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

December 2, 2018

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

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

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

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Pulling up.

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Dyeing: watching the magic of indigo.

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Undoing:

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The results:

Indigo.

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permanent pleating (not the bottom scarf).

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the acid dye bath

 

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

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

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

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

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

21-25 January 2019          Linen and Lace.

18-22 March       Woven Shibori

13- 17 May          From a twill threading

10- 14 June         Special- own choice.

9 – 13 September            Colour in Weaving

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

18-22 November              Double weave and friends

9-13 December                 Special- own choice.

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

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

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parallel title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

September 30, 2018

 

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

This is the story of my Canadian souvenir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both skeins were soaked in warm water overnight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Coming up:

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

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

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

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

21-25th January 2019: Linen and Lace.


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

June 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ikat.

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

Here they are put onto a frame to be organised.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing

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

We saw several Sumba textiles with this woven fringe.

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

 

 

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

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

This movie shows the weaving.

On Reflection:

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


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

June 21, 2018

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

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

Dyes: Indigo and morinda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional information:

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

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

Stage 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional information.

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

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

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

Blue from Indigo: Fresh leaf process

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

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

 

In Bolok, lime powder was sieved into the indigo.

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

Additional information:

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

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

Blue from Indigo: Using indigo paste/cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Here’s some other interesting observations.

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

 

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

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

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

Ikat preparation for dying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

June 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

We landed in Kupang and traveled in this bus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were also a variety of textile techniques.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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


May 2018: Part 2 of The Lesser Sunda Islands trip/ The Volcanic Islands/Andora, Lembata, Ternate, Alor, Pantar

June 20, 2018

This blog continues my experiences of the textile research trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands by Sea Trek. We sail east from Floes. There’s a map on the previous post.

At Bama on Adonara Island we saw more ikat dyed indigo and morinda. This ikat was decorated with sea shells. The shells are placed in the eye of a coconut and the top sliced off before being stitched onto the cloth.

 

An overview of textiles produced.The ikat stripes are very fine.

On Lembata we visited Mawa and Dikesara* (I had this noted as Lowelain). Here was a case of how living in a actively volcanic region influences life. At Mawa village, there is no drinking water as it is very high in sulphur. Water is imported. Imported water is also used for dyeing though we told that the local water gives yellow on yarn. The dye pots used come from another village. They are bartered for corn, textiles and cocoa. Perhaps the pots are also full when they arrive. We also saw more broken threads in weaving. Is this a case of seeing less experienced weavers or weaving with no sizing to help strengthen the handspun yarn or does the atmosphere or water if it has been used create weaker threads? There were some very beautiful warp striped fabrics here. Dikesara had similar textiles. I think that it was here that when they changed the water pipes, the dye colours also changed.

The colours are more “earthy”.

These are all those broken warp threads I referred to.

What a delightful way to go shopping. Yes that’s the sea in the background.

A more detailed look at stripes and combinations of ikat patterning in one textile.

What a colour feast awaited us at Uma Pura on Ternate Island. Up to now we’d seen predominantly morinda and indigo with an odd spot of other colour, but here was a magnificent array of colour. All were natural dyes, some obtained by plant matter with others from the sea.

Yellow is obtained from turmeric and lime fruit. Orange is the yellow dye bath + lime powder (used for indigo). Both are hot processes. (orange above)

Another group dyed yellow from turmeric, milk weed leaves and candlenut.

 

Pink from the bark of the hong tree. It has very hot water poured over it 5 – 6 times to get the deepest colour. Bone (front) from sea weed or sea grass.

Rose brown comes from the sea hare. The sea hare is shown at the back and yarn is being dyed in the dish at the front. You may also see it in the image above.

 

This orange/brown from a sea urchin.

 

Beige from the castor plant leaves.

Dark green from the Indian Almond tree + indigo. Mustard is from the jack fruit bark. Blue is of course indigo. Black is from indigo + lime. Dark brown from morinda and candlenut.

Bright green is from the Indian almond tree. Here’s a comparison of the two greens.

This deep purple came from the sea sponge. The sponge is beside the yarn.

Here’s a couple of interesting additional information on dyeing. Men must not be involved in dyeing with indigo. It will affect their fertility. Dyeing must be done during daylight hours. The dye baths must be taken in at night or “the moonlight will change colour”.

