Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Travels around the Baltic:St Petersburg

The Kunstkamera  (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography) in St Petersburg, Russia

The Kunstkammer in February 2017 
We visited St Peterburg in February this year.  Having seen the city in the summer when it was very hot, we thought that it would be interesting to see the winter season. Yes, it was cold and it was the first time that I had seen a wide frozen river.

 The Kunstkamera (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography) is one of the first museums in the world.  It was established by Peter the Great, an enlightened and intelligent monarch who started to collect curiosities. This was a fashionable educational pursuit at the time. The heart of the collection is still made up of exhibits collected during Peter's lifetime.  It houses over one million ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological artefacts. This beautiful building, on the right in the photograph, was built to house the collection and opened in 1734.

The web site is

Mobile app.

The museum houses a wonderful collection of clothing and artefacts from many cultures.  The web site is good but the mobile app is wonderful. Going around the museum, I could upload information from QR points on the display cabinets. However, you do not need to go to the museum in person. You can browse the collection yourself by downloading this app for your  mobile phone.  It is free in the app store. There are lots of pictures and information about the exhibits.

The Kunstkamera Museum guide app. 

This app is very easy to use.

Start to browse by clicking on the museum guide.
One you have clicked onto the museum guide you can explore each floor of the museum.

Floor one. 
On each floor you can virtually walk around and click onto any of the numbered display cabinets. You can enlarge each floor so that the numbered cabinets appear.

There is plenty of information and pictures of the exhibits to see in detail. This picture shows Floor One, Hall 4, Japan and case 33. Clicking on the case brings up the information and pictures. It is about Kabuki and Noh theatre in Japan.

Inside the museum.

Here I am wandering around the museum.

Here are some of the amazing garments from 19th century Alaska.

Close up of the border from the Alaskan coat. 

The border on the coat is particularly attractive.

The cabinets displayed the garments and other artefacts clearly.  As you can see, many of the cases could be viewed from three sides which is very useful when examining textiles.

Here is a display of narrow band weaving from Africa. It is on Floor One, Hall 6 Africa,  case number 8 if you want to see it on the mobile app.  The textiles are gorgeous.

close up of textiles.

My interest was taken by a Manchurian costume. This can be seen on Floor Two, Hall 9 China, Mongolia and Korea in  case number 33 on the mobile app.

Costume from Manchuria with a woven belt.

This was the only belt on display which is similar to belts from countries in northern Europe in particular to those in the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania.

The central area has a pattern with 11 pattern threads on a background of half basket weave.  There is a small pattern on either side which is a supplementary warp pattern on a background of warp faced plain weave. The fringe on the ends is used extensively in the Baltic area.  Was this an export item?

I consulted David Rosier who is an expert on Chinese textiles. He took me through the history of the Manchu. (See my next blog in April on Dressing to Impress).

As the Manchu took power in 1644 they had very clear ideas on the design of Court Costume but this was in terms of structure rather than designs/iconography. The Manchu adopted the Confucian based system of government and all the infrastructure that had existed in previous dynasties. As such they did little to change the iconography on costumes initially and this was adapted gradually up until 1759 when Emperor Qianlong undertook the most comprehensive review, revision and expansion of the costume regulations ever undertaken. This has not provided us with any specific design patterns attributed to this group.

However the Manchu evolved into traders in 16th and 17th century, in particular in fur and ginseng. They certainly had trade links with Russia. It may be that this belt was a commissioned piece. Of course, it may be an ethnic minority piece of China.   More information is needed. 
Thank you David, for your comments about this piece.

Close up of the ends of the belt. 

Weave pattern for 11 pattern threads.

Here is the weave pattern showing two of the motifs on the Manchurian belt with the cross pattern. There are 11 pattern threads. Each pattern is repeated twice with the cross motif in-between.  The whole belt was not visible but there were eight patterns on the front each repeated twice and separated by the cross pattern. It would be lovely to be able to see the whole belt. 
I have not had time to weave this pattern, but it is on my list of things to do.

