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

9am-6pm

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 marsch@prodigy.net.mx 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.

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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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Oh well.

29 January 2016

Today I went to the little market near here,IV Centenario, just past La Basilica de la Soledad.  Soledad is the virgin of Oaxaca.  As I have explained before, if you walk in Oaxaca you either go uphill or downhill.

My lovely apartment is a second floor walk up.

Armed with my shopping list and the Frida bag I start out down the steps, down the hill, around the corner, up the hill to Plaza de la Danza and a view of Soledad.

  
All one church, obviously built at different times and styles.

Continue walking past the police station to arrive at the market at la hora de siesta de los perros.

  

The market itself is on a hill, steps to go in, steps down to the first level, steps down to the next level….

I bought wonderful Oaxacan cream, a small bread for breakfast, some chicken breast, tomatoes, an avocado ready to eat today, eggplant, radishes, poblanos, jicama, tangerines, a pear, platanos, green beans, spaghetti,and half a case of eggs, carefully packaged for carrying. Oh, yes and vinegar.  So now the Frida bags weighs considerable more than it did empty.

Going back home starts with a climb up about 4 flights of stairs to get out of the market with the bag.  Then up the hill, down the hill  around the corner and up the hill and finally up the stairs to the apartment, all with the heavy bag.

When I get home catch my breathe, unpack the bag. Check email and decide to look at the health data: 3691 steps, 2.67 km and no flights of stairs climbed.  Oh, well.

Second Huave Style design

Second Huave Style design

I started another continuous brocade piece on the same warp that I used for the yellow piece.

First Huave Style cloth with geometric design

First Huave Style cloth with geometric design

This time in addition to a new design and brocade color I added a stretcher to keep the width of the cloth constant.  The biggest problem I had with the first piece I made with this technique, is that the cloth got narrower as I wove.

The commercial stretcher that I have are too big for this 14″ wide cloth so I used one made to fit this cloth.  It is simply a piece of hollow bamboo cut to size and two little nails.  I learned this from my backstrap weaving teacher, Doña Euforsina, last winter in Oaxaca.  I grow lots of bamboo but it is not straight and has bumps where the leaves emerge. So after some cutting and sanding and I had a tube that I thought would work.

The stretcher goes on the back of the fabric, thus not obscuring the pattern.  You place the bamboo under the web and insert the nail through the selvage into the hollow of the bamboo tube.  Do one side then the other, the second side takes a little tugging but you want the web taut.

Bamboo stretcher in place on the underside of the web

Bamboo stretcher in place on the underside of the web

 

the hollow bamboo and two nail for stretcher

the hollow bamboo and two nail for stretcher

Here are the pieces used to stretch the web, a piece of bamboo and two nails.

The other picture shows how the nail in the selvage holds the bamboo in place.

Nail attaching the web to bamboo stretcher

Nail attaching the web to bamboo stretcher

 

I finished this piece and after some separators started on another  and I pleased to see that as the cloth rolls on the cloth beam it is all exactly the same width.

A solution without buying a thing!