predominant tree of this area before settlement. There is this wonderful example at a local nature reserve.

IMG_4362

This tree is protected and is over 400 years. It was never felled because it had been deformed by lightning when it was about 100 years old but it certainly gives a feel for what this landscape may have been like. I can just imagine the early settlers struggling through the scrub with these and other large trees dominating.

From these two sources, I required 8 different colours. These were obtained by the use of mordants (tannin + alum), the two dyes and a dash of iron. Pomegranate doesn’t technically required a tannin pre-mordant but I did add to help shift the colour for two dye baths. The tannin pre-mordants were tannic acid obtained from oak galls and myrobalan. Because pomegranate is so high in tannin, I also used it as a mordant for one of the Tallowwood baths. Usually I would add a dash of iron to make the colour muddier. In one case it was liquid from a collection of rusty bits that I found and that had been soaking for at least 2 years. While the mordanting was very measured according to weight of fibre, the dyestuff, proportion of them and the quantity of iron certainly weren’t. Here’s an overview of the dye combinations for the 8 colours. As you can see I aimed to cover different combinations of the basic elements.

  1. Pomegranate, no tannin, iron
  2. Pomegranate, tannic acid, iron
  3. Pomegranate, myrobalan, iron
  4. Pomegranate, tannic acid, iron
  5. Tallowwood, pomegranate, tannic acid, iron
  6. Tallowwood, myrobalan
  7. Tallowwood tannic acid
  8. Tallowwood, tannic acid, soaked iron liquid.

 

The tallowwood leaves were collected whether fresh or old, covered with water and soaked for a day before being boiled, strained and reused. I did not retrieve these for the next bath.

DSC06003 (600 x 400)

DSC06006 (600 x 400)

To prepare the pomegranate bath, I collected both old husks and fruit- whatever I could find, covered it with water and left for a day or so. Before dyeing, the mixture was boiled and then strained. The fruit was returned to the bucket and soaked again till the next day of dyeing. The dye process took well over a week. It is interesting to note that the recycled pomegranate continued to give equally strong dye on each progressive dyeing and that there was still plenty of dye to be extracted by the time I was finished with it. I must admit the odour was pretty strong though luckily hasn’t stayed in the fabric.

Here’s the end result showing the variation in colours though you will have to wait to see what the finished pieces look like till the exhibition.

DSC05985


October 2018: Colour in Weaving studio class and an exhibition announcement

November 4, 2018

The studio class this month was Colour in Weaving. It provided an opportunity to explore all manner of colour related activities and an in depth look at colour theory. There was a total of 8 warps provided exploring different aspects.  I’ll share a couple of their experiments because it was good fun and the results of their labours.

From straight theory they each wound a section of warp choosing a particular colour scheme. These were later combined.

DSC05839

Then the challenge was to choose a colour that would unify.

DSC05841

There was an opportunity to dye so we dyed warps and skeins randomly and for ikat which they took home to experiment with. I will look forward to seeing what is done with those. There was both ikat and painted warps in the workshop. They looked at how to combine several elements together without getting into a tangle. And an opportunity to experiment with a fan reed. Look for this effect in their collections.

This cone of variegated yarn provided one of the challenges. We analysed the colour repeat. They experimented.

DSC05932 (600 x 400)

DSC05848

I loved overhearing the discussion involved in what colour choices were being made. It was no longer “I’m using this colour because I like it” as is so often the case when weavers are choosing weft colour. There was discussion of colour schemes, types of contrasts, values, hues and so on. The decisions being made were very much informed and quite often independently being considered and that was apart from the specific colour challenges I set.

Batch 1 of Sharon’s collection.

DSC05846

and the second part.

DSC05851

Some of Jan’s work. She could only attend two days. She also wove a colour and weave effect tea towel.

DSC05856

Rochelle’s collection. She also worked on an extra warp for a couple of alpaca scarves.

DSC05861

Karen’s collection

DSC05859

Sometimes I get to finish off the warps.

IMG_4278

It was an extremely busy and productive week and of course a great week of very special camaraderie.

The BYO Loom class met with Marja bringing along her first project in crackle. She loves the structure. I love the end result.

IMG_4293

I have a couple of announcements to make.

Firstly I have been working on next year’s program prompted in no small way by two weavers wanting to book in to the Linen and Lace class.

Next month:    Woven shibori. It is full.

10-14 December 2018. Special. Own choice of project or technique. Weave on any loom including 8 or 16 shafts, draw loom or SE Asian style loom. Experiment with a fan reed.

21-25 January 2019          Linen and Lace.

18-22 March       Woven Shibori

13- 17 May          From a twill threading

10- 14 June         Special.

The rest will be listed shortly.

A major highlight of next year will be my joint exhibition with Catharine Ellis to celebrate over 20 years of woven shibori.  You may be aware that both Catharine and I independently yet at the same time developed the technique that became woven shibori. In 1998 she taught it at Convergence for the first time while I coincidentally had the first article published in Weavers. I thought that it was a significant enough milestone to celebrate so I invited Catharine to be a part of a joint exhibition.