There were 5 weaving groups represented here with about 20 members in each group. Lines of interesting textiles with various colours and imagery were stretched around an oval. The imagery was also reflective of life by the sea with various sea creatures: whales, sting rays, fish, crabs, turtle though there were other more “usual” styles of imagery too.

The Kalabahi Museum was the highlight of our visit to Alor Island. The museum had a wonderful collection of textiles all displayed in glass cabinets though the staff were more than willing to open these doors for us.

On our arrival at Tama (Tamakh*) on Pantar Island, everyone was presented with a scarf; all different. Usually it is just the representatives of the group who receive one if at all. I am delighted with mine, not because it is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship but because it is a true weavers delight. Here is a scarf that obviously combines a whole lot of leftovers: hand spun (yellow) and commercial cotton, natural and synthetic dyes all overlaid with a bit of patterning. It’s something that I might do to use up all those odd ends. The pattern is a result of creating warp floats (weft on the back) on alternately coloured warp threads. The locals trade textiles as there is none made in the village.

Lamalera on Lembata Island is a whaling village where whaling is done from small outriggers. Another aspect of textiles in daily life is shown here. The sail is hand woven.

However there are also textiles produced here. Naturally coloured cotton is grown and spun.

 

This is the first time that I saw plying of cotton being done. It is used as a decorative stripe in woven fabrics. One ply is natural white cotton, the other is a naturally coloured or dyed cotton. Note the end of the spindle is a whale bone.

Whales and boats did feature in some of their textiles. We’re back to a more limited colour way. The dye demonstration showed red (morinda), blue (indigo) , yellow (turmeric) and green being produced.

Place names updated by Sue. Thanks Sue. *

The next stop: The limestone islands of the Lesser Sunda group.


May 2018: Part 1 of The Lesser Sunda Islands trip/ The Volcanic Islands/Flores

June 20, 2018

In May 2018, I went on a textile tour to the Lesser Sunda Islands, organised by Sea Trek with Sue and David Richardson (UK) as textile experts.

To put it all in perspective, here’s a map of Indonesia with the area to be visited identified.

Overview

There was a 3 day pre-tour land based tour that started in Ende, Flores. We then crossed the country to Maumere, visiting Ndora, Kelompok and Nggela villages. For those who wished this could be taken independently or omitted. This was followed by a 13 day cruise around Flores, Lembata (formerly known as Lomblen), Alor, Pantar, West Timor, Savu, Raijua, Sumba before returning to Flores.

This map, supplied by Sea Trek shows where we went.

I had long wanted to explore Flores and Sumba in particular as some of my friends had already been there. I had seen the textiles that they had acquired and had heard their stories and I was fascinated. I hoped to see some similar as well as researching how they were made. In addition it was an ideal way to get an overview of textile production on the smaller islands. In all reality visiting these would be unlikely otherwise. In essence, I thought that this trip would be an ideal opportunity to gain an overview of textile production in this area. It would also inform me of any area which I would like to revisit to do more in depth research. And I’d get to revisit West Timor which I had thoroughly enjoyed in 2007.

Sue and David are both avid collectors with a passion for ethnic textiles and in particular traditional cloth, dyed only with natural dyes and lean towards museum quality pieces. Each night of the cruise Sue or David would give a comprehensive lecture. The lecture, on the regency to be visited, would cover such textbook topics as ethnography – cultural linages (matrilineal, patrilineal), marriage laws and settlements, language; European history in particular, geography and examples of textiles found in collections including their own extensive one. Included were handouts with comprehensive bibliographies. I’m sorry to say that some nights I did find it hard to concentrate (as did many) especially after a day out and about and a relaxing drink in hand. The handouts will be helpful if I wish to research any theoretical aspects at a later date. However they do know their stuff and their years of travelling around this area have certainly enabled them to put together a comprehensive trip. Thanks Sue for the updated place names.*

In addition Sea Trek provided two guides, Anastasia and Narto. They were wonderful: professional, friendly, extremely helpful and obliging. A tour can really be enhanced by the local guides and they certainly filled that category. I’ll also mention the wonderful staff on the boat. It was a truly wonderful experience because of their friendliness, care and willingness to go out of their way and help. And the boat, Ombak Putih – what a truly wonderful way to get around the islands. Sea Trek run other cruises. I’d highly recommend the experience. www.seatrekbali.com .

 

There were 14 on this tour. It was a great group to get to know. Everyone was widely travelled and all with interesting stories.

