Sunday, 14 December 2014

What is on my loom: hand towels

Weaving waffle weave hand towels.

I have just finished a set of hand towels in waffle weave.  I love this weave structure.

Here is the draw down. I have used green, red, blue and white to show the structure clearly. It is woven using seven shafts.

Drawdown for 7 shaft waffle weave hand towels.

Warp: 8/2 cotton in three colours, natural, light green and dark green.
Weft: 8/2 cotton in three colours, natural, light green and dark green.
Sett: 24 epi

Total number of warp ends: 589 ends.

The pattern repeat is 12 picks and 12 warp ends.  I used three colours: natural, light green and dark green.

The colour order is as follows:

24 natural, 12 light green, 12 natural, 12 dark green, 12 natural.  I varied the order in the centre but to balance the weave the final group of natural warp ends should be 25.  In all there are 45 groups of 12 ends and two larger groups of 24 at one edge and 25 at the other edge.  Look at the towel on the loom for the exact colour order.

There is no need for a floating selvedge as the waffle weave shrinks and fulls up beautifully.
To start, I used a fine 16/2 cotton for the first 12 picks ( one pattern repeat).  This is for the hem so that it will not be too bulky.

Here is the weaving on the loom.

I wove one towel with just the natural as the weft.  A further two towels I wove with five pattern repeats in natural, light green, natural, dark green etc.  The length of the towels on the loom was approximately 95cm (37 inches)
A close up of the weave structure whilst on the loom

Once off the loom I ironed the ends of the towels to make the hem. I turned up one pattern repeat -  (the first 12 picks in fine cotton)  and ironed it flat. Then turn a further pattern repeat in the 8/2 cotton.  This makes the hem which can now be tacked. Don't worry if your hem is slightly larger.

Close up of the hems before washing. 

I used a wide zigzag stitch on the sewing machine to hem the towels. Once hemmed the tacking stitches can be removed.

To wash the towel, I put it into the washing machine with  my normal wash and then into the drier.

This weave structure makes very textured towels.

 The shrinkage is as follows and is measured with the towel already hemmed.

Before washing ( and after hemming):   Length: 85 cm  (33.5 inches)     Width: 57 cm (22.5 inches)

After washing and drying.:                     Length: 62 cm (24.5 inches)       Width: 45 cm  (17.75 inches)

There is a lot of shrinkage for this weave structure.  The final towels are beautifully textured and make ideal hand towels.

Hanging tag.

I also wove a narrow warp faced band to use as a hanging tab on the towels.  I used the 8/2 cotton in the same colours.  Here is the drawdown.

Drawdown for warp faced narrow band.

The narrow band has 42 warp ends.  If you look along the top of the drawdown, you can see the colour order for the warp. Some of the dark and light green warp threads are doubled so that they stand out in the pattern. This is indicated by a thicker square on the drawdown.

I wove the band on my Swedish band loom.

These type of bands can be woven easily on an inkle loom or with a rigid heddle. (See my book The Art of Simple Band Weaving and the Youtube video Five ways of weaving narrow bands).

I cut the band into 4 inch lengths for the towel hanging tags. Turn under the ends of each tag and iron flat.

Pin to the edge of the towel and oversew.

The band tags were sewn onto the towels - just in time to be wrapped for Christmas presents.

The three tags: one is sewn onto the edge of the towel.

More narrow patterned bands.

Bell key ring holders by Tamaki

My friend Tamaki posted a lovely photograph of some of her key bell holders.  She has been making them to raise money for the orphans of the tsunami.

She loves band weaving and has made some lovely bands in beautiful colour combinations to go with the key holders.

She allowed me to publish her photograph. As you can see, she has been very busy making these lovely bands and knitting the key holders. All of the keyholders sold.

The colours are just right for Christmas.

And finally - a Happy Christmas to everyone.

Susan J Foulkes  December 2014

Monday, 1 December 2014

Travels around the Baltic: Mora to Falun, Sweden

When I first visited Sweden, the wealth of handmade textiles in museums came as a very pleasant surprise. There are examples of woven bands everywhere; in museums large and small as well as displays in shops.  There is a reason for this abundance of textiles.

At the end of the 19th century, there was a realisation that society was changing and that old crafts and traditions were dying out.  Artur Hazelius had set up the Nordiska Museum in Stockholom in 1873 and in 1882, George Karlin founded the Kulturen, the Museum of Cultural History, in Lund in southern Sweden. The museums started to collect examples of peasant craft but it was felt important the skills should not be lost. 

