Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Primitive Looms and Complex Weave Structures

I am currently beginning to research for a paper or possible article on
comparative woven textiles and culture of various indigenous tribes
throughout the world, specifically regarding the women that weave
these items. Not just the actual weave structures, but the
anthropological aspect of the similarities of these various ethnic
groups. I would like to trace the possible movement regarding the
"culture of warp faced textiles" and relate this to the spread of
peoples, beginning in Africa through to the Middle East and Central
Asia and follow this as it spreads through Northern and Southern Asia,
into Indonesia, as well as into North America, Central America and
South America.

I was reading in Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot (Fall 2008)
about an exhibit currently being shown at the Textile Museum in
Washington, DC.
The article entitled, Timbuktu to Tibet: Rugs and Textiles of the
Hajji Babas, written by Sumru Belger Krody (Shuttle, Spindle, &
Dyepot, Volume XXXIX No. 4, Issue 156, Fall 2008, Handweavers Guild of
America, Inc., pages 29-32).
I have to say the first few sentences really got my attention.
"Textiles, the most universal of all art forms, tell stories about the
lives of people worldwide. As social currency, they contain embedded
messages about an individual's wealth, social status, occupation, and
religious and ethnic associations, as well as the values, codes and
social order of a culture." (p. 29)
This really made me think about the comparative weaving structures,
techniques, and symbolism of various Ethnic Styles of weaving. Navajo,
African Tribal, Peruvian, Arabic, oh there are so many to list, but I
think you get the idea of what I am trying to say...
Because the article was featuring many central Asian woven art, I
became really interested in the Arabic weaving of the nomadic tribes
of the middle east. Many of you may understand what triggered inside
me. I want to learn more about the weavers and the work they produce.
I have studied about Navajo and African textiles, but this was the
first time I actually became aware of the Arabian weaves, almost
entirely produced by the women of the tribe.

So, I have been starting my research on comparative weave structures in indigenous cultures….and I have found some information regarding the use of ground looms and backstrap looms to make a complex cloth such as Double Weave. There is a simple way to produce a single weft double weave on a loom that does not have multiple harnesses. It is a weave structure that is achieved on different continents on the globe. In Northern Africa, Middle East and South America. I am talking about a warp faced double weave that has been discussed by both Martha Stanley and Peter Collinwood.

Stanley, Martha. "The Beduoin Saha Weave and its Double Cloth Cousin", In Celebration of the Curious Mind edited by Nora Rogers and Martha Stanley, Interweave Press, Inc., 1983. Pg 68-79

Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Rug Weaving. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1968. Pg 449-451.

This one weft double weave has also discussed in by authors Irene Emery, Ann Pollard Rowe, Grace M. Crowfoot, and Marjorie Cason and Adele Cahlander. I am in the process of tracking down these sources so that I can add them to my research.

I am fascinated by the advance structure of this weave, and how it was discovered. I would love to participate in a group that studies this specific weave structure on simple looms. There are many study groups on double weave that are made by using a loom with 4 or more harnesses. However, I have yet to find one specifically for double weave on a primitve loom.

Since this is the beginning of my journey, I would like to open this post to discussion. Any suggestions or perhaps directions I can look into to find someone to study this technique with please post a comment.

-Wefty Woman

One Warped Bitch


I have found someone who I am bound and determined to get back into weaving (in some form or another)

Her name is Vall, and she has some shops on Ebay and ArtFire that you may be familiar with. I am adding an additional post to Wefty Woman because I feel that her description of Double Weave deserves its very own section. So please be sure to read this additional post : Double Weave, is it double the trouble or double the fun.

As with others before, I will give Vall a gratuitous Wefty Woman plug, so y'all be sure to visit her sites, and dammit buy something!

-Wefty Woman, Your most humble warped bitch...


catluff said...

Interested to see what your research finds?

PB::JJ::WW said...

Please leave a comment or suggestion I am just beginning to compile sources on the subject...as I learn more I begin to narrow down the particular thesis of my paper(article).

I think part of why these woven items the women weave in Arabic Culture are so ornate and complex stems from the culture that is so male oriented. Like you say the woman are kept so isolated, they have this way to express themselves.

I am wondering if this male dominant society is the same type of culture where the other double cloth is woven...in South America. The Bolivia form of warp faced single weft double weave technique. I have not yet looked into this aspect. But I believe the women are the ones who weave the double cloth in this culture as well.

I am also wondering what trade influences are at work here. This is a structure that is woven on two sides of the world, where did this originate, was it accident? Are there other forms of this double weave in other cultures?

PB::JJ::WW said...

Thanks Catluff, I hope you also find weaving interesting am may one day decide to give it a try....

memphisweaver said...

Hi JJ--Have you been to www.marlamallett.com? She is the author of "Woven Structures" an excellent historical resource for collectors and weavers alike. Her shop specializes in "flat woven tribal Oriental rugs, kilims, and bags." Lots of information at the site. It may be useful to your work.

PB::JJ::WW said...

Oh wow, thank you Felicitas, this is a wonderful site. I think I will be spending lots of time here: http://www.marlamallett.com/

Thanks Again!

JDStar said...

Wefty Woman,
You keep my mind spinning! It's people like you that manage to educate through everything!
You are so DAMN interesting!

PB::JJ::WW said...

I have sent an email to Complex Weavers in regards to a study group on this. Sheila Carey has been wonderful to me by forwarding my request to various weave list, but as I wait for more information, the question was raised about starting a new study group on the Complex Weavers site that specifically deals with the double weave or
cloth that is woven on simple looms, like an inkle. If you would be interested in possible participation in the study group, let me know.
If you know how to do this particular weave, please contact me...so that I may beg you to help me understand it and pick your brain.

