Thursday, 1 March 2018

Hair Braiding at the Weave Fair in Växjö 2017

There were many lovely stands at the Weave Fair. I met Nina Sparr who is an accomplished hair braider. I saw her a few years ago at the Weave Fair in Borås where I took this picture.

Weave Fair in Borås 2011

At the 2017 Weave Fair in Växjö, Nina was again demonstrating and had beautiful examples of her work for sale.

Weave Fair in Växjö, 2017

Concentration is needed to weave such fine hair.

Here is a close up of the underneath of the braiding stool.

It was wonderful to see how the hair is made into such pretty objects. I made a short video on my phone to show the braiding process. I have uploaded it to my Facebook page.

Hair heart

Here is the pretty heart shape which I bought. It is very small and the pound coin will help with scale.

Hair heart and one pound coin

Nina lives in Våmhus, Sweden which has a long tradition of hair work. The Våmhus Tourist Organisation has established hair work as an important part of the cultural heritage of the village. During the summer holidays, demonstrations and classes are held so that these craft skills can be passed on to a wider audience.

In Tacoma in 2016, there was a lecture by Anna Sparr entitled Making Hair Work. Her lecture is in the Conference Proceedings page 79 -82.  Anna is a textile conservator at Frederiksberg Castle in Denmark and was originally from Sweden. The history of hair braiding and the imporatnce to the local economy in the 19th century is fascinating. The 'hair girls' of  Våmhus travelled all over Europe to earn money for their village. Thye travelled widely in small groups; Hamburg, Dublin, St Petersberg, Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen, Lubeck, Magdeburg, Berlin, Vyborg, Oslo,even Moscow. These travelling workers left their small village at the end of a harvest returning at midsummer the following year. An amazing story showing enterprise and courage!

Braids, Bands & Beyond - Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Braiding
The Braid Society ed R Spady 2016    ISBN 978-0-9573127-1-5

Available from the Braid Society

If you want to buy a coy, here is the link:

Postscript and coffee break.

In Scandinavia, I became a great fan of cinnamon and cardamon buns. Another Swedish bakery has opend in London which I can recommend to anyone who wants a real taste of Scandinavia.
Fabrique in Earlham Street London

Yes, very tempting!

Susan J Foulkes  March 2018

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sámi Tartan and shawls

This lovely cushion is made by Stoorstalka.  The colours are delightful and it brightens up the room. It is very comfortable.

A beautiful cushion from Stoorstalka

Tartan as a fabric has travelled around the world, not least because of the entrepreneurial spirit of Scottish men. On our travels in Finland, we discovered in 1820 James Finlayson established a cotton mill because he recognised the potential of the fast flowing river.  We started to notice the number of times in the history of places we visited the importance of Scottish immigrants.

Close up of the material

A postcard from the Stoorstalka shop shows the delightful shawls which look just the thing to wear in such cold weather. Shawls are such a practical and yet decorative item. Their brightness is very visible in northern climes when sunlight is very low in the winter.  I think it is a shame that scarves have taken their place.

Bright cheerful shawls

Addition to post

I have had some beautiful pictures sent tome by a friend who is cruising the Norwegian coast.  here is a great picture of a Sami shawl.


First Nation and Métis women across Canada also took to wearing tartan shawls which were worn up until the 1950's. The wearing of shawls was also very meaningful in other ways. With a shawl, you can lift it up to hide or conceal your face which can indicate a willingness or unwillingness to communicate. Shyness, modesty and concealment can all be conveyed with a simple gesture of the shawl. With the lower part of the face concealed behind the shawl, eyes alone can communicate and can show emotion surprisingly well.
Look at this web site for a picture of the tartan shawl being worn by a Métis woman.

The Aran Islands

Inishmaan in the 1940's
The women of the Aran islands off the coast of Ireland, also appreciated the bright tartan patterns. The black and white photograph cannot show us the colours of the tartan but the pattern is clear. Tartan travels everywhere.


