Moving on . . .

Drawing a line under my experiences abroad . . .

And an enlightening discovery about some personal medical issues . . .

I have decided to try and get a degree in archaeology!

For various reasons I need to study from home, so I looked first at the OU, and while they do have a pretty interesting history and arts course, it’s not quite what I really want.

Looking for other options I found that Leicester University also does distance learning, and they do a very interesting archaeology course. Fingers crossed I get accepted!

Why Morocco?

A couple of months ago, I was at a reenactors’ fair, and, as tends to happen at these things, I got to talking about warp weighted looms to a stallholder. As I was explaining my theory that single lines of weights in the migration period (anglo-saxon/viking) most probably indicated use of some sort of horizontal loom, instead of looking like I was talking nonsense, he was nodding. I said he didn’t look surprised and he said he’d seen one! I said I’d seen pictures of one in use in Lebanon, and he said he’d seen one in Marrakesh.

I admitted to being envious and explained that I dreamed of travelling around the world studying traditional weaving, but it was too expensive. He gently put me right on that notion; £50 return he’d paid. Even I could manage that, and I already knew that food and lodging would be a lot less expensive than on holiday in this country. So, as soon as I got home, I looked up Morocco weaving on the internet. I didn’t manage to find any pictures of horizontal warp weighted looms, but I did find a website for a weaving cooperative in a village called Ain Leuh, where they weave beautiful flat weave carpets.

So,  there, in a nutshell, is ‘why Morocco?’!

Since then, I have found there are lots of cooperatives, and even some in other villages in the same area. There is a lot more to see than just weaving though. Not far from Ain Leuh, towering above another village with a cooperative, there is a plateau, made by a lime rich spring, and still irrigated from that spring, though from photographs, it seems that the water has a lot less lime than it must have had in the past. The stream, when it’s done it’s work irrigating the plateau, is allowed to form a waterfall over the edge of the plateau, and where it actually falls is determined by which irrigation channel is left open!  The whole area is popular with hikers, for the mountains and cedar forests, and somewhere in the vincinity of Ifrane, a large town on the way to Ain Leuh, there are some rather nice cascades, but I haven’t definitively located them yet. There’s the source of Oum Rabia river and two national parks in the area too. Fes (the nearest town with an international airport) is famous for it’s old town, which is the world’s largest urban car free zone. It’s absolutely packed with ancient buildings and traditional souks, with all sorts of traditional crafts, including weaving. All in all, rather a lot to see!

Eye candy

It’s not that I’ve not been doing anything interesting that I haven’t posted much lately, it’s just that I realised I need to put photos in my posts more often. I have quite a few pending posts that ‘just’ need photos, and it’s getting around to taking them that’s the sticking point.

I have been to a reenactors fair, and that got me interested in sprang again, so I have finished off some bits of sprang that had been sitting around unfinished for far too long, and done a couple of plain samples to find out how thick a yarn I need for some replica sashes, I have several lengths of tablet weaving, and some interesting WIPs, all need photgraphing, if they’re going to make the basis of any interesting posts.

In the meantime, I have played around with double faced methods, (nothing photogenic there, alas!), made a pair of mini felted boots to go on the xmas tree, and spent a night in an unheated Anglo-Saxon house after the ‘Yule’ Feast.

And now I’m busy planning a trip to Morocco!

Preserving our heritage

Weaving is fundamentally linked to man’s development from the earliest times, through the industrial revolution and is still vital for modern living. Museums and especially preserved buildings and artifacts are vital for understanding our history, not just local history, but our national heritage and our place in world history too.

Please help save these museums and mill buildings. The cotton weaving industry that played such an important part in our country’s development was centered in Lancashire these are the last ones left in Lancashire, and there aren’t many anywhere else either! Queen street is the last operational mill surviving, still operated by steam engine.

Petition link

Link to video of part of the museum

Persian Carpets and Heddle Rods and addendum

The first continuous string heddle I ever saw, was in Iran, (too many years ago!) on a carpet loom. I did ask how it was made, but it had been done by the man that set up the warp. It was very neat, with what looked like a row of chaining along the front so, years later, I was rather surprised at the loose and rather irregular heddles, that I saw on warp weighted looms that re-enactors were using or had set up. The vast majority of them were simply loops tied individually around every other warp thread. Knowing that there was a better way of doing it, I trawled the internet for pictures or better still, a tutorial, of the Iranian method. For ages I had no luck, and the best/only method I could find was the half hitch method. I tried it, and hated it. Perhaps it was just that the yarn I used was rather slippery, but I couldn’t see how the open half stitches were ever going to stop the loops from shifting around the rod, so I kept looking for a better method, and eventually found one. It’s actually drawn in Cloth and Clothing … and if you look carefully, it’s being used in at least one of the old films turned video too. Link to video

I’m not sure this is the same method as the Iranian carpet heddles, so I’m still looking for a good close up picture, and found a whole series of videos going into great detail about the whole process of carpet weaving, from selecting materials to finishing, but when the presenter gets to the bit where I’m expecting her to show how to do the heddle rod, she explains that you don’t actually need one! I did learn quite a lot about carpet weaving though, not least, a lot of weaving vocabulary in farsi.

It was only when I found a relatively close up picture of a heddle rod that the memories came flooding back though, and I finally understood (having seen the detailed videos) what my husband’s cousin had told me so many years before. The heddle rod is actually lashed to the frame, and I remembered thinking that was strange and asked Naimeh how did she use it. She told me, that it wasn’t really needed as long as she was careful putting in the thin weft. I could see that if she put the thin weft in too tightly that it would pull the two layers of warp together, but I couldn’t figure out how come she didn’t need to use the heddle rod to change sheds. Watching the videos, and having more experience of weaving I have finally realised that, due to the clever use of a shed stick, combined with the ingenious structure, the cross is permanently maintained just above the fell line, so that one warp is inserted below the cross, and stays straight, and the other is put in above the cross, and fed in and beaten down so that it zigzags wildly from front to back.

Even when the heddle rod is needed, it isn’t used like they are on a two shed WWL, or any other type of loom where the heddle rods are moved. It’s more like an inkle loom, you just press gently on the warp a little way away from the rod to clear the shed enough to get the weft hook into the shed. The realisation that the heddle rod really doesn’t move, makes me wonder if this was the method used in, say, ancient Egypt. Rather than lifting up and dropping the heddle rod, it would be easier to flatten and push the shed stick out of the way and then press down on a section of warp at a time while passing the weft through.

Well, I’m updating this post because I have just found a very nice article that very neatly dismisses my theory about the method of use of heddle supports in Ancient Egypt. It even mentions the permanently supported heddles of contemporary traditional weavers in Africa. Link to article.

Change of plan – Stoneage Weaving

Not so long ago I found out that the first weaving was weft twined, rather than under over type, and twisted bast strips, rather than loose fibre, but I had been looking at Egyptian looms and weaving, so while I made the connection between basket weaving and the first fabric I hadn’t thought about the real potential of twining. It had been a long time since I had seen the picture of a Chilkat cloak in ‘The Book of Looms’, and there is no indication there of how they start their work.

Yesterday, I was looking at the older WWL videos on YouTube, when a title caught my eye: Taaniko Weaving – A Maori Weaving Technique. What an absolutely lovely video! Full of background information as well as detailed instructions for starting and finishing, and lots of inspiring pictures of what to do in between.

I was a bit late going to bed last night!