Testing for Hauve style weaving

2 October 2015

I’m testing the loom set up, threads and other variables for Huave( also called Ikoots) style weaving.  This is an indigenous group in Oaxaca that live in the Istmo region to the south of the city and at sea level near the coast.  I have only seen their textiles in Oaxaca city, and the huipiles look very similar to the Zapotec huipiles that my teacher makes.  I’m the bigger one in the pic.

We both wear huipils, she made hers, it is beloved and authentic Zapotec.

We both wear huipils, she made hers, it is beloved and authentic Zapotec.

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Here is a detail of one of the common motifs she taught me.  This is my first Zapotec style weaving done on a back strap loom.  Technically it is discontinuous inlay.

The Huave huipiles are very similar in technique, all cotton, inlay  and share some of the same motifs.

Part of a Huave huipil

Part of a Huave huipil

Huave huipil

Huave huipil on display at MTO.

At the bottom you can see a similar motif.  The other horizontal bands are very original, obviously beach scenes with coconut palms, pelicans, turtles, etc.  Another distinctive features of the Huave huipils is a center stripe.  At first I thought they were 4 panels but no, the stripe in the center does not hide a seam and at the bottom both front and back it comes out of the cloth to become a tassel. So I think it is a supplementary warp. The neck opening is also a woven-in split, occurring with in this stripe.   The Zapotec huipil is woven whole and the neck opening is cut and stitched.  This huipil does have a very low contrast inlay design that does not show in the poor quality photo but you can see the stripe become a tassel at the bottom.

Both style of huipiles are fairly sheer plain weave cotton woven on backstrap loom, embellished with heavier opaque stripes and discontinuous inlay.

Huave cloth, geometric and figurative -2-

Huave cloth. Photo by Karen Elwell

The Huave also make textiles that are not sheer and made as cloths to keep tortillas warm (bread cloth?), napkins, table decoration etc.  These interesting textiles have a continuous brocade weft, that is the supplementary weft goes from selvage to selvage.  When the brocading weft is not on top, making the design, it is buried in the regular shed and only slightly visible.  If you compare the plain weave at the end with the background of the butterflies  you can see the difference.

Brocade P I.5

My continuous brocade, inlay/overlay, woven on RH loom.

I have made things with this very technique, continuous inlay/overlay that look quite different, the brocade weft being much more visible in the back ground.   This is plain weave done on a rigid heddle loom.  The Huave work looks to be more warp dominate  and thus hide the pattern weft in the inlay areas. Could also be the proportion between the size of the warp and weft yarns.

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Huave backstrap loom weaving a round cloth. Technique: continuous brocade, inlay/overlay. All cotton.

Here you can see the Huave work on the loom and the pattern weft looks fat, made up of three strands of singles.  And the weft looks fine.

Notice that the tie-downs in the overlay help to  define the riders on the back of the horses.

So how can I get this effect? What size yarn for the warp? sett? what to use for pattern weft?  I have been doing inlay/overlay on rigid heddle looms (RH) with 8/2 cotton doubled in a 10 dent heddle. I was flipping through a recently acquired book, Tejido Huave and Beyond by Erica de Ruiter,  and she suggests 8/2 cotton sett at 20 epi.  So that’s what I’m trying. You can get 20 epi on a RH loom by using two 10 dent heddles .

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Here is my set-up: I had a Leclerc Bergere loom empty with a 10 dent heddle and found another 10 dent heddle from a narrower Ashford loom.  I held the two heddles up to the light and the eyes seemed to line up.  So this is mint green 8/2 cotton warp sett at 20 epi.   Since both heddles move together, I don’t need a second castle, I used cable zip ties to fasten them together and they move as one unit.  The sheds don’t open as cleanly as when I use 2 Leclerc heddles( the eyes aren’t the same size) so I put a dowel under the warps in the slots and pushed it to the back beam.  I can use it to help clear the shed. The dowel does have a security tie on it since it travelled to a workshop and back.

Then to see what pattern weft would work, from my previous work with inlay/overlay I know that two strands of embroidery floss will cover the surface of the 8/2 cotton  in the overlay areas.   I tried a soft beige and white and then the yellow and the yellow worked. I’m quite pleased with how little of the pattern weft is visible in the inlay areas.

The challenge of making this pattern work is the beat.  For the bottom of the diamonds I wasn’t beating hard enough and the diamond is elongated.  I got out my sword from my back strap loom and started beating hard with that. Even so I have to brace the little table I have the loom clamped to, with my legs and tummy and beat after I change the shed.   But you can see the top part of the diamonds is more compact.  I expect it to contract even more when off the loom and washed.

So now I’m ready for a project.  Maybe something like this.

Huave geometric cloth

Beautiful Huave cloth with geometric design. Photo: Karen Elwell

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