Beauty of Ikat

Are you familiar with ikat textiles made from threads that are dyed section by section?  No doubt you have seen the fabric used in decorative items and clothing, but have you ever thought about how the designs are created?

When done by hand, the threads are stretched on a frame and the pattern is marked off. Each section of the design is then bound off and dyed separately until all areas of the thread are covered.

Ikat textiles are popular these days, but they are not new.

Historically, they have been symbols of status and wealth much like tapestries were in earlier times.

They were offered to rulers, loyal friends and people of importance as part of a centuries old tradition of gift giving.

Some of the gifts were used to establish and cement political alliances.

Today, in some countries, ikat garments are part of the culture.

As a weaver, I am fascinated by the artistry of the fabric,

often woven with silk threads as fine as a strand of hair.  Knowing that I will never be able to duplicate such beautiful creations only enhances my appreciation.

Strand of Silk - Journey Map - Ikat - Producer Communities - padmashali

How grateful I am that the tradition of making ikat textiles by hand is being maintained in places like India, Southeast Asia, Japan and Latin America.  I was very happy to be able to photo these wonderful examples of ikat creations at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

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Flowers As Art

Beautiful floral arrangements are works of art, particularly when they are created to meet a challenge such as that demanded by Florescence, an annual themed flower show in Houston. For two days the entries are displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts where huge crowds marvel at the astonishing creativity. 

 With so many of you interested in tablescapes, how could I not share these with you!  The arrangements  were to depict a dining experience at an exotic destination on a functional table for two. You may not find every element of the tablescape to be practical, but there is inspiration on each for our at home tables.

This is a very formal table with layers of textiles complementing the gold accents on the stemware and china.

Unique features are the unexpected use of orchids on the candlestickand the fish jumping into bowls filled with iridescent baubles.

As with the first table, a tall arrangement is the focal point.   I couldn’t help but think of sitting at either and wanting to move the arrangement to the side.

Two things, the teacup as a containerand a natural leaf secureing the napkin, are features  worth remembering.

This table is all about fun and thanks to the clever arrangement I could almost forgive its size as a centerpiece.  The use of pattern and color is consistent in every detail

right down to the elephants suspended at the layered corners.  What sets this table apart is its touches of whimsey.

Here pattern is key,and the layered textiles define the color palette used in both the flower selection and tableware.  

Overall, this is a simple table made warm and inviting by color and texture.  Did you notice that the floral arrangement is on the side?

So, there you have it, four different looks.  Keep in mind that in each case the table is secondary to the floral design. As beautiful as they are, the arrangements are a bit overstated for an at home table, but there are wonderful ideas for presentation and flower selection. Hopefully, there is something on each table that would translate to your personal style be it flower selection, color combination, the layering of cloth, the mixed textures or touches of whimsey.   I’d love to know your take away.

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A Little Bit of History

For some time readers have asked about my weaving, so as I am pretty much housebound these days, this seems a good time to write about it and weaving in general.  Let’s begin with some background that I hope you find interesting .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid you know that that the only surviving being that has been weaving longer than man is a spider?  History suggests that man discovered early on that lacing reeds, grasses and twigs together provided items such as clothing, shelter, vessels  and sleep mats that made life more comfortable. So it is that weaving is said to have preceded other skills such as pottery making, metalsmithing or glass blowing he/she eventually developed.  Knowing something of the history of weaving makes me very proud to continue this ages old tradition.

st-petersburg-191As time passed, weaving became not just practical but an art form.  Skilled weavers were held in high regard among royalty who frequently appointed them to court positions.  Here, weavers created beautiful tapestries that were used for decorative purposes as well as taken to battle where they made encampments more like home.  Often tapestries were prized spoils of war.  Thankfully, many survived various ransacks and have been preserved so that we might enjoy and marvel at the work done by hand in another time.

Now, here’s a little tidbit that may be fact or fiction.  Christopher Columbus’s father was one of those court appointed weavers.  As a youngster, Columbus was an apprentice, and it is thought that his dislike of weaving resulted in his going to sea.  The rest is history!


While weaving is a respected tradition in other cultures and patterns are passed from one generation to another, in America it is less so.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly on in this country, hand loomed fabrics were for clothing and bed linens made of wool and cotton spun and dyed by the weaver.

FranklinSlaveholders often had an outlying shed where women and children spent their days weaving fabric for necessities.  

Today, much of what was once handwoven is produced by machinery which contributes to the scarcity of weaving in developed countries. However, language is peppered with references to weaving.   We speak of the tapestry/fabric of life, the threads that bind and tales/lives woven together.  A woman who spun yarn and remained unmarried became known as a spinster.  On an on it goes, but I’ll leave it at that today and come back later with a fascinating look at looms.  

