Saturday, 15 October 2016

Handwoven in Ireland

In September we spent a month travelling around Ireland.  It was a wonderful journey taking in prehistoric sites, the islands and the towns of Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Dublin and Youghal where my husbands family came from,  Youghal came to international fame in the early 1950's as the setting of the John Huston film, Moby Dick which was produced in 1954. A public house overlooking the harbour was used in the shooting of the film. It has a display of  photographs taken of the cast and crew during the making of the film. John Huston used the bar as his headquarters to plan each day's filming. Youghal's nineteenth century lighthouse is also shown in the film.

Youghal harbour

As a handweaver, I am always on the lookout for outlets selling handwoven products. I love seeing what other weavers are producing.  I would like to share one of these outlets with you this month - others will follow in future posts.

In Dublin near the National Museum and just around the corner from St Stephen's Green is Cleo.

The large sign on the wall proclaimed handknits and handweavers so I had to explore.

In Ireland, the interest in handcrafted Irish goods was stimulated by the opening of The Country Shop in St Stephen's Green in December 1930 by Muriel Gahan.  This was the start of a revival of traditional Irish crafts and brought the variety of Irish handmade wares to the capital.  It was not the first shop to sell Irish craft but it was a non-profit making venture to support the traditional craft workers in rural Ireland. Unfortunately this closed in 1978.

Cleo has been around for 70 years.  It is a family business that the grandmother of Sarah Joyce the current owner, established in 1936. Initially Cleo's sold children’s clothes but in the post-war years Sarah’s grandmother realized there was an increasing number of tourists, especially Americans, visiting Dublin and she started to stock hand-knitted sweaters from the Aran Islands for the new influx of visitors to buy as souvenirs of their visits to Ireland.

Look at the beautiful railings.

Railings outside the shop

The present shop is a riot of colour as you can see from the window display.

Here is a close up of a shawl displayed outside - just the thing for the colder weather.

The lovely shawl - so beautiful to touch.

The shop has a number of handweavers who supply items for sale. Beth Moran (Ballytoughey Loom) is based on Clare Island and makes naturally dyed rugs from her own sheep, and a wide range of shawls, blankets and silk scarves and ties. Also Liz Christie, Co. Monoghan, Deirdre Duffy (Wild Cocoon), Máire Ní Taigh, Galway and Helena Ruuth who is sadly no longer weaving.
The shop is a treasure trove and piled high with interesting items, including wool. The colours glow like jewels and there are some fascinating items to be found.

My interest, as you know, is for handwoven belts and I was delighted to find a display of handwoven Crios.

The Crios that I bought in Dublin

This was woven by John McAtasney who is in his 80's. He started weaving in 1948 at the age of 14.

This is a sturdy strap and is woven using Irish wool from Donegal and Kerry woollen mills with the coarse quality of Irish wool.  It is 6 cm (2.5 inches) in width and  190.5 cm (75 inches) in length. There are four plaits on each end about 12.5 cm  (5 inches) in length. It is a plain weave, warp faced band.

Of course it does not need to be used as a belt. Here is another of his Crios used as a guitar strap.

Here is one of John's crios used as a guitar strap.

I wanted to find out more about John who specializes in handwoven blankets, damask linen and criosanna.

I found a short YouTube video of John McAtasney weaving on a loom in the Ballydugan weaver's house in the Ulster Folk Museum.

He even has a dedicated poem!  See it at

I feel very privileged to own a Crios handwoven by a such a fascinating master weaver.

I found this shop by accident as I was leaving the National Museum.  If you are in Dublin, do go to 18 Kildare Street for a refreshing and colourful encounter with genuine Irish crafts.

I will be visiting Ireland again in future blogs to tell you about my textile adventures.

Susan J Foulkes

Saturday, 1 October 2016

More scarves

I love to weave scarves.

I woven two Tussah silk scarves for the Crushed Chilli Gallery.  Janet has a glass studio but also a shop which sells high quality crafts made by local crafts people.

The Crushed Chilli gallery in Durham UK.
My two scarves in the gallery.

Here are the two scarves displayed in the gallery.

