Thursday, 1 April 2021

An article and book reviews.

 Little Looms has just published their Summer 2021 edition:  Easy Weaving with Little Looms

Last year, I was contacted by the editor to write a small piece about weaving narrow bands.  

I have a short article in this edition called Narrow bands Skilful Hands on pages 16 to 20.  

I took a picture of a range of patterned bands to accompany the article.

Here is a version of one picture which starts the article. 

  The magazine print or digital version can be purchased from 

Long Thread Media  also publish Handwoven magazine

A new book about tablet weaving.  

I have received these details from a friend although I have not seen the book.

Tablet Woven Treasures : Archaeological Bands from the Finnish Iron Age by Maikki Karisto and Mervi Pasanen.  It is published by Salakirjat. It does not yet show on Amazon but it looks fascinating.

I have found the link to the publisher. They seem to ship world-wide and accept Paypal payments.

Two book recommendations.  

In 2016, I attended the Third International Conference on Braiding in Tacoma, USA .  I wrote an article for the publication connected to the workshop that I would be teaching.  I had become interested in finding a method to accurately describe the forms of the motifs, the pattern elements on woven patterned bands.  Up until then there had been no systematic analysis of band patterns.   

Symmetry and rhythmical ordering are common features of pattern design. A classification of pattern design was outlined by Washburn, D.K. & Crowe, D. W (1988) in their book: Symmetries of Culture: Theory and Practice of Plan Pattern Analysis. Their book gives a structure for analysing decorated textiles and other plane surface patterns. I have adapted the analysis so that it can be applied to patterns of woven bands. I used this fascinating book to put together an easily accessible way of describing pattern design elements

There are three basic design principles: the shape of the pattern element, the order of the pattern element and the transformation of the pattern element. 

Foulkes, S J (2016) Craft, Individuality and Design, Pp 115 - 120. in  Braids, Bands & Beyond - Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Braiding  ed R Spady ISBN 978-0-9573127-1-5, The Braid Society. Pages 115-120 This can be purchased from the Braid Society.

Symmetries of Culture book has been recently reprinted in paperback by Dover publications--just in case you or your weaving colleagues would like an inexpensive copy. I am not sure when the reprint will be available. 

Here is the review on Dover books. 'This ground breaking collaboration between an anthropologist and a mathematician constitutes both a collection of symmetrical pattern designs from many cultures and a monograph on pattern design and the classification of symmetrical patterns. Intended for art historians, anthropologists, classical archaeologists, and others interested in the study of material culture, it can also serve as a reference and inspiration for the use of symmetrical patterns in art and design.'

Here is one of my charts about the transformation of shapes. I analysed a Latvian belt from Nīca which has 19 pattern threads. Looking at one of the many motifs, I found that the weaver had transformed the motif in a number of ways.  This was a delight to analyse although very time consuming as there are over 2,200 picks with no simple pattern repeats.  A number of basic motifs are manipulated to appear in 3 other ways of orientation. The weaver seems to delight in varying the order and orientation of these motifs in a playful way.  

An example of transformations used in the Nīca belt motifs. 

The Nīca belt demonstrates that it is possible to repeat one motif, to flip the motif, to weave the negative version of the motif and to weave a flipped negative. It is an amazing piece of weaving. 

My full article is in the Proceedings. Here is the reference:  

Foulkes, S J (2016) Craft, Individuality and Design, Pp 115 - 120. in  Braids, Bands & Beyond - Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Braiding  ed R Spady ISBN 978-0-9573127-1-5, The Braid Society. Pages 115-120 This can be purchased from the Braid Society and is available in the USA.

My second recommendation is this wonderful book which was published at the end of last year.  I had ordered the book many months previously but publication had been delayed. It was worth waiting for. 

Weaving of Nomads in Iran Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles by Fred Mushkat, Lois Beck and Dareshuri  2020  Published by London: Hali Publications Ltd.  ISBN 9781898113805  396 pages

It is a large hardback book with beautiful illustrations. Each band has a two page spread.  There is a full page picture of the band and on the other page, a close-up  and details about the band. For copyright reasons I cannot reproduce any of them here but the publishers interviewed Fred Muskat and you can see some of the illustrations. 

