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The imagined and real – or East Timor and Brisbane

weft wrapped sotis

wrapping design

A couple of big ticks last week. I’ve actually and finally been to Brisbane. It’s shameful to admit that I’d never been there. Just skirting around it over my lifetime. But now it’s done! and I’ll be back.

I had the most glorious week weaving everyday under the extraordinary tutelage of Kay Faulkner in her weaving school. I learnt so much. Firstly, that I always know more than I think and being with another weaver helps my confidence…as a good teacher does. Secondly, Kay was supportive in my quest to free myself from the bondage of notation. In fact she expected it!

The five day block course was ‘East meets West‘. It was a good exploration of weaves from Asia, and particularly East Timor, within the context of  design on a western shaft loom rather than the backstrap.  This was great because as I’m supporting the East Timor Heart Fund in 2016 , getting some imaginary ‘travel’ to East Timor via their textiles was a more meaningful experience. Here is a lovely East Timorese dance by children dressed in traditional cloth posted by East Timor Heart Fund. The cloth is called Sotis.

 

KayFaulkner2016

Weaver – Kay Faulkner

This type of weaving is warp faced. You don’t really see the weft and it is a relatively small contributor to the colouring in the cloth. In a little miracle I didn’t make any threading errors in a cloth with 960 ends.  There is nothing like doing and learning and the pick up imagery in the Sotis work is the one that took me the longest to get the ‘feel’ for.

You can see some picture of the progress here. I am particularly fond of the type of weft wrapping you see here. Although I’ve done some of this before, it all seemed to come together. Then Kay showed me a Burmese cloth that just floored me. Such beauty and vitality. Such secrets it held. Yes cloth can hold many secrets and this is something that bonds weavers together. The pattern on the discontinuous weft patterning isn’t as easy to achieve on a western and limited shaft loom.  The looms with pattern storage systems used in Asia have far more versatility to create complex patterning and patterns that are more fluid. The cloth from Burma was truly beautiful. Kay’s vast technical knowledge and her generous teaching and personal style made every minute at the loom a joy. Read more

Pre wound weaving

Saori cloth in wool

Completed yardage

Somehow I’m not really a wool weaver. Never have been. I’ve always enjoyed cotton, silk and cellulose and bast fibres generally. Don’t get me wrong, I love wool and like to spin with it and am into the history of wool and its success in Australia. It’s just that I didn’t have early success with it in the beginning.

So I really need a BIG push to weave in wool, especially with a wool warp. What better push than an ignorant mistake on my part. I had two beautiful blue pre-wound warps from previous releases and I hurriedly started threading one on the loom in the dim light of my lounge room one night. “This yarn is a fuzzy, funny type of cotton” I thought to myself. Some cottons are a bit fuzzy so I just continued threading away until realising, in the light of day,  that I now had a lovely six metres of woollen warp on the loom – just in time for the hot summer!

Woven circles

Weaving circles in progress

Weaving in wool was a bit difficult in the heat but the gods had declared I must. As the blue warp was an indigo shade I knew I had to pop with hot pink, then bright mustard yellow.  I used inlay to weave in circles in silk and they worked out beautifully. The main reason to weave with wool, and especially a wool warp, is the felty magic that happens to the cloth on finishing. So snuggly and warp – now just in time for winter. So maybe weaving wool in summer does make some sense after all.

Saori woven coat

Saori woven coat

The main advantage of using pre-wound warps for me, aside from hurried unplanned mistakes, is the physiological effect it has on my perception of time.  With some experience a 200 thread pre-wound takes about one hour tops to thread and start weaving.  Winding a warp myself doesn’t take too much longer but it feels like it does. A pre-wound warp doesn’t limit creativity because every person weaves them differently and the cloths are different looking. There is something empowering about having a couple of pre-wounds in the wings waiting for the moment to be woven. When we just want to thread and go.

Fuku clothing book

Design 28

I stitched up the fabric into a coat from the Fuku no Katachi ni Suru clothing book. Design number 28. The great thing about these types of simple clothing patterns is they are all so different depending on the cloth created. To modify for size, measure your back between your where you would like your armholes to be cut. To make this larger than the given size make sure the central panel for the back is wide enough and if not you can always slice some fabric lengthwise to add another panel to make it right for you. You may need to add a corresponding panel for the front and back wrap too. If you wear the coat upside down, as I have here,  it looks more like a coat/tunic.  Either way it’s great to wear! I love the cloth so much that I might even purposely thread a wool warp onto the loom next summer. I especially like how you can leave chopped fringing here and there with wool because the light felting/finishing process locks it in and it looks good.

