Archive | Textiles

More textiles from Myanmar

My friend Greg has been allowing me to delve into his textile collection once again. Like the Akha cross-stitch I showed you earlier this year, these pieces were purchased in Myanmar. One is a modern piece, and the other is about 100 years old. Greg asked me to have a look at them and see what I could find out about how they were made.

First the modern piece.

A portion of the modern textile from Myanmar. The full piece is approximately 90x190cm. This view shows just a small portion of it.

Part of the modern textile from Myanmar.

This brightly coloured cloth is woven from black cotton with a rainbow style geometric pattern in rayon thread. It has been woven as a single piece and measures approximately 105cm wide and 190cm long. The colour palette cycles through green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, dark yellow, and blue, and the design is composed of zig-zags and diamonds. The colours are just lovely and I can easily imagine this piece of cloth hanging up in Bogyoke Market in Yangon where Greg purchased it.

Detail view of the front of the fabric. The long axis of each diamond measures 6cm.

Detailed view of the front of the fabric. The long axis of each diamond measures 6cm.

Detailed view of the back of the fabric. Note that this is the reverse of the pattern on the front of the fabric.

Detailed view of the back of the fabric. Note that this is the reverse of the pattern on the front of the fabric.

A clue to its construction can be seen in these detailed photos of the front and back of the textile. The diamonds on the back are a reverse image of those on the front, showing how the colourful rayon thread has been carried across the front and back of the black cotton ground. You can also see on the front of the design where the rayon thread is turned to continue working each row of the design (the angled “stitches” as opposed to the horizontal “stitches”).

The antique fabric is quite different to the modern piece. It was made by the Chin people who live in western Myanmar, northeastern India and Eastern Bangladesh. In the book “Mantles of Merit” by David W. & Barbara G. Fraser there is a picture of a very similar textile on Pg. 125 which is attributed to the Haka area in Western Myanmar and dated 1923-1933.

Antique Chin weaving, estimated to be approximately 100 years old.

Antique Chin weaving, estimated to be approximately 100 years old.

The detail of the design is very fine – breathtakingly so in fact. The fabric is made of a cotton ground with the fine geometric detail worked in silk thread. Hours and hours of work would have been required to create such fine geometric detail.

Detailed view of the front of the weaving. Each diamond here measures 1.5cm along each side.

Detailed view of the front of the weaving. Each diamond here measures just 1.5cm along each side.

And almost as fascinating as the front, the back shows the forest of starting and ending threads for each of the little geometric motifs.

 

Detailed view of the back of the Chin weaving.

Detailed view of the back of the Chin weaving.

Finally, close inspection reveals that this piece was worked in two loom widths and then carefully joined. Until I knew from the Fraser’s book that I needed to search for a join, I didn’t even know that it was there!

Close-up view of the join in the Chin weaving.

Close-up view of the join in the Chin weaving.

So, how were these gorgeous textiles made? They are both examples of discontinuous supplementary weft weaving. Basically this means that the pattern is woven into the fabric by the use of extra threads (supplementary weft) which are not continuous across the width of the fabric (hence discontinuous). You can see a great picture of this type of work in progress on Kay Faulkner’s blog and also find out more about how to do this type of weaving at Backstrap Weaving.

I found myself really fascinated by these fabrics because my background as a canvaswork embroiderer initially made me look at these fabrics as though they had been embroidered. The colourful geometric designs echo the shapes and colours that I love to play with in my own embroidery designs. I imagined someone painstakingly working the modern piece in much the same way as I am working on a piece of Kogin embroidery at the moment. And as for the Chin piece, the possibility of it being embroidered blew me away because it was just too impossibly fine. But then I felt the same about the Afghan embroidery I wrote about in February this year and that was most definitely hand embroidered – so anything was possible.

As it turns out, both pieces are woven and the skill required to manipulate the supplementary weft threads is just as daunting as embroidering complex geometric designs with a needle. Of course, you could embroider these designs if you wished, but at this scale it would be incredibly time consuming and impractical. But there is something eminently satisfying about learning from one craft to inform another.

Historically, needlepoint evolved to mimic large woven tapestries. I love the fact that these gorgeous textiles from Myanmar will provide similar creative inspiration for one of my embroidery designs in the future.

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Embroidery from Namibia

I cannot tell you how lucky I am to have a husband whose job takes him to different parts of the world, because whenever possible he brings back beautiful textiles for our whole family to enjoy. The latest trip to Namibia was no exception – just look at this magnificent tablecloth he brought back!

Beautiful hand embroidered tablecloth from Namibia.

Beautiful hand embroidered tablecloth from Namibia.

It is really hard for a photograph to do justice to such a large piece – it measures approximately 1.5m x 1.7m! So let’s look at some of the motifs in detail….

Woman killing a snake!

Woman killing a snake!

Traditional hut with fence and a bird.

Traditional hut with fence and a bird.

Wonderful elephant!

Wonderful elephant!

Aren’t they fantastic? I love them – they are whimsical, colourful, and naive and yet when all seen together they form this exquisitely cohesive whole.

But I love this piece even more for another reason. It is a simply wonderful teaching piece for my children’s classes. They can see in these designs that very simple shapes and lines can be stitched with a simple repertoire of stitches to create really fantastic pieces of embroidery.