To get to shore we were taken by these zodiacs.

I will divide this blog into two main sections: one covering the volcanic islands, and the other; the limestone ones. Yes, there are many active volcanoes in this area. Some were even “smoking”. They are all on the northern side of the Savu Sea. The other islands on the southern side are limestone. This is late afternoon cruising with a volcano in the background.

Before starting though, I’ll do an overview of traditional dress. Usually when we visited a village, we were given a welcome event with everyone dressing for the occasion. I guess after all here is their opportunity to show off to those foreigners and perhaps encourage income. This is just one of our many welcomes.

 

At Dokar  (Umauta), Flores, our two representatives, Irene and Phil were taken and dressed for the occasion. This picture will illustrate the requirement of traditional dress for both men (a sarong and shoulder cloth) and women (a tubular sarong). The shirt for a woman may be made from hand woven fabric but is usually a commercial blouse.

 

At the villages we did see demonstrations of the steps from cotton fibre through to weaving. In fact we were to see this a number of times both on the volcanic and limestone islands. While they demonstrated spinning, it did not necessarily mean that they only used homespun. Here’s a pretty typical presentation that we saw throughout the trip; a collection from several places.

Cotton being ginned using an often beautifully decorated wooded hand gin. (Mawa Village)

Cotton is fluffed using a bow. This is a preparatory step to facilitate spinning. (Kelompok Kapo Kale*)

 

Spinning is carried out on a drop spindle. The thread that is produced is fine and even. It is very labour intensive, Commercially spun cotton is also being used. Sometimes rayon was also used. It dyes as well as cotton. In the market place trust the feel of the fabric to tell you the fibre whether it is hand spun or commercial cotton or a much more drape-able rayon.

Cotton being spun. (Mawa village)

After spinning it is wound into a skein or ball. (Mawa village)

 

Dyeing is carried out on either a skein for the weft or solid colour warp, or on a wound and bound warp for ikat. More will be covered on these steps in a later blog.

We’d see warps being prepared and dyeing demonstration. In this area, the typical colour was orange/red from morinda and blue from indigo. In fact, the orange/red was by far the most predominant colour that we saw. (Ndona)

The results of dyeing in morinda on an ikat warp. (Ndona )

 

We’d see many versions of warps being put on a loom. This is one in Kelompok Kapo Kale. The warps are circular and need to be cut off the loom when weaving is finished. There will be just a small distance left unwoven.

 

And warp faced fabrics woven on a back strap loom. Back strap looms were only used in this area. This image shows both a complicated combination of different warps being prepared and a woman weaving. (Bama)

 

Much more detail will be provided on winding the warps, binding for ikat, putting the warps on a loom and weaving in a later blog. There’s way too much information for here. This is just an overview.

The volcanic Islands: Part 1 Flores

Here’s an overview of what we saw and experienced.

Flores

We arrived in Ende and drove across to Maumere  staying in the Kelimutu Echo Lodge for two nights. This gave us the opportunity to visit 3 weaving villages at Ndona, Kelompok Kapo Kale and Nggela.

Travelling by road is challenging as they are not smooth or straight. However it does give you the opportunity to look for looms or warps drying that may indicate the presence of weaving. I do like trying to get that glimpse into daily life as we travelled along these roads.

Weaving is done in the coastal villages. In the mountains at Saga, we were told that it is bad luck to weave. They acquire textiles by barter.

Here is a typical textiles from this region.(Kelompok) Some of the images above are also from this area and show cloth.

This market gives an idea of what was both on sale and what was worn. The dyes used here are synthetic but the colour aesthetics is typical: predominantly red/orange with some blue.

And then it was time to board the boat. From Maumere we sailed to another village in Flores, Umauta. What was very interesting here was that we saw several forms of weaving. Cotton is used (handspun and commercial) with natural dyes (mainly morinda and indigo). There was ikat; check out the skirts too.

 

 

 

There were lots of interesting stripes.

And fabrics that had supplementary weft patterning.

 

Here’s a very interesting technique. I had never seen a reed being used on a back strap loom. This simple technology resulted in a more open fabric. It is, when questioned, a traditional technique. As nowhere else was doing this, here is some information on this specialised technique.

The trick is: how to put on a warp that is circular, that will be woven on a back strap loom AND that is threaded through a reed.

