February 2017 Part 1.

March 2, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weaving in Ponsovan.

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

 

Mulberries. www.mulberries.org

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

This is what I saw.

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

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

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Silk being reeled from cocoons.

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This equipment allows for many skeins to be prepared.

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

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A close up look at what is being woven.

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The gallery at Mulberries (Ponsovan)

Next: Luang Prabang.


August 2016

August 31, 2016

This month celebrates all things weaving and the fellowship/friendship of weavers. It was the month for Convergence and travel to the USA and Canada.

I arrived at 1.00 in the small hours of Monday morning after a delayed stopover in Dallas. My friend Judith greets me and of course we have to celebrate.

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It was also time to do our biennial scarf exchange. This challenge started by dying a warp using a starting point of mid-blue. This warp was then separated into 2 lengths with one length being swapped. The warps were then combined. We could weave it however we wanted. I think this challenge was in some ways the most challenging yet as the two warps that were to be combined ended up being very different. Here’s what we ended up with.

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 Now we both have an additional 2 scarves to add to our Judith and Kay collection. Their first outing: the fashion parade at Convergence. And as always they’ll be worn together.

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I would have to give an award to the most dedicated class of weavers to this group. There was a fire evacuation in the convention centre. No problem: we’ll just do a bit of theory while we wait.

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I celebrate the class results of Ties: decorative, functional and unconventional.

And I celebrate the results of the East Meets West Class.

 And the Sotis class.

But Convergence also means getting to see exhibits: The fashion parade with the winner’s circle and details of cloth.

The yardage exhibit.

Convergence is also about shopping. All the loom makers were there and an interesting mix of other traders.

Y shopping Outside the convention centre, I came across this unexpected delight.

And then Convergence was over for another two years. I wonder where it will be next time.

Then on to more adventures and I was very fortunate as I got to go and visit Kati and of course get to see her studio. As we drive in their driveway this is what I am welcomed with.

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And from there onto Canada. This time I get to stay with Jette.

I also get to teach. And here we celebrate weaving East Meets West with the Huronia Guild: weekend 1

 And also celebrate the weaving of the weekend 2 group.

What does one do when two weavers get together? Well obviously have a grand time but sometimes it’s also a chance to play.

To all the weavers (and others) I spent time with and the friends I caught up with, it was a grand trip. Thank you!

 


April 2016

May 1, 2016

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This scarves came off the loom at the start of the month. It’s one of a pair.  Woven in 20/2 silk they combine some weaving structures that are used in South East Asia but with are woven on a 24 shaft loom as opposed to a back strap loom.

Contextart is an annual 6 day textile event run in the Blue Mts of NSW at Easter. Firstly however, on the drive down to Contextart, I stopped off in Tamworth and was lucky to see the retrospective of Vivian Chan Shaw’s work.

At this year’s Contextart, my class focused on Ties: Functional, Decorative and Unconventional. The students did extensive sampling exploring many design approaches. They were a very diverse group of 10 which certainly added to the experience for all. Here’s a snapshot of what they did.

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They calculated, wove and analysed.

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Here’s some of the work on the loom

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And finally, the class collection. What a lot of weaving was done in 6 days… and what a lot of theory. I am delighted at what was achieved. Well done everyone!

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For next year’s event visit http://www.contextart.com.au

Kaz Madigan joined me for a very exclusive class. She spent 5 days in the studio exploring warp faced weave structures inspired by South East Asia. As well as covering a lot of ground, it was a very enjoyable week.

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There are two other highlights this month.

Firstly, Trood Newman’s 16 shaft Noble loom is finally working. I acquired the loom while at Sturt in the expectation that my students would be able to have the experience of weaving on a computer assist loom. Till that point it had left Trood’s place in a horse float, stayed with Pat for a while and then to Sturt. It was dead and I contemplated and tried various solutions. Eventually it came home. I still hadn’t given up. 18 months later, then a visit to Ian, a wizard with a soldering iron and hey presto the electronics worked. He’d resoldered all the connections. I then came home put the loom together, connected it all up and “Trood’s Loom” is functioning beautifully.

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Who would believe a little bit of plain weave could bring such joy!

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With the plaque added. It was done 18 months ago when I started attaching plaques to all the looms in the studio. I had faith!