Enjoy your virtual visit to the museum. 
In a later blog I will show items from my visit to the Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg.  This is one of the largest museums of its type in the world and the collections are simply stunning. You can have a preview here.

Peter the Great

The Bronze Horseman
This is the statue of Peter the Great in St Petersburg. it is known as The Bronze Horseman.

The Hermitage Museum - The General Staff Building.

We visited the Hermitage Museum which now has a modern annex in the General Staff Building. The internal spaces of the building have been creatively altered to make a stunning new set of exhibition rooms.

The new staircase leading up to the exhibition rooms.

The first exhibition space. 

Uniform of Peter the Great
In the Hermitage, there is a portrait of Peter the Great wearing his military uniform with his sash being worn around the waist. Amazingly the actual uniform which dates to before 1709 is on display with the military sash  near the original portrait.
Unfortunately I could not find out any further information about this uniform.
The sash interested me as I know that many military sashes are made using the sprang technique.  I looked carefully at the sash in display but could not see the details that might identify the technique. 

Close up of sash.  It appears to have been striped but the colours have faded.
During the International Conference of Braiding at Tacoma in July 2016, I went to a lecture by Carol James.  She told the story of how she made a replica of a sprang military sash which had belonged to George Washington. 

Carol has made a special study of military sashes made using the sprang technique. 

Technique    from this web address:

Her YouTube video How to Make a Sash using the Sprang Technique is excellent.

Carol recreated the red silk sash which tradition states was given to George Washington by Major General Edward Braddock. She has written a very useful guide to identifying a sprang sash.  You can view the article here.


Unfortunately, I was unable to decide if the sash belonging to peter the Great was made by the sprang technique. However, Carol James has been in touch.

She sent me a photograph of a sash that she made which showed the S lean on the left and the Z lean on the right. This is diagnostic of the two-at-the-same-time work of sprang.

Take a closer look at the sash of Peter the Great.

close up of fringes of sash
Look at this close up of the two fringes on the sash.  Carol thinks that there is an  S lean to the stitches on one end of the sash and a Z lean on the other. This, in combination with the chain-link-fence type of structure is diagnostic of sprang.

She also thinks that there looks like several different qualities of thread have been used to compose the different stripes in the sash. The manner in which the holes stay open, it looks like a stiffer material, perhaps linen.

Many thanks Carol for your comments about this military sash.

Special Exhibition at the General Staff Building.

I was very fortunate to be visiting in February as the special exhibition in this annex was about Mariano Fortuny - the great designer of the 20th century, celebrated by his contemporaries as “The Magician of Venice.” The Fortuny fabrics, especially the Delphos dresses were stunning.

The light levels had to be kept low but here are two images taken from Pinterest and the Met.

The Delphos Dress by Fortuny

This dress and more can be seen on the Met web site at

The shimmering bronze outfit is at

Ever since I first saw one of these dresses in a museum many years ago, I have longed to wear one!

Happy weaving.

Susan J Foulkes  March 2017

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A unique four shaft and four treadle band loom

Many years ago, I bought a four shaft, four treadle band loom.  It was made by Michael Crompton a tapestry weaver. You can find out more about him here.

He was leaving his lovely cottage in Weardale and concentrating on tapestry weaving so he sold all his large looms.  He had made and adapted the design to suit his weaving.  At the time,  I was teaching weaving at a local authority Arts Centre and I bought a large floor loom for the class.  For myself, I bought this charming band loom.  Fortunately I am tall with long legs as the reach to the treadles is quite awkward for anyone with short legs.

The loom is beautifully made in solid oak and consequently quite heavy. There are no metal parts at all.  All the joints are dovetailed.

Michael Crompton's band loom.

Side view showing the castle
The beater is very sturdy.  It came with a one reed but I found some reed off cuts of different dents to use in the loom.

Detachable treadles - they unscrew from the bar at the back of the loom

He designed the treadles so that if the loom is transported, the foot bars can be unscrewed so that the loom can be laid flat.

On the side is a trademark carved bird.

He and his wife used the loom to weave mug mats to match the line of table mats that they sold. With the band loom came a sack full of ready made warps.  I am now down to the last one as the warps are very long.

