Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Weaving Air

Having several different projects going at a time is a habit I’ve gotten accustomed to over the years. I don’t have a schedule that allows me go to weave at my loom for entire days. Instead, I have bits of time here and there that I try to make good use of when I can. I used to judge this part of my nature, the part that flits from this to that. I wondered if I had a discipline problem, or some issue with commitment. Always the therapist, I’m often unpacking who I am and how I operate, and examining how my traits and tendencies impact my day-to-day life.

Well, in this case, I’ve learned that I really enjoy making things, at home, at work, on my loom, with kids, with adults, and by myself. I feel frustrated when the only thing I’m working on is not with me, leaving my hands idle and my mind clanking a bit. When I allow myself to indulge in the many-projects-at-once rhythm, I get to eventually enjoy what I refer to now as my creative crescendo; so often many things are finished around the same time and I have this wonderful experience of seeing multiple ideas and efforts come to fruition at once.

Right now, I’ve got this vibe going in full-force. There’s a curtain (hopefully) on my counterbalance loom, towels on my rigid heddle, a tapestry on my copper pipe loom, another tapestry on a small frame loom, and oh… that second mitten I’ve been wanting to finish knitting for months.

What I’m noticing about a few of my projects is that they are going after a feeling or sense experience that I can best describe as airy. I want my curtain to be as flowing and loose as I can manage weaving it, with bits of structure and form throughout. This is an experiment as I try my hand at weaving with 20/2 cotton as the warp and using inlay throughout. I’m not using a pattern or following any directions. I’ve already learned something. I have my 20/2 warp sett at 12 epi, and I originally hoped to use the same yarn for the plain weave weft; the inlay was going to be a thicker cotton slub yarn that has a yummy texture. Well, what I learned was that the fabric was just too loose. I was beating it lightly to maintain an openness and transparency. I basically wanted a curtain that blended in with air. But what I found was that if I even looked at the fabric funny, the weave drooped and flopped, making it look injured and offended. When I started considering finding a spray adhesive and shellacking the whole thing once it was done, I realized I’d maybe made a mistake, chalked it up to my steep learning curve, and switched gears. I am going to try to use the experiment to cover some beautiful handmade paper I have, so all is not lost.

Now, I’m weaving the curtain with the same warp, but with the thicker cotton slub yarn as weft, beat loosely (still finding the right beat and trying to keep it consistently). I can’t do the same inlay design I was doing because I’m using that yarn for the plain weave. I decided instead on this twine, jute-like string/rope/yarn I have and opted to just lay it in, leaving both ends exposed. This is a departure from the inlay techniques I was planning on practicing with this curtain, but that’s okay. I’ll get to them. I love the twine because you can unravel it and it becomes this wild grass-like stuff. It smells good, too. I’m hoping my curtain will still feel airy, but I suspect it will hang with a little more purpose and won’t be so vulnerable to the passing breeze or occasional handling as my original design would have been.

On my rigid heddle, I’ve got an actual pattern that I’m following. It’s another slub cotton project, this time towels. I love weaving with this yarn! It’s soft, gentle, light. Clasped weft is the main weaving technique utilized in this pattern, and it’s very satisfying to watch it build up. Getting the beat right on this project takes some doing. You can see on the bottom right that I’m beating too hard in the clasped weft section that is newly begun, but I’m working that out. I’m definitely turning into a person that uses a tape measure as a necklace! Ha! I’ll share pics of these towels when they’re done.

I’ll get to the tapestry work in another post, but for now, I hope that whatever you’re doing, there’s some room for creativity and texture, even if it’s just here and there. All those moments add up and make something, eventually.


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Weaving is Collective and Personal

I’m a member of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild and I participated in this year’s weaving challenge. It was to make a pillow using three of the four elements randomly assigned to each weaver who entered. I got overshot, cotton, stripes and black and white. I chose the first three elements because nowhere in my house is there a spot to receive a black and white anything, so that part was simple. One pillow is to be donated to the guild so it can be part of a sale that we have to raise money.

I’ve not been weaving for terribly long, and every time I learn a new thing, it feels like I have to relearn a bunch of old things, although I can say I’m noticing a growing ease with preparing a warp, getting it on the loom, setting the loom up and threading, so that is a good thing. I will share a story in another post about a fight I got into with my counterbalance loom with the absolute simplest warp/threading/tie up you can imagine just this week, but I’ll save that for later. For this pillow project, I opted to utilize the weaving class I was taking at Shelburne Craft School with Lausanne Allen to get help and support as I tackled the most complicated pattern and weaving structure I’ve done to date. The class was for weavers who have experience but are still actively learning and benefit from the guidance of a skilled and patient teacher.

I felt rather overwhelmed immediately with the overshot part of things, and how to add stripes to it, because I don’t know how to create my own patterns yet. I referenced Madelyn van der Hoogt and of course, Bertha Gray Hayes, and saw so many drafts I’d love to weave, but somehow, translating those into a pattern made me feel like I was swimming in too deep water- maybe it was resistance? Or confusion? Or just the simple fact that I need to dig in and study what size yarns go with what epi goes with what draft, etc., etc., and then color choice- oh man! It’s a lot to sort out! So… I kept getting stuck. Enter Lausanne, who showed me a wonderful pattern called Bertha’s Towels from Handwoven. I was like, boom… Cotton, check. Overshot, check-check. Stripes, bingo. I knew I could modify the pattern for the pillows I needed, and get a few towels out of the bargain as well, if I lengthened the warp. And from there I went.

What I loved about the process once I got out from under the stress of making a bunch of decisions about a weave structure I didn’t really understand yet was the toggling between community and self, community and self. During class and open studios, I shared close space with fellow students who I now consider friends. One was weaving a beautiful Krokbragd pattern on a rug warp; the other was approaching our school’s antique barn loom that was having new life breathed into it with all of the attention paid to her; that weaver has her own incredible story to tell about her experience, and she wove an absolutely gorgeous table runner using an overshot pattern. In the back weaving room, there were other wonderful weavers and friends working out their warps and weaving. The sounds of a working weaving studio are amazing- clanking, knocking, the occasional sigh, swear, muttering to self, the walking around and looking at others’ work when you’re so tweaked by threading, sleying and realizing a mistake. I’d have a moment where I’d meet myself and my own growth edge, exclaim some thing, get support and dive back in to my own mind and project.

It took a long time for me to weave three towels and two pillow covers (one side- I used a lovely muslin-esque type fabric for the back). The flow of overshot and the pattern itself requires complete attention, pretty much the whole time. I think I finally internalized the pattern by the middle of the second to last towel I wove and it started to make sense to me, how it all worked. And wow, as the fabric became reality, I couldn’t believe what I was making. It was so much fun to problem solve selvedges and beats, fixing mistakes and troubleshooting loom peculiarities with Lausanne and my weaving partners. And it was heartening to meet, yet again in this weaving passion I’ve found myself in, my own growth edges and how I deal with them- it’s not pretty all the time, that’s for sure, but I know that I can move forward now towards pattern design- not with ease, but maybe with less trepidation? I mean, I’m in no rush… we’ll see.