My plan is for each child to embroiderer a cushion cover using these African designs as inspiration. And I really want them to see that the stitching doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. The elephant’s trunk above is far too big for his body, but he looks brilliant nonetheless! And the giraffe below is not filled with exquisitely smooth satin spots, but he is still quite clearly a very elegant giraffe.

A delightful giraffe!

A delightful giraffe!

And what about this cool windmill showing the water being collected in a tank and trough – with just a few simple lines the stitcher is telling a whole story about the preciousness of water.

I love this simple water story!

I love this simple water story!

I will be sure to share with you some photos of the children’s own versions of simple embroidered pictures after we have had the class later this month. In the meantime, please be sure to let me know if you have a treasured textile that inspires you – I would love to hear about it:)

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More on Afghan embroidery

Last week I was very excited about this exquisite Afghan textile that I had been able to borrow from my friend, Greg. I am happy to report that I now know a bit more about this beautiful piece of embroidery. A friend from my embroidery group kindly did some research and came upon this reference in Sheila Paine’s book, “The Afghan Amulet”.

‘Why do you want to go to Kandahar? There’s nothing there.’
‘For the embroidery. Those wonderful whitework shirts women used to make for their bridegroom. And their shawls.’

This seems to confirm that Greg’s tunic is indeed one of these splendid whitework tunics.

Further digging on the internet revealed Kandahar Treasure. From their website…

Kandahar Treasure employs women artisans from the Kandahar area in order to develop an economic base for the province and support the advancement of women throughout Afghanistan. We offer home décor items, such as pillows and tablecloths, as well as clothing and accessories embellished with a uniquely Afghan style of embroidery. This style is called Khamak (pronounced kha-mahk) and is one of the oldest and purest forms of embroidery art in the world.

This motif, worked here in gold on red, is almost identical to the motif covering a large part of Greg’s whitework tunic.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the whitework panel.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the whitework panel.

So, I am confident now that we know for sure that the whitework tunic is from Afghanistan. The sad part of the story is that refugees living in Pakistan needed to sell this family heirloom in order to make ends meet. But I am glad to know that their embroidery tradition is being continued. I still think Greg’s whitework tunic is one of the most exquisite pieces of stitching I am ever likely to see.

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Exquisite Afghan textile

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a beautiful Akha quilt that my friend Greg had bought on a recent trip to Burma and Thailand. Last week he lent me another beautiful textile to drool over.

White tunic with embroidered panel.

White tunic with embroidered panel.

This white tunic has the most exquisite panel of embroidery I think I have ever seen. It measures approximately 12″ x 18″ (30cm x 45cm) and is covered in fine, detailed, geometric stitching in silk thread.

Closer view of the embroidered panel.

Closer view of the embroidered panel.

Greg bought this tunic in Quetta, Pakistan and believes that it is the work of Afghan refugees. He wanted to know if I thought it really was hand embroidered. At first glance, you might think that it would be machined with so much detailed work over a large area. But I am convinced that it is completely hand embroidered.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the panel. Each motif here measures just 1.5cm x 1.5cm.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the panel. Each motif here measures just 1.5cm x 1.5cm.

In the foreground of the above photo, you can see that each tiny stitch is carefully worked between a warp and weft thread. It would be impossible for a machine to pierce the fabric with such fine precision, so this must be worked by hand. It is truly extraordinary – I am in awe and inspired all at the same time 🙂

More detail...

More detail…

...and more...

…and more…

...and more.

…and more.

I have done a little research on the internet and discovered this link about Afghan textiles at Eternal Threads.

This exquisite embroidery is solid minute stitching with silk thread. Girls learn to do this when they are very young because they must make the front of a tunic shirt solid with this embroidery for their future husbands.”

Whilst I can’t be sure that this tunic falls into the above category, it is certainly something very special that took many, many hours to work. It has clearly been worn as there is some wear around the collar and yet the embroidery is still almost perfect. Truly something to wonderful to behold – and another lovely piece of geometric embroidery to inspire me! Many thanks Greg.

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Akha cross-stitch quilt – a whole year’s worth of inspiration

My Number 1 New Year’s resolution this year was to start writing this blog about my life in stitching. But I wasn’t quite sure where to start… and then with luck, or perhaps serendipity, this exquisitely beautiful textile came my way and I am bubbling with enthusiasm to share it with you all.

Cross-stitch quilt from the Akha tribe, measuring approximaely 1.5m x 2.0m.

Cross-stitch quilt from the Akha tribe, measuring approximaely 1.5m x 2.0m.

My husband and some colleagues have recently started travelling and working in Myanmar. As luck would have it, one of those colleagues is a keen collector of textiles and on a recent trip he purchased this exquisite Akha quilt. He has very kindly lent it to me for a few weeks. There is so much design inspiration in this piece … and of course the sheer pleasure of savouring such a beautiful piece of craftmanship.

I have taken dozens of photos – they simply cannot do justice to the whole quilt. For the record, the quilt measures approximately 1.5m x 2.0m. The cross-stitch is worked over 2×2 threads on a base that is approximately 26-28 count.

These detailed photos show the amazing evenness of the stitching and the wonderfully vibrant colours. I am a keen canvaswork embroiderer – these patterns are going to provide wonderful design inspiration for the whole of 2014. Look out for them reappearing later in the year!

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