We left Mitla after breakfast and drove north toward Oaxaca City, stopping at the Tule tree which is the biggest tree in the world and we all believed it.
Then we continued north up through Oaxaca heading northwest turning southwest at Nochixtlan. We were on an old north to south route across Mexico up to Alaska and down to Patigonia.
We stopped at two huge old churches built In the 1500’s by the Spanish. They both are being restored to a point. You can see areas that are gold and very decorative and much area that is just bare walls. Originally the walls were solidly decorated with paint and paintings. One is at the town of Yanhuitlan; the other at Teposcolula. And both are directly related to the history of silk in the region.
The Spanish brought over sericulture (producing silk). Mulberry trees had to be cultivated and raising the silk worms is a time consuming process. There was a huge boom and then bust when much silk was produced in Mexico and then when disease and competition from Asia destroyed the industry. These two churches were built by the Spanish during the boom years. One could only imagine how much money silk was bringing in at the time. High quality silk that was reeled from the cocoons was processed by the indigenous people while only the Spaniards were allowed to weave it. The indigenous people in the area wore silk sashes, however.
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Today we drove two hours on very winding mountain roads to a village in the Eastern Sierra Madre to the Zapotec village of San Pedro Cajonos where they raise silk worms, spin silk thread, dye it and weave it on backstrap looms. We walked down steps on the side of the mountain and came into this room where generations of people were weaving and spinning silk. The pictures of the village don’t quite convey how steep the mountain side is. The girl in the yellow shirt is 10 years old. She was one of the featured children in an exhibit the Oaxaca Textile museum put on two years ago when she was eight. Kids, mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers were all part of the production. What used to be only women’s work is done by everyone now that it brings in money.
The silk worms are raised and the cocoons made and then they are collected after the adult moths emerge from the cocoons. That means there is a significant hole in each cocoon so the thread cannot be unwound in a long thread. Instead the cocoons are boiled then spun. The picture shows masses of cocoons dried after boiling.
Then the spinner takes a cocoon and separates it from the mass and teases it or pulls it apart until it is a mass of silk fiber. Then the spinner spins it using a spindle that is supported in a small bowl. The grandfather and grandmother sat and spun the whole time we were there. The pictures show how both of them went about the teasing and pulling apart and lining up the fibers before twisting them with the spindle making a thread.
After the scarves were off the looms the fringe was knotted in what we call macrame.
We went outside to the dye area where some of the woven scarves were dyed with natural dyes.
They used two types of cocoons. The yellow was a wild silk and the white made by commercially raised silk worms provided my the Mexican government. You can see there are some tiny hatched eggs on the yellow cocoon.
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Saturday night was the opening reception and end of the TSA Symposium. For me it was glorious in every way. My pieces were in the most prime location: in the front window and the first thing to be seen in the show. When it got dark the lighting was great with reflections in the window.
I stood nearby and got lots and lots of nice comments. The nicest part was getting praise from other artists and people who knew me or knew my name.
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I met two former students who are very accomplished.
Serena Lee, from San Francisco, was my Home Ec student when she was in the seventh grade. She is giving a lecture at the symposium about ethnic dress of the Lolo/ Yi groups across the Vietnam- China border. I heard her practice her riveting talk this morning. She leads textile trips to that area of the world and is an expert on the various ethnic costumes.
Laurel Wilson, PhD was my weaving student in New York where she became interested in textiles. Her dissertation is ” ‘De Novo Modo’: the birth of Fashion in the Middle Ages”. She is passionate about her research and has given lectures around the country. Her concentration is on 14th century and how the introduction of the horizontal pedal loom in the 11th century caused big changes in class structure , gender relations, and ultimately the birth of fashion in Western Europe. It was fascinating to listen to what all she had to say.
I sat under an umbrella this afternoon with Zvezdana Dode from Stravropol, Russia who I met on the Italy trip. She is working on a book : ” ‘Silk Horde’: Costume and Textiles of the Mongolian Empire”. She is also giving a paper here at the symposium and was so interesting to talk to.
So, there are a lot of experts here and everyone is passionate about textiles.
Tonight was a reception with the menu planned by Alice Waters. I was thrilled to have the rest of the world experience her local grown sustainable foods. There was an almost full moon and lots of interesting people. It was really nice when someone I didn’t know knew my name.
