Sunday, 1 December 2019

Weaving for Christmas

Making Christmas tree decorations from woven narrow bands.

Three Christmas tree decorations.


You will need
a narrow woven band
9 beads and two small beads.

First weave a narrow band approximately 45 cm in length.

You can adjust the length of the 'branches' of the tree as you make the band rather than deciding the length before you start. Different sizes of bead will also alter the overall length of band required.

Step by step instructions

Equipment needed

1.  You will need:
 a length of woven band, two sizes of bead, scissors, long needle, thread.

measuring and placing a dot on the fabric

2.  Make a small fold at one end of the band. Measure along the band and place a dot with a pen at these intervals.

7 cm, 6.5 cm, 5.5 cm, 4 cm, 4.5 cm, 4 cm, 3 cm, 2.5 cm

the bottom of the tree decoration

3.  Fold the band. take the needle and thread through the first dot and then through the folded end of the band. Thread the needle through the larger bead and then the smaller bead. 

The first two beads in place

4.  Take the thread through the layers of the woven band and the two beads. Then thread the needle through the larger bead and back through the band.  This secures the bottom of the tree decoration.

Fastening the yarn with a secure knot.

5. Now fasten the yarn securely.

Adding more beads

6.  Take the needle through the third large bead, then the next dot on the band and finally the next bead.

7.  Continue until you reach the final bead.  Thread a small bead as well at the top of the tree.

Securing the top.

8.  Secure the top beads in the same way as the bottom two beads by taking the thread back through the larger bead.

Finishing the top 

9.  Take the thread back through the top two beads.

10.  Make a loop and tie securely.  This is the hanging loop for the tree decoration.

11. Finally, trim the thread. Trim the woven band.  Use Fray Check to stop the band unravelling.
The decoration is finished.

Seasons Greetings to everyone and best wishes for a peaceful New Year.

Susan J Foulkes  December 2019

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Braids 2019

I have just returned from Braids 2019 in Japan.  It was a wonderful conference with amazing and creative people.  I tried to write daily posts on my Facebook page so do check it out if you want to see some of the activities that took place.

The Conference Proceedings and the Exhibition catalogue are wonderful. The Conference Proceedings will be available on the Braid Society web page once everyone is back and sorted.

The exhibition was one of the most interesting and beautifully displayed I have seen. The exhibition was open all week and was inside an old school for the children of Samurai. This traditional house was an elegant backdrop for all of the craft examples on display.

The Sukodo

One of the interlinking rooms

I have not yet had time to fully unpack all my things from Japan.  I managed to buy a couple of examples of traditional belts as well as a number of examples of sanada-himo bands.

  I will be writing a more comprehensive blog about Japan later.

At Braids 2019, I taught a workshop about weaving messages on narrow bands. I used the double slotted heddle with 9 pattern slots but the lettering can be done on an inkle loom as well.

Some of my wonderful class concentrating very hard. 

New Book
This is my new book published with Blurb and available as an ebook for IPad or Kindle devices.

new book 

This book gives the patterns for letters and an alphabet for use with 9 pattern threads. It is designed for weavers who have already tried pick up band weaving on the double slotted heddle, the standard heddle or an inkle loom and who do not need the basic instructions.  There are 36 pages in full colour.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes  November 2019

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Weaving and book binding

The Braid Society has an annual swap. The challenge has a theme and members of the Braid Society send in six samples mounted on a card to the organiser. This means that you receive 5 samples from other members which is always a thrill.  Different techniques and different colour combinations make the package seem like a miniature Aladdin's cave when it arrives. All full members can join in so some samples travel a long way.

This year the challenge was to make a 'Tie for a treasured Book'. The idea came about when members were chatting about lovely handmade books and felt that they would have been even better had they been tied with a nice braid rather than something that looked like 'string'.

When the challenge was announced I was busy preparing a display of my work for the exhibition at Braids 2019.  I was making my own hand made book which was to be tied with a handwoven silk band.

