Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Musa Proud: Weaving!

We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning.

The carpet sellers (I've known for years) taking a break in Sultanahmet.
I've bought two kilims off these guys several years apart!

The day before I left Turkey I went to visit my old friend Harun, a gold and carpet seller in the Arasta Bazaar. If you've been to Istanbul, you'd know that carpet sellers are usually of seedy salubrious ilk, but I've known Harun for nine years now and he's a decent guy.

Sultanahmet Van kitties having a play in some intricate work.
"Here, I want to give you something to remember me by." A very common phrase heard throughout the markets of Istanbul, but instead of an evil eye speared by a pin, Harun threw me a pile of little bags made of old cut up kilims. I weeded through the pile, knowing that they probably gave these out as freebies. but it didn't matter. I still have the little kilim bag and I use it regularly and I do think of Harun when I see it.

My bag from Harun. I'm pretty sure the symbol is an evil eye.

And of course you know Musa if you've followed this blog at all. Musa, my carpet weaving landlord who kept me company in the mornings with his thumping of the loom as he created Kilims in his workshop below our apartment. Now that I am learning about natural dyes and weaving, I lament the fact I never coerced Musa into showing me his weaving tricks. (I'm sure he would have willingly shown me, I just wanted to use a saucy word like coerced!)

Musa busy at work!

So weaving was a little bittersweet for me; remembering my good pals Harun and Musa, so far away on the other side of the world, surrounded by gorgeous carpets and kilims and sumaks and suzannis and camel bags and all the other textiles I wished I could afford or fit in my suitcase. (That was the best part about living in Sultanahmet. I could visit my favourite textiles everyday if I wanted to without having to ever spend a penny!)

My cardboard loom with the warp threads.
Warp threads should be strong and smooth in order to let the weft threads move into position.
If they are too rough the warp will show and possibly break under the pressure.

Anyway, Musa had a proper loom he wove with. But since the university obviously didn't spring for twenty odd looms, we had to get a little ghetto and so we had our intro to weaving on cardboard looms we made ourselves.

My little weaving, separated by a knitting needle and a ruler to lift the warp threads.
I had a whole system going on! This is unusual though. I had spparated the weft threads to add black- usually this wouldn't need to be done.
I forgot my camera at home this day, but there wasn't much to photograph in the classroom, other than cutting some slits into cardboard and my classmates lifting the warp one by one to pass the yarn through, the room in silence as we concentrated on string and cardboard.

Our instructor told us to go half way up only. It was a very weird shaped bag at this point. I love the colours of the natural dyes together!

Here's a tip I learned from watching Musa: pass a ruler through the bottom to hold the smooth strong, warp threads apart, then you can easily pass the coloured yarn through. If you leave it in, you only have to lift every second time. My classmates thought it was genius. Thanks, Musa!

Since we were making little pouches, we had to flip the weaving over and do the backside as well as the front. I took advantage of the natural yarn lying around from the week before and decided that if Musa wove in naturally dyed thread, Dammit so would I!

When I got home, I decided a nice line of black would separate the colours nicely so I separated the weft and wove the black in. The black is the only chemically dyed colour in my bag. If you look closely, you will recognise my onion skin dying from the week before!

The warp threads cut and tied. But not really a look I was fond of. So I sewed a zipper in it and made it a little pencil bag.

We wove to about halfway up, and then we cut the warp threads. We tied two warps together in order to preserve the weaving, and slipped it out of it's cardboard loom. Mine already had a big problem- I left too big a space on the very ends of my cardboard loom, so my sides were very unstable. I fixed my problems by gluing the whole inside together with fusible hem tape and lined it with an old sock I got from the airplane long ago. One zipper installed and I have a new pencil bag!

I naturally dyed this wool. I created a loom. I spent a hours warping and wefting, flipping and rulering. I fusible hem-taped my sock to the insides. It took me days.

And I still probably wouldn't have looked twice at it in a Turkish Carpet store bargain bin.
But it's mine, and I love it.



  1. Bravo! I love the colours! I think it needs an small evil eye or piece of leather pull tab on the zipper pull.

  2. Where to get an evil eye in Vancouver? Lol. I'm sure I've got an extra kicking around!

  3. Musa would get a real kick out of this!

  4. I love the pencil bag and I know Musa would also love the fact that you are weaving. It certainly puts a real value on the Turkish woven rugs!

  5. You are such a Jill of all trades! It seems like everything you put your hands too turns out really well, (well, I can speak for the felt hat you didn't want us to see (: ) but I hope you keep up with the weaving! As always, thanks for posting!

  6. Thanks, Nemo! Pretty High praise from a talented guy like yourself! ; )