A Series of Weaving Workshops

Just a bit of a forward I was supposed to put some photos with this but as they never came my way and it seems a shame for me to lest this post go to waste, even if it’s a few months old.  This is the end of our first set of weaving workshops before the winter holiday, I just wanted to add some finaly thoughts onto it, but as you see I never quite got around too it. However, better late than never.  Here our my final thoughts on our first set of wrokshops, happy reading 🙂

As I have mentioned in a previous blog post this weaving course was the off-shot project of another course I was attending, this was a totally hands on workshop dealing with Bronze and Iron Age textile tools and how to use them, warping and weaving on the two beamed loom, as well as setting up the warp weighted loom.  Those were the main projects, as well as preparing and spinning wool on various Bronze Age style drop spindles and the occasional modern one. Not only was it an opportunity for people to learn about textiles and textile archaeology it was a great place to have discussions around all parts of the history of textiles while learning the old ways of making textiles.  No matter how many or few skills you have in working with textiles you will always learn something and speaking as someone who knows a fair amount regarding textiles, I still learned so much about working with, for instance the two beamed loom, as a modern weaver it was so great to be able to work on a style of loom that was used so many years ago.  I think it’s just so amazing how advanced people were back then and I’m sure as time will tell they were even more advanced than we think.

As you can see this is very physical work, can you imagine how fit the people who were working as full time textile workers were?  I would say that it was akin to what we would call today a “modern” athlete, a person of today would never been able to keep up with the physical capabilities of people in the Bronze Age. Simply from warping and weaving I can tell you that you have to sit in some very uncomfortable positions and you will have to jump up and down very frequently.  Practically every time you want to change a shed.  So to says that weaving is a very physical activity is an understatement to say the least and that leaves out all the the fiber preparation, something like hours of spinning really works your shoulders and arms so that you can be very sore after only an hour and you would have needed to spin upwards of 13,000 hours to get enough yarn to weave a single garment.  The threads were also very fine, making them hard to see. As someone who already finds somethings hard to see I wonder how they worked that way, only during day light hours or by the light of a candle or fire of some kind, how would that have affected their eyes as they grew older and how old would a woman or a man be when they would be forced to stop weaving and move onto another occupation?  These are just a few of the questions that I think to myself when I start weaving ans struggle with these things, it really gives you an shoulders of what it took to make a garment in the Bronze Age, but these things are things that you would never think about if you weren’t working with it yourself and experiencing the sore back or shoulder the next day or struggling to see the fine threads that you are weaving.  It really opens up a whole new perspective to what life in the Bronze Age might have been like as a textile worker.

You really learn a lot from doing and I think that’s one of the reasons the workshops have worked out so well, as they are also very free, letting each person experiment with the things that they are interested in.  This term we were only able to fit in a four part series, but since they worked out so well  I know they will be back next semester to continue and expand these wonderful experiments.

