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

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Travels around the Baltic: Finland

We toured Finland for two weeks visiting Lappenranta, Helsinki, Turku, Lahti, and Tampere.

Lappeenranta  is in the east of the country.  We had booked a canal trip on the Saimaa Canal to Viborg (Viipuri)to see the Alvar Aalto library.  It was stunning and we had a fantastic guided tour around the library.
Lappeenranta was a small but interesting place.  On the headland is the old ruined fortress. The old buildings have been preserved and include artist workshops, the oldest orthodox church in Finland, completed in 1785, the Museum  and the Art Museum.  I loved the craft shops.

This lovely building had shops and a fantastic tea room.

Inside the traditionally decorated tea rooom.
The food was very tempting and we stopped for a meal.

The craft shop was a gem. were some lovely hand woven items and I was very tempted.  The facebook page shows lots of examples of lovely Finnish textiles.

Lovely household linen

Leena in Galleria Kaantopoiju

I had a long chat with Leena.  You can see the beautifully dyed garments n the picture.  She lives in the countryside outside of Lappeenranta  and uses natural dyes inspired by the beautiful woods.   Here are her autumn/winter tops which had just been completed.

Further on were the two museums which had some lovely displays. There was one costume from 18th century Kakisalmi which shows a felt hat and a sprang belt. the cape is wool frieze with linen trousers and felt shoes.  The mittens are made using the nalbinding technique. 

close up of sprang belt. 
In Helsinki we visited the Open Air Museum.  Unfortunately by this time it was nearing the end of the season. However, there were still some people demonstrating crafts.
Poster for museum

There were still guides in costume and I was particularly pleased to find someone weaving.

tablet weaver at work

There was also a rigid heddle on display although not in use.

Here is a close up of the cotton band. 

Cotton band on the rigid heddle. 
In Helsinki, I had arranged to see some of the collection from the National Museum behind the scenes.  I cannot show you my photographs but I was thrilled to be able to examine some of these bands.  I hope to start analysing them and weaving samples in the new year. The curators were very helpful.  The National Museum was in the process of rearranging the galleries so there was very little in the way of traditional bands on display.

At Turku, there was another open air museum near the town centre. Again, som eof the crafts people who work there had finished for the season.  The loom was empty and the heddles and shafts had been removed for the winter. The smaller loom was still in use.

There were guides in costume to explain the different displays in the open buildings.
The Sweet Shop

The inside rooms were very dark so it gave a realistic feel for how it would have been for the original inhabitants.  Unfortunately, the low light levels made it difficult to get decent photographs.  This guide is wearing a cap with a woven band.

I tried to take close up photographs but this is the best I could do. It is a warp faced plain weave band rather like the one on the heddle in the Helsinki open air museum. One of the more interesting sets of rooms for me was the passementerie workshop.  It was closed but the view through the window showed a wide variety of equipment for making braids.
The passementerie workshop

When we go back to Finland, this is another 'must see again'. Finland is a beautiful country and I have only given a short over view of some of the weaving related items.  The architecture, museums and people are wonderful.  Do visit if you can.

Here are some additional pictures about Alvar Aalto. We have now visited most of his buildings and museums in Finland as well as the famous library in Viborg, Russia. The canal trip from Lappeenranta to Viborg was amazing.

The library hall with its famous rippling roof which has superb acoustics
The renovation of the building was assisted by architects from many countries.

The furniture, all designed by Aalto, has been donated by well wishers. The guided tour that we had was excellent.  The guide, who is one of the librarians, was very knowledgeable and brought the history of the restoration of the building to life with his talk. It was one of the best guided tours we have had.

One of the library rooms showing the elegant staircase. 

The famous stools stacked 
I have long admired the stool. They stack so beautifully.  We were tempted and gave in to buying one from Artek in Helsinki.  Thank goodness for the motor home!

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes (Durham, UK)