Silk lecture and tour

4 December 2017


I have worked with silk since 1989 and was thrilled to find a active silk production here in Oaxaca.  If you are curious about silk here in Oaxaca there are two upcoming events that might interest you.

On Friday, 15 December here at the Oaxaca Lending Library I will give a lecture/ demonstration on local silk production and products.  Information and registration here.

The following week Pablo González Marsch and I have organized  a one day tour to a studio that raises silk and transforms it into textiles. You will be doing  the processes involved in transforming cocoons into silk thread.

Hands-On Tour

Silk in Oaxaca

Karren K. Brito, Pablo González Marsch

Monday, 18 December 2017


Meet at 9 am at the Oaxaca Lending Library and travel to Teotilan del Valle, a nearby Zapotec village famous for its weavers, to the studio of Arteseda. Rina, Aurora, Miguel and Reynaldo will receive you and show you their studio where they weave and dye silk, cotton and wool and raise their silk worms.

First you climb up to mulberry grove to see how the trees are planted and tended and the leaves collected for the silkworms. Then you will see the space and beds where the silkworms are raised. There are not any silkworms feeding this time of year, there may be some eggs. You will work with the harvested cocoons, both yellow and white. Some cocoons will be perforated because the moths have emerged. Others have been stifled. They need to be sorted, ones for spinning, ones for reeling,and cleaned before degumming by boiling for an hour.

While the cocoons are boiling you will have lunch at a the local traditional restaurant, El Descanso. Pablo will take you to see Santa María, a XVI century baroque style church in the center of Teotilan del Valle. It shelters several altarpieces and some slabs with ancient Zapotec engravings. This catholic church was built atop an ancient platform.

Once the cocoons that have been selected for spinning are boiled, they need to be dried then opened to prepared them for spinning. The prime cocoons are reeled hot and wet once softened by boiling. Once you find the end of the silk thread the larva spun you can simple unravel the cocoon to produce fine silk filament yarn. The dried, degummed cocoons need to be stretched and fluffed before spinning. You will have a chance to try spinning the silk fluff with a supported spindle and/or a spinning wheel.

You will then return to the OLL by 6 pm.

Arteseda does have a shop on the premisses en Teotilan del Valle and a booth a the Pochote market on Calle Marcos Perez in Oaxaca de Juarez on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Limit 12 participants

Cost person: MX$900 (includes transportation,materials, lunch and bottled water)

To register contact Pablo González Marsch at or call

(52 1) 951 134 7391 or WhatsApp.

For tour questions contact Pablo, for technical questions about silk  you can leave a comment here and I will get back to you.


Done dyeing, packing

6 December 2015

I haven’t runout of things to try but I have runout of time.
I dyed many skeins with cochineal this year.

samples skiens dyed with cochineal

samples skiens dyed with cochineal

My goal was to understand how cochineal on cotton behaved and to get a stable color.  A pretty bright color.  Dull dirty colors are plentiful  and not worthy of cochineal, but I got those first

before I got to the clear bright fuschias on cotton.

It seemed to me that what I had learned dying the recalcitrant cotton would also improve my work with wool.  Wool is easy to dye with cochineal but still sensitive to hard water and pH.  I was right and I got a beautiful red on the wool, best ever.

beautiful color on wool alpaca yarn

beautiful color on wool alpaca yarn

So now I am packing, I leave for Oaxaca again on Thursday for a long stay.  I’m going to teach at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca in Jan. a course on dyeing cotton with cochineal. So packing teaching materials too.

Next post from Oaxaca!

Blend 1 woven

9 July 2014

blend 1 wovenHere is blend 1 woven on a pin loom.  Since the plied yarn had already been finished in hot water with detergent I just soaked the woven piece in room temperature water with a bit of Orvus.  The 8% of hot pink is just as visible, if not more so, as the 28% of olive.


Blend 1

8 July 2014



Blend 1 made from Lanaset dyed alpaca, huacaya, in the FLEECE TO YARN workshop we had here the 1st weekend in July.

