Thursday, 13 April 2017

Weaving a band for a Wedding dress.

Recently I was asked to weave a band for a wedding dress.  This was an unusual request but I was delighted to accept.  I weave many samples and have many ideas but I rarely weave for a specific commission.

Someone had seen my picture of the six handfasting bands that I wove for an exhibition. They featured in my very first blog entry.They are in silk and are one inch in width. I designed and wove them for an exhibition and they won a prize. They were sold to someone who wanted to give them as presents for couples for their weddings. The pattern is the Buddhist symbol of the Eternal Knot.



A handfasting band was not wanted however.  A narrow silk band to go around a wedding dress and to form the shoulder straps was required.  She wanted something with a Finnish theme to reflect her Finnish heritage.
Here is a picture I found on the web which shows the type of spaghetti straps that she wanted. The band was also to be sewn around the top of the dress.




I discussed with her various options. One idea is to use a pattern of hearts and flowers, joined hearts, hearts and diamonds or a heart meander pattern. I sent her a picture of some examples woven in cotton which are exactly half an inch in width.

Another idea is to have a non repeating length of pattern.  In Scandinavian countries ( Finland, Sweden and Norway) it was the custom in the early 19th century for a girl to weave her own marriage band - this was worn around the waist.  It would be about 4 metres in length and no pattern motif could be repeated. These were really works of art. At one end the initials of the couple and the year would be woven. By the end of the 19th century, this was no longer done.

The 100 motif band was woven for a challenge on the Online Guild.  It was their 10th anniversary so I wove it as 10x10.

My woven band of 100 motifs from Sweden and Finland.


This example is woven in very fine lace linen. The very fine linen is used for for the background and weft and the traditional red wool (with a centre green thread) as the pattern threads. The centre green thread is known as the heart of the band. The band is just less than half an inch in width.  I had spent many months analysing woven bands that I had seen in museums in Sweden and Finland so that I could devise the pattern.

Each pattern on a band had to be analysed and carefully transferred to a graph - in my case a weave programme.  This weave programme allows me to check that everything is accurate and quickly make corrections if they are not. If I had to manually copy it on to graph paper, the process would take much longer.


Deciding on the colours and pattern.

She liked the colours gold and yellow so I put a short sample warp on my loom. I was not sure whether I could weave in very fine silk.  Only 1 strand of 2/60 silk is used for the background threads and weft and a doubled end for the 13 pattern threads. I wove a short sample and sent it to her so that she could see the colours and quality.

Sample friendship bracelet and bookmark.


I had a short sample of warp left so I wove a bookmark and friendship bracelet. I have a memento of the weaving.

Colour Selection.


I have a selection of yellow and gold silks.  I sent a sample of the silks that I have available. Pictures distort the actual colour. My stash of yarn is rather larger than I would like! A final decision was made to use just the centre pattern thread in ivory to represent the 'heart of the band'.




Sewing the band.

I wanted to check that the band could be sewn neatly onto silk.  I took a scrap of my handwoven silk in red and sewed the band using purple silk thread and a fine needle.  I used purple so that I could check that the band was firmly sewn and the thread did not pull. Success!


Using a matching colour for the silk sewing thread, the band can be sewn invisibly onto the dress.

After some discussion about colours and what was needed, I started to weave the band. I thought that it would be useful to time how long it takes.

I use my 32 shaft Megado electronic dobby loom.  The pattern is one that I put together for the Online Guild but it took me many months of hard work to analyse the motifs from numerous photographs that I had taken across Sweden and Finland.  Now that I have it graphed it and checked that it is accurate, weaving is straightforward .The time taken to weave does not take into account the immense effort to find these patterns originally.

This band is a unique addition to a wedding dress.

Time analysis


Making the warp, winding onto the back beam:   30 minutes
Threading the heddles and threading the reed:      24 minutes
Designing the initials and date motif:                    30 minutes

Weaving:  8 hours
Finishing:  approx 30 minutes.

Total time = approx 10 hours

Length of finished band = 422cm  Width just under 12 mm  0.5 inches

The total number of picks to weave this band is 5,515.  Imagine having to weave this using a rigid heddle and back strap.  It would take such a long time.


