Thursday, 1 March 2018

Hair Braiding at the Weave Fair in Växjö 2017

There were many lovely stands at the Weave Fair. I met Nina Sparr who is an accomplished hair braider. I saw her a few years ago at the Weave Fair in Borås where I took this picture.

Weave Fair in Borås 2011

At the 2017 Weave Fair in Växjö, Nina was again demonstrating and had beautiful examples of her work for sale.

Weave Fair in Växjö, 2017

Concentration is needed to weave such fine hair.

Here is a close up of the underneath of the braiding stool.

It was wonderful to see how the hair is made into such pretty objects. I made a short video on my phone to show the braiding process. I have uploaded it to my Facebook page.

Hair heart

Here is the pretty heart shape which I bought. It is very small and the pound coin will help with scale.

Hair heart and one pound coin

Nina lives in Våmhus, Sweden which has a long tradition of hair work. The Våmhus Tourist Organisation has established hair work as an important part of the cultural heritage of the village. During the summer holidays, demonstrations and classes are held so that these craft skills can be passed on to a wider audience.

In Tacoma in 2016, there was a lecture by Anna Sparr entitled Making Hair Work. Her lecture is in the Conference Proceedings page 79 -82.  Anna is a textile conservator at Frederiksberg Castle in Denmark and was originally from Sweden. The history of hair braiding and the imporatnce to the local economy in the 19th century is fascinating. The 'hair girls' of  Våmhus travelled all over Europe to earn money for their village. Thye travelled widely in small groups; Hamburg, Dublin, St Petersberg, Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen, Lubeck, Magdeburg, Berlin, Vyborg, Oslo,even Moscow. These travelling workers left their small village at the end of a harvest returning at midsummer the following year. An amazing story showing enterprise and courage!

Braids, Bands & Beyond - Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Braiding
The Braid Society ed R Spady 2016    ISBN 978-0-9573127-1-5

Available from the Braid Society

If you want to buy a coy, here is the link:

Postscript and coffee break.

In Scandinavia, I became a great fan of cinnamon and cardamon buns. Another Swedish bakery has opend in London which I can recommend to anyone who wants a real taste of Scandinavia.
Fabrique in Earlham Street London

Yes, very tempting!

Susan J Foulkes  March 2018

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sámi Tartan and shawls

This lovely cushion is made by Stoorstalka.  The colours are delightful and it brightens up the room. It is very comfortable.

A beautiful cushion from Stoorstalka

Tartan as a fabric has travelled around the world, not least because of the entrepreneurial spirit of Scottish men. On our travels in Finland, we discovered in 1820 James Finlayson established a cotton mill because he recognised the potential of the fast flowing river.  We started to notice the number of times in the history of places we visited the importance of Scottish immigrants.

Close up of the material

A postcard from the Stoorstalka shop shows the delightful shawls which look just the thing to wear in such cold weather. Shawls are such a practical and yet decorative item. Their brightness is very visible in northern climes when sunlight is very low in the winter.  I think it is a shame that scarves have taken their place.

Bright cheerful shawls

Addition to post

I have had some beautiful pictures sent tome by a friend who is cruising the Norwegian coast.  here is a great picture of a Sami shawl.


First Nation and Métis women across Canada also took to wearing tartan shawls which were worn up until the 1950's. The wearing of shawls was also very meaningful in other ways. With a shawl, you can lift it up to hide or conceal your face which can indicate a willingness or unwillingness to communicate. Shyness, modesty and concealment can all be conveyed with a simple gesture of the shawl. With the lower part of the face concealed behind the shawl, eyes alone can communicate and can show emotion surprisingly well.
Look at this web site for a picture of the tartan shawl being worn by a Métis woman.

The Aran Islands

Inishmaan in the 1940's
The women of the Aran islands off the coast of Ireland, also appreciated the bright tartan patterns. The black and white photograph cannot show us the colours of the tartan but the pattern is clear. Tartan travels everywhere.


In the wonderful textile museum in Prato, Italy  which I visited last year, had a book about tartan which was written to accompany an exhibition in 2004 (See my blog entry for June 1st 2017). The booklet is called, 'Tartan: the Romantic Tradition - Plaid, a fabric and a cultural identity.'

The exhibition was 'a gesture of gratitude towards a textile design that accompanied, from the mid 18th century, the destiny and success of our industry and thus of our company'. They describe the long and intense bond which grew up over the decades between a fabric and a distance culture:

 'The tartan is a reference point in western taste and for the aesthetics of all time.'

Tartan is everywhere.  


This week in my Sunday newspaper, The Observer,  there is an article by Morwenna Ferrier about tartan with the headline;

 'Loud proud and rebellious: tartan is back as designers celebrate the spirit of punk.' 