So thank you Sheila Carey, I am so
grateful for your assistance. Again if you might be interested in doing a year long study of complex structures on simple looms let me know.

Sorry here is the complex weavers site:

Karen Radcliff said...

Yes! Hello! I only just found your site and this is a really fascinating project that you're proposing. Please do put me down as someone interested in doing a study of complex structures on simple looms.

The academic angle of your inquiry is interesting. Is it a case of parallel evolution of weaving techniques or traveling of ideas along trade? I don't know. I wonder if it is necessary for the same restrictions to be present for the results to appear? For instance, the idea that male oppression might influence women to find in weaving a source of creative fulfillment. This is of course possible; so then I wonder, what about Laotian weavers? Or African weavers? Were their weavings also the product of the same (ie, male-dominant society) oppression, or would it be enough to be oppressed by some kind of social situation (like lack of materials, extreme isolation from other cultures/influences so that the one art form flourished, or demands of local trade which required further exploration of the craft in order to succeed in business opportunities)? Just a thought.

Do keep me posted about the study group. Thank you!

PB::JJ::WW said...

Karen Radcliff:

You got it babe! I already have a couple others that are interested in doing a study group. So I will keep you in the loop.

As for this particular type of weave and the influence that may have shaped and altered the technique, I do think economic and political issues should also be looked into.

An example: In Nepal, the economic hardship and political uncertainty in the area in general, has influenced the weavers in the area. Even in regards to the type of fiber and yarn that is used in Nepal's cottage industries. The use of fiber from a native nettle plant, that is similar to a linen type of yarn, has become more apparent. Because of the economic conditions, the use of cotton (because of the need to cultivate the land for food) has dwindled.

That is why I want to explore this concept fully, to be able to understand how these textile techniques can be similar in various cultures around the globe.

I have just started to read The Book of Looms, by Eric Broudy. It traces the history of hand looms from prehistoric times to present. (Well up to the time of publishing, which was in 1979.)
I am looking forward to this read as well as this possible study group.

Thank you so much for your fabulous post...please check back and post more comments. I think this back and forth discussion is a wonderful way to get those brain juices flowing.

Karen Radcliff said...

Hooray! My library has a copy of the Book of Looms. I have a secret desire (can it be secret if I'm posting online?) to build a loom--you know, I'm having a senior moment, the kind with two posts and warp weights, that leans against the wall? Not so easy in an apartment with two looms already.

I'm wondering about the archaeological evidence for woven fabrics in some of the places you mention. I'm reading through E.W. Barber's Prehistoric Textiles right now, which of course focuses on woven or otherwise structurally created fabrics (not so much on things like pounded bark cloth). In some ways we can trace whether a certain society had a weaving technology or a source of woven cloth, but it all depends on preservation techniques. Must read more...

PB::JJ::WW said...

Karen, Prehistoric Fabrics is on my list as well...

You may want to also look into Cloth and Human Experience Edited By Annette B. Weiner & Jane Schneider, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.
Also, look at the Textile Museum site
because they have some wonderful books and publications listed in their shop. http://www.textilemuseum.org/

I think the archeological evidence varies with regards to the woven items of these cultures, simply because of the areas environmental/climate history. By this I mean some areas are more apt to have more woven cloth artifacts then others because of the surroundings, if it is conducive to preserving the organic based fibers.

Another weaver in one of the Complex Weavers study groups mentioned that in Nordic countries, complex weave structures on simple band looms using pick-up technique has been a tradition for centuries.

I am not sure if the actual weaving process is the same, but the idea that these cultures invested so much time to master these very complicated pick-up weaves is compelling on so many levels.

Many of these patterns are significant because they are filled with symbolism. So the cultures ancient myths, sagas, stories also needs to be investigated.

Karen, this is my email: jj@weftywoman.com

Please contact me if you would like, because I really believe we are on a roll here...I looked at your fascinating blog: http://kharold.wordpress.com/
very interesting writing.

-Wefty Woman

joy Hilden said...

I was interested to find your blog when I googled Martha Stanley. Her article, The Bedouin Saha Weave and its Double Cloth Cousin, inspired me when I was living in Saudi Arabia. I had the opportunity to take a class from her in the Saha weave while at home in California, and it helped to launch me into doing research on Bedouin weaving. Since then, I did 12 years of field research in Saudi Arabia, wrote a number of articles and have written a book on the subject, which should be out in a year or 2.

An opinion about these complex weaves as a result of male domination: I think that the needs of the community and the lifestyle of the people is the source of this work. The creative, inventive impulse lives in all cultures and peoples, and we find ways to express them, using the materials at hand and the available time. The Bedouin wove tents and saddle bags because they needed them. They executed decorative and complex forms of weaving because of love of ornamentation. Don't we all love beauty in our surroundings? It's a source of identity and pride also.There's more information on my website.

Joy Totah Hilden

PB::JJ::WW said...

Joy, Thank you so much for commenting on the Wefty Woman site.


I have posted the link to your site on the front page of the blog as well.

Your writings are fascinating and I am looking so forward to your book. Your discussion on your site regarding the weft twinning that the Bedouin use in their weaving is what made me look more into the Arabian Culture as a whole. So I am very grateful to you, Thank you very much. -JJ Walts

Roseella said...

Hello Wefty Woman. Sounds like you have a wonderful exxperience ahead for you. I have been a spinner/weaver for thirty years myself(or trying). My maternal grt grt grt grandfather was a silk weaver by trade prior to coming to the states from southern Germany. In some of my research I found out that in Guatetmala that women did small weaving as on backstrap looms whereas the large loom work was done by the men. I'm not sure if you had heard this before but thought that it was interesting bit of information.
Good luck with your research. Rose Stoller