In the wonderful textile museum in Prato, Italy  which I visited last year, had a book about tartan which was written to accompany an exhibition in 2004 (See my blog entry for June 1st 2017). The booklet is called, 'Tartan: the Romantic Tradition - Plaid, a fabric and a cultural identity.'

The exhibition was 'a gesture of gratitude towards a textile design that accompanied, from the mid 18th century, the destiny and success of our industry and thus of our company'. They describe the long and intense bond which grew up over the decades between a fabric and a distance culture:

 'The tartan is a reference point in western taste and for the aesthetics of all time.'

Tartan is everywhere.  


This week in my Sunday newspaper, The Observer,  there is an article by Morwenna Ferrier about tartan with the headline;

 'Loud proud and rebellious: tartan is back as designers celebrate the spirit of punk.' 

It seems that fashion has appropriated the tartan yet again, with labels such as' Balenciaga to rising star Loverboy.' The article finishes with this:

'Wilton believes that the resurgence in popularity of tartan reflects something deeper than a designer's heritage, or even a colour scheme. "It represents rebellious youth but, at times of uncertainty, people want to feel like they belong. Tartan is a good visual identifier - and provides a sort of security."
The Observer, 11.02.18 pages 16 - 17.
You can read the article here: 

Tartan is back.

Susan J Foulkes Feb 2018

Monday, 1 January 2018

Cataloguing the World 3: The Inkle Loom.

Do you remember this image from my previous bog about inkle looms from January 2017 .  Whilst on holiday in Finland in September we visited Turku, the old capital of Finland.
Turku castle was restored after the war and is a must see sight for anyone visiting the town. 

Turku Castle, Finland

The dining tableau.

In one room, the displays were captivating. The centre of the room had a tableau of mannequins in period costume. The information was extensive. Displays around the room had various artefacts relating to costume. One had this picture as a backdrop.
I did not expect to see an enlarged picture of the inkle loom.

It is from Le Livre de bonnes moeurs de Jacques Legrand which dates to the 15th century. The probable date is 1490.

The close up gives the detail of how the weaving is threaded around the posts.  Unfortunately as the weaving has not started, the process is unclear

Inkle looms now come in various shapes and sizes.  There is a wonderful variety available, particularly in the USA.

In this upright model the weaver has a good view of the woven band. 

Double sided looms are also popular.  The pegs will not bend in use and the whole loom is very stable.

This one is illustrated in the Estonian band weaving book. Again with a removable side, the pegs will stay level and will not warp.

This crescent shape is so elegant.

You can even make one out of a cardboard box!

Another home made loom. 

This loom was made by Margaret Parker and her husband out of waste water pipes.

They made it following the instructions in the link to an Interweave Press booklet on band weaving, but it was difficult to understand how to get the two sheds. The geometry of the loom, the path taken by the warp and the position of the heddle and shed sticks seemed to make this impossible. They made some modifications: .

- made the heddles at least twice as long which means there is  nowhere on the loom which can be used as a former for  making them.
- tied the shed rod firmly once we had got it in place.
- use hand manipulation to get the two sheds

Although it seems bow shaped it works well. As it is not as rigid as a wooden inkle loom it can become a bit skew whiff (or wonky!) with use but it is easy to straighten it all out again from time to time and make it all the angles sit at 90 degrees. This does not seem to affect the tension across the width of the weaving.
Inkle looms are expensive, so this cheap alternative is ideal for someone who would like to try this craft. York and District Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers have planned an informal workshop for people interested to make their own from this plan.

Floor inkle looms

I have a floor inkle loom given to me by a friend.  It is not in the best of conditions but it works. The earliest floor inkle I have found is from Scotland.  It is dated 1688. My floor inkle loom has a sliding peg in the centre collumn so that the tension can be altered.

A Scottish floor inkle loom dated 1688

Floor inkles also come in a variety of shapes. Some give the opportunity to make very long band indeed. This is being used for tablet weaving but is also designed for inkle weaving.

