International Textiles

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to travel, so to speak, through textiles! A new friend who was a missionary in both Papua New Guinea and the tiny island nation of Yap shared some beautiful pieces she brought back with her. 

First up, the bilum bag.

These bags from Papua New Guinea are very similar to crochet, but they are made of yarn or fiber that is untwisted and re-twisted by hand, and knotted into a mesh fabric using a tool made from an umbrella spoke. They can range in size from large enough to carry a toddler in to small enough for a little project or some produce. The larger bags are carried hung from one's forehead, or hung around one's neck to carry in front, leaving the hands free in both cases. 

Traditional Bilum Bag

The one my friend gave me was made from twisted grass fibers, and dyed in the center with yellow to create a beautiful stripe. (You all know how I feel about yellow!). The style of this bag is more openwork, while some bilum bags are much more tightly knotted from colorful acrylic yarn to create a dense fabric. You can see more examples of bilum bags here, here, and here. The best part? Australia has funded a project to help women in Papua New Guinea increase their income through their bilum bags. You can read more about this project here

Next, the lavalava skirt.

These skirts, made in the tiny Micronesian nation of Yap, are tightly woven from handmade looms using very thin fibers akin to single embroidery threads. The fabric is very dense and sturdy, but with plenty of drape. Worn like a sarong, they are wrapped around the hips and tucked in at the side, allowing the fringe to drape down in the front.

Traditional Lavalava Skirt
Traditional Lavalava Skirt
Traditional Lavalava Skirt

There's even a sort of ritual or routine to fold these skirts properly - it was fun to learn how. The colorwork and intricacy of these skirts is just incredible, and they are woven completely by hand! The looms used to weave these skirts are similar to belt looms, and they are usually made from found objects. The most interesting loom my friend saw was one crafted from the parts of a plane that crashed during World War II. You can read more about lavalava skirts here and here

I'm really happy to own textiles made on the other side of the world, and be able to enjoy their beauty and intricacy in my own home. It's incredible to me how various cultures create cloth, and what they make with the cloth they've woven. Even the colorwork - it's so special. I hope you enjoyed this little international journey through textiles with me! 


A few months ago, my friend Tori from my time in Arkansas asked if I'd like to meet her out in Chicago for a long weekend. I leaped at the chance - my second fiber art commission for Nando's is on display there! Plus, Chicago seemed like a really interesting city to visit, full of Art Deco charm and beautiful architecture. We planned the trip and I booked my very first Airbnb.

We went to see my lamps the very first night! It was surreal seeing 53 lampshades I knit myself, hanging in a public restaurant for all to see. The cashier was surprised when she realized a person had created all of those shades by hand. I got to snap a few photos and gawk at them for as long as I wanted. :) To create these lampshades, I designed a pattern for the shade from a big lightbulb and concept photo they sent me. Then I simply made 52 more shades from the same pattern. It was really fascinating to figure out the size, number of stitches, etc.

We did touristy things the rest of the time, including visiting Millennium Park where the Cloud Gate (the famous 'Bean') is and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. We also stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago, which was amazing!

After the art museum, we took a river cruise to see the architecture of Chicago. Apparently the city was pretty much a playground for up-and-coming architects back in the day - each building more modern and innovative than the last! 

Later, we visited Chicago 360 and enjoyed some amazing views of the city. 

Walking around the city at night had its charms, too. The city is crisscrossed with train tracks and bridges, and many of the buildings were lit up purposefully for night viewing.

The remainder of the trip is a blur - we visited the Brookfield Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, took another cruise on the lake to see the skyline, walked around Navy Pier, and more. I can't imagine living in a city full-time, but I love visiting! The hustle and bustle is compelling.

Thanks for taking this little tour with me! I'm so glad I was able to visit this city. I think my favorite part was seeing my handiwork on display, but I would visit again for Chicago itself.