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.
The past few months I’ve been busy working on a replica of that amazing shirt in the collection of the Arizona State Museum.
The idea began with a visit to the Arizona State Museum in April 2014, in the company of cotton spinning instructor Joan Ruane. Joan offered to hand spin the cotton, but then somehow it became the job of Louie Garcia, specialist in Pueblo textiles. Louie grew the cotton himself, hand ginned it, spun and plied the cotton. It was excellent material to work with.
I made two ‘trial’ pieces before working the real replica. Mapping out the lace pattern was one thing, mapping the ‘irregularities’ was another. In the end, the irregularities held much information. Based on these, I’ve come to the conclusion that the original artisan did not have the benefit of graph paper or any such means to calculate out the pattern ahead of time. Quite the amazing feat.
Inspired by that famous shirt, found near the Tonto Ruins in Arizona (check out http://www.statemuseum.arizona.edu/coll/photographic/tonto_shirt.shtml), I’ve created a shawl. The material was ‘sock yarn’ hand dyed by Glenna Dean of Abiquiu Dye Studios. It began as an extra long hang of yarn, eight ft in circumference. I asked Glenna to do a special ‘rainbow dye’, that is, to dye in sections, creating a multicoloured warp.
Here’s the finished shawl. I knotted the ends to form a fringe.
Now I’m working on a proper replica of that Tonto Shirt. I’m collaborating with the Arizona State Museum, who permitted me to photograph details of the shirt, and Louie Garcia, who will hand-spin the required amount of cotton (no small feat).
Not wanting to mis-calculate the yardage required, as well as verifying my pattern-writing skills, I’m presently working on a ‘practice piece’.
Looking at details of the original, I noted that the loops from front and back, where they meet at the shoulder line, are looped around a common thread. This made me think of Peter Collingwood’s ‘false circular warp’ setup. That’s the way I set up this shirt. It means I need a frame that is only half as long.
Now, re-examining photos I have of the front and back, I see that the back was turned over before being attached to the front. I’ll not be able to use this common starting line as the shoulder seam. I’ll have to separate front from back, flip one over, and then attach at the shoulder.
October 2014 was spent in European travels. The impetus for the trip was the invitation to present information on sprang at the Early Textile Study Group conference in London. The topic for this year’s conference was Peter Collingwood. Dagmar Drinkler agreed to present her research on the subject of ‘tight fitting clothing in antiquity’, and I contributed my experience making leggings.
I did take the time to tour around London, spent a day on a double-decker bus.
While in the UK, I stopped in to visit friends. First up was Oli and Erica of Weavolution. They hosted me while I taught a finger weaving class to the Cambridge Weavers.
Next I visited my friends Elaine and Andy. They toured me through Yorkshire, including a trip to Chatsworth House, an amazing place.
Elaine and I talked sprang, and the probability that ancient Persians and Celts work sprang clothing.
Back in London, I stopped in at Alexandra Palace for the Knit and Stitch show, on Oct 9, minding a booth for The Braid Society, and gave a class on finger weaving: Weave a scarf on the train.
After the Early Textile Society conference in London, I travelled to Reading. There I was able to have a sneak preview of an amazing collection of braided pieces in the Reading Library, the Braid Society’s Biennial Exhibition.
Near Reading is the town of Aldebourne where individuals interested in diverse braiding techniques meet regularly in the local town hall. Thanks to Sally, and to my hostess Rosie, I taught another workshop there, this time finger weaving (last time was sprang).
On to the mainland of Europe. Thanks to Frieda who met me at the train station in Antwerp, Belgium. I taught classes in the Belgian town of Sint-Job-in-‘t-Goor.
This was an ‘advanced finger weaving class’, the follow-up to a previous session. Participants explored some of the variety of patterns possible.
The following day was a sprang class. Pauline brought a sprang cap that she had made after the sprang class last year.
By then it was time for a rest. My friend Karin took me home. I sat in her backyard and worked on other sprang projects.
Accepting an invitation to visit a very talented bobbin-lace weaver (this sister of a Winnipeg friend) I travelled to Braunschweig. Between discussions on the subject of bobbin-lace, finger weaving and sprang, we toured through downtown Braunschweig, and made a visit to the top of the newly rebuilt ‘Schloss’ and the Quadriega.
On to the Netherlands. Braid Society member and friend, Ria toured me around the Netherlands.
We had been invited to the island of Terschelling.
Resident of Terschelling, Marianne, is a very talented textile artist. She also has an amazing collection of textiles. She introduced us to the neighbourhood chickens.
While on Terschelling, I visited the local yarn store, Tante Lies. Come to find out, I’d been volunteered to give a talk on the subject of sprang at the Tante Lies yarn store. I brought along a frame, and people were invited to give it a try.
