June 2016

July 3, 2016

This month there’s activity in the studio with two new weavers and a wonderful week with some old friends. I’ve also got some weaving to share

Rosemary continued with her next project. She brought her finished hand towels,

DSC03467

and is getting one step closer to weaving a proper project using her hand spun mohair. Here she has put on a quick test warp to evaluate both how her spun mohair performs and to calculate shrinkage. She also wished to try out a table loom as she thinks that will fit her space requirements when she gets her own loom.

DSC03468

Sally is also a beginner weaver. She is obviously having a great time learning to weave. Here she has finished her first warp: a collection of handtowels.

DSC03472

DSC03477

Then very quickly there was a series of tea towels: to explore both how to weave her MacPhee tartan (colour sequence) and to explore various twills.

DSC03519

 DSC03521

Then even before she had finished off those she was planning her next project: a tartan scarf. As she says who would believe just a short time ago that she’d now be weaving and dyeing.

 DSC03522

DSC03523

In the meantime, I worked on a couple of scarves in double weave with supplementary warps. But then I decided to turn one of these sections into another narrow band of double weave. But how was I going to do that? Well it’s simple really: just add in a couple of temporary shafts, Laos style. What I did discover was that they were so easy to use.

 DSC03453

DSC03493

Then at the end of the month three friends from my time at Sturt arrived for a 5 day intensive. Each had their own project.

Sue wanted to explore lace weaves but more than that wanted to understand the relationship between design, profile and drafting. She wove and initial sample.

DSC03528

DSC03530

Then after working on theory and developing a design wove a second warp.

 DSC03554

Helen came knowing that she wanted to weave lampshade fabric to compliment an oriental lamp base. She’s requiring both fabric and accent braid. As the braid was the more complex she decided to start with that.

 DSC03527

DSC03565

Gillian came knowing that she wanted to weave curves and explore network drafting. We worked on several design approaches. One was selected to weave into a scarf with additional sampling as time allowed. What was an interesting experience for her was going from her usual table loom to weaving on a computer assist loom.

 DSC03526

DSC03543

DSC03559

DSC03555

It was great having such a diverse range of requirements as each learnt from each other. In addition there was time to spend together.

DSC03540 

Eventually the weather turned and those Southerners got to experience glorious Queensland winter. We even took time out to have lunch and play at Wellington Point.

DSC03536

 While they were here, I got to start threading my draw loom. Eventually I’ll get to weave on it though it will be some time till I can. In the meantime I’ll get it set up.

DSC03567

What I do like about drawloom weaving is the flexibility in deciding what to do with pattern shafts. They can be rearranged so easily. I’ll just get the loom ready to weave and  decide later what I’m going to do. I do have 126 pattern blocks to play with.

DSC03568

 


December 2015

December 31, 2015

 

My studio is nearly finished. What a very nice way to end the year. I am so looking forward to working in this space. To do is some tiling and then to move looms. It should be finished for the first class in the New Year. Here’s progress this month.

DSC02133 (600 x 400)

The painting gets done. I say goodbye to the purple wall. I need light in here to work.

DSC02138 (600 x 400)

The painting is finished.

DSC02144 (600 x 400)

And the very next day, we had heavy rain. The gutters overflowed but there I was dry inside.

Kathryn, Barb, Ann and Maggie were in the studio at the start of the month. They worked on independent projects with great results.

Kathryn experimented with 4 layers of weaving, swapping the layers around to achieve different effects.

DSC02099

 

DSC02129

Ann explored different 4 shaft twills.

DSC02108

Barb explored twills on 8 shafts.

DSC02117

Maggie explored woven shibori  with shirts that had been cut up.

DSC02103

Here she is pulling out the resist threads to reveal the dyed pattern.

DSC02110

Fabrics washed and hung out to dry.

DSC02120

A very important part of any workshop is time out.

DSC02097

In this Festive Season, I’ve had a lovely few days weaving in the new space. I’ve got that warp to finish off.

For this next experiment, I had rethreaded the original warp on 4 shafts as I wanted to see how it would perform. The loom action for those of a technical bent is counterbalance (when two shafts go up the opposite two go down linked by a pulley system) I’d also increased the spacing of the warp. I also wanted to explore was the effectiveness of using normal treadles on this loom. Two sticks of wood as treadles were very floating and of course have a tendency to move. Maybe fixed treadles would make for more effective weaving. I have taken bits from a couple of looms to rig up these treadles. The original ones were very heavy. I knew I would have issues working the vertical storage component if it were too heavy. Of course it was much easier to weave. By the way the extra horizontal bars will be necessary if I’m to do any sort of patterned four shaft weaving.

DSC02147 (600 x 400)

I got to weave about 30 cm of plain weave before I came to the pattern area. OOPS! These treadles even though they are as light as possible make moving the picked up pattern to behind the shafts just way too difficult. There’s just too much weight. So back to the drawing board and I have put back on the bits of wood. Four shafts tied directly to the treadles. It works!

DSC02148 (600 x 400)

A comment would be though that it is much easier to transfer the picked up pattern when there are only 2 shafts. Having 4 shafts would have meant that I could do some extra patterning similar to what I had done on the draw loom. What I’ve tried here with the treadles and their inherent weight problems will mean that I’ll need to find an alternative to make that possible. Some features of a western style loom are not as efficient in this case as the original Laos loom.

Here’s my 46 stick pattern. This is a much more complex pattern than I have previously used. The piece of paper attached to the beater makes seeing the threads much easier. The purple against the dark wood is really hard to see.

DSC02153 (600 x 400)

Note the series of pattern sticks storing the design.

DSC02154 (600 x 400)

Here’s a quick preview of some of the classes starting in the New Year. Full details of these and others will be posted under “My School” soon.

18-22 January. Linen and Lace.

22-26 February (5 days) or the weekends of 20/22 and 27/28 (4 days)    From profile to structure

25-29 April         East Meets West and more

23-27 May          Networked Twills.

27 June – 1 July               Special

19 – 23 September         From Parallel Threadings

This time last year I was in Canada experiencing snow. I have my own snowflakes. They seem appropriate for here.

DSC02151 (600 x 400)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


October 2015

November 4, 2015

Firstly as usual, student work and then there’s more on the Laos project.

This month I travelled to Go Create, halfway between Walcha and Uralla in the New England region of NSW. It is a stunning destination. They are offering a wide range of predominantly textile related classes. www.gocreatenewengland.com

DSC01878

The six students explored weaving with recycled materials. Two were absolute new weavers, two had limited experience and two were more experienced. By the end of the first day, you couldn’t tell the difference in technique between the beginners and more experienced. I was delighted! I was also delighted by how enthusiastically they embraced using a wide range of materials, exploring methods of incorporating them into the woven structure. Three sessions explored specific techniques with the last allowing for individual exploration. The following shows the group and what was accomplished. This is followed by an image of individual students’ work. It was a great weekend.

