Fiber artist Robin Schoenburg was the guest speaker at our April meeting. Robin is a teacher at the Fine Line Creative Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Before taking up inkle weaving, Robin had been a sewing instructor for 14 years. Robin explained that inkle weaving is a warp-faced weave (meaning that the weft does not show). It is also a plain weave structure.
Inkle by definition is a small woven band or tape used in trimmings. In Eastern European countries, people wove bands to decorate their clothing and the patterns they used would often indicate the city or region the weaver was from. The history of inkle weaving is a mysterious one. No one knows when or where it originated, but Shakespeare did mention "inkles" in his play "Love's Labour's Lost" in the mid 1590's. Mary Meigs Atwater promoted inkle weaving in the US in the 1930's. Through her experimentation, she was able to adapt many of the elaborate band weaves originally done in Europe on a hole and slot device to the inkle loom. It is Mary we can thank for getting us involved in this very interesting form of weaving.
On modern inkle looms, the warp threads are wound around pegs and every other thread goes through a string heddle. The heddle warps are fixed in one position while the unheddled warps are free to be pushed up or down to create the sheds for the weft to pass through. The inkle loom can be used when seated at a table, on the floor, or even in the lap. Threads used can be linen, cotton, silk, or wool. A variety of patterns can be woven by using different colored threads. A weaver may also pick up individual threads to form more advanced and complex patterns such as flowers, animals, numbers... wherever the weaver's imagination wanders!
Robin gave a program on inkle weaving, then held a workshop where participants could learn how to warp their inkle looms and create patterned bands.