The TSA show in Los Angeles is getting pretty close. Today we sent off the files for 4 postcards that I can hand out to people at the show and at the conference. We will drive down on September 9 to hand deliver my piece: Four Veils. I’m thrilled with the cards and am getting excited. New business cards are in the works as well.
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The warp was taken off the reel and rolled onto the drum. You can see the ties for the raddle (group) cross dangling at the end of the warp. Then the raddle was loaded. See the rubberbands on top so the threads don’t come out of the teeth.
The raddle was then clamped onto the loom so beaming could begin. The warp comes off the drum under tension, goes through the raddle and onto the warp beam. The drum is essential to keep all the threads under tension while I crank the beam. Directions for building a warping drum are in my book no. two “Warping your Loom and Tying On New Warps”.
Finally I got to my studio and made a warp this week. Another 10-yard one with the fine silk threads I used for the bookmarks, rullfes, and other sheer pieces. Here ae some details and the equipment I need for this fine and kinky thread. It kinks horribly if off tension a second. I warped with 10 spools on the reel that Jim Ahrens built and used. There is also a heck block which makes the path on the reel and makes the cross with two tiny shafts (called the leaser).
Because the thread kinks so much I had to use a creel that holds the spools horizontally. I had this built by a friend. I discovered to keep the threads in order and on tension from the creel to the reel I needed several lease sticks. That way if a thread broke, I could find it, too. I clamp the stick onto two boards coming out of the creel.
The heck block rides up and down on the two poles, attached to the floor and the ceiling.
By the way, the colors are fugitive–as soon as they are on the reel they all are the honey color with a tiny tinge of the original colors.
You can see the drum waiting beside the reel. That’s the next order in the process.
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Here is silk thread I bought–and a lovely child’s under kimono. The really rough skeins in the bundle are raw silk made of the waste silk that is on the outside of the cocoons. I got it at a co-op where the framers took their cocoons to be unwound and made into skeins. The silk was reeled off of the cocoons by machines. It was fascinating to watch and the beautiful, shiny silk skeins being wound. I don’t know how the wide silk yarn was made, but I hope to find a way to weave something interesting with it.
I love the little kimono–we visited a woman who researched how the red dyes used to be made. Red for under the kimono was really a popular thing!
I’ve been planning a little lesson for my weaving guild about color—especially optical mixing. I’m going to show color wheels we are used to seeing and talk about using yarns and threads that aren’t on the wheels, per se. That is, not the vibrant, intense colors you see but what I think are more beautiful colors. I’ll show how beautiful colors are made and how to use them, using the information on the color wheels.
Here is my color stash of sewing threads. I just picked spools of colors that I liked when visiting a shop in the garment district of Manhattan on several trips. I expected to mix them together and whenever possible I took colors with different dye lots. Variations in colors make them more beautiful, in my opinion.
I love to knit mindlessly (or nearly so). This sweater I knitted using stainless steel and silk thread and cotton yarn. The yarns and pattern are from Habu Textiles in New York. If you don’t know them, please check the web for amazing things. I thought it would take a year but I’m now sewing the pieces together having begun the knitting in September. It was easy—all stockinet and easy to keep track of the rows for shaping. I hope to wear it to the opening of my show which is on January 8. We’ll see. At first I thought it would be too small, then too large. You can’t tell anything until you start sewing it together and trying it on the body. I think it will be just fine. I can’t decide yet whether to sew the side seams or let them loose. The stainless steel/silk yarn has a wild mind of its own. Any thoughts? Also, I’m not sure if I’ll block the stainless part—so far I only blocked the cotton areas.
Now I’ve woven a tube 154 inches long, taken it off the loom, and ruffled up the tube. Look at the video of me “ruffling”. Let me know what you think. It is so nice that the tube itself is sheer so you can see my hand inside making the ruffles.
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Here is a close-up of what the ruffle I’m weaving is supposed to look like. Who knows, I may vary it, but this is the plan. I’ve woven ½ of it so far—74”. I’m enjoying it and the patience needed as well. I have to check for symptoms pretty often to catch a broken thread or let down the selvedge threads, etc. (I usually weight my selvedges separately.) The weft is so fine that it breaks when I pull the shuttle out of the shed fairly frequently. I thought about putting in a colored thread to mark all the weft breaks, but it became too cumbersome. I do repair the warp threads with a blue sewing thread. It gives a little variation, but it makes it so I can see what I am doing.