DSC01875

DSC01838

DSC01840

DSC01860

DSC01842

DSC01863

DSC01864

In the studio: Fleur finishes her scarf. This project was of her own design, using an aspect of the sampling from her first project.

DSC01823

And she begins her third project. Fleur has acquired some silk to weave a scarf and wanted to do some warp painting. It’s also her first attempt at dyeing. She’s on an exciting journey.

DSC01836

Now for the continuing Laos loom experiment.

Last month I got to the point of having the pattern stored. It is a relatively simple matter to transfer the stored design to weave the supplementary weft pattern.

Here’s a brief movie of a traditional weaver (Laos and Thailand) How to use a vertical storage system using bamboo memory rods. www.youtube.com/vNxPTl0sWVM

The process that I used: Remove the pattern stick from its support.

DSC01741

Lower it closer to the warp. Swish it front to back till there’s a cleared gap.

DSC01743

I put an extra stick in which is not as flexible to move the heddles at the front well forward, though traditionally this isn’t done. That extra stick is also insurance so that I can move the pattern stick to its next position: either above or below the warp and know that I’ll not have picked up or lost any of the stored design: in this case it is moved to below the warp line.

DSC01744

With the pattern heddles moved well towards the front, it is a simple process to raise the selected heddles by pulling on them so that the sword can be inserted.

DSC01746

When turned on its side the pattern row is ready to weave. This image shows the sword turned on its side behind the plain weave shafts and beater with the pattern shuttle in the shed.

DSC01748

There are two pattern rows woven for each lift with plain weave between. You do not need to take the sword out. If it is pushed back, having the sword in has no effect on compromising the shed for the plain weave.

DSC01749

I have used this basic process to also weave the brocade or discontinuous weft pattern. A pattern weft is required for each motif.

DSC01766

When I saw the ladies in Laos weaving I enquired if they only used one foot. No one used two. Now I know why. It is much easier to control these free hanging treadles if a heel and toe action is used. The one foot controls the position of the treadles. They don’t move as much as the foot is always connected to both, all be it in a very minor way when not using one of them. It is all very motion efficient.

DSC01757

As each pattern area is woven, the pattern sticks are moved above and below the warp line. When they are below, there’s no need for any support.

DSC01795

Another pattern area is woven.

DSC01796

The weaving is completed.

DSC01804

Now to separate the scarf while making sure I retain the stored pattern. I may want to reuse this at a later date and with the Laos system, this is possible. I want to keep the vertical storage system threaded and able to be reused but without the stored pattern. Firstly, I reinsert the lease sticks as I want to be able to rethread this warp later for plain weave and using a more western set of shafts and further experimentation. These are moved to behind the vertical storage system and can be moved to the front when I’m ready.

DSC01810

Then, I transfer the vertically stored pattern to the horizontal. In essence I use a similar method to when I was weaving, however keeping in the sticks in the warp. They are positioned as close to the plain weave shafts as possible.

DSC01807

Once all the pattern sticks have been transferred, I carefully cut the warp between the storage system and the series of sticks, knotting on both sides.

DSC01812

Once the knots have been undone, the entire collection of stored pattern, shafts, reed and woven scarf can be removed from the loom.

DSC01815

Now to separate the stored pattern and scarf. Once the scarf is cut off, the warp in front of the reed is secured. I can now put the stored pattern to one side to be used at a later date if required.

DSC01818

DSC01819

DSC01821

Finally I have completed the project. Some detail:

DSC01830

This image shows my scarf with the original source of inspiration.

DSC01824

Now that I have completed the project there are some points I want to explore. This loom has many similarities to a western drawloom in that both have two sets of heddles. One is to weave the plain weave base fabric, the other to select the supplementary pattern. One of the questions I have is: How do they compare and is there any difference in efficiency? This image shows the two sets of heddles on a drawloom. On the left are the shafts which will be used for plain weave. On the left are those for the supplementary weft pattern.

DSC01932

For this project I have used the same warp though it has been threaded at a more open sett (density of the warp threads) to allow for the same warp and weft yarn to be used this time. I have also decided to keep to the original basic design although on a narrower width. The design for the pattern stripes is based on this scarf that uses the basic motif in an all over design and with some different stripe patterns.

DSC01923

I have also decided to simplify the border and transition. The original requires about 40 pattern shafts. This simplified version, just 14 . Here’s the draft. For optimal weaving to provide distance between the plain weave and pattern shafts, I have chosen to start threading the pattern shafts on shaft 3.

Drawloom pattern

This is the process that I used to weave the pattern: The loom is threaded so that each thread that works in the same way will be on the same shaft. To weave a pattern row the warp threads on each shaft that makes up the pattern are selected. So for the first pattern row (the one at the top), I need to pull shafts 4, 5, 8, 11 and 13. This process needs to be done after every plain weave row. It is very labour intensive with multiple shafts being pulled for each pattern row every time one is required. There’s no stored design option here.

DSC01925

The scarf nearly finished. All I have to do is weave 12 cm of plain weave.

DSC01933

How did they compare?

Setting up to weave: On the drawloom, the warp was beamed and then threaded through firstly the pattern shafts and then the front plain weave shafts. I much preferred the other loom where I just knotted and tied on and then beamed the warp (after of course experimenting with the traditional method of handling a warp).

Using the pattern shafts to store the pattern: On the Laos loom, it was extremely slow to pick up and store the pattern on the sticks. Initially I did wonder about have the equivalent of these sticks on each pattern shaft on the drawloom. That would have meant that I could just pull one cord and the appropriate row be selected. However, the number of long eyed heddles would have been huge as each pattern repeat would have required 105 long short eyed heddles. There are 7 repeats. I just didn’t have them. So instead, I threaded it in a point threading on 12 shafts.

Using the pattern shafts to weave the pattern: See the descriptions above. On the drawloom, I had to select several pull cords to achieve the right combination for the pattern whereas there was just one bamboo stick for the Laos pattern row. Where the pattern was repeated a number of times, the Laos loom was the most efficient; it just needed the sword to be turned on its side after each plain weave row. The pattern sword stayed in place. The drawloom required a number of cords to be pulled each time. Because the Laos system was new, I got up for each pattern change. The ladies who do this normally just change from the seated position. If I didn’t do this, they would probably take about the same length of time. The pulling of the cords probably allows for a greater incidence of mistake as the Laos pattern is preselected.

Storing the pattern for another time: On the Laos loom, the pattern, plain weave and reed has been stored and can be reused to duplicate the next project. It would be possible to change the sett by rethreading. I’ll have to set up the drawloom from the beginning for another project.

As the drawloom has a number of pattern shafts there is more loom waste than on the Laos loom in its current format with all the pattern ‘shafts’ stored vertically.

By the way, I’m finding the Laos loom much lighter to weave plain weave than the countermarched action of the drawloom in spite of treadles that are not fixed.

Here’s a look at what I have just completed. The woven scarf with the original.

DSC01942

My working collection: two original scarves with two that I’ve woven.

