The Textiles of the Nile Valley Conference is held every two years in Antwerp, organized by Antoine De Moor, Petra Linscheid, and Cäcilia Flück. I arrived in Antwerp at the central train station ... a truly beautiful building.
The conference is held at the headquarters of KatoeNatie. This is also the location of an amazing collection of Coptic garments. I presented a paper along with Ines Bogenspurger and Julia Galliker on the subject of textiles found in the ancient town of Karanis. My part of the research had to do with examining and reconstructing bonnets from the collection at the Kelsey Museum.
I set up a display of reconstructed bonnets from the Kelsey and Krefeld collections. I invited participants to touch, and to try them on.
Curators and scholars were very happy to be able to touch and e explored a variety of ways to wear these bonnets.
Proceedings from these conferences get published in a lovely, full-color book. My paper from 2015, presented with Fabienne Medard, appears in the volume we received at this year's conference. Yes, this year's papers will be published in a volume that will be released in 2019.
En route to the British Museum, I stopped off to visit a friend who lives near Sheffield. I met Andy and Elaine a few years back. Elaine really wanted to know more about sprang. They were, at that time preparing to participate in an event, re-doing the battle of Marathon in Greece ... he was going to be one of the bad guys. I made him a pair of leggings, appropriate to the time period, and based on research by Dagmar Drinkler.
It seems that Andy has worn these leggings to several events. Imagine my surprise when I read on the internet that sprang is not at all suitable for leggings! Andy showed me a post indicating that, with one broken thread, the pants will fall apart. This, I thought, is the perfect moment for a bit of testing, some experimental archaeological if you will.
Andy allowed me to cut a thread in his leggings. To make it a fair test, I cut a thread at the knee, a place that would be affected by movement of the leg.
Andy took a picture of me cutting the thread just in front of his left knee.
Here you see the broken thread at the left knee.
Andy then went outside to do some work in the yard.
He cleared his deck of the leaves, and tended to his leaf-blowing machine.
His leggings stayed on the entire time ... no falling apart ... no falling off. Indeed no increase in the size of the hole. The wool threads stayed put.
Wool has a certain 'grabbiness' to it's surface, and the wool sock-yarn that I had used to make the leggings is no exception.
Yes, I've seen silk sashes in museum collections with long vertical slits, where a thread broke. The slipperiness of silk as well as the simple interlinking structure would allow a slit to develop ... but the slit will only open up so far. At some point the length of the cut threads will, itself, prevent further un-doing. The structure of the zig-zag pattern in these leggings also helps prevent un-doing.
I repaired the damage I had caused, tied a knot to mend the cut ends, and tucked the knot to the inside of the leggings.
The damage is now repaired, the knot almost imperceptible.
A big Thank You to Andy Cropper for permitting me to carry out this test.
I attended the 2017 CIETA conference, held at The Hermitage.
Very interesting discussions of textiles as symbols of power. The Hermitage treated us to a special exhibit of their collections ... including a display featuring garments worn by Peter the Great. His military uniform included a sprang sash.
The curator told me that the sash originally was tricolore: red, white, and blue. The fiber is silk with silver threads worked in. You can tell it is sprang, because one side features an S twist to the stitches, the other side features Z twist. There is a line at the shoulder where the S and Z meet.
The organizers of the Intermountain Weavers Conference asked me back for this year. I taught three classes: intro to sprang, sprang lace and sprang in S&Z. The students were eager and enthusiastic. The world has a few more practitioners of sprang!
Then on to the DC area, to be specific, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I’ll gave a talk on the subject of sprang. I also handed over another replica of the Braddock sash. This time the beneficiary was Carlyle House. They will soon unveil a mannequin dressed out as Edward Braddock in his military uniform.
Then on to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. They have a collection of some 200 pieces of sprang bonnets, some complete, some just little bits.
Researcher Julia Galliker and I had a look at these pieces. We’re intending to compile our findings into a database (Julia has a gift for databases) and we will present this information at the Textiles of the Nile Valley Conference in Antwerp, Belgium, at the end of October.
Here I am, on a 3-city teaching tour of Colorado. Spring weather is living up to it’s reputation, sunshine, rain, snow, sleet, and then sun again.
