Monday, June 10, 2019

Tactile Textiles

The first of our senses, when appreciating textiles, is usually thought to be sight.  We perceive color in all variations, we note pattern and size.  However another sense is equally important: touch.
This past weekend I experienced two examples of the importance of  tactile experiences.

While watching the final rounds of the French Open tennis championship I sorted a huge collection of possible reference materials which had been collecting next to my reading chair in our great room.  Among newspaper  clippings and correspondence I came upon an old copy of a quilt magazine.  What jumped out as I page through it was an article by Julia Caprara (making a textile surface).  "Texture is irresistible to all who work with textiles.  Just spend a few minutes watching yourself when confronted by a new stash of fabrics or threads and notice how your fingers are immediately drawn to the surface qualities.  We touch, tease and handle fiber and cloth, 'seeing' it in a tactile way".  This quote by the author was accompanied by a beautiful photo example .  I cannot imagine anyone not tempted to cautiously (perhaps surreptitiously) touch this textile.

Julia Caprara, Quilting Arts Magazine, Winter 2005

My second experience this weekend with the subject of tactile textiles came with a visit to the International Folk Art Museum 's annual Flea Market.  Every year thousands of items donated by members are sold to the general public as a fund raiser for the museum.  My husband's box of treasures included a carved wooden pig, a pottery wine cask and a Mexican oil pitcher.  I restrained myself and only purchased several Guatemalan embroidered bags, just the right size for glasses or cell phones or credit cards.  Just because I didn't purchase great quantities of cloths, embroideries, rugs and linens doesn't mean that I didn't take time to examine what was offered.  I came upon a woven throw of some age.  The color was a dull brownish -grey with an embroidered design of the same hue.  Now this was the type of article that would normally not draw a great deal of attention, but it had a great "hand".  It was soft, and apparently well-loved, although in very good condition. 
What I found interesting was that nearly everyone gathered around this table of many brightly, some exotic textiles, actually touched this piece, some examining it closely.  When I returned for a final perusal, just in case I missed the bargain of the day, the throw was gone.  I hope it went to a loving home in a box with other treasures found at the market.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Holiday Greetings

                                               However you celebrate, I wish you Peace

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Satinet - A Nineteenth Century Fabric

While at the Textile Society of America Biennial I attended a presentation by Peggy Hart, a weaver and author of Wool: Unraveling an American Story of Artisans and Innovations, 2017.

The subject of her paper was a fabric manufactured in the early industrial period in the mills of 18 cities in New England, called satinet. Production began in 1820 in the Capron Mill located in Uxbridge,  MA.  According to Hart, the fabric was woven commercially from 1820 to the 1860's with a cotton warp and woolen weft.  Initially woven on hand looms and then on modified cotton power looms in  NE mills with production spreading westward .  Production was usually locally marketed as fabric for whaling and sea-going outer wear and later for water-proof military uniforms and workingmen and women's clothing.  Suddenly available machine spun cotton for warp and the introduction of Merino wool in 1820 for the wool weft increased the availability.  However the invention of woolen looms that could produce all wool fabrics, said Hart, gradually replaced satinet with flannel, kersey and other woolen fabrics.

Constructed in a satin weave with a smooth, somewhat luxurious hand, but unlike satin with its cotton warp and wool weft.  The weft or filling threads form the face of the fabric.  It is finished as a wool and undergoes a fulling process.

One of the benefits of attending this large symposium is the opportunity to acquire information on a huge variety of subjects on which one might not be familiar.  Thank you Peggy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

TSA 16th Biennial Symposium

Textile Society of America

I just returned from Vancouver, Canada having attended the 16th Biennial Symposium of the TSA.  Although many papers are  presented on various subjects there is always an underlying theme to the symposium.  This year was entitled "The Social Fabric:  Deep Local to Pan Global".

Deep Local, "defined as knowledge, beliefs, resources and practices that are profoundly anchored in particular communities and places, which reflect not only the cultures of the original inhabitants but also those of later settlers."  The intent of the discussions was to "probe the impact and influence of settlers and immigration on an already long-inhabited land, and how textile traditions have been influenced, changed, and/ or adapted through and by cultural contact."  (Program Guide)

Globalization is a critical factor in our lives.  It affects commerce and trade, economic and job development and our ability to connect with peoples throughout the globe.  Introducing the concept of globalization to those communities strongly rooted in the traditions of the Deep Local is a challenging endeavor, but one of great importance, not only to that local community but to the greater whole.  We can no longer claim the superiority of our particular beliefs and customs when there is so much to be gained by sharing with others.  There is a wealth of knowledge to be explored and technology is available to enable us to discover and engage  with those who may enrich our lives.
We must not allow political, bureaucratic policies to obstruct our  endeavors to merge local traditions with global interests. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Paracas Necropolis and the Paracas Mantle

Pre-Hispanic loom and Textile of the Paracas culture of Southern Peru

Paracas Textiles

Paracas, from the Quechua language of the Quechua people of Peru and parts of Bolivia, Chile, Equador, Colombia, comes from "para-ako" which means "sand falling like rain".  The Paracas flourished on the south Pacific coast of the central Andes in Peru around 600-150 B.C.E.  It is one of the earliest known complex societies in South America.

In the ancient burial grounds on the Paracas Peninsula the dead were wrapped in layers of textiles into "mummy bundles".  The largest and richest bundles contained hundreds of brightly embroidered textiles, feathered costumes and jewelry, as well as food offerings.

Over the course of several years the noted Peruvian archaeologist, Julio Tello, recovered 394 such bundles.  Because of the hot, dry nature nature of the peninsula everything they found was in a remarkable state of preservation.