DSC01946

There’s an exciting development in the studio. I have decided that I’m enjoying weaving “in the garden” very much but I do not enjoy being exposed to the wind and rain. I am now in the process of achieving the best of both worlds with the patio being weatherproofed.

DSC01926


August 2015

September 7, 2015

The blog this month covers workshops and then more on my Great Experiment.

But firstly a gathering of friends and another studio celebration. Cathy and Peer Moon donated a mutual friend’s loom. They had Marjorie’s loom in storage for quite some time and decided that it needed a new home. It will be a very useful addition. By the end of August there were students weaving on it – you’ll see it in action later on. At the same time Janet de Boer selected work for The Director’s Choice exhibition at Gallery 159 to be held in November.

DSC01509

Cathy and Peter Moon, Helen Barnard and Janet de Boer celebrate amongst the looms.

The Gold Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild hosted another workshop at Bornhoffen. Apart from an excellent venue for a workshop why wouldn’t one come here?

DSC01513

The topic was Colour and Weave. About half the students elected to work in a round robin while the others elected to work on individual projects.

The following are some images from the workshop. Firstly there’s some general images, then the results of the round robin. Each warp was divided up so that students took their own samples. Then there’s individual student’s work.

DSC01515

DSC01514

DSC01522

DSC01528

DSC01540

DSC01555

DSC01552

DSC01557

DSC01551

DSC01561

DSC01526

DSC01562

DSC01563

DSC01564 b

It was a highly successful workshop. I am impressed by what was achieved. It was also great fun.

The first weekly class has finished with very satisfying results. There were 3 students, all inexperienced.

In 5 weeks Maxine completed two projects.Firstly an introductory project where students learnt a variety of basic skills.

DSC01594 (600 x 400)

And then a project of her own choosing. It was going to be vest material but Maxine decided it was just too beautiful as it was. A great effort!

DSC01601 (600 x 400)

Melissa examines her project. There’s a lot of information here: lots of different structures and an exploration of colour. Another great result.

DSC01599 (400 x 600)

Isn’t this a great result? Fleur knew she wanted to weave but had never seen it done. I’ll look forward to seeing them finished. Her work was much admired by these weavers,

DSC01621 (600 x 400)

Marg Barnett, a wonderful shibori artist and friend decided that she really needed to find a home for her loom. She had acquired it in 1987 but then discovered shibori so no more weaving.  I’ll look forward to getting it working. Yes another loom in my space and another plaque coming up.

DSC01603 (400 x 600)

There has been another 5 day workshop. This time three students came from Vic., NSW and Qld for intensive study of woven shibori.

They wove……

DSC01655 (600 x 400)

8 looms were set up in a variety of structures and yarns so that a wide range of techniques could be explored. Here Jennifer and Lynda weave on an 8 shaft countermarched and 16 shaft computer assist respectively.

This is Marjorie’s loom in action with Virginia (the loom donated by Cathy and Peter). All students enjoyed it.

DSC01653 (600 x 400)

They pulled up to dye…..

DSC01624 (600 x 400)

They worked so hard, showing great commitment. We also had a lot of fun along the way. Morning tea and an examination of results.

DSC01650 (600 x 400)

At the end of 5 days this is what they each managed to produce. What a collection!

DSC01657 (600 x 400)

DSC01660 (600 x 400)

DSC01662 (600 x 400)

The level of commitment shows in what they managed to achieve. I am certainly impressed.

I had the opportunity to visit the local Spinners and Weavers Guild. It was a real treat to spend time with these ladies. It brought back great memories as it was the first guild that I belonged to. There were some familiar faces from a long time ago. What a shame I forgot the camera. http://redlandsspinnersandweavers,wordpress.com

Now for my continuing adventures with my replica Laotian loom experiment… well as of last month it did undergo some modifications but it remains the Great Experiment.

The following is a movie from my recent Laos trip and will give reference to what I’m about to undertake.

How to make a vertical storage system on a Laos loom.

I have graphed out the design from one of the scarves I collected in Laos. Each squares represents 2 warp threads.

DSC01582 (600 x 400)

From this graphed design I have picked up the pattern on the loom. Getting it perfectly centred took a couple of tries. Using cotton ties to identify pattern change and centre certainly helped.

DSC01632 (600 x 400)

I know that I have to get this picked up design to behind the plain weave shafts to transfer it to the vertical storage system. To do this I did it in two stages, Firstly I turned the pick up stick on its side and transferred it to behind the beater, then repeated the process to transfer it to behind the shafts. I confirm that I’ve got all the warp threads (pairs) at each stage.

DSC01633 (600 x 400)

DSC01634 (600 x 400)

Then to transfer it to the storage system. I had tried with my usual wide sword (middle one in the image below) and discovered that it was difficult to do the transfer with ease. I knew that I’d need a super wide one. I recognised that my wood working skills are basic and came up with an alternative by going to my favourite place for perspex (Plastic Welded Supplies at Capalaba). I got them to make me one with smoothed off edges. It works a treat. Here are the pick up stick and 2 swords that I use for the transfers. While the wide one is not necessary for the previous transfer it is absolutely essential for the next stage.

DSC01669 (600 x 400)

This is the process I used: First position the sword immediately behind the plain weave shafts. Then bring all the pattern heddles forward. Turn the sword on its edge and hey presto the heddles not selected slide backward leaving a gap. This wide sword makes the job so much easier. Then I’ve inserted a narrow dowel in the gap and moved it to the top suspending it by putting them in the loop of Texsolv cord. It works a treat. In Laos I saw both yarn and bamboo being used to store the design. (see previous posts) I’ve decided to use the equivalent of the bamboo rods instead of a cord purely because I think it may be easier to manage. I’ll try the other later.

DSC01640 (600 x 400)

DSC01641 (600 x 400)

DSC01643 (600 x 400)

At some stage one does have to weave. This is the process that I’ve worked out is best for me. After removing the picked up design just once without storing it and having to pick up again, one recognises the need to have a system in place!

1.  Pick up the design and transfer it to behind the plain weave shafts. Do not remove any of the pick up sticks. Weave the pattern row by turning the pick up stick on its side. Remove the stick and the sword between the beater and plain weave shafts. Check that the pattern and picked up pairs is correct.

2. Transfer the pattern to the vertical storage system. It’s insurance knowing that it is stored but keep the sword in place.

3. Weave plain weave. It’s necessary to remove all but the wide sword to allow for the plain weave shafts to move.

4. Turn the wide sword on its side and weave the pattern row.

5. Weave plain weave.

The process is slow but I’ve only got a couple more rows of the design to store.

DSC01672 (600 x 400)

Here are some observations: Lightness of equipment and movability are very beneficial.