Link to Hali

The book  is expensive and very heavy but any band weaver interested in band weaving history will be fascinated.  As the foreword explains ' Almost without exception, the women and girls of Iran's nomadic tribes were competent or accomplished weavers.' ( page 12) They produced everything that their nomadic lifestyle required and 'enriched it aesthetically.' The history outlined in the book and the recording of the traditional patterns is an important contribution to the knowledge of traditional weaving in the neglected form of narrow patterned bands. 

A glorious celebration of the skills of weavers.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes  April 2021

Monday, 1 March 2021

Making backstraps

I have been very busy since I completed my Masters degree. I have written four articles. I have woven three sets of dish towels - 10 towels in all as well as two bath towels. I wove a set of waffle weave hand towels for a friend. I have also been weaving metres of narrow bands for various projects and experiments. I have given three Zoom talks and I am preparing another one for later this month for a Guild in the USA. I have also started to think about workshops.  I am so looking forward to face to face teaching again.

I have a large amount of stash - yarn bought over the years and not used. I thought I would try to use up some of this stash. I have a collection of tow linen which I bought to weave some sauna towels.  After I wove one my husband said that they were too coarse to be used for drying so this box of yarn has lain undisturbed for years. I decided to weave a set of backstraps for my workshop in 2022 and also a set of simple rustic drawstring bags for holding equipment.  

So far, I have woven the material for the backstraps and tags and some of the material for the bags.

Here is my backstrap project. 

Here are the woven lengths for the backstraps and one length of the ties for each end.

1. The pattern for the first backstrap has 89 warp ends using some left over Finnish linen 6 with Swedish tow linen 6 used double.   

Warp ends = 89    9 reed at four warp ends per dent. 
Total width on loom is 22  dents =  6.2 cm   approx 2.5  inches

2. The second backstrap length has 83 warp ends using the same combination of linen. 

Warp ends = 83         9 reed at four warp ends per dent. 

Total width on loom is  21 dents = 5.75 cm   approx 2.25 inches

Ties for the backstraps

For the ties I used tow 6 linen doubled.

Tie 1. 

The tie has 33 warp ends.  Width = 15 mm

Tie 2. 

The second tie has 33 warp ends. 

Making the backstrap.

Off the loom, the width of the backstrap is 6.2 cm  I cut a length of 84 cm.  I folded down a hem. 

I then folded down the hem again. 

The finished backstrap was woven some years ago.  I decided that a wider backstrap was preferable. 

Take the tie band and cut two lengths of 19cm.

Fold in half and press firmly.

Turn up the cut end and again press firmly.  This cut end will be inserted into the turn down at the end of the backstrap.

Now press firmly and tack in place.  End ties are ready to be sewn.

Here is the pattern for the green backstrap which I wove about five years ago. 

The finished backstrap.  I need to twist a cord for the fastening but at least I have made a start. Only 14 more to go!

Happy weaving 

Susan J Foulkes MA (Art Hist) (Open)

Friday, 1 January 2021

Weaving mug mats

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us.  However, there have been many examples of kindliness and neighbourliness which have been so uplifting. 

Sharing online has become a way for some people to acquire new skills and also to share their skills with others - from yoga, physical fitness and craft.

I joined the wonderful Weave-Along with Tien Chiu and Janet Dawson.  It was a great online experience with copious notes and live question and answer sessions.  Several thousand weavers joined in the fun. 

There were two variations for the mug mats - 4 shaft and 8 shaft patterns.  I chose the 8 shaft pattern and made a long warp in blue cottolin.

The pattern was for 134 ends sett at 18 ends per inch.  

Here is my first mat.  I used two shuttles one for the tabby weft and the other using a doubled thread for the pattern weft. Here the tabby weft is the same colour as the warp threads. 

I wove two mats.  The first mat was woven too loosely.  I did not beat hard enough as you can see. The second mat with the white pattern is better. 

I hemmed and washed them. Here you can see another woven mug mat made with carpet wool which I wove many years ago.   I felt that the size of the cottolin mats was too large.  I decided to make the epi 20 and to take out some of the warp ends. 

This made the width at the reed as 6.5 inches 16.5 cm. Number of warp ends is 96 plus two ends for selvedge ( one on each side) 

I used nine shafts. The selvedge on each side is on shaft 10 and is shown in green. 