A close up of the reed and a stand to stabilize it for threading. The spacing tells you how fine the fabric will be. Two threads go through each space or dent.

Winding the warp, creating heddles on one layer on every second warp thread and putting through the reed.

Here’s a diagram that may explain it.

This woman is weaving with a reed and with supplementary weft patterning. Note all the sticks that have pattern stored. (perhaps from another village in this area)

This movie shows the basic process of weaving with a reed on a backstrap loom.


May 2017: Textiles of Siem Reap, Cambodia

June 9, 2017

This is the final post on my textile tour to Laos and Cambodia in January/February 2017.

Siem Reap is the place to stay when you go to see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is both a significant tourist destination, an engineering marvel from the Khmer Empire and an extremely significant Buddhist temple complex.

For those who go to Angkor Wat (and there are busloads!) keep your eye out for pattern.

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However the reason I was there was of course to check out some textiles. I had heard of some places where textiles could be found and that there was lotus fibre produced in the area. I also discovered others while I was there. For those places off the known tourist trail, I would recommend that you take with you the address and the phone number of your destination to give to a tuk tuk driver. Our driver was very obliging and willing to find out where these places were, often with a group discussion with a group of drivers. However we did also end up in interesting places.

A new and little known gem of a museum is the MGC Asian Traditional Textiles Museum. I was fortunate to meet with Prof (Mrs) Charu Smita Gupta who is the director of this museum and has been involved in its development since the beginning. This is an extremely well set out museum with 4 exhibition spaces. The museum represents textiles from countries on the two major river systems: the Mekong: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar as well as India on the Ganges. Exhibited are historical pieces as well as contemporary ones. www.mgcattmuseum.com

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Prof Charu Smita Gupta with Libby, Truda and I in the entrance at MGC. Photography is not allowed in the galleries.

Artisans of Angkor is on the tourist map. It is also a destination for school groups and that was very pleasing to see. On site in Siem Reap are some working studios as well as the gallery. The work in the gallery is exquisite and well presented. The working studios included carving on wood and stone, metal working including silver plating, lacquer work, jewellery, gold leaf and painting. There was a very sad static display of a loom to represent weaving. The threads were broken and the loom looked as if it couldn’t even work- not a very good advertisement for weaving or for weaving as representative of this place.

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Students watching stone carvers at work.

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The loom at Artisans of Anchor- not a very attractive example of weaving.

However if one has time I would recommend a visit to their offsite complex where the process from spinning through to weaving is very well represented. It certainly wasn’t clear at the facility in Siem Reap that this would be the case. There is very beautiful work produced here.

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Silk being reeled from the cocoons.

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Ikat being tied.

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An example of weft ikat being woven.

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The space housing many looms. It was extremely noisy.

The Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) has a retail space and an area under the shop where the women gather and produce the woven textile. In the main, they are using natural dyes and producing traditional textiles. www.iktt.org

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A section of the gallery

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Documentation of the natural dyes that are used.

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Fabrics being woven with natural dyed yarn.

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Complex weft ikats were also being tied and woven.

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Here the ikat is being rebound after the first dye bath.

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An example of ikat after several dyebaths.

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Ikat on the loom.

I had heard about Lotus textiles before I had come to Cambodia and had spoken to Carol Cassidy about the yarn so some serious research came into play. There are many lotus farms. We even stopped and walked on boardwalks through the lotus.

We did eventually find the Lotus Farm by Samatoa, the organisation the spins and weaves textiles from the fibre. www.lotusfarm.org

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All stages of the process is well documented.

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We saw how the fibre is actually produced. After harvesting the lotus stems are cleaned.

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The fibre is extracted by breaking the stem and pulling out the fibre. Several fibres are then twisted together to make the yarn. Many hands are required to extract a small amount of yarn.

As each length is twisted it is collected in a basket. This yarn is then taken and skeined.

There were looms here but we didn’t see any weaving being done.

Closer to Siem Reap was the headquarters of Samatoa.

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Here it was obvious that negotiations were undertaken for commissions in lotus cloth. We saw some examples of it being used in combinations with other yarns and test samples of woven fabrics.

The lotus yarn is extremely expensive so combining it with other yarns makes sense. I must admit that the yarn itself is not necessarily inspiring (it has no lustre) however it is extremely valuable because of the limited quantities produced. It is marketed as a sacred fibre. Originally it was used to weave Buddhist monks’ robes. Samatoa also produces handwoven silk cloth.

