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