Monday 1 July 2024

West County Whipping or West Country Whipping?


The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford W. Ashley.

The ever reliable Ashley Book of Knots describes a number of ways of finishing cords.  The method I use is West Country Whipping. It is described on page 528.  According to Ashley, it was named in 1848. However, in subsequent books such as the British Admiralty Manual of Seamanship it was renamed West County Whipping

It is a sturdy way of ending a braid or band. Its structure is secured by the regular half knot so that if any strand breaks it will still hold and the whipping replaced. 

This is the whipped end of the Bookmark of Kells project in my blog for May 2024. This project appears in Little Looms Summer 2024.

It is very easy to do.  It consists of a series of half knots finished with a reef knot. This short video shows the process.

Start by tightening the end of the cord or band by pulling on the weft. 

Take a short length of yarn sufficient for making the binding.

  1. Tie it with a half knot.
  2. Turn the band or cord over and tie another half knot.
These two moves make the binding.  To finish, tie a reef knot. 

This binding is very secure. It can be used for bands, cords and tassels.

narrow bands

Tassels can be tied with this type of whipping.

binding a tassel.

Here is the link to the YouTube video. 

West Country Whipping for bookmark

Susan J Foulkes  August 2024

Sunday 16 June 2024

Binding the ends of a Sámi belt.

A beautifully finished Sámi belt.

Sámi belts have a range of different endings. One of the most decorative is the multi-coloured binding.  This is easy to do.

This type of binding is called a three-strand plait in the Ashley Book of Knots on page 488. This is an amazing book. My copy has started to fall apart as I have referred to it so often. 

A Sámi belt 

Here is a belt that I wove using the Sigga heddle.

Sámi belt woven on the Sigga heddle. 
Sigga belt  width: 25mm  length: 172cm  Material used: Sámi band weaving wool
I wove it for a workshop at the International Conference on Braiding in Denmark 2022. The warp stretched across the room.
Weaving the belt at home

I made a number of belts and band samples to illustrate the different patterns made with this type of weaving.

Two samples of binding.

I am giving a workshop in Oxford this month.  I wove a number of short samples so that participants could learn how to finish a band. These bands are woven on a Sunna heddle with 9 pattern slots. 
Samples to practice binding.

The Decorative Binding Sequence.

Here is the sequence in pictures to show the process of binding.

Step 1 Divide the warp into four sections. Two sections are used to make the binding on each side. These are called the foundation groups.

Step 2 Take two strands of yarn from the right hand side. This is the working strand.Take them over the first group and then under the second group.

Step 3. Take the working strand over the left group and then under the first right hand group.
These two movements are repeated for the length of binding that is required.  movements 

Step 4. Take the working strand over the right hand group and under the left. Pull tightly and push up the working end to fully cover the group of threads. 

Step 5. Take the working strand over the left group and under the right hand group. Pull tightly and push the binding together. 

Step 6 Changing colour. The white working strand is over the left group.  It will be part of the  right hand group of threads for the next binding colour.
Take the next coloured binding thread from the right hand group.  Take the blue working strans over the right group and under the left group.

Step 7. Changing colour. The blue binding thread will be in the left hand group. The next colour, red comes from the left hand group. This is to ensure that each group remains approximately the same thickness. 

Keep binding until you are happy with the length.
Finish with a tassel or West Country Whipping.

The Working Thread.

It is important that the working threads are of the same thickness. The eight red pattern threads and the one blue central pattern thread are twice as thick as the other background threads. So for this binding, the working thread is two strands when using a background thread. This makes them the same thickness as a single pattern thread.  

The Ashley Book of Knots suggest that the binding thread, the working thread, should be at least five or six times longer than the area you wish to cover.

I have made a YouTube video to show the process in action.

Here is the link:

Sámi Decorative Binding

Happy decorative binding!

Susan J Foulkes  June 2024

Friday 3 May 2024

Bookmarks inspired by the Book of Kells


Little Looms Summer 2024

Little Looms is a wonderful magazine devoted to items that can be woven on small equipment.  The latest edition has one of my projects for an inkle bookmark inspired by the colours of the Book of Kells. 

In 2023, two Irish stamps were issued each showing an illustration from the book.

The Book of Kells is a 9th century  Irish medieval masterpiece in Trinity College, Dublin. The book has an astonishing array of illustrations. 

It is fascinating to examine the illustrations up close to see how the monks used a variety of patterns within the designs.  I used a lovely book by Bernard Meehan published by Thames and Hudson 1994. It has 110 colour illustrations and is well worth buying.

The Book of Kells by Bernard Meehan

It is astonishing that only eight pigments were used throughout, which were combined to form new colours or shades. 

Colour inspiration 

Colour inspiration .

Many of the characters are outlined with dots. 

For the Bookmark of Kells project in Little Looms, I wove many samples and the editor chose the two to use for the magazine. 

Some of my samples

I wove some of them on a rigid heddle. 

Others were woven on my floor inkle loom.

Plaiting a flat 5-end braid.

To finish the bookmarks, I divided the warp ends into five more or less equal groups.  I plaited them into a flat braid. Here are the instructions in pictures.

Starting position

First move

Second move. 

These two moves are repeated until the length of the plait is reached.

Adjust the tension on the groups of threads.

YouTube Video  

I have also uploaded a short video showing the process. Here is the link.  Plaiting with five groups of threads:

Do check out the magazine for some lovely projects. 

You can subscribe to Little Looms and receive your copy digitally.  Instant satisfaction!

Some of my other samples

Some of my many samples. 

Look at the front and reverse of these two bookmarks.  The top bookmark has been woven with a yellow weft.  The bottom bookmark has been woven with an orange weft. 