A sentient cloth?

chris2

by Christine Appleby

I know that handwoven cloth isn’t sentient but sometimes it seems ‘alive’. Vibrancy, texture and a sense of spontaneity in the yarn usually mix in such away that the cloth becomes far more than its collection of yarn. At least it seems like that when weavers take to my Saori looms. Pictured here is Christine’s cloth, but it  is one of many that I get to see as they are woven and released from the loom.

When I was in Bhutan, I was impressed with the quiet respect the people had for woven cloth. Even men who had never woven folded the cloth with a reverence, keeping the coloured pattern on the inside to protect it.  Cloth is like that. It can be folded or tossed depending on its use. You can be careful with it or use it for hard work. (if you are interested in Bhutanese textiles also see Kay Faulkners recent write up).  It suggests that something about the cloth is indeed ‘alive’.

Some yarns are better than others in achieving that ‘aliveness’ in cloth. And it also depends on the weaver and how they handle and work with the yarn.  Highly textured and almost ephemeral work is very appealing and on trend at the moment. Natural fibres and organic styling is also exciting most weavers and other textile artists.  Although it seems that this self-evident beauty will always be attractive and sought in our work, it won’t be. Not to be negative, but change will always come along in all its forms and we will be enjoying another beauty as we continue to weave cloth and new ideas and tools come along. But that beauty and allure, that great passion for cloth will always make it like a living creation.

Magazine cover

Down Under Textiles, issue 23

In the current issue of Down Under Textiles (Issue 23), on sale now, I write about the ‘State of our Art’ (p12/13). Changes in tools, fibre supply and technology contribute to changes in how and what we work with. Once handweaving wasn’t associated with art as we view it,  but only as functional work to produce cloth for use. Now we hang our textiles on walls as a form of creative expression and look at handweaving as recreation or creative artistic work.

Having said this I’m still into weaving very plain, everyday items that I will use.  Like baking bread there is something almost primeval about the whole thing. I know it sounds ridiculous to weave a linen towel which could be bought for a fraction of the cost of the yarn and not even counting the time to weave it…but there it is. There is nothing like the rhythm of plain weaving on the loom. Read more

57 – and the little snippet project

Saori cloth

Silk hand-dyed ikat warp, silk weft

Guess what! I’ve turned 57. In Saori weaving this is a bit significant. It is the age when Misao Jo, the founder of Saori in Japan, started weaving by herself. Her sons all married off, and now for time where she could focus on her journey in weave.

In a typical course of events, we all love being mothers of little people and we don’t regret any of that very hectic, worrying time, but there comes a time for a little snippet for ourselves, if we’re lucky enough. Most women today seem to have that snippet before they marry and have children so will be in a different position when they turn 57. But I married when I just turned 19 and devoted myself to what I thought was important in my family…today a perceived narrow option, yet what I enjoyed –  a very rich life.

If you are approaching or hoping to be 57 anytime in the future or you are past that number and well underway with the snippet project – what excitement awaits and beholds. Now for creative weave games utterly for the self.

An interesting thing about having a Saori studio is the constant challenge to how I view weaving as a craft and process.  I didn’t expect this. Even though I have always  puzzled with identification in Art vs Craft type, I didn’t expect challenges within the craft of handweaving itself.  But I should have.

Saori clothBecause I have woven most of my life, my love of all weaving techniques and styles has grown. I learn about people from this craft and how they live, what they value and why they do it.  Many weavers specialise in a type of weaving; after all we only have so much time. I’ve dabbled here and there and there and here because I am crazy for it all.  I’ve got a 24 shaft compu-dobby Toika especially to do the puzzle weaving and high tech and cupboards full of frame looms and sticks for the low tech, higher skill weaving. I’ve woven on the inkle loom ad nauseum, with styles from the Baltic, England and South America. I’ve dyed, wrapped, puzzled, been elated and been frustrated. And then, for the first time, the Saori loom has given me the perfect tool for showing others how to weave cloth. It’s all sorted and I can relax with it. There is nothing like a floor loom to produce yardage. Read more

Weavers, warps, weaving

winding a warp

Winding a 3 metre warp

Warps for the new year are starting to appear in the studio and learning to wind a warp is the most exhilarating adventure of all.

