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Weaving with the Navarro Gomez sisters, and beyond

The ROM’s first exhibition celebrating its Mexican collection is open through May 2016: ¡Viva Mexico! Clothing & Culture.  The exhibition includes around 150 pieces spanning 300 years.  This May the Museum hosted master backstrap weavers, Crispina &  Margarita Navarro Gómez as a complement to the exhibit.

ROM Artist-in-residence Margarita Navarro Gomez demonstrating backstrap weaving with irieknit

Weaving with Margarita Navarro Gomez at her demonstration backstrap loom

I visited on May 19th, and was able to meet the artists-in-residence as they demonstrated outside of the gallery.

Curator, Chloë Sayer, spoke with me & also helped with translation since I do not speak Spanish.  With her help, I asked the sisters questions about their work, and home in Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca state.  I learned that the sisters do not typically spin but use mill-spun threads, and are of the Zapotec culture.  It was also fun for my part to show a little spinning of East Friesian wool roving on my vintage Andean low-whorl spindle.

Luckily, it was still quiet when I got back after lunch with N.  A very nice docent was helpful for other visitors, and Margarita helped me into weaving on the demonstration loom.  The machete was so smooth, and effective with its handle but I kept wanting to use it blade-down (wrong way!).  Margarita also helped me get used to the loom’s rigid heddle, and then also wove a flower motif with me strapped-in.

Irieknit and backstrap weavers Crispina and Margarita Navarro Gomez

Crispina had just finished weaving her band with fine threads.  As soon as she threw the last pick, she set about braiding the first ends.  It was a truly beautiful band, and she just continued straight into the next step while Margarita worked with me.

Mexican serape classic-period Saltillo style ROM exhibition

Man’s serape, mid-19th century Saltillo-style

There are so many beautiful backstrap-woven pieces on display, and many are natural dyed as well.

Eagle motif handspun cotton huipil Mazatec culture

Mazatec culture handspun cotton huipil

The main design motif of this huipil (1875 – 1899) is embroidered on the tabby & gauze handspun cotton fabric.  The exhibit says this strong eagle resting on nopal (Opuntia cacti) motif represents the founding of Aztec culture in post-revolution Mexico.

Mexican handwoven silk warp ikat rebozo

Silk warp ikat rebozo (shawl), Mexico

The exhibit is in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume on level 4 of the new wing.  I’d love to go for another visit, and gain more understanding.

Viva Mexico Royal Ontario Museum exhibition backstrap woven belts

Backstrap woven belts, Mexico

A few more pictures are up in my Flickr album, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in Mexico’s material culture, and innovative textile production, generally.

Mexican embroidered silk cotton rebozo 18th century Royal Ontario Museum exhibit

Embroidered rebozo (shawl) with 6-point fringe, 1775 – 1800

At last, the loom was warped

Sometimes the best obligations are those we set for ourselves.  The ice-breaker into weaving again was a table runner for our front hall.

Blue Faced Leicester wool handspun yarn by irieknit

BFL loom fodder from dyed top

This was approximately 502 yards (1,004 yards per pound) of BFL from top that Waterloo Wools dyed as ‘Holly and Ivy’.  It was a quick spin in mid-September on the antique Nova Scotia McDonald wheel, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Weaving wool overshot table runner with handspun pattern weft on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

Elizabeth-Jane’s design; my handspun yarn

The warp & tabby weft are Harrisville’s #9 evergreen in Shetland.  It is 1,800 yards per pound, and I used a 15 epi sett estimating for plain weave.  The pattern is in Marguerite Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book,” p. 120 I.  We had a flip-through, and when N strongly preferred this Elizabeth-Jane’s design, I got to figure things out.

Finished handwoven wool table runner by irieknit in overshot design

Washed! Circles on the flip-side

You’ll have to take my word for it due to poor lighting at the moment – the hemmed, and pressed runner is now rocking our hall’s vintage Singer sewing machine.  Holiday cheer is unlocked!

It was 15″ in the reed, and with my wet finishing is fulled to 13″ width and 46″ length.  The hem’s weft was a flourish of handspun that was already on a bobbin.

Cones of wool weaving yarn

Future weavy plans

These cones of mill-end yarn arrived, yesterday.  With lots of holiday & new baby knitting ahead, I also get to look forward to keeping my Mighty Wolf open for business!

 


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Hello, Weftember!

The inaugural Weftember Weavers’ Open is about to begin!  Enallagma9 also known as Bug Girl threw down the thread in the Friends of Abby’s Yarns Ravelry group, and said:

Ladies and gentlemen, knitters and spinners, weavers and all those who fiddle with fiber, in just under four weeks the very first Weftember will begin! Weftember begins Saturday, September 7th (not on the 1st!), and goes through Sunday, September 29th, midnight to midnight, Rav time.

She said more but if you are a FOAY then you already knew that!  Since she posted this 22 days ago, so far FOAY has managed a good 32 pages of pre-Weftember in fine form.