Finished band. The centre pattern thread is ivory but the effect is too subtle to show. 

Completion.

The band was completed in time for the dressmaker to finish the wedding dress. I am hoping that she will send me a picture of the dress so that I can see how it looked. I also wove two bookmarks with her initials and date so that she and her mother could have a memento of the occasion.

It was a pleasure to weave this item which will be treasured.

Susan J Foulkes  April 2017






Saturday, 1 April 2017

Dressing To Impress: Chinese formal and informal costumes

Dressing to Impress

'Dressing to Impress': Chinese Formal and Informal Costume and Dress Accessories
(Qing Dynasty 1644 - 1911)

Lecture by David Rosier.

Wednesday 8th February 2017 at 7:30 organised by the Oriental Museum, Durham.


The Friends of the Oriental Museum organise a series of talks each year which are open to the public. https://www.dur.ac.uk/oriental.museum/

David Rosier lived for a many years in Hong Kong and worked extensively in China. During this time he and his wife became interested in the stunning imperial textiles that they saw and started to create an extensive collection of Court Costume predominately from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). His previous talk on Dragon Imagery in Chinese Imperial Textiles was colourful, informative and exciting.  I have a new appreciation of the range and purpose of the robes seen in many museums. 

His previous talk was described in my blog for December 2015 and you can quickly go it it with this link.  https://durhamweaver64.blogspot.co.uk/2015_12_01_archive.html

For the talk in February 2017, David showed us the many and varied clothing items worn by officials and the military and also described dress accessories. These ranged from elegant purses, spectacle cases and jewellery.  There were many examples of these textiles for us to see in detail.




My note taking skills have declined so I am doubly indebited to David for supplying these notes to accompany the pictures on this blog.  He is generous with his time and has a real love of these wonderful examples of Chinese costumes.

General costume


The informal costume items date from the 19th Century and would have been worn by men and women within the nobility (Imperial Clan) and the officials (and their wives) of the 9 Ranks of both Civil Officials (Mandarins) and 9 Ranks of Military Officials. In addition these items would also have been worn by those who would be regarded as being part of Chinese High Society (eminent scholars, wealthy landowners and merchants). 

The costumes worn, plus dress accessories, were not governed by the strict regulations applied to Court Costume and therefore the wearer could determine the design and iconography to be used. The items would be produced on commission by Commercial Workshops, as opposed to the Imperial Workshops, with designs either being the unique requirement of the wearer or taken from pattern books maintained by the workshop.

Whilst the majority of items originate from Commercial Workshops a few items (such as the Mirror Cover) are evidence of the skills of ladies of Chinese High Society. Embroidery was regarded as the 'premier feminine art form' and girls born into elite families would be trained in the art and expected to produce exceptional items. A prospective daughter-in-law would often produce a selection of such items to hopefully convince her future mother-in-law that she had the appropriate skills and was a suitable bride for her son. These items are generally unique in their design.


Civil Rank Badge:

This is a front badge for a 2nd Rank Civil Official. The central split indicates its position on a plain outer robe known as a Pu Fu-the badge on the back would be solid. The bird is a Golden Pheasant. The border symbols are alternating wishes for long life and happiness. Bats are an indication of happiness as are the Buddhist swastika design so they indicate in effect a wish for 'double happiness' The position of the sun symbol indicates this is a badge for a man - his wife would have had the sun in the opposite corner.


Badge for the front of a robe of a Civil Official.


I particularly liked the Golden Pheasant on the Civil Official’s rank badge.  It is embroidered in satin stitch with gold and silver couching.  It was made in Suzhou about 1870.  The bird is very lively with beautiful colours for the tail feathers and wings. I think that this will be a great source of inspiration for my a design for weaving.


Purses


Formal and informal robes had no pockets and any items required day to day for practical purposes were attached to a belt known as a Chao Dai. There were ceremonial and informal versions of the belts. Whilst there were a myriad of items created to be worn in this way purses were by far the most common articles. This was due in part to the tradition, from the Emperor downwards, to giving embroidered purses as a gift for Chinese/Lunar New Year.

