Monday, January 17, 2011


It's all I can do to not use at least three exclamation points after the title of this post.  I am inordinately excited about learning Andean pebble weave techniques, and I feel like showering them everywhere (exclamation points, that is - but I know better.)
Why so excited? I'm not even sure, but there's something deep and moving about taking up the simplest backstrap arrangement, and creating something complex, logical, and ancient in its applications.
Thanks to Laverne's book and blog, and her ever-helpful and instructive presence on Ravelry, I have indeed begun to learn pebble weave. Above is my first (actually, second) attempt, a double pebble with 8 warps instead of four because I tend to mis-count warps while measuring them out.  The next one became a key fob, which my husband needed and appreciates.
After these, I set out on more complex 8-warp designs.  These alternate the basic pebble with "design rows" which create a new pattern.  That's the part I find ingenious - alternate the same pattern, and just vary what you do in between, and you can get this:
or this:
The red & green above thrills me because it's so common in traditional textiles from Peru (see the logo motif) and Bolivia, which I've admired since I first worked in an import shop 20 years ago.  To have at least scratched the surface of understanding how they are made is so fulfilling. When I look at pages from the Museo de Arte Indigena calendar that a friend bought in Bolivia, I see the weaving in a completely new way now, because I can identify the technique, and in a very few cases I could reproduce it in rough form.
Now I'm eager to learn some of the complicated, curly ones, or possibly the beautiful design Laverne did in handspun llama.  Then of course, I need to spin some natural-dyed wool to make it more authentic and beautiful..... This is the path my current reveries take.
I have progressed beyond the one-inch strap, and composed a little piece with two different designs  - it's the first image in this post, and here's how it was set up.
It differs from the narrow strips in the use of  a backstrap bar, with a needle lashed on to control that edge, and also in the use of string heddles for the plainweave segments:
The pebble designs on the sides do not show up here because I only used blue and white, but the backside shows them well.
Is that exciting or WHAT?

(I try to make sure the blog is not about the blog, but I have to say, the formatting on here makes me nutty, and that's why you usually see a column of centered photos with no variation of size or placement.  I've also vowed not to spend too much time messing with the blog, so it will probably be this way for a while, until the system is improved or I get zapped with sudden tech knowledge.  Maybe I should have said nothing, and let everyone think it's a design choice.  Oh well.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Broken Dishes

One of my favorite things about the American quilting tradition is the naming of patterns.  I once slept under a beautiful deep blue & white quilt of scintillating triangles, and the pattern name was Delectable Mountain.
There is so much imagination and intention in the block names, and they pass down hints about the life truths of our quilting ancestors.  Piecing a quilt block takes a lot of time and attention, and it would be impossible to make a whole quilt of a certain block without giving ample thought to the symbolism of the pattern.  So I believe these names carry layers of depth in them, emotional meaning as well as literal, figurative references.  For example, Storm at Sea not only reflects the dynamic interaction of sharp angles, like ocean waves and flapping sails, but would embody a woman's fears for the safety of family members out on the sea, and her hopes of their safe return.  Many of the names carry a a connotation of danger, but the act of piecing the block exerts control over that fear: the regularity and persistence of the cutting and sewing emphasizes that things can be resolved, organized, peaceful, and calm.
I'm thinking about all this because I'm making a Broken Dishes quilt.  This is one of my favorite patterns (and names,) and the design motif is universal, showing up in textiles from Africa to Asia, from barkcloth to patchwork to silk embroidery.  It's very basic, the alternation of negative and positive in a criss-cross shape, and there's so much potential for strong design.
The name seemed rather pessimistic, though, since I'm making this for married friends.  Making a quilt that shows a broken state did not seem right.  However, the quilt block inherently contains its own reparation.  In the perfect regularity of the shapes, the faithful repetition of a pattern, there is the conviction that what is broken can be repaired.  These are not random fragments of destruction, but pieces that can be put back together, pieces that fit.
This is a feeling I often get while quilting: that I am putting something to right, fixing and repairing in a microcosmic, metaphysical way.  My attention to the cutting and piecing brings a focus on the recipients of the quilt, and my mental energy is going toward protecting, supporting, and encouraging them.  I do believe it works, and so I need to keep working on this one.