Here is a description of my woven band.

Warp: 2/60 red silk used double;  2/60 dark red silk used quadruple.
Weft:   2/60 red silk used double.
Madeira gold:  4 threads together.
Weave structure: Warp faced plain weave
Total number of warp ends: 39

Weave chart


red 2/60 silk                4       7         1                       1                     1          7            4
(used doubled)
dark red 2/60 silk            3                                                                                 3
(used quadrupled)

Madiera gold thread                  1         2 doubled       2 doubled          1

The band is 0.7 cm in width.

The Book of Samples: All the World in One Craft

I made a book of samples for my exhibition at the Fourth International braids conference in Iga Japan in October 2019.

Here is the book with the woven band.

All the World in One Craft with woven tie band
The problem with having a book as one of my exhibits is that it cannot be handled which means that visitors cannot see the contents.  I made another copy of the book but without the woven samples.  I photographed all the samples and  bound them into a small book which everyone could read.

As the conference is in Japan, I thought that it would be fitting if I used a Japanese binding.

This is one of the books that I bought when I took a series of classes about book-binding.  It is published by Wetherall originally in 1986 and my edition is 2003. Of course nowadays there is so much information on the internet and lots of YouTube videos.

The binding that I chose is called Kangxi binding.  It has a pattern of stitching over the corner pieces of the book cover. This gives extra support to the corners and gives it a more elegant finish than a simpler binding.

This is the front of the book. It has a hard cover and the inside pages are printed examples of the actual samples in the display book.  I made an additional loop at the top left hand side so that the book can be fastened to the display table for people to read it.

Book with photographs of the samples and drawdowns

One page of the boooklet

Workshop Booklets.

I made two workshop booklets for participants. The first booklet was longer so I thought that I would use the binding you can see pictured on the Japanese Book Binding book cover.  Yes, it was time consuming to do but I thought that the end result was lovely and very appropriate.

I used red cottolin for the thread to match the border that I put on the cover. The pages were printed on one side of A4 and then folded. I put them in my bookpress to ensure that they were flat. There were six pages in all. Once flattened, I carefully stacked them in the correct order. I made a template for the holes which you can see on the yellow card.

I have a Japanese spiral hole punch which has various attachments for different size holes. Four holes are needed for this binding.

Once the four holes are punched, the sewing can begin. The booklet is placed so that the inside edge is over the edge of the table so that I can take the needle through easily.

Here is the finished result.  Thirteen booklets bound and ready for use.  By the time that you read this the booklets will have been used.

Booklets bound for the workshop
Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes October 2019

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Shoe laces and decoration

In the early 70's I read a wonderful book called  the Narrow Road to the Deep North. It was written by a Buddhist monk.  Bashō made a challenging journey on foot through Japan in the late 17th century.  It is interspersed with haikus.

On one occasion he was given new sandals.  They had blue laces which reminded him of iris flowers. He wrote this haiku which caught my imagination at the time and I have always remembered it.

The Haiku.

It looked as if
Iris flowers had bloomed
On my feet
Sandals laced in blue

I decided to make some shoe laces and designed my own sanada-himo band. 

Warp ends: 34 ends of 16/2 cotton.

Warp Order

Purple           2               5                  3
Pale purple                 3                  3
Lilac                        3                  3
Pale blue              3                  3
White                3                 3

Weft: Purple

drawdown of the weave pattern

I am indebted to the web site Inkled Pink for the suggestion about securing the lace ends.
do check out this lovely web site.

 I had not heard of the term 'aglet'. I found that I could buy aglets on-line and made a pair of laces.

A: Unbound end. The end of the band needs to be bound.

B: The ends are bound with a purple thread.

C: Once the end is bound, the aglet, the narrow plastic tube is put onto the bound portion.

D:  Once this is in place, it is is ironed to shrink the plastic so that it is a tight fit.

