Category Archives: Weaving

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Handwoven Potholders – Not On Your Weaving To-Do List?

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Handwoven Potholders

They definitely weren’t on mine

And not because I don’t like potholders.
I do.
I like them a lot.
Some of my favorite fabrics are potholders.

Photo of 2 potholders made from remnants of handwoven fabric.

Handwoven fabric remnants.

Potholders make kitchen time less hazardous.
They protect me from flames, scorching heat, sticky boiling baking pan overflow and blistering steam.
I respect the work that potholders do.

I even have some that don’t “do” anything.
They just hang around.

Photo of handmade potholder, quilted with appliqued turkey

A cherished handmade gift from a friend.

Photo of a quilted nine-patch potholder

My own long ago quilting practice.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe the reason potholders haven’t shown up on my to-do list is because of some terrible childhood craft experiences involving metal “toothed” frames and jersey loops.

Maybe it’s because when I started weaving, I never saw any directions for  “How To Weave A Potholder On Your 4-Harness Loom”.

Maybe it’s because I only think about using handwoven fabric for  potholders when I can’t think of anything else to do with it.

Maybe it’s because I have project prejudice.

A handwoven potholder is an afterthought

Or an “after weaving”, if you will.

As in, immediately after  – when I’ve finished weaving what I wanted to weave, but still have several inches of perfectly good warp left on the loom.

Sometimes long after – when a piece of handwoven fabric no longer suits its original purpose.

photo of frayed handwoven fabric, cotton, blue and white checks

After 30 years as a towel this handwoven cotton fabric has potholder potential.

The problem isn’t that I don’t like potholders.
The problem is – I’ve never considered potholders worthy of my weaving time.

Actually plan to weave potholders?

That thought never entered my mind.
Not until this came off the loom:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.

Twill tape warp and fabric strip weft.

This is the result of a desperate need to weave and a willful, impulsive, impatient desire for immediate gratification.

So, yeah, it was a mistake.

But it was a mistake that led to some valuable, mind-altering information.

And it happened because I decided to warp my loom without making a plan.
I know better – but I went ahead and did it anyway.

Because sometimes a weaver just wants to have fun.
(And also – because I was being willful, impulsive and impatient).

What happened was:

  • I ran out of twill tape (warp) after measuring only 24 ends (69.5 inches long).
  • Those 24 ends in the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle allowed for slightly more than an 8-inch weaving width.
  • The fabric strips I chose for weft “told” me what I wanted to know after about 9 inches of weaving.
  • A bunch of different yarns I tried to use for hem sections “told” me they weren’t quite right after about an inch and a half.

And what came off the loom was colorful thick cloth – squares of colored fabric I liked  a lot – surrounded by a few inches of fabric that wasn’t what I wanted at all.

What can you do with squares of handwoven fabric?

If they’re too big for coasters or mug rugs.
And too small for table mats.
They might be just right for potholders.

Not particularly mind-blowing information?
Maybe not.
Probably not.  Not if you’re the kind of weaver who regularly, willingly, and happily weaves samples.
But I’m not that kind of weaver.  I don’t “do” samples.  Not if I can avoid it.
The whole idea of weaving samples makes me cringe.

squares of fabric = weaving samples

And I regularly “pass” when I see projects that include the phrase “you need to make a sample”.

However – I’m quite willing and more than happy to spend time weaving fabric that works the same way as a sample.

And by “works” I mean – in addition to the experimentation, practice, and information gathering – the end result of my weaving time is a fabric I can use.

Fabric I can use is why I weave. 

I want the cloth that comes off my loom to be present and accounted for.
Tucked away in a drawer waiting its turn to be out and about is fine.
Tucked away in a notebook as reference material – not so much.

When I weave I want to make something that has a place in my daily life – where it can be seen, touched and enjoyed.

So why ADD potholders to Your Weaving to-do list?

Because weaving a few 8″, 9″ or 10″ squares of fabric is a great way to “try out” spacing, color and texture.

Washing, drying and “finishing” those squares is a great way to figure out shrinkage and how best to care for a fabric.

And if the squares of fabric you decide to weave are either cotton or wool (or both) – you’ll end up with fabric you can use as potholders.

If  your handwoven squares are thin and drape-y, you can add a middle layer and backing.
If your handwoven squares are thick and bulky, you might be able to use them  ‘as is’.
And if none of your handwoven squares are exactly “square” you can even them up before binding the edges.

Everything you question, notice, practice and think about when designing, weaving and finishing your potholders is why making samples is worth your weaving time.

