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Saori Woven Shibori Weekend

Woven shibori Saori style

Gail’s Saori Woven Shibori cloth at the unveiling.

That’s a mouthful – “Saori Woven Shibori”

But that’s what much of last weekend’s Saori cloth turned out to be. The full two day workshop was small but very inspiring and productive. It allowed more experimentation and the dyebath helped us along. As two of the participants were already Saori weavers and had done previous workshops it was time to step out again.

Woven shibori is shibori (tie-dye) using the loom and the weaving sheds to place the stitching threads to create resist marks on the cloth. This ‘stitiching’ is usually done with a more complex loom providing the pattern of the stitchers. (In traditional shibori stitching is done after the cloth is created.)With a two shaft Saori loom we manually pick up the stitching rows allowing a very improvisational, organic and potentially complex system of marks. Read more

Book Club Weaves

Trish with completed weaving

Delights by Trish

Hot off the loom Trish conquered Saori in the recent Book Club Saori workshop.

This was the first workshop in my new studio and once again incredibly rewarding. On arrival at a workshop I go through all the basics and let everyone know that each of them will produce a very different textile to the person weaving next to them. It seems a bit of hype because it’s hard to believe that it’s possible. And yet just a few hours later at the end of the day…it is!

This particular workshop was planned long ago so I think the participants must have dreamed their designs beforehand. Such different colour aesthetics and styles. In a day workshop we usually get enough cloth to make a cowl or neck piece. Sometimes the work is more intricate as though each insertion is one of intense respect for the technique and becomes a smaller piece such as Melissa’s weave. Read more

Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Cloth and their makers

The weavers of Northern Thailand and Laos come from many different and diverse cultural traditions. This had quite an impact on the types of looms, dyes, yarn production and weavers themselves. They weave around their families, sometimes under their homes and when the season allows.
Initially, I felt that my always ever ending excitement at seeing weaving in such seemingly everyday circumstances prevented me for any astute purchases as far as skill level or patterning…it just all seemed surreal. I’m starved of this type of experience. We just don’t get to see weaving in amongst our ordinary lives like that. Everything is hidden away behind doors in buildings.To see such tangibles we could go to the  Victorian Tapestry workshop  but it seems a world apart and totally unconnected to our daily lives. The ways of conveying quality and supremacy in the craft (probably to justify the high costs and continue the business) also act to make ordinary people feel isolated, although perhaps not intended. In contrast the accessible weavers in Laos can’t command the real costs of their skills as their story can’t be seen through glossy buildings and marketing displays. It’s a conundrum!

Lao cloth

Weaver from Ban Sop Jam near Nong Khiau.


Navone – Master weaver with a natural dyed sinh (Lao womens skirt fabric)


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Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Dye

natural dyes

Natural Dye materials used in the workshop

Natural dyeing in Laos is still very common. Although yarns are purchased from the markets with synthetic dyes, there is a still a demand for natural dyeing. The access to the natural environment, the dyer’s knowledge and the array of colours available with multiple overdyes is the most interesting I’ve seen so readily.

indigo dyeing

Green hands Indigo people

We were fortunate to have a hands on natural dye workshop with dyers from Ban Phieng Ngam in the Luang Namtha area.The workshop was fantastic. The available dyes were fresh Indigo which produces a green, Teak leaves for a rich beige, Annato seeds for orange and Sappan wood for a pink range. We were provided with silk scarves to dye and most of us, much to the bewilderment of the Lao teachers, wanted to create that ‘special’ look with a shibori tie in them. I did a very fancy (boring) plain line! Which, after dyeing, really did detract from the silk scarf after all. Other members of the group did interesting patterns but I wonder why most of us wanted to tie up for resist effects and couldn’t handle a straight dye job enriched with merely the colours of the earth? Read more

Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Heddles

vertical heddles

Vertical heddles in Ban Haabtai village of the Tailue, North Thailand. Pattern rows are stored in the heddles with fine sticks.

Well I started with the previous post using the spinning of Thailand/Laos as a feature but now it’s the heddles.If you are a weaver you’ll be bowled over by the heddle overload in these countries.  Heddles are strings (in this case) which have an eye or loop of some sort allowing a weaver to pick up specific warp threads according to a pattern. The heddles here are quite complex and have many ‘rows’ of weaving pattern stored to create beautiful and regular patterns with an extra supplementary weft to enrich the ground fabric (this is often plain weave).


Here vertical heddles are at the bottom and are merely pieces of string rather than fine sticks to designate each row of lifts.

Most often we see heddling that is horizontal but I really went to Laos to see the unique vertical heddles. Here you can see each row of pattern held by sticks but they can also be with just pieces of string. Each row is pulled down and a weaver’s sword placed between the selected wefts for the row and woven. The pattern stick is transferred to the heddles underneath the weaving and stored until it is ready to start reversing the pattern and taking the bottom sticks for every row, weaving and transferring to the top.  It is totally ingenious.

Weaver Kay Faulkner

A lovely shot of weaver Kay Faulkner weaving on a loom with horizontal heddles – maybe 40 pattern shafts with 2 shafts for plain weave.

I expected to see these vertical heddles as the only ones in use, but I also encountered horizontal heddles which would be similar to something I would use, if inclined! You can see noted Australian weaver Kay Faulkner weaving on this type of loom near Luang Namtha in Laos.

heddles and weaving

A set of heddles on one side only – for supplementary weft patterning

Even more unusual, to my eyes, was partial pattern horizontal heddles. I mean why set up heddles right across the weaving just for the sake of symmetry?

Seeing mastery of weaving at this level is exhilarating. The looms are so ‘can do’ with a series of sticks and strings. I really wanted to sit with the weaver all day…even to make her cups of tea and soak in it. But then I would still be there getting in the way and the tour must go on.

Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Spin

Valerie Kirk and Patricia Cheesman

Valerie Kirk and Patricia Cheesman

Just back from the most inspiring and wonderful Textile tour of Northern Thailand and Laos with Active Travel and Valerie Kirk. To see people weaving in almost every village is always inspiring and we visited many minority groups with their own specialty and styles of weaving, spinning, embroidery and dyeing.

Beginning in Thailand we visited Studio Naenna in Changmai where Patricia Cheesman presented an extensive talk on the range of textiles in her gallery. Patricia is author of  Lao Tai Textiles – The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan and an authority on textiles from the region. What a difference it makes to have someone explain the story of a textile. They really are story books, not only in the symbolism of the design, but how the cloth was made and its social connections and reasons for existence.  Patricia’s daughter Lamorna also presented on Indigo and other natural dyes, explaining about the ‘mother’ pot which was 25 years old and how the dye is used from it to continue dyeing.

My post here isn’t a lineal snapshot of my trip but rather a reflection of what stood out to me…but perhaps not others. This is the nice and sometimes disappointing thing about travel – I take myself and my own experiences to become submerged in something utterly new. Something that I can be unprepared for so I appreciate that other travellers on the trip  helped me to see aspects of the experience which I may not have noticed except through their generous insights. Read more