Adventures in Lyon

While I am always interested in looms and weaving of any kind, I do love damasks and pretty much anything that occurs along the Silk Road.  (Okay, what am I saying, you say “loom” and I’m there) but more to the point: a few weeks ago I was presented with a very exciting and unique opportunity to go to Lyon, France to see a few looms (*giggles in hysterical excitement*).  Lyon was the capital of weaving production during the 19th century.   It seems that weaving wasn’t well paid and it was an undervalued job. I find that interesting.  Nowadays when I see a weaver, I always get excited and am like “let’s talk about weaving, teach me everything you know!” but back then they weren’t well treated and only got paid once the fabric was finished; if the buyer didn’t like the fabric, or said there were mistakes in it and wouldn’t buy it, the weaver, who could have been working on this fabric for one to two years, would have had a disaster on his hands.  It seems crazy to me to think that there was a time when weaving was something other than an art, all that time and energy spent weaving, making such beauty with your hands.  Sad to think that when the weavers went on strike they were simply shot during the strike.
To me, an experienced weaver is like gold. It’s funny how different what we used to, and now do, deem most precious.  Mostly it’s been money (mostly? who am I kidding, it’s always been money).  At one point silk and gold were equally valuable, which I find quite amazing considering the fact that now we can buy silk very cheaply; it can cost almost nothing (although there are no promises about the quality).
Lyon was also the home to Joseph Jacquard, the inventor of the Jacquard loom. His loom changed the way of weaving forever and was the first mechanical loom.
Not to mention Lyon is just a beautiful place to be.  If you climb up Lyon (it’s partly on a hill) you will have such a wonderful view looking across the city and down to the two rivers.  It was so wonderful to enjoy the sun after being in Denmark; it felt almost like it could have been summer in the middle of winter.  It was quite a break from the depressing, gray weather.
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Of course they are famous not only for their weaving; there’s screen printing and velour to think of as well.  Below is  a picture of velour painting. It’s got such an amazing texture that you want to touch it all day.  It’s genuinely wonderful to see how the colors are blended on the fabric as well. It’s a fabric with a very magical feeling. Very aesthetically pleasing.img_0272These textiles provide not only a history of the techniques but also of the people who make them, sometimes for generations. This man (or what you can see of him) has been working in the business for ages, working with screen printing and velour.  Here you see him adding the last layer of paint to a series of scarves.  In the studio, they mix the inks themselves with their own recipes, and there are many tests done to assure that the color is the same every time. He even went back with a brush to fix some mistakes where the ink didn’t come through.  There is just so much precision to it that it is truly incredible to watch. img_0265However, Lyon as is sensational on the inside as the outside. When it comes to looms it’s actually difficult for me to put into words the way I feel about them.  They are like very old people with so many stories, so smart and yet often overlooked.  I want to be the person who hears the stories of the looms, the unique fabrics they have produced.  I always want to be around looms and I can’t really explain why, but they just make me happy.  A well-made loom, at least to my mind, is as valuable as a painting or a precious stone, if not more so, as  it gives you more and increases its worth every time a magnificant piece of fabric comes off of it.  Pictured below is a brocade weave, with the background as the white and the small shuttles are the pattern, not unlike a knitting pattern carrying the pattern threads.img_0351Below is the first mechanical band loom I’ve ever seen.  It’s truly an fascinating thing to see at work.  They don’t have one big reed, they have individual ones for each band. I found that very curious.img_0377Here is a woven velour. I wish I could have everyone one touch it.  It’s got such a unique texture, especially the difference between the cut and uncut parts. Of course this is the weave you have to pay the most attention to, as if you make a mistake there is no going back! img_0359This a picture of a piece woven on a Jacquard loom (that I had to stand on a chair just to take a picture of).  This fabric made in Lyon is all about where I grew up, Philadelphia!  I think it’s so cool that you can see the far-reaching arm of the Lyon weaving industry stretching across an ocean, all the way to my home town! img_0363There are some other things that just can’t be beat, and I have to say that the open air fresh food markets were definitely right up there (but after looms of course). I mean, just look at this lettuce! It’s so green and tasty!  Makes me want to have a salad even in the heart of winter.  With all the people out there buying their fresh food everyday, it’s really something that we in the north could take a page from, although maybe not through all of the winter.  But, we definitely need more veggies that look like this up here.
img_0423Lyon sits on the uppermost cusp of southern Europe, making it just as picturesque as any city in the south of Europe, while still having small elements of northern Europe hidden in it.  There are so many little galleries and cafes.  It would take years to explore.  While I do love it here, even that short taste has made me wonder, why don’t I live there? img_0428

Woman’s March on Copenhagen

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Yesterday was the Women’s March in Washington DC, as well as their sister marches all over the world. I was fortunate enough to take part in the Women’s March in Copenhagen, where I was pleasantly surprised to see 5000 people who came out to march. While I’m not a big march/rally person (aka one who doesn’t go out for most marches) this one meant more to me.  As an American expat, it’s been really hard to watch the whole election process from Europe and not be able to participate fully. I think that everyone should have a good quality of life, not everyone is crazy, and not everyone wants to be a billionaire.  We just want to do things that make us happy and be free.  Is that really too much to ask of this world?  Oh, and also not to be scared of walking down the streets, and maybe for the world not to explode in my lifetime, or in my children and my children’s lifetimes, that this planet will still be here long after I’m dead.
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Most people on this earth want to be safe and happy and loved; it’s just human nature.  It’s really not that much to ask for as far as I’m concerned .  I was lucky enough (although not very old) to witness the turn of the century.  That means a lot, doesn’t it? I mean, we live in the 21st century, don’t we?  I mean, my calendar says 2017, doesn’t yours?  That’s what I thought, it does.  Then I ask you, why do the calendars of the world leaders read something like 1850????  I really am so impressed with the Women’s March, have so much respect for all the people who gave up their time to organize such a massive event and everyone who went out to march. I personally know people that were at 5 or 6 different marches, and I mean those are just people I really call friends.  It was an awe-inspiring sight yesterday.