The recommendation to “weave a sample” is not supposed to act like a stop sign.   

It’s supposed to help you be successful.  To let you know that there are tricky bits up ahead.
Things worth trying out.
Things that  you won’t know until you see (and weave them) for yourself.
Things that if you practice ahead of time – will make you feel more confident, comfortable, and competent when you weave a similar fabric on a larger scale.

If resistance is strong, knowing why something is worth your time and effort might not be enough to convince you to give it a try.
If you resist weaving samples, maybe it’s because you want the results of your effort to “be” something.
Something more than an attachment to a page in a notebook.
Something to have and to hold – or give away as a gift.
Bookmarks, mug rugs, greeting card inserts, towels, table mats, scarves – and now potholders – are all on my weaving to-do list.

Calling the things I weave “samples” still makes me cringe.  But when I change the way I think about them – turning them into practice pieces,  prototypes, and fabrics I can use – I’m much more willing to do the work.  And I’ll be sharing some of my favorite “practice projects” in future posts.

Lately I’ve been thinking about things to weave on a rigid heddle loom.  And wondering about using a series of narrow wool strips – pieced together – for a blanket.

But I don’t know (yet) which of the yarns in my stash I want to use.
I’m not sure how any of them will hold up in the wash or whether any of the colors I like will go together.
I’m curious to see if maybe some of the colors I absolutely hate might work.
I don’t know how close or how far apart to position the threads in order to end up with a weight and thickness I like.
And I’m not sure if it would be better to hand piece the strips before fulling the fabric or after.
I don’t even know if  I have enough yarn or if I’ll need to buy (or spin) more.

But I know what I can do to find out.

photo of handwoven wool fabric, 7 inches wide

I gotta go weave more fabric for potholders.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

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What Do You Get When You Weave With Thick, Bulky Warp?

Thick, bulky fabric!

Like this:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using  twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.

Off-loom length of fabric made with twill tape warp – using fabric strips for weft.

And this:

photo showing off-loom length of handspun handwoven rug fabric

Off-loom length of fabric made with handspun yarns in warp and weft.

Both fabrics were woven on Ashford rigid heddle looms using the 2.5 dpi (dents per inch) heddle.

And FYI:

  • the measuring stick in these photos is 48″ long
  • it takes me a while to figure out how to get even edges
  • and yes, I use toilet paper for headings

The twill tape experiment came first – using a 16″ loom.

photo showing 16" RH loom set up with twill tape warp, using hand dyed fabric strips as weft.

Twill tape warp and hand dyed fabric weft on a 16″ rigid heddle loom.

Then I expanded a bit for the second experiment – using a 24″ loom.

Photo ofweft-faced fabric on a 24 inch rigid heddle loom using handspun yarn.

Handspun warp and weft on a 24″ rigid heddle loom.

The twill tape and fabric strips became these 3 pieces.

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Good examples of what can happen when you get overly excited about the middle of the weaving – and don’t pay attention to the beginning or the end (note the curved hems).  Next time –  I’ll be more careful with the hem sections.

They’re also good examples of what I like to call “prototypes” or, even better –  “handwoven samples you can use”.

photo of handwoven potholders 'holding' pot lids on the stove

So – from my first experiment using thick, bulky warp – I got potholders!  And a lot of information about what to do next time.

The second experiment remains unfinished. Super bulky warp yarns aren’t ideal for a folded woven hem.  And I’m not a big fan of fringe on the floor.

Photo of handspun handwoven twill fabric pinned to the edge of a handwoven rug to test it as a possible finishing technique. fabric

Handspun, handwoven wool binding pinned over the end of my rug-like fabric.

So after staring at it for a few days, (with a piece of leftover binding pinned to the edge) I decided to make more of the same dark brown, handspun/handwoven twill fabric that I used to bind the edges of this piece:

photo of multi-color wool rug, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

Multicolored Rug, 41″ x 21″, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

The yarn’s been spun.

Photo of dark brown yarn handspun by Joanne Littler

Dark brown handspun yarn for rug binding.

But I want it to be the first warp I put on and weave off when I’m ready to get back to weaving with a floor loom.  So that’s on “hold” for now.

In the meantime, there are a couple more things I want to try with that big, funky heddle.  And I’ve got lots more spinning to do.  Most of it related to my continuing quest to explore what it takes to make a good rug.

As much as I love the thick handspun fabric I wove on the RH loom – I think it’s best to describe it as being “rug-like” – and not what I would consider “good fabric for a rug”.  (More about that later).