Having those light weight lengths of wood as treadles allows for the heddles on the shafts to move freely- very necessary in transferring design. The ability of the shafts to move forward and backwards facilitates transfer and weaving as each stage is processed. I have the vertical storage system under flexible tension with it being anchored by stockings tied to a brick. The brick anchors it, while the stockings allows for tension, necessary in the opening of the vertical storage system during the selection process. In the movie, the weaver re-tensions with her feet. I had to find an alternative as my toes don’t work that way. Here’s a general look at the loom to show these systems in place. The bricks are insurance for when it rains.

DSC01664 (400 x 600)

I am looking forward to weaving without pick up. It’ll be soon. Lastly a close up view of the border so far.

DSC01675 (600 x 400)


July 2015

July 30, 2015

The major event this month has been the launch of my school with a five day workshop. Students came from far afield: Bowral, Wollongong, Northern NSW, Mt Tamborine. They were a very diverse group with a range of experience, all coming together for a great week of weaving fellowship and fun.

Note! I have updated the list of classes available till the end of January. Please check out the page at the top under “Kay’s Weaving School”.

Day 1 saw us gathering, discussing projects and preparing warps. Some used warping boards, others mills. Some prepared inside, others outside. It was suddenly a hive of activity that never let up till the very last moment of the very last day.

1

Day 2: They threaded the looms.

2

 

And by the end of day 3 they were weaving.

3

 

Day 4: By late afternoon both Bronwyn and Joan had finished their projects. It was pretty much a dead heat in who finished first.

6

Joan cuts off her fabric for a vest.

18

Joan’s fabric has a mixed coloured warp woven in an 8 shaft twill. This photo is of it after it was laundered the following day.  There was much discussion which was to be the “right” side.

7Bronwyn cuts off her silk scarf. It has an interesting progression of pattern from a plain end to a more heavily patterned one. That night she twisted the fringe as she wanted to dye it.

So what were they going to do the next day? That night I set both of them a challenge by rethreading their looms with warps similar in threading to what they had been working on. The challenge would be for them the next day  to experiment with pattern diversity using the same treadle tie up as they used for their project.

Day 5: Bronwyn dyed her silk scarf using a clamped shibori technique.

12 a

12

And wove with the same twill threading, this time experimenting with woven shibori. She gets to take home the piece to pull up and dye. She used fishing line as the supplementary thread which is why it is difficult to see.

20

Joan wove on another mixed coloured warp this time in shades of pink cotton, experimenting with variations of the same treadle tie up.

21

 

Sharon finished her knee rugs by mid day and spent the rest of the time plying fringes. She has two beautiful and very different knee rugs from the same warp, one in plain weave, the other in twill.

11

19

Vilasa’s goal was to learn about countermarche looms as she had one at home that hadn’t been used. As well as going home with a greater understanding of the loom she has a very nice collection of 4 tea towels in different effects.

13

14

 

Belinda completes a long series of ten linen napkins. They will be beautiful when they are washed and the lace weave opens up.

15

16

It was an amazing 5 days. I am so very pleased with how much each of them achieved. It really was a lot of fun! The diversity of projects allowed for learning covering a wide range of techniques and design considerations. I thought I’d share some comments. They perhaps explain what made the week so “Special” and for me lived up to the title I’d given it.

So Kay Faulkner is not only a master weaver but also a superb teacher who can keep 5 different students on 5 different looms energised and learning over a week long class. Each of us crossed our own personal hurdles: weaving yardage for fabric, learning how to set up a loom, how to blend yarns in the warp and or weft, how to change the patterns woven part way through a length, how to do clamped resist shibori.   I wove 10 table napkins in linen, in two different huck-lace patterns, finishing on time on Friday afternoon, despite a stressful moment on Wednesday when I discovered many flaws in my threading through the heddles and reed. Kay showed me how to fix them, and set me the target of 5 napkins a day. So I completed a major project ( for me) in a week! We were a great group, funny and lighthearted in the breaks and in earnest at the looms. Kay is a generous and organised teacher, with the resources to take each of us up a step in skill levels despite not all starting at the same level.

 It was a great week, one I highly recommend to any weaver wanting to improve existing skills or acquire new ones.

Belinda Stafford

 

Thankyou Kay  for your patience in passing on your knowledge and for making weaving so”understandable” and enjoyable and not being afraid of.

Sharon .

 

Many thanks for accepting me in your inaugural ‘Special School’ week of weaving. From the moment you opened the front door of your studio with such a welcoming hello! and a large smile I knew I was going to have a wonderful experience. Your range of floor looms is nothing short of amazing and the studio space airy, large and very pleasant to work in. This was my first experience using a floor loom. The self-contained kitchen facilities for preparing lunch and dinner were much appreciated as this enabled me to have meals without leaving the studio thus enabling extra time for weaving. Your experience running weaving workshops certainly shone through with all 5 participants finishing their projects in ample time to sit back and discuss the finished project in depth with you. For me personally I cannot believe I actually wove 3.5 m of a beautiful twill fabric for a vest. Not only was my finished fabric beautiful on and off the loom it blossomed once it was washed and steam ironed at the studio. I cannot thank you enough for your guidance in selection of yarn and structure for my chosen project. Your teaching skills, knowledge and patience were exactly what I required to advance my weaving skills. I am now confident for the first time to wind a warp, dress a loom, select structures and yarns suitable for an end use and weave a finished project on a floor loom. Your home cooked treats for morning and afternoon tea just topped the whole experience off for me. Last but not least many thanks for adjusting my vest pattern for me.

 I have spent the day since my return home searching the internet for the best floor loom for me and I will run my findings past you when we next meet at your weaving studio in the near future. Once again so many thanks. PS I have just completed putting a warp on my table loom and just now sampling structures in twill.

Joan Roberts

 

What can I say! A fabulous week weaving with Kay at her inaugural weaving school! Kay is a fantastic teacher of weaving. Nothing is too much trouble for her. She is methodical, diligent, hard working and certainly a master weaver. Met some great ladies from the Gold Coast Spinners & Weavers group. Also renewed acquaintance with Belinda from Bowral, New South Wales.

Bronwyn Hutchins, Wollongong, Australia

And then I had to come down from the high of that week. Right in the middle of that week, the local paper came and photographed what was happening. The article appeared in the paper.

26And there was a flying trip to Emerald to take down my Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon exhibition. From this….

24to this and in the car in 75 minutes. I think I broke all records.

25

I would like to express my thanks to all who were involved in hosting this exhibition at the Emerald Regional Art Gallery. This is a beautiful space.

I have had some opportunity to continue exploring weaving on the Laos loom project. There is great enjoyment and in some ways it is a liberating experience to weave in the great outdoors. BUT it is winter and there were some days when it was just way too cold to play. And then it blew and no way was I going out in that. And then it rained. I did go and have a look but everything was damp. So I have also been discovering the down side of weaving on the patio. However, there were a couple of glorious days. So the story for this month….

27

Yes I have woven! The tension knot (from last month’s blog) works fine. The improvised light treadles of a couple of lengths of pine function quite well though I discovered that they needed to be attached so that one was slightly off centre to the left and the other to the right so that they stayed separated. I was relieved to see that the shafts still stayed level and the swinging free beater works just fine. I can even weave parallel to the front beam!

