Many Ways to Weave

27 March 2017

When I have started people weaving on a backstrap looms, I start them with a narrow warp that doesn’t require any sticks. Once they can do plain weave, warp-faced, I show them how to make a pick-up design with  paired floats. Laverne Waddington has a good description of this process on her blog.  Mostly we use our fingers and maybe a popsicle stick to beat the weft in place. There is just a shed loop and heddles and the pick up is done either with fingers or a large needle.   Here  in Oaxaca a large needle is a common tool for pick up.

Here in Oaxaca de Juárez, the capital of Oaxaca state, a group meets weekly to weave.  This year every one has been working on narrow warps and either plain weave or paired float designs.

This technique is used here in Oaxaca by the indigenous people who live on the northern coast of Oaxaca.  Here I have not seen many narrow bands woven in this technique but  wider cloths with multiple design bands are common.

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photo by Karen Elwell. I think these are natural dyes.

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photo by Karen Elwell

We went to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca on Saturday to register for a backstrap weaving brocade class in April given by a woman coming up from Carranza, Chiapas.   Bonfilia Bautista Tapia from Pinotepa de Don Luis, was finishing a workshop on  this paired float technique and she and her students were weaving away.  Here is a picture of her loom:

It is very interesting that she has a second set of heddles and a second shed rod behind the usual ones used to do plain weave. Both of these extra shedding devices deal only with the red warps in the design band; the shed rod has all of the odd numbered pairs over it  and the second set of heddles raises the even numbered pairs. Here is a close up so that you can see the pairs of red warps going over the second shed rod and the sparse green string heddles are around the other pairs of red warps within the design band.  One usually uses a second weaving sword   when using the second set of heddles/rod, but I don’t see one in the photo maybe because she doing plain weave at this moment.

Here on this student loom  you can see the second smaller sword. It is right behind the plain weave string heddles.  It looks like it still has the warp pairs he picked up to make the bar design he just wove.

two sets of heddles/shed rods and two swords are visible here

All of these lovely woven critters are made on 25 pairs.  Here is some more student work with enough detail that you could make the same designs.

And one more photo of a fragment of an interesting critter woven in this technique, the brown is hand spun brown cotton, coyuche,  that has been grown here since pre-hispanic times.

And yes, there are 5 pick floats in the bars between designs.

So there you have another way to weave paired float designs  using pattern heddles and shed rod.  Might be especially useful when doing multiples of the same design.

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started in the mid-90’s, finished today

This is my first ever backstrap weaving.  I took a backstrap weaving workshop with Ed Franquemont in the middle 90’s and this is the first warp.  It is Andean Style weaving, complimentary warp.  He gave us the prepared warps with heddles and shed loop made and the first bit woven in the design.

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first bit

 

I now know that first bit  contains all the info required to weave the design, but I sure didn’t get that at the time.  Besides I had all I could do to get the sheds open and not drop all the little swords.  I did manage to weave about half of the warp but I did not focus on this design.

 

 

novice's work

novice’s work

I just couldn’t figure out how it worked, it wasn’t like any other design system I knew in weaving.  We did another warp in the workshop with a different design, not the X&O of this one.

 

 

 

 

 

The warps got put away because my business was growing,  so no time to indulge in weaving until I retired.  Currently I have been working with  some Antioch College students, last fall we were spinning together.  They came over to see what I brought back from Oaxaca last month and expressed an interest in backstrap weaving.

 

 

 

 

 

They started with narrow warps, made with crochet cotton.  The first warps were colored combs: learning to warp, make string heddles, and weave on the backstrap loom.  They are working on their second warp,  weaving a Latin American Paired Float pick up design.

 

When they were here the last time one on them asked me how close to the end could you weave. I thought I knew the answer but as I was looking at old samples I found this half woven warp and thought it would work to test how close to the end one can weave.  So out came this old warp; with heddles and shed loop intact, ready to weave.  I tied it up and started with the pattern.

 

current weaving

current weaving

 

 

 

 

The design was effortless, the width steady and much narrower. Hard to believe same warp, same weaver… looks so different.

 

So what had happened in the years since I started this warp?

 

In 2011 I took another workshop in backstrap weaving, this time with Abby Franquemont and have been doing some backstrap weaving since then interspersed with spinning and other fiber arts.    I have made several bands with this design.

