The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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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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Two Tribal Kilims

Exactly the day before our trip to Jamaica, DH went to Herat Carpets to see about a kilim rug.  He was armed with:

  • my excited talk about the day I wandered in;
  • Shir’s business card;
  • a quick internet search; and
  • a huge heart.

You can imagine my gratitude.  Not 1 but 2 beautiful small kilims came home with the man.

The central motifs appear to be stylized woman figures known as the Elibelinde (hands on hips) symbol.

DH was drawn to the use of colour, and the evocative weaving.  Elibelinde represents the mother and of the fertility of woman.  Here are search results for the image.

Rather than hazarding more about possible meaning, I’ll just show you the weaver’s signature.

A single motif (comb or tarak)

The second kilim has damage, and some repairs.  Shir told DH that it would have been woven for a man.

This kilim looks similar to Peruvian warp-faced weave structures that I am just starting to learn on my backstrap loom.

The richness of the less-faded colour on the rear of this kilim is just lovely.

Left = rear; Right = design face

I use this one folded and placed over a mat for all of my spindle spinning, and fiber prep work now.

That each kilim is hugely inspirational goes without saying.

He deserves warm feet for such gifts!