While in Edmonton last week, I had the honor of examining 5 sashes that were fingerwoven in the 1800’s. Very interestingly, 3 of the 5 were strikingly similar. All of the 3 had stories consistent with having been manufactured between 1860 and 1900, all had the same bright colored thread, and a very similar pattern. Striking to me is the looseness of the weave.
I’ve been collecting data on sashes. I calculate the number of threads across the width of the sash. Often this means counting the number of threads per ‘lightning’, and multiplying it by the total number of lightnings across the width. I add in the number of threads in the central arrow and voila, total threads. This number, divided by the average width of the sash gives me ‘warp threads per inch’. I find that 20 to 30 threads per inch is common among modern sashes woven with knitting yarn. Tightly woven sashes in museums tend to have 50 to 57 threads per inch. The tightest I’ve examined had 66 threads per inch. I’ve woven a small band with some wool given me by a weaver friend that ended up at 80 threads per inch … something I’m not too keen to repeat.
Even more telling is ‘weft threads per inch’. I calculate the number of rows to complete each pattern, and multiply by the number of repeats. (For example if it takes 9 rows to complete an arrow, and there are 60 arrows in the sash, then there are 9 x 60 or 540 rows in the sash. Number of rows divided by length gives me ‘weft threads per inch’. Tightly woven sashes have upwards of 12 wefts per inch.
The 3 sashes I speak of in Edmonton had 4 to 6 wefts per inch. I have seen similarly loose sashes in other collections. I find little information in the litterature concerning the origin of these. Has anybody out there noticed this. Anyone have a theory about the origin of these? I find it darn difficult to weave that loosely.
Two of the 5 were exquisite, fine thread, tightly woven, excellent condition. One was the sash from the Southesk Collection, recently acquired by the folks of the Royal Alberta Museum. The other was a silk sash, also collected and taken to England by a gentleman, then returned to Canada.
Drove to Edmonton last week to give fingerweaving workshops for the folks of Fort Edmonton as well as St. Albert.
Such eager and apt students! It was a pleasure to see people learn so quickly. We started out with the ‘make a friendship bracelet’ project.
They quickly proceeded to other patterns, more threads:
The next step was mastering the ‘advanced technique’. This is done working on the ‘diagonal stripe’ pattern.
The room provided by Ft Edmonton had the perfect setup, a lovely coatrack along one wall.
Before noon, the folks from St Albert had mastered the technique, and produced the beginnings of a diagonal stripe leg tie.
The next day we worked on patterns, changing weft within a row for vertical stripe and sawtooth, working from center to outer edge for the chevron.
Again, such a pleasure to work with keen students.
The Pavilion Canadien-Français ran from Aug 3 to 9.
Next week, Aug 10 to 17, was the Métis Pavilion. Dressed a bit differently, I gave a similar demonstration, allowing folks the pleasure of making a ‘friendship bracelet’. The project teaches the basics of fingerweaving …. straight out of my book, page 12 & 13.
Booksales have been going so well, I’m just about sold out. Fewer than 100 from the original 1200 are left unsold. I’ve ordered another printing, this time doubling the order. This time Friesens will print 2000 copies. The second edition will have ‘perfect binding’ (as opposed to the ‘saddle stitch’ or staple-together-construction of the first edition). Bookstores and libraries tell me that the staple-together binding disappears on the shelf. To be honest, I’ve found this all to be true. I chose the ‘saddle stitch’ wanting the book to lie open on a table while the student is working. I am hoping that the ‘perfect binding’ is perfect enough to allow for both: book will lie open on the table, and will have a spine that is visible on the shelf.
Meanwhile I’ve been weaving a one-of-a-kind special order for a special someone. This is a sash and leg ties combo:
Next week I’ll be in Edmonton, Alberta, giving a workshop for the folks of Fort Edmonton and St Albert. Later in the week I will be priveleged to tour the Southesk Collection in the Royal Alberta Museum.
Evenings you’ll find me at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.
Hope youall are enjoying your Summer.
A few more photos from the Métis Pavilion at Folklorama 2008.
Eager to learn to fingerweave, the ‘make a friendship bracelet’ project was very popular with the children. Basically I used the directions from page 12&13 of my book. It is a project that is easily completed in 5 minutes.
I am grateful to my students for helping out at Folklorama. Suzanne managed to finish her sash, while keeping me company at the Métis Pavilion.
Once again I’ve been invited to give fingerweaving demonstrations at two pavilions in the Winnipeg festival, Folklorama.
Printed in the local newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, reporting on the Pavilion Canadien-français:
“CULTURAL HIGH POINT: Sashmaker Carol James and her student show how a ceinture fléchée is made with intricate finger-weaving.”
On display at Folklorama you can see the 8 sash samples, made over the past Winter, sponsored by Manitoba Heritage, the St. Boniface General Hospital, and Manitoba Artists in Healthcare.
Next week I’ll be at the Métis Pavilion.
Aug 18-22 I’ll be giving a workshop at Ft Edmonton in Edmonton, Alberta.
The BBC is preparing a series on the history of Canada, its history, indigenous cultures and history. Ray Mears is a bushcraft specialist and woodsman. The BBC will be filming an interview with me in early September, Ray Mears learning about fingerweaving.
Meantime, I’m working on some sprang neckscarfs.