Conversations surrounding Early Canadian Weaving

Are hand woven textile objects more than just a document of traditions born from the necessity of survival? How does hand weaving cloth still play a role in contemporary textiles? These questions pertain to my research this year. I have become very interested in the concept of origin and heirloom and how objects provide the importance of the handwoven coverlet as a crucial piece of the textile history of early Canada. Canadian textile Curator Dorothy K. Burnham provides us a foundation for defining the connective thread running from the importance of materials and culture in the past to the present. Immigration plays a key to the social, clinic economical development of cloth production in the home.

Coverlet for the bed. North America: Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada. C. 1860. L 234 cm x W 184 cm. Cotton and wool. Hand woven, overshot, hand-sewn. From the Textile Museum of Canada Collection.
Burnham, Dorothy K., Harold B. Burnham. Keep Me Warm One Night: Early handweaving in Eastern Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973. Print.
Photograph from Keep Me Warm One Night Exhibition. Royal Ontario Museum. 1971. Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

In art history my research into early Canadian handweaving lead me to this wonderful book called Keep Me Warm One Night. It goes into great technical detail about the handweaving and  the importance of the coverlet in Canadian homes. This textile object served as a functional item for warmth on the bed, which was thought to be “the center of the home” (Burnham and Burnham 141). Coverlets were also equally beautiful in their craftsmanship often using handspun and hand dyed wool yarns. This cherished textile within the home of so many early Canadian homes serves as a point of entry to investigate identity. This book has opened my eyes to a truly detailed and rich history of weaving in Canada. As I move forward with my work I continue to consider ‘home’ as a key to my own identity and influence in my handwoven work. 


Unshelved Exhibition & Paper Yarn


My FINA class has just set up an exhibition in the library called Unshelved, buy which is on display until April 8th. The theme is art as future making, which allows for a broad range of subject matter. I am enjoying the novelty of working with people from other departments.

Re: make // Re: search // Re: new
Re: make // Re: search // Re: new

My project features paper yarn spun by hand from the pages of an old dictionary. I then wove it into a tapestry with a cotton warp. I also cut out words beginning with “re” and their definitions. I was contemplating the connections between language, storytelling, and textiles, and their restorative potential. The wooden spindle and spool reinforce the spinning associations, drawing greater attention to process. Spinning and weaving with paper were extremely time consuming but I’m happy with the result.

Spinning and weaving with paper yarn is particularly popular in Japan. The resulting cloth is called shifu. They normally use stronger papers made from kozo or gampi, which can be spun using a spindle or wheel (my dictionary paper was too fragile and I had to do it all by hand). You can find helpful tutorials here, here, and here. Some good books are A Song of Praise for Shifu, by Susan J. Bird, Kigami and Kami-ito, by Hiroko Karuno, and Paper Textiles by Christina Leitner.



Romy Straathof

This afternoon I had the pleasure of hearing Romy Straathof give an artist talk. I was excited when I found out she would be speaking as she weaves with paper in some of her works. This is something I have been experimenting with in my most recent tapestry (see previous post).

She has an interest in typography and a love for paper which makes for some wonderfully interesting, apoplectic  delicate and considered work. These above pieces are weavings made from paper strips and twisted paper. She brought in a few of these weavings, ascariasis some spun paper and handmade papers for us to get a better look. It was great to get a better sense of her work and also realize the kind of small scale they are at.

Romy Straathof, “Map Threads: Three Cities”

Her spun paper was incredibly thin and beautifully made. Above is her work where she used maps to spin the paper yarn. She described this process to be meditative, needing to be completely engaged and in a place of calm to make one continuous thread.

Romy Straathof and Eveline Koljin, “Paper Landscape”

In her most recent work, she has been collaborating with Eveline Koljin. Through collection of natural materials local to their studios, they have made paper, creating a “Paper Landscape“. I find this a beautiful tribute to the natural world around us.

Romy writes: “Stemming from a fascination with how the smallest fragment is able to evoke memory and meaning, these works respond and speak to our knowledge and ability to interpret these signs. Though my process always begins with extensive research and experimentation, through careful and conscious editing and distillation of ideas and a sparing use of materials, I hope to arrive at the essence of idea or form. I believe that it is in the white space, the hidden space, and the empty space where the most possibilities exist.”

Much of Romy’s sensibilities I can relate to my own work. Although her talk has also opened up other avenues of possibility that I am excited to research and explore. This idea of empty space not being so much empty, but essential is very interesting to me. We also share the same heritage…long lost sisters?


Images and statement courtesy of Romy Straathof,

Spinning Paper

You know, treatment I don’t usually talk about street art, but I absolutely love it! The world is beautiful, but an art attack can be a wonderful addition to this beautiful world. I’ve been watching this blog for a little bit, as it’s all about artists who leave their mark on the public. Some of the street art is just stunning as the colors, size, or texture make any passer-by look twice. I think no matter where street art is, the point is to make a statement in the specific area that it’s in. Sometimes we forget about the little things until it has been given a new light.

The link to the blog is here:

Some shots from the blog:

As many of you know, gerontologist
for my final tapestry project I am creating the image of my baachan (my grandma) and finding out more about her history.


For me, find a person’s face holds depth of history and holds stories, whether we are aware of what they are or not. This piece is involved in a process of me engaging with my baachan’s story. Since beginning this tapestry I have had several intimate conversations with my mom about the history of my grandma. The richness of her story has amazed me and deepened my appreciation of the blood connection I share with her. This story of her is one that I am incorporating into the background of my tapestry with the use of spun paper. This ingrains my baachan’s history in the fabric of her portrait, while also fragmenting the story to remain as much a mystery as it was to me. Through this her memory and my mother’s memory are memorialized.

Woven Paper

The actual process of printing and spinning the rice paper has been a time consuming process. I made a small drop spinner out of clay and a dowel (because I am cheap) and am using that to twist strips of the paper into yarn form, which I can then weave. I am also really enjoying the texture of the woven paper.

Feel free to visit my tapestry loom to see my progress (and TOUCH IT!)


Spinning + Weaving Links

headshot_colourJust letting you all know, health I am your SLC Representative for this year. If you have any questions or concerns, page let me know and I’ll see what I can do! Also, I will be holding a couple of meetings per semester, keeping you all up to date on all the exciting things going on this year!

Jennifer akkermans

image via
image via

Hello weavers! Here are a few links to things we talked about last class. Enjoy…

link to WORMSPIT.COM, thumb

link to WEAVECAST episode about musk ox and quiviut (listen to an interview with an actual musk ox), prostate

Happy weaving!