I was intrigued by the swinging beater and so had a go at setting one up on the countermarche loom. That’s easy as it has an overhead beater and I just removed the reed and strung it up with a couple of cords. Here it is just after I’d taken the reed out of the beater and before I removed the frame. I’m considering applications. It is remarkably light to weave with. There’s no way you could beat heavily with just this. It moves. I’ve found the one from the traditional Laos loom with it’s frame to be much heavier and easier to control.

23

On a jack loom, I had to construct some sort of side support for an overhead rod. A trapeze that I use for warping, a couple of stockings to hold it tightly in position and a rod to suspend the reed from work just fine. Yes I’m playing , proving that it can be done and one never knows what comes out of a bit of play. A wider reed makes for easier parallel weaving.

34

Back to the Laos loom and real weaving. I have discovered some facts. I have discovered that there is a lot of loom waste. The tension knot takes well over 50 cm of warp just to do the knot. Unless there is some means of spreading a warp, there needs to be quite a length from the front of the loom to the back to enable this to occur. In Laos I only saw 2 instances of a weaver employing a ‘spacer’ at the top of the loom to do this. This explains why the looms are so long. I have inserted two sticks behind the vertical storage to help spread the warp. Because the loom is so long it has little effect on the height of the shed when weaving. I’m calculating that the amount of loom waste as it is now is probably at least 2 meters.

28

So after weaving 5 cm or so, I considered my options. I would soon run out of warp if I continued. I do want to maximize the experience of using that vertical storage system.  I had proved that I could weave on it as is. This amount of loom waste and the time it takes to set up the loom even without setting up any vertical storage, sure makes sense to wind very long warps. How to minimize loom waste? I got out the trusty drill and moved a few bars at the back and converted to using long ties and the warp beam that I’d left on the loom. Now I have a more conventional loom waste and can weave right up to behind the vertical storage.

31The loom now looks more like something Western weavers are used to seeing. At the same time I thought I’d reconstruct the beater and put the reed into it. Note the stockings securing it in place. I had to move the vertical storage forward to be able to use the warp beam where it was. The loom is now a mix of East and West. Of course in all the process of winding the warp onto the back beam without cutting off the original weaving, there was some difference in tension, though much less than one might expect. So after retying the knots the loom is again ready to weave. The original weaving is still there but of course now distorted. The second pink line will be the beginning of the next adventure. Next step will be leaning about vertical storage systems.

32Lastly: Joan’s pink warp needed to be woven off. I wanted to be able to show students (and I will be seeing Joan in a couple of weeks) that there is a wide range of diversity achievable from using a given set of parameters. I have used the same treadle tie up (8 shaft twill sequence) as Joan had with the addition of plain weave to weave this collection of towels, placemats and serviettes. Apart from a huge diversity of twills achieved simply by using the treadles in different sequences, the twill sequence can be combined with plain weave as a supplementary weft in various styles. All have elements of Joan’s original treadle tie up.33

One day a week classes have started on Tuesdays. There are 3 students with one totally new weaver and two “beginners”. After 2 weeks the looms are threaded and in one case weaving is well underway. It is always exciting seeing weaving happening.


April 2015

May 5, 2015

Unfortunately, I wasn’t home with enough time to continue the exploration of looms from Laos. It will have to wait till another time.

This month was a month for teaching away from the studio. Firstly there was Fibres Ballarat organised by Glenys Mann. The class was titled Ties: Decorative, Functional and Unconventional. There were four in the class. They worked extremely hard experimenting with the many aspects covered and ended up with a collection of well documented samples and designs. For those who chose to, there was also the opportunity to start a project on the end of their warp. The following are some images from the class.

DSC01148

It was a great space with plenty of natural light and lots of space.

DSC01160

The samples with tags. There’s lots of information here.

The following images show more detail of samples.

DSC01162

DSC01163

The class of 2015: Wendy, Jeanette, Di and Denise. Five days and several late nights resulted in great results.

The class of 2015DSC01161

DSC01145

Each day there were additions of wonderful installations. I was particularly taken with a grouping of altered books suspended in a tree. Deb McArdle was the artist responsible.

And another of her installations.

DSC01155

For next year’s Fibre Arts at Ballarat’s offerings go to http://www.fibrearts.jigsy.com

Then it was immediately off to the USA and teaching at the Fiber Forum hosted by the South East Fiber Forum Association at Arrowmont. http://www.sefiberforum.org

It was a delightful destination.

DSC01173

Around the garden some interesting sculptures could be found.

DSC01187

The title of the course was East Meets West where students explored traditional backstrap techniques interpreted into shaft weaving. As there were twelve in the course, there was a great variety of work produced. The following shows some of the student’s work.

DSC01175

DSC01176

DSC01177

DSC01181

DSC01182

DSC01183

DSC01184

DSC01186

 

DSC01189

At the end of three days, this was the result. Somehow, I am missing three students work above. My apologies to those whose work is missing. I am very proud of what all achieved.

DSC01188

Each day I walked under these. It was only on the final day it registered how clever these were: a very appropriate entrance to the painting studios.

DSC01190

DSC01191

Then it was off to visit my friend Judith. She’s currently studying printmaking at Georgia State, Atlanta. I was fortunate to be asked along as a visitor. I wonder what the motorists thought of this. Here we are on a traffic island with the traffic whizzing around while the sun worked to develop a solar screen. This is was the most convenient location where good sunlight was possible.

DSC01196

When we get together, we usually have a play with some sort of technique. This time we took the opportunity to work with cyanotype. It was used in the creation of blueprints. Chemicals are mixed and applied, in this instance to paper. The moment it is exposed to light the chemicals start working. In the following cases we explored using stencils, plants and shadows. Once the sun has activated the imagery (time is critical), the paper is washed. The imagery turns blue; a process in some ways very reminiscent of indigo. The following shows the process.

The treated paper with images is exposed to sunlight. The places where the sun can’t reach will stay white.

DSC01209

We hope enough time has elapsed. We timed it for 15 minutes. This is how the paper appears before washing.

DSC01210

After washing off the chemicals. The paper was hosed. The images turn blue and it’s quite like magic.

DSC01211

At some stage I’d like to return to this process and explore applications on textiles. It has potential.

Next month will have a focus on exhibitions. While I was in the USA, I was approached by Gatakers Artspace to hold an exhibition. The exhibition, Interlacement, opens in Maryborough next Friday and will be open for May.
311 Kent Street, Maryborough
Phone: (07) 4190 5723
Email: gatakersartspace@frasercoast.qld.gov.au

The following month, Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon will be hosted by Emerald Regional Art Gallery. 5th June – 17 July.

Plans continue for the opening of my school. Check out the details on either this blog or my website.