The Great Paracas Necropolis was discovered by archaelogosts during the 1920's.  This vast communal burial site held 420 bodies.

The Paracas Textile is a complex mantle or cloak, most likely a ceremonial object.  It measures 58 1/4 x 24 1/2 in.made from camelid fiber and cotton.  Mantle consists of 90 individual, colorful figures decorating a border.  the border of 3 dimensional figures are embroidered in cross-knit looping. The interior cloth is simple, possibly of an earlier date. Cross-loop stitch flowers join the border to the central cloth.

There were, of course many other textiles excavated from the Necropolis.

Paaracas Necropolis Embroidery, a mythological demon carrrying a trophy head

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Burial Cloths- The Paracas Textiles

Burial Cloths

Textiles are fragile, ancient textiles are exceedingly so. It is remarkable that there are any extant, ancient textiles surviving to tell their story. These fragments of cloth were created from natural materials, which suffer from climate variations, moisture and the ravages of insects and vermin. So where is it that these survivors were, and still are, being found? One source is burial sites. The mummies of Urumchi, and their coverings, were preserved, according to Elizabeth Wayland Barber, by being buried during the winter months in the Asian desert, sort of “freeze-dried”. Some early burials in Europe were preserved in peat bogs which prevented oxygen from penetrating the corpse bundle. We are familiar with the ancient Egyptians whose mummification practices and burial tombs survived for centuries.

All these sources remained intact until the arrival of tomb raiders and looters. Naturally, one would choose to collect jewelry, pottery, coins and such rather than fragments of cloth. After all, the looters had to satisfy their clients with display-worthy trophies. But if you are thinking that these bands of entrepreneurial ghouls , in the dark of night, risking all to eke out a living for their families are the only culprits, you are ignoring the professional grave robbers, many archaeological expeditions of the past.

Universities and their museums depend upon wealthy patrons.  In the past patrons gained much social status by donating collections as well as monies for buildings to house them to which they appended their name.  The people of the Victorian age were extremely interested in natural history, as witnessed by the overwhelming number of objects displayed in drawing rooms, libraries and almost everywhere there was an open surface.  Definitely a "more is more" philosophy. The excavation of the tomb of King Tut brought "amateur archaeologists" and their families in droves to dig sites, often supervising the sites themselves with little knowledge about proper catalogue procedures.  The result of their efforts were trunk-loads of artifacts removed from the site to their homes.  Government-sanctioned expeditions "invaded" countries and , in the name of preservation  and education literally stole the heritage of the native people. This looting continues today.

The reason for this blog is my research into Pre-Hispanic textiles of Peru Some burial sites contain hundreds of textiles.  One of the most famous is the Paracas Necropolis. The Great Paracas Necropolis was discovered by archeologists in the 1920's, a burial. site containing 420 bodies, dating 300-200 BCE .  Julio Tello, the Peruvian archaelogist began excavating Paracas after witnessing looted textiles in the Lima antique markets.However, in 1930 he was forced to abandon Paracas to the looters who exported antiquities illegally abroad.  It is reported that the Swedish Consul General in Peru exported  textiles to Sweden to form what is known as the Gothenburg Collection.  Due to questionable exhibition and storage conditions many of these textiles are in very poor condition.  Although Peru wants these textiles returned, like many countries seeking to reclaim their properties, this is not going to happen.

Next blog we will look at the famous Paracas textiles.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Synthetic Microfiber Pollution.

As Fibers Seep into Water, States Seek Warning Tags
    By Lindsey Rupp
    Bloomberg News

I have written before about the contents of the book “Fashion Victims” in which author Alison Matthews David  writes of the "dangers of dress, past and present".

I think many are not aware that there are dangers in the clothing we purchase and wear. Perhaps, we assume that care and warning labels are sufficient, although I would guess not many buyers are even aware they exist (unless they are scratchy, and then they are snipped from the garment).  Or it may be that the government with its thousands of protective concerns for us and the environment  may be cognizant of dangers and are actually doing something proactive (not that I believe that!)

I read the above article this morning and have never considered the problem of shedding microfibers.  It seems that researchers have been finding these synthetic escapees in our water supplies and are placing the blame on "garments made of polymer-based cloth" which, when washed, can actually shed as many as 1,900 fibers with each washing.  These tiny devils are less than 5 millimeters in length and are not filtered by your washing machine nor water filtration plants.  They are known to have been found in sea water and aquatic life, and you may not want to hear this, but are found in bottled water.  So much for the crystal clean water found only in the Rockies, or maybe France.

So what is being done about this pollution?  It seems as though 2 states, California and New York are proposing bills that would require a warning tag on all garments with more than 50% synthetic fiber content.  Of course, this approach has not been endorsed by the retail manufacturing industry.  Not that it would be an inducement to return to natural fiber clothing for the multitudes buying synthetic clothing.

There were listed 3 temporary solutions promoted by the advocacy group, 5Gyres Institute.
              Firstly, wash you clothing less.  It is true we go a bit overboard with cleanliness, grabbing      our alcohol-based hand cleansers at every opportunity but I shutter to think of that effect on my yoga class.
               Secondly, use a front-loading washing machine (why this is better, I don’t know) but they are much more efficient and use much less water per load.
                Thirdly, there are, somewhere on the market, additional filters that can be added to your machine to catch microfibers.  But then, what do you do with them once they have been captured?

Knowing a problem exists is only the beginning and I doubt the person who tosses (no recycling!) plastic water bottles everywhere and drinks with plastic straws would even care, after all the fibers are only 5 millimeters long!!