March 2017

April 5, 2017

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

Textiles in the Luang Prabang area.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

And a closer look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Textiles in Pakse and Boloven Plateau

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

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

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

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

The process for weaving with beads on the weft.

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

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

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

Here’s a movie of the full process.

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

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Pakse Souveni had some exquisite mat mi.

Textiles along the Mekong River south of Pakse.

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

Textiles in Savannaket area

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

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

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

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

Here’s some examples weaving that was produced.

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

Textiles in Vientiane Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The pile is trimmed with shears regularly.

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

Some interesting bits and pieces and overall impressions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  

 

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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!

 


May 2016

June 2, 2016

Rosemary has been spending time in the studio. She is a new weaver with an aim of weaving with her own hand spun mohair. She is raising a few goats. Firstly though she has woven a few hand towels so that she can understand the process and play with colour.

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Just starting…

DSC03065 and finishing! Congratulations Rosemary.

I was a birthday present! And I was delighted to be one. Anne Mette’s husband gave a weekend of private lessons to celebrate a special birthday. She had got hooked on weaving following a workshop I did at Go Create last year. She also has a Danish background and was interested in weaving rugs. This was her second warp and was partly woven. We explored all manner of basic weave structures on this warp.

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And then learnt about efficient ways of winding and putting a warp on. A trellis was a convenient place to hang a warping board.

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We then repeated the patterns on a balanced weave. It was a very busy weekend and she had a party in the middle. We covered an extraordinary amount of ground as well as fine tuning her countermarched loom. Well done Anne Mette!

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It has been a busy time in the studio. I have even managed to weave off three of scarves with variations on a theme. They combine plain weave and twill with some supplementary warp patterning.

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And some collapse weave scarves using a weft of overspun alpaca/silk. I do not spin regularly but as I required an overspun yarn, it was one way to get it.

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On books and magazines:

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This is a marvellous book. I was delighted to do a review for TAFTA. Robyn Spady, Nancy A Tracy and Marjorie Fiddler have created a beautiful hardcover book full of wonderful images of fabric swatches and full documentation of the work of Dr Bateman. I had seen some of his samples and documentation in folders of his work in Seattle. These are much better and so easy to understand. For those who don’t know about Dr Bateman, on his retirement he was prolific in his experimentation of weaving drafts, often taking them in new directions. 398 warps x 6 to 12 samples sure produced a lot of samples. The authors chose “the most innovative”. I was very happy to recommend it.

At the end of last month, I received the latest issue of the Complex Weavers Journal. I’m delighted to have an article in it.

Just arrived is the latest issue of Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot, the publication of the Handweavers Guild of America. I was honoured when they approached me for an article am delighted with how they presented it.

The highlight of this month though has to go to my latest adventure. On my ‘bucket list’ for ages has been a trip to Lake Mungo. Why? The remoteness, the landscape, the history, all have called.

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Lake Mungo is a world heritage listed national park in the far south west of NSW, just north of Mildura. Normally it would be classed as dessert but it had rained and it was green. In some ways it was not what I was expecting but I was so fortunate to be there. Maybe I’ll have to go back to see it in another light.

It is the site where Mungo Lady and Mungo man were found. The Lake Mungo area is ancient and is a most significant Australian archaeological site. There’s evidence of man having lived here for over 50,000 years. That’s nearly beyond comprehension. Mungo lady was found first and is the earliest known human to have been cremated. A few years later, Mungo man was found. His remains had been coated with red ochre and is the earliest known use of pigments for artistic, philosophical or religious purposes. Both are around 40,000 years old with a possibility of them being even older. The mere fact that I was standing there was remarkable. We could see artefacts emerging from the sand.

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Lake Mungo is a dried up lake. On one side is a crescent “lunette”. Here there is erosion and large sand dunes. The sand is moving. It is remarkable scenery.

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You can see the sand being blown off the top of the sand dune.

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Vegetation is being covered up as well as artefacts uncovered.

It is also the place where explorers passed through and of pastoralists trying to make a living raising sheep. Here are old shearing sheds and stories of early life on the land.

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The remnants of an old tank stand provides a perch for swallows.

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Bits of wire and weathered wood provide an interesting study.

I shared my adventure with two other textile artists. Judy Wilford is a well- known embroiderer and Truda Newman is a lapsed weaver who is finding a new voice in different media. It was really interesting to see how we each reacted to the environment and for me it certainly added to the experience. There’s much inspiration here. I’ll share some images. Firstly a flight over gives an idea of scale and how it all fits together. It also flattens the landscape allowing pattern and textures to emerge.

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Spinifex circles. The plant dies from the centre and new growth creates pattern. This wasn’t visible from ground level.

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A straight line dissecting the land as far as the eye can see.

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Truda and I back on the ground having had the most extraordinary experience.

On the ground:

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A grove of rosewood provides a place for contemplation.

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Some Mallee and spinifex/porcupine grass.

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Saltbush and a kangaroo.

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Emu. When driving one certainly needed to keep an eye out for emu and roo.