It seems that fashion has appropriated the tartan yet again, with labels such as' Balenciaga to rising star Loverboy.' The article finishes with this:

'Wilton believes that the resurgence in popularity of tartan reflects something deeper than a designer's heritage, or even a colour scheme. "It represents rebellious youth but, at times of uncertainty, people want to feel like they belong. Tartan is a good visual identifier - and provides a sort of security."
The Observer, 11.02.18 pages 16 - 17.
You can read the article here: 

Tartan is back.

Susan J Foulkes Feb 2018

Monday, 1 January 2018

Cataloguing the World 3: The Inkle Loom.

Do you remember this image from my previous bog about inkle looms from January 2017 .  Whilst on holiday in Finland in September we visited Turku, the old capital of Finland.
Turku castle was restored after the war and is a must see sight for anyone visiting the town. 

Turku Castle, Finland

The dining tableau.

In one room, the displays were captivating. The centre of the room had a tableau of mannequins in period costume. The information was extensive. Displays around the room had various artefacts relating to costume. One had this picture as a backdrop.
I did not expect to see an enlarged picture of the inkle loom.

It is from Le Livre de bonnes moeurs de Jacques Legrand which dates to the 15th century. The probable date is 1490.

The close up gives the detail of how the weaving is threaded around the posts.  Unfortunately as the weaving has not started, the process is unclear

Inkle looms now come in various shapes and sizes.  There is a wonderful variety available, particularly in the USA.

In this upright model the weaver has a good view of the woven band. 

Double sided looms are also popular.  The pegs will not bend in use and the whole loom is very stable.

This one is illustrated in the Estonian band weaving book. Again with a removable side, the pegs will stay level and will not warp.

This crescent shape is so elegant.

You can even make one out of a cardboard box!

Another home made loom. 

This loom was made by Margaret Parker and her husband out of waste water pipes.

They made it following the instructions in the link to an Interweave Press booklet on band weaving, but it was difficult to understand how to get the two sheds. The geometry of the loom, the path taken by the warp and the position of the heddle and shed sticks seemed to make this impossible. They made some modifications: .

- made the heddles at least twice as long which means there is  nowhere on the loom which can be used as a former for  making them.
- tied the shed rod firmly once we had got it in place.
- use hand manipulation to get the two sheds

Although it seems bow shaped it works well. As it is not as rigid as a wooden inkle loom it can become a bit skew whiff (or wonky!) with use but it is easy to straighten it all out again from time to time and make it all the angles sit at 90 degrees. This does not seem to affect the tension across the width of the weaving.
Inkle looms are expensive, so this cheap alternative is ideal for someone who would like to try this craft. York and District Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers have planned an informal workshop for people interested to make their own from this plan.

Floor inkle looms

I have a floor inkle loom given to me by a friend.  It is not in the best of conditions but it works. The earliest floor inkle I have found is from Scotland.  It is dated 1688. My floor inkle loom has a sliding peg in the centre collumn so that the tension can be altered.

A Scottish floor inkle loom dated 1688

Floor inkles also come in a variety of shapes. Some give the opportunity to make very long band indeed. This is being used for tablet weaving but is also designed for inkle weaving.

This lovely floor Cendrel inkle by Leclerc looms is an updated and very practical design  What I particularly like is the fact that it can be used as a warping frame as well.

The Cendrel floor inkle loom and warping frame

These two versions are very attractive and allow for a very long warp. They look very stable and there is plenty of room for the weaver's legs. 

Here are two Swedish band looms which give the weaver the choice to weave as an inkle loom with heddles or with two shafts to make the sheds. 

This is my Swedish band loom with my own handy brackets for warping.

Finally, I found a picture of this tape loom.  It is not an inkle loom but has two rigid heddles operated by foot treadles.

It is a fascinating version of a tape loom from the Landis Valley Farm Museum, a museum that documents Pennsylvania German culture and history. This museum looks wonderful and I would love to visit it.

I was particularly interested in this unusual design because of the picture in the frontispiece of a book from 1524.

This is a page from the  Ein new Modelbuch by Johann Schönsperger the Younger (German, active 1510–30) and dates to 1524. You can see the large loom on the bottom right of the engraving which shows a woman weaving a narrow band using a rigid heddle. Examine the original image here:

She appears to have two pedals to use but there is no connection between the pedals and the rigid heddle. I suspect that the artist was depicting an early version of the loom from the museum in America.

Tablet weaving

Of course there are also some very creative designs for tablet weaving.

A table tablet loom with a very long warp.

An elegant design for a short warp.

This looks very stable and ornate with the horses head carving.

A magnificent tablet loom which looks as though it should have been used by the Vikings.

This is a very interesting variation.  This design allows for the warp ends to be untwisted when weaving with tablets.  The warp can be as long as will pack onto the warp beam at the front.

A big thank you all the Museums, Universities and Galleries who are taking the time to digitise their collections and to Pinterest for providing a way for people with similar interests to share their finds.

Happy New Year to everyone.  Enjoy your weaving.
Susan J Foulkes January 2018