Some were produced in the Imperial Workshops but the majority came from specialist Commercial Workshops and were either made from an existing pattern or a unique design was created at the request of the person commissioning the piece. These decorative accessories were most popular in 19th Century but some surviving examples date back to 18th Century but tended to be plainer in design/decoration. These items were 'unisex' and so it is impossible to tell if this was worn by a man or women. Unlike formal court costume these items were handed down the generations as were informal robes.

Purse 1: a coin purse.

Purse 1: this is a coin purse with a protective flap and the embroidery is suggestive of production in Canton. The embroidery is fine but the design is rather basic indicating this is a lower quality item made from an established pattern


Purse 2: a dalian purse.


Purse 2: this is known as a dalian purse. It hooks over the belt and has two separate compartments. This example combines a number of symbols associated with longevity such as the shou symbol, peony and lotus. The animal is a tiger (4th Rank Military animal) but also used as a protective symbol for young boys. David thinks that this may have been a birthday gift for a young boy and was probably made in Suzhou or Nanjing.

Purse 3 Tobacco or snuff purse

Purse 3: this is a tobacco or snuff purse shaped as a gourd. The size and design indicates that this is late 18th Century. The design has symbols of happiness and the tassels have the Buddhist everlasting knot design added. 


Ear Muffs:


These would have been produced for women living in Northern China where the winter climate is cold. They are embroidered with a selected design of an ancient landscape. There are remnants of the rabbit fur that would have lined the ear muffs. It probably dates to the mid 19th Century. 



Spectacle cases: 


These are for a man and a very common item worn from the belt. Women also had these cases but the glasses tended to be much smaller hence would have a much more delicate case. The bats are a symbol of happiness and hope for good fortune. The trellis background pattern is a decoration that had been used for many centuries but gave a 'modern'  or 'ageless' feel to the design. It is difficult to be specific on the date but it is probably from the 19th Century.



A case for spectacles.

Pocket Watch Cover:


Pocket watch cover



This is a spectacular piece from the late 19th Century given that the inner mauve lining indicates the use of aniline/artificial dyes which were not commercially available until 1890's in China. It may have been added later as the embroidery suggests an earlier production time.
The silk ground is in Imperial Yellow the colour reserved for Emperor/Empress so far as regulated court costume was concerned. Whilst this colour could be used by others for informal items it was rarely selected as a colour given its associations with the Emperor.




Because of the superb embroidery, David thinks that this may have been produced for the Emperor to give as a gift. The Peacock represents the 3rd Rank for a Civil Official but here it is a symbol associated with splendour and wealth. The peony and pine trees are other symbols associated with longevity.


Collar:

Collars were fully detachable and were worn by women and children. Men did not wear decorative collars - only a stiff reinforced plain collar with their informal robes (Long robe (Nei Tao), 3/4 length tunic top (Wei Tao) plus collar-the full outfit was called a Chang Fu.

Collars ranged from small to vast and there was a massive range of design elements. Collars were detachable so designs appropriate to the occasion could be worn. Collar design often was coordinated with sleeve panel and robe trim themes. The plants on this collar relate to specific months of the year. Each month had a plant allocated as did the seasons.

A collar for a child with embroidered flowering plants

This is exquisite.  The curving shapes of the panels and the elegant embroidery make it a beautiful piece for a child to wear.

Sleeve panels:

Sleeve panels in terms of design were as variable as the collars ranging from auspicious or religious designs, stories from classical literature to complete random selection of imagery. They were detachable and so worn only when the design was relevant to the occasion. They were often bought with a set of matching robe trim and a collar.

They were created by specialist workshops. In David's collection and his experience of examining these textiles, it is the only item that mixes Chinese and Western images. He suspects that these were made for the wife of an official in a trading port, probably Canton, who was involved with trade with foreigners. It is unlikely to have been created for a wife of Western Trader as these items would not have displayed anything other than Chinese decoration although there are always exception to the rule. The border design has no particular meaning-purely decorative.



Silk sleeve panels




Close up of one of the boats.  


Mirror Cover:

The mirror cover is almost certainly a unique item created by one of the ladies within an elite family. It dates from early 19th Century with different domestic scenes on both sides and an inner silk-lined section to protect the mirror whilst travelling.

