Friday, 15 January 2016

Sámi Sleigh Ride and slow TV

Over Christmas there were two programmes about the Sámi.  All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride was an example of slow TV. It was filmed in Karasjok, Norway and the journey followed an old postal route. The traditional sleigh was fitted with fixed cameras.   The three sleighs jogged along through snowy hills and past birch forests and across a frozen lake.  The journey took two hours - slow TV - and the programme was strangely hypnotic.  There was no dialogue just the natural noises of the reindeer feet crunching the snow and the tinkling of their bells.  You can watch some clips here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06t3psw/clips

All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride


The second programme concerned two reindeer herder from Kautokeino in Norway .  It was first shown as part of the Natural World series in 2007- 2008 in episode 13.  The two girls Elle and Inga were seventeen years old when the programme was made. The film shows one journey they took herding their reindeer to summer grazing.

Previously on BBC TV, The Hairy Bikers, visited Sweden.  These two characters are excellent cooks and they journey around different countries trying out the local delicacies. To find out more about their adventures and lots of wonderful recipes here is their web site.:  http://www.hairybikers.com/

They visited Jokkmokk and met Lotta and Per Niila from Stoorstalka.   http://shop.stoorstalka.com/en/start.html


Here they are in the shop.  They tried their hand at traditional Sámi crafts and I was thrilled to see that one of them was taught how to weave a narrow band and the other made a belt.




Weaving for the first time is not easy, especially when you have to do it to camera.


You can see the curved Gehpa shuttle in use.

There was also a close up of a woven band - one which I had woven and sent to Lotta and Per Niila.

A band from Karesuando

The full pattern for this band is in my book  Weaving Sámi Bands and is illustrated on the front cover
To have three programmes about Sámi culture and way of life in such a short space of time was wonderful.

The Winter Market in Jokkmokk 2016.

Jokkmokk in north Sweden is the home of the Winter Market. It takes place in February each year. It has been held for over 400 years and is an important occasion for the Sámi.

Here is the link to the web site.   http://www.jokkmokksmarknad.se/visitors/   The list of events is very enticing.   Do take a look at some of the images from previous Winter Fairs.  Traditional craft work is an important element of the Fair. There are several exhibition of art and craft work, including an exhibition of the work of students from Sámi allaskuvla which is the only Sámi-speaking institute of higher education where the approach to Duodji (Sámi handicraft) is from a research perspective.  I wish I could be there.

I first visited Jokkmokk in 2011.  It was quite an adventure travelling so far north from the UK. I went to the fair held in August which is much a smaller event. I would love to go to the winter fair - perhaps next year.

Susan J Foulkes January 2016

Friday, 1 January 2016

Slow cloth and slow craft and the Peacock scarf

One year ago, my blog described the Slow Cloth Manifesto.  It is worthwhile to revisit the article by Elaine Lipson which is from a talk she gave to the Textiles Society of America in 2012.  Read her original thoughts about slow cloth  and the link to her article here.  http://elainelipsonart.com/tag/slow-cloth/

Treasuring quality and creativity is a vital part of her description of worthwhile craft.  Slow cloth is about taking time and finding the inspiration and joy in learning and making.

Elaine Lipsons description of Slow Cloth. reprinted with her permission. 


Thinking back over the past year, it is those projects which have taken time which I most treasure.


  • Spending a week teaching at Summer School was tiring but also invigorating.  Having the time to spend with a group of interested and enthusiastic weavers and see the progress in skills and understanding was wonderful. The preparation for a whole week of teaching was huge but in doing so I also gained insights into the learning and teaching process.  Learning was also a two way process.  We learned a lot from each other.
  • Preparing the talk for the Braid Society AGM was a wonderful way to bring together my thoughts about my travels around the Baltic and my understanding of why patterned belts were so important. The background reading for this talk taught me a lot about culture, history, archaeology, symbolism, and so many aspects of peasant life  - far more than I needed for the  talk but so enriching for me personally. 
  • The relearning of the principles of collapse weave took a great deal of experimentation to get the effect that I wanted.  The Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers is a great forum for learning.
  • The sudden flash of my imagination when told about a cloth embroidered with peacock feathers sparked a desire to try to create iridescence.  Thinking about how to achieve this and sampling took time but I was thrilled with the result.  
  • Preparing materials for my workshop in Tacoma, USA in August 2016 has been an ongoing revision of ideas.  Writing an article for the conference proceedings has provided a focus for my work in analysing patterned bands and taken me into areas that have been quite surprising. Three months later it is finally ready to send off!


My New Year resolutions for 2016 is to spend more time on fewer projects.  It is exploring ideas and techniques in depth which for me brings most satisfaction (and sometimes frustration!).

The Peacock Silk Scarf.

As I mentioned in my last blog, the talk about Chinese Imperial textiles inspired me to think of a way of creating iridescence in a design for a silk scarf.

The three colours of silk yarn.

The Weaving Draft




Here is the weaving draft. It requires 16 shafts and a floating selvedge. This is the first time that I have used three strands of silk together. I was not sure what sett to use so I allowed an extra length for the warp to weave practice pieces. I could try different setts and  weft threads to create the best effect.


Here is the tie up drawdown for those of you who are interested.



There are 54 picks in the pattern repeat.



I tried a sample at 30 epi using three strands of silk for the weft.  I used two strands of black and one of green 60/2 silk.  The sample was very firm and not suitable for a scarf. The colours in the weft obscured the colours in the warp.


My first sample at 30 epi with three strands of 60/2 silk for the weft.


As you can see, the green strand in the weft detracts from the threads making the pattern. I realised that I would need to use a solid colour for the weft. This would create a background for the colours of the silk warp.

I decided to try using a fine 3/45 dark navy cashmere and silk yarn for the weft. This was a 'bin end' so I cannot buy any more. I used two strands used together.  I changed the sett to 25 epi. 

This time the sample material felt lovely and soft and the leaf shape was outlined by the dark navy weft. 

However, I decided that the finishing of the scarf should also be luxurious.  For the twisted fringes, I separated out the three colours of the warp yarns.  This was a slow, laborious task but I thought that it would add a touch of mystery to the finished project.  It took a day and a half to complete the fringes but I think that the extra effort was worth it for the effect.

Twisting the fringes.


I twisted the three colours together.  The fringes are a lovely twisted rope of silk.

Here is the completed scarf.
The completed scarf




close up
It is difficult to get the full effect of iridescence in a static image.  The colours glow when the material moves when it is worn.

There was a wonderful series on BBC television recently about colour called 'Colour - the Spectrum of Science.'  Episode two explained how iridescence works. There are still clips about the programme available to watch on the BBC web site. This clip is about peacocks.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0371l2f  




I wish you all a happy and creative 2016.

Susan J Foulkes