The Nordiska Museum, Stockholm

In 1899,  Lilli Zickerman founded the Home Craft Committee She was a formidable writer and speaker and she brought together an executive board chaired by Prince Eugen.   Zickerman understood the importance of keeping records. From 1914 to the 1930s she compiled many inventories of the traditional textiles of Sweden. She took over 24,000 photographs, hand colouring many of them. She had intended publishing a series of books, but only one was published in her lifetime. These records are now in the Nordiska museum in Stockholm. 

One book about the Nordiska collection was published in 1925. Swedish Textiles is an overview of the weaver's craft with descriptions and black and white pictures, of items in the museum. I found a second hand copy some years ago.  It is written by Emelie von Walterstorff, a member of the Home Craft Committee. It has a forward by Luther Hooper.

In Sweden, each district population was encouraged to set up a handicraft association, so many set about making inventories of the textiles in their area.  One astonishing discovery was made by Paul Jonze in 1910.  He was appointed to make a list of items of rural culture for the Association of Jämtland’s Handicrafts. Next to Överhogdal church, the sexton had found an interesting textile that was lining a box used for storing firewood to heat the church.  When examined properly, this textile was identified as a woven tapestry dating between 800 and 1100 AD (the Viking Period). It had been woven on an upright warp-weighted loom. It is now on display at the Jamtli Museum in Östersund.

Schools were encouraged to teach crafts as a fundamental part of the curriculum so that these traditional skills would be passed on. In Stockholm, the Svensk Hemslöjd store selling Swedish handicrafts from different parts of the country was opened and is still there today. Permanent stores were established around the country to provide a focus for buyers and sellers, the shop in Leksand being the first. Buyers from the large towns could visit these regional stores to order the textiles they wanted.  This provided a source of income for rural women.  These stores were to be centres for exhibitions and craft courses as well as selling venues. Records were kept of local patterns and materials which form the basis of many museum collections today. With all this interest in craft, it is not surprising that Sweden has preserved such a profusion of textiles.

In Leksand, the shop/centre that Lilli Zickerman and the architect Gustaf Ankarcrona established in 1904 is still there. Upstairs there is a small museum of costumes and bands.  They had a stall at the Weave Fair in Umea where the assistants dressed in the local costume.

The Leksand shop stall at the Weave Fair in Umea. 

Most of the local records are now in the nearby Leksand museum which was founded in 1899.  When I visited the museum in 2011 to study the band collection, many of the woven bands I examined still had the original labels detailing when they were collected. 

The county town in Dalarna is Falun and the Dalarnas Museum in the centre of town is another textile heaven. It was here that I spent happy hours examining samples of woven bands. The museum was founded in 1883 and the present building is on an attractive site next to the river.  

Dalarnas Museum, Falun

The costumes and textiles are beautifully displayed.  Although light levels have to be kept low in order to preserve old textiles displayed in glass cases, there is a wall of modern reproductions for the visitor to touch and handle. All these reproductions are represented in the permanent display of historical costumes. I was surprised by the heavy weight of material for the skirts and could appreciate the lovely rosepath patterns in the cloth. The patterns of woven bands can be examined closely. This hands-on display and the accompanying documentary film is an innovative and very welcoming introduction to the textile gallery.  Maria Björkroth from the museum explained that the display is used on guided tours to bring the viewing of costumes to life.  Through the experience of touching and examining, visitors see items in the showcases that they had not noticed and have a greater understanding of how they were made. 

This was my second visit to this wonderful collection.  After my first visit in 2011, I published a book of band patterns from Gagnef-  Woven Bands from Sweden.  This time I examined the rest of the collection of bands from this village.  I love the way the weavers used many colours.  There were a few examples of early bands which were in red and white.  After chemical dyes became available, dyed wool was imported and was very popular.  The bands became multicoloured.  For me it was particularly interesting that the coloured wool came from the UK.

The revival of Folk costume in the early 20th century ensured that the museum has some stunning examples. The Dala-Floda costume is one of the most colourful. The appliqued bags for each costume are so attractive and the museum has many examples. 

Some bands are easy to analyse and weave, but the more complex wider bands can take many hours to chart. 

Many bands are now woven commercially, particularly the waist bands which have to support a sturdy skirt.  I wove an example of one waistband in fine cotton and wool..  The photograph shows my band on the left and a commercially woven band on the right.  (The patterns are not the same).

If you look closely at the bands, you can see that the pattern thread in the centre is green.  This thread is known as the heart of the band.  It is a useful guide when weaving.

I hope that you enjoy the descriptions of my visit to Scandinavia.  In January, I will describe the Sámi weaving that I saw. 

Happy weaving and Seasons Greetings to everyone.