The following are some additional observations that I found interesting.

I found the contrast between the speed used in weaving plain weave cloth and the slower approach to weaving ikats of interest. This was extremely evident at Artisans of Angkor.

What is also of interest is the variation of the treadles to what we would normally use.It appeared that these treadles were standard in this area. You can see them in the movie. Here’s another examples at Samatoa and IKTT.

Note the use of two hanging devices either side of the loom that hold the shafts up while they are needed for weaving. Complex twills can be woven using this system. It require two shafts that are treadled in combination with extra pattern shafts. The two treadled shafts are behind the ones that will be picked up. The operation of this system can also be seen in the movie.

This is the final installment of the textile tour to Laos and Cambodia. Meanwhile in the studio much has been happening. The next blog will attempt to catch up on that.

 

 


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.

  

 


March 2016 Part 3

April 4, 2016

In this blog, I record the actual specific of weaving and things related from my recent textile tour to Bhutan. This blog follows on from my previous one.

Yarns.

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One of the most popular yarns is “telecotton”. It is cheap and comes in a huge variety of colours. It is most likely according to all the tests I could do 100% synthetic. It’s strong and weaves quite well; though not of course as well as silk or even cotton. As the fabric is very tightly woven, the handle is satisfactory. All the “cheaper” fabrics will be woven from this. It’s also what I used for my warp when I wove in Khoma. It will be imported probably from India (most goods seem to come from India)

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This store has some silk. The colours are brilliant though finding a shop that sells silk is much harder than the telecotton. Here both are on sale. The silk is kept in plastic. We saw cotton also being used for weaving though we didn’t actually try to buy some so I have no idea as to ease of access.

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Silk is of course the most highly prized yarn and is used for kushü. Here are spools of coloured silk for use for the supplementary weft pattern threads. I must admit that I acquired some lovely plied natural coloured silk- all that was left in a store 750g. I’m looking forward to using it.

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Wool. Yak hair is spun. The women will use a drop spindle to spin yak fibre. Here two spinners from different countries share a moment. We were also told that there are 3 types of wool: Australian is most preferred though it is expensive. Next best grade is wool from India and then lastly local wool.

Dyeing

While many yarns are bought coloured, there is some natural dyeing being done. At Leki textiles we attended a half day dyeing workshop. We were told that in old silk textiles the following colours were used: white (natural silk), blue (indigo), red (stick lac), yellow (turmeric with buck wheat) and green (turmeric and buck wheat over indigo). This is the oldest textile in their collection. It is over 100 years old and came from the oldest sister of the first king.

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At the dye workshop we worked with 2 colours: red from stick lac, jatsho and yellow from turmeric. The following is what I observed and recorded. I have not confirmed details with any publications. I thought it was more important to write what was actually seen.

The yarn was pre-mordanted by boiling with symplocos paniculata known as Asiatic sweet leaf. We were told that alternative “sour fruit” may be used. There was some discussion whether this meant quince. The yarn was set to one side while the lac was prepared.

Using stick lac.

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The lac was put in an aluminium buck and warm water added. It was worked vigorously.

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The water temperature was gradually increased to hot. It was repeated as many times as possible till there was no remaining colour in the lac. As the lac got hotter it clumped together, ending up as a solid brown mass that could be formed into flat hard cakes. This residue was used for sealing wax. The dyer must work more quickly, the hotter the water became.

The liquid was strained and then boiled. Before being put in the lac, the pre-mordanted yarn was rinsed.

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Some “sour fruit” (quince?) was added to the boiling lac.

Using turmeric

Put the turmeric in the water and boil.

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This is buck wheat (sour variety) that is milled into flour and then blended with a small amount of water.

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Once the turmeric is boiling, the buck wheat slurry is added and brought to the boil.

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The fabrics and yarn are added and boiled.

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In all cases, the fabric is allowed to cool down before rinsing. I undertand that best results are obtained when the dyed material is left a while and allowed to dry before being rinsed e.g. for a week.

Winding a warp

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This is the most basic of procedure that we saw and is for winding a basic plain weave fabric and was demonstrated at Leki Textiles. Required: two end posts and two vertical posts in the middle. The warp length is determined by the distance around the two outside posts. Noe that they are firmly weighted by heavy rocks to prevent movement. The two posts in the middle create the two sheds.