Here are some mug mats I wove on the previous white wool warp.

Two complete ;mug mats with the last set cut off the loom.

The wool is coarse carpet wool.  I hem stitch the mug mats then cut them apart.  The mats go into the wash so that they felt slightly. This holds the fringes together. Then the fringes can be cut neatly. They need to be pressed quite hard whilst still damp.

They are ideal as mug mats.  They are absorbent and protect the surface of a table from the heat of the mug.  They can also be washed.

Here is the weave drawdown. There are 48 ends of brown rug wool.

Two variations for mug mats

Here are examples that I wove on the brown warp.

Here you can see the strip of four mug mats that have been stitched and washed but not yet trimmed.
The slight action of felting holds the ends together neatly.

I still have lots of  warp left so I am going to try different colours for the weft.

The mats are very practical and wash well.

This loom is going to be sold as I am running short of space.  I wanted to ensure that it was in full working order.

Happy weaving

Susan j Foulkes March 2017

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Band Weaving and Record Keeping

The Importance of Record keeping

Record keeping may seem dull but it is invaluable.

Here is a page from one of my early record books for plain weave warp faced bands.

Keep a pattern drawdown and a small sample of the woven band.  It is easy to weave a short extra length to keep and they are really useful when designing bands in the future.
A few years ago, I found that I had so many record books and they were bulging.  I thought that I would digitise my records.

I started to scan the bands and save them with a JPEG of the drawdown.  I had to decide upon a standard format.  Adding in the materials used, the number of warp ends and the band width was important.

As my newly pristine records grew, I realised that I could put them all in a book. Here it is; The Art of Simple Band Weaving - colour and pattern. It was self published a few years ago by

My book is in ebook format for IPad as well as print

Once I started to record my band patterns, I realised that it would be very useful to have some background information.  So the first chapter was written.  Then I thought about how I design new bands and so other sections were added.  In fact the book started to expand much further than my original idea.

Where once I had many bulging files, I now have a useful book on my shelf.  I use it when I am thinking about new bands for towel tags etc. It is a wonderful resource for me as well, I hope for others.

What sort of information is useful to record when weaving bands? 

Here are some ideas.

Warp details. The centre thread is in bold and indicated by M. This shows the colour order for making the warp and threading the heddle.

Grey      4
White        4
Green            1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1   1    1    1    1
Red                   1   1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1   1    1

Total number of warp ends: 43

Yarn for warp: 16/2 cotton in four colours used double.
Yarn for weft:  16/2 cotton in grey used double.

Width of woven band:  13 mm  approx 0.5 inches

If you have a programme for recording your weaving you can add the weave draft.

Weave Draft

Weave draft for narrow band.


Always weave slightly too long a length for your project so that you can keep a sample.  This is invaluable. You do not have to keep neat samples.  If the beginning of the band is a bit wobbly as you find the correct tension, save that piece for your record book.

woven band sample

Try to keep records.  They are an invaluable resource for the future.

New Book on band weaving.

A new book on tape weaving has just been published by Schiffer Press.  The author, Susan Faulkner Weaver,  uses another way of recording band patterns.  Make your records to fit your own weaving needs.

This is a lovely informative book giving many traditional band patterns from the USA. 208 pages
Schiffer Press 2016  ISBN 978-0-7643-5196-9
Author: Susan Faulkner Weaver.

Susan J Foulkes  February 2017

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Weaving in Ireland

I promised that I would do another blog about my trip to Ireland. My previous blog showed the start of my journey. Click here to read it.

We stayed in Galway, an attractive and interesting city. It will be the European Capital of Culture in 2020. Having been to Liverpool in the UK  and Umea in Sweden when they were Capitals of Culture, I can recommend a visit in 2020 to Galway.  We hope to visit Aarhus in Denmark this year as they are the Capital of Culture in 2017.

The camp site site was in an idyllic spot overlooking Galway Bay.  We stayed for 6 days and the weather was mostly fine. One night there was a storm with 60 -70 mph winds coming straight towards us.  Fortunately our motor home is sturdy and so the movement in the wind was not too violent.

