This week's blog post is brought to you by Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
My interest in weaving goes back to the Beginning Weaving class I took at Iowa State University in 1968 as an art major. I was instantly fascinated with the whole process including the various looms and huge range of fibers that could be used to create fabric. I have been obsessed with weaving ever since.
I designed and created my Fiesta Loom kit as a “fool-proof introduction to weaving” after teaching K-12 art for over 13 years and realizing there was a need for a simple and fun loom for both kids and adults.
I am also enthralled with the history of weaving. Archaeological evidence shows that weaving has been part of human daily life since the beginning of time. Fragments of fine linen and woolen cloth have been found in prehistoric graves in countries as far apart as China and Peru. Weaving was a family affair where all members had a role. Children usually helped with preparing fibers for spinning, and women and/or men did the weaving.
Until fairly modern times, it was not uncommon for a family to have a loom as part of their standard household equipment. Today, most people have no idea how woven fabric is made, and hand weaving is not a common art.
Imagine the amount of skill and time it took to make the linen fabric people wore in Ancient Egypt! Much ancient Egyptian clothing consisted of fine-woven rectangular pieces draped over or wrapped around the body and often tied in front, as well as tunics, gowns and shirts both with and without sleeves. Linen can be starch-stiffened and pleated, and the Egyptians used these pleats to make garments very form-fitting, seen as worn in images of Egyptian queens. Finer linen might have been smocked, fringed or even edged with colored stripes -- effective blue and red dyes were developed, but were costly
We know a lot about ancient Egyptian linen because of tomb wall decorations and actual examples found buried in pyramids. The very wrappings of mummies themselves were linen strips, soaked in resins and preservatives. Mummy wrappings were not specifically woven for that purpose, but made from recycled sheets and clothing.
Ancient textiles are rare finds because of their fragile nature and susceptibility to deterioration when exposed to the elements. Very dry climates like those of Egypt are the best sources for these old fabrics. Most of what we know about historic textiles can be learned from the arts and crafts of cultures. The pottery of ancient Greece shows images of weaving and clothing styles. The mosaics of ancient Rome give us a glimpse of what their fashion styles were. The actual textiles are very valuable and carefully stored and displayed in museums under controlled environments.
If you have never tried hand weaving, I encourage you to give it a try! It will open up a world of understanding about the history of textiles! Consider taking one of my weaving classes at Artistic Portland! You can do this!
Check out Sherry's class and more on our Classes page!