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More Studio Frenzy II

Thinking back to my childhood brought memories of my grandmother and great aunt sitting in front of the fire quilting, and I couldn’t help but think she might be smiling at my crazy quilt stocking.    With that in mind, I decided to explore another technique, a simple one that would combine handwoven and purchased fabric.

Remembering Grandma  sewing strips of random fabrics together for what she called a string quilt was my influence.

The stitched strips were layered with a piece of batting and the shape cut from a template made to fit the styrofoam cone around which the strips would be wrapped.

To embellish the seam lines, once again I relied on the embroidery stitches found on the sewing machine.  It is such fun to try all the patterns, and it doesn’t take long to find that some work better than other.

Finally, the pattern piece is wrapped around the cone and hand stitched where the sides join.  A little sparkle is added at the top, a twig became a trunk which is mounted on a scrap piece of board cut into a small square.  Scraps really do come in handy!

Hmmm, now that I look at the trees I see the makings of a centerpiece for my nontraditional holiday table.  Come back tomorrow to see how it turns out.

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Show Time

Each year at this time is a wonderful Open Studio Tour in the Camden/Rockport, Maine area that features work by a number of talented artists working in a variety of mediums.  How lucky I am to be a part of it!

This sign points right to the front door.

From the entry to the kitchen, the house has been converted to a gallery of visual delights.

Sasha’s pottery is a beautiful complement to my textiles.  This gal’s talent is incredible.

This show is also a wonderful opportunity to show off work by other talented artists.

These wonderful neck pieces made from silk ties byLilian Asterfield were a big hit

as were wonderful wire mesh baskets from Santamarina Baskets.

It seems that people are always looking for baby gifts, so I could not resist including some of Lulu’s whimsies and adorable silkscreen pillows from Tembo Studio.

I have to confess that getting ready for a show is hard work, and the anticipation causes stomach flip-flops.  One always feels a little vulnerable when exhibiting their own work which is why I like to be surrounded by other wonderfully talented people.  When the doors open and people come in and like what they see, it is incredibly reinforcing and provides the incentive to keep creating.

Wish you were here to stop by.  Wherever you are, have a wonderful Sunday.

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Browsing Houston IV

Some of you may not know that Houston is the most diverse city in the US. People from all over the world blend in this metropolis, and many ethnic groups have carved out cultural niches. This is particularly true of the Chinese and Vietnamese, and there are several areas in Houston defined by their culture and language.
Chinatown, on the south side of Houston, is the largest such area, and though I knew of its existence I had never been there until recently. Talk about entering another world. Not much was in English either written or spoken.
The first thing that caught my eye was this building, so it had to be checked out.

It is a Buddhist temple from which waft strong incense scents20110419-033414.jpg
and is guarded by ceramic dragons looking down from a red tile roof.

Further down the road I discovered the Hong Kong mall in which everything from wigs to phones to jewelry to clothing to, well, you name it, was sold.

It will come as no surprise that I was drawn to the fabric store which shimmered with beautiful silks printed in brilliant colors and stunning patterns.

And who could resist sampling what was surely authentic cuisine?I’m not sure what this dish was

and the waiter, who was getting a big kick out of my hesitation to take the first bite, was no help.

He said, “Eat and then I’ll tell you what it is.” Now, that really made me feel secure! In case you’re wondering, one ingredient was blood sausage!
Exploring Chinatown was a wonderful adventure, and you know the best part? A $17 haircut and a $35 massage which was pure bliss. You can be sure I’ll return for more of the same! Oh yes, the food market was a whole other adventure, but I’ll save it for later, so do come back.
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Thinking Ahead

Today is a cold and gray Sunday, a good day to stay inside and get started weaving for a September show.  Yep, September is 9 months away, but it’s not too soon to start creating, especially since considerable time must be invested to create an inventory of handwoven pieces.

Hmmm, what colors inspire me on a gloomy day?

I think I will keep it simple and work with just 2 colors.

Now, it’s to the computer to design.    This is the most creative part of the process because there are so many options to explore.   The only part I don’t like is that the program I use for designing only operates off a PC, and I am very attached to my Apple.  Since I am working with just 2 colors, I think I will play around with shadow weave structures.

The computer can’t totally show how a finished fabric will look, but it gives a pretty darned good idea.

With the design work being done, the next step is threading the loom, not my favorite part of weaving, but you have to be warped to weave!

All is ready, so let the weaving begin.  It doesn’t take long to see the results of the design effort, and with each throw of the shuttle, I’m thinking ahead to what the next piece will look like, a little change here and there with color and treadling order, and I can create a whole different look with this warp.

Creating, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.  How are you spending your day?

Loom: 16 harness, 60″ AVL

Computer Program: Weave Planner

Weave Structure: 6 harness shadow weave

Fibers from Silk City Fibers

This entry is linked to Seasonal Sunday and Blue Monday.

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