This lovely Tussah silk is beautiful to weave and has a soft feel. I bought it a few years ago and it is part of my 'stash' which I am trying to reduce. One of the problems with being a weaver is that wherever I go I see lovely yarn and want to buy some. Such lovely colours or textures or well, any excuse really!

The tussah silk is 20/2.

Here is a close up of the weave structure using a contrasting weft in grey.

Here I used the same colours as the warp and it was woven as drawn in.

The pattern is called pinwheel. It is a simple pattern but very effective. I love the crossed floats in the warp and weft.

drawdown for pinwheel pattern.

The drawndown shows two colours, blue and white.  There are eight shafts for the pattern.

Peacock Feather pattern.

I have also been weaving a scarf for a friend.  I used three strands of coloured silk for the warp and shaded the warp from blue to pink.  The weft is a silk/cashmere yarn which makes the feel of the finished scarf very soft.

Here is the scarf on the loom.  
 It was very quick to weave once I got started. The pattern is the peacock feather pattern I used in a previous blog. Here is the link:

The blog contains the pattern.

There are 16 shafts and a pattern repeat of 54 picks.

This scarf was woven as a present.

Susan J Foulkes October 2016

Monday, 12 September 2016

'Threads in Time', The National Exhibition at Killerton House, Devon 8th - 18th September 2016

Threads in Time

Items on display at the exhibition are from members of Guilds around the UK and of course the online Guild. All items encompass at least of of the crafts of weaving, spinning or dyeing.  All the items have been selected anonymously by a panel of expert selectors. 

Killerton House in Devon.

I submitted two items for the exhibition and was delighted to find that both items were accepted.  In fact Durham Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers had  several  items selected for inclusion.

My items are a red silk kimono and a guitar strap.

The Red Silk Happi Coat.

I wove the material for this jacket using 2/60 silk used double. The sett is 40 epi.

The main part of the jacket was woven using 24 shafts

Here is the weave draft.

The collar was woven in 3/1 and 1/3 broken twill in blocks using 16 shafts.

Here is the weave draft

Guitar Strap

This photograph of a lava flow is the inspiration for the design of the strap.  I called the design 'Earth Shock.'

The guitar strap is woven in Rowan Cotton glace in six colours.  The weave structure is warp faced plain weave with a pick up pattern in black using 13 pattern threads.

The buckles and leather ends are from Annie McHale. Her blog is simply wonderful.  She designs beautiful woven bands.  See her blog at:

I bought the guitar strap ends from her as they do not seem to be available in the UK.  They are a very high quality product. The guitar strap kit includes quality leather tabs with holes and slits for attachment to the instrument and one black plastic slide buckle for making the strap adjustable. If ordering from the UK, remember that there will be an additional tax to pay at this end.

She also provides a useful video showing how to assemble the buckles onto the woven band.

I met Annie at the Braid Society International Conference in Tacoma. Here she is with some of her beautiful guitar straps. Of course I was tempted to buy more of her guitar strap kits to bring home.

Annies beautiful guitar straps

Futurelearn Course

I must pass on some information about a course I am taking in October.  It is called the Power of Colour and is a course offered by FutureLearn.  You can find out more details about the course at this link:

The course runs for four weeks and is for anyone who is interested in the topic.  Here is what the organisers say about the aims of the course.

 'We hope you’ll finish the course inspired and ready to express yourself confidently through your colour choices; presenting your work, your world and yourself with colourful and creative originality!'

Futurelearn course are all FREE!  Anyone with access to the internet can enrol wherever you live around the world.

I have taken a few course with FutureLearn.  The course about the poet Robert Burns presented by the University of Glasgow was simple amazing.  I can recommend FutureLearn to anyone who is interested in the world around them. The courses cover language learning, history, philosophy, design, film making, health, science, law, literature, psychology, teaching, archaeolology .......... There is something for everyone.  Explore the  list of current courses and I am sure you will find something.

The Power of Colour covers an area in which I  have always felt less confident.  I am looking forward to understanding the role of colour and its use in greater detail.