Overlooking Galway Bay - an idyllic view. 

We took a second trip to Inishmore from  Ros a' Mhíl.  The bus journey to the harbour was a good way to see the countryside and takes nearly an hour.  On the way we passed the entrance to Spiddel Craft Village.  Unfortunately the bus did not stop but it looks like a place to visit next time we go to Ireland.

Spiddel Craft Village from the bus.


The ferry to Inishmore was very efficient and it was a smooth journey.  I wanted to visit the craft shops to see if there were any criosanna for sale.  Kilmurvey Craft Village is another popular tourist stop. We cycled out to Kilmurvey and I visited every craft centre there but no-one had any crios for sale. There were only two outlets that said they would normally stock them but as it was the end of the season, they had none left.

Kilmurvey craft Village
The cycle ride was exciting and the leisurely pace meant that we could appreciate the beauty and the scenery of the island.

At Kilronen, there were a few craft shops but no-one here sold crios. However, there was a lovely selection of wool and of course plenty of Aran sweaters. We went for a long walk up to the black fort.

The famous Aran Sweater Market in Kilronen.

A colourful wall of wool.


However, Galway was lovely to explore and here I  found O'Maille on the High Street.  This is an absolute must to visit if you like traditional crafts of knitting, weaving and spinning.
Here is the web site.

'Slow is Good'.

I had a long conversation with Anne Ó Máille, seen in my photograph.  Everything for sale in the shop is made in the traditional way. Yes, she did have some criosanna for sale which had been hand woven on Inis Oirr.

Anne Ó Máille holding the crios I bought.

She was a fountain of information and stories.  The Aran sweaters for sale in the shop are woven in a traditional way without a pattern.  Her supply of knitters who are skilled enough to weave like this is dwindling but their work is superb.

The shop has been established for some time.  This link gives further details about her knitters.

The photograph on the wall shows some of the cast and director of The Quiet Man, a film made on location at Ashford castle in 1951.  All the costumes were made of tweed supplied and tailored by the shop. (see the web site for further details).

close up of the photograph showing John Wayne
I bought a crios but also some lovely delicately coloured sock yarn  This was a relatively new line for the shop but she was keen to encourage quality Irish yarn. As Anne emphasized 'Slow is good'. She wanted to encourage quality goods made with care.

I bought a pack of four colours of sock weight yarn from mixed mountain fleece.

I contacted the spinner about his wool as I wondered whether it would be suitable for weaving.

Diamuid was most helpful and told me a bit about the background to his company, S Twist Wool.

His introduction to the world of yarn started when he first learnt to weave after leaving school.  He spent a year in Stroud, Gloucestershire learning under a weaver there. His company,  S Twist Wool produces yarn for knitters.

The wool is collected from local farmers in the Kilkenny / Tipperary region and is washed using a natural fermentation method. This ensures that no harmful chemicals are used. All the washing is done by hand and the wool is dried in the open air.
Mindful of a carbon footprint, all of the natural dyes are gathered locally.  Making a decision about which dyes to use was made after extensive testing and hundreds of samples.  Finally, three local dyes were found which are fast enough to be offered. A lot of the experimentation centred around low-energy dyeing methods, such as solar and fermentation dyeing.

The colours of the sock yarn I bought are lovely and delicate. It was difficult to choose which colour pack to buy. I also bought a crios in the shop. When I got home I decided to weave my own design using this lovely coloured wool.

One skein has been wound ready for warp making.
It has been a long time since I wound yarn into balls from skeins.

The yarn is now ready for making the warp. 

I needed to weave a sample and make a warp long enough for a belt.  I was not sure how much yarn I would need, particularly as the white is used both for the warp and weft. Fortunately I had enough white to finish the belt.

Weave Chart

weave chart for the crios using four colours of wool.

The weave chart shows the colour order for threading. This chart is set up for two shafts and plain weave. I used 6 shafts to weave plain weave so that I could spread the warp to reduce the amount of friction on the warp ends.

There are 54 warp ends. I wove a short sample at 16 epi but the weave structure was too open.  The crios I bought is warp dominant.  I increased the sett to 20 epi and this made the woven fabric similar to the belt that I had purchased.

