Saturday, 15 June 2019

Lithuanian Weaving

Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to travel around the Baltic region.  I had not visited Lithuania before and I was impressed with the weaving traditions that I found.

The National Museum in Vilnius is in a wonderful building and their displays of textiles are fascinating.

National Museum in Vilnius
In my previous blog about my trip, I showed an example of the lovely costumes on display.  Here is another costume and a close up of the colourful patterned belt.

Close up of the patterned belt.

The belt has the typical 'moustache' fringe at each end.

The belt was worn until the end of the 19th century and was a very important part of the dress. A belt was worn everyday but on special occasions, a more elaborate sash was put on. Sashes were given as presents. When a woman married she was expected to weave dozens of sashes to give away on her wedding day as well as for her dowry.  These sashes would demonstrate her skill in weaving and also help to smooth the path to her new life with her husbands family.

I loved the patterned bands that I saw in the museum.  I have graphed and woven a few of them.  Here is a beautiful patterned band with the typical moustache fringe.

My own reproduction of a Lithuanian patterned band.
I loved the colours and the pattern.  The fringe takes a lot of wool!

Here is an old photograph showed how young girls learned to weave narrow bands.  As their skill in weaving improved wider more complex patterns would be woven.

using a backstrap to weave narrow bands

I loved this photograph as this is the way weavers in my workshops attach themselves to tables in order to use a backstrap and a heddle. These girls are using a stick with heddles which is a more time consuming method to weave narrow bands but it is very versatile.

However, you do not need to weave attached to a table.  This lovely photograph from the 1960's shows two Lithuanian girls weaving using only their legs to tension the warp. They are using a circular warp.

Weaving outside

The museum had many old sashes and bands on display. I loved the range of colours used. Here is an unusual yellow and blue belt.

It is sometimes not easy to find books about weaving in other countries.

I found one lovely book which was published in 20010 by Inga Neniene. It is in Lithuanian but has a short summary of the contents in English.  With 431 pages it is quite a tome.

ISBN 978-9955-25-883-4
It is about Zanavykai weave traditions and textile heritage from the 19th century to the 21st century. It has many pages of weave patterns, both pattern drafts and actual photographs of textiles.  Here is an example.  Bedspreads using overshot patterns were very common.

an example of the many pattern drafts

some of the beautiful woven textiles
 There is also a section about band patterns. Unfortunately, I could not find the information about what colours would have been used for the patterns.
 A sample page of band patterns
However, in the English summary there is information about the use of sashes and the patterns. As in Sweden, sashes were sometimes sewn together to form a covering or even a carpet.
Mourning sashes were woven in white, black and unbleached linen. Sashes for souvenirs for special occasions were also woven with texts. Here are two examples. 

The author says that during her research she did not find any weaving women apart from one sash weaver. The last weavers had dismantled their looms in 2002 - 2003.  This lovely book is helping to preserve their tradition and also present their striking patterns to a wider audience. Even if, like me, you do not understand Lithuanian, the pictures and diagrams tell their own story.

However, if you are intrigued by Lithuanian weaving as I was, then do take a look at this book by Kati Reeder Meek published in 2000.

Reflections from a Flaxen Past:  For Love of Lithuanian Weaving.

ISBN 0 9700648-0-2

It is a treasure trove of images and patterns.  There is a useful introduction about Lithuanian history and then an awe inspiring collection of old black and white photographs of the process of turning flax into cloth from the M.K. Ciurlionis Museum.

  • There is a gallery of Lithuanians who love their countries textiles illustrated with many colour photographs.  Costumes and their details are intriguing. 
  • There is a comprehensive description of how to construct a simple sash loom and patterns of sashes to weave using it. 
  • Embroidery and patterned cloth weaving are also included. 

It is a glorious celebration of the delights of Lithuanian weaving and, of course, it is in English.

I asked Kati if I could reproduce a couple of pages of the book.  One page, page 71, celebrates the variety of ways of weaving. I have split the page into three sections so that you can see the looms detail.

 What an amazing collection of looms!

