New England Weavers Seminar: Bhutanese Kushutara Weaving

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a lecture and take a two-day intensive weaving workshop last weekend at the New England Weavers Seminar held at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. The workshop, Bhutanese Kushutara Weaving, taught by Wendy Garrity, was an amazing introduction into the supplementary weft technique that I previously knew very little about.

Kushutara samples from Wendy Garrity's personal collection.

The weekend began with a lecture given by Wendy on her experience traveling through Asia and the time she has spent in Bhutan teaching music and learning the fine techniques required to create Kushutara textiles. She discussed the many different textiles in Bhutan including the Aikapur, Kushutara, Yathra, and Nettle cloth. Despite being a relatively small country (approximately 700,000 people), the textiles are quite diverse, as the land encompasses a variety of climates and landscapes.

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Close up detail of the wrong side of a Kushutara.

The Kushutara are created specifically for women. Each Kushutara is woven with incredibly fine silk yarns (approximately 20/2) in three long strips and seamed together. (Only two strips are called a Half Kushutara, although it is technically 2/3 of the fabric.) In the image above, you can see the seam line where two panels have been sewn together as well as the supplementary weft pattern colors as they are left in the back of the work. Instead of carefully trimming the thousands of weft ends, they are left on the fabric to show that the piece is handmade, adding to the prestige.

The designs on Kushutara are created using two different stitches, the sapma and thrima. Within the thrima technique, there are four methods: horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and satin.

For the workshop, we first learned the sapma, then the variety of thrima stitches. I was amazed how much the application of sapma reminded me of Estonian Roositud! I'm not sure why, but I much preferred working the sapma technique - there was something about the all over and motif-based designs that were easier for me to do. Perhaps the connection to all-over stranded colorwork?

Changing colors in sapma motifs.

L / My full sampler . R / Sampa motifs worked simultaneously.

For the workshop I really tried to "let go" in terms of the look of the final weaving. The whole exercise was in order to learn the technique and experiment, but it was still difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it and not worry too much about perfection or the finished project. One of the things that helped a lot was buying  6/1 Faro wool "Yarn in a jar" from Vavstuga in the marketplace during the break on the first day. It was easy to play around with colors with so many different shades to choose from!

I had to cut my piece off of the loom after class was over, as I was borrowing a small floor loom from my dad and couldn't bring it back home to Pennsylvania with me, but I am excited to scheme up some new ways to keep using and trying these new-to-me techniques!

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Two important footnotes:
Wendy's website, Textile Trails, is a wealth of information with many, many useful links, images, descriptions, and videos. She is incredibly generous with her knowledge and information, and each section is worth looking through. Wherever applicable,  I have linked to the relevant page on her site in my post.

The classes for the 2017 Nordic Knitting Conference have been posted! October is pretty full for us this year so we're sadly not attending, but had an amazing time last year and highly recommend the event for anyone interested in learning more about the culture, history, and textiles of the Nordic traditions. 

Handwoven Nov/Dec 2016 Yarn Lab

The latest issue of Handwoven is out, and I had the pleasure of weaving up some samples in The Fibre Co. yarns for the Yarn Lab section of the magazine.

The Yarn Lab is a unique feature of each issue, where a weaver samples yarns in different stitch patterns. The parameters are pretty wide open, which is both exciting and a little nerve wracking - It was nice to be able to experiment without much limitation, but I was a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities! 

For the warp, I used Meadow, one I used previously in my Voltaic and Neige Scarves. Meadow makes an excellent warp, as it is very strong and has a nice, crisp hand that works well with the other yarns in the line. I ended up weaving five samples, exploring the possibilities of patterning with a 8-Harness straight draw. 

Twill in The Fibre Co. Meadow and Cumbria

STRAIGHT-DRAW TWILL

My first sample was a simple twill using The Fibre Co. Cumbria in one of our new colors, Yew Tree, as the weft. The combination of the classic yarn with such an iconic stitch pattern really appealed to me, and I love the end result. As a bonus, the right and wrong side of the fabric looks identical, so it works well for a wide variety of applications. One of the best parts about many twills, too, is that you don't need 8 harnesses to create them - on most occasions, 4 harnesses will do! 

Straight Draw Twill by Kate Gagnon Osborn for Kelbourne Woolens

MODIFIED BRONSON LACE

After working the herringbone, I spent some time playing around with some patterns I am fond of, including Bronson Lace. It wasn't possible to work a "true" Bronson Lace pattern using the straight draw, so I played around a bit with the tie up an treadling to create the floats over the fabric the laces are known for. Even with the very fine gauge of the Road to China Lace I used as the weft, the fabric I created has a lot of dimension and texture. It is also quite different on right and wrong sides, but both are really lovely fabrics.

Modified Bronson Lace by Kate Gagnon Osborn for Kelbourne Woolens

BIRD'S EYE TWILL

For this really traditional Bird's Eye Twill, I used The Fibre Co. Acadia as my weft, a yarn with a really textured hand. In this color, Butterfly Bush, there is also a lot of variation within the kettle dyed skein, adding to the overall texture and less "defined" patterning. Of all the swatches, this one came out nothing like I expected, but I as really pleased with how it so clearly demonstrates how much yarn choice effects the overall end result.

MODIFIED BRONSON LACE (2)

Of all the swatches, this one is definitely my favorite. I "flipped" the patterning harnesses to be raised from the teal modified Bronson Lace pattern, which created a more warp faced fabric (you can see the vast difference between the front and back in the photo above). Instead of using just one weft yarn, I opted to use both The Fibre Co. Road to China Lace and Terra, which added to the texture of the pattern. I'm currently working on a scarf in this pattern in (predictably) some neutrals, which you can see here.

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PLAIN WEAVE

After all of the experimenting, I needed a little brain break. Much like stockinette or garter stitch when knitting, plain weave is a lovely, simple pattern that can be manipulated in a lot of different ways, especially when experimenting with color and texture. For this swatch, I paired the Acadia from the birds eye twill and Terra from the second Bronson Lace with Canopy Fingering in a simple plain weave stripe. Passing the Canopy Fingering through three times created a nice block of color that balanced well with the Terra. 

You can purchase the issue of Handwoven here, or ask for it at your LYS!