The interesting aspect is that the creator has recycled some much older scraps of silk brocade. These appear to be from robes typical of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and have been identified as 16th Century. Recycling of textiles has been prevalent with textiles for many centuries and continued into 20th Century following the collapse of Imperial Rule in 1911.  Items such as Rank Badges were turned into ladies evening bags, screens etc and sleeve panels/Robe trim created table coverings and similar. This was most prevalent 1920-1940 and were often bought by Westerners.


A mirror cover
The embroidery is exquisite. I love the scenes of everyday life around the edges.  The two central characters are playing the game of Go.

Jewelry 

The times that I found most interesting were the items of jewellery.  These are made with Kingfisher feathers.  These feathers were farmed and then the sections were glued into the metal framework ensuring that the adhesive did not discolour the outer feather.
hairpin

close up of another hair ornament. What delicate work!
Last year I visited Basel and there was a special exhibition in the museum.  They had a display of Chinese jewellery which the curator was eager to show me.  I think he said that it was made with peacock feathers but the uniform blue would seem more typical of the kingfisher. (David confirmed that these are made with Kingfisher feathers.)

 Here are some examples from Basel.  Some of the items were so delicately made that the ends of the flowers  or wings of the bird would tremble when worn.  This would add to the iridescence of the colour.












As usual, Davids talk  finished all too quickly.  The items he brought for us to see were spread over several tables.  Although we could not touch, it was lovely to be able to see these items so clearly.

Glass display cabinets in museums although vital, do make examining textiles very difficult. 




Porcelain flower and Kingfisher feathers


David sent me a photograph of another piece from his collection. This decoration is so delicate.It is a hair pin with a porcelain flower. 

I want to thank David again for being so generous as to supply most of these detailed notes about his collection and additional photographs.  I can recommend him as a speaker for any group interested in textiles, clothing and accessories of China. 

Contact details for David Rosier.


David can be contacted at drosier@yahoo.com to discuss a possible lecture or special interest day topic and the logistics associated with staging an event.


Here is a list of lectures:

Lectures of approximately 60 minutes cover a range of topics linked with Chinese Imperial Court Costume of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The most popular lectures include:
• Chinese Imperial Court Insignia of Rank-‘Ultimate Power Dressing’
• Chinese Imperial Court Costume-‘A Journey through the Emperor’s Wardrobe’
• Dragon Imagery in Chinese Imperial Costume-‘Ruling from the Dragon Throne’
• Emperor Qianlong-Ultimate Renaissance Ruler and Fine Art Collector.
In addition David gives full and half day Special Interest/Study Days ( ‘Dressing the Emperor’s Court’) plus a double lecture session. All talks are illustrated with digital images plus a display of relevant textiles.

He lectures regularly to textile and costume organisations, historical societies, museums, universities, Chinese Cultural groups, The National Trust and Art Fund around UK and is an accredited lecturer for the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). http://www.nadfas.org.uk/ which has 300 societies around UK and approaching 100,000 members.

There is a link to a lecture David gave for the Oriental Rug and Textiles Society. You can view his talk here. http://www.orientalrugandtextilesociety.org.uk/imperial-wardrobe-talk.php


Susan J Foulkes April 2017

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Travels around the Baltic:St Petersburg


The Kunstkamera  (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography) in St Petersburg, Russia


The Kunstkammer in February 2017 
We visited St Peterburg in February this year.  Having seen the city in the summer when it was very hot, we thought that it would be interesting to see the winter season. Yes, it was cold and it was the first time that I had seen a wide frozen river.

 The Kunstkamera (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography) is one of the first museums in the world.  It was established by Peter the Great, an enlightened and intelligent monarch who started to collect curiosities. This was a fashionable educational pursuit at the time. The heart of the collection is still made up of exhibits collected during Peter's lifetime.  It houses over one million ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological artefacts. This beautiful building, on the right in the photograph, was built to house the collection and opened in 1734.

The web site is   http://www.kunstkamera.ru/en/

Mobile app.

The museum houses a wonderful collection of clothing and artefacts from many cultures.  The web site is good but the mobile app is wonderful. Going around the museum, I could upload information from QR points on the display cabinets. However, you do not need to go to the museum in person. You can browse the collection yourself by downloading this app for your  mobile phone.  It is free in the app store. There are lots of pictures and information about the exhibits.