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Paw Nay Thah came to the studio. The visit was arranged by Meredith, the youth Settlement Co-ordinator with MDA Qld. Paw Nay and her family have been granted asylum from a refugee camp on the border of Burma and Thailand. She is from the Karen, an ethnic minority group from Burma (Myanmar). Meredith had asked “What would make you happy?” Her reply: to weave traditional fabric.  Meredith had no experience of weaving so she came here to see what was involved and if it could happen. Paw Nay arrived with the biggest grin. I got shown some traditional cloths and we discussed back strap looms and what is required to make them. It’s very fortuitous that I brought one back from Bhutan. It’s much easier to explain if there’s one to look at. The result: Meredith knows what is needed and Paw Ney will weave. It was such a fun and heart-warming experience.

Meredith and Paw Nay examine some of the textile’s in Meredith’s collection. She had been given them by some of the Karen ladies. Paw Nay can weave these.

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Here’s a close up look.

An unmarried woman’s blouse. Note the fringing and the supplementary weft and twill weave structure. The fringing may be added in. In this case it has been added above the hem.

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The reverse side. This was interesting because the yarn is carried from one motif to the next.

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More detail

Another unmarried woman’s shirt and detail.

A married woman’s shirt and detail. It is much plainer. The reverse side doesn’t show as much pattern. This had a double row of fringe: one a the end of the warp, the other a couple of cm above and inserted in the weft.

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Thank you Meredith for coming, bringing Paw Nay and a wonderful experience. Long may she weave!

 

 

 

 

 


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.

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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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March 2016 Part 2

April 3, 2016

This blog is about an extraordinary textile tour to Bhutan. Organised through Bhutan & Beyond www.bhutan.com.au, we had Wendy Garrity as our textile expert www.textiletrails.com.au. Wendy had lived for 2 ½ years in Bhutan and has become expert in the technique of kushü. We had the services of a wonderful support staff in Bhutan with extra special accolades going to our guide, Tshering Gyeltshen (email tgyeltshen@hotmail.com) I can highly recommend him if anyone is going to Bhutan. He certainly facilitated a great trip and as an added bonus understood weaving. His wife and mother wove. He was also very obliging especially when it came to shopping and our need to find out price.

My blog as usual is about textiles but before I begin, I’ll share just a snapshot of some scenery and some details to provide background colour.

Bhutan is a land of stunning scenery; of deep valleys and perhaps snow-capped mountains;

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of challenging roads that zigzag up and down mountains

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and of roads being made. Currently a ‘road widening program is being undertaken on the main road from one end of the country to the other. Challenging could be applied to travel. It may take 8 hours to drive 200km.

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It’s a country of where the king is revered. His image/s appears on public buildings, in restaurants and shops, on the entrance to towns, on mountain passes.

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It is a Buddhist country where religion is important. Monks are a part of everyday society. Here at the largest Buddhist Statue of Guru Rinpoche also known as Padmasambhava standing at 49m, there was a week of religious study being undertaken by both monks and the lay in a huge covered area. There must have been hundreds of people  listening.  I have included this image also because of the sign and the awareness of rubbish disposal. For this event at this statue the potential for generating a lot of rubbish is huge. In villages monks are a part of community.

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The church and the state are equal in respect and daily life. The Panakha Dzong is recognised as the most beautiful Dzong in the country and has an alternative name which translates to “Palace of Great Happiness”. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is also the winter residence of the central monk body.

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It was spring and trees were starting to flower. Jowo Temple of Kyichu.

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And a whole hillside of ‘magnolias’ and indigo. These looked like the familiar bauhinia trees of Queensland grown often as street trees so they are tough. When researched the bauhinia originates from India, so they are probably native to here too. Our guide said that this was also referred to as magnolias. They have true magnolias here too.

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Some fields were unplanted though in the south where it was warmer, crops were growing. Here barley was being grown.

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It’s a place of distinctive architecture with laws ensuring the maintenance of the Bhutanese style. This is one of the hotels we stayed in. Painted decoration on buildings abound.

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Rocks on the roof were a common occurrence to keep it anchored.

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Prayer flags of many types abound; whether these small rectangular ones, or long white funeral prayer flags or shorter rectangular coloured ones. Wendy supervised the adding to the collection at the top of a pass ably assisted by members of our group.

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And this is the sound that I’ll always associate with Bhutan: the sound of temple and water wheels.

But it is the textiles that we went to explore. They are a part of everyday life. Anyone in public office is required to wear the kira (female outfit) and the gho (man’s tunic). (I have seen gho spelt go but have taken the spelling from a publication by the Royal Textile Academy). It’s a must for religious ceremony and for festivals. It is worn when communities get together. The people are extremely proud of their national dress. In the country we saw more traditional dress than not. Western dress is often worn in the home and more commonly by the younger generation in informal life. Both provide a feast for the eyes. The following are some examples.