We each get to pick something that stretches us as a weaver.  I picked taking a floor loom weaving Guild class that starts later this month.

Weaving sampler

Weftember has drawn weavers from every nook & cranny of the skill levels.  It’s been a rollicking first 32 pages.  The group inspired me to sit back down at the loom bench.  The end result may not be a looker but the weavers were having none of my shyness.  You can thank them for any pictures at all!

Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class is what really helped orient me, alone at home.  She talks you through & also weaves with a smaller Schacht Wolf loom.  Most of all, I love her ‘loom scavenger hunt’ for All the Ties.  With Janet’s back-to-front warping, and Peggy Osterkamp‘s sampler from Weaving for Beginners, I made out all right.

Sampler, fresh off the loom

The lines of skipped warp threads are no trick of the light.  I discovered rust to the back of the reed, and also my own sleying error.  Several deep breaths later, I advanced the warp and fetched the can of spray starch.

Weaving sampler, underbelly

Starting over with plain weave helped but not entirely.  See how the floats extend beyond that point?  I tackled this again by hanging 2 heavy stone necklaces off the back beam.  It worked!  The trouble in the reed was much more manageable after that.

FOAY is so utterly cool that they picked up on the key word “rust” immediately.  Chemists weighed in, and with discussion, I got the green flag for Plan 1 of 2.  It involved rubber gloves, a steel scrubbie, diluted CLR, and an apron.  The reed still has rust but Plan 2 of 2 is in place.  That reminds me, I need to get naval jelly & a small brass brush…

Jakima progress

Yesterday, as my brain strained under the idea of a new floor loom warp, I had an Aha! moment.  Soon the backstrap loom from String Thing was out of its basket hiding place.  I was afraid that all the learning had flown out of my head but I was able to pick up, pallashanin as it were, where I left off.

Backstrap weaving

Although I started with the loom on my bare foot, I switched over to use the back of my floor loom.  I love the mahogany swords or kaulla from Abby’s class.  The Tanka Ch’oro design is described by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez in Textile Traditions of Chinchero: A Living Heritage as being:

… formed by three pairs of threads of two colors.  This is the first design that the weaver learns.

It is a series of shells side by side.

Here I was seeing some mistakes, and learning by doing.  Soon, I was thinking more in terms of creating the design:  “two red legs; yellow heart” and “sonqopa heart.”  I remembered to drop warps first, and I didn’t saw my yllawa or string heddles when changing sheds.

My loom manipulation improved, and so did my weaving.  Backstrap weaving is so simple, and yet so far from my true grasp.

Happy Weftember

 


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String Thing 2013 – my hat trick, continued

hat trick n. 1 the scoring of three goals, points etc. by one person during a game. 2 three successes

◊ Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 2004

It hit me that in this 3rd of 3 years of attending this Stringtopia event, I was most at ease.

Plain weaving with the Tanka design

This simple band or jakima represents this for me.  The length of kata, plain weave is where I re-learned how to weave.

The first ray of light was learning the Quechua term for lease cord – sonq’opa.  It is derived from the word for heart, “son”.  This drove a truth home to me.  It is what Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez says in “Textile Traditions of Chinchero:  A Living Heritage” on p. 85:

In the process of making textiles, the weaver devotes part of her life to her weaving.  That is why a weaver can tell stories about happy or sad times, and different life events according to the time it took to weave a certain textile.

This was the best devotion of my time.  To answer the US border agent – no, you cannot just learn this on Youtube.  I am the case in point.

Mahogany, folks.

As I suspected my backstrap loom management was awkward, and therefore, flawed.  Working with my waist as the front warp beam & my shod foot as the back beam, Abby gently corrected my process.

“Use both swords,” she said.  “You will need them both for the next step.”  With Abby’s help, and intense focus, I turned the first ideas on their heads.  The solution was less taxing, and completely elegant.

Friends in class had different problems, and revelations.  We walked the cliff edge of adult learning.  No-one fell into the gully of frustration.  I was very grateful when a more experienced backstrap weaver, Janie Yates pointed out that I was sawing my shed open with the yllawa or string heddles.  Janie helpfully guided me back to tensioning the warp open.

Where our spirits soared was after lunch.  We had hit the objectives.  Abby spoke to her identity as a Chinchero weaver, teacher and studio owner.  It was pure heart, and so very moving.  My culture is also rooted in the oral transfer of knowledge.  It’s something I deeply respect.

Abby knows what this means for me because I had to tell her, thank her.  I will practice and build on this foundation.  It was my best takeaway of any Stringtopia.

With thanks, Abby.

Studio, what studio?

Walking through Stringtopia’s doors the next day made me want to click my heels, or tear-up.  Or something.

Bricks & mortar matters for carrying textile arts forward.  It’s a lifetime achievement to create such a space in this day.

A spindle was removed before taking this shot

Canadian Production Wheels get around.  This one is safely out of the direct sunlight!

Frederic Bourda CPW

Having taken Abby’s backstrap weaving class the day before, I walked right up to the hanging jakimas.