Here are the finished laces.

a pair of warp-faced weave shoe laces

I also decided to weave another set of shoe laces with a flower pattern.  This pattern is in my latest book published be Schiffer Press- Weaving patterned bands - how to create and design with 5, 7, and 9 pattern threads.

The pattern is 9:8 on page 81.

These shoe laces are part of my display at the Braids conference in Iga Japan in October 2019.

 I also decorated a new pair of flipflops with a woven band.

original flip flops
I bought these flipflops as they had an iris pattern on the insole - although it cannot be seen when being worn.

I designed a woven band in 16/2 Swedish cotton to match the colour of the flip flops.

Design for a woven band in 16/2 cotton
There are 43 warp ends.

close up of the woven band

Sewing on the band

I carefully sewed the bands onto the strap.

The finished embellishment on my flip flops.

I think that it gives my flip flops a personal touch  and I can think of irises every time I glance down at them.

I was particularly thrilled to find out that Bashō came from Iga in Japan.

A Lovely Inkle Belt

This is a dramatic cotton inkle belt woven by Anne, a founder member of the Durham Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers.  She allowed me to post these pictures.

I love the two owls in macrame to finish each end.  Here is a close-up.

Close up showing the front and back of the owls.

Anne is very creative and she always finds some fascinating variation to add to her weaving.

Reflections about craft

Last month, the Durham Guild had a weaving open day. Two members, new to weaving brought their looms to warp and start weaving. One member, Averil, brought her new Ashford knitters loom.  She was helped by Jane but she warped up rapidly although she had only unwrapped her new loom the previous evening. 

Another member, Barbara,  had an old two shaft loom with metal heddles. She had brought the loom to a previous meeting and made the warp and wound it on to the back beam. On this occasion, she was finishing threading the heddles and the sleying the reed. Of course other members were around to help and advise these two new weavers.

The warp on the second loom was wool and once it was tied on to the front beam, it was clear that it was rather sticky. The weave was plain weave on two shafts. I went over to see how she was getting along. For a new weaver we wanted to make sure that her first weaving experience was positive.

Three of us looked at the warp and checked the sleying.  Yes, here were a couple of threads that had been crossed in the dents. She retied the warp and we all ran our hands over the ends to check that the warp ends were at an even tension. This is a skill which you can only gain through practice. For silk, thrumming the ends helps to separate them and we tried that as well. 

The first few picks using waste yarn proved difficult as the shed was not clear enough when the shafts were raised and lowered. She had to physically push some of the warp ends apart. I suggested moving the cross sticks at the back of the loom over the back beam. There was now a greater space between the warp behind the heddles and the back beam. This did not fully solve the difficulty.

Another solution would be to resley the whole warp so that the ends were slightly further apart. Time consuming but as a last resort it might be the answer. However, the warp and weft seemed to weave together comfortably. The problem was clearing the shed when the shafts were raised and lowered. 

The solution was to make a shed, put the weft through and then change to the next shed before beating. The act of pushing the beater back to the heddles cleared the shed more effectively. A couple of ends were still a bit tricky but it worked!  We watched as she wove a few more picks and one of us wrote down the instructions carefully so she would remember what to do when she got home. 

Barbara's loom
I still remember my very first piece of weaving.  I was so proud of it and I was hooked! Happy weaving Barbara.

I have been reading another book about craft. 'The case for working with your hands or why office work is bad for us and fixing things is good' by Mathew Crawford. It struck me that in working through the problem of this sticky warp illustrates a part of the nature of craft knowledge. Crawford talks about the tacit integration of sensual knowledge. which refers to understanding of how things work which is built up through experience of working with different materials.
Knowing and doing are related.  Craft skills cannot be analysed so completely that they can be passed on as a series of rules or precepts - or as Crawford says practical knowledge is not completely formalised or rule based. We know more than we can say. It was through discussion and trying out ideas that the three of us came up with a workable solution to this sticky warp.

He also quotes two philosophers. Anaxagoras wrote that 'It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals.'  Merely looking at something is not enough as Heidegger points out ..'handling, using, and taking care of things which has its own kind of knowledge.' 