The Kunstkamera Museum guide app. 

This app is very easy to use.



Start to browse by clicking on the museum guide.
One you have clicked onto the museum guide you can explore each floor of the museum.

Floor one. 
On each floor you can virtually walk around and click onto any of the numbered display cabinets. You can enlarge each floor so that the numbered cabinets appear.

There is plenty of information and pictures of the exhibits to see in detail. This picture shows Floor One, Hall 4, Japan and case 33. Clicking on the case brings up the information and pictures. It is about Kabuki and Noh theatre in Japan.

Inside the museum.



Here I am wandering around the museum.

Here are some of the amazing garments from 19th century Alaska.

Close up of the border from the Alaskan coat. 

The border on the coat is particularly attractive.


The cabinets displayed the garments and other artefacts clearly.  As you can see, many of the cases could be viewed from three sides which is very useful when examining textiles.


Here is a display of narrow band weaving from Africa. It is on Floor One, Hall 6 Africa,  case number 8 if you want to see it on the mobile app.  The textiles are gorgeous.

close up of textiles.

My interest was taken by a Manchurian costume. This can be seen on Floor Two, Hall 9 China, Mongolia and Korea in  case number 33 on the mobile app.


Costume from Manchuria with a woven belt.

This was the only belt on display which is similar to belts from countries in northern Europe in particular to those in the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania.

The central area has a pattern with 11 pattern threads on a background of half basket weave.  There is a small pattern on either side which is a supplementary warp pattern on a background of warp faced plain weave. The fringe on the ends is used extensively in the Baltic area.  Was this an export item?

I consulted David Rosier who is an expert on Chinese textiles. He took me through the history of the Manchu. (See my next blog in April on Dressing to Impress).

As the Manchu took power in 1644 they had very clear ideas on the design of Court Costume but this was in terms of structure rather than designs/iconography. The Manchu adopted the Confucian based system of government and all the infrastructure that had existed in previous dynasties. As such they did little to change the iconography on costumes initially and this was adapted gradually up until 1759 when Emperor Qianlong undertook the most comprehensive review, revision and expansion of the costume regulations ever undertaken. This has not provided us with any specific design patterns attributed to this group.

However the Manchu evolved into traders in 16th and 17th century, in particular in fur and ginseng. They certainly had trade links with Russia. It may be that this belt was a commissioned piece. Of course, it may be an ethnic minority piece of China.   More information is needed. 
Thank you David, for your comments about this piece.


Close up of the ends of the belt. 


Weave pattern for 11 pattern threads.



Here is the weave pattern showing two of the motifs on the Manchurian belt with the cross pattern. There are 11 pattern threads. Each pattern is repeated twice with the cross motif in-between.  The whole belt was not visible but there were eight patterns on the front each repeated twice and separated by the cross pattern. It would be lovely to be able to see the whole belt. 
I have not had time to weave this pattern, but it is on my list of things to do.

Enjoy your virtual visit to the museum. 
In a later blog I will show items from my visit to the Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg.  This is one of the largest museums of its type in the world and the collections are simply stunning. You can have a preview here.  http://eng.ethnomuseum.ru/

Peter the Great


The Bronze Horseman
This is the statue of Peter the Great in St Petersburg. it is known as The Bronze Horseman.


The Hermitage Museum - The General Staff Building.

We visited the Hermitage Museum which now has a modern annex in the General Staff Building. The internal spaces of the building have been creatively altered to make a stunning new set of exhibition rooms.

The new staircase leading up to the exhibition rooms.

The first exhibition space. 


Uniform of Peter the Great
In the Hermitage, there is a portrait of Peter the Great wearing his military uniform with his sash being worn around the waist. Amazingly the actual uniform which dates to before 1709 is on display with the military sash  near the original portrait.
Unfortunately I could not find out any further information about this uniform.
The sash interested me as I know that many military sashes are made using the sprang technique.  I looked carefully at the sash in display but could not see the details that might identify the technique. 


Close up of sash.  It appears to have been striped but the colours have faded.
During the International Conference of Braiding at Tacoma in July 2016, I went to a lecture by Carol James.  She told the story of how she made a replica of a sprang military sash which had belonged to George Washington. 