This pattern has the tabby weft in white and the pattern weft in blue and pink. The selvedge weft goes over one warp end for two picks then under one warp end for two picks.  

At 20 ends per inch and beating appropriately, the pattern looked more even. 

The weave structure is 3/1 twill so using the same colour weft the pattern can look quite complicated. 

I tried some clasped weft designs which are time consuming but there are some excellent ways of varying the colours.  This one is straightforward. The colours are clasped in the centre. 

Here is the whole of the narrowed warp off the loom with three wider mats at the top. 

I wove 10 picks of plain weave at the beginning and end of each mat so that they could be hemmed.  This was only just enough so next time I will weave a wider hem.  I also tried leaving a fringe on some of the mats. These are just the right size for me and I gave many of them away as presents.  I will be trying the four shaft variation next. 

What was so wonderful about the Weave-Along was the amazing variations that other weavers showed on the Facebook page.  Such fascinating combinations of colours and adaptations of the weave. This was truly inspiring. When skills are shared, everyone benefits. 

For this New year, I send my best wishes and love to everyone which starts with such hope that the infection will be overcome. 

Susan J Foulkes January 2021

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Sanada-himo bands: a useful tying technique.

In the latest edition of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, issue 276, Winter 2020, there is an article by my friend Tamaki and I about the traditional woven band of Japan.  It is possible to buy a copy from 

 Researching Sanada-himo: The Traditional Japanese Woven Band. Pages 32 - 35.

These beautiful woven treasures are a delight. I have organised a couple of workshops about this type of band and made a YouTube video to accompany the workshop.

Weaving Sandahimo Cords

After returning from Japan last year, I received a wonderful gift.  

This beautiful bowl was an unexpected present. I had been looking for such a bowl to buy whilst I was there but did not see the type of bowl I wanted.  When I opened the parcel it was such a jolt of surprise and delight.

It is wrapped and fits inside its own box.  The box is tied with a sanda-himo band. I made a short video showing how to tie the knot,.

Tying a Sanada Himo Cord:

Here is how to tie the knot in pictures.  

 There are many other videos available about this technique of tying.  After I had made my YouTube video I found this one by Richard Milgrim. 

Richard Milgrim : Tying Sanada himo for Richard Milgrim's boxes

Richard Milgrim is an American who makes beautiful Japanese ceramics. I mentioned his TED lecture in a Facebook post recently.  

TED lecture: Peace in one's hands

In Kyoto, I visited the bookshop for a Chado school and bought this book.

It came with a very useful DVD.  I followed the instructions on how to tie the knot around the box for my beautiful bowl.  

I thought that I would use this way of tying for Christmas presents.

When I visited the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford some time ago these traditional Peruvian bands were on sale.  I bought two because I thought that the colour combinations were particularly attractive. I thought that I could use these bands to tie my gifts. 

Two Peruvian bands

The blue band has a simple pattern.  The weft is double thickness. The picture shows the back and front of the band.

Close up of blue band

The white band is an unusual asymmetrical design.

If you want to try to weave your own, here are the details. I have made a graph of the pattern for the blue band.  There are nine colours for the centre pattern on a border of blue.

Pattern Draft.

Remember: for this pattern chart, the heddle is always raised on the odd numbered picks and lowered on the even numbered picks

Look at the chart carefully. Most of the coloured warp ends float over two picks.   There are 14 picks for the pattern repeat. There are no background threads behind the pattern threads. All the warp ends are the same thickness. I used four ply sock yarn. 


Here is the warp sequence.  There are 27 warp ends in total.

6 blue, 2 dark green, 2 medium green, 2 pale green, 1 yellow, 1 white, 2 pink, 2 medium pink, 2 red, 1 burgundy, 6 blue.


The weft is a double thread: the same as the blue edges of the band. I tried weaving with a single strand of the blue but the pattern becomes more compressed.  Using a double thread for the weft makes the pattern elongated and nearer to the original.

Threading the heddle.

Thread the warp ends alternately through a hole and a slot in a standard heddle.


 You can weave without pick up and produce a warp faced band with coloured stripes. 