'The case for working with your hands or why office work is bad for us and fixing things is good' by Mathew Crawford. 2009, Penguin Books
A fascinating book although the motor mechanical 'ethos' is sometimes a bit too 'masculine'.

Happy weaving.

Susan J Foulkes  October 2019

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Designing to fit - Inspiration from Brasília

Last year we went on a long anticipated holiday to Brasília. I described a few of the wonderful places we saw in a previous blog entry.

We came back inspired.  The Itarmarty Palace by Oscar Neimeyer in 1960 was a stunning place to visit. It is the Brazilian Foreign Ministry but, like all their main government buildings, is very accessible to locals and tourists.

Itarmarty palace 1960 Oscar Neimeyer
 Inside the building there was a screen that separated two open plan areas as you can see.

Looking through the screen
The wooden uprights had a series of painted wooden inserts in four colours but they appeared to be placed randomly. I thought that the pattern could inspire me to design a piece of weaving, but it also caught my husband's imagination.

The screen was very dramatic but also allowed views of the adjoining room.
The vestibule in our terraced house was rather dark with floor-to-ceiling wooden panels and double doors leading to the the stairs. Although the house is relatively modern it gives a rather Victorian feel to the entrance.

View from open front door.

We had just commissioned two Steltman chairs - a left and right versions - from a local craftsperson, Jamie Sowden, of Forest Edge Woodcrafts.  They are made of Accoya™ timber and painted white.

We love the work of Gerrit Reitveld and these 1962 chairs were his last furniture design, originally for a jewellery shop in Amsterdam. Here is the chair in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague.  I took these photographs last December when we were thinking about these chairs for our house. I love the way the design seems to float in space. 

Although the furniture of Gerrit Reitveld is under copyright, you are allowed to have one copy made for personal use only. This wonderful book gives all the measurements and instructions for many of his iconic pieces. A word of warning to any one wanting to make a copy of a design. The measurements in the book are not completely accurate.

If you are visiting the Netherlands this year there are a series of exhibitions of Reitvelds work around the country.

Jamie had previously made us a copy of the Reitveld Buffet of 1919. Our buffet also features on the website for Arbor Timber, a specialist timber firm who did the precision cutting of the pieces.  147 separate pieces had to be cut accurately which was the work of another specialist craftsman.

The Accoya™ wood was chosen because the example of the buffet in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has some warped panels.  The central heating in modern houses can affect timber.   

Jamie explained '"The timber used for the recreation was Accoya™.  This could be argued to be the most environmentally friendly and sustainable timber currently available. In total 147 individual pieces of flat, planed and perfectly squared timber. The main reason for choosing Accoya™ was its ability to retain dimensional stability regardless of fluctuations of heat and humidity. Although in its original state it is a softwood it also holds crisp sharp edges very well when machined" 
Choice of appropriate wood was vital. 

The buffet in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

On this picture taken of the Reitfeld buffet in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam you can see that the thin sheets on the  top of the drawers have warped slightly. This would stop the drawers opening smoothly.

We worked with Jamie to redesign our vestibule to provide an fitting setting for these two lovely chairs and to give us a more appropriate entrance to a relatively modern terraced house.

The screen is attached to the wall and is a collaborative design effort. It took a lot of thought and design work. 

Jamie's design work is meticulous and I found it fascinating to listen to a master craftsman talking about the details of his work.  He analysed the design in the Itarmarty Palace to see if there were any underlying principles to the placement of the colours. The buildings in Brasília are designed with a symbolic as well as a practical purpose.  It is highly likely that the design is not merely random.

He worked with us to find an approach that would both reflect the original but also fit the space available in the vestibule. Scale drawings and colour samples were brought and discussed. Colours were tried out until a final design was approved.

The one aspect that was random were the colour ends of the coat pegs. The painted pegs were put into a bag and he drew them out when he was ready to fix them to the coat rack.

