February 2017 Part 1.

March 2, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weaving in Ponsovan.

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

 

Mulberries. www.mulberries.org

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

This is what I saw.

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

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

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Silk being reeled from cocoons.

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This equipment allows for many skeins to be prepared.

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

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A close up look at what is being woven.

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The gallery at Mulberries (Ponsovan)

Next: Luang Prabang.


March 2016

March 30, 2016

A textile tour to   Laos and Bhutan Part 1.

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

Laos: Vientiane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The supplementary warp is chained and taken to the loom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The warp is weighted to ensure it stays down.

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

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

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

Deb has mastered ‘Pineapple” leno.

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

The following are a couple of interesting tips.

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

The following are a couple of interesting places to visit.

Lao Textile Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bangkok

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

 

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

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

 


October 2015

November 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Now for the continuing Laos loom experiment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another pattern area is woven.

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The weaving is completed.

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

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

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

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

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

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Finally I have completed the project. Some detail:

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

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

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

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

Drawloom pattern

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

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

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How did they compare?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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September 2015

October 2, 2015

As last month’s post extended into this months, there appears to be not as much happening as usual. Firstly I’ll report on a beginner weaver’s completed projects, a road trip that included teaching for the Canberra Weavers guild and of course the ongoing Laotian loom project.

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Last month Fleur finished her first warp. Here are the washed and finished series of handtowels.

The end of the second week this month saw me set off on a road trip. The first major stop was the Canberra Weavers where they did a 3 day workshop on East Meets West. It was only on the final day when everyone was packing up that I remembered the camera. It was a very busy workshop with many techniques being explored. The guild own their own building and the facilities are terrific. They obviously take great and well deserved pride in their home: from the gardens to the actual space. It was a great venue to work in.

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Here packing up has commenced as there are cleared tables while others just want to keep working.

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It’s certainly a sign of their dedication and interest to want to keep working right up till the last possible moment. The following shows some of the work that was accomplished. It’s unfortunate that some escaped before I remembered the camera.

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My hostess, Pam (who really did spoil me) took me to the Arboretum where I enjoyed this sculpture. I love the flow of the metal form and then how it transforms into script.

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On leaving Canberra, I headed north. An examination of a map shows that by heading straight up on a map, you’ll eventually run into Blackwater. I was headed there primarily to collect my Pattern exhibition that had been in storage there for some months. Along the way, I had a morning off and went hiking in the Warrumbungle National Park. The spring flowers were out and it was very beautiful. I also did a 6 km hike. It seems to me that 2 of those were straight up and of course 2km straight down, but the view was spectacular.

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Another couple of day’s drive saw me in Blackwater. Not far away is another wonderful destination: The Carnarvon Gorge. I’d been there before and have been inspired by the aboriginal rock art in my work. I took time to revisit these ancient sites.

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Total distance covered: 5,171km and home to a garden that in a matter of less than 3 weeks has embraced Spring.  Now to the delight of the rainbow lorikeets there is great abundance of bottlebrush flowers. This is just outside my kitchen window..

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There has not been much time tis month to work on the Laos Project. However when I left, I was very aware of the advantage of the original set up where the warp was tensioned by a knot at the front of the loom and the warp being free of the loom. If I hadn’t wound it onto a cloth beam, I could have removed the whole lot very easily from the loom and put it in storage for the time I was away, safe from the elements. As it was, I just walked away and left it on the patio and hoped that the weather would be kind.

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I have completed the pick up of the graphed design. (see previous month)

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There’s the full stored pattern.

Hopefully this month, I may be able to have a good block of time to start weaving the stored pattern.


August 2015

September 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They wove……

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

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

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They pulled up to dye…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Weave plain weave.

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

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

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

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

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June 2015

July 7, 2015

The primary focus this month has been getting ready for the opening of my weaving school. Occasionally I have taken time out to work some more on the Laos loom project.

Firstly the school.1The space comprises of two rooms. One was full to overcrowding with looms. I am not sharing that mess. This other space had been occupied by my friend Marilyn who looked after my place while I was away. It is now empty. I get to take from the other space and rearrange here.

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The first loom is up. It’s the one that I collected from Maureen not so long ago. Each loom has it’s own floor rug. It’s a great excuse to weave some rugs. As they are not huge, it’s a quick and interesting project..

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This room is now ready.

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And so is the other one. I am so pleased to now have space!