The thing about it is, neither project needed to be anything.
Something else was going on.  Something more than any particular handwoven thing.

What I “got” when I wove with thick, bulky warp was (way) more than potholders and a rug. 

Working with those wide open spaces in the 2.5 dpi heddle helped me think about (and do) things differently.
Exactly what I’ve learned to expect from weaving.

I gotta go do my PT for knees.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

 

What’s So Special About This 2.5 dpi Rigid Heddle Reed?

And what can you do with all those wide open spaces?

photo of Ashford's 16-inch, 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed

If you’ve ever tried to use novelty yarns for warp, (or decided you weren’t willing to take the risk)  you’ll immediately recognize the potential here.

Smooth, even, and relatively small yarns glide through the spaces of most  heddles and reeds – making them an ideal choice for warp.

But lumpy-bumpy, thick and thin yarns often refuse to cooperate.

Sometimes they can be persuaded to do what you want them to – moving up and down, backward and forward – without too much help, if they fit through the spaces of your heddles and reed.

But what about yarns that don’t fit?

Oversize yarns and novelty yarns can cause  problems when you try to use them for warp.

Yarns embellished with knots and beads, hairs and feathers – or other exotic bits and pieces – can get caught, hung up, tangled and stuck.

The 2.5 dpi rigid heddle was designed to solve some of those problems.

And yes, this would be a good place for a photo of some beautifully weird and wonderful designer yarns –  but I don’t have any of those in my stash.

What I have instead are big, thick, super-bulky handspun yarns like these:

And that heddle with those big spaces made me start thinking about big bulky yarns in a totally different way.

Instead of assuming that over-sized, thick materials could never be used as warp – I started to wonder what if?

So I did a couple of experiments.
First, using 3/4 inch cotton twill tape.

photo of a rigid heddle loom warped with black cotton twill tape and hand dyed fabric strips laid in as weft

And then using some of my super bulky handspun.

photo showing Ashford's 2.5 dent rigid heddle reed warped with super bulky handspun yarn

Now I’m looking at several other possibilities.  Things I’ve always thought could only be used one way – as weft.

Whether you have a stash of novelty yarns you’d like to use or just want to try something different, consider adding the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed to your  weaving “toolbox”.

You might find yourself headed in a whole new direction.

I gotta go look through my stash.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

 

 

 

 

 

One More Reason To Love The Rigid Heddle Loom

 

photo of 24" RH loom with cotton mat project in progress

If you weave with a rigid heddle loom, you already know it’s a wonderful way to weave.

You don’t need me to remind you of all the advantages.

You already know – and appreciate – what your rigid heddle loom can do.

  • You know how easy it is to set up your loom when you’re ready to weave.
  • And you know how easy it is to put it away when you’re not.
  • You know that your loom offers endless fabric-making possibilities.

I know these things, too.
They’re a few of the reasons why I choose to teach weaving with RH looms and why I wholeheartedly recommend the rigid heddle loom to anyone interested in weaving.
Especially anyone eager to explore the craft without having to spend lots of money for a much larger and more expensive piece of equipment.

Rigid heddle looms are affordable, portable, simple, and versatile.

But if someone asks you why you love weaving with your rigid heddle loom you might have more personal reasons.   You might say it’s because:

  • You can take your loom outside with you on a fine summer’s day.
  • You can weave on your porch, under a tree, in a park or on the beach.
  • You can hang your loom on the wall  – and display your handwoven art.
  • You can take your loom with you on vacation or on a business trip.

Maybe most important of all:

You can access your creativity with a rigid heddle loom.

The funny thing is, even though I know and appreciate all of these things, until recently I’ve done almost all of my weaving on a floor loom.

Until recently, I’ve felt more comfortable weaving with a floor loom.

Maybe because I learned to weave on a floor loom.
Maybe it’s just a habit I developed because I’ve spent so much time practicing with a floor loom.
Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a loom snob.  Maybe I choose to believe that a floor loom is “better” than any other type of loom.
Maybe.

But maybe the reason I haven’t spent much time weaving with a rigid heddle loom is simply that I haven’t had to.   I’ve had access to (and a definite preference for) a different type of loom.

Funny how things change.

My new reason to love the rigid heddle loom? – I don’t have to use my knees.
And recently, I’ve been having pain in my knees.

Of course it makes me sad not to be able to use my floor looms – dancing on those treadles is part of the fun.
And of course I hope I’ll be able to weave that way again, soon.