I am teaching classes in Montrose, Boulder, and Colorado Springs.
Everyone works on her own frame, creating several sample pieces. In the introductory class, we explore the basic interlinking stitch, and then some variations. You learn the basic stitch, some finishing techniques, and then how to start from ‘scratch’.
My hostesses to date have been lovely. Many thanks to Bobbie, Mary, Janet, Sue, and Cheryl. I’ve been treated to a tour of Black Canyon of the Gunnison Park, and a drive through the Rockies, from Montrose to Boulder. Looking forward to a tour of the Schacht Loom factory.
In-between teaching, I’ve kept myself busy working on some Coptic designs, working out the pattern, and then testing them by making sample pieces.
Susan Foulkes is an amazing textile artist, teacher and researcher. In her blog she records things she sees on her travels. Her most recent post on https://durhamweaver64.blogspot.ca/ tells of her trip through the Baltics, and St Peterstburg in particular. She includes a photo of the 1709 uniform of Peter the Great, and a closeup of the sash … sure looks to me like sprang.
A few years back I used some of my single spun wool to make a bonnet. The wool was quite dark in color, and does not photograph well.
I’ve since made another bonnet, this time using some commercially spun linen.
The pattern is based on a bonnet in the collection of the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen. The pale color in the linen makes it easier to see the stitches.
It is really a few simple stitches, combined to make an interesting pattern and a lovely bonnet.
Now, examining historic hair nets, some of them were made from tightly spun singles. I experimented with some tightly spun wool, not treating the overtwist, nor waiting for it to settle down. It worked just fine. The weaving was easier than I expected, not really hampered by the extra twist. The finished piece, well, yes, I soaked it and blocked it twice, but it looks just fine.
The Art and History museum in Brussels, Belgium, has a lovely collection of sprang items, including a pair of socks. These socks feature sprang ‘uppers’ and a knitted sole. I decided to try my hand at this.
I began with a 3 ft long (75 cm) warp.
I worked these threads for about six inches (15 cm). I then added more warp.
This now, is the complete warp for the ‘upper’ of the sock.
I separated the two sock uppers, cutting along the midline of the warp.
OK, to be honest, when I measured out the second, shorter warp, on a warping board, my first attempt was too long. I realized this as soon as I tried to mount the second warp beside the first. I should have warped directly onto the sprang frame. What to do? I am too lazy to un-wind that warp, and do not want to waste the yarn … so I set that warp aside. Now that the socks are complete, I think I’ll try a pair of fingerless gloves.
I started working at the fingers. I’ll have one hole for the thumb, and another larger one for the rest of the fingers. This means I started out working two separate strips.
Now, making these up into gloves, I decided I needed a small bit to breach the gap between index finger and thumb. So, I set up two tiny warps.
Some of the things I’ve completed recently
an oblique-weave sash
And a silk military sash
And a better version of that Egyptian turban
This replica turban is based on a visit with a mummy in the collection of the Guimet Museum in Lyon, France.
The turban is interesting as it makes use of a common phenomena in sprang: one side is not the same length as the other side. Here this was done intentionally. The part around the head is 3/4 the size of the ‘tails’. That is to say, the tails were packed more loosely.
Here’s how it went:
Once blocked, the tails can be wrapped around the front of the head, transforming this into a turban.
Spring is slow in coming here in Winnipeg. Today was a balmy above freezing temperature, but back down to below freezing tonight.
Meanwhile, I’m busy with my sprang. I’ve been busy making military sashes.
I’m also working on another pair of sprang leggings. These were inspired by images of Persian warriors fighting the ancient Greeks. Indeed a friend of mine is a re-enactor, who plays ‘Hoplite’ and will be going to Marathon, Greece, to re-enact the battle that made famous the practice of 23 mile runs. Yes, sprang can be ‘shaped’ and there is fair evidence that ancient Persians used the sprang technique to create form fitting clothing such as leggings and shirts. Here is my current sprang piece, destined to be leggings.
The zig-zag pattern is achieved by the use of twining within a background of interlinking. For more information on sprang twining, check out my youtube videos
which give you basic instruction on twining.
Instructions for the ‘W’ pattern can be found in my book Sprang Unsprung.