Susan J Foulkes   September 2016

Just an extra note.  The tartan which I have been trying to identify has been sourced by Peter MacDonald. Check out the update on my April 2015 blog entry.  Thank you Peter.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Cushion Cover inspired by Bart van der Leck

I decided that I needed another cushion cover to go with the one which was inspired by Malevich. See my post for November 2014 

A couple of years ago, we visited the Netherlands to tour art galleries and in the Kroger Muller Gallery, amongst others, there were some interesting paintings by Bart van der Leck.  Bart van der Leck was a Dutch painter and  designer. Along with Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian he founded the De Stijl art movement in Amsterdam in 1917. De Stijl means the Style and was also the name of an influential magazine founded by Theo van Doesburg.

This painting attracted me and I thought would be suitable as a design to use.

I used the picture to make a pattern to see if it would be suitable.  I cut up coloured paper strips and arranged them onto a sheet of paper the size of the cushion cover.

Then I wove a number of self coloured bands to cut up to use for the design.

Single colour bands to use for the appliqued cushion cover.

I needed bands in yellow, red, blue and black. I wove a number of bands in different widths.

Cushion cover and paper pattern. 
Here is the finished cushion in place.  I am not altogether satisfied with my interpretation of the design.  I  feel that the design is too cluttered on the cushion.  it would have been improved by adapting the design and restricting it to fewer strips of colour.

So this cover is not as good as I would have liked but has given me further ideas on how to design this type of cover more successfully.

I was thrilled to see my article in the latest Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers.  I visited the Russian Museum of Ethnology in St Petersburg and was amazed at their beautiful collection of folk dress and artefacts. The article describes some of the collection and also shows a couple of the belts that I wove once I returned home.  The Lithuanian belt made the back cover of the issue.

Here is the list of contents for the Autumn 2016 edition number 259.  The Journal has fascinating articles with lovely colour pictures.  It is now available as an online edition.

And here is the back cover with the belt that I wove.

Happy weaving.

After September, I have decided to limit my blog to one entry per month so I can concentrate on my weaving.

Susan J Foulkes September 2016

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Braids, Bands and Beyond 2016, Tacoma USA

The Conference proceedings has articles by every tutor. My article: Craft, Individuality and Design was used during my workshop to show examples of bands from the Baltic region.

The Conference Proceedings are available to purchase from the Braid Society. 

The International Conference in Tacoma was inspiring. The campus at the University of Puget Sound was so beautiful and peaceful and manicured!

Some participants came to take one type of craft, others tried new crafts.
The University of Puget Sound: Reach for the heights!

The week started with a WOW factor.  The first lecture by Carol James outlined her love of the sprang technique and how she came to reproduce the military sash of George Washington.

Carol showing us some of the samples she has made. 

Patterned band weaving workshop

I taught for two days about weaving patterned bands using the double slotted heddle. I had an enthusiastic class of 15 who showed considerable ability in learning to weave using a back strap. What is so enjoyable about teaching is that I always learn so much from my class.
One class member, Karen, had a brilliant idea for the band width checker which I show here.

Band width checkers can be made different widths to suit the band you are weaving.
Use graph paper and draw coloured lines.  Cut out the widths that you want and lay them onto laminating film.

Put the film through the laminator and then you have a selection of checkers to use.

The transparent nature of the film makes them particularly useful.

Thank you Karen.

Pam brought in her box loom which was lovely.  Wood is so warm and smooth to the touch,

Pam's box loom

Here is a close up of some patterns.

I demonstrated weaving and also a quick way of making full tassels and whipping the ends. West Country whipping, from the Ashley Book of Knots, is going to become very popular.

I had brought a number of samples of belts from different countries around the Baltic for everyone to see and touch.  I even wore one of my Leilvardes belts to the evening meal at the end of the week.

I showed them a picture of the wonderful band woven by Barbro Wallin, author of the book, Moraband.  I had visited her when I was last in Sweden and she sent me this picture of a 4 metre band she had woven with no pattern repeats.  A work of art! The class were very impressed.

Band woven by Barbro Wallin

At the end of two days the class had woven a considerable length of band.  Each band is the story of their weaving journey.

An amazing display of work.

On Wednesday, the conference went on visits to various museums.  If you look on the Facebook site for Braids and Bands you will see a lovely short video of the Burke museum.