This lovely floor Cendrel inkle by Leclerc looms is an updated and very practical design  What I particularly like is the fact that it can be used as a warping frame as well.

The Cendrel floor inkle loom and warping frame

These two versions are very attractive and allow for a very long warp. They look very stable and there is plenty of room for the weaver's legs. 

Here are two Swedish band looms which give the weaver the choice to weave as an inkle loom with heddles or with two shafts to make the sheds. 

This is my Swedish band loom with my own handy brackets for warping.

Finally, I found a picture of this tape loom.  It is not an inkle loom but has two rigid heddles operated by foot treadles.

It is a fascinating version of a tape loom from the Landis Valley Farm Museum, a museum that documents Pennsylvania German culture and history. This museum looks wonderful and I would love to visit it.

I was particularly interested in this unusual design because of the picture in the frontispiece of a book from 1524.

This is a page from the  Ein new Modelbuch by Johann Schönsperger the Younger (German, active 1510–30) and dates to 1524. You can see the large loom on the bottom right of the engraving which shows a woman weaving a narrow band using a rigid heddle. Examine the original image here:

She appears to have two pedals to use but there is no connection between the pedals and the rigid heddle. I suspect that the artist was depicting an early version of the loom from the museum in America.

Tablet weaving

Of course there are also some very creative designs for tablet weaving.

A table tablet loom with a very long warp.

An elegant design for a short warp.

This looks very stable and ornate with the horses head carving.

A magnificent tablet loom which looks as though it should have been used by the Vikings.

This is a very interesting variation.  This design allows for the warp ends to be untwisted when weaving with tablets.  The warp can be as long as will pack onto the warp beam at the front.

A big thank you all the Museums, Universities and Galleries who are taking the time to digitise their collections and to Pinterest for providing a way for people with similar interests to share their finds.

Happy New Year to everyone.  Enjoy your weaving.
Susan J Foulkes January 2018

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Pitt Rivers Museum Sámi Band Weaving Workshop

Pitt Rivers Museum
Parks Road,
Oxford, OX1 3PW.

Sámi Band Weaving Workshop (2 days)
Friday 2nd March - Saturday 3rd March,
10.00 - 16.30
£175 (Includes tuition, materials, behind the scenes tour & lunches)

For more details click here.     

I am thrilled to be teaching this workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum. I have examined Sámi woven bands in museums around the Baltic and in the UK. The Pitt Rivers has an interesting collection of early bands which I had the opportunity of studying a few years ago. 

Museum collections have only a part of their holdings on display. Textiles are vulnerable to light so what is displayed is changed frequently to preserve the textile from damage. This workshop will give the students a unique opportunity to see original bands in the collection on an exclusive tour of the Conservation lab. 

I will be bringing my own small collection of original Sámi woven bands and examples of bands that I have copied.  I will be posting more details about this workshop on my blog page soon. 

The Workshop

This Sámi bandweaving workshop at the Pitt Rivers Museum is an opportunity for beginners to try a new craft or for more experienced weavers to extend their skills. Students will learn how to weave patterned bands using a double slotted heddle and backstrap.

The patterns that are to be worked on are based on the band weaving artefacts in the Museum including shoe ties, headbands, and belts, some of which will be examined at the exclusive tour of the Conservation lab. The workshop numbers are limited to 8 so individual needs can be tailored for.   

Included in the costs are handouts, threads and a 9 pattern slot heddle and shuttle. I will bring the ready-prepared heddles and shuttles so weaving can start promptly. A sandwich lunch will be provided on both days.

Students will then take home a piece of patterned weaving mounted in a key ring fob and a woven bookmark. They will also have acquired the skills to weave at home and have two booklets of patterns to produce a range of small items. Additional handouts to accompany the workshop will be provided. 

This is a weaving hobby that does not require bulky equipment. With your own heddle and shuttle to take home, everything can be stored in a shoe box!

To book a place on the workshop:  click here

The Pitt Rivers Museum.

