Sunday, May 10, 2015

Learning from the Past

The study of historical textiles is revealing in many different ways.  Since every level of society used textiles, they give us a picture of life across the social structure of any given age.  They illustrate how changes in technology influenced everyday life.  They also tell us about migrations and relationships across space and time.
  The antique pieces displayed in the photo on the right include a simple rag rug that could have been made on a sturdy two harness loom.  It illustrates thrift and the art of recycling that was based on need not social pressures. When yard goods were scarce and expensive worn out clothing was recycled into utilitarian items.  Although the technique is simple elaborate patterning can be achieved.
The navy and white piece with the flower motif is part of a coverlet woven in eastern Canada and passed down through the family to a present day weaver.  The wool weft would have been hand spun and taken to the local weaver to be turned into a special bed covering that was both decorative and very practical.  This example was woven on a Jacquard or a draw loom.  The patterns would have been brought from Europe.  Different patterns reflected migration from different countries in Europe.  Today, technological advances have brought Jacquard weaving into the realm of the hand weaver.

Coverlets are important historical textiles of special interest in North America.  The overshot technique illustrated in the photograph below was developed in colonial times as a means of extending the pattern potential of a four harness loom.  The overshot technique is a favourite of hand weavers today.

Very few textiles survive from truly ancient times.  But even small fragments can be revealing.  Such is the case of a discovery at a grave site in South west China in the late 70's.  Here archaeologists found a fabric of twill construction and a plaid design.  The grave site was about 3,000 years old.  The find and subsequent study of the plaid fabric at Qizilchoqa contradicts the idea that the plaid is a recent invention from Scotland.  Taken with similar finds in Austria it suggests that the plaid was designed by the ancient ancestors of the Celts.

At our monthly guild meeting members were treated to a talk about the Qizilchoqa plaid by John Fitzpatrick.  John specializes in the study of tartans and has reproduced this very early Asian example. For more information check out John's web site at

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Never Too Old to Learn

Had to read books

When we are very young we participate in a formal learning process.  Others determine what we learn so that we can function in human society.  As teenagers our interests and abilities have more influence over the direction of our studies but there is always a curriculum set by someone that we must follow in order to "graduate".  Such learning is work that we do to gain the approval of others.

Learning for pleasure is something we do for ourselves.  It is a lot more fun when we chose the subject, set the curriculum and decide what the passing mark is.  
Want to read books
So what does this have to do with weaving and spinning?  Some of us may be lucky enough to have access to an educational institute that provides instruction in weaving and spinning.  Most of us are on our own and depend upon publications, more experienced artisans, and those few who teach professionally.  We owe much to those great professional teachers who are willing to travel to smaller communities.  They cope with unfamiliar travel routes, rustic class rooms, unreliable equipment, and eclectic accommodations.  They scrimp on their own comforts to keep costs down and they know their chosen profession will never make them rich.  But they also know their students are eager to learn what they have to teach.

samples from dye workshop
colour exercise with wrapping
The Association of North West Weaving Guilds provides funds to help support member guilds educational efforts.  This year the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild was awarded a grant in support of a workshop and a series of lectures by Robyn Spady.  Robyn is a frequent contributor to Handwoven, Shuttle Spindle and Dye Pot and other weaving publications.  She has completed the Handweavers Guild of American Certificate of Excellence and has written monographs on creating decorative trim.
The program takes place June 5 to 7th and includes the workshop, Extreme Warp Makeover.  The lectures include, Taming of the Hue, Weaving TNT and Two Sides of Every Cloth.  The lectures are independent of the workshop and can be taken individually or as a series.  The location is the Lighthouse Hall in Qualicum Bay on Vancouver Island.  For details about the subject matter see Robyn's web site.

Blanket from workshop
We are hoping that weavers who are not members of the Qualicum group will attend the program.  The workshop committee has sent information to neighbouring guilds through their ANWG representative.  If you are interested check with your ANWG representative or check the guild events column to the right of this post.