Friday, January 03, 2020

My Weaving experience at the Ock Pop Tok Center

After a wonderful lunch overlooking the Mekong River with fellow workshop participants, I began my 1/2 day weaving experience. The warp on the floor loom was already set up with 400 black dyed silk threads. Likewise, the supplementary heddle was already in place. This is the "program" that helps establish the patterns seen in the weaving.
Silk colored through natural dyes
Natural materials for dyes

To start, I chose the color that I wanted for my main weaving and for the design. Both the dusty rose dye and the cream color were created from the fresh leaves and bark of the teak tree; the light color was only briefly dipped. The skeins of silk were then wound onto spools, a process that also separates the silk and makes them smoother. Due to limited time, I only did a couple spools.
My weaving in process. The Naga design is at the bottom.
Most of the weaving was a simple tabby weave (over-under-over-under). I quickly got in the groove of which bamboo foot pedal my right foot should be on, scooting the shuttle through the opening, and the correct even pressure needed on the beater. For the design, I chose the naga - a mythical protective water serpent that I had seen in many local Buddhist temples.

The magic behind achieving the Naga continuous supplementary weft (kit) design comes from the supplementary heddle. Once a row of the design was woven, that string on the supplementary heddle was moved upward. Had my weaving called for a repetition of the Naga design, the supplementary heddle was already set up for this. In this complex part, the instructor was directly involved. Thankfully, she was also there when one warp string accidentally broke; she patiently attached some extra black thread to make the warp thread tight again. 
The loom with the supplementary heddle pictured on the left.
  Due to time constraints, the instructor removed the weaving from the loom after weaving several rows of thread. Multiple strands of the black warp threads were moistened, grouped and then two groups twisted together. The end was then knotted.
My finished weaving
I am pleased with my finished piece. I'd love to go back and try the more complex discontinuous supplementary weft (chok)  weaving. That is a 3-day course though. At any rate, the experience gives me a greater appreciation for the time and skill it takes to create such beautiful textiles. 

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