Ancient Doodling

In an effort to satisfy my curiosity about geometric ornamentation, I decided to go on a self-directed journey of research.  What I’ve uncovered so far, has expanded my worldview on the importance of weaving, and the significant role women played in the development of an economy.  It’s no secret how I feel about the use of geometric ornamentation on textiles, especially the zigzag or chevron.  According to Bernhard Schweitzer, “Geometric patterns have, in fact, a large number of different sources.  They began at about the end of the Early Stone Age.” Schweitzer also mentions, “It is not until the development of leather-work, weaving, and pottery in the Neolithic Age that the necessary preconditions are created for real geometric ornament to appear in certain places.  Sometimes, it is the result simply of a playful instinct to “doodle” aroused by the shape of the object.”

Who knew weaving played such an important role in history?  Perhaps I’ve taken my talent and passion for knitting, weaving and sewing for granted?  I didn’t even know about the Spinning Aphrodite until I read,  Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years, written by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.  Barber references original research by Elmer G. Suhr.  The Spinning Aphrodite written by Suhr,  explains the symbolical significance of the spinning process, its association with the goddess and why the connection between the two has not been recognized in the past.

The Aphrodite of Capua
The Aphrodite of Capua, in the National Museum of Naples

Pictured below is my desire to doodle with yarn creating the ancient zigzag pattern.

Chevron Zigzag Knitting_1
Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Chameleon Chevron Scarf  knit with various sock weight self-stripping yarn in random order alternating colors every 2 to 4 rows, measures 7″ wide by 70″ long.  I decided to knit a second scarf to be used as a lining, so there will be no wrong or right side.  The two pieces were stitched together using my sewing machine.

Here are some sample swatches of the zigzag/chevron geometric motif in mosaic knitting. I especially like mosaic knitting with slip stitches because the knitter works one color at a time.  Also, the back of the knitting remains neat and tidy.  The shadow patterns shown below are from, Mosaic Knitting by Barbara G. Walker. Shadow mosaic designs look the same upside down and right side up, and will “shadow” each other.

Chevron Zigzag Knitting #2_1
Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

The above pattern is Shadow 47 using Method III, Multi-color Reversal using a combination of five different colors.

Chevron Zigzag Knitting #4_1_1
Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall

Shadow 47 Method I – Color Reversal, the top two bands form zigzag/chevrons.  The bottom two bands are Method II – Pattern Reversal changes the whole design of the shadow mosaic from zigzag/chevrons to diamonds. In Mosaic Knitting, a photograph is shown for Method I – Color Reversal, but Method II – Pattern Reversal is not shown creating a totally different looking design of surprise.

I look forward to uncovering more discoveries in the textile arts on my self-directed research into the history of “women’s work,” bringing a modern day twist using ancient patterns.




Encoding Modern Fashion

The February 14, 2016 issue of the New York Times Style Magazine printed two very interesting articles, The New Power Dressing by Sarah Nicole Prickett and Under Appreciated photographed by Charlotte Wales and styled by Elodie David-Touboul.  Both articles visually appropriate patterns/motifs and dance from ancient history, in order to encode a message.

The looks are from the Spring Collections for 2016 from Gucci, Celine and Versace.  I am intrigued with the skirt from Gucci.

Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World 001
Photo Credit: Yannis Vlamos, Marcus Tondo, Modica Feudi/Indigital Images, for The New York Times Style Magazine 2016.

Immediately, the skirt reminds me of an Etruscan Pontic amphora vase painted by the Paris Painter of four women. The waistband of smaller narrow triangles separated by a formal border delineates a register of a combination of marine life (snakes, frogs, and fish (egg layers all are also thought to bring wealth and fertility to the household, in various parts of Europe), rosettes and a heraldic pose of perhaps lions/lionesses. The Lion Gate, a relief sculpture of two lionesses or lions in a heraldic pose symbolizing guardians of the gate were discovered at the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae in southern Greece.  The middle register enclosed  by a border of palmettos supported by spirals and a border of small triangles contains fantastical creatures and a serpent/snake and the background is ornamented with rosettes of various sizes.  The bottom register depicts what could be a collection of two-headed griffins.   Cerberus, the two-headed dog guarded the entrance to Hades while griffins guarded treasure and priceless possessions.  The larger narrow triangles create the hem of the skirt.  The woman that wears this skirt possesses divine power, guards her treasure and and decides her own destiny.  Fertility, prosperity and protection.  The fabric design of the skirt reflects ancient costume too.

Ancient Patterns and Modern Fashion 001
Detail of the Francois vase, showing goddesses attending a wedding.  Note the dress friezed with scenes.  Image from Prehistoric Textiles by E.J.W. Barber, Princeton University Press, 1981.

Two photographs taken by Charlotte Wales and styled by Elodie David-Touboul also expertly adopt and adapt ancient celebration/dance for modern day fashion.  What do you think?

Ancient Patterns and Modern Fashion 002
Photo credit: Charlotte Wales, Styled by Elodie David-Touboul for The New York Times Style Magazine 2016.
Ancient Patterns and Modern Fashion 003
Photo credit: Charlotte Wales, styled by Elodie David-Touboul for The New York Times Style Magazine 2016.
Ancient Patterns and Modern Fashion 004
Tarquinia, Tomb of the Jugglers, 520 BC.

“The New Power Dressing” coined by Prickett, “Breaks with conformity and “unisex” no longer means “mannish” but rather glamorously bisexual in a fin-de-siecle way.” I argue, cloth conveniently expresses a silent social message of  female individuality, culture and status.

Know first who you are, then deck yourself out accordingly. – Epictetus,Discourses, 3.1



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