  • 64% Cyan
  • 28% Olive green
  • 8% Hot pink.

Carded once into a batt in layers.  Split length-wise into narrow strips, Z-form, then pulled into a roving.  Spun medium size on a wheel then self plied, washed in hot water with detergent.

Soft lofty yarn.  The overall color is still cyan with grains and streaks of green and mostly grains of the hot pink. I’m pleased with how each color kept its identity and added pops of brightness to yarn.

It could maybe use some darker colors but with out a goal it is already a pretty yarn.

Blend 1 wrapped

Tomorrow  a class on WARPING begins.  We will meet at the Creative Arts Center at Otterbein, Lebanon from 7-9 PM. This will be a 4 session class, meeting every other week.

  • 3 July—- I.SETT, WARP CALCULATIONS. Sett is the critical decision to be made before making your warp.  Calculating how much yardage you will need for warp and weft is helpful.
  • 16 July—-II. WINDING A WARP.  How to make a warp on a warping board with a threading cross,and a raddle or counting cross.  How to tie and secure it when transferring to the loom.
  • 30 July—-III.  WINDING THE WARP ON THE BACK BEAM.  We will use a raddle and weights to get even tension by yourself .
  • 13 August—-IV. THREADING, SLEYING AND TIEING ON.  How to comfortably get the threads through the correct heddles and then the reed and finally connect the warp to the cloth beam in the front.  Checking for errors each step of the way. Any finally weaving a bit to check everything. 

This four session class cost is $100.  Bring some yarn you are thinking of using, a ruler, calculator and a notebook to session I.You are expected to wind a warp at home between sessions II and III. Bring your warp and loom to session III,  loom and threading tools to session IV.

One space left

20 May 2014

There is only one space left in the Fleece to Yarn class,

Fleece to Yarn Class

15 May 2014

color blending samples for bing salsa

color blending samples for bing salsa

This class will take place at the Entwinements dye studio in Yellow Springs OH, June 27-29th, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can start with either raw sheep or alpaca fleece. We will then sort and clean the fleece, dyeing fleece,and then process it to ready to spin-  picking, carding, color blending, sampling.  Not all color mixes work for all projects, a colorway that looks good in a knitted project may be rather blah when woven.  So we will use blending boards or hand cards to do a small amount of a color mix, then spin and knit or weave it and then revise our color mix.  By keeping records of the weight of each color mixed we can then blend a larger amount for a whole project with an exciting color mix.

You will need to bring a raw fleece, or make arrangements for one, bring a spindle or wheel, a blending board or hand cards if you have one (otherwise we will share).  The instructional and studio fee is $150 this includes supplies such as dyes.  The dye studio is small but well equiped so the class is limited to 6 people.  Only 3 spots left now.   Call 937.767.8961.

If you have a work conflict on Friday talk to me and we’ll see if we can work it out–maybe late afternoon and evening.  The dye studio is hot and steamy and we work partly outdoors. The house is air conditioned so you can cool off occasionally.

Weaving lessons with me, Karren K. Brito, can be arranged on Thursday evenings, between 5-9PM .    I have a space in the Creative Arts Center on the Otterbein Campus at 580 N State Route 741 just outside of Lebanon.  Ample parking and a well lit  lot make it a safe and easy location. These classes are limited to RIGID HEDDLE LOOMS, you bring your own rigid heddle loom and then take it home to continue weaving.

Alternatively lesson can be arranged on Sunday afternoons at my Studio in Yellow Springs.  We have been having a Brocade class here the past months. At my studio lessons can be on rigid heddle and floor looms. I have floor looms there and you don’t need to bring yours, unless you have an easily portable loom.

If you are a new weaver  you should start with  the Introduction Series 1, 2, 3 & 4.  The focus is on balanced plain weave and how to warp a rigid Read the rest of this entry »

The first section of the Brocade Class  was on continuous supplementary weft, i.e. the weft goes from selvage to selvage.  Using a weft that covers only part of the web, discontinuous weft,  allows for more colors to occur in each pick but introduces new technicalities.  Every time you start or stop a weft you have and end or a psuedo-selvage which we will call turns.

