Laurelhurst Fiber Art Studio & Urban Farm
Tablet Weaving * Ply-Splitting * Mindfulness * Permaculture
My Tablet Weaving Adventure in England and Holland
September 10 - October 12, 1998
Three-hole tablet-woven Andean pebble weave
Imagine spending four weeks in England and a week in Holland, immersed in the study of tablet weaving -- and also seeing samples and demonstrations of ply-split braiding, kumihimo, rope-making, loop manipulation, and other fiber techniques! Members of TWIST, the Braid Society, the Dutch tablet weaving group Kaartweefkring, and many other fiber people helped make this dream come true for me last Fall, and I am so grateful for a truly memorable experience.
My special thanks go to Sue Palterman, Jenny Kosarew, Ann Norman, Shirley Berlin, Jennie Parry, Peter Collingwood, Robert White, Anne Dyer, and Jill Halmshaw in England; and Amy Sikkema, Marijke van Epen, Fons Baggelaar, Freerk Wortman, Trudi van Greevenbroek, and Annelies Hart in Holland, for arranging special experiences, and for sharing their time, creativity, and expertise.
I would like to share some of the highlights from this trip with you. Here are excerpts from letters to friends and family, with additional details about tablet weaving.
Sept. 10 - 14, Wokingham, England
I went directly from Heathrow to Sue Palterman's home in Wokingham. After sleeping for most of the next day, I taught a workshop on "S p a c e d - O u t Tablet Weaving". We used reed scraps to space out the warps and each person made a 4"-wide sampler in cotton which included basket weave, log cabin, plain weave double-cloth and several variations of gauze weave (leno). One of the participants was Julie Hedges, who has done a lot of ply-split braiding, and she showed us many examples with curves and angles, mostly in linen, and often hand-dyed. The next day we experimented with making spaced-out tablet-woven samples with the idea of creating fabric that would be suitable for scarves, trying different fibers, including wool, mohair, and novelty yarns, and mostly using warp twining and gauze weave.
Sept. 15, Bampton, England
Ann Norman making rope
Sue, Shirley Berlin, and I spent the afternoon with Ann Norman, a rope-maker and ply-split braider, and the illustrator for Peter’s new book, The Techniques of Ply-Split Braiding. Ann's studio is a riot of color and texture and fiber structures. She showed us her ply-split mats and baskets, and demonstrated cordmaking using the Tibetan twister. She also showed us how she makes long ropes, which involves laying out the yarn on her ropewalk that goes out the studio door, down the stone path across the lawn, and all the way to the pasture fence.
Sept. 16, Banbury, England
In Banbury, I taught a workshop on “Warp Textures and Weft Brocade” for the Braid Society. Most students had done some tablet weaving, but had little or no experience with the continuous warp. I demonstrated three different methods of making a continuous warp, and also brocade, idling tablets, warp transpositions, and warp twining variations on four and two-hole warps. There wasn’t time to weave all of these, so people did what they found most interesting.
Sept. 17, Berkhamsted, England
Last night before going to sleep I kept thinking about how happy I’ve been all week. It is really something to spend *every day* with creative people who share my interests, who want to hear my ideas, and want to share their ideas with me. I feel very energized. The countryside is beautiful, the food is great, the companionship is so stimulating.
I’m staying with Shirley Berlin, a teacher of kumihimo braiding and tablet weaving with a strong interest in braids and bands in general. This afternoon, she left me here and went to Paris where her husband is working temporarily. It's almost like having a little museum all to myself -- so many beautiful ethnic textiles, pottery, a collection of stringed instruments hanging on the walls, paintings, zillions of books.
Sept. 19, London, England
Sue Palterman and I met up with TWIST members Wendy Harrison and Vivienne Jackson. For the next two weeks, the four of us will be traveling together and taking workshops with Peter Collingwood and Marijke van Epen.