If you want to create the pattern then  the coloured threads need to float over two picks.  Only on picks 1, 3, 7, 9 and 13 do some of the coloured threads only appear once. On these picks there is no pick up for the single coloured squares as they will appear when the  heddle is raised.  the coloured threads The 6 blue threads on either side weave as warp faced plain weave.  The central pattern area is not pulled together as much as the blue selvedges.  

 I had to devise my own way of weaving which took a little time.  There may be a more efficient way of selecting the pattern threads but I will have to experiment with different methods to see which is best.

I have not yet made a graph for the white band.  There are fewer pattern threads so the weaving should be more straightforward.

Here is my attempt at weaving this pattern. The colours of the wool are not identical to the original Peruvian band.  I tried using a single weft yarn but the pattern did not elongate which is a feature of the Peruvian band.  A double weft is much better although the selvedges are not as neat as I would have liked.  I will need to practise with this technique.


I wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable festive season.

Susan J Foulkes Dec 2020

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Weaving overshot

On Instagram recently I was invited to list seven books which have been inspiring for my weaving.  Check out the hashtag       #myweavinglifein7books 

 A Handweaver's Pattern Book  by Marguerite P Davison was the first weaving book that I bought. I was learning to weave at a local authority weaving class and was hooked from the first time I sat in front of a loom.. 

Like all new weavers I tried many techniques. One technique, overshot, I have tried only twice. There is a pattern called Norse Kitchen on page 186 in the book.  I wove this table runner on a four shaft table loom and only made one mistake!  I was so proud of it. It is woven in cottolin. 

The runner is 18 inches wide and 54inches  in length. 

This shows the front and reverse side of the runner. 

Here is a close up of the pattern. 

Discover Color Weave-Along!

I signed up for the Discover Color Weave-Along! last week. I am weaving mug mats in overshot on 8 shafts. Five thousand weavers have also joined the workshop which is free. This is a 3-week weave-along delivered via an online course with plenty of information.

I am using cottolin instead of 8/2 cotton sett at 18 epi.  Here is my first attempt on the loom.  I am using a double cottolin thread for the pattern weft. I have a useful shuttle which takes two bobbins. 

The first mat was woven using a doubled red cottolin yarn for the pattern thread.  I do not think that I beat hard enough. For the second mat I used a 3/2 cotton for the pattern weft.  I beat as hard as I could. 

I have cut off the two mats and have machine hemmed them. 

The workshop indicates that the mug mats should be about 8" by 8" but perhaps the cottolin is making the dimensions different. The first red mat is 6.5 inches in width and 8.25 inches in length. Examining it closely I can see that the plain weave tabby has not been beaten in hard enough. The sett is 18 epi.

For the second mat I used a 2/3 white cotton yarn and beat as firmly as I could.  The dimensions are 6.5 inches in width and 7 inches in length. 

I need to wash them to check on the final size before I weave any more. Perhaps a sett of 20 epi might be more useful. They do seem rather large for a normal sized mug. 

Here are the mats after washing.  The small mat is the old one that I use.  As you can see the new ones are very large.  They are both 5.5 inches in width. The red one is 7.5 inches and the blue and white one is now 6.25 inches in length.  Although they have shrunk they are still very large.  

The white cotton weft has produced a lovely firm pattern so I will use this again. 

For the next samples I will hem them on the loom.  This is time consuming but does make a neat edge.

Susan J Foulkes November 2020

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Weaving Tea Towels

I love weaving tea towels.  It is relaxing and they make great presents. I made these towels just before lock down and took photographs to explain how I weave. I have the time now to weave the hanging tags. 

I thought that on this blog I would show some different aspects of setting up and weaving on my Megado loom.

Materials: Warp: Cottolin in white, pale orange, deep orange, red and beige. 
                   Weft: cottolin in the same colours. 

Sett: 18 epi

Reed: 9 dent reed two ends per dent.

Warp colour order

                                                                                    Centre: reverse threading to complete
White                  26        24       24        24         24
Red                           24                                                24
Orange                                 24             
Dark orange                                    24
Pale orange                                                  24

Total number of ends : 256  This incudes 2 threads on each side for the plain weave selvedge. 