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I’ve had brass plates made to celebrate my ‘friends’ and their looms. Kati’s loom will always be Katie’s loom (the draw loom) as will all the rest. All I have to do is attach them.

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And friends have come and visited. Pat was one of my very early weaving friends. Marg and Mike used to own a ‘friend’ in my studio. In fact Mike made it; a 16 shaft computer assist countermarche beauty.

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And the Weavers Interest Group came from Qld Spinners Weavers and Fibre Artists.

I can hardly wait till my first week’s class.

I haven’t had a great deal of time to work on the Laos loom project. At the end of last month, I had knotted the new warp onto the dummy warp.

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Now to get it on the loom.

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Step 1: Sort out what goes where. Suspend the beater and shafts.

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Another view. I’ve used a set of pulleys on the plain weave shafts. When one shaft goes down, the other will go up. Note at this stage there has been no effort to get either the beater or plain weave or pattern shafts at the correct level.

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Step 2: pull the knotted warp through firstly the vertical storage pattern heddles and then the plain weave heddles.

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Now it is very easy to see how the heddles are made: two interlocking loops with the warp thread passing through the junction.

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Step 3: Pull the knotted warp through the reed/beater. Then tie the warp onto the front bar of the cloth storage beam.

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Step 4: Level the heddles and beater making sure the warp threads are centred. The warp needs to be under tension. I have it secured with the ikat clamp I used previously when knotting the two warps together.

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Step 5. Now to attach the treadles. These are the original treadles. They would be way too heavy for this project.

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I’ve attached two lengths of pine. They are not anchored at the front in the style of what I saw in Laos. They are attached to the bottom of the plain weave shafts. I’ve centred them on the shafts so that they will pull evenly down. This has resulted in the treadles being very close together. I may make both slightly off centre: one to the right, the other to the left to give some foot space. Notice the loom is on blocks. We’ve had rain and a bit of water came through here. I’ll take it off the blocks when I come to weave.

Step 6. Now for the biggest challenge: to provide tension to the warp. I was very pleased that I took videos of the knot that is used in several perspectives. I watched it over and over working out how it is done. Here’s a link so that you can see it.: youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3skR6eZB3J0

When it is time to advance the warp, the weaver undoes the knot, winds the warp on and then re-tensions with this knot.

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Here’s an image of it loosely formed.

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And of the real thing. And it works! The warp is under beautiful tension. Next month maybe I’ll get to weave. My aim is to do plain weave first and just get a feel for weaving on this loom. You’ll notice that the vertical storage system is set well back and will not play a part.

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All ready to weave.

 


May 2015

June 12, 2015

For this month the primary focus has been on getting two solo exhibitions up and running and a workshop with the Gold Coast Weavers. In between times I managed to work a bit more on the Laos information.

Firstly the commitments before I share the play.

Interlacement was on show at Gatakers, Maryborough. It was a last minute invited exhibition to fill in a space on their exhibition schedule and was a collection of handwovens in a variety of styles and techniques: more of an exposure to hand weaving for the community. Here are a couple of views of the gallery.

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The exhibition came down at the end of the month. I’ve heard that the community gave it great reviews. I have now been invited to show Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon there next February.

What a wonderful venue for the workshop. Bonhoffen run by PCYC is tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland and is situated in the valley between two national parks. The group explored ikat; both warp and weft. One of the very exciting aspects of this workshop was that this topic allowed for 4 new/returning weavers.

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Here are some images of the workshop. My apologies to those that attended that I need to be selective in the number of images that I’ve shown so you all can’t be included. This post otherwise will be extremely long.

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On the first afternoon they wound a warp and dyed it that evening. It managed to dry overnight thanks to a line strung in front of a wood fire.

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The next day they threaded the loom, started weaving and did the calculations for the weft ikat. Some did ikat for their sample while others tied small bundles to get a shift of pattern. The fire helped again.

Images of weaving as progress was made.

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At the end of May, I drove my Pattern: A Universal Phenomenon to Emerald Regional Gallery. Opening was 5th June. By the way, I had forgotten to take one set of cables with me: the ones for my lap top so of course this is now a late blog. Isn’t it amazing how many extras you have to remember to bring: cords for the phone, the camera, the e reader and of course the computer?

This Regional Gallery is a lovely space. The exhibition looks great and will be up till the 17th July. It is always interesting how the same exhibition sits in a different space.

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The opening: from the outside looking into the gallery.