Sept. 20-23, Stoke-by-Nayland, England
We are staying at Thorington Hall in Stoke-by-Nayland — a huge 16th century farmhouse, which we have all to ourselves, plus the use of a car! Sue Palterman is the only one who knows how to drive on the left, so she is our chauffeur and guide.
Classes were held each day at Peter's home in Nayland, in the display room above his workshop, so we were surrounded by textiles of every description from all over the world while we worked, including over 100 ply-split camel girths. Jason was busy weaving rugs downstairs. Peter's instruction covered the 3/1 broken twill, the ram’s horn design and variations, and warp-twined double-cloth using the pasaka principle. I decided to concentrate on the twill, worked on it all three days, and at night back at Thorington Hall, too. At last, I had a real breakthrough, as I was finally able to graph my own designs and then weave them.
The first delivery of Peter's new book, The Techniques of Ply-Split Braiding, arrived while we were there. I am so happy to finally see this book in print -- and to have a copy!
September 24, Haarlem, Holland
I brought cords for ply-splitting with me, and we made some SCOT braids on the ferry. A great way to pass the time. We are staying in Haarlem, a medieval town, and have enjoyed just walking around and admiring the old buildings.
Sept. 25, Amsterdam, Holland
Amy Sikkema and Freerk Wortman met us at the train station and took us to the Tropical Institute to see the tablet woven bands from Indonesia, including the double-faced man's betel bag (Plate 129, The Techniques of Tablet Weaving).
After touring the museum, we went to Trudi van Greevenbroek's home to meet other Dutch tablet weavers. The Dutch group has been together for many years, and their knowledge of tablet weaving techniques is impressive. Trudi showed us the coverlet she was weaving for her granddaughter on the big floor loom in her living room -- the design consisted of sections of stuffed double-cloth separated by warp-twined tablet weaving. This was the first time I had ever seen such a project. Other members spread out their tablet weaving -- exquisite bands in many techniques; some reproductions of historic bands and others with original designs.
Trudi van Greevenbroek's coverlet.
Sept. 26- 29, Diepenheim, Holland
We have been staying at de Koningsknecht Bed and Breakfast in Diepenheim, near the German border. Our classes are in Marijke's newly remodelled studio at her home in the tiny village of Gelselaar. I have never seen anything like the collection of bands that Marijke has woven. So many long bands, so perfectly woven in many techniques and in beautiful colors. A reproduction of a Bakhtiyari tent band in 3/1 broken twill, several bags with double-faced motif, bands in Icelandic double-weave, Latvian pebble weave, brocade, float weaves, and other techniques I can't yet identify.... Seeing these bands, being able to handle and photograph them, and knowing that so much learning lies ahead -- what a joy!
Marijke has studied the traditional weaves of Peru and Bolivia, and has developed ways to weave them with tablets. In the workshop, she introduced us to Andean pebble weave with two, three, and four colors. These weaves require holes punched in the edges of the tablets; the corner holes are not used. She also showed us traditional Latvian pebble weave with two holes per tablet in opposite corners, and float weaves. I managed to weave a nice bit of three-color Andean pebble weave and some of the Latvian pebble weave, and am pleased with those samples, but that took me so long that I didn’t even have time to attempt the others. My brain is fried! Right: Three-hole tablet-woven Andean pebble weave
TWIST member Annelies Hart was able to join us one evening, and after a meal at an Indonesian restaurant, showed us many samples of her work, including pop-up greeting cards which feature tablet weaving. The pop-up part of the card looks like a stack of weaving tablets and the threading is always correct for the technique shown. She gave us each a bookmark with original designs; mine is in pebble weave with a windmill motif.
October 1-2, London, England
Sue made appointments for us to see the tablet weaving in three different departments of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I had seen most of the pieces last year, and enjoyed examining them again, and this time made a lot of sketches of different pieces. I especially like the fragments from Ft. Miran, Chinese Turkestan, woven in about the year 800, which have images of galloping lions. As I looked through a magnifying glass, studying the structure, I wondered about the people who wove it over 1,000 years ago.
