In the recently resurrected weavery in Camphill Community Ballytobin we
have been producing lots of woven belts over the past few years using the old
inkle loom. This ancient, simple and small-scale method of weaving is very well
suited to people who are new to weaving. With the loom warped up the right way,
one can create lovely colourful patterned belts by simply putting the shuttle
through two different sheds (the opening between two groups of threads). It was
clear to us we should use some belts in our design.
Looking at photographs of our community a particularly nice one of our hall at Candlemas inspired us. Our hall, named Castalia, is such a striking feature of our community. It is a place we designed ourselves, where we meet each other, celebrate together and enjoy the arts together. We decided to create from this an image for our weaving which would then be framed by our belts. Instead of using the more time-consuming techniques of tapestry or felting -we decided to weave beads using a heddle bead-loom, which enables you to weave large panels of beads. This type of weaving has been used by Native American tribes and became popular when Europeans first brought along looms to weave cloth and adapted them for bead weaving. Using the photograph, an abstracted image was created that would correspond with the pixel-like structure of bead weaving, a design from which we could see which beads to string. After building and warping the loom, finally the bead weaving could start, still proving to be quite time- consuming although less so than when using other less sophisticated bead looms. We restricted the colour scheme to 3 blues, a yellow and black to keep the stringing of the beads manageable. Each time the weft thread was woven in, it carried the right order of 76 coloured beads. From left to right the beadwork counts 80 beads, so altogether it consists of 6080 individually strung beads. Line by line our picture grew slowly but surely. We fastened it to a piece of black felt and in order to decide which belts to use to frame it with, we lay down different ones before finally sewing them on. We hope the end result gives viewers as much pleasure as the making of it gave us!