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The sun goes down looking back from the Walls of China over the lake bed.

As we were in the ‘area’ and it was on the way home, of course a stay in Broken Hill was also on the agenda. It’s also been on my list. It’s dessert country, a frontier mining town of another era where the mine dominates,

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the home of the movie, “Priscilla Queen of the Dessert”, an Australian cult classic celebrating 20 years (Do you recognise the murals and shoe in the foyer of the Palace Hotel?),

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and where a group of sculptors did remarkable work.

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The round trip: over 4,000km. What remarkable country!

 

 

 


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.


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.


March 2015

April 3, 2015

Firstly I have an announcement to make. Because of the mothballing of weaving at Sturt and the reduction and in some cases the elimination of weaving in educational institutions, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of learning to weave. I have decided to do something about it and set up a school in my studio. I have a quantity of looms that are great to work on and are of different types. To launch the school, I am offering a week long workshop from Monday 6th  to Friday 10th of July. I will be posting details of this launch on both my blog (see heading above) and on my web site.

Following the launch, there will be a variety of learning opportunities which I hope will suit the needs of individuals in the weaving community. I hope to see some of you here in the future sometime.
As promised last month, the focus of this month’s blog is looms and weaving from my trip to Laos and Nth Thailand.

The basic loom

There was a similarity between them whether they had a vertical or horizontal storage system or just wove plain weave. The framework looked the same. I must admit that I was in some ways surprised at how little variation there was. In reality one could just remove one storage system and drop in the other and it would be ready to weave. The way the warp was handled also was similar throughout.

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A basic loom that I measured (and I only measured one)had a height of 160cm, width of 99cm and depth of 220cm. The only minimal variation was in the width as that could govern the width to be woven eg a skirt or a scarf. The above image is of a two shaft loom with no pattern storage. It is not the one I measured though gives a point of reference to the following.

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Let’s start with the warp threads. They were always in a bag either hanging from the top beam (note the warp wraps around the beam when it comes out of the bag) or placed in a bag on the ground at the front. A bag on the ground held heavier warps. The warp when I looked in the bag looked as though it was taken from where it was wound and then just coiled in the bag. I do not know if anyone was doing a variation such as chaining that western weavers might do. I did not see any warps being wound but was told at several places that they were prepared under the house using the house stumps to measure out the length. There was no evidence of the warp being tied before it was placed in the bag. No one was undoing ties as they advanced a warp. The warps were all very long. In one case I was told that the warp was 100metres, in another 72meters. It is not surprising that very long warps are used because of the effort required in setting up a loom.

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I was surprised that the warps were just coiled in the bag and that there appeared to be no problems with them becoming a mess. This warp was very heavy and was sitting in an open bag on the ground rather than hanging from the loom.

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The warp was knotted with a stick inserted in the knot on a front beam above the weaver’s head. This was then end where the tension of the warp was adjusted. The weaver would wind on the woven cloth and then tighten the warp here.

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The warp threads passed over the top of the loom down the back of the loom to the front. I’ll ignore the pattern storage methods for the moment. At the front the cloth was wound directly onto the beam at the front of the loom. This beam also served as a means of controlling the tension at this end. There was some variation in how this was done. The most common was a squared end of a beam with slots so that the warp could be advanced a quarter turn.

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Only one end of the stick had a slot for tensioning.

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PVC pipe used in a similar way. A metal length tied to the loom bench replaces the upright spike on the other method. Sometimes the ends of the cloth beam were carved.

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Before the first weft was woven, the warp was secured by a stick placed in a grooved slot along the length of the front beam. When the warp was wound on, the cloth sat evenly around the beam. I did not notice any knots. As far as I could work out the warp was placed on the beam, the stick (white in the case above) put on top and the warp threads pushed into the groove, enabling tension to be achieved as the warp was wound on top of the previous layer.

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To get the warp ready for weaving, the warp was pulled out of the bag, knotted on to a previous warp and pulled through. I saw no evidence of someone threading a loom thread by thread.

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The beater was suspended from the frame with 2 pieces of cord as was the 2 shafts used for plain weave. The beater was not attached in any one position. It could be slid backwards as the weaving progressed. Then when the weaver could no longer reach the knot above the weavers head was released, the cloth rolled on and the knot remade and the warp tightened. In the image above the shafts swivell in a counterbalance action when the cord slides through a bamboo tube. In the image below, there is a pulley.

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This weaver even stood so that she could reach further.

The reed (method of spacing the threads in the beater) was either bamboo or stainless steel. I saw more bamboo reeds. The stainless steel ones were considerably more expensive to buy. The frame was the same for both.

The treadles for plain weave rows were two lengths of bamboo, tied to the bottom of the plain weave shafts. They were not attached to the frame of the loom, but rather just positioned on the ground so the weaver could use a very efficient toe/ heal action with one foot on the two treadles. Notice in the image above the previous one, the rest for the weaver’s feet beside the treadles.