The next day, Sue and I decided to go to Liberty’s, the Gordon Reece Gallery, and the Turkmen Gallery. Liberty’s is a venerable and very upscale department store. The first thing we saw when we walked in the door was a display of men’s scarves with fascinating combinations of novelty yarns and structure. We studied them carefully and then rushed back outside to make notes! The spaced-out tablet weaving concept could be used to produce some of them -- log cabin in gold, black, and grey chenille; very fine and widely-spaced wool warp with mohair weft; colorful, widely-spaced chenille warp with black boucle weft; and scarves with angled wefts.
The Gordon Reece Gallery had a lovely exhibition of abstract knotted wool tribal rugs. But the Turkman Gallery was our favorite. It seemed very small from the outside, but inside we found Omar, the friendly owner, and several rooms brimming with fabulous Turkman textiles of all descriptions, including silk ikat robes with edgings in loop manipulation. Omar is from Afghanistan, and was born and raised in a traditional felt yurt. He was very generous with his time, opening drawers and showing us treasured items including two double-sided velvet tablet-woven belts. We could touch them, so it was even better than the museums! My favorite item was a tent decoration for a wedding ceremony, a very long and elaborate divided band pinned to the ceiling with countless tassels hanging down — very festive. I want to make one...
October 3, Bath, England
Sue, Vivian, and Wendy have gone their own way, and my English sculptor friend Anthea Dutot and I went to Bath for the opening of Peter’s retrospective exhibition at the Holburne Museum. The first room was filled with macrogauze hangings. Peter invented this technique 30 years ago, with unusual crossings of warp threads and very little weft; just a few rows plus some stainless steel rods. The room had dark blue walls, which were a perfect backdrop for the natural linen hangings. Downstairs were many of Peter’s rugs, anglefell hangings (airy textiles with wefts beaten in at an angle); drawings from his days in medical school (he became a doctor in the late 1940s, but gave it up for weaving); samples of his first weavings from the 50s, charming photos of Peter at work in the 50s and 60s, and a video interview.
October 5-6, Craven Arms, England
I took the train to head up north to teach "Warp-Twined Double Cloth using the Pasaka Principle" at Westhope College, run by Ann Dyer and Elizabeth Rumble in rural Shropshire. When I changed trains, I noticed that the signs were all in a language I didn’t recognize, and only later learned that I had briefly been in Wales! Classes are held in a big, rambling house, and nearby are fields, sheep, some rare goats, and the Ernie Henshall Museum of braiding equipment. Ernie and his wife Glad were in the class -- a real delight. Our classroom was a large bedroom -- there was room enough for three tables, and I displayed my samples on the bed.
Oct. 7-8, Leicester, England
Jennie Parry, an embroiderer and braidmaker, took me home with her to Leicester after the workshop, and showed me her work in kumihimo and her collection of textiles from India. The next day we met Sue and Shirley at the New Walk Museum, and spent the afternoon studying pieces from the Dryad collection there, which is mostly tablet weaving. We were allowed to handle these pieces, which included very fine silk double-faced garters from Greece woven about 100 years ago, several bands from Bosnia, and a belt from Latvia — not tablet-woven, but with such beautiful designs that I sketched them all (and have since woven a band in Latvian pebble weave using the sketches).
Oct. 9, Halifax and Leeds, England
Braid Society member Jill Halmshaw arranged for us to see the tablet weaving collection at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax. This museum was the home of a wealthy wool manufacturer in the 1800s, and focuses on textiles. The most interesting thing here was a collection of about 25 bands from China, which came to the museum around 1900-1925. These were mostly fine silk with twined borders and solid color in the center. Several bands were made with metallic threads — silver and copper.
Most of the students in my "Tubular Cardwoven Neckpieces" workshop in Leeds had never done any tablet weaving — or any weaving for that matter — before. Ah, what fun to be able to get them started!
And that was my tablet weaving adventure -- again, many thanks to all those who made this possible. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone, sharing our knowledge and skills, and having more adventures in the future.