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Preparations for my school continues. Maureen has decided that she can no longer weave. I collect another loom. Yarn fills in all the gaps and prevent any movement.

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Now to what is an interesting project. This has been an ongoing project whenever I can find the odd spare minute. I had decided that I’d like to set up a loom similar to what I’d seen in Laos. Why? Apart from because I was interested to see whether I could do it, it is only by actually doing a thing that you really understand all the intricacies of doing it, whether making or weaving.

I had also decided that because floor space in my studio is at a premium with the looms already there, that like those in Laos, this loom could be on my back patio with some exposure to the weather. It is an experimental loom after all and I think I’ll really enjoy the freedom of weaving outside.

I had bought the system consisting of reed, shafts with heddles and storage system. Now all I need is the loom to go with it and make it work.

On that trip I noticed that no matter whether the loom used with either a vertical or horizontal storage system, the basic framework was the same. I had taken measurements. The basic rectangular framework was 99cm wide, 160 cm high and 220 cm long. In theory: The width is of course important for the width of what you want to weave. The height is important to accommodate the height at which you are comfortable weaving, the length of the vertical storage system (suspended vertically) and the height at which it is comfortable to reach the warp to tension as it passes over the top of the loom. The depth is necessary to accommodate movement of the warp threads in either the vertical or horizontal storage systems. I decided that as far as possible I would stick to the traditional size. Once I had made this first one then I could work out any modifications.

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This is the image of a traditional loom that has appeared in a previous blog. I have included it here again as a point of reference. On this loom the warp slants down to the weaver. Mostly I had noticed that the warp was horizontal.

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I had examined the loom and the basic construction is easy. But then I considered the cost of wood. There was a very old loom being sold. (Who ever thought I’d be interested in acquiring a loom similar to the oldest of those poorly functioning ones at Sturt that I’d been working at replacing.) I had decided back in March that it was cheaper to buy this loom and then the extra wood to extend it. (the treadles are stuck out the back out of the way because even then I knew I wouldn’t be using them. It does make for a strange looking loom!) The cost of the loom actually equalled the extra bits I needed for the extension.

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This basic framework is now 125 cm wide, 145 cm high and 220 cm long. The only important discrepancy is in the height. If required, I can always increase the height by putting it up on blocks. That may not be a bad idea anyway as the patio is not necessarily waterproof and if it rains heavily the water may come through.

It was mid- month and I realised that there was a lot of decision making happening as to the choices I was making. So unusually for me I decided to record step by step rather than waiting till the end of the month and trying to remember. This way you’ll get to share in my decision making as it happens.

So I have the frame constructed by early May. But what about beater, cloth and warp storage beams, treadles?

It is my intention that to start with I am going to keep the mechanics the same as the traditional in as much as it is possible.

So the reed will be suspended from a pole by rope and not be in a frame. Won’t that take a bit of getting use to when I come to weave? There’ll be no frame work to keep everything square.

The warp storage I’ll attempt to work with it as they do: knotted over a front bar with the warp in a plastic bag. I wonder how much of a mess I’ll get into. I’m predicting that I’ll change over to what I’m used to pretty quickly, but I’ll give it a go.

The cloth storage I’ve decided will be on a beam as normal. I’d love to have one of those front beams with a peg and hole mechanism (see previous post) but I decided there was no real reason to do so. Now if I had acquired one of those carved front cloth beams over there, I’d be more tempted. It is such a simple mechanism.

What about the treadles for the plain weave shafts? The shafts on the system I’d acquired will be tied to these. I had taken some video of the traditional looms working. It appears that to enable the shafts and storage systems to work efficiently, the treadles need to be kept as light as possible. So I have got rid of the heavy treadles that came with this loom and I’ll add in something lighter later.

Note my innovation of a plumber’s pipe over the beam at the back. That beam needs to be smooth as the warp will pass over this. The traditional ones had rounded edges and in one case the beam was wrapped in fabric. I decided that my wood working skills were minimal and if I could find an alternative to make it round then that was ok. I have taken the original back beam from the centre of the loom and just repositioned it at the back of the loom. The bottom height of this beam equals the top height of the beam at the front so that the warp will be parallel to the floor when weaving. It is basically at this stage a frame ready to receive the storage systems that I’d acquired.

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Now to organise the warp (12th May). I am constrained by the system that I’d acquired. I have got two. The one shown here has a stainless steel reed, the other bamboo. Both are the same. I’ll be using the bamboo when I get to start.