Students at school wear the kira and gho.

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The gho is worn at an informal archery competition between villages.

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At the Paro Festival everyone was dressed in their finest- the audience

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and the performers

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Stephanie, one of our group also dressed the part. This was greatly appreciated by the Bhutanese. As they walked passed, if the scarf wasn’t exactly right, they’d stop her and adjust it. They took delight in being photographed with her.

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Watch the movie and appreciate the passing pageantry. This was a formal section of the festival where a huge banner that had been hung at midnight was then refurled at around dawn before being taken back with ceremony for storage. It was considered to be good luck to help carry it. Our guide is very excited as he got to help in the carrying up the hill.

 

I must brag: This was the second major event that we were lucky enough to be present for. Our timing was perfect for both. Just a few minutes earlier when we were walking up the hill to attend the dance performance and met this ritual on the way down, we had also met the king also on his way down. We were greatly honoured that he spoke to us and in fact spoke to everyone in the main who lined the path. I can say that he was extremely gracious and dignified and was dressed in a gho of the most glorious brilliant citric yellow with a touch of turquoise. He was spectacular! No photography was allowed unfortunately, but there were many official photographers in attendance.

The following sequence is of our driver being dressed in the gho with explanations by Tshering.

The gho is put on. As you can see it’s rather large and long. The right hand side is wrapped tight across the front under the left hand side.

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The left is then wrapped tight around the body.

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The hems are checked to be level and sitting right.

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The surplus fabric at the back s folded into a pleat. In sewing terms this would be a box pleat. The height of the tunic is adjusted.

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The belt is wrapped around keeping everything in place.

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Lastly the white cuffs are added. These are attached by a safety pin and can be changed when they get dirty. They also protect the sleeves of the garment.

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“When visiting a temple or government office, or when paying a call on a social superior it is necessary to wear a ceremonial shawl” Royal Textile Academy catalogue, Thangzo, pp24. The man’s shawl or kabney is a wide plain weave length of cotton or natural silk. Colour denotes status. The general male population wear this cream one. There is a very precise way to put these on. DSC02897

The following is of one of our group being dressed in the kira, a dress made from a long wide rectangular cloth.

The fabric is wrapped around the body with a corner positioned slightly forward on the left shoulder. The corner is then secured to the fabric at the front with a broach.

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She then brings the other end around the body securing the corner on the right shoulder with a matching  broach. The excess folded fabric is straightened, the garment is pulled up to the correct length, and then adjusted so that its stripes or pattern are nicely aligned where the layers of fabric meet at her right hip.

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The belt is wrapped around keeping everything in place.

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Lastly a jacket adds to the ensemble. A shoulder scarf (rachu) would also be required for formal occasions. This can be seen in other images.

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Now for a closer look at the weaving. Firstly some interesting background. We met with Patrizia Franceschinis (back right dressed in Kira and green jacket) who is the Italian wife of one of the ministers in the former government and spent an afternoon with her.

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She provided all manner of interesting background information on life in Bhutan. She also collects significant textiles and employs a weaver (front). According to her, weaving is done in areas with no agriculture. Bhutanese textiles possibly predates C8th and one of the main purposes for textiles was for trade. She explained that significant textiles might be traded across and down generations and were given as significant gifts.

Later, we saw evidence of a husband looking after the children while the mother wove. She was in this case the major source of income. The Bhutanese recognise the value of textiles. Textiles are considered to be one of the highest forms of art and spiritual expression. Bhutanese recognise the financial value of textiles and explains why Bhutanese textiles are regarded as ‘expensive’ by western shoppers.

I will give an overview of the textiles that we saw: techniques and where we saw them.

Kushü

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Kushü is a discontinuous weft technique that involves wrapping or twining woven on a warp faced fabric (backstrap loom). We saw these in the private collection of Patrizia Franceschinis in Thimphu. In Thimpu, we also saw them being woven at the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre where Wendy had learnt to weave. Note the thread tails left hanging.

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Kushü was being made further east in Khoma and had the opportunity to buy from local villages. According to my research, this northern central area is known for kushü. It was also being woven at Leki (Choekhor Valley) and in the Chencho Handicrafts, Paro. The most celebrated of the kushü weavings is used for the woman’s dress or kushüthara( means brocaded dress). There were many examples at Paro’s Festival. Kushü appeared to be the most prevalent technique for formal women’s textiles.

Aikapur or supplementary warp patterned fabrics.

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Aikapur features alternating bands of plain weave and supplementary warp on plain weave). The fabric is warp faced (backstrap loom. This technique is often used for the gho and we saw this style of fabric being used across Bhutan.

