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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:33 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 174
Location: east coast
Some time back, Pamela and I had posted pictures of a weaving style found at the bottom back border of several Iban jackets from Borneo. I think we referred to the technique as slit weave? It consists of wrapping groups of warp threads with weft threads and incidentally leaving “slits” or gaps between some of the warp threads. The colored wrapping threads produce the pattern. Sylvia Fraser-Lu refers to it in her book "Handwoven Textiles of South East Asia" as the “kelim” variation of tapestry weave, and mentions that it is used on the back bottom borders of Iban jackets. I have a book of old Chinese silk weavings done in a technique it calls “carved silk” showing a similar technique although very much finer as might be expected.

In any event, I have recently acquired an entire Iban skirt in this technique (the side borders are sewn on) and wonder if anyone knows its Iban name? Or perhaps even its Malay name as the Iban borrowed from the Malay language. I had never seen another such skirt although I hear rumors of a similar one in another collection somewhere.

The overall pattern and use of color here is very idiosyncratic. Although packed with the curls so beloved by the Iban especially of the Saribas river area, to me the main 4 or 5 bird-like figural motifs (“omen” birds are commonly found on Iban weavings because the great war god and law giver Singalang Burong would send his sons-in-law to earth as birds to carry his messages to the people) and the “wild” color use have something of a Mexican or South American suggestion which influences of course are arguably highly unlikely.

Perhaps there are closer and Eastern cultures with similar appearances? And if these are in fact Iban bird motifs they are unlike any I have ever seen.

I have also heard it suggested that because of the slits, which gap quite obviously if the cloth is held against the light, it might not been a particularly desirable skirt technique because of the natural modesty of the Iban peoples.

I have an old Iban jacket with the back border portion woven so finely in this technique as to rival the Chinese work in silk. Which leaves me wondering whether this weaver or some other ever wove a skirt or even a pua' in “slit weave” that finely. If anyone knows of such, I would dearly love to know also. It would be an absolute masterpiece of weaving in any culture or time.


Attachments:
File comment: Iban cotton slit weave skirt (56x99cm)
Sarawak early 20th c.
(borders sewn on)

iban split weave skirt 'wild' (56x99cm) sarawak early 20th c_ vert.jpg
iban split weave skirt 'wild' (56x99cm) sarawak early 20th c_ vert.jpg [ 174.55 KiB | Viewed 4128 times ]
File comment: finely executed slit weave on bottom back border of an old Iban jacket.
detail b .jpg
detail b .jpg [ 110.53 KiB | Viewed 4128 times ]

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:38 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
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Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Slit weave is generally known as sungkit anyam in Iban, although regional variations are quite possible. It is rare for the fact that it is extremely difficult to execute properly.

Weavers attempt the technique to demonstrate their skill. However, when the completed work does not have near perfect symmetrical designs, it is open season for other weavers to snigger or sneer openly.

I have never seen motifs like this before and so I cannot comment further on their execution or significance but I am almost certain they are not bird motifs. Bird motifs, masculine in nature, are only worn by men on their sirat (loin-cloth) or on their jackets as they represent the sons-in-law of the God of War.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:31 pm 
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Slit weaving is very common in Turkish and Iranian kelims. Alternatively, weft threads of adjoining colors may link around a warp thread to avoid slits, but then creating "fuzzy" vertical lines.
The patterns of the kelims - like that of the Iban skirt - avoid long vertical lines, which weaken the textile.
Admittedly, these kelims are seldom as finely woven as the piece illustrated. Senneh kelims are perhaps the finest slit kelim weaves, as this example shows (199 x 124 cm):
http://www.rippon-boswell-wiesbaden.de/ ... 0/ZV63.jpg

The Senneh women have no difficulty creating precise and symmetrical designs. I attribute this, however, to their use of a vertical loom with tightly stretched warps. Do/did the Iban women use backstrap looms, as I saw illustrated? If so, that makes their achievement even more remarkable.

Delightful piece, Larry


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:45 pm 
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Location: east coast
Deat Vernon - thank you very much for the information. I could not find the Iban name anywhere. It would seem to be a variation of sungit. Gven that I have never seen another skirt (or pua') in this technique, I can stand the sniggers and sneers until a better one comes along.

However, I don't expect to find an example better than the sample on the jacket.

Have you seen other skirts or even a pua' in this technique?

Sorry I missed you at your restaurant in Kuching but I did enjoy meeting your mom and seeing the 1-to-1 (?) reproduction of Sendi's pua' on the wall. From the opposite side of the room, I thought it was real and rushed over to see it. It is beautiful and breathtaking even in reporduction.




vernonkeditjolly wrote:
Slit weave is generally known as sungkit anyam in Iban, although regional variations are quite possible. It is rare for the fact that it is extremely difficult to execute properly.

Weavers attempt the technique to demonstrate their skill. However, when the completed work does not have near perfect symmetrical designs, it is open season for other weavers to snigger or sneer openly.

I have never seen motifs like this before and so I cannot comment further on their execution or significance but I am almost certain they are not bird motifs. Bird motifs, masculine in nature, are only worn by men on their sirat (loin-cloth) or on their jackets as they represent the sons-in-law of the God of War.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:57 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
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Location: east coast
Wonderful kelim example, Larry. Thanks for posting the link.

I believe that the Iban skirt was woven on a backstrap loom. Although I have no first or even second, third or ... hand information about that. Vernon as usual may know.

And the weavers of Chilkat robes can achieve remarkable symmetry (if they so desire) with their finger weaving techinque. That technique always blew my mind.
Here is an example.
http://ravenstail.com/wp-content/galler ... t-robe.jpg

They are another thing I should have purchased years ago before they also went through the roof.

Thanks again Larry.


larry wrote:
Slit weaving is very common in Turkish and Iranian kelims. Alternatively, weft threads of adjoining colors may link around a warp thread to avoid slits, but then creating "fuzzy" vertical lines.
The patterns of the kelims - like that of the Iban skirt - avoid long vertical lines, which weaken the textile.
Admittedly, these kelims are seldom as finely woven as the piece illustrated. Senneh kelims are perhaps the finest slit kelim weaves, as this example shows (199 x 124 cm):
http://www.rippon-boswell-wiesbaden.de/ ... 0/ZV63.jpg

The Senneh women have no difficulty creating precise and symmetrical designs. I attribute this, however, to their use of a vertical loom with tightly stretched warps. Do/did the Iban women use backstrap looms, as I saw illustrated? If so, that makes their achievement even more remarkable.

Delightful piece, Larry

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