Carol has made a special study of military sashes made using the sprang technique. 

Technique    from this web address:



Her YouTube video How to Make a Sash using the Sprang Technique is excellent.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoFMeGNshcM

Carol recreated the red silk sash which tradition states was given to George Washington by Major General Edward Braddock. She has written a very useful guide to identifying a sprang sash.  You can view the article here.

http://www.clothestellstories.com/index.php/sprang

Update

Unfortunately, I was unable to decide if the sash belonging to peter the Great was made by the sprang technique. However, Carol James has been in touch.

She sent me a photograph of a sash that she made which showed the S lean on the left and the Z lean on the right. This is diagnostic of the two-at-the-same-time work of sprang.

Take a closer look at the sash of Peter the Great.

close up of fringes of sash
Look at this close up of the two fringes on the sash.  Carol thinks that there is an  S lean to the stitches on one end of the sash and a Z lean on the other. This, in combination with the chain-link-fence type of structure is diagnostic of sprang.

She also thinks that there looks like several different qualities of thread have been used to compose the different stripes in the sash. The manner in which the holes stay open, it looks like a stiffer material, perhaps linen.

Many thanks Carol for your comments about this military sash.

Special Exhibition at the General Staff Building.

I was very fortunate to be visiting in February as the special exhibition in this annex was about Mariano Fortuny - the great designer of the 20th century, celebrated by his contemporaries as “The Magician of Venice.” The Fortuny fabrics, especially the Delphos dresses were stunning.

The light levels had to be kept low but here are two images taken from Pinterest and the Met.


The Delphos Dress by Fortuny

This dress and more can be seen on the Met web site at http://www.metmuseum.org/

The shimmering bronze outfit is at  http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/81594

Ever since I first saw one of these dresses in a museum many years ago, I have longed to wear one!

Happy weaving.

Susan J Foulkes  March 2017

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A unique four shaft and four treadle band loom

Many years ago, I bought a four shaft, four treadle band loom.  It was made by Michael Crompton a tapestry weaver. You can find out more about him here.  http://www.textileartist.org/michael-crompton-textile-weaver/

He was leaving his lovely cottage in Weardale and concentrating on tapestry weaving so he sold all his large looms.  He had made and adapted the design to suit his weaving.  At the time,  I was teaching weaving at a local authority Arts Centre and I bought a large floor loom for the class.  For myself, I bought this charming band loom.  Fortunately I am tall with long legs as the reach to the treadles is quite awkward for anyone with short legs.

The loom is beautifully made in solid oak and consequently quite heavy. There are no metal parts at all.  All the joints are dovetailed.

Michael Crompton's band loom.


Side view showing the castle
The beater is very sturdy.  It came with a one reed but I found some reed off cuts of different dents to use in the loom.


Detachable treadles - they unscrew from the bar at the back of the loom

He designed the treadles so that if the loom is transported, the foot bars can be unscrewed so that the loom can be laid flat.


On the side is a trademark carved bird.



He and his wife used the loom to weave mug mats to match the line of table mats that they sold. With the band loom came a sack full of ready made warps.  I am now down to the last one as the warps are very long.

Here are some mug mats I wove on the previous white wool warp.

Two complete ;mug mats with the last set cut off the loom.

The wool is coarse carpet wool.  I hem stitch the mug mats then cut them apart.  The mats go into the wash so that they felt slightly. This holds the fringes together. Then the fringes can be cut neatly. They need to be pressed quite hard whilst still damp.

They are ideal as mug mats.  They are absorbent and protect the surface of a table from the heat of the mug.  They can also be washed.



Here is the weave drawdown. There are 48 ends of brown rug wool.


Two variations for mug mats


Here are examples that I wove on the brown warp.



Here you can see the strip of four mug mats that have been stitched and washed but not yet trimmed.
The slight action of felting holds the ends together neatly.

I still have lots of  warp left so I am going to try different colours for the weft.

The mats are very practical and wash well.

This loom is going to be sold as I am running short of space.  I wanted to ensure that it was in full working order.

Happy weaving

Susan j Foulkes March 2017