Susan J Foulkes  December 2014

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Travels around the Baltic: Oslo to Mora, Sweden

This summer, I spent nine weeks travelling around the Baltic region to study patterned band weaving in different countries. I had booked visits to several museums in three countries to examine their collections behind the scenes and talk to curators.

Our first textile stop was Oslo. I wanted to visit the Norsk Folkemuseum of cultural history. It is part of a large open air museum which has an impressive range of medieval buildings.  Unfortunately, the costume gallery had problems with the lighting so I was unable to see any traditional Norwegian folk costumes.  The Sámi  gallery was open and had a lovely collection of artifacts.  I will be recreating one of the woven bands that I saw there for the online workshop I will be running early next year.

Here is  a lovely Norwegian costume with a lovely woven waist band.

The Historisk Museum in the centre of town was well worth a visit.  It shows Norwegian history over 9000 years. There were a few recreated Viking costumes.  One cloak was particularly splendid. because around the edges was a tablet woven border.  Tablet weaving and the warp weighted loom are related technologies.  The patterns woven with tablets may well have influenced subsequent patterns on woven belts.  This S motif is a variation of designs seen on later woven patterned bands.
motif from table woven border
There is a saying: If you are tired of Oslo you have been there for three days.
It is not true. There was not enough time for us to do everything that we wanted, so a return trip is planned.  The Opera House is particularly impressive so our next trip will have to be built around the opera programme. And, of course, a return visit to the Norsk Folkmuseum.

We then drove to Mora in central Sweden on the northern shore of Lake Siljan. This area has been a holiday destination since the 19th century.  It became a place where many artists had their summer homes.  One such artist was Anders Zorn.

After he died, his wife ensured that his work could be appreciated by displaying it in a purpose built art gallery, the Zornmuseet.  A nearby open air museum contains examples of local buildings and an impressive display of costumes collected by Anders Zorn, including many woven bands.

I had arranged to meet Barbro Wallin.  She is the author of a beautifully illustrated book about traditional band weaving from the Mora area, Moraband. (See Books from Sweden and Estonia on the blog).
She demonstrated how she weaves the bands on her loom using different heddles to lift and lower the pattern threads.  The heddles are in different colours. When the loom is warped, she attaches the heddles to the warp in the correct order for the lifts. Once this is done, weaving becomes easier as the correct pattern threads can be selected for each pick.   She was very quick.  She kindly allowed me to have a go.   My attempt was slow and I made quite a few mistakes. My mind knew the theory but my fingers seemed to be all thumbs! Barbro  was very patient!
Barbro's band loom
Here is a close up of the band on the loom.

Close up of the band on the loom

Bands from this area are usually woven with three background threads in between each pattern thread.

Barbro was very generous with her time and we visited the Zorn Textile museum together.  I wish that I had allowed longer for our stay in Mora. There is so much to see and do and Barbro was excellent company.

In the textile museum, there are many examples of beautiful local bands displayed in a way that showed off the length of the bands and the variety of the motifs. I found it fascinating that some of the older bands were in the 'Baltic threading' that is two background threads in between each pattern thread, where the background weave structure is half basket weave.
The band weave structure changed when women started to use the type of band loom used by Barbro because it made weaving patterned bands easier and quicker for them.

The beater that Barbro uses is a heavy weight!  I bought one at the local craft centre. I have used it and it beats very firmly indeed.
Band knife from Mora.

Museums in Sweden have an abundance of beautiful woven bands.  They range from narrow simple bands to wide complex patterned bands.  The bands that I find most intriguing are ones that have no pattern repeats. This is not easy as the weaver would have to remember which patterns had been used as the woven part of the band is rolled up onto the cloth beam of the band loom. It did make the weaving more challenging and interesting! For the weaver, it was a way of showing off her skill, but also, this band was her possession for life. They were not made to be sold.  One band in the Zorn Textile collection appeared to have the date 1848 on one end. .

I have examined many bands over the years and a few years ago, I decided to weave my own example.  I analysed 100 different patterns as I am not skilled enough to be able to weave them without being written down. I could assemble the patterns into the order that I wanted before I started to weave.

The white background threads are in fine linen.  The 13 pattern threads are in thick red and green wool. The pattern threads are more than twice as thick as the background and weft threads. This makes the pattern stand out. The centre pattern thread is green. In Sweden, this is known as the heart of the band. This is a useful guide when weaving.

My 100 motif band.
As you can see, at one end I wove my initials and the date.  This is very common in early bands.

Here is a close up of one of the motifs. Go to Band weaving with 13 pattern threads on my blog for the pattern draft.
One motif from the woven band.

Here is the reverse side of the motif.

