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

February 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my graphed design.

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

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The design is selected according to the graph.

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

All the heddles from the vertical storage are brought forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.