I wove the belt on my Louet table loom using six shafts.

weaving on the table loom.
The shuttle is on of my favourites and was hand made by Gunnar Karro. His shuttles and heddles are a real delight to handle.

close up of shuttle and fabric. 

Here is a picture of the finished belt.

It is 185 cm in length. The width is 6 cm  The crios that I bought in Galway is 175 cm in length and the width is 4.5 cm.
The wool is lovely to handle and I enjoyed the challenge of designing and weaving a belt.

There will be a further blog about Ireland in the future. There was so much to see, do and enjoy.

I have just finished a lovely book about the Aran Islands - it covers geology, archaeology, history, folklore, cartography, flora and fauna and history and more! It is Stones of Aran, Pilgrimage by Tim Robinson. He uses place names to recover stories of Aran in a discursive ramble around the perimeter of the island. It was first published in 1976 and I bought a second hand copy.

Happy weaving and happy reading.

Susan J Foulkes February 2017

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hand towels on four shafts

Hardwearing Handtowels.

This weave is lovely and very useful as a hand towel. I do not know what it is called. The two pattern blocks are in a 2/1 twill with an additional pick. The warp is one colour - unbleached cotton - so the colour is only in the weft.  This means that if a long warp is put on the loom, several towels of different colours can be woven.

This is a block weave.  
There are three blocks to treadle.  The first is the border for the hem. The next two blocks alternate to form the pattern. This draft will not weave plain weave but the first treadling on weaves over two under one.  This is used for the hems of the towels.  Use a thin cotton such as 16/2 cotton in unbleached or white.

For the pattern there are two blocks. One block is threaded 12312312312 and the next block is threaded 43243243243.

As you can see with the two colours of weft, one block shows more of the coloured weft than the other.  This gives the appearance of checks. From these two blocks different patterns can be created.

Warp: 8/2 unbleached cotton
Weft; 8/2 unbleached cotton and 16/2 coloured cotton used double.
Sett: approx 20 epi
Picks approx 25 per inch.
For these towels I warped 460 ends. The width at the reed is 85 cm.

The pattern can be woven in stripes or checks.

on loom weaving with two shuttles.

Weaving Sequence

The border is the first pattern on the drawdown and is only used for the border. Weave about 4 cm with unbleached 16/2 cotton used singly.

The stripes are woven with 8/2 cotton used double.  Weave four picks with 8/2 doubled cotton in block two. weave four picks with double red 16/2 cotton in between then four picks with 8/2 cotton.
there are 20 picks in red before the next pattern.  I decided to weave three groups of two pattern blocks at each end of the towel.

For the centre of the towel, weave 30 cm then repeat the border pattern.  Finish with 13 cms in red then 4 cm in 16/2 cotton for the hem.

closeup of towel on loom
The hem is easy to turn under.  I used a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine.  The finer weft makes the hem less bulky.  I like the contrast with the white for the hem at each end of the towel.

The towel pattern can be varied.  I wove the  fourth towel in a pattern of small squares. This towel has been washed once then pressed.  This towel is not dependent upon an exact length of warp so it is useful for the final towel of the four. If my warp is not long enough, the pattern repeat is short so I can weave to the very end of the warp leaving just enough for the hem.

Close up of the towel woven in small square motifs.  


Before washing
                                     Length    76 cm  width 54 cm

After washing
                                     Length  70 cm  width  50 cm

Hanging tags

I designed a hanging tag for these towel. Here is the weave draft for the blue hanging tag.

pattern for hanging tag.
There are 27 warp ends.  I used 8/2 cotton and blue 16/2 cotton used double.

The tag is 1.2 cm in width.

Here are the completed towels.

Completed handtowels

The towels are soft but are very efficient at drying hands.

I have woven variations of this design many times.  The towels are very hardwearing. I love the fact that when weaving, different colours can be used for the weft.  Next time I weave some more,  I think that I will vary the pattern.  I liked the small squares so I thought that I could design a different block pattern.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes
January 2017