Yes, pre-wound warps are wonderful but winding your own has the ultimate colour and texture option especially designed with your own mood.

Cheryl has been in the studio learning the process and she learnt the five at once method and the one/one method. There are so many ways to enjoy warping and so many methods. The main thing is that it should be evenly wound in tension,  have a least one cross in it to organise the threads and there is a firm choke tie around the 1 -1.2 metre mark from the cross. You should add more choke ties every metre or so especially on a long warp. The route around the pegs must be identical except where the cross is made. No shortcuts here and there. This is for a warp that will be threaded from front to back on the Saori loom. This means the reed is threaded first, followed by the heddles then tied to the back rod and wound (beamed) onto the back beam. Sounds very rule like doesn’t it. But the warp has to be right so everything will fall into place and you’ll enjoy weaving sooner rather than battling.  When you start to warp I think it’s a good idea to wind several of them, one after the other.

warping on a warping board

Cheryl making the cross on the warping frame.

The Saori warping frame with legs is a great height to work with and it is a little different to conventional ones. It has slanted pegs and supports for up to 5 cones of yarn. Sometimes various cones won’t fit on the support and they need to be placed on the floor and the yarn taken up and threaded through the hooks at the top. Yarn must always be free to unreel without any impediment.  Cones or kiwaku work the very best.

The Saori warping board has straight pegs and can be hooked onto a wall and will work well too. Cheryl chose a nice mix of straight and textured cottons to work with and carried the colourway to the weft. You can see here the completed weave which really makes a nice story about how the colours start out so raw and separate then become a fused cloth. Woops, yet another life analogy. They’re all over the place.  Thank you Cheryl for cheering up the studio and sending on the mission completed pics. Read more

Stitching things together

Sewing blocksSeems cathartic that I’m gravitating towards stitching and sewing at the moment.

I’ve been sorting through my collection of clothing blocks that I’ve drafted though the years.  To me they are like photos of my family. Blocks which capture the changing shape and size of bodies important to me.  There are blocks from size 000 all through my daughters’ childhoods -2- 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11,12 year olds. We are having a very challenging time at the moment in our family and I’m glad that I had these to remind me of the passage and value of time and the lovely humans I shared it with. Each block signifies an event in our lives where clothing was needed. There was Teresa’s year 6 farewell in silk taffeta to my own design and Michelle’s purple fluffy pants in year 10, which she had to have. These blocks mean more to me than photos. They’re unposed and real preparations for a labour of love which surely making clothes is. Even before my first daughter arrived in 1982 I had quilts, crochet rugs, jackets and many other things sewn up ready. Although this seems normal for most people expecting a child over the 9 months gestation, it was much harder for us in adoption which is basically a phone call today and baby daughter tomorrow. (this doesn’t include the many, many interviews, investigations etc etc)

Book example

In the spirit of stitching things together, this week I’ve taken some woven silk cloth and tried out the possibilities of this pattern from Fuku no Katachi ni Suru  It’s pattern 25 on page 72. I liked the neckline and flow of the garment and it’s pretty easy to stitch up. But as with all of the patterns in Saori inspired books much depends on the fabric you use and the fit you are comfortable with.

Well it ends up that I wasn’t so happy with the flow after all and it required substantial adjustment.

The neckline needed a bit of refinement to sit right although I probably didn’t cut it as low as the instruction. After finishing, I just folded it over and stitched a narrower look. I added a ‘princess’ line darting from shoulder to hip on the front, to contour the shape and also re-shaped the side seams. In re-cutting I bound the raw seams for a nice and secure look on the inside of the garment. The woven fabric is a beautiful 100% silk and it was amenable to such re-stitching. I’ve found that Saori woven cloth is far more un-ravelly than it looks. The uneven hemline is very nice and easy to cut. It also swings well with the style. But still I wasn’t 100% happy. So I thought about other solutions, then added ties for the back above the waistline and now I am very happy. This tie ‘hack’ is a good option is you want the flexibility of some extra shaping.

