Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats

Ikat_1

Among the most colorful clothing in the word, ikat robes — which hail primarily from the “the Stans,” or Central Asia — employ “creative use of scale, proportion, and orientation.” They are created by dying the warp (or vertical) threads of silk and cotton, sometimes multiple times.

Ikat_2Ikat_3

This past week, my husband and I had a chance to head into Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see this collection.  Here’s the notice in the gallery:

IkatTitle_1

Ikat_4

Ikat_4a

Note the embroidered cuff.

Ikat_5 Tajik Wedding Ritual

This photo of a Tajik Wedding ritual (1865-1872) shows the rich patterns of both men and women in their ikat robes.  I did a Google Image search, which has lots of results, but these older robes, as shown in LACMA, are rarer now.  In that Image search, I saw lots of machine-made ikats, which don’t have the subtlety of the hand-dyed.

Ikat_6

On the right is a series of threads which will form the warp threads in a loom, showing their various patterns from dying them using a resist process:

“Fabricating an ikat design demands vision as well as time. Before any actual weaving takes place, the lead craftsperson must picture a fully fleshed-out color pattern. Next, assistants soak the warp threads of the textile-to-be in a series of dye vats—up to eight in total—accumulating hues along the way. Prior to each dying phase, all stretches of warp are strategically bound with dye-resistant greasy thread, leaving exposed only those portions meant to be colored.

“By repositioning the dye-resistant thread before every immersion, textile makers gradually cover the entirety of the warp in an array of different tones. The most skilled designers will subject some sections of the material to multiple immersions, combining red and yellow dye to produce sunset orange, or red and blue dye to yield rich royal purple.

“Finally, when the Technicolor warp is ready, loom operators stretch it taut and gird it with a cotton or silk weft. The result is a long, narrow oblong textile bearing the designer’s repeating geometric pattern. This can be shaped into an eye-catching coat, or alternatively kept two-dimensional and made into a wall hanging” (from an article in the Smithsonian Institution Magazine, when they mounted their exhibit of ikat).

IkatTitle_3

LACMA’s didactic label in the exhibit

Ikat_7

I love the visual doubling and tripling of pattern and color in this robe.

Ikat_7bIkat_8

I think the guards thought I was crazy when I came to this robe.  I kept crouching down, zooming in, trying to capture the details of what I would call a type of kantha stitching, embroidery, hand overcasting.  It was a riot of color and texture and pattern:

You can see the nature of the ikat weaving, which blurs the edges as the weft yarns are woven through those pre-dyed warp yarns.  To make velvet, two rows of weft yarns are needed, instead of just one, so velvet robes were considered top of the line.  In the outfit above, it is the outermost robe.

IkatTitle_2

I took so many photos, that I’m not really sure which title goes with which picture, but I enjoyed reading the names of the clothing: a woman’s robe is a Munisak, a woman’s dress is a Kurta, and a man’s robe is a Chapan.

“Defined by an hourglass sihouette produced by the gathered fabric at each side of the waist, a munisak was used throughout a woman’s life for significant events, from her wedding to her funeral.  As such, it was an important part of her dowry” (LACMA text).

Ikat_9Ikat_10Ikat_10aIkat_11Ikat_12

Recently, my friend Judy had traveled to this area with her husband, so I was familiar with the term “the Stans,” and what the area looked like.  Although some consider that term a snub (“stan” means land, as in Afghanistan is the land where Afghanis live), I think it works well for those of us not familiar with where these countries are:

Map of The Stans

Image sneaked off of her travel blog, *here*

Women and Ikat_2017

Women and their Ikat Robes (2017), from *here*

106-Turkish-Coat_Folkwear

Turkish Coat, pattern #106

While we were in the LACMA exhibit, I told my husband that many quilters have used FolkWear patterns to make a similar robe, and added detailed surface decoration.  I first learned about ikat when I took a class in Houston several years ago from Roberta Horton, a reknowned quilter, who showed us ikats from her line of fabrics, made in India:

Ikat_14.jpg

Although I was a Clothing and Textile Major in college, I’d didn’t remember hearing about this fabric before; perhaps that why I wanted to blog about it today.  But in the quilting world, we also have variants of these colorfully patterned robes worn by these people from Central Asia.