This museum had some amazing artefacts and had arranged for a student to show and talk about a selection of braided and woven items.
The Burke Museum

The outside of the museum had the legend  Discover, Examine, Uncover Celebrate which seemed a good description of what we were doing at the conference. I was very interested in the North West Coast Indian Art.  I first came across this in the wonderful early book by Frank Boas called Primitive Art. I treated myself to another book from the museum by Bill Holm on Northwest Coast Indian Art: and analysis of form. Something to savour now that I am home.

I was thrilled to find that there were two programmes on the BBC about this in August. Called: Masters of the Pacific Coast: The Tribes of the American NorthWest, it covered the history of the Tribes and their treatment by the authorities in the 20th Century.  Dr Jago Cooper from the British Museum was an authoritative and interesting presenter. Here is the link:

You can view some clips from the programmes.

Indian Cultural Center

We had lunch at the Indian Cultural Center which had stunning views over the bay. It was a perfect place to have out lunch.

Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Centre

 A wonderful place to have our lunch.

The Seattle Art museum

The Seattle Art museum was our afternoon stop.

Seattle Art Museum an art deco building
One of the elegant art deco features in the building

There was a special exhibition of indigo and of gold so we were treated to some fabulous textiles.  I am very interested in the Ainu robes so I was particularly pleased to find two on display. When I visit Japan in three years time, I want to travel to the Ainu area so that I can see these wonderful robes in greater detail. they are all different and the patterns relate to the person for whom it is made.

Ainu robe in museum

I took two classes on Thursday and Friday.

The first was Modern Macrame bands - which I soon thought of as macho macrame. Carol Wang was a lively and accomplished teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed being a learner for a change.

I made a bracelet and learned to tie a Chinese knot.  I was very pleased as I had been trying to learn how to tie this knot from a book and failed. Carol made it all very clear.

My first Chinese knot!

The final day, I learned about Sanado-himo bands from Tamaki which was shown in my previous blog.

The whole week was inspirational.  There were two lectures by Roderick Owen; one about Peruvian Headband braids and the second the story of his interest in braiding.

Tadashi Uozumi talked about Kunihimo composite materials.

Anna Sparr showed us how hair braiding was important to the Swedish economy of one village in Sweden.

A fascinating trip was undertaken by Katia Johansen,through the braids on costumes in the Royal Danish Collection. This well illustrated talk showed some of the many expensive braided adornments on these outstanding costumes. This showed us details which would not usually be available for members of the public.

Kim Davis explained the intricacies of early bobbin lace.
Even if the topic was outside of your field of interest it was still worth while attending. I found that there were surprising facts in some of the talks which related to my own area of interest which were highly significant.

If you want to see  more about the conference go to the Facebook page for Braids and Bands. here is the link.

Finally, here is a pattern for weaving a backstrap. If you like to use a backstrap, it is fun to weave your own.

Weaving a backstrap in linen.

Sunna heddle, backstrap and Gepha shuttleWeaving a backstrap.

This backstrap is made of linen.

Warp Yarn: Finnish linen 4 in blue.  16/2 Swedish linen in red and white used double for each warp end.   Two strands of this yarn is thicker than the Finnish 4 linen.

Weft yarn: Finnish 4 linen in blue.
85 warp ends                          Ends per inch:  36                          
Width = approx. 2.25 inches    9 reed with 4 ends per dent
I woven this backstrap on my loom but they could also be woven using a rigid heddle or on an inkle loom. With linen you will need to beat firmly.

drawdown for backstrap.

Weaving tips for weaving on a four shaft loom.

  • When making the warp be very careful to eliminate and knots in the yarn.  The warp ends are packed closely together.  If there is a knot in the yarn, it will abrade whilst weaving.  
  • Weave at a reasonably high tension.
  • The warp ends are threaded for plain weave.  Use as many shafts as you can.  If you use four shafts the warp ends can stick together.  I have woven on 4 and 8 shafts and 8 shafts is preferable.
  • When weaving, take the shuttle into the shed and beat with the side of the shuttle.  Take the shuttle through   Beat very firmly.

Weaving a tag for the backstrap.

I also made a tag for the backstrap on my standard heddle.

drawdown for woven tag. 

32 warp ends in total.           Yarn: 6/2 cotton.              Weft: blue

Blue       8                                             8
Red             4      1      1      1      1
White              1      1      1     1      4

Happy Weaving.

Susan J Foulkes  August 2016