Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Syria's Beautiful Past Evident in its Textiles

This interesting bit came to us from Judy Warren:

"The silken tassel on this skull cap woven in Aleppo around 1800 recalls a more prosperous and tranquil time in that now beleaguered Syrian hub."

Syria is much in the news now. . . most of it horrifying and sad and distressing. But in this recent story on NPR, commentator Susan Stamberg wove a story of this lovely silk woman's cap, the artisan traditions in Syria, and of Aleppo, Syria, in particular, where the hat was found, and the peaceful, richly cultural times when it would have been worn, in contrast to what is transpiring now.

The cap is part of  the Sultan's Garden exhibit  featuring textiles and related utilitarian items from the Ottoman Empire now on display at the Textile Museum in Washington DC.

Personally, I'm embarrassed to say I didn't realize there WAS a Textile Museum in DC -- so thank you, Judy, for sharing this -- and guess what I found out when I looked at their website? --  Frommer's says they have one of the 5 Best Museum Shops in Washington DC. Now I would think DC is a city that has pretty stiff competition among museum gift shops so this is going on my list of things to see next time I visit Washington.

Friday, February 1, 2013

January at the Fiber Guild

Our January guild meeting with Michaela's introduction to weaving brought out a lot of new faces indicating a healthy local interest in all kinds of looms and weaving experiences. Welcome Welcome, everyone. You have found kindred souls.

Michaela brought several kinds of looms and showed us complex-looking fabric samples made on the simplest of looms. She showed us warping boards, shuttles, and explained sheds and heddles. It was all truly inspiring.

One of the highlights of her presentation was a 10-minute romp through the history of weaving beginning with cotton fabric scraps dating from the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC, to 800 BC and Homer's tale of Penelope, who while waiting for the return of Odysseus from Troy, warded off her suitors by vowing not to marry until her weaving was complete; to 226 AD when Persian and Syrian weavers were producing textiles that were esteemed and traded throughout the Mediterranean.

Michaela clearly loves everything about weaving.
In central Asia, the Silk Road was not really one road, but a myriad of trade routes over which flowed not only goods, but also ideas and technology. Silk weaving was but one idea that made its way east.

English, Scottish, and Irish weavers were primarily responsible for bringing the craft to North America. In 1638, only 18 years after the landing at Plymouth, Ezekiel Rogers Rowley, in Massachusetts, set up the first weaving factory for which 20 families were brought over from England. In 1718 a spinning school was started in Boston for teaching the spinning of flax.

In 1764, the spinning jenny was invented, which could spin more than one spindle at a time. The spinning jenny's capacity quickly went from seven spindles to ten, then to thirty. In 1768, Richard Arkright perfected a method of spinning cotton that allowed it to take the place of linen in warp. The cotton gin had not yet been invented, so most of the cotton in England was coming from Egypt and India. In 1786, an Englishman, Dr. Edward Cartwright, invented a power loom driven by steam. He later opened a factory with 400 power driver looms but it was burned to the ground by disgruntled spinners and weavers who felt he was jeopardizing their way of life.

Advancements and innovations continued and rapidly became too many to list. Many of them touched our great-grandparents and our grandparents, and are part of our family lore and passed along treasures. We all have heritages in some form of textiles.

Michaela is not only one of the founders of our Guild, but she serves as the South Carolina representative to our parent organization, the national Handweavers Guild of America. In that role, she acts as a liaison between HGA and other groups such as ours in South Carolina, and she also helps weavers throughout the state locate resources and often, most importantly, other weavers. We are lucky to have Michaela's deep experience, her passion, and her creativity within our group.

Allan Oliver, volunteer at Charlestowne Landing.
 At the January meeting, we were also treated to a visit from Allan Oliver, who as a volunteer at Charlestowne Landing enjoys sharing with the public some of the tools and methods of the 1st settlers to our area in the 17th century.
   His interest has led him to discover "tape looms" and he has taught himself much about weaving in the process. Many of us thought "inkle loom" when we saw the tape loom (photos) Allan brought, but it is different and was used in colonial times to make hat bands, shoe laces, belts, lanyards, cords and a wide variety of other useful things. 
   Allan extended a welcome to anyone who might be interested in volunteering with him at Charlestowne Landing, to demonstrate spinning and/or weaving.

Show and Tell was awesome as always but we didn't get many pictures. Here are two:
New, very enthusiastic knitter Sandy Hutchinson is working on her 3rd pair of socks, ever. Her goal for this pair is for them to actually fit her feet! (This is a Baby Cable Rib pattern right out of Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks.)
Emily Kimzey is still working on this large hooked rug but it's not far from finished. Emily dyed the yarn for the background using lichen, first some she bought, then some she gathered herself from local woods. It gave the background a warm beige tone.
We're off to a good start for 2013!

Remember, it's time to support the Guild with your annual membership dues -- Print out the membership form, fill it out and send it to us at PO Box 31341, Charleston, SC  29417 with your check for $25. That will help us defray costs for meetings, speakers, refreshments, and some supplies.
It also gets you on our distribution list for special announcements, discounted rates on guild sponsored workshops and classes, and access to our lending library and other resources. Clearly a bargain!

See you at the next meeting on Feb. 16.