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Our driver proudly models his gho. This was a special one that he put on for the Paro Festival. On other days he wore a checked gho. The width of the pattern band and by association the ‘legs’ of the pattern denotes status. ‘Legs’ can be loosely interpreted as pattern blocks. Patterns with 9 or more ‘legs’ are highly regarded as they are more complex in design.

Discontinuous Supplementary Weft

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According to Myers and Bean “From the Land of the Thunder Dragon” these have only appeared since the 1940’s. Blocks of motifs have appeared between the stripes on the warp faced striped fabrics and can only be seen on one side (backstrap loom). In eastern Bhutan, they may be referred to as ‘designs in blank spaces’ or tongpang rigpa and in the west as ‘having little boxes’ or dromchu chema.

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We saw it used predominantly with the supplementary warp stripes. It may be used on its own for kera, the traditional women’s belt. We saw it being woven in the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre and at Pat Patrizia Franceschinis in Thimphu, and examples at Leki Textiles.

Yathra textiles

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Yathra (hanging on the wall at the left in Leki Textiles gallery) are woven from wool, have weft stripes and discontinuous weft patterning on a twill ground. They were mainly seen in the Bumthang district of central Bhutan. It was woven on either the back strap or more commonly the frame loom from Tibet.

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These were without weft stripes. We saw them being woven at the Thokmed Yeshey Handicraft & Yathra Centre at Chumey, Bumthang, at a roadside stall at a pass between Mongar and Checkor Valley and at the Chencho Handicrafts, Paro.

‘Everyday Textiles’

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‘Everyday textiles’ was the description given to plain weave checks and stripes in a balanced weave structure (warp and weft can be seen) found in the Chencho Handicrafts, Paro. At this craft centre, these were woven on 4 shaft frame loom. Here 3 very narrow widths went to make up the useable width.This image shows a mix of dress including a checked gho and skirt. In previous images our guide and driver also wore these plain weave textiles. I must admit I didn’t take too much notice of these ‘everyday textiles’ when there was so many other different textiles to notice.

Handspun handwoven yak hair

Along the road in the Bumthang region we came across a yak lady herder who had these hand woven, hand spun purses for sale (as well as very hard yak cheese).

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Checks with supplementary weft

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While we didn’t see this being woven, it is a very striking effect. This was found at Leki’s and I presume is woven on a frame loom. I also saw it in Paro. I presume the technique is from central Bhutan

Leno

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This is a modern technique from Leki. According to Rinsin (our contact at Leki) this technique was introduced about 11 years ago by an NGO. It probably came from the south. It’s a hand worked leno done on a backstrap loom.

Warp Patterning

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I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is not a technique that I’d researched from here. I found it at the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre in Thimphu. It’s similar to a technique from Timor and Nth Vietnam and even the pebble weave of South America. It is not supplementary but rather manipulation of warp threads in an alternating colour sequence. According to the weavers it was also introduced by an NGO in the south, possibly Samdrup Jongkhar which borders India and has made its way north. To all appearances it fits neatly into the overall effect of Bhutanese textiles but its introduction hasn’t been a success.

Embroidery

Between Trongsa and Panukha at a roadside restaurant and handicrafts shop, we saw these two girls doing embroidery under the supervision of a Master Embroiderer. This work was for a wall hanging.DSC02848 (600 x 400)

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Card woven belts

An example can be seen in the belt in the demonstration of how to put on a kira above. They are woven on the same back strap loom used for other weaving. One end of this belt has several different patterns, the middle has no pattern and the other end has one pattern repeated.

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Pile Rugs

I saw small rugs being woven in Chencho Handicrafts, Paro. These were being woven on a vertical frame loom in the pattern style of the yathra. The woman who was weaving them said that they came from her mothers home town. I think that I also remember seeing them for sale in the Thokmed Yeshey Handicraft & Yathra Centre at Chumey. Unfortunately I didn’t record an image. Therefore I presume they may be being woven in central Bhutan.

Places of interest

So far I have mentioned a number of places where we experienced weaving. The following is a list.

National Textile Academy, Thimphu: exhibitions, retail outlet and school. Arrange for a guided tour. B

Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre, Thimphu: weaving studio and retail outlet. B

Leki Textiles, Bumthang: weaving studio, workshops (weaving and dyeing), retail outlet.C

Thokmed Yeshey Handicraft & Yathra Centre at Chumey, Bumthang: retail outlet with weaving centre. C

Chencho Handicrafts, Paro: studio, retail outlet. A

The village of Khoma. It’s a recognised “textile village” specialises in Kushü. Also gateway to other weaving villages/ groups. D

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This map shows our journey from west to east and back again as well as identifying where the above places of interest were. It is also worthwhile to note that village handicraft shops and roadside stalls also had weaving.