Here is the drawdown for these tea towels.  It gives a texture surface to the woven cloth. 

The pattern is on eight shafts.  I use two additional shafts for the plain weave border. If you only have eight shafts use a floating selvedge at each side. 

Making the warp - using the warping frame.

I have a useful warping frame which I hang on one of my bookshelves in my weaving room. (Sorry about the mess - I do try to tidy the shelves but .....)

After I have made a warp, I can unscrew all of the warp pegs so that the frame can be left in place until I require it again. 

For this towel I made the warp in three sections. Each section is made half inches which are divided using a thick thread. I tie a singles cross at one end. The warp is made in half inch sections. The three sections are put onto a sturdy stick. 
The three sections of warp. 

Here are the three sections of warp.  

These are transferred to the back beam by tying on the stick to the back beam.  Once in place I thread the cross sticks through the singles cross. 

The cross sticks have been placed through the singles cross. 

The stick needs to be firmly attached to the back beam so I tie it on with strong linen in at least 9 places. 
The warp is then taken through to the front of the loom and threaded through the raddle.  The sections of the raddle take half inch bouts of warp ends. 

The half inch sections of warp have been placed in the raddle. 

The three sections were tied in half inch sections during warping so the half inch sections are easy to find.  

Once all the sections are threaded through the raddle, the warp ties can be undone. 

Now the warp is ready to be wound onto the back beam.  I need my trusty assistant.

Winding the warp on the back beam

My trusty warping assistant. 

This can take some time and is a skilled job.  The cross sticks need to be pushed forward before each winding. The warp is separated on the back beam by sticks and then wide paper. 

Threading the heddles. 

The warp is wound onto the back beam. With the cross sticks in place I can start threading the heddles.  I usually start in the centre and work outwards. 

Threading the heddles. 

All the heddles are threaded. 

Tying onto the front beam

Once the heddles are threaded, the cross sticks at the back are removed. Each half inch bout is tied separately. It is very important to get the tension even across the width of the warp. I run my fingers over the warp to sense which warp ends are not at the same tension. 

I have woven a set of tea towels in this colour selection before and I liked the colours so much I though that I would weave some more. 

Starting to weave. 

Once the tension is even I can then start to weave.  In a wide warp I place a narrow stick in the first shed. Then I use some waste yarn to weave a few picks in plain weave so that the warp becomes evenly spread. 

Here is a closeup. 

Using a stretcher

Once I have woven a couple of inches, I use a stretcher (or temple). This helps to keep the weaving an even width.  

 The Weft.

It is important to put the weft across at the correct angle for the thread and pattern that is used.  Here is the weft at an angle of about 45degrees. I try to ensure that this is the same for each pick. The picture shows the orange weft going from right to left across the warp. 

For the final towel I used a beige weft.

Orange weft in the shed

Even tension a tip for the Megado loom

I am very fortunate as I have a 24 shaft Megado loom.  Winding the woven material onto the front beam is easy.  I can undo the ratchet on the back beam with my foot.  I then wind the woven part of the warp onto the front beam.  It is very important the the warp is stretched to the same tension every time it is wound on.  With the Megado loom this is easy.  The lever which winds the woven material hangs down on the right side of the loom.  I pasted a short length of tape measure onto the loom.  I know how far the lever should go each time so that the tension is the same.

Here is the lever with no tension.

Here is the lever with the correct tension for this particular warp.  I can ensure that it is in the same position after I have wound on the woven cloth onto the front beam. 

The finished tea towels.

Here are two of the finished towels. The hanging towel uses the same colours as the warp for a check.  

One towel has a single beige weft colour. This produces a check pattern but without having to change the weft colour. 

The hanging tags.

I love designing tags to match my tea towels. Here is my design.  There are 39 warp ends using the same colours of cottolin. You can just about see it on the towel on the right. 

Red             4                            3
White             2     2      2     2      
Orange               2                     
Dark orange              2                   
Pale orange                       2                     

I am also weaving a second tag for the tea towel with the beige weft.  Here it is still on my band loom. I designed a different pattern using the beige cottolin in the warp and as the weft. 

I hope that you are all enjoying weaving and keeping safe and healthy.

with very best wishes

Susan J Foulkes    October 2020