While in the Netherlands I was privileged with a visit to another Ria.
On Nov 1, I taught a sprang class in The Hague at the textile studio known as DeSpinners. Thanks to Dineke and Katia, this was a follow-up to a finger weaving class I taught last year.
What a pleasure to spread the good word about these amazing techniques to individuals interested in learning.
On to the final destination, Lyon, France.
The Greco-Roman museum is built into the Fourviere hillside, right beside the remains of two Roman amphitheatres. If you’re in Lyon, you really should stop in, it’s a ‘must see’.
The theme of the month at the Fourviere Gallo-Roman Museum in Lyon was textiles. I had been invited to give a lecture on the subject of sprang bonnets. This is the reason I’d been working on that sprang turban. Wednesday I presented a workshop for children (and their parents, grandparents) on diverse braiding techniques. Thursday I presented my lecture and workshop on the subject of sprang. I brought along several replica sprang bonnets that I have made. Sprang frames were available and seven women took the opportunity to explore the basic sprang technique.
The Gallo-Roman museum had a lovely little sprang bonnet, on loan from the Textile museum.
Back at home, I’m now trying to map out the pattern.
I attended a textile conference in Barcelona, the Vth Purpureae Vestes Symposium. It was held in Montserrat, an exquisite site.
I collaborated with two other textile experts, and we presented information on replicating a 1st century cap from the collection of the Hotel Bertrand de Chateauroux. The cap was constructed using sprang and tablet weaving.
After the symposium I made a quick stopover in Lyon, and then on to Paris.
There I met with members of the group “La Fibre Textile”. Yvette is an award-winning embroiderer who has also explored finger weaving. She showed me the ‘patchwork’ piece that she made many years ago.
On to a small town to the north of Paris, near Chantilly (famous for horses) to visit a very talented textile artist, Edith Meusnier, who creates outdoor installations in sprang.
Check out her website Paysages d’Artifice www.edithmeusnier.net
On to the UK where I visited Erica and Oli, managers of the website Weavolution. They live near Newmarket, also famous for horses.
I’m working on some tutorials to be posted on the Weavolution site. Thanks to Oli and Erica for technical support, assistance in spreading the word on sprang and finger weaving. While there, I went with Erica to a meeting of the Cambridge Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers, spreading the ‘good word’ about these amazing textile methods. It seemed to work, the weavers are inviting me to return to Cambridge to give workshops on these methods.
Back in Winnipeg, once again I am reminded why people call it Winterpeg. The snow in my yard is still deeper than my knees. The weather man is promising warmer weather … eventually. It’s the first of April.
Munich is the home of Dagmar Drinkler, that famous sprang artist, who has sparked the discussion on tight fitting clothing from antiquity, probably sprang. I had the pleasure of speaking with her again this past November. Thanks, Dagmar, for taking the time.
On to the Textile Museum in Krefeld. They have an amazing collection of Coptic bonnets, and allowed me close examination. The historic record of sprang patterns is amazing! I’m thinking that these patterns would be lovely as vests, have made up a few samples:
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I attended the VI Conference on Indigenous Textiles at the Quay Branly in Paris at the end of November. This museum is next-door to the Eiffel Tower. OK, the Paris sights are wonderful, but I was focusing on Indigenous Textiles. Yes, sprang was done in the Americas before Columbus. It seems the Paracas were particularly skilled.
Before returning home, I stopped by to visit with contemporary sprang artist Edith Meusnier. You have to check out her website:
If you every have a chance to see her installations in person, please do. Photos cannot do justice to her work.
I’ve been looking at sprang lace in European collections.
The Petrie Museum in London had a spectacular bonnet.
Today I was at the Royal Museum of History and Art in Brussels.
I was honoured to be permitted to examine a collection of sprang samples made between 1798 and 1830, now in the care of this museum. What can I say, these pieces are spectacular! Created using a very fine thread, the patterns are exquisite.
I’ve been working to map out the patterns I see, and then creating a small sample, just to be sure I’ve got the mapping correct.
I think I’m in heaven.
The next day I was allowed a visit to the Musee Royal de lArmée et d’Histoire Militaire. They have a spectacular collection of military sashes.
I was also privileged with a visit to sashes in the storage area. It seems that Belgian soldiers wore sprang sashes until the World War I. Some are all S, some all Z. Many bear evidence of both S and Z twist in the sash, small knots on either side of the meeting place between S and Z. OK, so they did not do the bead thing that I do, removing the edge thread. I stand corrected.Many thanks to Dr Marguerite Coppens, Else Bogaerts, Frieda Sorber, and Katia Johansen for making these visits possible for me.