References

“From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan” edited by Diana K Myers and Susan S Bean. Serindia Publications, London. 1994, ISBN 0 906026 33 4

“Grace of the Kira: Bhutan’s Textile Heritage” David K Barker, 2013 To order www.Xlibris.com

“Thagzo: The Textile Weaves of Bhutan” published by Royal Textile Academy, 2013, ISBN 978-99936-912-0-4 (catalogue)

CD “ An Introduction to Textiles of Bhutan” The Textile Museum, Thimphu, Bhutan.

 

The next blog will cover the actual textile production.


March 2016

March 30, 2016

A textile tour to   Laos and Bhutan Part 1.

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

Laos: Vientiane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The supplementary warp is chained and taken to the loom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The warp is weighted to ensure it stays down.

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

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

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

Deb has mastered ‘Pineapple” leno.

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

The following are a couple of interesting tips.

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

The following are a couple of interesting places to visit.

Lao Textile Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangkok

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

 

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

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

 


February 2016

March 1, 2016

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I am currently working on a series of sotis inspired pieces. This is just one of the techniques that will be covered in the workshop here in the studio (East Meets West 25-29 April) and at Convergence.

At the start of the month, The Gold Coast Weavers hosted another weaving camp at Bornhoffen. It’s a great destination but this time it would have had to have been the hottest days of the entire Summer. In spite of the heat, everyone did great work.

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In the late afternoon, it was delightful to relax out on the deck and watch the sun go down.

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The workshop explored twill and the potential of the twill threading. Here’s a selection of completed work. No one wanted to cut off as they all were going to go home and finish the warps for tea towels. It is interesting to see the colour choices: from the subtle and classic though to the more contrasting. Everyone was fascinated how the different design approaches affected the treading sequences. While all did great work, I’ve limited the images to 6, purely from a colourway perspective.

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At the end of the Linen and Lace workshop from January, I was left with 2 warps to be finished. On the Huck Lace one I managed to weave a tea towel and then a length for a different project. The second was woven in plain weave to be used in conjunction with the other. The first warp came off and I washed it. The yellow ran and no matter what I tried, I have not managed to get rid of it all. The fabric length is now a very pale yellow. Here you can see, the yellow tea towel (the culprit), the dyed fabric and a natural finished item used here for comparison.

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So what about the other plain weave piece? Well, using the same source of dye ( a hank of yarn), I washed it and yes managed to get the same colour with a couple of tries. I also had to go through the same trying to remove process as the first. I wonder if they will wear out at the same rate? Eventually the project will be completed. Here are the two together (with something out of focus behind). I don’t think I could get much closer.

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I have been having an interesting read. This book was written in 1947 from a 1920’s reprint. It’s interesting from a historical perspective. Here’s a couple of quotes:

From the Editors Preface (W. R. Lethaby)

It is desirable in every way that men of good education should be brought back into the productive crafts: there are more than enough of us “in the City,” and it is probable that more consideration will be given in this century than in the last to Design and Workmanship. 

From Author’s preface. This will give you a guide of what is in the book.

The object of the present volume is to inform the student of hand loom weaving of the best methods of preparing warps, fitting up looms and making or acquiring the various appliances necessary for the work, as well as inventing, planning and weaving plain and ornamental webs.

 And from the concluding note by Luther Hooper

This ending, although somewhat abrupt is not unintentional, for it was just at that time that weaving, to a great extent, ceased to be an artistic craft. It was then that the loom ceased to be a tool, more or less complicated, which the weaver himself could keep in order and cunningly adjust, alter, and adapt to any particular work he might have in hand.

On the jacquard loom:… resulted in the multiplication of patterns; patterns for the most part inferior to the traditional ones already in use. The Jacquard machine is also responsible, to a great extent, for the separation of the art of designing from the craft of weaving.

Referring to power looms and the Jacquard. There can be no question that the best weaving was done before these innovations…. It would therefore seem, that the right road to improvement in weaving, as in all crafts, can only be found by those who are willing to return to the traditional methods and simpler ideals of the earlier masters of craftsmanship.

From here in 2016, I wonder what they would make of the direction of weaving now and of their comments in retrospect. This certainly gives a bit of food for thought and even a touch of wry amusement. To finish though these images were real gems. I have woven velvet in the past so this image of the velvet loom and cloth storage is a real find.

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