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The larger central post is used to create heddles. One thread (blue) goes through a heddle formed by the white thread. The other smaller post has the green thread looped in a half hitch. It is quite a skill winding a warp ergonomically.

Please ignore the sound on the following movie. It has nothing to do with what you are seeing.

This movie shows a friend, Bettes managing both warp threads.

 

The more complex the type of fabric, the more involved is the winding of the warp. We saw two different methods for winding a warp that included a supplementary warp.

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Both methods required an extra two sticks. They will be used for both sheds for the supplementary warp.

 

Method 1. This method was the one that we felt was the most difficult. The warp was wound back and forth. The basic principle for the ground is the same. The two yellow threads are the ground and are used alternatively for the heddle and other ‘shaft’ stick, as before. The red thread is the supplementary thread and passes alternatively around the extra sticks. It is quite lovely listening to the mother and daughter talk while she winds the warp. This method achieves 2 ground warp to 1 pattern warp in this case.

This was the cloth that she wound the warp for. She used it to check her warping sequence.

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Method 2. The warp was wound in a continuous circle. This is the start of the plain weave outside stripe. The supplementary thread has yet to be started.

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The winding of the warp has been finished. It was too dark the previous night to record the addition of the supplementary thread. The supplementary thread as per the previous video has been wound around the two extra posts. The difference is that there has been no change in direction. This method seemed more logical for me.

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I have used my sample that this warp was prepared for to confirm that 2 ground threads and 1 thicker supplementary thread is wound at the same time.

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The warp is wound up, starting at one end.

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It is now taken to where weaving will happen.

Looms

There are two styles of looms in Bhutan: the triangular back strap and the horizontal loom.

The back strap loom

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At Leki Textiles here are many versions of the same frame for the back strap loom. The basic framework is a vertical frame which has two sides. The two sides must be sturdy as force will be exerted against it when tension is applied. The two sides has a series of holes that match. Here some looms have a braced frame (blue warp) while another utilises the framework of the building (white warp). The one in the front was 2 metres high with the holes about 15cm apart. The choice of holes and height of the frame will determine the length of warp that can be woven. We saw variations on this in other establishments.

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The warp is tensioned by body tension. One end of the warp is around two pipes attached to the frame (top and bottom). This allows for separation of the circle that is the warp. The third corner of the triangle is the ‘front beam’ which the warp goes around. This is attached to the body by the ‘back strap’. Tension is applied when the weaver braces her body against the loom and released when she relaxes. This ability to tighten and then relax is necessary to achieve good open sheds to put the shuttle through.

The following sequence shows how the warp is anchored in the front ‘beam’ to stop it slipping.

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Note there are two halves to the front beam.

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At this point the warp is not anchored between them.

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Once the warp is organised to her satisfaction and weaving is ready to begin, the warp is sandwiched between the two halves.

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The warp is wound around the joined beam

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And tied together. The other end of the rope is attached to the strap that goes behind the weavers back.

The width of the back strap loom is limited by the comfortable width for the weaver to work with.

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In this tent there is a loom. The height of this tent does not allow for a tall back strap loom of the type we have seen. An alternative way has to be improvised to weave a long length.

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Here is one end of the loom. At the far left the warp is tied to the framework of the tent. The height of the loom is achieved by 2 forked sticks which are the same height.

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At this end is the weaver. She braces her feet against a board attached to the forked sticks.

The horizontal loom

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The horizontal loom was introduced from Tibet sometime around 1920. Apparently the story is well known. A young man Sonam Dondhrup went to Tongsa Dzong, the home of the royal family at that time to seek his fortune in the king’s service. He became a skilled back strap weaver. Ashi Wangmo, the young daughter of the first king who was a nun noticed his skill and asked him to stay with her as an attendant. She had over 100 female weavers but no male ones. She knew that there was a different loom in Tibet and asked him to go and learn about them. He spent 9 months there but no one would teach him. Then Ashi Wangmo sent two sets of gift cloth to give the Tibetans and after that they taught him. He came back and made a horizontal frame loom, and taught her how to weave on it. (excerpts from “the Land of the Thunder Dragon” see reference list on previous post. It was introduced into central Bhutan by the 1930s. The loom I measured was 94 cm wide, 104 cm long and 110 cm high including the castle (top part at the centre of the loom). There are 4 foot treadles which are often not anchored to the frame of the loom. These are tied directly to the 4 shafts.