The sett is predetermined by the existing reed. The width is also predetermined. I had previously commented that the scarves that we’d seen in the market place had basic characteristics because of the yarn available and that it was very limited. Of course the reed that they used matched the yarn that they were using and only one size was available because of this. So while I have a variety of yarns in my cupboard, to use this reed I am also having similar constraints. So I used two points of reference, the reed and a scarf I’d bought. On close examination I realised that there were two threads per dent (slot). The sett of the reed was 9 epcm. This reed was 42 cm. It was interesting to have confirmed that the warp is also used double in the storage system but singly on the plain weave shafts.

What yarn will I use?

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The plain weave sett needs to be 18 epcm (approximately 45epi). In my cupboard I have some fine cotton and two sizes of fine silk. The cotton and finest of the silk is finer than the yarn used in the scarf, the 60/2 silk is a bit thicker. The fine yarns will be more likely to break and I am a bit concerned about feeding a warp out of a plastic bag. I’d prefer the sett for the 60/2 silk to be more open than 18epcm. I decided to start with the 60/2 silk because it is stronger, smooth (and will hopefully any tangles if there are any will slide out) and the sett while tight can be accommodated. If it is a major problem, I will change the reed to one of my own once I have seen how weaving progresses.

I wound the warp. It is only 6m, not the 90m that the weavers of Laos use. I have no intention of doing that sort of repetitive weaving and 6 m will surely give me enough to play with. I have tied it up very well with a number of choke ties. (I’m not trusting myself to use their loosely coiled system that I saw in a bag). This warp isn’t going places and in addition I’ve used my ikat clamp to guarantee no movement.

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16th May: Now I have to knot my warp onto that of the bundle: all 756 ends (I wish I hadn’t done that math.) Oh well, there’s no rush. This is play time and I’ll do a bit each day for a while. Because I will be suspending the warp and I really don’t want to mess with it too much, I am knotting behind the storage system. There’s all those loops! This isn’t like my heddles as there’s no defined central hole. Carefully does it. I select a pair of silk warp threads, identify the next loop coming through the storage system and then cut it. Then I knot these two before repeating for the next pair. I don’t want to mess this up. It would be so easy to drop a thread though one of those loops. Maybe I should have wound a longer warp just to take advantage of all this effort.

17th May. I have discovered an interesting side fact. The diagram below identifies how the bundle is threaded. I have noticed that there are loops where I am working i.e. behind the pattern storage heddle and there are loops at the front of the reed. This has to mean that the system was set up by winding a continuous thread (for the dummy warp). Later on the proper warp will be knotted onto this. This also means that the reed is constructed after the dummy warp is threaded. It also means that all heddles whether for the shafts or storage system are constructed as the dummy warp is prepared.

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I’ve also decided that a cup of coffee = a chain in the dummy warp. The dummy warp is chained in sections behind the storage system and in front of the reed to keep everything in place. Today I have 8 chains to go.

27th May Just one day before I have to leave, the tying on is finished. I’m pleased as when I return I’ll get to start the next step of actually putting it on the loom and finishing setting up the loom.

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I discovered another interesting fact: there were more heddles threaded than through the reed i.e. there were some left over. You can see these at the top. This means that while the dummy warp is made in two sections: that for the heddles (plain weave and storage system) and then through the reed. The pairs of loops at the back are different to the pairs at the front. This allows for the reed to be added later. I have noticed to accommodate this at both sides there are 3 warp ends per dent.

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Some technical info: Deb McClintock has done extensive research on the looms of Laos. (She and I ravelled through Northern Vietnam together) The following are her definitions of parts of the storage system of the Laotian looms. She also does some great natural dyes. http://debmcclintock.me

Khao tam huuk = ‘the bundle’. By the way I think I’ll continue to use the bundle as I wonder about the use of language when it crosses borders and languages. It’s also easier to get my tongue around. It consists of reed, plain weave heddles and vertical storage system.

Feum = beater.

Khao Noi= set of two shafts. Each shaft has two clasped heddles/dill/diu

Khao Nyai= the pattern ‘shaft’ consisting of two clasped heddles (long).

On occasion the term feum also is used to describe the entire ‘bundle’- no wonder that I’ll stick with ‘bundle’.

So I have this loom on my patio. This is one of the benefits of weaving plein air. I wonder how much of a distraction all this activity was while I was making all those knots. The rainbow lorikeets are real characters.

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