One can make the ends the focus  of the design:

discontinuous supp. wefts-endsAt the bottom groups of multi-colored thrums were inlaid.  The effect is rather jolly, a bit like bows.  Above the dividing white line little pieces of metallized leather were inlaid for a very different aesthetic.  Let your imagination run wild with the kinds of things that could be inlaid in this manner.


If one uses longer brocading wefts and wants to use the same weft for many picks , how to get it from one pick to the next?  There are little carry overs when one moves up to the next pick.  I will call these carry -overs turns.

discontinuous supp. wefts-turns


For the grey triangle on the bottom left, the end of the brocading weft is pushed down into the web and allowed to dangling on the back while the tabby shot is placed in the web.  The brocading weft here is  a double strand of embroidery floss. For the next brocade pick, the weft was fished up from the back and then inlaid for the desired  distance and pushed to the back again while the tabby was woven.  The resulting triangle has clean, well defined edges.

The middle red triangle was made with a double strand of #5 perle cotton that is thicker than the double embroidery floss.   Here the brocading weft was left on top of the web at the end of each row.  This is easier, no fishing under the web for the brocading weft but the  turns are visible, making little scallops around the sides of the triangle.  If you look closely the turns alternate, turn on the right then the next row the turn is on the left.  The triangle  does not have the sharp clean lines of the first triangle, it has a scallop edging.

The third triangle on the right, blue, is made by using a single strand of embroidery floss but starting in the middle of it. The brocading weft is placed under the first end and the the ends of the floss are matched and pulled up.  Two long ends, one to the left and one to the right are left on top of the web while the tabby is woven.  For the next brocade pick, the right end is placed in the brocade shed going to the left, and the left end is placed in the same shed going to the right.  So the brocade has a double strand of embroidery floss inlaid and long ends on both left and right.   The entire triangle is made by using both ends for each brocade pick.  The turns are made of a single strand , and occur on both sides for every row.  The results looks more like an outlined triangle.

So these represents 3 different ways to deal with the turns in discontinuous brocading wefts:

  1. turns on the underside (grey triangle)
  2. alternate turns on the surface (red triangle)
  3. turns on the surface at every row. (blue triangle)

The same figure, a triangle in this case, looks different  depending on the turns.  The turns are basically selvages and require the same skills as do the selvages of the piece.

If the turns are not visible on the surface the will be visible on the underside, they are always there you can just chose to make them part of the surface design or not.

The next design up is a 5 color brocade of zigzags done with the turns on the top.  There is a space of 2 ends between the zigzags to allow space for these turns.

At the top are small areas of inlay made with 4 strands of #5 perle cotton.  The large number of strands shows the most in the turns, taking over the design.

Here is the back of the same piece so that you can see where the turns are on the back.

discontinuous supp. wefts-turns 1


Triangles are  important, you need to be able to weave triangles.  A large number of woven brocade textile designs use diagonal lines as does the triangle.  So if you can weave clean triangles you are on your way to weaving many brocaded designs.


ALL of these students are working on rigid heddle looms.  The students have been trying different brocading techniques and here are some of their first tries:


She is working on mercerized 3/2 perle cotton, 10epi, and wove some milkweed pods .  She outlined her inlay with turns and added mohair wispies.


She is working on cotton rug warp, 8epi, and did a stunning border pattern in multi-colored cotton. Overlay-underlay with continuous supplemental wefts.

Here is some more work on the same warp, with just a hurried washed.  She found the snowflake motifs in a knitting book. The snowflakes are worked with 3 separate strands of perle cotton, overlay-underlay with the longest float 3 ends long.


An last but not least in a picture done on her first ever warp!  She used several techniques to create the effects she wanted.The warp is wool and the brocading weft are woolen types.IMG_1823