The weaving is going along slowly. The fine, fine weft breaks, a warp thread breaks. But the warp is OK and didn’t tangle, thank goodness. There are 491 ends in about 5” width for 96 ends in an inch. The threading photo shows most of the threads treaded through the heddles. It was a 10-hour job. I was careful and there were no threading mistakes! Hooray! The 12-dent reed has 8 ends per dent. Repairing a broken warp thread is a serious issue. It would be impossible if I didn’t have the lease sticks in behind the heddles. They allow me to track where the thread belongs and find the exact heddle required.
I made the picture horizontal–a big achievement for me, and a thrill!
Here’s the piece I’m putting in the show as it should be.
This is my first ruffle, maybe a year or two “old”. Today a special friend held it horizontally–it looked fabulous! I’m thrilled to be entering it in an exhibit where there will be mostly painters. I think it will hold its own in the show. There will be 144 pieces. I’ll keep you posted. Be sure to look at it horizontally (turn it 90 degrees).
My latest piece. I like it on both a light and a black background. Height is 36″. The woven width is 4″. I hope you like it.
My sewing thread piece is off the loom and ready for action. Here is a detail. There are so many ways to manipulate the piece that I’m letting it marinate awhile (if you know what I mean). The hand is very nice and there is a lot of transparent area–all this pleases me. Stay tuned.
I’m still experimenting with sheer this time with a warp of sewing thread instead of the fine silk.
The weft is the lovely gold silk that took me a month to spool off from the skein. It is stiff because it is undegummed. That helps keep the beat open and there are variations in the thickness of the thread which make the cloth look nice.
I was very nervous about the sett–wasn’t sure if it was too open, but wanted the cloth to be sheer for sure. It probably is too open, but of course, I made do. What I had to do was beat gently (which I hate to do) and beat on a closed shed (also don’t like to do). So, it’s going slowly but I’ve got the cloth I’m after. (The next risk: will I be able to make out of it what I have in mind?)
I have reed marks which are just fine–in fact they are a gift. The threads in the reed groups move around randomly which gives a bit of color variation. Nice, so it doesn’t look like commercial cloth. So, the next time, I think I’ll stick to this sett and just go slowly so I can get the color variations. (I made the warp with 10 different spools of thread–so 10 different shades in the warp. Instead of a paddle, I have a wonderful heck block on my reel that I inherited from Jim Ahrens. This allows me to get a thread-by-thread cross.)
I hope you’ll check out the close-up enlargements of the blue silk pieces in my recent posts (and this one, too.)
I had another photo shoot today. It was absolutely wonderful to see the close-up details possible with a digital camera and a great photographer who knows how to photograph textiles.
This piece is fun. Do you know what it is? (40 shafts! with a manual dobby–maybe not worth all the work pegging.)
You can find photos of my work that I added to the gallery by clicking on the heading “Gallery” on the home page. It is along the top of the page, under the photo–other topics are books, dvd, and the gallery.
Here is another blue silk piece from the same warp as Cloud Tiles I posted yesterday. The width is about 4″ (so you can figure the scale). It is a satin weave on 8 shafts. The center part I picked up with a pick-up stick.
I just put up new photos in the gallery section of this blog. I’m thrilled with the results of the photo shoot–the pictures look as good as the work! I have the final session on Wednesday. Look for more from time to time on the blog.
These are my first very fine silk pieces. They are damask–playing with warp face and weft face.
This is the scarf I wove with the Neal Howard painted warp kit. It was such fun to weave along and see the colors merge and change. I love wearing it as a sort of scarf-ruff.
I’m weaving a lovely warp I bought as a kit at Convergence in Albuquerque last summer. It was made by Neal Howard. She dyed three warps and told how to thread them in the heddles to integrate them. Each one is different, so it is great fun to weave along and see the color changes–in one or all of the stripes.
I’m not following her idea–so I’ll report later if my idea for the cloth works out. Dyeing is Neal’s speciality– I bought one of her jackets at the previous Convergence. She offers yarns and woven pieces.