 

crochet cotton with beads, hand spun, hand dyed wool and linen

crochet cotton with beads, hand spun, hand dyed wool and linen

One thing I did learn from is that the perle cotton yarn used for the first warp is too soft and it fuzzes.  The fuzz makes lumps on the heddles that makes opening the shed more difficult.  It also eats away at the warps and you can see that a yellow warp broke close to the end, and then a red one broke.  Time to finish.

 

 

Learning backstrap weaving at an advanced age has not been easy.    Starting with Andean style weaving was daunting; much practice on narrow bands just to learn the vocabulary, difficulty finding suitable high twist yarns  lead me off in to the world of spinning.  The second workshop I took was shortly after major back surgery. Weaving in isolation; no one else in this village of 4000 is interested in backstrap weaving.  I had managed to work up to about 4″ wide warp-faced weaving when I went to Oaxaca.

In Oaxaca I learned to weave balanced weave on the backstrap loom.  Even at 8-10″ wide it was so so easy after doing the warp-faced  weaving.  Of course there were some new challenges.  But I have been doing a fair amount to backstrap weaving recently.

 

So the difference between the beginning and end of this warp is experience.  When I started I had never seen in person any Andean weaving— if you have never seen it how do you know what it is supposed to look or feel like. I have now seen some, and made some. Yet it is hard to explain what it is that experience changes.

Why is it so easy to focus and do all the weaving in the design now?

Oh, and you can weave up to about an inch from the end with out too much trouble.   It takes a little more effort to weave to the very end.

new and the old

new and the old

 

 

 

I’m at an age when I can walk less than I could 20 years ago, I have fewer teeth, I hear less, having something I can do better  than  I did  20 or even 5 years ago is uplifting.

 

I have been looking for a hand woven huipil to buy since I’ve arrived in Oaxaca de Juarez in December 2014.  I finally found one! 

black cotton three panel huipil with coyuche and purpura pansa brocade

  
 
I found it at the Festval of Artisans that the state organized just above the Santo Domingo Church for Holy Week. 

I do have my criteria:

  • Back strap woven
  • Good craftsmanship 
  • Three panels
  • A colorway that I would wear
  • A size that I feel comfortable in. 

The size has been the stumbling block. Most are made for Señoritas, I need twice as wide to feel comfortable.  I did a turn of the whole festival and came back to an Amuzgo booth. She had many beautiful, well woven huipiles. Mostly on a natural or off- white ground, which looks lovely with their black hair but I don’t much like with my all white hair, too monochromatic.   She did have a pale pink one that looked a little greyed and a Mexican Rose one with black brocade. I love Mexican Rose but the craftsmanship  of this one wasn’t top quality, particularly in the construction. She had an elegant black on black  huipil, sized for a small señorita. 😟

She hung up a very beautiful  huipil in a cinnamon brown with natural colored brocade.   It was very fine brocade and the colors were spectacular, the brocade almost looked golden. Very elegant and special. When she got it down so I could see it closer I recognized the color as that from nanche, a tree that has an edible fruit and the bark can be used for dyeing. Unfortunately the nanche color had already stained parts of the natural colored threads that were used for brocade and construction. Yes, it was natural dye but it was not well dyed. 

Reluctantly I left that booth and went to a booth that had some lovely small utility cloths with brocade style I associate with San Juan Colorado, but wasn’t from San Juan. There were several styles of brocade in the booth, which I think was a coop. Some pieces had women’s names on them, which I thought was the maker’s name. She began showing me huipiles too and some were lovely but small. She finally showed me a “large” three panel black huipil with brocade in coyuche, that is always hand spun, and purpura pansa, the seashell violet. Excellent workmanship.  Price I could afford. Perfect except it was too small. She thought it was big enough, but I insisted that it was only as wide as the top I had on and the top had slits from the waist down. The black huipil was ankle length and I had to convince her that it was going to catch on my hips so I wouldn’t wear it.  As I was ready to walk away she said she had a very large one.  I said let me see it, she had to root around a bit to find it and when I saw it it was perfect. Big enough, well made, black ground with Leno and coyuche and purpura pansa brocade.  It is now mine!

 

detail with purpura pansa dyed yarn used for brocade and construction


The ground cloth is 16/2 black cotton in plain weave and leno. The cloth is light weight and drapes well. Not hot because of the open work, leno. Each panel has a few warps of purpura at each side selvage. The panels are joined by hand with a faggoting stitch in the same purpura.  The neck edge is carefully made and decorated with the same purpura dyed yarn. 

