All posts by Barbie

April 21 – Marilyn Romatka

Uzbek Ikat: The Personal Saga of an Exceptional Cloth

Marilyn’s textile journey started with pack animals, llamas to be precise, and rapidly moved from there to spinning, then knitting, then weaving, and then to exploring textiles around the world. In the process, she became passionate about learning a wide variety of textile folk arts. She shares her knowledge through demonstrations at museums, projects with children, and through her book “Creative Crafts of the World.”

Our program this month will be a blend of travelogue and technique. We will explore the traditional Ikat techniques of the Uzbek people in Central Asia. In Marilyn’s own words:

Experience the exotic in your own home town; travel to Central Asia in this multi-media presentation. We have all seen Uzbek Ikat on the runway in New York and London, now travel back to Uzbekistan with Marilyn to watch the process of its production. Each thread manipulated, dyed, and woven into exquisite cloth – truly hand-crafted. Plus, a show-and-tell after the presentation.

Marilyn’s presentation will be followed by a question and answer session, and then by our own guild Show and Tell.

Coverlet Project: The Nuts and Bolts

Who is weaving what?
(exchange yarn added Sep. 10th)

U. D. – Wandering Vine (aka Snail Trail, Cats Paw); Yarn: Teal, wool

R. T. – Primrose Diamonds; Yarn: Cinnamon, Cascade Heritage 150

K. D. – Johann Schleelein’s No. 125; Yarn: Blue/Purple

T. G. – Charity Beck; Yarn: Teal

C. V. – Sun, Moon and Stars

C. S. – Finnish Diamond: Yarn: Light Blue, cotton

A. M. – Bertha Gray #84; Yarn: Teal, handspun wool (single)

L. C. – Whig Rose; Yarn: Jade Green, wool

B. P. – Blooming Leaf; Yarn: Natural, handspun wool

J. P. – Star of Bethlehem; Yarn: Olive Green, wool

K. L. – ?; Yarn: Red

We have 11 weavers. This means that for a 12 square coverlet, one square will need to be repeated. For a 3 square by 4 square coverlet, the weaver would end up weaving 3 squares in her own weft: one for the guild quilt and two for her own coverlet.

What are the warp details?

8/2 cotton, unmercerized Valley Cotton from WEBS ( in natural

288 total ends

18 e.p.i.

16″ total sleyed width

18″ of warp allowed per square

36″ loom waste allowance

So a warp for 13 squares (12 for a 3×4 coverlet plus one for the guild) would be 7.5 yards long.

What are the weft details?

The tabby weft (the plain weave weft picks between each pattern weft pick) is the same 8/2 cotton as the warp.

Weft yarn choice is up to the weaver. Each pattern weft pick needs to be fat enough to spread out and cover the tabby wefts on either side. But it also needs to be squishy enough to fit in the spaces between the tabby picks and still allow the tabby weft to be packed square with the warp, at 18 per inch. So an ideal weft would be something that can cover an inch with 18 wraps but then squish down to about half an inch. This works out to something between fingering and sport weight, I believe, depending on how hard the yarn is. The variation between the different chosen wefts provides a lot of the educational aspect of this project.

144-150 yards of pattern weft per square. For each square, the number of weft picks should equal the number of warp ends, which is 288. For ease in calculation, allow a generous 18″ (1/2 yard) per pick, which results in 144 yards each of tabby weft and pattern weft per square. Rounding up to 150 yards allows a comfortable margin.

For a 13 squares, this adds up to at total of about 1,950 yards of pattern weft.

Coverlet Project: Overview

What is it?

In the fall of 2011, members of the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild decided to undertake a cooperative friendship coverlet project. In the end, each weaver will end up with an overshot coverlet in the yarn of her choice. It will be made up of many squares. Each square will be woven by a different weaver, using a different overshot pattern. It is both a sampler and a memento of friendship.

The squares will all share a common background and tabby weft of unmercerized 8/2 Valley Cotton from WEBS in a natural, off white color. The pattern weft will be the choice of each weaver. Some will buy a yarn that they like. Others will spin their yarn.

Why overshot?

Overshot was chosen for several reasons. It gives excellent dimensional stability, since there are the same warp type threads running in both the warp and weft directions. It also offers a wide range of patterns. There are many traditional patterns available in overshot that reflect its prominence as a Colonial American art form. There are also modern versions. And, truth be told, any twill pattern can be converted to overshot by running alternating plain weave picks between the pattern weft picks. An inch of plain tabby weave is woven between each square to provide space for lines of stabilizing machine stitching.

How do the squares become a coverlet?

Once the squares are all woven, the participants will gather with the collection of squares that they have each woven in all the different weft colors. The long strips of many squares of different colors will be cut apart in between the lines of machine stitching. The squares will then be exchanged with the other weavers until each weaver has all of her own weft yarn back.

Each weaver will then assemble her coverlet from the squares she has gathered from the other weavers who wove with her chosen weft. Some may chose to sew them directly side by side. Some may insert fabric between the squares. Others may crochet a border around each square before sewing or crocheting them together. Some form of material between the squares helps adjust for possible differences in size and squareness.

Each weaver has a different pattern and a different weaving style. Even though every effort is made to avoid pulling in, squares may come out different widths. Some patterns may lead to more draw in than others. Each weaver also has to adjust to a different weft for each square. This presents challenges as well. The beat that makes a perfect square in one weft may be a bit too hard or too soft for the next one. Checking pick counts can help a lot, but some variation in dimension is to be expected, regardless.

The guild coverlet

Each weaver in this project will also be weaving one extra square in her own yarn to donate to the guild. These squares will be connected by a number of volunteers into a single coverlet. The guild coverlet will reflect both the pattern and yarn color choices of the participants. It will be auctioned or raffled off at a guild meeting or event.

The wrap up

This project fits the guild to a tee. It fosters cooperation, encourages memories, and provides a crash course in many nuances of overshot weaving. After a number of months full of finding or spinning weft, dressing looms, weaving a wide range of wefts and doing the inevitable head scratching and deep breathing, we will each emerge with a memento of some wonderful weaving friendships. Weave on!