 


January 2015

February 25, 2015

The end of January into early February was time for an adventure: a textile tour into Northern Thailand and Laos by Active Travel with Valerie Kirk. It was an amazing trip. There were 15 of us and we travelled from Chiang Mai up to the Golden Triangle and the border with China and then to Luang Prabang, a World Cultural Heritage town. I do not intend writing a travel journal. In fact this will be the only tourist photo I’ll share and with a bit of imagination it could be classed as textiles. It is just too good a photo opportunity to miss.

1.DSC00150

The Umbrella Making Centre in Chiang Mai is a major tourist destination.

For this post I will analyse my field notes and report and comment on various textile aspects. As a starting point, I’ll identify the ethnic minority groups we came across. I was struck by the many commonalities that there were here and on my trip to Northern Vietnam. In reality I shouldn’t have been, as the borders imposed on countries have little relation to the movement of people. For instance the Hmong in Vietnam are similar to the Hmong of Thailand and Laos. They can be picked by their very distinctive clothing especially those pleated skirts, batik and embroidery.

2 DSC00830

These Hmong skirts were in the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), a museum in Luang Prabang. A museum is a very good place to research traditional costume. There’s a list at the end of this post for museums in Laos and Nth Thailand.

Other minority groups we saw included Tai Dam, Tai Deng, Tai Lu/e, Yao, Lanten, Akha, Lo Lo and Kmhmo. I must admit I found the spelling of some of these groups tricky as sometimes I hear them spelt differently and sometimes I’ll even see them spelt differently.  It is interesting to see how costume is evolving. I have posted the costume as seen on our travels. Of course a more elaborate and full outfit could be used for major life events (weddings and funerals etc). While full historical costumes can be seen in museums, I have recorded here ‘living’ costumes as we saw them.

3 DSC00441

Akha ladies are the most committed sellers. They will approach you on the street, in a cafe, at the place you are staying.

4 DSC00389

These young girls entering the village of Nam Mai where some sort of celebration was happening gave a new take on their traditional Akha outfits. There was lots of glitz.

5DSC00379 b

Yao ladies are immediately recognizable by the red pile and elaborate headdress . The flowers on the baby’s hat are to protect from spirits. Here the older children wore western dress.

7 DSC00256

Tai Dam in traditional dress. The heavily patterned skirt can just be seen.

DSC00244 (600 x 400)

The woven fabric for the skirt. The complex pattern is achieves by  supplementary discontinuous wefts. This is extremely time consuming to weave.

8 DSC00675b

The elaborately patterned skirts are instantly recognisable as traditionally belonging to Tai Dam. They are a very common sight and would have to be the most frequently seen throughout our trip. Quite often anything goes on top. The skirts are colourful and attractive and easy to wear. It is interesting to note that Loas government policy that ‘traditional’ skirts or Sinh be worn for government jobs and that it is in general encouraged for other work and formal occasions. As this policy is so widely accepted, perhaps using a skirt as a form identification is not a reliable guide. A question may be asked about the future of traditional dress for other ethnic minority groups and the impact of this policy. They do not have these elaborate skirts. Sometimes they are plain. Other groups also wear trousers as traditional dress.

You will still see the use of traditional dress. However the incidence of its use is reducing, as Western clothing is becoming the norm and is even readily available in markets. Sometimes there is just an echo remaining.

9 DSC00365

A Hmong mother uses a traditional baby carrier.

10 DSC00544

According to TAEC, the Khmu no longer wear traditional dress however the use of head bands for carrying heavy loads identifies this group. These ladies have harvested grass and taking it back to be dried, often on the side of the road. The traffic helps to loosen the seeds so that it can be made into brooms.

Sometimes you have to be fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I am including the following as they were a way of getting traditional cloth out into the wider community.

In Chiang Mai we were fortunate to be there at the same time as the ASEAN conference, held at Payap university. While we did not participate in any of the conference, we did get to see a wonderful exhibition of textiles representative of the ASEAN community..

DSC00142 (600 x 400)

Again in Chiang Mai we heard that there was an exhibition in a shopping centre. What an opportunity to connect with the young and the general public! Traditional old clothing was combined with contempoary accessories. There was a sense of excitement and engagement.

DSC00208 (600 x 400)

At one of the local restaurants, Hive, in Luang Prabang we caught a fashion parade. The young fashion designer had taken traditional fabric and interpreted it into contemporary dress. The parade presented garments using very traditional fabric  and strong links to ethnic styles through to a range of very contemporary garments which had reference to tradition but with no actual ethnic clothing. The market was for both the tourists and new age locals.

DSC00820 (600 x 400)

 

I have found it an interesting exercise to try and assign aspects of textile production with an ethnic group. The following alignment of production and ethnic group is based purely on what I have seen.

Dyes and the dyers: Hmong, Tai Lue and Tai Deng.

The group participated in a natural dye workshop in Ban Phieng Ngam with some Tai Deng ladies. We used four dyestuffs: fresh indigo, teak leaves, sappan wood and annatto seeds.

11 DSC00304

Fresh indigo achieved green though a beautiful turquoise can be achieved. Colour variations are achieved by season, the addition of ash water or rice wine. We got only green as much as we’d have preferred that turquoise.

12 DSC00294

Fresh young teak leaves dyes to tan/ yellow. This was a beautiful mushroom colour.

13 DSC00306

Annatto seeds dye orange. The seed case is shown.

14 DSC00309

The seeds from the case.

15 DSC00311

Sappan wood gives red.

Silk handwoven scarves were provided for the workshop. They were pre-mordanted in alum (solid crystal) at ratio of 15 g alum: 10-15 litres of water. I decided I really needed to sample all dye baths so cut mine into four. The rest of the group elected to do various forms of shibori.

16 DSC00299b

The indigo leaves were pounded with a little water. The leaves were scrubbed to extract the indigo for about 15 minutes till frothy and strained. The fabric was added and indigo bath worked vigorously through for about 10 minutes.

17 DSC00320

All the other processes involved the use of fire. The teak leaves must be fresh and young. 20-30 were needed for half a pot of water and simmered to extract colour. The leaves removed, fabric added and simmered for 10 minutes. A similar process was done for the annatto seeds. The sappan wood was shredded and boiled for 1 hour. Colour could have been altered by using rusty nails or ash water. The wood removed and fabric added before being simmered for 10 minutes. Susan and I stir the pot.

18 DSC00324

One of the washing lines with our samples. After dyeing, they were allowed to dry before being rinsed.

DSC00994 pieced dyed scarf (600 x 356)

When I got home I reassembled my four dyed samples into a scarf.

The familiar blue indigo:

19DSC00644

 

20DSC00643

We saw a number of indigo baths and indigo yarn and skeins on lines. This was in the Tai Lue village of Ban Nu Nyang.

21 DSC00272b

A Lan Ten lady stitches while she waits for the indigo process.

22 DSC00700

This wonderful display of natural dyed yarns was at Ock Pop Tock. The colours from right to left were obtained from: Sappan wood (a) fermented, (b) with ash water, (c) with rusty nails, annatto seed, turmeric, jack fruit wood, mak beau, lemon grass, teak leaves (a) dry, (b) fresh, indigo (a) and (b).