The colour panels, like the screen in the Itarmarty Palace, are attached to the upright maple struts so that they are clear of the wall. This means that the sunlight and lighting will change the shadows and emphasise the three-dimensional aspect of the pattern. Here are some views of the new vestibule.

View from the front door when entering the house.
Look at the skirting board between the two chairs. This had to be replaced when the wall was re-plastered and Jamie felt that it should be shaped to echo the tapering of the wall panel. A small touch but one that is so fitting. 

view of the stairs with the rack of coat pegs on the right

Side view of the two Steltman chairs

Cushions are needed for the chairs. The originals were upholstered for comfort of the customers buying expensive jewellery!  I wanted to make two cushions inspired by the painter Kazimir Malevich.  I had previously made a colourful cushion which we use in the lounge. Here is the blog entry about the cushion cover.

Martin felt that the colours would detract from the wall panel, so we compromised on Malevich's Black Square design from 1915.    This would be a very quick and easy project.

The size of the cushion shows the white surround of the chair surface which echoes Malevich's painting.

Making the cushion covers. 

I used 12/2 black cotton in plain weave sett at 24 ends per inch.  There were 396 warp ends and the width of the cushion is approx. 15 inches.  I wove a long length.  The covers are very simple to make.

material on loom

Making up the cushion covers. 

  • Take one rectangle of cloth so that it fits around the cushion and overlaps. This gives the length of material required. 
  • Remove the material, cut to size and hem the ends. Fold it around the cushion again  but this time inside out. Pin the top and bottom edges together. This is to check that the cover fits exactly. 
  • Take out the cushion. Now sew the top and bottom edges together. The cushion can be removed easily from the flap.  It has the advantage that there are no zips or buttons.

The left and right hand version of the Steltman chairs with the new cushions.

Fortunately, I did not have to weave new curtains as the existing curtains I wove some years ago look fine.

Looking back towards the two windows at the entrance of the house
View of the top of the curtain

close up of the pattern

I like the way the square pattern of huck lace gives the impression of a flower at the centre.

 Curtains for vestibule windows

Warp and weft 20/2 cotton       epi 36

Allowance of 5 ends on each side for plain weave selvage.

Pattern : Huck lace in squares

Length  - 78 inches        Width 17 inches.

I wove 12 repeats of the patterned area and then continued to weave leaving just the vertical stripe of huck lace.
Of course this meant that I had to readjust the tension of those threads.  The huck lace stripe became looser than the rest of the warp.  At the back of the loom I inserted a stick wider than the warp which held just the huck lace stripe. This stick was weighted so that it took up the extra length of the warp ends and evened out the tension for the rest of the warp.

Here is the drawdown for the pattern on eight shafts.  There are six blocks of huck lace. The first part of the pattern is the top of the curtain and is shown in blue.  The second part of the pattern is in green and shows the vertical huck lace stripes on one block which go down the length of the curtains.

Huck lace pattern for curtain
Designing to fit means adapting to the surroundings to find the most apt response.

Sometimes simple designs are best.

Reflecting on Craft Work.

The process of working with a craftsman in a radically different craft has shown me how similar different crafts are in their approach to design and the learning. One architect, Juhani Pallasmaa writes of his collaborations with painters,sculptors and craftsmen through which he has learned 'immensely from their capacity to think through their eyes, hands, skin and body' and that they 'think through the knowledge accumulated in the silent wisdom of the body and the traditions of the art form/craft itself.'

In Edinburgh in the National Museum of Scotland I watched a short video  of Bernard Leach talking about craft. He said that the 'machine leaves out the heart of labour, feeling, imagination and directness of control. I found that the craftsman is almost the only kind of worker left employing heart, hand and head in balance.'  The Potter's World.  This is not a perfect video but it is the one I saw in Edinburgh.
In Vav Magasinet this year there was an article called In Praise of Patience by Kerstin Wickman.  Slow craft work like weaving is important as a quick fix cheats 'people of all the experiences, skills, lived events and discoveries offered by the slow approach.'