The purpura dyed yarn is commercially spun yarn that is taken to the seaside. The wet yarn is held in the hand and the sea snails are pried from the rocks and their excretions rubbed on the yarn. The snails are returned to their rock. The secretions slowly change color, in the sun and air , until the yarn is a pale red- violet color. 
The coyuche is a brown cotton that grows here. It is short staple and thus hand spun.  Both colors are from prehispanic times. 

The brocade technique is discontinuous inlay. This inlay is done with the weft turns on the top making tiny scalloped edges around each motif. 

  • detail of the brocade with coyuche and purpura

 
This brocade style has a neat backside that is only slightly different from the front. 

 

here is the fourth selvage carachteristic of back strap weaving and the neat backside of the brocade


 Blessing on the weaver that made my cherished huipil!

I decided to work with a black warp which made my teacher roll her eyes.   So hard to see. So I decided to make a sample first to see if I could see the black warp to make the brocade. 

I started with the Zapotec delicate inlay that I studied last year.  

last years first attempt

  
So I made a black warp, same size yarn, 16/2, same number of threads,  same width. I tried four colors of inlay- white, pale pink, light grey and Mexican Rose

my favorite.  
The grey and pale pink are hard to tell apart. The Mexican Rose and white show a little better.  I went from 2 strand to 3 for the brocade weft.   Last year I used a thinner ground weft, 16/1, behind the brocade to  make it more visible, but this year I didn’t have any thinner yarn in black,unfortunately. 

Technically this is discontinuous inlay. I don’t think this is working. 

The traditional stripe pattern in the Rose is lovely. 

Then I decided to try a different technique that  has the supplemental weft on top of the ground cloth then it goes back into the shed. The design should be much bolder. It is a continuous supplemary weft that is either on top of the shed or in it.  It is called tejido Huave or Huave weave where Huave is the name of the ethnic group that uses this structure extensively.  

photo by Karen Elwell

 

I was working with this structure last summer and one of the trickey parts is the contrast between the ground and brocade weft.   I want the inlay part to almost disappear. Best try the Mexican Rose to see how it works. 


 The color works well but I was just making up designs and changing the scale. 

Then I took a class at Museo Textil de Oaxaca with Noe Pinzon Paradox , backstrap weaving  Huave style.   

Noe with his loom warped with 60/2 cotton. This is the wrong side that you see.


Noe is a gifted weaver, he has been weaving for 18 years, since he was 4.Obviously part of a weaving family.

He is also an excellent and patient teacher.  

one orange and three blue designs done in class

So using what I learned in class I returned to my black warp.  Repeating the best of the 3 blue designs done in class in grey:

 
 The doubled grey brocading warp, same as I used in class, is too bulky for this warp and looks irregular. So I reduced the brocading weft to a single strand of embroidery floss ( all six threads, just like it comes in the package). 

a smaller Huave design

 

Then I tried  an acrylic yarn that was lying around.   

 The new design is hard to see. 

the edges are getting better

 
Best design in my favorite color. This bolder brocade works much better on this black warp.  

The black and white haunts  me.  May have to do some classic black and white. 

The Huave style brocade produces much heavier and stiffer cloth than the Zapotec inlay. That is because Huave uses all six strands of the embroidery floss and it goes from selvage to selvage.  Zapotec inlay only uses 3 strands and only where there is a design. 

If I want the Zapotec inlay to show more, and I work without a finer ground thread, I may have to space out the warps more. 

Much learned and ready for the next warp. 

 

Agave or Maguey

31 January 2016

 

The agaves or magueyes are plants of the Americas, adapted to dry conditions and very useful to humans.  The Museo Textile de Oaxaca says that near here, Oaxaca City, they found remains of  10 000 year old net made from agave fibers. Today agaves may have a presence in your life as agave nectar, tequila or mezcal.image

The Museo has mounted an small but stunning exhibit of object made from fibers from the different agaves: ixtle, sisal, pita, cabuya.  There is one woven piece of cloth, delicate and sheer, but mostly bags, nets, with a slingshot and sandals thrown in. Most items are natural color but the variety of construction techniques is surprising; braiding and variations, needle looping, knotted netting.

This bag is some technique that looks a lot like knitting but I’m pretty sure it is a kind of looping. The bag is very nice  but the strap is what caught my attention!

 

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Here is a cylindrical bag with draw strings at both ends. it does have words worked into one end and is of fairly recent construction.image

 

 

 

But here is a detail of the texture on the bag:image

Here is a stunning bag, made in 2008, looks like it would stand up on its own.  It has a lining the same as the outside.  Made of ixtle or pita, the fiber of Chevaliera Magdalena, by a master craftsman, Tito Suárez.