Resist dyeing of the yarn. Examples of weft ikat were in museums. The technique is called mudmee (Mat mi). Contemporary weavers and companies are also drawing on these skills.

23 DSC00203

These weft ikat scarves were inspired by traditional ikat. (Patricia Cheesman)

24 DSC00631

In this Tai Lue village, hand spun cotton is being dyed in indigo as a skein. The pattern shifts as it is woven with at some points it being recognisable and at others random. Both weft and/or warp ikat are being done. It appears that this village may be supplying a specific market. It is unlikely that this style of ikat would be traditional.

25 DSC00464

In the marketplace it is possible to buy resist dyed yarn. I did see evidence of this being included as a stripe element in a more complex fabric. Again this would be an evolving development.

Looms and the Weavers: Tai Lue, Tai Deng, Tai Dam and Lo Lo.

The looms have the same framework with the basic operating method being the same. The difference is in the method of storing pattern.

26 DSC00255

A loom with a vertical storage system As each pattern row is selected, the pattern sticks (or strings) move from top to bottom or vice versa. Two plain weave shafts are at the front and attached to treadles. These looms are used by the Tai Lue. They are also used by western organisations and were in fact the most prevalent loom. The pattern storage system can be identified in the image as those long vertical white threads in the middle of the loom.

These looms are required to make complex patterns. A greater number of pattern sticks can be stored more conveniently than in the horizontal system.

27 DSC00788

A Tai Lue weaver holds a scarf she’s woven using a supplementary weft. Notice her heavily patterned skirt in a discontinuous supplementary weft pattern which would also have been woven on this loom.

28 DSC00466 b

The Tai Lue also use this loom to weave tapestry bands used in combination with complex patterned stripes.

29 DSC00338

A loom with a horizontal storage system. As each pattern row is selected, the pattern sticks move from front to back or vice versa. Two plain weave shafts are at the front and again attached to treadles. These looms are used by Tai Deng, Tai Dam and Lo Lo.

30 DSC00413

Plain weave requires just two shafts. The effect of this weaving is achieved by pure use of colour. Three young Tai dam or Lo Lo girls (The villages ran together so it was hard to differentiate groups especially when there is no costume reference) weave together. One weaves while the other two prepares bobbins. Then they rotate jobs. It is great to see the younger generation weaving though I must admit the incidence was rare.

31DSC00336

A Tai Dam supplementary weft pattern in the same colour as the plain weave. 40 pattern sticks were required for this pattern. There is also a supplementary weft inlay motif.

Embroidery: Hmong and Lan Ten.

32 DSC00366

A Hmong textile in reverse appliqué. This is a very contemporary piece but draws on traditional techniques.

33 DSC00351

The Lan Ten are very accomplished embroiderers. These coasters were very much aimed at the tourist market and seemed to have been made by a wide selection of ages. One saw stitching being done in the marketplace so it is an easily transportable technique.

Gold embroidery. In the era of Royalty, gold embroidery flourished. The start of the Democratic Replic of Loas in 1975, resulted in things royal becoming out of favour and the practice declined. In recent years it has made a resurgence with work being commissioned for bridal wear, dignitaries, buddhist rituals, individual commissions including art work. We were fortunate to see the work of Nithakhong Somsanth. He initially studied with his grandmother but has also several degrees from paris and USA. His work is extraordinary. As well as working in the traditional style he also does contemporary gold work.

DSC00881 (600 x 400)

Gold embroidery on velvet.

DSC00870 (600 x 400)Some of the tools of the trade. Note the piece of traditional gold work.

Other Textiles

34 DSC00472

This yarn is produced from Kheuapiad, a “jungle vine” in much the same way that linen is.

35 DSC00476

It may also be dyed. A darker, coarser, thicker yarn is produced from the Yaboi tree.

36 DSC00478b

It is then netted, crocheted or knitted into a textile by the Kmhmo.

Noteworthy establishments (in no order but rather as we came across them)

Thailand

Bank of Thailand Museum (Chiang Mai). There’s an extensive collection of Thai costumes and coins. A little known treasure even by the locals. Email for times and details: Jirawang@bot.or.th

Patricia Cheesman (studio) and Naenna (retail outlet). She has worked closely with local dyers and weavers to produce contemporary textiles of high quality and design. www.studio-naenna.com

Laos

Tribal Museum (Muang Sing) Opening hours were difficult to establish but a wonderful collection and documentation of ethnic costume.

Productivity and Marketing Centre of Oudamxay. A government initiative aimed at drawing people away from the production of opium poppy. They approach villagers to see if they would be interested in textile production and then implement. Great quality in textiles, woven bamboo purses and bags and products from the Kheuapiad and Yaboi tree. www.pmc.oudomxay.org

Ock Pop Tok (Luang Prabang) means east meets west because the owners, Veomanee Duangdala and Joanna Smith are from both. The studio has static displays, a space where weaving production occurs, teaching facility and shop. There are two retail spaces in town. www.ockpoptok.com

The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (L. P.)is a nonprofit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation of traditional crafts and lifestyle. It is conducting an interesting interview project where local members in a community interview their own community on some cultural aspect. Great costume display. www.taeclaos.org

Le Pavilion de Jade. (L.P.) Aimed at a high end market, scarves and wraps are in handspun silk dyed in natural colours. They look “plain” yet definitely classic.

Kin Thong Lao Silk. (L.P.) Contemporary and traditional hand weaving from Xan Tai Village.

Handcrafts Centre of Ban Phanom (outside L.P.) No weavers were working but an extensive display of textiles.

Mulberries (L.P.) owner is Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong. She has a long time commitment to the production of silk and traditional weaving. www.laosilkandcraft.com

Kopnoi. (L.P.) Owner works with local artisans to produce textiles, accessories and homewares. www.kopnoi.com

A review on the position of hand weaving in the communities I’ve visited.

Because I am a hand weaver I am always interested in the position of hand weaving in a community. In Australia, with various institutions closing and courses being downsized, it is a concerning trend for the future of hand weaving. Both nationally and internationally (USA and Canada in particular as I have had contact there) universities, colleges and other educational institutions (and my past experience at Sturt is included) all show the trend for lack of opportunity to learn weaving. A comment from many guilds is that there are fewer young weavers coming through and fewer people wanting to learn. However I guess we do expect those countries with a strong tradition in textiles eg in South East Asia to exhibit a strong presence of hand weaving. The following summarises my thoughts on what I experienced.

The presence of traditional ethnic minority dress in both daily life and for the tourist does require the maintenance in the main of traditional skills. However there is some incidence of elements being able to be bought in the market and then assembled: base cloth, braids, embroidery.

