- By Helen
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We all have a relationship of some kind to textiles because of the clothing we wear, the material we use in our domestic environment such as bedding, soft furnishings and miscellaneous items. We know what feels comfortable and what is visually appealing, and perhaps despite our lengthy and daily use of textiles, we have taken them for granted.
As my appreciation of textiles extends beyond the norm, I signed up for a one-off weaving class with Michele Morcos at her studio in Camperdown, piqued by the very notion of weaving and its origins. Beyond wearing animal skins, who thought of the idea to weave strands and what inspired them? Obviously, heat, cold and the need for protection addresses the practical side of why we weave, but weaving developed, and still does, into the range of cloth and colour that produces amazing fashion, furnishings and art. Materials used for the threads that are woven have also evolved, not just plant fibre or animal skin, there are synthetic material and metals used to make fabric.
Weaving consists of warp and weft threads that intersect as one weaves above and below the opposing thread, strengthening into cloth as it develops. It is the textural range of cloth that can is so attractive: sturdy, soft, glossy, furry, fibrous, delicate, tufted, inconsistent, sheer… and the list goes on.
When visiting parts of Italy and France, I saw sloping banks and garden beds held in place by woven walls of cane looking strong and congruent with the landscape. I love the patterns that weaving creates, a repetition that is both uniform and unique. When doing a task that requires repetition, there is a meditation produced as the rhythm of the task finds a beat within the body, joining the weaver to the weave.
Whilst I don’t knit or crochet, there’s still a chance, I consider these crafts as weavings as well, intermingled fibres in intricate patterns that produce items for domestic use and wear.
Beyond colour and weave, the most attractive element, I find, is texture. I have worn attractive items but not always tactile and I have worn clothes that can be dowdy but have the most comfortable feel to them – think pyjamas. Repetitious touch on fabric of everyday wear worn into the threads of an item holds personal history of an individual or family that only the wearer or user will know. The rub of cloth under finger tips providing comfort to children, adults and animals. We comfort others by rubbing or patting them clothed, energetically imprinting the cloth. The many times I set the family table for meals, when growing up, smoothing the tablecloth across the tables surface and, without thought, feeling the threads whilst rubbing my own textured hands into each fibre.
And there is the important issue of an increasing global awareness for us individuals, and businesses to be responsible for the ethical purchase of clothing and fabric, for moral and humane manufacture, without pollutants, chemicals, or greed.
It is all of this that goes into the making of shroud. The memories of cloth once used in the life of a deceased, or cloth bought and prepared as a final present for those whose spirit has departed, decorating with creative expression, taking the time to show your respect and attention. It is the comfort of tucking the shroud around the body for its final destination taking with it your imprints in the weave.