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It looks like a twill with diagonal ridges in each section but it is not woven.

 

 

 

 

So here is a detail:image

Looks like some fancy braiding to me.  By braiding I mean there is only one set of working threads that are at one time warp then weft.  Also called finger weaving or technically active-passive oblique intertwining.  There are many moving ends to keep in order.

 

Outside the museum it the patio the museum was sponsoring an Expoventa of some top craftspeople and I found a strap made of ixtle just right for a backstrap for my loom.

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It appears to be the same technique as the bag above , made of ixtle by Rebeca Jiménez  of Santa Catarina Yahuio, Oaxaca.

On Friday I did a quick walk through of the new exhibit of Rebozos at the museum, El rebozo, don de la Llorona.  I just picked out one to share with you, #41 in the exhibit.

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As you can see this rebozo has very dramatic fringes.  This is not uncommon in Mexican weaving.  This rebozo is hung in the exhibit so that you can see both the front and the back of the fringe section.  The fluffy areas are added little tassels as you can see in the row acrossed the top.image.jpeg

The top row of tassels are in the body of the shawl and I could not touch it to see if there was woven cloth under the fluffy part.  So I looked up the description in the gallery notes:image

It says that this rebozo was made in the middle of the 20th century in an area of Purépecha people in the town of Ahuiran, state of Michoacán.

Both the warp and weft are made of industrially spun cotton singles, Z spun and possibly dyed with natural indigo.The warp has stripes of royal blue rayon, 2 ply, z twist.  The cloth is warp faced plain weave.  The warp ends  are flat braided to form the fringe, and the braiding is diagonal and forms holes  in the network.  Tassels made of rayon floss ( floss has no twist) are tied on at the little holes.

The tassels make a multi-colored diamond design.  Then they discuss a bit about if this is the style of the village where it was made or not.  Even though this is a wide cloth, even today these rebozos are made on backstrap looms.   Some of this style rebozos from the 19th century , the tassels added to the fringe form little animals or other figures.

Here is the back of the fringe:

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I finished my first attempt at weaving a heavily brocaded Huave (or Ikoots) style cloth that I discussed in my last post, https://entwinements.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/testing-for-hauve-style-weaving/.  I am pleased with this technique.

Huave style brocade, yellow

This is the finished cloth, after mending, washing, a little steam from the iron and trimming.  It is 13″ wide by 17.75″ long without the fringe.  This is about the size of most of this style cloths that I saw, they were labeled as tortilla cloths, or smaller ones as table napkins.

The design was inspired by photograph of a piece of cloth seen at the end of the last post.  I handled some of Huave weavings in Oaxaca but didn’t manage to photograph or buy any.

Working on this piece reminds me of bas relief carvings.   The brocading weft is mostly on the surface and then the few ground warp ends that  tie down the supplementary weft make a lower surface.  The effect is more pronounced than most quilting   I see today.

The hand of the cloth is nice for placemats or table runner or embellished parts of clothing. More substantial than just the 8/2 plain weave, lies flat  but is not stiff or heavy. The obverse is smooth and finished.

The Technical Details

This is a brocade ; continuous supplementary weft in inlay /overlay interlacement, the same technique used in I have been using with 8/2 cotton doubled,(https://entwinements.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/south-of-the-border-thunderbolt-towels/), the only difference is that each end in the warp now works individually, not as a pair.  Might seem like a small change but the effect is quite different.

The warp is 8/2 cotton pale mint green.  It is sett at 20 epi.  To get 20 epi on the rigid heddle loom I had to use two 10 dent heddles.  I didn’t have two 10 dent Leclerc heddles for the Bergere loom I was using so I used a narrower Ashford 10 dent heddle for the second one .  I lined up the two heddles and could see light through all the eyes so I thought it would work. I threadedUsing Leclerc and Ashford heddles them and then tied them together with zip cable ties because they move as a unit. Threaded the full width of the narrower heddle, and I do not have a second castle on this loom.  What I didn’t check was the size of the eyes, they are not the same size so the shed was not as clear as when I use two leclerc heddles.  So I added a dowel under the slot threads and pushed it to the back beam and  opened the shed and beat with a sword.