They are pretty.  Carol told me that the jakima de kata on the left was woven by Abby’s son.

Back to the fun & games

How much of a textured batt can you spin on a drop spindle in 2 minutes, you ask?

This is our friend, Janet in the foreground helping Mandie pace out her yarn.  Taking classes & hanging out with them both was super fun as usual!

Beth was happy

Respect due to each & every long-draw competition team on Saturday night!

Win! Jane, Erin & Michelle

They used an e-spinner!  Other brave teams were…

Kathy, Lisa & Martha

Amy, Kim & Caroline

Serious kudos to Enting, Laura & Tracy who competed with a drop spindle.  I bow to the prowess!

Proof of concept: sideways draft on a drop spindle

I am now home, and rested.  I miss being able to rush to classes, hang out in Morgaine’s space, turn around & speak with spinners.

If you live close to Stringtopia then I am a touch green with envy.  Support them!  Until next time I have skills to practice and yarn to make.

New wool combs doing what they do

For example, this 1.6 oz of luxurious Muga silk will also keep me happy and engaged.

Thing of beauty: Muga silk for spinning

 

 

 


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Celebrating String Thing 2013

Hello, morning of String Thing!

With Sandi on the first morning of String 2013

This year Sandi and I overnighted with my family in their lovely Toledo home.  It broke my drive but was much more – a chance to visit & laugh with some of my favorite people.  

Sandi graciously agreed to this plan.  She survived us talking at full speed!

I like the fine print

The Golden Lamb was just 3 hours away, and we made it just in time for afternoon classes.  Gotta love how the Lamb has operated under its 1803 licence as a “house of public entertainment.”

Still enjoying mine.

To wit, this year’s warm welcome!  I sensed a certain craftiness with the glue gun there… sure enough 2 hotel staffers bought 1st spindles at the event.

Enting!

The 2nd welcome pack went to my most excellent roommate, Enting!  Finally meeting an online friend is so cool and I loved getting to know her.

Traditional Andean Textiles

Abby’s Friday class was given in partnership with Charles H. Gerhardt of Tribal Art, a local collector/ dealer.  We were able to examine each pre-Columbian textile closely.

Ancient Peruvian spindle

These artefacts were found in graves.  They took our breaths away.  I ran to take pictures for you.

Works in progress.  The spinner’s fibre and her tools.

The shell in particular moved me.  I also use large shells to spin cotton on supported spindles.

Andean chuspa – purse or bag

What better way to begin to learn about Andean textile traditions? A backstrap woven chuspa was juxtaposed with a slit tapestry panel & much more.

Pre-Columbian slit-tapestry

Doesn’t the geometric design look very modern?  It incorporates both camelid & cotton fibres.

L – Belt with finger weaving

My hope is that Abby will run this workshop again for Stringtopians.  In addition to these and more items, Charlie made 2 Incan Quipus available for our class.

Multi-coloured Quipu

We saw not only colour but opposing twist, coils, knots and plies as the sophisticated system of record that it is.

The other Quipu that we examined was shorter with no header, undyed, and had less vertical yarns.

Mounted Incan Quipu

Spinners’ Social Nights

As you may have guessed, there is quite a lot of spinning in public at String.

Shelly aka Baking Goddess to the Spinners

Shelly was trying out cute Turkish spindles.  We loved her sweater & laughed at its story.

Fran, Anne, Karen and Stacey – local Stringtopians

Ohioans never fail to impress me with their friendliness.  We had a great time together over dinner.

Kristen, Knittin9Dra9on

This was all only after we made Mandie show us her gorgeous Iron Maiden shawl.

Mandie and her Mithril Maiden

She used 1 skein of her Sheepy Time Knits Silkie yarn.  Before I leave the subject of Mandie’s super talents, look at what I scored as a String prize this year!

Luck of the draw!

So thrilled to have won this awesome prize!  It’s 50/50 merino silk, and will be as lace-weight as I can make it.

And the contest rules are…

This year, Morgaine donated batts for sundry spinning competitions.  Not surprisingly my speed-spinning on a spindle was not competitive.

Devin won. He is a spindle speed demon!

On Saturday night to kick-off Longest Thread, Abby, Beth & Carol schooled the crowd.  My mind was suitably blown by the hilarity.

While this was all going on, I was enjoying having a New Glarus with Woolwine.  T is a super-favorite String friend, and she makes me giggle in class too!

Woolwine in her awesome handspun Paulie

New Glarus is a thing of beauty & deserves blog space.

Notice T’s bottle opener? Mad skills.

Competition fun aside (I might get to that in another post), Carolyn gave Abby a challenge she couldn’t walk away from.

We laughed OUT LOUD

Yup.  Boat anchor.  As someone said, “The jokes just write themselves!”

There is more I want to say but this post is already long.  Lebanon, Ohio is beautiful this time of year inside & out.

Spun in the best company

These classes teach me so much each year, and Abby’s community creates such a giving space.

Thank you, friends.