Now, I’ve seen some hate out there for the women’s marches as well, which I find very sad.  There were many, MANY good reasons for marching and people have many different causes (which is normal, because we are DIVERSE people).  All of theses causes are valid, they need our attention.  I wish that I could devote myself to all of them but that would not be effective, but I’m off track again.  There is hate for everything out there, which is silly and downright depressing, but it’s a fact.  However no matter the haters out there, I think that we showed them that there is a world of LOVE, this is truly going to be the beginning of a long fight, a fight for fundamental human rights.  It’s the birth of a movement that is scary and exciting.  It’s so sad though, that in the 21st century we should still be protesting things that our parents protested and for them, they are still doing it!
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I do just want to mention that people, no matter what their skin color, care about people.  These things don’t have a border, it’s basic human nature. I’ve seen some things saying that white feminists shouldn’t be at the march because they won’t be affected as much or that they are a part of the problem because 53% of white women voted for Trump.  But let me tell you, if you saw them at the Women’s March and think they shouldn’t be there, then YOU, my friend are part of the problem.  The whole mantra of Trump’s campaign and the impending next 4 years will be to conquer and divide.  Now is the time to show love and support to EVERYONE around you!! If we all work together then, maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference, but first that all starts with the individual.  I know that some people didn’t vote in the election because they thought their vote didn’t count but that’s where we will lose.  It’s like thinking: if I dump my things in the landfill but others don’t then the planet will be okay, right? WRONG, this type of thought is why the planet is warming. We all count and if we remember that and take the time to remember that, no matter what other people tell us, then we can make a difference but we have to remember that we should make the effort, no matter if it’s just something small, it will help and you can make a change.  Now is the time.

Wool

There are over a 1000 different breeds of sheep in the world today.  Sheep have been around for 20,000 years. and were some of the first animals to be domesticated.  They have been domesticated for at least 11,000 years and possibly since 9,000 B.C. in some places.  There are some very wooly countries where there are more sheep than people, such as Wales, where there are approximately three sheep to one person, or New Zealand, where there are 22 sheep per person! Now, that’s a lot of sheep!
As we can see from these numbers, sheep are everywhere! Sheep have been an intergal part of this world for a very long time, supplying meat, milk and wool.  Sheep are very versatile animals, something that you can use down to the very last piece, not to mention the fact that sheep graze and are good for keeping your lawn trimmed if need be.  There are many breeds of sheep (and there are probably even more unknown breeds).  It’s hard to cover them all; there are only maybe one or two books that even make an attempt.
However, as the textile person I am, I’m going to talk about wool.  We all have wool in our lives, regardless of whether we know it or not. Although in the present day we use wool less than we used to, it’s still around.  In fact, wool is all over the place.  Even if it’s not 100% wool, it’s there, sneaking in, in blankets, pillows, scarves and sweaters, all with a touch of wool.  Now as a fiber person, I don’t particularly like non-natural fibers.  I think they are very icky (you probably what to find a better word) and not good for the environment or the human body, keeping in what needs to be breathed out and not letting good things in.  Besides this,  what happens when we produce these fibers?  They either take a lot of water (during the manufacturing process?  When?  Take how?  Or do you mean use?) or release toxins into the air. Whereas shearing wool is actually healthy for the animal.  Sheep that aren’t shorn look a bit like this:
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Not shearing a sheep is sort of like not cutting your hair.  It’s just not healthy after a while and if it gets too long and heavy then it can seriously hurt you. The same goes for sheep, it can seriously hurt them as well, so while the sheep may not like getting shorn in the same way we may not like to get a haircut, it’s equally important that we all do it.

There are so many defining factors to sheep besides their colour, such as how curly the sheep’s wool is, or how long the actual fibers of the wool are.  The fiber lengths are called staples, so if we were having a techniqual conversation we would be discussing the ‘staple length’ of each breed of sheep.  The staple length can be very long or very short, (ranging from x to x).  The longer the staple length, the easier it is to spin.  If you have a shorter staple, it requires a higher amount of twist to keep the fibers from falling apart and is

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Example of Staple Length

therefore harder to spin.  If you are spinning with a wool that has a very long staple length, you can have a much looser twist in your spun yarn.  That’s just one example of how your staple length can affect your work, but there are so many factors to consider, such as how curly is your fiber?  This can also affect the twist, as well as how smooth your yarn will spin.  Some of the very curly wools (Wensleydale, for example) are more often used for felting than spinning or as an add-on to art yarns.  Some wools are better for
felting, as they have more barbs on them.  All wool has tiny barbs on each individual hair (like a tiny rose bush’s thorns).  When you rub the wool together, the little barbs get entangled and they stick together; this is called felting.