But for now, my “weaving way” is moving me slowly and gently in a different direction.

And once I decided to get over feeling disappointed and frustrated, I started to get excited about this new path.

I’m excited about planning projects that – until now – have been outside my preferred (and comfortable?) method of operation.

I’m also intrigued by the appearance of this unimagined opportunity and the impact it has on the choices I make – turning me away from what I know well – towards ideas I hadn’t (and likely would not have) considered before now.

I love weaving.  I love spending time making fabric by hand.

And this change in circumstance reminds me of why, exactly, that is.

Weaving helps me learn about myself.

One thing’s for sure:  if you’ve ever thought (like I did) that weaving with a rigid heddle loom “just isn’t the same” as weaving with floor loom – you’d be right.

There are a lot of reasons why it’s a whole lot better.

I gotta go figure out what I want to weave next.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Weave With What You Have

Ribbon Yarns and Plastic Bags

Photo of a ribbon yarn on a plastic grocery bag .

Reduce, re-use and recycle.

At first glance, neither of these two things looks much like the other, and it’s hard to imagine any characteristics they might share. But thanks to some inspiration from a weaving friend along with information gleaned from this free down-loadable project –  it turns out these very different materials  do behave a lot alike.

The original project, designed by Anne McKenzie, is for a tote bag – using handwoven fabric made with weft strips cut from plastic grocery bags.  And it’s a brilliant way to reduce, reuse, and recycle those ubiquitous, fly-away pieces of trash most stores try to give us  with everything we buy.

My friend Barb showed me the two tote bags she’d made using the directions she’d downloaded from Weaving Today. One of her bags was woven with plastic grocery bag strips as weft/filler – the other was woven with strips cut from the bags she gets with pellets for her wood stove.

And as soon as I read through the “project-at-a-glance” and touched/handled the fabric Barb had woven, I knew it held an answer to two of my current weaving questions:  What do I need to do to make a tote bag? and How can I use up some of the ribbon yarn I have on hand?

This project didn’t just speak to me – it shouted DO IT!
So I did.

Photo of Tote Bag made by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, VT - using Deco Ribbon as weft.

Handwoven Tote Bag made by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT.

My version is not nearly as interesting as Ann McKenzie’s original.  I wanted to experiment with construction as well as fabrication so I left out the inserted handles – opting for sewn-on handles;  modified the size and shape; turned it around so the fold is at the bottom and both sides are sewn; and I used 100% cotton yarn for the warp with  Deco Ribbon from Crystal Palace Yarns as weft.

I’ve asked a few of my former weaving students to double-check my notes – if it works for them, I’ll post the details here.

In the meantime, – if you haven’t yet taken advantage of what Weaving Today has to offer, you might want to check it out.  Lots of information and inspiration worth sharing with your weaving friends.

I gotta go finish sewing my second bag.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

8H Weaving Practice = Holiday Greeting Cards

Photo of Greeting Cards with Fabric Inserts Handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Handwoven Greeting Cards – 2012

These greeting cards are the result of a self-directed learning spree – a hands-on, trial & error, teach-myself excursion into the unknown.  In this case the unknown was weaving with an 8-shaft loom.

2012 is the third year in a row I’ve made greeting cards using pieces of fabric from one of these binge-on-a-whim experiments.

In 2010, my first handmade cards came from practice mixing dye colors.

Photo of Greeting Card with  hand dyed fabric insert by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT.

Hand Dyed Greeting Card 2010

One young friend asked if I’d woven the fabric (which I had not), so the following year I decided to weave fabric for cards as “practice”.

Practice weaving a specific shape – 6.5 inches x 4.5 inches with an area of interest approximately 4.5 inches x 3 inches.
(I use cards from Photographer’s Edge)
And practice weaving stripes.

Photo of red and green striped fabric for Holiday Cards on the loom - woven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT , 2011n 2011

Striped fabric for holiday cards – 2011

No surprise.  I learned a lot.

A lot of important stuff.  Like why I prefer putting stripes in the warp rather than the weft.  (It’s easier.)  And why I’ll think twice before choosing to weave  weft-faced stripes.  Especially if the yarn I want to use is 8/2 cotton. (It takes forever).

On the other hand, I also (now) know that I love the look of weft-faced stripes in 8/2 cotton.

Tough call.  But good to know.
The kind of knowing that comes from doing.
A fine tuning of personal preference.

Fabric for greeting cards is a perfect project for practice.

