Re: Through the Microscope

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on July 05, 1999 at 11:05:40:

In Reply to: Re: Through the Microscope posted by Jim Allen on July 05, 1999 at 07:05:29:

: : : I think it started with Kurt and myself visiting the belly of the beast,that would be the MET, and watching Noboku put our pieces on the table under a huge Nikon surface scanning microscope hooked up to a TV moniter. With this device things like "z" spin and "s" ply took on true meaningfulness. The minute details of masterwork weaving became obvious. Great weaving includes things like asymmetric weft packing, staggered knotting, and I got the impression that the true masterweaver tuned her loom like a musician tunes an instrument. I became familiar with fiber breakage in old rugs and high intensity black light characterization. There are large books full of the most minute detail of dye stuffs through the ages along with true color plates. Have you ever seen any of this stuff? I am beginning to believe that C-14 analysis is just another whipping boy. Collectors have strong opinions which make them collectors. Nobody is interested in the "truth" here; just their gear and how much they like it and how much less they would like to pay for it. This is after all one of the most logical "sounding" bunch of people on the internet. Last note, the breakage of fibers from the back of the knot bundle seems to be correlated with age. I am sure there are uses which predispose to this kind of damage but the oldest rugs all have this sign. A good microscope is made by Leitz that does rugs perfectly;1200.00 dollars. Jim

: : Jim:
: : Can you describe in any greater detail what you mean when you refer to asymmetric weft packing? Is there a distinction in your mind between staggered knotting and offset knotting? If there is, can you describe what you mean by staggered knotting and how it was used?
: : In your mind is there a correlation between the breakage of fibers from the back of the knot bundle with the handle or feel of the back? You may recall several posts referring to the feel of the back as being one of the factors assessed when judging age. I wonder if the two are connected based on your experience? Thanks. MW

: : I think of off-set knotting as pertaining to symmetric knotting and staggered to asymmetric where the two halves of the knot are "off set, used the same way; to improve contours. Absolutely the touch of the back is altered by fiber breakage. My old Tekkes' back almost feels like the front. Asymmetric weft packing looks like thick places in the weft, also to improve contour. I am not sure what is packed, perhaps just extra weft material. This isn't a "shortcut". It is used in critical areas. Now there is a point. I have been "preaching" for years about reading white first and how important little asymmetries in pattern can sum up to defining three dimensionality. Looking at these really old Turkomen under a microscope one sees that it is precisely these details where several iconograms are intersecting that one sees the greatest care and precision in weaving technique. The bottom line is that masterpieces of Turkoman weaving look even more like masterpieces under the scope. Jim

Thanks for the helpful reply. I think some of your observations are not unique to old Turkomans. Weavers in various places have used offset or staggered knotting to make steeper and smoother diagonals. I am thinking of Jaf Kurd latchhook patterns woven with offset knotting and symmetrical knots as merely an example. Like Jerry Silverman, I would very much like to see scans of some areas you describe as asymmetric weft packing. What you may be observing is a transitional solution in areas where straight verticals are required. Kurdish weavers also created interesting small detail design varients in some of these transitional areas some of the time, often in what appear to be the very best and oldest examples. A very readable description of some of this is found in Marla Mallett's Woven Structures at pp 35-37.
I think many readers will understand what you are describing on the back of some of these weavings. I have seen some old loosely woven Kurdish rugs that seemed almost fuzzy on the back. By contrast, some finer weavings that seemed equally old had a sandpaper feel to their back. However,it is important to remember that fiber breakage can be caused by many things, including sand, and even harsh cleaning that nothing to do with age.
Images of what you are referring to would be very helpful in pursuing this discussion further.
Thanks again. MW

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