Reverse side of motif.
In the museum in Leksand, which is further around Lake Siljan, they have a portion of a marriage band in their collection.  There are two sets of initials and the date of 1850. I wove my own copy. Here it is. I love the way the intials are bounded by a heart pattern.

Portion of a marriage band with two sets of initials and a date of 1850.

Next month I will post about Falun and the Dalarnas Museum.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes

November 2014

Durham Weaver

Monday, 3 November 2014

Inspired by Malevich

A couple of weeks ago, we had a day trip to London to the Tate Modern to see the Malevich exhibition.  Kazimir Malevich was born in Kiev in 1879. His parents were Polish. His progress as a painter led to a revolution in art.

In a famous exhibition of his work in St Petersburg in 1915, The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10, the first version of his iconic painting Black Square was exhibited.  The Tate exhibition displayed nine out of the twelve paintings in the same layout as the original exhibition.  The Black Square was placed in the corner of the room in the place which, in Russian orthodox homes, was reserved for icons, traditionally known as the red corner.

The exhibition was amazing.

I decided to make a cushion cover - inspired by Malevich .

I started by choosing colours and cutting coloured paper into strips. Black, red, blue, grey and yellow seemed appropriate.  I placed them on a sheet of paper the same size as the front of the cushion and moved them around until I had a design that I liked.  This was an interesting exercise.  I tried strips of different widths and lengths until I was satisfied.

Once I was happy with the arrangement, I wove coloured bands using cottolin.

woven bands, coloured strips and paper design.
I used iron on  bondaweb.  This ensured that when the bands were cut to size they would not fray. Also, I could iron the bands onto the material for the cushion cover so that they were fixed in place.
Ironing the bondaweb onto the bands..


After applying the bondaweb, I cut the bands to size and placed them on the material. Ironing the bands, stuck them onto the cloth.

   Rather than weave a wide blue band, I used two narrow bands together to get the width I needed.  I carefully sewed the bands around the edges.
This is a close up of the blue band where it crosses the grey band.  Once it was sewn in place the join was invisible.

The cushion is now in place under the poster of a painting by Malevich, Supremus No. 38 (1915 - 1916).

My cushion design inspired by Malevich.
After we had seen the Malevich exhibition, we went to the Gallery for Russian Art and Design. In their current exhibition about the First World War, there were also some illustrations by Malevich.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes

November 2014

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Braid Society

The Braid Society is a fantastic organisation for anyone interested in narrow wares - braiding, plaiting, band weaving, tablet weaving, sprang, etc.  There is a public discussion group on Facebook at

There is also an on line discussion group at  Do join.  It is a wonderful forum for finding out about different crafts to do with narrow wares.

It was founded in 1993 and has members around the world.  The aim of the Society is to promote the education and practice of the art and craft of making constructed or embellished braids and narrow bands.

I have just received their latest annual journal Strands.  I always look forward to it as there are so many different craft interests and so many interesting craft practitioners.

This edition is no exception.

Here is the contents page of the Journal.  Interests range from plaits, lace,  finger looped braids, reed and rush plaiting - so many techniques and, I sometimes feel, so little time to explore them all.

I am particularly interested in any article about the history of narrow wares and their production. This exploration by Peter Davenport is no exception.

All the articles have colour photograph illustrations which bring the techniques to life.

Membership of the Braid Society is easy.  Just go to their web site at
Do think of joining.  It is not expensive and you gain so much from the web site, newsletter and Journal and online discussion group.

The last Braids Conference was held in Manchester UK in 2012.  There were many workshops to choose from and people came from all over the world.  The previous Conference was in Japan and the next will be in Tacoma in the USA.

Online discussion group. 

There is also a Yahoo group - Braids and Bands - which is a forum for discussing the practicalities of braiding.  I have organised four online workshop for Braids and Bands over the years.

I will be running another workshop early next year for Braids and Bands.  As you know, one of my passions is band weaving.  I have been exploring the band weaving heritage around the Baltic region.

As part of my trip, I attended the Weave Fair in Umea and met Per Niila and Lotta from Stoorstalka. They had been asked by a Sámi weaving tutor if a new design of heddle would make the traditional
Sámi bands, which use groups of floating pattern threads, easier to weave. They worked on this idea and put a new design out to test. 

Traditional way of weaving Sámi bands
 with groups of pattern threads. 
My previous online tutorial in 2012 looked at how to weave this style of band.

In traditional Sámi weaving, the floating pattern threads go over the top of the heddle. In order to pull them down, string heddles have to be used.

The background threads weave plain weave.