And now one of my “go-to” projects when I want/need to psyche myself out.
(Or up).

When the best way to get answers to my questions is to try, re-try, do, redo, repeat, adjust, and try again.
When information gathering is part of the plan.
And when I need a way to get past that gag-me-with-a-spoon reaction I have toward making samples.

Photo of striped fabric greeting card by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

Just for fun stripes

The prospect of working on anything that resembles a “put-it-in-a-notebook-and forget-about-it” weaving sample leaves me totally uninspired.

Wholehearted, enthusiastic exploration of possibilities is much more likely to occur when the process is exciting and the results
hold meaning.

Weaving is most meaningful to me when I’m working on something I can use.

That’s why, when I started thinking about switching my Leclerc Colonial loom from 4 to 8-shafts, I knew I had to find a way to make the weaving worthwhile – as in, “this absolutely has to be something I can have fun with and use”.

The problem was (is?) – nothing I want to weave requires 8 harnesses.

So I went to my back issues of Handwoven Magazine  – starting with the most recent. Paging through this vast collection of weaving wisdom usually moves  me.  But I knew what I was looking for – and none of the projects requiring 8 shafts were “it”.

Maybe this says something about how far behind I am, compared to rest of the weaving world.

Nothing resonated.
Until I got back to 2001.

Sure enough, in a magazine published 11 years ago, (pages 48 – 50 in the September/October 2001  issue of Handwoven ) I found the perfect project.

Designed by Sarah Saulson – specifically aimed at and written for 8 harness “newbies” (part of her “Now we are Eight” series of articles), – and intended as a “how-to” for weavers interested in creating plain weave selvedges along the edges of a woven pattern, it was exactly what I was looking for.

The project was for mug rugs.  Small, simple and manageable.  These little gems – (also known as coasters) – have never been on any of my weaving “to do” lists.   Remember when I mentioned the “need to weave” something I would use?

But – what if?  What if they were just a little bit narrower and each piece woven a little bit longer?  What if the fabric could be woven to fit in the window of a greeting card?

There it was.  The project that inspired questions suitable for a “spree”.  Thanks to Sarah Saulson and Handwoven Magazine,  I was ready to find out what would happen “if” with 8 shafts.

It was late October when I started weaving – not soon enough for people to see during Fall Open Studio Weekend, – and perhaps overly optimistic of me to imagine weaving off, finishing and sending out  few Happy Thanksgiving cards. But the autumn-y brown and gold colors I chose for warp made an excellent foundation for a whole slew of color combinations to try in the weft.

Every one was different (and  a couple of them were really different).

Photo of different color combinations made by changing weft colors on a brown and gold warp.  Handwven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT.

Changes in weft colors on a brown and gold warp.

But exactly the kind of “see and do” thing that could keep me interested. Interested enough to make me want to repeat the process.

As soon as I finished the first warp, tweaked the weaving plan and made adjustments based on my notes, – I started all over again.  Different warp colors and another whole slew of color combinations to try in the weft.

So maybe three times really is the charm.  Because after 3 separate warps, I was feeling a lot less beleaguered by those additional shafts and treadles.

Baby steps, to be sure – but enormously satisfying.  And with lots of cards to give as gifts or  send in greeting – the experience fit perfectly into my idea of worthwhile.

Worthwhile enough to make me stick with 8?   No – I’m just not there.  Too many other things to do.

The Colonial is back to normal – which for me, means a 4-harness counter-balance loom with an overhead beater.   And with several exciting prospects on my “things to weave” list, – I probably won’t need to dig through my back issues of Handwoven Magazine for at least another 6 months.

In the meantime, since I had to resort to giving someone one of my weaving IOU’s instead of an actual gift this year –

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Nearly 30 Years of Weaving And I Still Don’t Know “Jack”

We’re not total strangers, jack and I.  We’ve crossed paths.  Met briefly at a couple of workshops, and at a friend’s house.

I’ve read several descriptions.  And seen a lot of pictures.

But we’ve only ever had a passing acquaintance.  We’re certainly not good friends.  And the thought of spending any real time together?
It never crossed my mind.

Not until recently, that is.

Maybe because my first loom – a counter-balance loom  – seems like the perfect loom.  Small and sturdy.  Exactly the right loom for me.

I  learned  to love weaving with a counter-balance loom.

Photo of 27" Leclerc Counter-Balance loom

My first and favorite loom – a 27″ Leclerc “Fanny”

Maybe that’s why my second loom is also a counter-balance loom.