There are so many uses for wool.  I do wonder what even was the point of inventing synthetic fabrics when we have such a good, and also more environmentally sustainable,

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Wool Baby’s Toy

 

one right here. Some wools have a staple length that is really too short for spinning and not enough barbs to felt.  This is, in modern times, often found on sheep that are bred for meat.  Most of the time that wool is thrown away and only the meat is used (how wasteful, I know).  However, the wool from these breeds of sheep is perfect for stuffing for such items as blankets, duvets, pillows, chairs and couches.  Wool can be used for so many things, this barely covers the surface.  One day when I write a novel about it, maybe then I’ll be able to cover it all.

Wool is also very useful for toys as it’s easy to clean and is extremely safe.  It will simply crumble away if on fire and will not burn the person near it, unlike a toy made of synthetic fibers, which will smolder and melt onto skin, as well as emit gases or fumes.  Wool will do none of those things.  Just the other day, I was cooking and I dropped some oil onto the burner of my stove, which caused it to flare up right onto my arm which was over the burner.  Now that could have been REALLY bad, but I was wearing a wool sweater; otherwise I would have caught fire and burnt myself, yet nothing happened to it or me.  It smoked for a second but when I stopped to look I couldn’t even see that my sweater had been near fire at all.  Natural fibers are pretty amazing.
When the tiny barbs on the wool felt together, they trap heat when you wear it, but also it lets your skin breath so that you won’t sweat as much and therefore stay cleaner and warmer. Wool’s natural oil,  called lanolin, is washed away when preparing the wool for commercial textile use, but it is also very good for the skin, and when working with unwashed wool will actually make your hands very soft.  You can also sometimes find lanolin in soaps, as it is so beneficial to your skin.
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There are so many uses for sheep and wool, not to mention that if you own a flock of sheep, you will never have to mow a lawn in your life! Natural fibers are amazing things.  Once you start working with them you never stop learning.   I think we’ve only discovered half the things we can do with wool, if even that.

My Favorite Weaves Part 3 – Brocade

The final part in our 3 part weaving series will look at brocade fabric. It is in the same family marie-antoinette-1as damask and lampas, but is by far the most commonly known of the three, at least to those less knowledgeable in the realm of textiles techniques.  Brocade is what first springs to mind when we think of a luxury fabric.  When I think of brocade I can envision it in Paris, of course not exclusively.  When I think of brocade fabric as clothing, I conjure up an image like Marie-Antoinette; I see her wearing a blue gown, with a brocade coat over top, a dog at her feet, like the image pictured to the right, (minus the dog).
Brocade fabric has a history almost as rich as the fabric itself.  Brocade was first woven on a draw loom (just like the one used to make damask), in silk or cotton; nowadays it is also often woven in a variety of poly materials.  Brocade was one of the most popularly traded fabrics along the Silk Road.  Brocade first became popular during the Byzantine period (330-1453 AD).   As is common when an item first becomes popular, brocade was only available to those who could and were willing to pay for it.  The secret of silk was hidden in China until 300 AD when it was brought to Japan and then spread north and was soon discovered by the Byzantines who incorporated it into their production of brocade, where it took off and spread to the rest of the world.  Before silk was made popular, brocade was not popular.  Before brocade was woven in silk and became famous, it was woven in linen because linen is easy to wash and becomes softer with wear.  Brocade is a very versatile fabric which can be used for coats and other article of clothing, as well as curtains and chair coverings.  It is a very well structured weave, meaning that is has a satin base and that the pattern threads are woven in, therefore it is very strong and can be subjected to a lot of wear and tear, as well as serving as a luxurious fabric.
Brocade is a two or more colored weave, one for the background, which is often a twill or satin.  The second color is used for the pattern.  The pattern thread does not go under every few threads but often floats over many of the weft threads.  Brocade can be made by picking up the individual threads, or by having them already setup on a drawloom or a jacquard, where you have the option of more harnesses and either hand treadles or an electronic loom, like an orignial  jacquard, which has a punch card that reads though and according to where the card as been punched will tell the loom which harnesses to lift up.
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These three different weaves are just a few of the many, many interesting weaves that are out there.  I hope that I have given you a taste for weaves and a little bit (a very little bit) of the interesting history that goes along with them.  Maybe you yourself would like to give some of these amazing techniques a try one day!!  However, for now this will have to conclude our little introduction into some of my personal favourites.

Textile Archaeology – A Hands-on Approach

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During this past semester I have been following a course in Textile Archaeology, which for me, who had no experience whatsoever in the realm of archaeology, has been an eye opening experience, opening my eyes to a whole new world, the world of ancient textiles and cities of the past. Working with archaeological textile tool recreations was also one of the things that was available to me as a student in the class, so even though I was simply sitting in I gained an incredible amount of knowledge.