Tabula Rasa Jacket_thequilttree.png

I’ve seen the Tabula Rasa jacket and all its variations, from a pattern by FitForArt.  Perhaps it’s the blurring of the lines between our patterned quilts and these beautiful ikat robes?  The more surface decoration the better?

crocheted jacket

Not always. I’ve also seen some not-so-great versions of handmade clothing that were patterned to within an inch of their lives, certainly showing their makers’ skill but not always on the level of what was in that exhibit.

The brilliant thing about these ikat robes is the sense of balance that is present.  Even in the layering of the different patterns, something pulls them together, links in either color or design.  A worthy goal for our own creating, wouldn’t you say? whether it be in quilts or robes or clothing.

Ikat_13

This was another experience that showed me that old truth: it’s always good to get out of my head, my studio, and the endless loop of social media, in order to gain inspiration from other places in the world.

Happy traveling, and Happy Father’s Day!

Wedding Day for Us

The day my husband became a father to four children.

Pioneer Cosplay

Heritage Day Logo_SB

Logo by Simone

Recently a few of us here were involved in the Heritage Day Celebration, honoring the early pioneers in this valley. It happened last Saturday, on a mildly hot day.  Good day to be wearing all these layers, right?

pioneer dress 2018.jpg

Didn’t Thoreau say something like “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”?  I think the dress looks like a cross between Mary Poppins and the mother from Little House on the Prairie, an ancient TV show that forever colored our view of what women in the 1850s wore around the farm, and notable for the final show: they blew up all the set houses with dynamite to keep them from the local evil corporate guy.

We hosted a “quilting booth” but instead of that tired old trope of setting out a quilt top so people could mangle it with their stitches, we ran a hexie booth, based on the research I found that quilters at the time were doing English paper piecing.

Quilt of the Mormon Migration_EPP (1)(1).jpg

We had some work to do.  We, meaning, several of us who have attended our quilting group for many years, plus some others we conned into asked to participate.

Pioneer_0a

First, combine four patterns to make a pioneer outfit (seen above). Then start working on the demo goods: hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_1Pioneer Hexies_2

I appliqued them to a tote bag I picked up a couple of years ago at Quilt Market, figuring the “maker” theme was a good fit for hexies.

Pioneer Hexies_0

l to r: Julie, Melissa, me, Laurel, Simone, Lisa. (PS Simone doesn’t really look like this. She likes to pull faces. Her texts always make me laugh.)

Pioneer Hexies_0aPioneer Hexies_0b

We figure we glued up about 500 hexies, total, between this and what Leisa did later on.  It was so good to have these!

Pioneer_0

It was a team effort: our friend Dennis brought us tables and chairs, and Leisa was the “set decorator,” using quilts from near and far. We arrived at 7:10 a.m. and left at 2:20 p.m., the right amount of time.

Pioneer_1a

We also had some modern hexies there to entice the participants; that is Laurel’s beautiful Modern Millefiore Hexie quilt on the left, with Simone’s hexie pillow (pattern here), and other props.

Pioneer_2a

We had Color-A-Quilt pages for the littlest visitors, as well as create your own quilt block (below).  We had to remind them that it was a visual treat–take a photo with your phone sort of thing–as people kept walking off with my design boards.  That is Julie’s hand you see there, making a mock-up.  She kept these two sections rolling the whole day.

Pioneer_2

Pioneer_1

from l to r: Cindy, Julie, Denese, me, Laurel and her husband Ralph, Leisa, Simone

The original crew, plus my husband, Dave (who is taking the photo).  We swapped out two for four others mid-day; we were swamped, so were glad to have them.  Here are some photos from our day:

Pioneer_2b

Pioneer_6

We were suprised by the number of teens — and teen boys — who sat down and made a three-hexie patch from start to finish.

Pioneer Hexies_3.jpg

Most did not look like this–they sewed them up properly, although sometimes with an interesting twist or two, but we thought this won the prize for “Most Interesting Hexie” of the day.  We had to teach many how to tie knots (about half had no idea how to do that), and we saw that lots of youngsters (and oldsters) liked to be able to sit and sew, a skill not often available to them in other places.