The ground weft is the same as the warp, mint 8/2 cotton, and the brocading weft is yellow doubled embroidery floss.  I started this piece with a full large skein of embroidery floss I brought back from Oaxaca this year. Our little skeins of floss are 5g this one was 30g and it is divided into 5 subskeins. So I knew I had to make the whole piece with this one skein of yarn, the Oaxacan floss is not mercerized and ours is, so no chance of matching it here.

I was using two strands of floss for the pattern warp, this effect needs a thick pattern weft. So I wound the shuttle using 2 of the subskeins and wove until they ran out.   I looked at my woven pattern and calculated that I could get 3 diamonds lengthwise using the 3 subskeins I had left. I wanted to finish with the same motifs that I used in the beginning.  I finished and I came out with just 1 1/2 picks of embroidery floss left!

 The epi is 20 and the ppi is around 10, so this is a warp dominate cloth, all the better to hide the inlay potion of the brocading weft.  This is the big difference from using 8/2 doubled in one 10 dent heddle.  Using a doubled 8/2 though out, epi is really 10 (true there are 20 threads but the interlacements is as if there are 10) and ppi is also 10 for a balanced plain weave cloth.

Top: interlacement with doubled warp and weft. Bottom: normal interlacements with the same number of warp threads.

The inlaid brocading weft is much more visible in the balance cloth than in the warp dominate cloth.   The effect in the warp dominate cloth is more magical, the brocading weft appears and then nearly disappears. In the balanced cloth  you are aware that the brocading weft is there all the time, just sometimes it stands in front and other times it back.
All in all these are the same threads,8/2 cotton for warp and weft and the same brocading weft, two full strands of embroidery floss  and the same structure.  The only difference is whether the warp threads weave  individually or doubled.  Yet the difference in appearance is dramatic.  Here is a side by side comparison:
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8/2 cotton used normally at 20 epi in two 10 dent heddles Results: warp dominate weave

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8/2 cotton doubled in warp and weft in 10 dent heddle: results in a balanced weave

 The 20epi also gives more detail, more pixel per inch if you will, and shorter floats.  The yellow design woven in the orange cloth would result in floats 1.4″ long, way too long and there would only be two diamonds across the same width of cloth.
When I did my samples before I found that I had to beat hard with the thick brocading weft to get it to look right.  I could not beat hard enough with the heddle so I used a sword.  It felt like I could have woven it on a backstrap loom more comfortably; it took a lot of jerry-rigs to make this work on the RH loom.

Once off the loom I turned it over and I could see a fault line where I missed a ground tabby pick.

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At the top you can see the fault line but at the bottom is has been mended.

I knew I had missed one because the shuttle was on the wrong side.  But I mended it and all is well.  You can also see how tidy the back of the cloth is.

Before weaving I did a graph of a section of the design, only two diamonds wide and about 3/4 of one diamond tall.  Just enough to see the spacing .  I then calculate that I would get 4+ repeats across the web.  So I decided how I wanted it centered and worked out from there having two partial motifs, one on each side.   I did get better at handling the edges with the partial repeats as I wove.  Some things you just have to do to get it right.
The other problem I had weaving this is that the cloth narrowed, the last part is at least a 1/4″ narrower than the start.  That was a surprise, so the next time I’ll use a stretcher , like I do on a backstrap loom, to keep the width constant.
I’m usually wiser the second time I do something, how about you?
In response to a comment I’m posting an additional diagram here:

To fit the same number of warp ends in the same space , the weft straightens and the cloth becomes warp-dominate.

To fit the same number of warp ends in the same space , the weft straightens and the cloth becomes warp-dominate.

 See comments for further explanation.

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

I adore the Amuzgo hand woven textiles I saw in Oaxaca.  Backstrap woven, they have brocade, leno and patterned gauze or leno.

Amuzgo gauze or leno with designs woven in

Amuzgo gauze or leno with designs woven in

 

I bought a lovely Amuzgo shawl, all natural color and wanted a sample of their color work.  I found a blouse with a colorful center panel of Amuzgo hand-woven and the side fronts and back in manta, a heavily sized muslin common in Oaxaca. The blouse I thought might be small but I had extra manta from one of the classes I took at Museo Textil de Oaxaca, so I brought the blouse home.