As a result of this request by a Sámi weaving tutor, a new heddle is now on sale for weaving these type of bands. It is called the Sigga heddle.  The background threads weave plain weave and are threaded alternately through a slot and hole.  The pattern threads have their own shorter slots.  It works in the same way as the Sunna heddle.
The Sigga heddle

Early next year I will be organising another online workshop for Braids and Bands looking at how this heddle makes this type of weaving so much easier. 

I have started to trial the heddle and it really does work well. I will be busy weaving different examples for use during the tutorial next year over the next few months. This band has one group of ten 'jumping' pattern threads

I was asked for the proper weaving term for the supplementary warp pattern threads but I think the term jumping pattern threads is so much more evocative.  They do seem to jump up and down on the band. 

Here is an example that I wove for the previous tutorial.  This band has two groups of jumping pattern threads. I love this Sámi design.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes  Oct 2014

Monday, 20 October 2014

What is on my loom: a scarf

Like most weavers I have a large stash of yarn.  I am trying to reduce it but I keep getting seduced by glorious colours or new types of yarn.

At the moment I am weaving a scarf on my table loom.  The yarn is a 3-ply worsted yarn which I bought a number of years ago in the Falkland Islands.  It is naturally coloured pure wool and I could not resist buying some, even though I had to squeeze it into my hand luggage.

The weave structure is a simple 2/1 block twill. I only had three balls of yarn so I had to be careful in designing the pattern and the length of the scarf.  The wool is beautifully soft.

The pattern draft shows three blocks of 12 picks.

For this scarf, I wove three blocks with a dark brown weft, three with a beige weft  and then three with dark brown.  The next pattern repeat is three blocks of white, then three of beige and then three of white.

On my Megado loom, I am weaving more tea towels.  Before I go away on holiday, I always put a warp on the loom so that I can weave as soon as I get back home.  Usually, I put on a complicated warp because it takes much longer to make the warp and thread it.  However, I had been weaving tea towels to take with me as presents and I still had one design that I wanted to try.  I have woven enough tea towels now.  I always plan what I wish to weave next whilst I am weaving.  I find weaving so relaxing.

The tea towels are woven in cottolin in plain weave.  It is woven as  drawn in.

The design is my interpretation of a set of tea towels I saw in a museum in Den Haag last summer. We had visited the Gemeente  Museum to see the work of Gerrit Reitveld and the De Stijl movement. The architecture, art and furniture design were fascinating but there were also a few examples of textile design from the same period.  The towels had a simple striped warp pattern of white,blue and red.

On my Swedish band loom I have just finished a set of self coloured bands.  I will be showing you what I am using them for next month.

Susan J Foulkes
October 2014

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sámi weaving at the Weave Fair

Umea is European Capital of Culture for 2014.  Their plans for the year were based on the Sámi year of eight seasons.

I was looking forward to seeing contemporary Sámi culture as part of the Weave Fair and the accompanying exhibitions and events.

I was thrilled to meet Per Niila and Lotta for the first time.  They are Stoorstalka who make the wide selection of heddles which make patterned band weaving more accessible to people all around the world. Click on his link to see their web site.

I had found their web site quite by accident and discovered that they had made a double holed heddle for a weaver.  I wrote to them to ask if they could make a double slotted heddle.  These heddles are not widely available and even standard heddles are not easy to find in the UK. I can now teach band weaving using this design of heddle which makes learning to weave patterns so much more straightforward. Their stall was beautiful.

I had the chance to relax and do some weaving.

At the Weave fair, Astrid Enoksson, who lives in Tarnaby, had a display of display of Sámi costume and weaving and was on hand to answer questions.

There is an article about her in Vävmagasinet nr 3, 2014 pages 40 - 41.  She was also part of the cultural show of Folk costume at the Västerbottens Museum.

The Västerbottens Museum has a large open air section of traditional buildings where the costume show took place.

Later that evening at the nearby Sámi Cultural Centre, a singer demonstrated  joik, a traditional type of Sámi singing. 

There were also a number of weavers on hand to demonstrate different techniques for producing bands. 

There was considerable interest in this.  Here is one weaver being interviewed for a radio programme.
Another weaver was making plaited bands


On the Saturday, there was an 1860's market at the Västerbottens Museum. This was a superb event with all the stallholders dressed in costume and an astonishing variety of stalls selling handcrafted articles and food etc.  It was very fortunate that the weather was perfect. There were many stalls and many beautiful things to tempt buyers. Here is a sample.

There was also a Sámi stall selling reproductions of prehistoric Sámi pottery.

The Västerbotten cheese stall was very tempting.
Cloth and wool were popular

A book binding stall.

One of several 'streets' of stalls.
It was an excellent three days. I am now looking forward to the next Weave Fair in three years time.

Susan J Foulkes

October 2014