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The shafts operate in a counterbalance method with shafts 1 and 2 being linked and 3 and 4. Note the rollers at the top of the loom that allow movement of connected shafts. There are two sets: one for shafts 1 and 2, the other for shafts 3 and 4. (I’m allocating shaft numbers by counting from the front.) When shaft 1 is pulled down, shaft 2 will go up and vice versa. At the same time when shaft 3 goes down, 4 will go up and again vice versa. It is important to note that the first two shafts ae not linked in any manner to the second two. This has repercussions for achieving weave structure. If the warp was threaded from shafts 1 though to 4, then plain weave could be achieved by depressing with two feet treadle 1 and 3 for one row and then treadle 2 and 4. This makes weaving the “everyday cloth” of the previous post very easy.

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The other point of interest is the breaking system. Notice the use of 2 metal spikes with a bent end. Holes in the front and back beam and nails or in this case pegs on the inside of the top of the loom is used in combination with the spike. The right combination will achieve a desirable weaving tension.

Weaving equipment

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The weaving sword is a solid piece of wood that has both a narrow and a wider edge. It is used to open a gap (weaving shed) through which the shuttle passes and beat the weft into place. Because of the tightness of the weave it needs to have reasonable weight to help pack in the weft thread.

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The shuttle is just a log stick that has the weft thread wound around it. Here the shuttle with green thread can be seen inside the weaving shed.

In this weavers hand is a slim pointed stick used to pick up the design. It may be brass or made from bamboo. In following movies it will be seen to be used.

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A temple is used to keep the weaving width constant on a back strap loom. Unlike a western loom, there is no reed to keep the warp threads spaced. If a temple is not used, the weaving width will gradually decrease. Look for it under the cloth being woven near the edge of weaving. The temples used are bamboo cut to size with two points either end. These points leave quite large holes along the selvedge.

Weaving Processes

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Many Bhutanese textiles have this chain effect on the ends. It may be one or two colours. It may be a single row or several. It may be done on a back strap or horizontal loom. In this case it is done on an open shed. This means it will only be seen on this side of the fabric. It is easiest to work with 2 loops as that will ensure one loop passes through the other.

Weaving with a back strap loom.

All Bhutanese fabrics whether for plain weave, kushü, supplementary warp or supplementary wefts require the ability to weave plain weave.

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This image shows the two elements to achieve both lifts for plain weave. When the yellow heddles are relaxed, the warp threads that pass over the bamboo are raised, especially when tension is applied. When a weaving sword is inserted and turned on its side, a gap is achieved to allow the shuttle to pass through.

When the yellow threads are pulled up and to do this the warp tension is relaxed, the weaving sword can be inserted, turned on its side to allow the alternative shed for the shuttle to pass through.

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The weaving sword on its side. It is in this gap that the shuttle will pass.

Kushü being woven

 

This movie shows a simple form of Kushü being woven. In this case after every row of supplementary weft, a plain weave row must be woven. There are several important things to note. The first is that the insertion of the supplementary weft is always done on an open shed. This means that the fabric is one sided with only the tails of the reads being seen on the reverse side as they are poked through to the back when finished being used.

An examination of a kushü fabric will show that there are several styles of stitching.

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There are two classes of kushü stitches. Sapma includes the filling stitches: A and B in the above image. Thrima includes the wrapping or coiling stitches: C (diagonal), D (vertical), E (horizontal).

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In both A and B above, both have an outline and then the centre filled. The filling for A is achieved by picking up the motif and inlaying the thread, while B has a solid centre. Note on B that there appears to be crossed threads.

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This sample shows how to construct both the diagonal and how to create stitch B. This sample was woven on a loom that Wendy (our tour expert) had provided. While the yarn wasn’t great it allowed an understanding of process.

This scale of thread also allows for the management of the warp threads to be seen. When weaving kushü 4 sticks are required to set up the loom. Two are for normal plain weave. Two extra sticks are used to raise all threads that will be used to work the kushü. A 6 warp sequence id required- 3 on one shed and 3 on the other. The threads for the kushü is picked up so that 2 threads are on the extra rod and then one dropped, for each extra rod. If you look closely at the above image you should be able to see this. The gap provides a space for the supplementary weft threads to turn and sit nicely (especially if there are 2 in the one turning point) and is a very useful tool for choosing placement of motif.