Photo of 36" Leclerc Counter-Balance Loom

My second loom – a 36″ Leclerc “Fanny”

And my third.

Photo of 45" Leclerc Colonial Counter-Balance Loom

My third counter-balance loom, a 45″ Leclerc Colonial

To me, these looms represent everything good about weaving.
Easy, effortless and enjoyable.

I’m happy weaving with these  looms  – and have great long  lists of  “what to weave next” – projects perfectly suited to weaving with a counter-balance loom.

So even though the 45″ (older) Leclerc Colonial is convertible – (and not just from counter-balance to jack, – I have the kit to add 4 more harnesses), – even though I could switch it over to a jack loom, – I’ve never been particularly interested in giving it a try.

Any discussion of counter-balance vs. jack  fell by the wayside.
Into the category:  “It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, and I don’t care”.

Until recently, that is.

Because recently I’ve had several conversations about looms.  Conversations with people in my Learning to Weave classes; conversations with weavers thinking about getting a different/smaller loom; conversations with people visiting during Open Studio Weekend; conversations about choosing the “right” loom, and which loom is the “best” loom.

And I’ve started thinking about how limited my weaving is.

When a question comes up about jack looms, all  I can say is:
“I don’t know”.

(For the record, I think “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer.)

But all that thinking and not-knowing made  me curious.  Not just about why I was choosing not to know.  (Although that may be the more interesting question.)  I started to get curious about “jack”.

How would (my) weaving be different if I used a jack loom?

The Leclerc Looms  website  has good  information about the mechanical differences between counter-balance,  jack and countermarche looms – along with the advantages and disadvantages of each system.

But I wanted to know what it meant to me.
What did it have to do with the kind of things I like to make – or  the kind of fabric I like to weave?

Would having a jack loom change how I felt about weaving?  Could I, would I, should I – weave differently – or explore different things  if I had a different type of loom?  Was there something in particular I wanted to try, but couldn’t accomplish with a counter-balance loom?’

And the “ifs” turned into “then”  and “when”.
If I was considering converting the Colonial to a jack loom,  then I might as well set it up with all 8 harnesses.  And if  I was going to look for a learning project, then I might as well look for one  that  let me experiment with multiple harnesses.
When I found the right project I decided to give it a try.

Photo of Leclerc Colonial Loom as 8 harness jack loom

My Colonial Loom with 8 harnesses.

After 2 months and three warps, I’m surprised and pleased.    The nearly completed project was a perfect introduction to “jack”.   And even though it represented just a little bit of time – (in weaver time) – it feels like time well spent.
Most of all, this experience  helped clarify something the Home Economist (Consumer Scientist?) in me suspected – something the Weaver in me needed to know for sure.

It’s not just about the loom.

Our personalities, values,  lifestyle choices,  likes and dislikes,  dreams, aspirations, goals –  all of those things deserve our attention.

The first loom you use may not be either “right” or “best”.  But if it gets you weaving, it’s a still a good choice.  It’s important to notice what feels like fun – and what doesn’t.

Keep weaving.  And pay attention. Weaving can show you things.
Whatever loom you use.

Your preferences will show up in the fabric.

Photo of various colors used in 8H weaving.

Changing weft colors made this an adventure!

I’ll tell you why this was such a great project in my next post.

Right now, with another 20 inches or so left on this (last) warp –
 I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Weavers: Do You Ever Want To Just Tie One On?

Not a dozen.
Not 4.
Not a complete “set” of anything.
No extras for friends, or gifts to give.
Not enough to donate or sell.
Do you ever choose to warp your loom for just one thing?

It sounds simple enough.
But it might not be all that easy – especially if it’s not what you usually do.

If you usually try to make the most of your weaving plan by making multiples, warping for just one thing seem might seem like a waste.

Why does it feel like one is not enough?

Maybe because your time is valuable.  And as a resource, it keeps dwindling.
When we’re short on time, but passionate about weaving  – we may feel the need to maximize our efforts.

It’s an economy of scale thing.
Warping a loom – getting ready to weave – requires a lot of preparation.  Measuring, sleying, threading, tying on, winding on…

Photo loom harnesses and heddles being threaded

One part of the warping process – threading heddles.

Whatever order you choose to do it in, –  it all has to happen – whether it’s to make one thing or to make many.

Each additional thing you plan to weave adds more length and uses more yarn.
But measuring and winding on only take a little bit longer.

Most other parts of the process stay the same.

So you’re actually saving time by making multiples – by not having to repeat all the steps.

