Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sprang into action

Textile artist uses traditional technique for custom sashes

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A few weeks ago I wrote about a few of my favourite ways to incorporate fashion into your winter festival staples -- one of the items featured was the traditional ceinture fléchée.

Assuming this was something you merely purchased at the souvenir tent, I didn't mention any local design connection, so you can imagine my delight -- and interest -- when a textile artist by the name of Carol James, otherwise known as The SashWeaver, reached out to me.

James designs intricate sashes using a traditional artisanal textile technique known as sprang.

"Sprang was well known all around the world until the mid-1800s," says James. "It seems that it was abandoned in Europe with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. I've been exploring this method, and have taken on a famous piece to replicate, in order to learn more."

That famous piece James is referring to is the sash worn by George Washington, in the collection of George Washington's Mount Vernon.

In addition to the sprang method, James also uses finger weaving to create various fashion pieces including bracelets (some of you may have delved into the friendship bracelet-making craft at some point in your early tween years) and sashes.

"Finger weaving is a great way to make cloth. No fancy expensive tools are needed. You use your hands, maybe a pair of sticks and an attachment site. The attachment site can be a nail in the wall, a coat hook, a chair back, even a safety pin on your knee," says James.

While a bracelet may take five to 10 minutes to create, more elaborate pieces can take up to 400 hours, such as the one James created that is on display in the atrium at the St. Boniface General Hospital.

"Threads are worked, one by one into the cloth. As the threads are manipulated, the long ends tangle in what is called the 'false weave'. The weaver must pause from time to time to free the threads from this mess," explains James.

In addition to fun bracelets and more elaborate textile art, James also does custom sash orders for clients looking for something extra special to honour their culture or to present as gifts. These sashes are often designed to be functional fashion pieces that one can wear.

For more information on James custom-order sashes, visit her website at www.sashweaver.com.

Got a suggestion for a future column or a fashion trend worth following? Email Connie Tamoto at connietamotofashion@hotmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 E10

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