The sampa or filling stitches as well as the diagonal thrima are completed every row.

The following movie shows how to complete a horizontal row.

 

Here’s how to get ready to move to the vertical position

 

The vertical stitch is worked every 2 rows in the following manner.

 

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These are two samplers. One with the basic stitches and half a pattern that I worked on Wendy’s loom and the sample that we worked on at Leki Textiles. I can’t claim credit for the whole lot, only the very top end: that was half a day’s work. The rest was done by a weaver at Leki’s. We were fortunate that they did some patterns as this will give us reference for how the stitches are used. The most important thing to remember is to be aware of what will be the next pattern row and to get your threads into position.

Supplementary warp being woven.

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There are 4 sticks required for the supplementary: 2 for the ground or base fabric and 2 for the supplementary stripes. The weaver picks up alternate supplementary warp threads, constructs heddles for them and places them onto the extra rod. The process is repeated for the alternate supplementary warps. In this image from the bottom is the heddle rod for plain weave, then one of the pattern rods and then the alternate one. The rod she has in her hand is the one that will hold the pattern heddles. She will repeat it for the other pattern rod.

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The process complete.

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To weave, the pattern row is lifted and included with 2 ground weave passes. This as it is shown will achieve a horizontal row of supplementary warp. If a more complex pattern is required, the pattern is picked up from this rod.

Weaving supplementary warp and kushü together

The general sequence is:

  1. Pick up supplementary pattern rod and select motif with the pick-up stick. In this case as the pattern is picked up, it is stored for temporary use on an extra rod. You will also notice that in the initial stripe, she corrects a mistake. An extra ground thread had been picked up.
  2. Then change the ground shaft and weave.
  3. Select the shaft that has the rod for the kushü.
  4. Pick up the motif.
  5. Bring back down the supplementary stored design. The stored pattern is used twice.
  6. Change the ground weave and beat.

The following 2 movies show the sequence. My apologies for the background chatter. Most of it does not apply to this loom.

 

Weaving Yathra on the horizontal loom

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This example shows the characteristics of yathra. It is a supplementary pattern on a twill ground. To weave a 4 end twill which is what this is, requires a 4 shaft loom.

But the inherent qualities of the Tibetan horizontal loom having 2 separate rollers means that it cannot be threaded as we would on a western loom. A reminder: on a horizontal loom when shaft 1 goes up 2 goes down. Both cannot be up or down at the same time. The same applies to shafts 3 and 4. So for us in the West a normal till progression may be shafts 1 and 2 followed by 2 and3 and so on. This obviously will not work. So the Bhutanese have come up with an alternative threading system: shaft 1, 3, 2, 4 or it could equally be 1, 4, 2, 3. The important point is that the back and front alternate. That means a twill progression can now be achieved by shafts 1 and 4; 2 and 4; 2 and 3; 1 and 3. For those that are weavers the following draft will explain the theory.

yathra draft 2

The supplementary weft needs to be added in.

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The supplementary thread is added in the same shaft as the ground. This is a two faced fabric. In other words pattern can be seen on both sides hence it is inserted in the same shaft.

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The same style of wrapping and twining as for the kushü may be used.

The background row of weaving follows the pick-up row. The pattern row may be every row and this will achieve a diagonal line or it may be every 4th row for a vertical line. A single shaft will be used for a horizontal row. (see above blue textile). The pattern rows alternate in the following example.

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There is one remaining mystery: what causes the “breaks” in the vertical that you may have noticed in this and the above textiles. It appears that the diagonal line of the twill is interrupted.

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This effect can be seen very clearly in this fabric on the loom. From a weave structure aspect, it has no answer. But look to the reed for the answer. Four warp threads ie shafts 1,4,2,3 are all placed in the same dent. The spacers are very solid bamboo. These spacers are what is causing this pattern effect. By the way the new yathra textiles are sold unwashed. These gaps may close up with wet finishing. But in Bhutan, how often does that happen?

The trip is over, analysed and recorded. The memories are fresh. It was an amazing trip. I have collected new textiles for my collection and for sharing with others.

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My current textile wall. They are all there (nearly). There are 2 from Laos and 7 from Bhutan in all different techniques. I do like the fact that two of those are ‘foreigners’.

It is however what follows now that I am looking forward to. I did bring home a full back strap loom that I had set up in in Khoma with a supplementary warp as well as other loom bits. I will look forward to playing.

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