I finished a piece yesterday that I have been working on in a sporadic kind of way for a long time. For Mother’s Day, my husband made me a loom that was detailed in Kids Weaving, by Sarah Swett. I’ve mentioned her before and love her book. And her blog is absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I wanted to delve into weaving from the ground up, and figured before I start daydreaming about owning my own loom, I’d better start by understanding them. Why not start on one that is simple in many ways, but still uses things like heddle bars and heddles, shed sticks and shuttles?
I like how this turned out. It is purposefully chunky and wild and not at all a project from Kids Weaving, although I do plan to go back and do a project from start to finish while following directions. I got carried away by my desire to throw all kind of handspun yarn into my piece, and as it came to life, I imagined it hanging on a wall, rather than as I had originally planned; it was going to be a wild scarf with a crocheted edge and weird fringe. I love using loose roving in things, and I love unravelling yarn so one can see the many stages in a yarn’s life in one spot. Once the weaving was done and the loose ends cleaned up, I was not entirely satisfied, so I looked at it a lot, touched it a lot and went into my “Closet Of All Things” and found two bits of soft cotton still attached to their seed pods. Perfect. My piece needed a little more balance given the wonky stick placement on top. I love the two soft puffs from nature that sit and hold the piece secure.
Finishing this yesterday was grounding for me. With my kids starting school and my professional work life picking up, I have felt a bit out of rhythm. The couple of weeks leading up to school beginning are weird ones for me. My mind goes into preparedness mode, which I have found completely derails my creativity and my will to just be. In my mind, the lists of things to do become omnipresent and the worries and fears and pressures come alive. Yesterday, while holding my woven piece and getting it right for me, I was afforded the chance to remember some big picture ideas I have, and to remember to recommit to them.
I’m reading a book right now called Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, by Allen H. Eaton. I learned about this book during my day at The Marshfield School of Weaving in July through a wonderful conversation with teacher, Bruce Engebretson. I thought I’d share a quote that moves me, and swirls into the thoughts and images and hopes that come alive for me when I am working with fiber. Here it is:
“He who does creative work, whether he dwell in a palace or in a hut, has in his house a window through which he may look out upon some of life’s finest scenes. If his work be a handicraft he will be especially happy, for it will help him not only to perceive much of the beauty of the world about him but, what is man’s greatest privilege, to identify himself with it. If it enables him to earn his daily bread then he should rejoice, for blessed is the man who has found his work; but if, as will be the case of many in our day, his handicraft is not a way of making a living, but through self-expression a help toward a fuller life, he too will rejoice, for he has all the privileges of his fellow-craftsmen without the need of fitting his product to the market.
“Each handicraft has its own special reward, but there are a few compensations which all handicrafts bring to him who works at this open window. First, and perhaps greatest, as has been said, is the opportunity for self-expression which much of life’s work with its modern advantages does not give…”
from: Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands: A Book on Rural Arts, by Allen H. Eaton, pgs 25-26.
I think maybe these words reflect back to me some of the struggle I experience as my children and I approach a school year. Busy-ness, competing forces for attention, energy and discipline, these things can easily pull me and us from ourselves and from a center seat of simplicity and creativity. This early morning before school, maybe more peaceful because I spent time weaving yesterday, I sat with my daughter and we listened to geese fly overhead, their distinct calls marking the hint of autumn and their eventual pilgrimage to warmer climes. At the same time, the endless and calming drone of cicadas soothed the part of us that wants summer to hang on a little bit longer. The window we are welcomed to look through by engagement in the process of making is one I long to keep open and clean, and I hope by maintaining a daily practice I won’t forget. Much easier to see and hear the birds that way.
September 3, 2016 at 10:43 am
This is so beautifully written and I do love that quote from the book–it sums up a lot of the way I feel about my creative activity. We all have to love in the real world, of schedules and chores and to-do lists, but it’s awfully nice to know that the loom or embroidery thread or yarn is waiting. Your little woven piece is very cool–I did something along these lines in my first weaving class and it is so different from the weaving I do now–tapestry weaving, like yours, is so creative and just fun!
September 3, 2016 at 11:41 am
Thank you! I was just watching a video of people working on a huge tapestry weaving piece and it was gorgeous! There’s so much I want to learn. I really want to get to understand how looms work and how to make designs in textiles. I’m so in the beginning of my weaving life but I do find the simple weaving projects to be so relaxing! How did you learn tapestry weaving? That is a whole different level of skill!
September 4, 2016 at 11:32 am
Actually the tapestry weaving class I took was considered the most basic weaving, before moving up to a multi-harness loom. I took the class at the local arts center. If you really love the spontaneity and creative possibilities of tapestry weaving, it’s possible you wouldn’t enjoy weaving on a floor loom. The latter is much more structure and rules-driven–not so much freedom. Freedom kind of scares me so I love weaving on my floor loom . . . 😉
September 4, 2016 at 1:15 pm
I think that kind of tapestry weaving must be different than what I was watching? Check this out: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7pvlsggz35Y
This looks so complicated to me!
I do love the freedom that comes with hand weaving and I do tend to shut down when I have to be very precise, but that’s something I want to get over! I really admire artisans who deeply understand the tools they use and can apply discipline and specificity to their pieces.
September 4, 2016 at 11:33 am
I should also say that I like weaving on the multi-shaft loom because I am 100% practical and like my work to be useful, like kitchen towels and things. Tapestry weaving just seems destined to hang on a wall and look intriguing and I don’t need more stuff on my walls!
September 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm
I totally get that! I want to learn how to weave like that~ the woven towels we have are my absolute favorites~ so soft and durable, beautiful and entirely functional.