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The weaver’s bench was attached to the two front uprights and fixed. They got in and out of the loom very easily. I had to fold myself up when I got in, to the great hilarity of those watching. There wasn’t much room under there to move my legs to weave. Note the shuttle I’m using has two bobbins.

The loom with the horizontal pattern storage system

DSC00337The pattern shafts sit behind the two plain weave shafts. The pattern shafts rest on a suspended frame.

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We saw a lot of bundles consisting of beater, and a number of sticks with heddles on them with a short warp threaded through hanging on walls near the looms. Obviously each bundle was for a particular pattern. It was also possible to buy bundles in a market.

As I have mentioned the warp threads were knotted onto the threads in the bundles enabling the pattern shafts with their stored pattern sequence, plain weave shafts and beater to be set up in one go.

The shafts for plain weave had a bar top and bottom. It needs to be tied above and below the loom to enable the alternate plain weave rows to be raised or lowered.

The pattern heddles had only a stick at the top.

I did not see any weaver setting up their own patterns. No doubt a skilled weaver would be able to do so.

This is the weave sequence that I used when I got to sit in one of these looms and weave.

  1. Raise the pattern shaft required. Insert the sword. Lay it flat behind the plain weave shafts.
  2. Weave the first plain weave row.
  3. Stand the sword on its edge and weave the pattern row.

The pattern row may be repeated twice, with alternate plain weave rows between.

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The number of pattern sticks denotes how complex a pattern is. The pattern sticks are moved forward or backward in sequence. Sometimes only a part of the sequence may be used so the full repeat need not be used from the first to last stick. The next pattern stick to be used was adjacent to the one being used. This pattern requires 40 pattern sticks.

http://youtu.be?j-AhXloUL_g
The loom with the vertical storage system

DSC00243 - CopyVertical storage system using sticks. The weave pattern can be clearly seen.

DSC00745Instead of sticks the pattern is held by a looped string which can be hooked over the nails in the side of the frame. This allows an even longer pattern repeat to be stored as it takes up less space than the sticks. The system works the same as when sticks are used.

Each warp thread passes through the ‘eye’ of a heddle on the vertical storage system and through one on the plain weave shafts (alternating). The warp is set up on the loom and tensioned before creating the stored pattern sequence. The very long heddles are anchored near the floor and at the top of the loom frame.

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To set up the pattern sequence, a pick up stick is used to select the pattern threads.

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These are then transferred to the back of the loom using a sword.

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And then the threads on the sword are transfered to the pattern storage system by a stick which is then replaced by in this case a looped thread.

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The same sequence as before is used: weave plain weave, pattern (pick up) etc. The stored pattern the sequence moves from below to above the warp threads and back again. The pattern heddles are pulled forward so that the sword can efficiently select the stored pattern.

The looms with vertical storage were more prevalent than horizontal ones.

Some interesting observations.

On two looms there was a means of spacing the warp evenly across the width. All other looms had no means of doing so.

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Note the padding on the top beam to stop rubbing of the warp threads.

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A bamboo storage holder for multiple shuttles. I’d also seen this in Northern Vietnam.

Shuttles that could hold two or three bobbins so that a thread may be woven doubled.

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In one weaving space where they were weaving hand spun cotton, the warp thread was sized in rice water to prevent the cotton from fraying and breaking. One lady here was doing an interesting thing. After she had advanced the warp, she brushed it with a stiff bristled brush to separate the warp threads. Maybe she was having trouble with warp threads sticking together. No one else was doing this so may be this was just a problem warp. But then she ran a piece of bee’s wax over a weaving sword and smoothed it back over the warp threads: in essence putting back on a type of sizing.

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There was an interesting variation with a loom where a lengthways border was being woven with a vertical storage system. Only part of the width of the warp required pattern shafts. These were suspended above where they were required.

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On the same loom as the one previous, 2 knots were being used to tension the warp. This was a very wide warp as the width being woven was the length of the skirt. The border ran around the hem. This was one of the two looms using a spacer for the warp at the back of the loom. The two knots would have made tensioning the warp across the full width more consistent. I did not note whether the pattern section was grouped in one knotted warp. If this were the case, it would allow for any variation in take up of the pattern verse plain weave only as they were being woven.

DSC00736Discontinuous weft threads are inserted in the pattern row. The pattern row may be selected by either the horizontal or vertical storage systems.

DSC00655This was an interesting variation on the basic loom. Note that the warp runs at an angle to the ground and is extended at the back. The warp is still knotted at the front of the loom with the warp in a suspended bag.

DSC00508A suspended bundle of beater and shafts with the remnant of the last warp knotted in place enabling the next warp to be knotted on and then pulled through.

DSC00200It is worthwhile to note that we only saw one weaver using a back strap loom on this trip. It was used for demonstarting weaving at Patricia Cheeseman’s studio and rolled up after the demonstration was complete. Based on what we saw on the rest of the trip, one would suggest that it was used for convenience sake, and perhaps not a typical loom used by her weavers.

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Inspired by the looms of Laos, I’ve decided to have a bit of a play. There’ll be more about what is happening here next month, but here’s a bit of a taste of things to come.