Clearly, it’s more efficient to make more than one.

But … Are two enough? Are 6 too many?
When a TV ad posed those questions several years ago, the answer was obvious – because with prunes you really can ‘trust your gut’ to get it right.

When you’re planning a weaving project – sometimes it’s hard to see why more is not (necessarily) better.

Rigid Heddle weavers may have an advantage here.  Limitations imposed by the equipment prevent over-reaching.
My RH loom comfortably holds about 4 yards of warp.   I’m not tempted to set it up for 24 towels – because I can’t.

On my floor looms, weaving 2 dozen towels from one warp is definitely possible.  (But if you think this might be a good thing –  and if you  know you have a short attention span, and/or are easily bored, please – pause and consider –  by #7  the weaving starts to get old.  The next 17?  Not a lot of fun.  Trust me.)

How you feel about the warping process can make a big difference.

Especially if  you think of it as an ordeal.
Do you find it excruciating?  Or merely off-putting?
Does it seem like it takes forever?
Do some parts of the process feel awkward and uncomfortable?
Is it complicated and confusing?
Does warping your loom feel like a major undertaking?
Do you warp for more than one so you can avoid having to do it more often?

Do you wish you could warp less and weave more?

For a lot of weavers,  the work of setting up a loom isn’t the fun part – and that becomes a problem when there isn’t  a lot of time to spare.

But if we pay attention to what’s fun and what’s not fun – if we consider what we might do differently – we can find ways to make the not so much fun experience more satisfying and less of a problem.

Warping is part of weaving.  A big part.  One thing has to happen in order to “get”  to do the other.  (And those next 17 towels do have to be woven off before I get to warp for something else.)

So how do you feel about warping for (and weaving off) just one small thing?
Does the prospect make you happy and excited?
Or does it sound like a waste (of time and materials)?

What if you enjoyed warping as much (or more) than the actual weaving?

What if the time it took to set up your loom was just – time?  What if it was good time? Special, satisfying and rewarding time?

What would it take for you to feel you were making the most of it?

If you feel the need to make multiples of a project – is it because your weaving dreams include lots of things?

Or is there some other compelling ‘ought to, have to, must do’,  – driving your choice?

If the reason you’re hesitant to warp your loom for just one thing is because you’re uncomfortable with the process – if it feels confusing, if  it takes too long, – if  you need someone right there with you to help you, and you feel intimidated by all the steps involved:

Warping more and weaving less might solve the problem.

Sometimes it makes sense to tie one on.
Just one thing.

And weave it off.
Then do it again.
And again.
And keep doing it.

Try warping your loom for one thing at a time.
Practice the part of the process that (for many people) is problematic.
Give yourself a gift (of time) that allows for practice.  Lots of practice.

It won’t make you perfect.  But I’m pretty sure it will make you feel capable, comfortable and competent – with your own version of  ‘warp speed’.

You might find that you enjoy how slow you go.
Maybe even find it exquisitely slow.

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Why I Never Weave Samples (And What I Choose To Do Instead)

Some weavers enjoy it.
Most will say it’s a good thing to do.
And all of their reasons why make perfect, practical sense.

Photo of practice fabric for a card insert

This is not a sample. (It’s fabric for a greeting card). Really.

But for me to weave a sample?  I just can’t.
I mean it.
I can’t. I won’t. (“And you can’t make me” says the stubborn child within .)
What that really means is:  I refuse.

The concept is one I embrace – as it applies to other things.
But weaving samples?  No way.
That’s not gonna happen.
I refuse.

So what do I have against weaving samples?

Maybe you’ve  noticed.
Funny things happen when you spend time with your loom.
Weaving time, quiet time, alone time – time spent with and by yourself – that kind of time lends itself to self-reflection.  Introspection.  An opportunity to examine one’s thoughts.

Here’s what I think  – I think I have issues.
And one of them manifests as a strong feeling of resistance to any suggestion prefaced with the words “you should”, “you must”, “you ought to”, “you need to”, or “you have to”.

Have you noticed how often those words appear right before “weave a sample“?

This does not inspire me.
Instead of feeling encouraged and excited – I feel dread and disappointment.
Instead of feeling helped with what I want to learn, I feel thwarted, frustrated and impatient.
Instead of feeling open to the possibility of  success, I feel threatened with failure if I don’t ‘comply’.

I just want to weave – not feel bad when I don’t do it the way someone else thinks I ‘ought’.