So last week I’m ready to tackle the blouse and make it wearable for me.  I get the blouse and the manta all on the sewing table and the manta I have doesn’t match the manta in the blouse. So maybe I’ll just take it apart and put in all new manta.  I began looking at the seams, done in a variegated turquoise embroidery thread.

turquoise embroidery seam, hand woven on left, manta on right

The neck and armholes are also finished with embroidery stitches, a variation of buttonhole stitch.

neckline finished with a variation of buttonhole stitch

neckline finished with a variation of buttonhole stitch

I saw many embroidery seams and learned a few, but this simple one was new to me.  Embroidery seams are done by hand, the only equipment needed is an appropriate needle and the embroidery thread.   And this one added a bit of charm to the blouse.  I decided I needed to learn how to make this kind seam before I ripped it out and it was gone, just a fading memory.

First I looked inside

inside of embroidery seam, hand woven on left, manta on right

inside of embroidery seam, hand woven on left, manta on right

Both the handwoven cloth and manta have raw edges, and little stitches of turquoise show.

Raw edges!!- they are unraveling a bit but the narrow seams are not in danger of coming undone.  Do we worry too much about raw edges here in the US ? Granted we tend to weave with coarser threads, but this is not ultra- fine, 16/2 cotton I would guess and the sett is 30 epi in a pretty balanced weave.  Or was this  short cut to make a cheaper piece to sell at a lower price point?   I don’t know.  Their fine huipils are seamed selvage to selvage and if the bottom edge is cut and not a four selvage piece, then it is turned under.

I thought I needed to make a sample to be sure that I understood how it was done. I  have some scraps of the manta and some aqua embroidery thread.  I ironed  and cut the strip in half.  I used the serger to cover the cut edges— I hate loose threads in my seams, I’ll have to see if it makes a difference.

manta with serged edges

manta with serged edges

I then pressed the serged edge under and pinned the two pieces together, wrong sides facing each other.

ready to made the seam

ready to made the seam

I used the full 6 strands of the embroidery floss and a sharp needle.  The seam looks like a series of overcast stitches fairly separated and the diagonal as the carry between the stitches.  So how far apart are their stitches?

det

detail of the stitch size

The overcast stitches are about 1 cm apart and the bite into the cloth is about 1/8th of an inch ( I know, insane with the units). I started my seam with the overcast stitch, making the needle go through the same hole twice then move up about a cm and go through twice there.  I started taking the tiniest bite into the cloth seam I could manage but tried a deeper bite for the second half of the seam.

my seam, right small bite, left bigger bite

my seam, right small bite, left bigger bite

The seam looks like the original! Yeah! very simple seam to make and looks nice.

After I pressed it open I like the tiny bite stitches better; the seam lays flatter when press open.

finished seam pressed open; bottom tiny bite, top bigger bite

finished seam pressed open; bottom tiny bite, top bigger bite

So one last question: did the serging effect the seam?  Yes, I think it added a bit of bulk to the seam.  Would I serge the edges before making the seams in a garment?  Yes, I would.  I said I hate loose threads, I always go over any garment I make looking for loose threads or tails just before I do a final press.  But those are personal esthetics.

I have a new seam in my repertoire to use with hand wovens.  Simple to do and adds a splash of color to the seam.

 

This is the Chinanteco Huipil and details here,

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To see if I truely understand the brocade I decided to weave some on the RH loom I have with me.  The original is 16/2 warp and my warp is 8/2 doubled so about 4x bigger.  Since the original designs are large I can’t make any of them so I’ll just make up my own, a simple stepped pyramid.
I am weaving this with the right side down.  This is the easiest way to weave this brocade because the turns are on the back.  I am now comfortable doing this because the Zapotec inlay I did on the backstrap loom is woven with wrong side facing the weaver.  Here is the back side of the huipil, this is what I will be seeing as I weave.

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I’ll just do the brocade first to see If I can get the tie-downs right.
I started with a single 6-thread strand of the embroidery floss as the supplementary weft but it was too sparse so I pulled it out and started over with a doubled strand.

I’m picking up each row of brocade, I haven’t figured any way to use a pattern stick to mark the tie-downs ( because under two requires a slot and hole thread).  So the first couple of pick ups require attention and checking but once the pattern is set up you have a visual guide and the pick up is easier and faster.  Once I had the tie-downs under control I added a star figure in the center, this is underlay and what you see on the wrong side are long floats and on the right side it is just ground cloth.
So now there are 3 elements to control in each row of pick up: outer edge that determines the shape of the brocade motif, the tie-downs, and then the star shape in the center.  Once this is going well I added in the leno row every 7th .

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Except for the size or scale it does look like the huipil.  I have been alternating colors too, red, other bright color, red…..

It seems to be going well and it does look like a large scale version of the brocade on the huipil, here is what you can see of the right side while it is still on the loom.

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