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I was also able to work with and catalog actual archaeological textiles tools from finds across Denmark, as well be able to go behind the scenes at the National Museum of Denmark to see where the real conservation happens and how to freeze dry finds as one of the ways of preservation.
While taking part in this course, I was able to really examine the textiles of the past, including analysing them under a microscope to see the fiber content, and what type of fiber it was, as well as zooming out a bit to take a look at the textile: the knit/weave of it, the spin of the fiber and the angle at which the twist was set (telling us how tightly the spinner spun the yarn) as well as if it was a z or s twist.  Depending on the hardness of the twist, it could give us an inkling as to what the textile fragment could have been used for.  If it was very hard spun it might have been used quite roughly and if it was soft spun it, it probably wasn’t subjected to very hard wear.
Of the many, many speakers that came and shared their information and told us of their research, visited the museums and were taken on an tour of the collections, I would like to point out one I particularly enjoyed, and that was getting to hear an in-depth description of the some of the bog finds of Denmark and how that kept the textiles preserved so well because they were submerged in the bogs.  Because of the conditions in the bogs the textiles did not succumb to the damp and the air, and therefore kept them in almost perfect condition.

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To say the least, I was also made aware of just ALL the things that an archaeologist has to think about.  Sometimes it feels like there are too many things for your brain to hold I feel, but then that’s why it’s always a collaboration, that is the conclusion that I have come too.  I’m sure that most would agree with me, no good work ever gets done alone.
We were such a diverse group of people, from all walks of life, experience levels and countries. I think that was one of the things that made this class so special, that we all had very different views on what we were learning and took away vastly different things, which is something great, that we could all learn at our own level while all learning a lot.
One amazing thing that came as a result of this class that I am particularly proud of is our weaving workshop (more to come on that later).  I just wanted to say that the learning never stops and creativity leads to greater creativity.

Wandering After a Wander

These past two weeks have been slightly less busy and for that reason have also flown by.  “Where has all the time gone?” is the question that I always seem to be asking myself these days.  I’ve finally got some time to actually work on some of my own things which is nice and also a bit of a struggle.  I’m always chasing after something or other; this time I’m running after books, articles and artifacts, people and always time.
I don’t partically like reading travel journals, as it seems like it’s always people from Europe or American going and seeing people as the “other”, different and not people in the same way that Westerners are, and that is how the authors think of things when they perceive life and culture in the Middle East.  The “other” are often (but not always) considered not as advanced and therefore not as, how shall I say it, not as good as us.  So, it’s not easy to gain an accurate perspective of what life and culture was like in the Middle East from the travel journals of missionaries and geographers.  However, they are the only ones who seem to have traveled and recorded their experiences in the Middle East at that time, at least in English.  I’m sure there is plenty of wonderful literature out there if only I spoke better Arabic. Maybe one day soon I will be able to find and read all the texts that I’m very sure are hiding from me due to my own lack of Arabic.  More things for me to do!  Ah, if only I had more time.  I am always seeming to need to do things when I’m at home, and when I’m at CTR there is just so much going on; besides, no one wants to hear me repeating odd phrases in Arabic.
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Pattern made from an illustration in The Land and the Book. Pattern by Cailin Kwoh 2016

 

As usual I’m getting off topic.  Back to my legwork searching for things.  You know, I swear the hardest part is  getting access to the materials that I need, although now that I have been to the Danish Royal Library, I think I might be in love.  It’s a wonderful place and it’s nice to work there.  It’s also very quiet, which, I know, library = quiet, you would think, but that’s not always the case.  It’s always good to find new places to study and go to new places in general.  I enjoy doing that.  Sometimes it’s so easy to just fall into a routine.  It’s nice to break that up every now and then.
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Pattern made from an illustration in The Land and the Book. Pattern by Cailin Kwoh 2016

 

Serendipitously, I stumbled upon an article the other day regarding Syrian books that have been translated into English.  How about that? Almost seems to good to be true.  However, the next step in all this is finding these materials.  Where have the books gone? Often, the books are very old or out of print, or at least hard to find.  It seems very much as if it’s all a waiting game of sorts.  It takes a long time to track down a book and then when you have read it, it’s not always the thing that you think it is, or were hoping for it to contain, but I guess you could consider that part of the fun! It’s all part of the chase.
You could even say I’m wandering after a wanderer and telling the tales of the storytellers.