And another thing –

What are you supposed to DO with a sample once you’ve gleaned whatever information you wanted/needed it to provide?
It’s just a sample.
I don’t a want sample, I want an actual thing.

If you weave – you know.
Setting up a loom is no small task.
Taking the time, making the effort to weave something to keep in a notebook for reference doesn’t thrill me. 

Cloth.
Useable fabric.
Made by hand.
Regularly finding its place in my own (or someone else’s) hands.

That’s what thrills me.
Not some specimen, some bit-of-a-piece-of-a-thing.

What I’m telling myself

(if I choose to believe my thoughts)
– sounds something like this: “don’t bother, it’s not worth it, you won’t like it, you won’t do it right, it’s a waste of time”.

And that message leads to not weaving.

In other areas of my life, I might go along with that kind of thinking.
But, not weaving?

Not weaving is unacceptable.

No matter how many reasons I come up with for why the idea of weaving a sample irks me – what really matters is:  how to stop the irksome-ness  and get on with the weaving.

As it turns out – there’s a simple fix. (OK, maybe not easy – but definitely simple).

Whenever things show up on my own, personal, “need to know” list – questions I have about a fabric I want to make – I start looking for ways to incorporate the reason for a sample into something I know I will enjoy weaving.   Because the reason is the important part – it’s about gathering information that will help make future projects more successful.

So instead of  weaving a sample –

I make practice pieces.  
Bookmarks, greeting card inserts, mug rugs,  coasters, scarves, towels, table mats, runners, shawls – anything I can think of as a reasonable alternative – a way of gathering the same information a sample would provide.

Instead of irksome, a practice piece is something I’m willing and happy to weave.
More than a reference tool, often imperfect, exciting to plan, thrilling to witness as it takes shape, full of possibility –  leading to more weaving.

And yes, it’s absolutely all in my mind and how I choose to think about it.

Whatever you want to call it, however you manage to accomplish it – it’s all about the same thing: practice.
The value of continued practice.

Engaging in the practice 

Finding meaning.
Feeling positive about what there is to learn.
Enjoying the process.
And having fun with it.

That’s how weaving “works” for me.  A space opens up when I’m involved with  yarn.   A space where crowded thoughts move apart, drift past, and eventually float away.  Where the irksome becomes just another piece of lint  – under the treadles, beneath the loom.

I gotta go weave.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Taking Leave

Photo of daffodils & study tools

Restful Study Flowers

It’s official.
For the 2012 season – this summer market season –  I’m off.
My market experience will be as a customer this year.

Technically, I’m on sabbatical – with a booth space reserved for 2013.  And (no surprise) the current relationship I have with Webster’s Dictionary compelled me to look that word up.

Webster tells me sabbatical is an extended leave – for “rest or study”.
I intend to do both.

Rug making, rep weave, and  log cabin designs have my attention at the moment.

Several new-to-me yarns from Henry’s Attic are making their way into project plans.

Ashland Bay has new fiber I’m eager to spin and weave – especially the new colors in their merino-silk blend  –  likely additions to my line of shawls and scarves.

And with warmer weather on the way I’ll be moving outside with dyes: trying out a few new techniques and applications;  fine tuning some of the color combinations I like best; and practicing on my handwoven fabric.

At the same time I’m continuing to review, renew, re-write, re-weave, and re-work several Rigid Heddle projects – hoping to give students in my Beginning Weaving class some additional choices and offer some of these new projects to a larger audience of RH weavers.

I’m also trying to develop a better working knowledge of how to use and maintain a website/blog.

As for vending at the Burlington Farmer’s Market, it means I’m not.
Not this summer.
And not having to wake up at 4:15 Saturday mornings?  That’s part of the “rest”.

This summer I’m looking forward to shopping there.
More than a quick dash away from my booth.
An actual jaunt.
Maybe even a saunter.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the new ‘footprint’ of the market works for both customers and sellers.  This larger space includes a section of St. Paul St.-  closed to traffic – with vendors lining both sides of the street.

More space means more vendors – 90 this year!   Vermonters selling what they grow and make – fresh produce, meats, cheeses, beverages, prepared foods and handmade crafts.  The market keeps growing – changing, improving and expanding – bringing more good things into the mix.

Better and better.  Every day  in every way.

And that sentiment is guiding my choice as I take my leave this year.
It’s time for me to look forward and include more good things in my spinning, weaving and dyeing – things I can share with an incredible group of individuals who enjoy, encourage and support the work.

I appreciate the opportunity.
And promise to post my progress.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio