January 2019: Studio class, vertical storage and getting ready for the exhibition.

February 3, 2019

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A reminder: This exhibition celebrates 20 years of woven shibori. I have invited Catharine Ellis to celebrate with me. All weaving is completed for the exhibition. The exhibition lists, artist statements and didactic panels submitted by both Catharine and myself. It’s rather a relief to be at this stage.

Redland Art Gallery has the exhibition listed in its exhibition guide.

RAG Exhibitions Booklet 2019_Kay Faulkner and Catharine Ellis (3)

The studio class as usual for this time of year was Linen and Lace. This time of year is usually perfect for linen. It was, though I suspect, hotter than usual. Unlike other years this group of four weavers all decided that they wanted to work on their own projects. Three had completed the course in previous years and wanted to revisit a structure, the other wanted to pursue a personal challenge. This meant that I did not need to set up a multitude of looms in different structures.

Maggie has the perfect solution for jet lag or so she says. She arrived in Australia from the UK on the day before the class. She treats attending a class in the studio as a gentle way to recover. Her project was to weave a series of napkins in linen and 3 end Huck. Her design was a modification of a studio hand towel. Her ongoing challenge was to weave every one differently. On the last day she wound an extra warp for 4 more napkins to take with her to be threaded with the same draft so that she could continue her challenge. It was well tied up as it will travel with her for her stay here and then get put on her loom when she goes back to the UK.

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Kerry is a new student to the studio. She had asked whether she could use her single 16’s linen and weave in Huck. She had woven with this yarn at home and had some difficulty with it. We started by designing her project. The warp went on and we soon saw that there was potential for warp fraying. The solution was to weave with a temple. This posed no problems as she was used to doing this. The other part of the solution was the use of sizing. Kati Meek has a recipe in her book, Warp with a trapeze and dance with your loom. It is amazing. It’s very gluggy.

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The sizing was put on with a sponge working in only one direction. The warp was also woven as soon as it was put on with no need to wait till it dried.

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Weaving with a temple and the sizing meant that this warp could be woven with no fear. Various treading drafts were developed. This is an image of her project being woven. Unfortunately my image of the full piece isn’t wonderful so I will not be sharing what she achieved. However it is a beautiful fine piece of linen weaving.

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Vilasa wanted to explore design, Huck lace and if time permitted Bronson lace. As she spins her own cotton, she put on a cotton warp as she wanted to weave with something that was relevant to her weaving at home. Vilasa spent time on drafting every day. She became expert at designing with only horizontal or vertical floats or both together. She accepted various design challenges. In the five days she wove 6 of her own Bronson Lace designs. This length of weaving is destined to be a panel of a shirt. Here are 3 of her designs.

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Jan had intended weaving a fabric length in turquoise linen. The yarn didn’t get organised so she wove another project that she had planned for later in the year. She had some hand spun wool that she wanted to use for a vest. The vest pattern is based on an existing garment. She had decided that the fabric should not just use hand spun as otherwise it would be too bulky and too heavy for her use. Rather, the hand spun act as an accent yarn as it had wonderful lumps and bumps. To achieve its potential she was going to combine it with silk and a commercial wool.

Jan had acquired some 20/2 silk, natural in colour to be dyed for the warp. Anyone who knows Jan, realises that she loves turquoise, greens and blues. In fact here is her rag rug that she had brought back finished from the woven shibori class in November.

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But I digressed. The silk had to be dyed. So that she didn’t end up with dyed silk left over from the warp, she wound the warp, secured it well and then dyed it. She also chose to paint a skein in various colours that would work in with this green and her weft colours. The warp went on smoothly. Jan’s challenge has been to weave the 3 yarns and to work out the best way to maximise the characteristics of the hand spun wool and very pretty multi-coloured silk. The yarns are to be used randomly so that there is no definite stripe repeat. She is still working on this. She probably needs an extra half a day to finish and I will certainly look forward to seeing this off the loom and made into that vest.

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I had put on an extra linen warp on a loom to accommodate two requirements of this class, just in case there was an opportunity for it to be woven on. Vilasa had expressed a desire to also explore Bronson Lace and Kerry was wanting to work in singles 16 linen. Kerry enjoyed time weaving on “good” linen. Maggie wove a strip to be used as a book mark while Vilasa of course developed her own design to be woven. Now that she understands the principles of horizontal and vertical floats, this was an easy transfer to another lace structure.

There was left over warp so I got to finish it off. Yes, more hand towels for the studio. Both employ the same block design within a lace weave frame. One has the blocks in lace, the other as a supplementary weft pattern.

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During the week, I also took the opportunity to get a loom dressed and ready for some play with a loom and vertical storage. The students were interested to see a frame become a loom. I was asked: Where’s the beater and where are the treadles? The loom to start with was just a frame.

What were my objectives in this project? In all my previous times of using a loom with vertical storage, it had always been positioned at the back of the loom. In Cambodia, I had seen storage, though horizontal behind the beater and in front of the shafts. This link should take you to the appropriate blog. Scroll down to see images of a loom with horizontal storage. There’s also a video of the loom being used.  https://wordpress.com/post/kayfaulkner.wordpress.com/4200

By positioning it here, I would be able to manipulate the sticks or whatever I wanted to store the pattern with more easily. But what would be the repercussions of having it here. I knew from past experience that when the treadles are not heavy or when long eyed heddles are used, movement of the stored pattern was possible to achieve while plain weave was woven. The pattern could be kept engaged and ready to be used. Logically I knew that this would not be possible with the pattern in front of the heddles but could some compromises be achieved?

I was also wanting to see if I could weave Bronson Lace- well it was the week of Linen and Lace! To achieve this I needed the warp threads to be used singly through the storage system. Traditionally in S E Asia there are doubled threads used here. The warp is usually very fine. I’m about to change a lot of things.

I started with just the dummy warp in a vertical storage.

So I began by winding the warp and threading it through a reed. I needed one end per reed dent.  This would allow me to keep each thread in sequence and I could identify a single thread when it came to picking up the design for storage.  I could accommodate a cotton/ linen yarn (approx. 16/2) singly in an 8 dent per cm (20 epi) reed. It was my finest “western” reed.

Then I knotted one cotton/linen warp (natural colour) to 2 ends of dummy warp (blue) to align with those in each long heddle. This will allow each thread to be raised independently. Everything has to be kept in sequence. So far all this could be accomplished off the loom. In this image note that the cotton/linen has been threaded in the reed before being tied onto the dummy warp in the heddles that make up the vertical storage unit (white).

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To thread the heddles on the shafts, I put the warp temporarily back to front on the loom. I could not access the back of the loom easily so it had to be back to front- temporarily. The reed and vertical storage were temporarily suspended in the loom frame purely to facilitate threading the heddles on 2 shafts. Here the two shafts are on the far left hand side ready to be threaded. The wooden clamp behind the beater holds the threads securely.

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When this is done, I have the warp threaded though heddles on 2 shafts, then  the vertical storage and then the reed with the bulk of the warp behind this.

Now to put the warp on. The total bundle is turned around. The reed is put in a beater. The vertical storage system suspended in its correct position and the shafts suspended. Treadles are attached to the shafts. Normality returns for my weavers with shafts behind the beater though with the storage between. The warp is pulled through and wound onto the back beam. I am ready to weave.

I want to weave Bronson Lace. If you understand the mechanics of the structure and have this loom set up so that I can choose an individual thread, I can manipulate the threads to achieve my goal.

This is a basic draft for a conventional loom. Using this draft it would be possible to pick up a design by selecting from shaft 3 and adding it to shaft one.

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Theoretically I can make my 2 shaft loom weave Bronson by storing the equivalent of shaft 3 on the vertical storage loom. In a 6 thread sequence the second and fourth thread will be stored. I will store this selection in the top of the storage unit.

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I will be able to use this stored selection to choose pairs of threads for each Bronson Lace unit. This stored selection will go in the bottom part of the storage unit. Here are two rows stored on bamboo lengths. They are stabilised by inserting the ends into some texsolv cord.

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Once I’m ready to weave for a repeated design I’ll be able to move my pattern from the bottom to the top and back again depending on the number of repeats.

This is my graphed design.

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This sequence shows the selection process. The required threads are moved down from the stored selection. All pairs of threads are raised.

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The design is selected according to the graph.

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This pattern is transferred from the front of the loom to behind the beater and onto a sword. I have covered how to store a selected pattern for a vertical storage unit in previous blogs but as it has been a while, here is a reminder.

All the heddles from the vertical storage are brought forward.

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The sword turned on its side. This achieves different tension for those threads that are either side of the sword.

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By manipulating this tension, the threads that have been picked up at the front of the loom can be stored vertically. A bamboo stick  or dowel is inserted into the gap where the second sword now is.

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As each pattern is stored, the unit of Bronson Lace is also woven before the next pattern row is picked up. Here the repeat is nearly picked up and woven.

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In essence the weaving process for each graphed pattern row requires 6 rows of weaving.  Weave a row of plain weave, then the other plain weave row + pattern, repeat twice. Then weave alternate plain weave rows. The first row of plain weave should include the pattern warps. This is a very similar process to conventional pick up on Bronson Lace but with the facility of storing your design.

For this table runner I elected to do just one repeat. It suited the dimensions that I required. However having the facility to store this long repeat is certainly beneficial.

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As an aside, this pattern would require 36 shafts to weave- another benefit of this style of loom. There will be more on weaving on this loom next month. The same pattern will be interpreted into other structures and more.  Here’s a sneak preview.

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The next studio class will be in March (18th-22nd) on woven shibori to coincide with the exhibition.

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October 2017: Student work and a review of the Hybrid Loom Project

November 6, 2017

This month I’ll review the latest 5 day class in the studio and the results of the challenge with the hybrid loom.

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Rochelle returned to continue weaving her throws. She brought back the throw she had woven the previous month for finishing. After laundering, this throw is so soft and cuddly and it has achieved the magic of tracking: a random twill like effect that sometimes appears on plain weave when the twist of the ply and the sett combine.

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This is one of the best examples of tracking, I’ve seen for a while. It sure does add interest to this cloth.

And then she started another throw.

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And finished it. Here’s another very cuddly alpaca throw.

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While Rochelle was weaving her throws, the focus for this 5 day class was on weaving floor rugs.

Sue brought a palette of hand spun alpaca.

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She wove stripes on plain weave and explored some weave effects.

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Here the rug is coming off the loom.

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What a great result Sue. It is nearly finished, just half one side of fringing to go.

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Marja returned to the studio to weave a rug on a twill threading. She was inspired by some of the effects that could be achieved by sequencing of colours in the weft.

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Here it is coming off the loom. It’s exciting to see how the colours and patterns work together.

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She has totally finished her rug. Congratulations Marja.

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I flagged last month that I would review the results of the experimental warp from the hybrid loom: one that has a countermarche action and long eyed heddles in combination with storage systems from S E Asia.

Here are all the techniques that were woven on that one warp with no rethreading of the warp.

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To recap: I had put the warp on by pulling it through the vertical storage system. I then threaded the shafts in a straight twill on 6 shafts. This combination allowed me to pick up a pattern to be woven as a supplementary weft on a plain weave ground. By picking up a different set of pattern shafts in a block of 6, I was able to achieve a 6 end damask effect as if I was weaving on a draw loom. That vertical storage system had now become in essence the second set of heddles found on a draw loom. (May blog)

Next I found a technique in Becker’s book and explored that (last month). I picked up the start of that pattern and stored it on the vertical storage and added a horizontal system. That same picked up design was used to weave an isolated motif as a supplementary weft. Not bad for just one warp isn’t it? There are 3 totally different techniques: supplementary weft including brocade on plain weave, damask and the plain weave with twill motif from the Han Dynasty.

The question is posed: which is the more versatile loom? Is it a conventional draw loom or this hybrid loom that is basically a conventional countermarche loom with a Lao/Thai addition? Could I have woven all those techniques on the draw loom?

The answer is of course yes with some forward planning. If I knew I was going to weave these techniques on a draw loom, I would have threaded the back set of shafts (the pattern shafts) two to a heddle. (Normally on a draw loom if I was going to weave a 6 end damask, I would put 6 ends through the one eye.) The front set of shafts would then be threaded in a 6 end straight twill. The effect is the same. However the only difference is the Lao/Thai vertical storage system is always set up 2 to a heddle. The only forward planning I made on my hybrid loom was to choose to use 6 shafts instead of the conventional 2 because I knew I wanted to explore how easily damask could be woven on that system. And because I was limited by 2 threads through the heddles of the vertical storage system, I knew that the satin for the damask needed to be multiples of 2. The rest of my experimentation happened because I saw a technique and had the perfect set up that allowed me to play.

The next question to ask is which can achieve the more complex repeat patterning? If both looms are set up the same: 2 warp threads through either a pattern heddle or through the vertical storage system and an appropriate ground weave, the only limiting factor will be the way that the pattern is achieved. On my draw loom, I am limited by 50 pattern shafts. If I had a single draw system then I could individually pull each row, in essence picking up whatever pairs I wanted for each row. On the Loa/Thai loom, I pick up the pattern and store it. Once stored the pattern rows are used in sequence. The number of pattern rows could be hundreds. In the Lao/Thai system the weaver picks up the design with a stick and transfers the pattern to behind the front ground weave shafts to be stored. The picking up of motif takes time. On a draw loom with an individual pull, the weaver conveniently sits at the front of the loom and pulls cords to select the pattern a row at a time.

Lastly, announcing the 2018 studio class schedule. Full details are coming.

8-12 January (4 places left) and 19-23 February (1 place left) Linen and Lace Learn how to weave trouble free with linen. Explore various lace weave structures. Linen and lace is a beautiful combination. Looms will be set up so you will not need to thread before weaving.

26-30 March (provisional) From a Twill Threading.

30 April- 4 May Beyond the Basics

11-16 June Special

6-10 August Two ties or Summer and Winter


September 2017: Student work + John Becker’s book/Weaving informed by S E Asia.

October 4, 2017

I’m in the studio this month. This blog covers both student work and some research.

Scheduled was a five day studio class in Double Weave. For two weavers: Sharon and Marja this was their focus. Looms had been pre-threaded so that they could just weave. However there were theory and design activities often revolving around what they were actually weaving as well as developing an awareness of the diverse range of applications that were possible. The following are some images from the five days and a sample of what was attempted and completed. There was more but I missed taking some images.

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Sharon weaving layers.

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Marja wanted to master double weave pick up for imagery. She did!

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Windows of colour being woven: double weave blocks.

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From the same warp, their own designs on an off sett layer.

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Just a bit of fun: layers that swivel.

In addition to the scheduled work in class, Sharon took the opportunity to pull up and dye her fabric woven in the previous class. The technique was warp shibori woven on a warp of linen/cotton with a silk noil weft.

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The warp has been pulled up and dyed. Shown here is Sharon undoing her resist.

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This fabric is destined to become a blouse.

At the same time that Sharon and Marja were weaving double weave, Rochelle continued with her bird in Theo Morman.

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By the second day the weaving was completed. Now there is thought being given to the next steps in completing this wall hanging and a single repair to make. It is a gigantic achievement for a first time weaver.

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For her second warp, Rochelle decided to weave a throw in alpaca, plain weave and checks. Here it is finished in 3 days.

These weavers sure got through a lot of weaving and can certainly be proud of their efforts. I was certainly impressed by their dedication as they took full advantage of the studio hours. Of course while they were committed to what they were weaving, there were times of wonderful companionship and laughter. Special friendships have been formed.

Some may question why Rochelle got to do other things than the listed course: double weave. I can be flexible. My aim is always to accommodate weavers who want to learn- no matter what the topic is. First in with a booking will always be welcomed. And if one class fills on a designated to a topic (remember class size is strictly limited), then I can always list a second.

I have been “playing”. It’s always a good idea to take time off every now and then and explore a topic or do something different.

So what has….

IMG_2101“Pattern and Loom” by John Becker,

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my experiments on a countermarche loom with long eyed heddles, and a Laos style vertical storage loom or what I refer to as my hybrid loom and

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this technique using horizontal pattern storage from Vietnam/ Thailand/ Laos, got in common? Opportunity!!

Firstly this is a new, second edition of John Becker’s book published in 2014 by NIAS Press. The information is basically the same but it does have a different layout and in particular a better size of illustrations. I am enjoying this edition which does away with the “need” to have the two parts of the original (below) which has the larger diagrams and drafts in the second “half”. Note that this edition has “with the collaboration of Donald B. Wagner” on the cover. It is due to his effort that there is an updated version.

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This is the original edition with the two halves. The diagrams in the main book were difficult to read so having the second supplement was beneficial.

I was having a look through the new edition and not having gone very far was very excited to see a technique that was running parallel to some research that I was intending on following. There is this textile that is in my collection and that was intriguing. What I knew about the process in its weaving had commonality with what I was seeing in Becker. I won’t show that textile now as it will come in another post and will only muddy the waters now. However this and what I saw in Becker has sent me off in a new direction of “play” on the hybrid loom.

My hybrid loom had the remnants of a long warp. It has been used for previous “play” at the start of the year. The one thing that I have discovered about this loom is its great flexibility. Here was an opportunity to use it in a different way and maybe finish the warp. I will need to use it as a conventional countermarche loom for weaving rugs in a month or so and this warp really does need to be finished.

The technique I was about to explore is on page 22 in the new edition for those who have it but it is also in the older one. The technique is from the Han Dynasty of China (206BC to AD220). Yes, it is also fascinating because it is so old.

It uses one shuttle for weaving and combines plain weave being woven on two shafts with pattern being picked up and stored. The result combines a pattern in warp faced twill on a plain weave background. Structurally it is excitingly simple.

Becker for blogThe book also shows a horizontal storage system being used. However, I also knew that I could store it on the vertical storage system. Initially this is what I used.

 

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The pattern is picked up in pairs, transferred to behind the shafts and stored.

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I have used the vertical system to store a single diamond motif. This may be used to weave the start or end of the entire motif. I started with this system because it was something I was familiar with.

But here was the opportunity that I’d been waiting for. I would also try out using the horizontal storage process. It’s been on my “to do” list for a number of years. I wanted to understand its advantages and limitations. When asked in Laos why you would use one rather than the other, I had been told that the vertical storage has the capability to store a much longer warp. But how easy is it to use the horizontal system? What are the advantages or disadvantages? It’s usually only by actually using the loom that you can understand how it works.

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But then I took up the challenge and used the horizontal system. I learnt that the pick up requires the making of half heddles and got fast at doing half hitches. This is different to what is shown in Becker but in keeping with where I needed to go. Becker uses pre-tied loops. The knotting of half heddles with half hitches is quite efficient. This system also requires less yarn in creating the heddles than the full loops used by Becker: therefore less opportunity for tangles. I have also taken on board the heddle support rods that I had noted in Laos and Thailand. Using these created a mostly clean lift with few tangles and a very convenient way of keeping them in sequence.

Once the design was picked up and stored, weaving progressed reasonably quickly. To weave the design all I had to do was raise the heddle bar, transfer the pattern to behind the reed and weave two rows of plain weave.

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The first design is woven. It’s interesting to note that when the direction of the pattern lifts are reversed and providing the same weaving sequence of two rows of plain weave for each lift is maintained, then each side of the motif looks different.

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Here’s a closer look. I like that both sides of the design are not the same: left to right and bottom to top.

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And a second one using a different coloured weft. Note the different twill direction.

This second towel uses a different plain weave sequence. Weaving with the left and then the right treadle now becomes right then left and the direction of the twill line changes. Logical but fascinating!

And there’s still  enough for one more “play”. And that will be revealed next month.

 

 

 


May 2017 #2 In the studio

June 10, 2017

The past few blogs have been exclusively about my textile trip to Laos/Cambodia earlier this year. Just because I haven’t been talking about what has been happening in the studio, doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening. The following are some of the highlights over the past few months.

Back in the February blog # 2, I wrote about Joan who was visiting Australia from Hawaii and extended a holiday to explore waving on a draw loom. She managed to get totally fascinated by the process and has since acquired her own loom. Now that is a great result!

I’m mentioning that because it also gave me the perfect opportunity to explore an idea.

Beside the draw loom (on right), I set up a countermarche loom so that it was a cross between a draw loom having long eyed short heddles at the front and a Laos loom with vertical storage at the back. Having the two looms side by side was an interesting juxtaposition. I did like the potential of weaving similar cloth on both looms. Over a period of time, I had noticed many similarities between the functioning of the Laotian (or any S.E.Asian loom) and the draw loom. This was my opportunity to explore what a hybrid loom could do.

Damask is being woven on the hybrid loom. I have 6 shafts set up for a 6end damask on the front and the stored pattern operating as the pattern shafts at the back.

As in conventional Laotian weaving, the pattern is picked up and stored. In this case however the block patterns are being stored. The stored pattern is then used in much the same way as a pattern shaft on the draw loom – raised for the 6 rows of a 6 shaft satin.

And just because I could do it, I also wove a supplementary weft pattern on the same warp. All the patterns that I have used are from “Lao Motif”.

I will return to this as there’s much potential and it’s such a fun challenge to do. However a group was arriving in the studio.

Every two years a group of like-minded weaving mates get together with the challenge of playing and exploring any technique or structure or in reality anything relating to weaving. There’s discussion and a whole lot of fun to go with it! It’s a highlight of a diary and something to look forward to. It’s been going on quite some time and we’ve had several. Sometimes everyone can come, other times there are fewer. This time it was my turn to play host. (Normally I have to go to USA or Canada). Three weavers came to Australia: Kathy, Jette and Bev. By chance they all decided that they needed to play with my Laos equipment. So there was one traditional Laos style loom and two countermarche looms with Laos vertical storage units.

Weaving mates from three countries: USA, Canada and Australia.

We all wove. Here are three “Lao” looms in action.

There was much group problem solving…..

….and fun. Part of the experience was the duet. They’re chalking up how many places (Towns, States and Countries) they can play together in.

Detail of some of the weaving

I got to play i.e. get around to doing, something that I’d been wanting to do for some time. Keeping in the theme of bands of pattern, I explored structures on my 24 shaft computer assist loom.

And at the end of their stay, I have even more potential for play as now I have three looms with warps for me to weave on. I can go back to my damask/supplementary weft (the original hybrid loom).

I also have the original Laos loom. I decided it could do with an adventure with a saw. As I am not using it any more with a warp in a bag at the front of a loom, I don’t need all that length.  I am using a western style back warp beam to store the warp. I have found that it is much easier to achieve even tension. All I need is a length to allow movement between the vertical storage and the front plain weave/ground shafts.

So saw in hand, it is now shorter and taking up much less floor space in the studio.

But I also have a loom with a ground of overshot. That was a careful bit of planning as now it’s so conveniently set up in time for a 5 day workshop: Beyond the Basics.

Ronda and Jan came to explore profile drafting and converting it into basic weave structures: 4 and 8 shaft forms of Overshot, Crackle, M’s and O’s and a combination of Summer and Winter and a simple lace. It was a very productive week and as well as going home with a whole lot of samples, they’d woven on several different styles of looms including the 16 shaft computer assist and had a portfolio of drafts.Here are some of their samples.

And I still had a bit of warp left on the Overshot/Laos loom. I have plans! I can weave a border with both a finer supplementary weft design in the style of Laos patterning and a larger overshot one.

Here it is with the pattern being developed. It is being woven upside down with these long floats to be on the back.

In addition to weavers working in the studio, I have had a bit of life on the road. My touring exhibition Pattern; A Universal Phenomenon had an outing to Moranbah. The exhibition looked fabulous and was extremely well received.

We even had journal making workshops with hand woven fabric covers in Dysart, Clermont and Moranbah. (Unfortunately I don’t have images from Moranbah)

But then Cyclone Debbie came and Central Queensland was flooded. Demounting couldn’t happen. The town was cut off. Eventually the roads got reopened and life returned to ‘normal’ for that community. I am pleased to report that while the town was flooded, no one was hurt. The upside was that the exhibition had an extended life of an extra month. Pattern has one last showing to complete the touring program. It will be in the Childers Art Space from 15 July to 3 September.

Coming up is another exhibition: Stitched up. I was delighted to be invited to be part of this exhibition. I will report on that process of producing that work and the background behind my concept for the work on the next blog. In the meantime here’s a link to the exhibition.

http://www.thelockup.org.au/whats-on/stitched-up


March 2017

April 5, 2017

In January and early February I went on a textile trip to Laos. This is the continuing report on that trip from last month. For this report, I continue to discuss the textiles that we came across based on the areas that we visited. Last month I began with Phonsavan.

Textiles in the Luang Prabang area.

Luang Prabang, the northern capital of Laos is a hub for textiles. Local and more distant ethnic groups sell their wares here in markets, villages and galleries/shops. In addition both traditional cloth both new and old as well as more contemporary designs can be found.

 

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The Hmong are known for their wonderful batik textiles in combination with applique and embroidery. We braved a local village where we saw women and young girls stitching. These are very high powered saleswomen.

Ock Pop Tok. They have both a gallery and a “Living Crafts Centre”. Both display contemporary textiles. The Living Craft Centre also has information on textile production including silk production and natural dyes. There are also weavers and batik dyers producing product for the gallery. The following images show yarn and batik drying, and some contemporary weaving.

In addition there are facilities for people to attend a workshop. I took advantage of weaving a supplementary weft recipe. I did not need to pick up the pattern nor thread the loom. Yes, all I had to do was decide what colour weft threads I wanted to use and weave for a couple of hours

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Weavers use the long box loom with a vertical storage unit. String loops are used to store the patterns. The stored pattern is transferred to behind the shafts and put back on a sword to select the pattern for the supplementary weft designs. Many string loops can be used to store very complicated patterns. My pattern only used 40 loops. Several hundred loops can be used in a complicated pattern.

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One doesn’t need language to communicate with weaving. That’s my completed weaving hot off the loom.

And a closer look.

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In addition to the pattern being used as a single supplementary weft it may also be used as a discontinuous supplementary weft for brocade.

On my last trip to Laos and Thailand in 2015 I fully documented how these looms worked.

There are several places that sell textiles. There are local markets of course but here are some shops/galleries/organisations that impressed me.

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum have some great displays of various aspects of textile production and a shop selling textiles.

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Gallery Asiama is run by Linda Mackintosh and exhibits traditional cloth. As well as having many beautiful old textiles, there were a couple of “funery wraps”. These wraps are quite different to anything else I had seen from a weaving structure perspective either on this trip or the previous one. I was told that the technique is no longer being done and were produced in NE Laos and NW Vietnam.

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The technique is either two tie woven as “bricks” or three tie to achieve several colour areas. I saw both examples. The designs were large in scale. These were also found in another gallery exhibiting antique silverware and textiles where they were referred to as “banners”.

Ma Teˊ Sai is run by an Australian who supports weaving in the villages and sells in her gallery. While the techniques are traditional her designs and applications are for the western taste.

Caruso Lao is a gallery selling contemporary Lao textiles, wood carving and turning and silver smithing.

Textiles in Pakse and Boloven Plateau

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In a village just outside of Pakse we saw mat mi or weft ikat being woven. They used a box loom with only 2 shafts for plain weave fabric. The vertical storage is not used here.

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An ethnic village has been set up outside of Pakse that is aimed at the tourists wishing for an overview of traditional crafts from the Atapu region. Each area was represented by a house with representatives from that area often demonstrating or selling their crafts.

There were various warp faced textiles for sale which were woven on back strap looms. Some of these included that woven by the Katu. I loved the warp faced stripe combinations.

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A Katu village. The weavers here use beads on the weft. The yarn may be naturally dyed cotton however I also saw some commercially dyed in brighter colours. Sometimes synthetic yarn is also used.

The process for weaving with beads on the weft.

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As well as many older women, I was delighted to see this young girl weaving with beads. While her design is simpler, the basic technique can be seen. The back strap loom is set up with as a combination of warp stripes to create an overall pattern and to enhance the pattern of the beads. There is only one weft thread. This has many beads threaded on it. The shuttle is to the left.

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When the beads are required they are counted off and woven in the approximate position. The weft is beaten.

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Then the beads are placed in the correct position according to the pattern before being beaten into place.

Here’s a movie of the full process.

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The Dream Home supports women who were victims of human trafficking.

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Pakse Souveni had some exquisite mat mi.

Textiles along the Mekong River south of Pakse.

We saw no weaving being done. In fact there was very little weaving being worn. Life here revolves around farming and fishing. Of note we did see some fishing nets and baskets being made; all useful for this lifestyle.

Textiles in Savannaket area

Laha Nam Village produces mat mi in natural dyes. We participated in a dyeing workshop here.

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The ethnic minority group of the Phu Tai originally came from northern Vietnam. They brought indigo and cotton weaving to the area many generations ago. Around 1975 weaving and dyeing stopped because of competition from Thailand. In 1989 -90 when Laos reopened after the war, a government company was set up to encourage people to work again. The company is no longer working with the villagers and instead they have been encouraged to form cooperatives to weave and sell their produce.

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Cotton is raised on the banks of the Mekong and processed in the village.

There are several cooperatives in this village and over 200 weavers. The one we visited has 22 weavers. Details of the dyeing workshop will follow in another blog.

Here’s some examples weaving that was produced.

We visited another mat mi village in this area. They were producing yardage of a standard size: 75 x 160cm. This was using commercially spun cotton/rayon on a synthetic warp. It was also typified by two weft rows of mat mi alternating with 2 rows of solid colour. The designs were quite contemporary. We bought in what appeared to be the communal shop where the weavers bought the yarn and then brought back finished product for sale probably to an established buyer.

Textiles in Vientiane Area

Carol Cassidy is a western entrepreneur working with the Laotian weavers to created contemporary designs based on tradition. I have visited Carol whenever I have been in Vientiane. As well as being the driving force behind the gallery and studio, she is also engaged as a consultant in Cambodia and Myanmar. She is very much aware of what is happening in textiles in Vientiane, nationally and in SE Asia. She employs several weavers on the gallery site.

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Nikone has a gallery and usually an attached workshop. Unfortunately the weaving workshop was closed due to flooding. She has also developed a range of textiles for sale in Europe and Japan. It is exciting to see that her daughter is becoming involved in the business and catering towards the Lao wedding market. This fabric woven with an ondule or fan reed was one of the treasures I found in the gallery.

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Phaeng Mai- gallery and weaving studio. There are some delightful contemporary woven fabrics in the gallery. It was great to return to Phaeng Mai where I had studied last year.

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Magic Lao Carpets is the first and only carpet making business in Laos. The carpets are hand knotted and are stunning. As well as seeing the finished product, we were able to see all the stages that go into weaving them.

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Each carpet is worked on by a team of young girls. They work from printed graphs.

The silk is hand knotted around the warp. Note the line to check the pattern. Then they are beaten in.

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The pile is trimmed with shears regularly.

There are several other galleries. Mulberries, which I had visited in Phonsavan, also has a gallery in Vientiane.

Some interesting bits and pieces and overall impressions.

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This is how convenient a loom can be to set up. A weaver arrives with the warp all threaded through the heddles. All that needs to be done to weave is to put it on the loom, attach treadles and suspend shafts.

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Often the very long warps (up to 90 m) for the supplementary weft weaving is loosely coiled in a bag and suspended from the back of the loom. In this case the warp has been wound on a board. This will result in even tension across the full width of this loom. Note that this warp board is tied onto the loom and not permanently fixed.

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Bamboo stretchers are usually used. They are placed under the weaving, out of the way. You can tell on this weaving how frequently it has been moved. They are very useful when weaving weft ikat to keep the ikat consistently aligned.

Textile production form a part of daily life. Looms are found under the houses. Here chickens roost on the loom with the most complicated mat mi.

Many communities that are close to the Thai border have been impacted by the death of the Thai king. This is a year of morning. This has affected the sale of textiles for use in ceremonies including weddings. The village of Laha Nam has had a major downturn in indigo mat mi production. It has also resulted in an upturn in entertainment offered on the Laos side of the border with weekend tourism increasing.

It is sometimes difficult to identify which ethnic group is producing which cloth. At one gallery we were told that it comes from “the north”. This may be because a middle man/woman is involved in buying the cloth or that they are directing villages into producing cloth of a particular style because it is popular and readily saleable.

The issue of copyright is seen as a major one by many galleries. The best galleries aim at staying one step ahead of the competition. There are no laws that protect copyright.

How prevalent is handwoven fabric in today’s society? In general daily life women are the only ones who wear traditional dress in the form of the sinh or skirt. Along one road, I surveyed how many women were wearing the sinh as opposed to western dress. In this instance it was about even. It does however depend on where one is. Remote villages are more likely to retain traditional cloth and certain ethnic groups seem to value it more than others. Areas where there are government or public jobs often require women to wear the sinh as a uniform. School uniforms require the sinh to be worn though it is a commercially woven version.