Here’s some advance notice.

parallel title

Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland, Queensland. Sunday 10 March – Sunday 14 April 2019. The contract finally came through this month so now it is official.

Now that of course means that I am now officially busy creating. Thank goodness some of the work is retrospective and it is a two person exhibition!  Mind you I have been quietly working away, considering, planning and procrastinating in some cases, since last year when I first proposed the exhibition. While I won’t share the final pieces, I thought that it might be interesting to share some process. This is a glimpse of the start of one of the ideas that I’ve been following.

I am a long time resident of this area. In fact I have lived here for nearly 40 years. It is the place where my husband and I settled when we got married. It’s where our children were born, raised and left from and have even come home to. It’s where he died. It’s where I live and create. It does in some way give me a sense of belonging.

I have a general awareness of the history of this area of The Redlands. I have long been aware of the historic homes: Ormiston House, Whepstead Manor, The Pines, The Old Court House and the like. There are roads named after early settlers.  Perhaps its history could well provide a starting point for inspiration for a new body of work. And so I began researching. I found out lots about blokes who settled here. How much reference was made to females? Not much of course and the further back in time, the less you find. Why not limit research to history before 1900’s and even further to female history within that time frame? That will allow for a time frame of about 50 years when this area first had white settlement. As an aside, while I certainly acknowledge the first people of this land, I just don’t feel qualified to present it. I have had a very interesting time visiting the Local History section in the library, going on line for oral history, visiting the Museum, having discussion with people who have stories to tell. Everyone who I’ve had connection with in this project have been extremely helpful. I certainly appreciate their help. I have collected stories and references and found out all manner of interesting things. And sometimes there’s an echo of my family history even though I my family is not from here.

I hear the voice of my mother who praised 1961. That was the year that the contraceptive pill became available in Queensland. I have of course found references to women and family sizes. That was always going to be easy but here are two that are remarkable. I have intentionally removed names for now.

One bloke had been married twice before he left England (The first wife died after 5 children and the second after 10.) I wonder what happened to those children as he then emigrated to Australia and became the first squatter in the area, 1850 before acquiring a lease five years later. And of course he married: Louise in 1856 and had 7 children raised in this area.

The second story involves a husband, wife and a couple of children who took up a selection here. (You had to work 5 years and make improvements of a certain value before it was yours). She raised 14 children of her own (with the “midwife knowing the track to her house”) and 5 of a neighbour’s. I gather their mother had died.

While family size is often commented on, I have ferreted out other tales. Some are direct references to women while others can be inferred. There are fascinating tales of how the women got here. Apart from coming with their husbands, some came out independently and in the case of one was employed for the trip as a nanny and then abandoned here in spite of being promised a return trip.

I’m amazed at tales of intrepid settlers. I can’t imagine how a woman must have coped with a young family newly arrived in Australia deposited in a clearing and a simple slab hut, isolated with no neighbours close by, tracks that are merely blazed trails and children who have to be kept safe and raised and all those new sounds, strange animals, dangers. Yet they survived, their families grew and each successive generation built on the success of their toils.

And occasionally there are funny quirky tales of life. One involves corsets being worn to work, taken off and hidden and then put back on to go home so that if they met a young gentleman they would be “nice and shapely”.

And so I’ve collected stories, facts and figures and now have to develop a body of work. The research has been fun and an excuse to delve into our history. In fact it’s been rather addictive and I’ve gone down so many side tracks. I think that I had better stop the hard core research and get to making. To celebrate I visit Ormiston House for Devonshire Tea.

IMG_4346

I spent a lovely afternoon with Jessica, their historian. This house and garden is credited to Captain Louis Hope, the father of the sugar cane industry in Queensland amongst other significant positions. We know lots about him. He built this house over a period of time 1858- 1865. There is a wife in the background.  In 1859 he married Susan Frances Sophia Dumaresque.  They had 8 children. However there is some recorded history  made about her and thank you Jessica for providing these and more references: ‘Mrs Hope is just as nice [as Captain Hope], so very good natured and lady like’ (Harry Alington Creaghe in a letter home) and by Mrs Evelyn Alford, who used to visit Ormiston House as a child ‘we often saw her sitting in her favourite position – sitting beside the big windows doing her fancy sewing or entertaining friends’. They eventually sold the property and returned to England.

I should mention that Ormiston House is open to the public on Sunday afternoons.

There was an unexpected bonus from today’s excursion: it’s a real treasure! I have collected some dye material that I’m sure will find its way to being used. This collection of rusted metal is from the large sugar pan that was used by Mr Hope when he ran his sugar mill. It is one of two of the original artifacts from the sugar mill. By the way, the caretaker gave these to me. I didn’t just take.

IMG_4349

What imagery, process, structure or form will I use? And there so many more red herrings, not even related to this research which can distract.  It is major decision time. I need to weave.

 


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.


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.