Flat pattern of topI read somewhere that “if you don’t know what to do, do what you know” Weaving and sewing is what I know and it doesn’t solve any problems in itself. But I can use it to restore a kind of faith that stitching and modifying might have a value in other life issues. I really don’t know but it’s the best I’ve got.

In working with the neckline in this pattern I found that tear away vilene is very helpful. As a total convert now, […loud voice] I believe it is a must when cutting out armholes and necklines in our Saori woven fabrics. It’s best to actually trace the neckline directly onto the vilene then sew around. This will prepare for cutting shapes out of the cloth and stabilise it. The vilene can then be torn away once the collar or cutting is underway. Keeps everything in order.

using tear away

I’ve placed the pattern on the tear away vilene. But you can directly trace the pattern onto it.

stitching tear away

Stitch on the stitching line so you can cut out the neckline safely and easily

completed saori top

This is the completed top with the mods. It’s a keeper.

The heart needs help

EastTimorHeartsFund2016It turns out there is a little we can do as weavers to make the world a better place. Little can bring enormous to others and I’m pleased to donate 1% of all sales, from you,  in 2016 to the East Timor Hearts Fund. This organisation really does save lives and after reading the ABC story I realised it ticked all of the boxes to help make the world a better place for a few.

East Timor is home to some of the greatest and highly skilled weavers in the world. See a previous blog entry about the newest nation. Highly complex weaving is still done within communities there. The fact that the fund assists hearts is also significant. The heart is a great source of the human spirit and is capable of loving and being broken…both physically and metaphorically. It is the source of many of our decisions and the human organ that needs the most protection throughout life. It makes us live and can give a reason to life. It is why we weave and is often used to describe how we approach Saori free style weaving.  I hope you’ll join me in weaving to save hearts in East Timor.

The East Timor Hearts Fund is a medical aid charity dedicated to providing life-saving heart surgery in Australia for young people from Timor-Leste.

New year and all that


Down under textiles 22
I’d like to wish all readers and customers a very peaceful, health filled and interesting new year. Life can be very hard indeed and it breaks my heart that so many people suffer so much in our world.  A friend said to me some time ago that I was lucky I have weaving. And yes, I am lucky to have weaving, but I always weave best when the planet is on its axis and my family is intact and connecting together in life.  When this isn’t the case I could nearly break a loom with my heavy beating! Well not really, but weaving sails along better when there is harmony in other areas of life. I know this is an unlikely introduction for a new year but there it is and mostly there is little we can do about most things but just watch situations unfold. Gone are the days when I even pretend to have control over directions in life! Lucky I have weaving and there is some control in what yarns, colours and patterns I can use. I sincerely hope your year is one where things get better and more joyful and create renewed energy and…weaving.

On a lighter note you must check out issue 22 of Down Under Textiles. I’m very happy to be a columnist for this very inspirational mag. This issue holds “Fruits of the Loom’ P12-13. All about my attraction to little weaving which naturally grows into more! Really love writing about weaving and more. Next issue will feature finding your textile ‘tribe.

woven towels

warp being wound onInspired by Dominique’s towel weaving I got weaving on some of my own. With my stash of 22/2 cottolin I worked up some stripe magic and went to work on the four shaft Saori loom. The loom is perfect for this type of weaving. I used a plain weave threaded over the four shafts. With this type of work I like have the option of four shafts to introduce twill patterning here and there. This is a pretty conventional type of weave but so much fun to do and satisfying to complete and give as gifts.

New Warps

If you are after some pre-wound warps for a dream run on your loom, check out the new collection in stock. They normally go very quickly as I only get a few of each. The white warps are very nice and perfect for dyers and I’ll be using one to create more freestyle woven shibori.  There have also been a few price increases and decreases in the Saori catalogue for 2016.  All looms have risen in price, however the cost of the WX60 (unassembled) at $1825.00 will be fixed until the current stock of looms are sold.

JapanJapan Textile Tour 2016

The other very exciting news is that I’ll be leading a  Textile and Crafts tour to Japan in September 2016 for 14 days. It will be a comprehensive and rich saturation of Kyoto, Nara, Okayama, Naoshima Island, Osaka and Okinawa Island. It will include three hands-on workshops of which one day is at Saori no Mori. It will be a great mix of the ancient and modern which sit together so easily in Japan.  Australian and international travellers are welcome. See here for more information.