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I thought this market we stopped at along the road between Savannaket and Vientiane provided an insight. On one side of the aisle was a shop selling western clothes while directly opposite was one selling the sinh.

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The one area that still has high regard for traditional textiles and dress is the wedding industry. This will be the only time that men wear traditional dress. The cloth here exhibits a high standard of exclusiveness and workmanship.

We heard that the generation of Laos and International women who had dedicated their lives to promoting weaving either traditional or contemporary were approaching retirement with a lack of young blood coming through. This must impact on the future of weaving and textile production in Laos.

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I saw these two panels in the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum. They reflect the diverse attitudes in ethnic minority groups as to the value of traditional textiles.

The government will play a vital role in the future of textiles. It was very evident that Laos is undergoing great development with financial partnerships with China, Thailand and Vietnam. This is creating new jobs which pay so much more than textile rates. The rate of growth was extremely evident in Vientiane with high rise buildings appearing and in the proliferation of petrol stations along major roads.

The issue of the survival of traditional crafts in contemporary society is not new. As Laos moves into this new era of economic growth and the impact of the popularity of western dress increases, I hope that the knowledge and skills of those working with textiles will continue to be appreciated and for them to have a place for their work.

 

Coming: I will document the stages of mat mi, the indigo dyeing workshop we participated in and eventually a report on the textile experience in Cambodia.

  

 


February 2017 Part 1.

March 2, 2017

 

I am going to write 2 bogs for February. One will be on weaving in the studio (Part 2) while this will be the start of more to come.

I have just returned from an amazing textile research trip to Laos and Cambodia. Some was self- directed but there was also an organised textile tour. Over the next few months, I will be assimilating and reporting on aspects of this trip. There is a lot to take in and I have barely unpacked, so only a very brief taster will be shared here. It will be the start of things to come.

First up let me say that it has been just 2 years since I was in the north of Laos at Luang Prabang and 1 year since I was in Vientiane. There have been big changes connected with “progress”. One of note was the number of brand new fuel station along the roads. It felt like every kilometre there was one. Is this a sign of investment and even a raise in living standards? How has this impacted in particular on textiles? What has happened in the time that I was last here? These are some of the issues I will be considering later in addition to where I found textiles and the mechanics of various aspects of weaving.

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The pink line outlines this trip. The orange on in 2015

First a brief overview of where I went. I started off in Ponsovan, then drove to Luang Prabang. Trood Newman joined me on this leg. At Luang Prabang we joined the Textile Tour, organised in a fashion by Intentionally Different. The two experts who absolutely made this trip were Valerie Kirk who has been travelling here for many years and has a wealth of textile knowledge to share and Jit, our local tour guide. From Luang Prabang we flew to Pakse. Using Pakse as a base we explored the area working our way down to Kong Island at the most southern part of Laos. Driving north we passed through Savannakhet to Vientiane where the tour finished. From there Trood and another friend, Libby Hepburn, and I explored the area around Siem Reap.

I am going to structure my report based on the areas that we visited before looking at in-depth aspects of weaving. Well that’s the plan.

Weaving in Ponsovan.

This area was heavily bombed in the Vietnam War and is often referred to as the “Secret War” as often the world didn’t recognise that Laos was a casualty in that conflict. Even now there are many unexploded ordinances (UXO). This has had the impact of much of the buildings needing to be rebuilt. Farming has been restricted because of the uncertainty when it comes to expanding farms and even digging in existing ones. There is a sense of ‘newness’ overlying tradition while at the same time progress being held in check because of the uxo’s and the community being kept poor. UNESCO is involved in clearing uxo. Land that was cleared needs to be re-cleared as more uxo become exposed. Tourism centres around the Plain of Jars. In a cultural sense, the actual jars are amazing. They are large stone jars. Why are they here? What were they used for? What significance in the development of culture did they have? They are awe inspiring. The shapes and forms and how they sit in the landscape are certainly a focus for contemplation. Even the fact that they survived the extensive bombing that happened in this area is a amazing.

 

Mulberries. www.mulberries.org

I was keen to visit Mulberries after my previous trip in 2015 where I came across the organisation in Luang Prabang. Mulberries was set up by Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong is a centre that focuses on the development of a sericulture industry. In 2015, I was aware that she developed this industry that involved the whole community and wanted to follow up on this project. Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong had because of her involvement in strengthening the position of women in the community been presented as an applicant for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is what I saw.

We drove to the centre on the outskirts of Xiengkhouang and met by a guide. This is the place where obviously the focus is on growing the mulberry trees and the raising of silk worms. We were shown all stages of silk production: reeling, skein winding, dyeing and weaving. It was disappointing that there were not many people working there when we visited. There were a couple of workers using skeining equipment while the dyers were off at a wedding and there were only 4 weavers at work. I wondered if some of the work that could be done off site (winding the silk from cocoon to skein, weaving and finishing) was being done off site and whether this centre apart from the silk worm/silk growing aspect was more of a collection/distribution centre. The weaving produced is sold in the gallery on site and in Vientiane. The retail outlet in Luang Prabang is now closed. In Vientiane, we visited the gallery and met with Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong. An interesting comment that she made was that the organisation was diversifying into soya production to support their community. I must admit that after the visit to the Centre, I felt that the strength of the textile production as to what I had remembered was not as great. More will be noted of Mulberries when we get to Vientiane.