Looking through my stash for something else, I came upon a ball of fine singles handspun wool. Just the thing for a Bronze Age – inspired cap.
Examining photos I took last Summer of items in collections in Copenhagen, many appeared to be constructed of a very tightly spun singles. Now, I have a theory. A very tightly spun singles might be just the thing for sprang. The amount of twist you add (or remove in the mirror-half) is insignificant with respect the the amount of twist-per-inch in the yarn.
It has been my experience that, if I leave a ball of singles set for a year or more, that yarn is no longer fit for plying. It has lost much of it’s need to be plied … and is just fine to use ‘as is’. When I came upon that ball of my attempt at fine spinning, forgotten for over two years, I was delighted, just the thing to explore making a cap.
Working with this ball of singles, I realized that my spinning was indeed rather inferior in quality. It was inconsistent in diameter and amount of twist. I held my breath that the thread would hold, no breaks while ‘spranging’. Indeed my yarn did hold.
Some of the caps exhibited ‘interlinking’ stitches. Other caps, those that looked much more dense, were constructed with an mix of ‘interlinking’ and ‘interlacing’ stitch. I opted to explore the latter.
The finished cap had much diminished tendency to curl. The cap laid flatter than caps I have made using commercial sock yarn.
Once again, hand spun yarn can be superior to commercial yarn.
This is how I did it.
Inspired by the work of Dagmar Drinkler, I made a pair of sprang pants. Difficulties encountered had me reflecting on how I could do things differently, and this meant making a second pair of pants.
The difficulties centered around three major problems:
1) My technique in adding those extra threads at the thigh left me with quite a sniggle-heap on the first pair. I was sure I could manage that addition better.
2) The crotch needed shaping. I had the opportunity to meet Dagmar Drinkler in person and the crotch shaping was one of the points I wanted to discuss with her. She said that she did not do any special shaping for the crotch of the pants she made for the mannequins, left them open a bit at the meeting point . I decided that, despite the amazing stretch that is natural to interlinking sprang, I did need to do some shaping for the pants to fit my shape.
3) I was unsatisfied with the waistband on the first pair, knew I could do better
All this in mind, I set up a new warp. Reading in Peter Collingwood’s Techniques of Sprang, I found the perfect way to set up my warp.
The meeting of the two ends of the warp happens around that knitting needle, taped to the dowel on the left. This is what I used for the dowel in the middle of Peter Collingwood’s design. The dowel on the right creates a shed for my first row.
One thread had gone across the meeting point, instead of around and doubling back. Rather than unwind and re-do this, I added another thread. I then clipped the place of the error and tied two knots. This short-cut worked just fine. Work progressed on the warp nicely. The first few rows formed the ankles, and work progressed up the calf of the pants towards the knee. At about mid-thigh, I measured out another warp of threads exactly the same length of the as the yet-unsprung-warp.
I found it was important that this new warp has its own independent suspension system. I’m not always successful at creating a perfectly even warp. This always causes me a bit of trouble over the first few inches of sprang work, until the un-evenness works itself out. This was the case again here. There was a slight unevenness between the two warps, as well as within the new warp. A very tight tension on the new warp when pushing the Z work to the S place helped. It was a couple of inches of work before things settled in.
The two warps had been placed one on top of the other, and worked as double-cloth (Collingwood 167-173).
The double layer of threads opens the opportunity to a wide variety of color designs. It also allows the piece to widen … a good idea for people whose thighs have a greater circumference than the ankles. You’d think that the double layer, one sitting on top of the other, that there would not be much difference in the width of the cloth, but my experience has it that this addition does widen the cloth considerably, especially when the threads are held together and worked in the same shed.
Rather than cutting a finished rectangle of sprang, I dipped into my knitting experience, and decided to create exactly the shape I needed for the pants. I tied off threads to form that shape. How many threads did I tie off? Well, I guessed, based on my sewing experience, trying for the shape in a pair of stretch pants. Threads were cut, and then tied at both S and Z pieces.
Getting to the waistline area, I worked to make the back of the pants a bit longer than the front of the pants.
This would allow me to form a waistband casing. The knots could be located on the inside of the waistband.
Threads were cut a couple at a time, and immediately tied off on right leg and then on left leg, closing in the waistband casing.
Now it was time to go back to the very first rows, and pull out the thread that joined the two pieces there. This became the ankles.
In interlinking sprang, if you are careful to keep the edge thread at the edge, you can create an invisible seam. Imitate the interlinking stitch with your sewingup thread. I sewed the pants from ankle to crotch.
Sewing the crotch required a bit of creativity, keeping the knots to the inside, and trying to imitate the interlinking stitch on the outside … but then, I’m hoping people will not be looking at my crotch too closely.