If you are not familiar with the Pitt Rivers Museum do take a look at their YouTube video.

A Sámi belt for a woman woven by Susan J Foulkes

Ray Mears Blog

Did you see the lovely blog by Ray Mears about Sámi band weaving? He reposted a blog entry by Bosco Li who had been on one of the Arctic Experience Expeditions.

Here is a quote from his blog;

'I gathered my balls of wool, threaded the heddle according to a my chosen pattern from Susan Foulkes’ book, tied one end of the warp to my belt and the other to the door handle, and sat down to weave!'

I am amazed by the skill shown by someone who was so keen to try a new craft.

Happy weaving to everyone.  

Susan J Foulkes  December 2017

Friday, 1 December 2017

Inspiration Ireland

I enjoyed a fantastic holiday in Ireland in 2016 and we will be returning for another holiday next year. Researching ancestors and visiting new places is always exciting. We take lots of photographs which are also useful as inspiration for weaving.

The Aran Islands are amazing. The scenery is so different from the type of farmland that I am used to.  A small island means that every space is utilised.

Look at these pictures of the fields and stone walls from Inis Oirr.  The weather was misty which added a lovely feel to the scene.  When the clouds parted the green fields seemed to sparkle.

irregular walls

an evocative landscape

I loved the way the colours of the stonework and the fields changed as the clouds, sun and mist altered the light.  They reflected the mood of the weather.  Looking at the images afterwards I was stuck with the irregular pattern of the walls and the many shades of green.  I wondered whether I could capture this in a weaving design.

A few years ago I spent many happy months experimenting with deflected weave structures. I examined my too large yarn stash and wondered what I could use to give a feel for this wonderful landscape.

I thought of a pattern with grey silks for the borders.  It is an eight shaft design with two further shafts for plain weave selvedges. The weave is a two shuttle weave.


I used two qualities of silk, a light grey tussah silk and four strands of dark grey 2/60 spun silk to represent the walls. These outlined the green areas.  I had three shades of green silk for the grass areas and a lighter shade for the weft.

Warp: 2/20 light grey tussah silk sett at 20 epi.       2 ends per dent in a 10 dent reed.
2/60 silk used double in shades of green sett at 30 epi.       3 doubled ends per dent in a 10 dent reed. I shaded the green colours across the width of the scarf.

Weft: I used a lighter shade of green silk for the grass areas which I thought would help to meld the other greens together. This was 2 strands of 2/60 silk. For the walls, I used a grey 2/60 silk with four strands. I used two colours of grey silk hoping to provide a contrast and to reflect the changing greys of walls in the photograph.  There are 50 groups of cells.

Total number of warp ends:   500 plus and extra 8 tussah silk to balance the pattern.  508  ends in all.

Width of scarf: 18.5 inches.

close up of the scarf showing the structure

The finished scarf

Although I enjoyed the designing and weaving of this scarf I am not happy with the final look. The green silk across the warp is not shaded sufficiently and the green colours needed to be brighter.

We will be going back to Ireland and the Aran Islands next year. I loved the country and the people I met.

The ferry to the Aran Islands

The Handwoven Belt of the Aran Islands. 

The crios is part of the heritage of the Aran Islands and demonstrates the creativity of the women who devised and wove them. 

Cleas Crafts on Inis Oirr was a delight and I am looking forward to another boisterous boat ride to the island. They were very  helpful when I was researching crios weaving. I was particularly thrilled to buy a crios that had been handwoven on the island. Cathleen, the outlet manager,  showed me how to tie the crios how the crios was traditionally tied around the waist

Here is the short YouTube video:
How to tie the crios.

My latest article has appeared in the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

My article is called: The Crios: A Weaver's Quest.  It describes my research journey to Ireland and the Aran Islands to find out more about the crios.  For the article I made a YouTube video showing the different ways in which a crios can be woven. 

Here is link to my Youtube video Six Ways to Weave a Crios.

My next blog will be in the New Year.  

A Happy Christmas and a delightful festive season to everyone. 

