Tuesday, 1 June 2021

The Joy of Sacks (with acknowledgement to Terry Pratchett)

I have been trying to use up some of my stash.  I bought a selection of tow linen 6 some years ago to weave sauna towels from a pattern by Malin Selander.  However even with a cottolin warp the towels are very rough.  I decided to weave small tow linen sacks to hold my lucet. My design had twill stripes in 16/2 linen used double on a twill background in red tow linen 6.  I started by weaving small samples to check on the sett. 

Sacks for Lucet 

Warp: 6 tow linen in red and 16/2 linen in blue and red used double.

Weft: 6 tow linen in red

Warp order:  8 red 16/2 linen doubled; 16 red  tow; 12 blue 16/2 linen doubled; 16 red tow

12 blue 1/2 doubled; 16 red tow; 8 red 16/2 linen doubled. 

                                  before washing           after washing

16 epi sample width              4  in                        3,68 in

                      length            14.25 in                   13.25 in

18 epi sample  width            4 7/8 in                      4 in

                       length          14.75 in                      14 in

20 epi sample  width            5 3/8 in                       5 in

                       length           14.25 in                     12.5 in 

Here are the three samples side by side.

Here the samples are on top of each other so that you can see the differences in width using the different setts.

Sett: 16 epi made a firm fabric, 18 epi  was better  with a good twill line,  20 was too loose.

Second design using a plain weave background

Three samples later I decided upon the sett but then thought that the twill stripes would look better when contrasted with a plain weave background. 

This time I used natural tow linen and 16/2 blue linen for the stripes. Here are the little sacks. 

I enjoy a challenge and decided to weave more strips of material to make larger sacks to hold equipment for a workshop I will be running next year. 

My loom needed a workout so I chose a pattern using 24 shafts with an additional 2 shafts for the plain weave border. 

Sett: 21 epi  to allow for twill pattern and  plain weave areas.

9 reed threading is 2 2 3

Warp and weft = 6 tow linen.

Warp: natural with two ends of 16/2 linen at selvedge

Weft: 6 tow linen in a variety of colours.

Number of Warp ends = 210 plus 4   ends of 16/2 linen.

The first warp was in natural tow linen. 

Here are three finished bags with hanging tags and ties.

I have definitely experienced the joy of weaving sacks.

I have put on a white warp and wove material for four sacks.  I cut them off and washed the material because I wanted to see how the pattern looked when the material was finished. 

I used four patterns in 16 shaft point twill with two additional shafts for the plain weave border. 

Here are two patterns on the loom.

Here is a close up of the circles pattern.  As you can see I made a mistake early in the weaving. 

Here is another pattern before finishing.

The measurements were length: 59.5cm and width: 30 cm.

After washing the length was 56cm and the width 28cm. Here is the same diamond pattern after washing. 

The four different designs were interesting to weave. I am looking forward to finishing this warp and trying out new patterns and different coloured wefts. 

If you are not familiar with the works of Terry Pratchett you have a treat in store. Going Postal, chapter five Lost in the Post - in which Stanley experiences the joy of sacks. (page 134).

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes             May 2021


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Another new book and several small cords

When I visited Jokkmokk last February before the pandemic, I had arranged a visit to the Ájtte Museum. The librarian kindly found all the weaving books about Sami weaving for me.  Among these lovely books was one which had been published recently. 

It is a large hardback book. (approx 10 inches x 12 inches; 30 x 24.75 cms). 223 pages. Published in 2018.



I ordered it from this web site, the Samisk Litteratursente, and it was delivered quickly, however, the postal charges to the UK were high.  It was worth it.  They accept credit card payments. 

There are detailed instructions in pictures so that the language barrier is overcome. Each band pattern is on a separate page with a detailed picture and weaving chart. It is wonderful to see the care with which the traditional weaving heritage is being recorded for the present generation.  

I hope that the publishers will not object to my reproducing  a double page spread. You can see how carefully the process is explained in pictures. 

There is a small section about plaiting.  I have been weaving material to make simple bags for equipment and I have started to make a series of ties. Here is one from this book on page 61.

Four end plait

This plait has four ends at the start. The centre two cross over then the sequence is easy.

Left strand under one
Right strand over one, under one

Left strand over one
Right strand under one, over one.

A Five Strand plait

Here is an old plait from Durham. 

Here is the finished plait. 

Here is the completed bag tie

This small bag is ideal for my lucet. I have been following the wonderful online tutorial from Ziggy  Rytka on the Braids and Bands io group. https://groups.io/g/braidsandbands 

Here is one of my lucetted cords. 

I have also started (very late) the loop braiding workshop with Jean Leader.  Great notes and details of how to loop braid.  I am hoping to make some cords for these small bags in a variety of techniques. 

Ramesses Girdle Plait.

Here is a lovely plait on the end of the Ramesses girdle. This pattern is very old as the girdle dates from 1185 BCE.  It is also interesting because no-one has ever commented on the pattern of the plait. Researchers seem to have been fixed on the girdle itself - which is a weaving marvel - and not the simple patterned band at one end and the plaits at the other. This particular pattern in red white and blue, is also used on Sámi bands. It has a long history.

The plait has 8 ends: 2 red, 2 blue and 4 white. 

Happy plaiting

Susan J Foulkes  May 2021

The  email subscription list for this blog is being deleted by Google. I have read many different advice pages on the web but I am still not sure of how to transfer my email subscription list nor set up a new provider for this service.  I will let you know next month what I have been able to do. 

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   handwovenmagazine.com

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.        https://thebraidsociety.wildapricot.org/Books

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   https://hali.com/news/profile-fred-mushkat/

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 https://journalwsd.org.uk/ 

 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 Cordshttps://youtu.be/vHSGt9GxUfQ

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:  https://youtu.be/aO9s_ftgnbE

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   https://youtu.be/d-IVKOPvwt8

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 handshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-V0gm6vFQE&t=8s

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