It is hoped that traditional ethnic dress is seen to be an essential component in the celebration of life events such as weddings, funerals and other significant ceremonies. I have no first- hand experience of the extent to which this is true though I heard it mentioned. If this is the case it could result in the production of a textile with a greater skill component. However whether it is created by the person who requires it or by an outside source may be another question.

Museums and private collectors encourage the acquisition and thereby the production of traditional costume and textiles. Of course some of these are old textiles but there are also new being produced. Vicki acquires a full Lanten costume. (Photo Kaz Madigan)

_DSC7994 (Medium) (400 x 600)

While the Laos government policy of requiring traditional Sinh or tube skirts to be part of a government dress code may have a detrimental effect on some ethnic minority traditions, it does mean that the skills of weaving often supplementary weft patterned skirts is encouraged.

I am sure the use of traditional dress to market textiles or other ethnic goods is recognised by minority groups. This will continue to encourage its production. One catches the occasional glimpse of women stepping into their skirts as tourists arrive. Nor do the Akha ladies need an introduction when they approach you to sell. I am also sure that for some ladies what we saw them wearing is their garment of choice.

The ready availability of western dress in even the remotest of villages does mean that this has become increasingly the norm. A mixture of traditional ethnic dressed and western dressed women is common in many villages. It does vary between ethnic groups and between individual villages. Rarely does one see a man, a child or adolescent dressed in even an element of traditional dress. In all reality one cannot blame them for choosing to buy something that is cheap, very readily available and requires no commitment to time or energy and skill to create. Mass communication and globalisation has certainly impacted. The same applies to other household textiles. Chinese produced blankets were a very common sight. The readily available mass produced alternative textiles of course impacts greatly on the need to weave or use other textile techniques.

Tourism drives the production of a range of textiles including those woven in ethnic minority villages. Often in one village they utilise similar patterns and techniques though varied in colour. A visit will result in women bringing out large numbers of textiles. As we arrive they may come to greet us with either their bags of textiles or them draped over their arm. Alternatively they may have a more permanent display of poles to drape them on. A visit to a weaving village provides the opportunity to see weaving being done as well as an opportunity for selling. This has a double advantage as the tourist is educated in the process of weaving and its presence enforces the concept that these textiles are authentic and are produced ‘here’. I did note that in a village one weaver was selling for a relative further away. This may explain the presence of a textile that is different. A variety of textiles may mean that a form of trading is occurring.

On the banks of the Nam Ou River, this village is well set up for the tourist visitor. Most houses have a rail for the display of scarves. Weaving of traditional styled scarves is obviously a very profitable trade here.

DSC00617 (600 x 400)

Some villagers are more aware of catering to the demads of the tourists. Some villages provide rolls of hand woven indigo dyed cloth. This weaver in this village went one step further and catered for tourists buying indigo hand spun hand woven cotton cloth by the metre. A new product has been developed.

DSC00658 (600 x 400)

Markets and shops in towns and cities provide an alternative point of contact for ethnic minorities to sell their textiles and is easily accessed by all tourists, not just those interested in textiles specifically. One does have to be aware of the danger of not buying authentic textiles. Some imports are easily identified; others require a more discerning eye. There are even printed textiles that look woven or batik from a distance.

Shops and markets in Laung Prabang have a sticker to identify those woven in the area. Is it foolproof? One hopes that the market is ethical in it’s use of stickers.

DSC00991crop (600 x 371)

Some designers, international experts and organisations are working closely with villages to produce work for their outlet. In some cases the textiles have strong links to the past. In others the designs are produced for the villages to weave, dye or embroidered. In some cases the textiles are a traditional format, while in others new product is being produced obviously for the tourist market. Mostly they are using traditional skills as a design base. In some areas people are being approached to develop new work, potentially learning a new skill (eg spinning and netting the Kheuapiad vine by the government ageny:  Productivity and Marketing Centre of Oudamxay). Quality control is usually emphasised.

DSC00682 (600 x 400) turnedThis contemporary transparency wall hanging in Ock Pop Tok (Luang Prabang) has been developed for the tourist market. The materials include non tradional elements as well as silk. The transparency technique is certainly non traditional but the inlaid supplementary discontinuous weft has its roots in tradition.

In one village I found an anomaly. It was hand spun and woven and dyed in indigo. But there was resist dyeing after weaving /shibori tie dye style. I had not seen it before or later on. I bought it because it was obviously a product of a foreigner teaching a new skill. If the market drives textile production, will my buying mean that this new textiles will become more prevalent? The weaver and then delail of the scarf.

DSC00642 (600 x 400)

DSC00988 (600 x 400)

We did hear instances of foreign companies commissioning textile production. One example was for hand spun, indigo dyed hand woven in plain weave fabric for the Japanese market. The entire community was involved in this production. I wonder if any traditional textiles were produced here or were the entire weaving focus on filling orders.

There was several examples of weaving communities obviously working at supplying specific markets. This weaving group has ten looms and mass producing plain weave hand spun cotton textiles in various stripes.

DSC00525 (600 x 400)

Copyright is an issue. I saw a textile that I was told was produced for a particular designer. Later on I saw versions of this same scarf. This means that designers have to stay innovative.

It is an interesting point to ponder: How is tourism affecting the future of weaving? Obviously market demands whether for the locals, tourists or for foreign import will drive textile production. Demand for textiles will encourage weaving (and other textile production) to continue and will encourage weaving to be perceived as a means to earn income and thereby have prestige. Textile work does allow people to stay in their villages. It allows employment in urban towns. People will perhaps want to weave. On the other hand how will market demands impact on traditional skills, patterns and textile tradition? Some weaving techniques (in particular supplementary discontinuous weft) are extremely slow and require great skill. These textiles will also need to be valued for them to be continued to be woven.

Who are the weavers? They are women, in the main not the very old nor the very young. Eye sight impacts on the older weaver. I saw in one village girls of late teens weaving. This occurrence was so out of the ordinary that it was noted. Traditionally the young would have been taught by their mothers and the tradition continued. We spoke to one woman who was in charge of a weaving community. She has 3 daughters. None of them weave. They all work for the government. This is not an isolated occurrence. The women we saw weaving must value the ability to bring income in. They are encouraged because of this. Do they weave all year round? Traditionally the time set aside to weaving was driven by the demands of agriculture. They fitted it in. That would probably still be the case in some villages. One could also suspect that where there is commitment to outside organisations that this may be changing. Maybe the weavers weave all year. This potential change may also be supported by change in agriculture production: different demands, mechanisation etc. Change is potentially universal. I did not confirm in any village whether this was the case and how or if time spent in weaving has changed. This is purely my supposition.

Nothing is surer: textile production is dynamic and never stays still. We cannot expect what the villagers to have been producing 20 years ago to still be what is woven now and into the future. Technology improves. Materials change. Weavers want to perhaps weave new textiles. Values change. Communities evolve. Consumers want textiles of a certain type, whether they are traditional or something new. The outside world intrudes. What does the future hold for weaving here? I guess time will tell.

Next month: Weaving, looms and all aspects relating to it in detail.