Textile work is embedded in touch and the knowledge found through experience. It is fascinating to watch beginners in workshops starting to weave narrow bands for the first time. The silent ( usually!) concentration and the focused gaze - the internal ( and sometimes external) verbalisation of the stages of weaving at the beginning leading to the hands and body beginning to remember what to do. I am not sure that you can ever stop learning in the craft of weaving.  I always find that I learn something from my workshop participants. 

Weaving is the craft that chose me. I could knit, sew, crochet etc but after I had had my first experience of sitting down at a loom, I realised that I should have been weaving all my life. It is a vast, complex, multifaceted, endlessly fascinating craft.

Reflecting on the task of setting up the loom, known as dressing the loom, made me realise how pleasure comes through different channels.  From winding the warp onto the warping frame - such a simple task but one which comes about through thinking about the design, materials, and sett - seeing the colours, and feeling the texture of the threads as they run through my hands and fingers. Turning the separate cones of yarn into the warp and transferring this warp to the warp beam is often time-consuming but so satisfying. 

On the back beam the warp ends hang down and often start to twist and curl around each other. With the cross sticks in place and divided through the reed some order is restored. My trusty weavers assistant  (Martin) winds the warp onto the back beam whilst I hold the warp taut and check for any snags and twists. This is both visual and tactile. The warp slides through my hands and fingers. I can feel any unusual tension. Martins task is no less difficult as sliding the cross sticks through the singles cross can be tricky.  Then he has to add sticks or paper to separate the layers of warp ends on the warp beam which is another skill to be learned through experience. 

When wound on, there is such pleasure in seeing the warp ends so straight and neat and ready for threading through the heddles. I think that this moving from disorder to order which happens several times during the process of preparing the loom is deeply satisfying. 

The warp ends are, of course, uneven and still linked together at the weaving end.  A bout of warp ends representing a half inch are trimmed and loosely knotted together with a slip knot for the next step. The pattern dictates the number and order of threading through the heddles. I have my own logical system for threading to minimise mistakes at this stage.  

Once threaded through the heddles, each half inch bout is carefully stretched and tied to the front or cloth beam.  All the warp ends should be as near as possible at the same tension. To check tension, I run my fingers over the stretched warp ends to detect any that are loose.This can take some time depending upon the material used. Rug weaving with a thick linen warp used to take me one to two hours to tie on as it is difficult to adjust the tension. The strong linen warp used to cut my hands until I started to wear leather gloves. 

The whole process is tactile and visual.  Knowledge is embodied.   Preparing many warps in different yarns to put on a loom is the only way to gain an understanding of the properties of the yarn itself.

My friend Nancy, reminded me of two articles in Vav Magasinet earlier in the year. Gunilla Lundahl says that 'Textile making and work are some of the most important means of granting us the freedom to conquer time, to join hands over the millenia.' The skills weavers use have been in operation since weaving was invented. 

I have a motto on the wall in my weaving room. It is taken from the Aeneid, by Virgil

'As each has set up the loom, so shall follow the labour and the fortune of it.' 

If any of these preparatory stages is undertaken carelessly then the weaving will not be satisfactory. 
Weaving itself almost seems an anticlimax after the preparation. However, the weaving process has its own field of satisfaction. This is where the weaver gets into the flow - the rhythmical aspect of weaving involving eyes, hand and sound, in fact, the whole body.

I am designing two pieces for the National  Exhibition next year. Reflecting on the ongoing process of preparing samples then returning to my design ideas and adapting them has made me realise how complex it is and yet how similar to the way that Jamie approaches his craft and design. This had led me to read more about craftsmanship and the practice of craft.  I am reading two books at the moment:

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett and On Craftsmanship by Christopher Frayling.

The quote by Juhani Pallasmaa comes from his book: The Embodied Image: imagination and imagery in Architecture.

Happy weaving.

Susan J Foulkes  September 2019