Pioneer_3

We had a sample quilt set up in a hoop in case anyone wanted to try hand-quilting.  Most were more fascinated by the hexies.  And most wanted to pick through the baskets of cut fabric squares and glue their own shapes, too.

Pioneer_4

Pioneer_4b

Wee Pioneers

Pioneer_4c

I love sharing our craft with some new quilters!

tiny nine patches

Stats: 3,000 paper hexies purchased
60 needles (only 35 were brought home–don’t know where the rest went)
3 needle-threaders: one from Clover, my friend Laurel, and my husband Dave
2 ten-gallon jugs of water
4,000 cut squares prepped up: fabric donated by Paintbrush Studio and Primitive Gatherings
Project boards that are not dusty: 0
Number of pioneer outfits that will never be used again: 7

Dusky Tones on the Comeback Trail?

Over Labor Day weekend, I headed up to my nephew’s wedding and was completely entranced with the flowers on our tables.  No brights anywhere.  Dusky hydrangeas, mossy-textured greens that were soft as baby’s ears, pastel roses, grayed down tones everywhere.  The bridesmaids’ dresses were a pinky-tan color.  The bride was in a rich ivory dress.  This is a couple who is on the cutting edge of everything, including fashion and design. Now consider this:

This is the latest from the Moda design team and the collection is entitled “Little Gatherings.”  While the tones and colors are similar to what I bought in the 1970s, what I noticed was the design: little bitty designs.

So the question that some are asking around on the blogs, as they drag out those uncompleted quilts from the 1970s is: are the dusky tones from that era making a comeback?  I would have said yes to the colors and the tonality but no to the itsy bitty calico-type prints, until I saw the Moda line above.  So, are we returning to that era?  Have we tired of the brights and bolds and large scale prints and heading back to the 1970s? 1880s?  If we look to fashion for inspiration, it’s often said that short skirts are a sign of a healthy economy and that long skirts indicate that we are all in for tough times. Since our economy is pretty much in the tank, I wonder if we can make the same predictions based on fabrics.

And by the way, here’s a view from the runways.  Even those with shorter, body-conscious clothes had a few longer skirts in their line-up.  In many shows, that’s ALL they had.  And judging from some of the fabrics being used, looks like we’re still in love with large-scale prints, although in fashion, I think only those who are 6 feet tall pull them off really well.  That lets me out.  And the colors?  They trended to the dusky, darker tones, but hey–it is the FALL fashion shows, which of course will be shown in deeper-toned fabrics. (Designers’ names are under the picture, newspaper-caption style.)

L’Wren Scott

Chloe

Vuitton

Missoni

Missoni

Quilter T-shirts

Brilliant!

I should get one of these and wear it around the Road to California Quilt Show which starts next week.  Or not.  Somehow I think quilters can wear pretty interesting clothing without any assist from an online shop.  But if you want one of these (and to read other funny slogans) head to Cafe Press.

 

Fall Fashion Shows in New York

File this under Another Good Way to Waste Time on the Web. Along with this week’s Olympics, which I’m crazy for, are the fall fashion shows held in New York City. I love heading to the New York Times website and looking at all the clothes. I kept finding things I wanted to share with my sister Christine, who is there in New York currently serving a mission, as she has such style and embraces different ideas in fashion easily.

This is not representative–just what I like this morning.
First up is Anna Sui:

Ralph Rucci had some interesting things going on with accents of textures. The jacket is pretty straightforward, until it comes to this gridded jacket front. Detail below.

 Okay, carry on. I’ve done enough time wasting this morning. I had a late night last night, staying up to watch the Men’s Figure Skating Finals, loving that Lysacek’s style of skating won out over the jumping Russian Plushenko.

As I watched I was also able to quilt on my long-long-long-term quilting project: my appliqued Medallion quilt that I began in Washington DC. For some reason the quilting is taking FOREVER. One reason is because I was trying not to use pencil to mark up the quilt top, trying to use masking tape to keep my lines straight. Last night I said to heck with it, and with a ruler, drew the quilting lines. It’s amazing how much faster I can go if I’m not struggling with strips of blue tape all over the place.

Last bit of news: we had an earthquake this morning, rattling my nerves. Ever since I was in the HUGE earthquake in Lima Peru as a child, any little shaking makes me tingle all over.

 

sign-off-ads-disclaimer