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Mulberries grows 5 varieties of silk worms with several of these being cross breeds.

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Silk being reeled from cocoons.

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This equipment allows for many skeins to be prepared.

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One of the four weavers. She is using a vertical storage system with sticks. There was a loom set up with string looms to store pattern but it had a few cobwebs and was obviously not currently being used. I understand that bamboo sticks are preferred though when the space becomes too cramped to use these, they move to the loops instead.  All four weavers were using sticks. The weavers are from the Black Tai, Red Tai and Lao Phuan ethnic groups.

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A close up look at what is being woven.

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The gallery at Mulberries (Ponsovan)

Next: Luang Prabang.


March 2016

March 30, 2016

A textile tour to   Laos and Bhutan Part 1.

This trip started with a Laos extension with 2 friends (Bettes Silver-Schack and Deb McClintock) before we joined the tour to Bhutan.

Laos: Vientiane

The main purpose of this part of the trip was to attend the Paeng Mai Weaving School. This was just too good an opportunity not to value add. Deb had attended the school several times prior to this trip and was keen to re-attend, so we organised a 4 day class where we each chose a specific topic. Of course while we were in Vientiane we also added in a much textile related activities as we could.

Any basic loom information can be found on my previous trip to Laos/Thailand. The looms are similar. Here, I will be focussing on specifics related to the topics covered in the course.

I chose to work on the supplementary warp technique (Muk).

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This is the traditional cloth from which I took my inspiration. I selected 2 of the supplementary warp motifs. As well as supplementary warp, it has weft ikat and brocade (discontinuous weft).

The basic loom was set up before I arrived though it was decided to move it as the light wasn’t great.

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One of the advantages of this style of loom is that it can be easily dismantled and reassembled. Before adding in the extra warp, weaving of the ground begins. About 1 cm is woven. This provides a means of anchoring the supplementary warp later on.

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The supplementary warp was wound. This is an extremely large warping board capable of winding a 60 metre warp. The principle of using a threading cross (bottom centre) is the same.

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The supplementary warp is chained and taken to the loom.

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Note the supplementary warp( white) is kept separate from the ground warp (black). It follows a different path and is tensioned separately. The angle of the supplementary warp under the ground warp is quite exaggerated. When required it is raised above the ground warp. When not required it will stay well out of the way. The warp is positioned on the loom frame before combining with the ground warp.

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Once positioned, the supplementary warp is placed in its correct position in the ground warp. Each supplementary warp is passed through the vertical storage system, between the ground weave shafts and through the appropriate dent in the reed. The ground and supplementary warp alternate. The ground sett remains the same.

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The supplementary warp is then secured on a stick at the front.

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The next step: Adding the supplementary warp heddles. Each warp thread is allotted to a shaft ( length of bamboo) and a heddle constructed. In this case there are 6 shafts with the supplementary threaded point twill (11 threads)

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When required according to the design, the shafts are picked up and raised. This “S” shaped hook secures the selected threads while 2 ground rows are woven. In this case 5 shafts were required and are on the hook. It varies every 2 rows according to the drafted design. That “s” hook is suspended by a series of rubber bands to give stretch to allow movement of the shafts on and off the hook.

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Weaving progresses. Note: The single supplementary warp threads alternating with a single ground thread. (The weaver would be at the top of the image).

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Close up showing some supplementary warps picked up and left unused. There is no danger of the warp being accidentally caught.

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The warp is weighted to ensure it stays down.

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I’ve finished weaving…. well me and my loom buddy, Tan,  have finished. Whenever I got up she would keep weaving and she was at it before I got to the studio and after I left. I did weave at least half. At least it got finished just before time was up on the last day.

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Meanwhile Bettes has worked on a brocade technique (Chok) using a vertical storage system.

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Deb had decided that she wanted to master a lace weave technique that she had seen on a traditional cloth. The loom was set up to aid the picking up of the leno groups but it is all finger manipulated. It originally was a Tai Lue technique.

Deb has mastered ‘Pineapple” leno.

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The finished scarves. From LHS Bettes, mine and Deb’s scarves.

The following are a couple of interesting tips.

Until now I had used a knot above the head of the weaver to tension the warp. It must be undone and then reformed. However this modification means that the knot does not have to be shifted. The rope allows for the warp to be released, advanced and then retightened.

The following are a couple of interesting places to visit.

Lao Textile Museum

This is a privately owned museum which had a display of looms, traditional textiles and a shop with the focus on silk. I noted a couple of loom modifications. There was also an amazing collection of textiles.

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On one of the looms that was set up, we noticed the bottom bar is extended. This is an alternative device that separates the supplementary warp from the ground warp.

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This is an example of the supplementary warp fabric woven on this loom.

Carol Cassidy     www.laotextiles.com  A well known and long time USA entrepreneur/weaver, living in Vientiane who works with local weavers selling through her workshop/gallery.

Taykeo Textiles Gallery  An amazing collection of historical textiles as well as modern traditionally based ones. Taykeo Sayavongkhamdy is owner.

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Detail of one of the silk supplementary weft brocade cloths based in a traditional design.

Bangkok

A free day in Bangkok while we waited to join the tour to Bhutan, meant that there was an opportunity to visit The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. Deb had organised a private tour with a curator. Unfortunately there’s no photography allowed of the exhibitions but at the end of the tour we came across this weaver and some interactive displays. This is an amazingly complex fabric. And she managed to keep track of what was going where while talking to us.

 

The Jim Thompson House is also worth a visit. www.jimthompsonhouse.com

Over the next few days I hope to post the second instalment of my last adventure where I go to Bhutan- where there are the most amazing living textiles.