Types of looms used in Lithuania.

I have never seen a punch card system used on a small loom.  The circular variety is wonderful.

Does anyone know if this type of loom is still used or, even better, still available?

This page is typical of the detail that Kati provides about  Lithuanian spinning and weaving. There are further looms illustrated and described in the book.

Another page from her book.

She gives detailed instructions about weaving narrow bands on a home made loom.  Here is another page from her book, page 133.

There are detailed instructions for using this type of simply equipment on the next few pages.  She calls it her 'desk drawer loom.'  It is a weaving hobby which can be stored in a shoe box - no bulky equipment required yet lovely patterned bands ca be made.

All in all this book is a treasure and is so obviously as a result of the deep love of Lithuanian spinning and weaving.

She has also published a second book which is for the specialist weaver. I have a large loom and to wind on a warp I require the help of my husband who, over the years, has become very familiar with the specialist terminology of weaving. Kati describes a method of winding on a warp which does not require a helper. I am intrigued by the method but I fear that my own weaving room is not large enough to be able to move my loom into a position where a trapeze like this could be used. Anything that makes the weavers task easier is wonderful and I am sure that there are loom owners who will find this method ideal.

ISBN 978-0-9700648-1-3

How to buy these books.

Both books are available from the USA from VavStuga.

The book Warp with a Trapeze is available from Handweavers Studio in the UK. They have an amazing selection of books about weaving.

I hoped you have enjoyed this celebration of Lithuanian weaving.  I loved the country when we visited it in 2017.  Do check out my previous blog for November 2017.
Here is the link.

Happy Weaving

Susan J Foulkes  June 2019

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Handtowel in 8 shaft point twill

Cottolin Handtowel 

If you follow my blog, you will realise that I love weaving towels.

Cottolin is great for tea towels but is also very hard wearing and absorbent for handtowels. Here is a pattern for towels that i finished last month.

Warp: cottolin in dark blue, light blue, white and natural
Weft: natural cottolin

Sett: 24 dpi

Weave structure: Point twill on 8 shafts.  I used an extra shaft for the selvedge but a floating thread for the selvedge is fine.

Please note that using the point twill structure the colour stripes do not line up with the twill.  I like this as it seems to add a dynamic quality to the design.


Dark blue     16         12            12         12            12                Central blue section can be adjusted.
Natural                20                         16                          20         I used 152 ends.
White                              2     2                   2      2
Pale blue                             4                           4

You can adjust how wide you wish the handtowel to be by altering the central dark blue section.

I used 152 ends for the centre section.  This is shown on the Weave Drawdown in turquoise blue although fewer ends are shown so that the pattern will fit onto the page.
You can use as many dark blue threads as you wish for the centre area depending upon your chosen overall width of the hand towel. The sett is 24 epi so you will need to count how many warp ends you want in the dark blue.

Total number of warp ends: 424

Weave Drawdown

eight shaft point twill

Before washing                                      After washing

Width:   17.5 inches     44.4 cm                        Width: 16 inches  40.6 cm

This pattern uses a single colour in the weft.  The length of the handtowel can be adjusted easily.
Remember to weave the first and the last 10 picks in 16/2 cotton.  This will make the hem less bulky.

Close up  of the pattern.

Here is a close up of the two striped areas.  As you can see the point twill is off set in one area.  This adds an extra dynamic to the design although I have to admit that it was a mistake. I meant to have both sides of the towel in a regular twill. You can see the difference in the striped patterns on both sides.

The full pattern showing the difference in the striped areas on the left and right. 

The centre dark blue area can be as wide as you wish.

Hanging tag

As usual I wove a hanging tag in cottolin using the same colours as the handtowel.

Here is the pattern.

Warp for hanging tags

Dark blue      6                      6
White                2               2
Pale blue               4       4
Natural                      4

Total number of warp ends: 30
Weft: dark blue

Width of hanging tag: 11mm

woven band and hanging tag

Here is the finished towel alongside a tea towel hanging up in my kitchen.

Happy Weaving!

Susan J Foulkes  1st June 2019