Susan J Foulkes (December 2017)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Travels around the Baltic: Lithuania and Estonia


I had been advised to visit the Open Air museum near Kaunas situated on the lakeside in Rumšiškės. It was established in 1966. Do check out the web site for information in English.  It has an extensive collection of traditional houses.

The Open Air Museum near Kaunas

booklet about costume for children

The only booklet on sale was a small one for children but it had lovely colour illustrations of different costumes.

Sample page from booklet
Postcard of costumed doll

In the centre of the site is the town with a collection of beautiful buildings.

The village square

The bookshop
Surprisingly there was a second hand bookshop in the village square. This was a real find and the stock was extensive.  I found one old book about band weaving.  It does not have many colour illustrations but lots of black and white pictures of bands.

An old book about band weaving

Sample of inside page

We stayed in Kaunas for a few days. Kaunas became the temporary captital of Lithuania when Vilnius was taken over by Poland. This is a delightful small town with an old center with historical buildings. To my delight there were a few shops which had some bands for sale. You will recognise one of these bands from the Braid Society workshop notes for week three.

two bands in a local tourist shop

The capital Vilnius was a fascinating city to visit.  We used the local bus to travel to town and entered by a beautiful old gateway. On one day on our way home we found that there was a special service for a group of pilgrims at the church above the gateway.

The National Museum was a must-see and I was thrilled that there was a special exhibition of costumes from a theatre production of 1971.  They were beautiful and many had lovely woven belts.

close up of a belt from one costume
The small booklet about the exhibition had photographs and the original costume designers drawings.

The theatre was set up to celebrate Lithuanian history and culture from the 18th to the 20th century. the costumes were stunning.  This is the web site for the ethnic collection in the museum.

I found a couple of craft shops but the only bands I saw for sale were tablet woven.  One shop had a beautiful patterned band in red and white but the pattern did not look like a traditional Lithuanian one. It was advertised as a Baltic region belt.

Tallin, Estonia.

We left Lithuania and travelled through Latvia on our way to Tallin.

Peter the Great's house museum in Tallin

We could walk to the centre from the camp site and this time visited house of Peter the Great which is now a sumptuous museum.  This has been restored with great care and the exhibitions were fascinating.

In the grounds of the park there is the wonderful Kumo Museum of Modern Art.

Museum of Modern Art

This is an iconic building near the song festival grounds.I was most interested in an photographic exhibition which featured Tõnis Vint who helped make the film about the Lielvārde belt from Latvia. My Youtube video on how to weave complex motifs from this belt can be seen on

In Tallin I was disappointed to find that some of the tourist shops I visited on my previous trip no longer sold woven bands.  However, the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union shop was still there and flourishing. The shop now two additional branches so there was a lot to see. If you visit Tallin, make sure you visit these outlets.

Check out their web site. 

Deciding which bands to buy

One of the new outlets had an excellent collection of books including a lovely book of Lithuanian bands.
Twisting stairs to the basement 

To get to the shop involved clambering up and down steps to the basement.  It was worth the visit.

Wonderful books and textiles

Discussing which books to buy
Beautiful textiles and woven bookmarks for sale. 

In Helsinki on our next stop I saw this poster - unfortunately the performance was later in the year. the band is lovely.

It was a superb trip.

Handwoven belts in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries are an engrossing area to study. There are also other countries which have a handwoven tradition of narrow bands. Belarus and Ukraine also have a weaving tradition.  Here is a beautiful Ukrainian belt I have just bought from Elena who wove it.  it arrived a few days ago and I am still admiring the work that went into producing this lovely belt.

It is a striking design and almost identical to the one I saw in Vilnius but this belt has a beautiful set of tassels to finish.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful sites and textiles from these Baltic countries.  It was my first visit to Lithuania and will not be my last. The workshop gives examples of some of the wonderful woven bands from the area.

Do check out my Pinterest site as there are many examples of patterned bands from around the Baltic on the boards.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes November 2017