 The yellow weft gives an interesting dotted pattern on both sides.

The orange weft gives the dotted edge to the bookmark.

Now I have lots of bookmarks to give away to friends!

Susan J Foulkes  May 2024

Saturday 16 March 2024

Baltic Open Submission 2024 in association with Fenwick March to September 2024

Baltic Open Submission 2024 in association with Fenwick

15th March to 1st September 2024

 I was thrilled to find out that my piece 'The Red Thread is one of 100 pieces chosen for this exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

 The opening event on the evening of Friday 15th March was amazing. 

We arrived early to join the queue which turned out to be the a very good idea.  It was a large event from 6:30 - 11:30 with music, refreshments and a couple of speeches. The exhibition is held in two exhibition spaces on the ground floor.

Not too busy  - for a short while.

Then the crowds started to build

Soon there was a  queue to get in to the exhibition rooms.

My exhibit seemed to be the only textile apart from one large felt piece. 
Viewing my piece. 

Exhibition catalogue   

You can find details of the exhibition and the catalogue here:

         I wove the selection of sayings for the Nordic and World Braids and Bands 2022 - the 5th International Conference on Braiding. Participants from around the world came to share their love of craft, take workshops and listen to lectures by prominent researchers in textiles - ancient and modern.

In honour of the occasion, I contacted people from the Nordic countries to find out their proverbs connected to weaving, thread and  practising a craft. This was fascinating and led to many interesting conversations. I had many to choose from but the red thread connecting them is learning about and sharing a love of craft.

 Den Röda Tråden  The Red Thread

I took the theme of The Red Thread for my piece. The Red Thread, a ubiquitous Nordic metaphor, describes the 'thread' running through something that gives it unity, coherence and meaning – the heart of the matter. It gives meaning to our life – and can weave together friends, communities, and stretch across nations - a collective heritage of many people or the ‘essence that links together the soul of the experience.’  

The red thread, den röda tråden is live, clear, powerful and connective - it is the single line, the spiralling of the soul, of experience, of memory and consistency in the voice of the message  - whether it is a conference, a dialogue, or a lesson. For an individual it can be their beliefs and motivation.

The shared love of craft and art is a red thread that brings people together. All the sayings are from different Nordic areas and are woven using a pick up technique using lettering that I designed. They are mounted on a piece of my handwoven cloth. The surrounding red woollen cord was made on a lucet. 

The border for each saying is in the colours of the national flag. The motifs at each end of the band were chosen to link to the particular country.   The sayings were woven using a pick up technique using lettering that I designed and are mounted on a piece of my handwoven cotton cloth.

Den röda tråden  - The Red Thread. by Susan J Foulkes

The eight proverbs from Nordic countries are connected by craft and learning. This handwoven piece links eight peoples through their shared love of craft exemplified by their proverbs. The spiralling red thread stretching out of the frame is the link to a wider community. 

The Sayings

  The Swedish saying is: Den röda tråden  - The red thread.

In Sweden the phrase, 'the red thread' is used as a metaphor to describe the 'thread' running through something or underpinning a lesson, conference or a dialogue that gives it unity and meaning. As one person has written 'The red thread is live, clear, powerful and connective.' The red thread seemed a suitable idea that underpinned the conference in Denmark bringing together crafts people from around the world with a common love of creating narrow wares. 

  The Icelandic saying is Að komast í álnirTo become rich. This is an old saying and refers to the trade in textiles from Iceland which was important for about 1,000 years. Originally, women did this weaving and as a result could bring wealth to their family. Only later did Guilds restrict their creative and productive capacity. 

 The Norwegian saying is: Øving gjør mester  -  Practice makes the master.  This is a reminder that gaining a skill takes time. 

   The saying from the Faroe Islands is: Altíð bagir illum barni okkurt.  A bad workman blames his tools. A craft is learned by an individual and failure or mistakes cannot be pinned on the tools that are used. 

  The saying from Greenland is: Uppertunut ajornartoqanngilaq.  Nothing is impossible for one who believes.
In Japan there is a similar saying which stresses the relationship between learning and skill 
'suki koso nomo no jozu nare
to love something is the best way to become skilled at it.

     The Danish saying is: Gennem livet går der en usynlig tråd. An invisible thread goes through one's life.  This lovely saying is attributed to Hans Christian Anderson and originated with Goethe. 

The Sami saying is: Vuosttaš maid meašttir dahká, lea oahppat. The first thing a master does is to learn.

   The Finnish saying is: Mestariksi tuleminen vaatii kaikkien virheiden tekemistä. To be a master you need to have made all the mistakes. 

The red thread around the sayings is a lucetted woollen cord. 

Denmark is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. I was thrilled that the conference was held near his birthplace museum, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense, Denmark I loved his stories when I was a child. 

A few years ago I completed a course through Future Learn about his life and work. Unfortunately, the course has now been retired but it fired me with enthusiasm to revisit his stories and hopefully to go to Denmark. The conference gave me the opportunity to explore his life and work in Denmark.
The saying from Denmark is attributed to Hans Christian Andersen.

Each saying has a woven motif at either end. I chose the motifs to fit with the country of origin. Here is a close up of four of the sayings. 
I found motifs that appear on woven bands or other decoration of the countries concerned.  

The second band with the motif like a fish is a very common motif in Sweden.  The other motifs are all from items such as designs of belt buckles or woven patterns. 

The small item on the left is : Teresa Easton : Industry without Art is Brutality 

Enjoying the music and the art.

Andrew Livingstone: Future Archaeology, how will they tell?  and Emoji Fruit

Susan J Foulkes March 2024