Answering the Questions

I follow a number of weavers on social media.   Some groups are for troubleshooting the particular looms I have, some are buying and selling equipment, most are weavers interested in the process itself.  My experience has been that weavers are a very generous lot and these groups have really shown that to be the case.

A couple of interesting questions were posted the other day that really had me thinking.  “How often do you weave?  What do you do with your weaving projects once you’ve finished?  Do you make a living weaving?”  Since I’ve begun the post holiday catch up with projects that I’ve promised people these questions really lead to the real question which is why I weave.  This is something that has morphed over the years.  As I’ve grown in my understanding of the craft the reasons for doing it have changed.  What’s different is I realized that weaving is the handcraft I have been looking for my entire life.

I am the type of person that needs to be creating constantly – my hands (and mind) have to be busy.  I am also a perfectionist – born and raised.  When I was younger this presented problems stemming more from a lack of patience than anything else.  I wanted things to be perfect immediately.  As I grew older I realized that perfection was attainable for me in most of the crafting I undertook, I just had to readjust my goals.

I was a quilter for years (and years) and also learned embroidery at a very young age.  I would go to quilt shows and enter my quilts in fairs.  I photographed quilts for the CT Quilt Search Project and delved into the history and process from other women’s perspectives.  The pinnacle for me was entering an embroidered and appliqued quilt in the Vermont Quilt Festival and winning a blue ribbon.  As far as I was concerned I was done, I wasn’t interested in taking it any further.  The same happened with making teddy bears.  I found a pattern in a magazine and made one of the lamest bears you have ever seen.  I told my family that I was going to keep sewing bears until every one I made was perfect.  I made a lot of bears. That lead to designing and teaching adult ed classes to make them.  I learned you can only make so many bears and that was the end of that.

I’ve learned to do so many other things searching for that one craft.  I weave and teach basket making.  I knit, crochet, macrame, blah, blah, blah.  I’ve dabbled in woodworking, rug hooking, pottery, leather work.  Even baking became a bit of an obsession (I make a mean pie).   Some of it I did okay with, most of it didn’t hold my interest enough to continue, a bit of it was so bad that I would tell myself and others it was a one-off, bucket list kind of thing.

Weaving has become the all consuming craft for me and it’s not about perfecting the product which everything else has been.  It’s about the process -from beginning to end.  I love the math, the counting, the feel of the fiber going through my fingers.  I love the looms.  Big looms, little looms, any kind of looms.  I love dressing a loom and having the right amount of threads and the perfect tension.  I love it when I weave the first few picks and there aren’t any threading errors.  I love the meditative quality of the weaving itself when you’ve memorized the pattern and you’re weaving without thinking about weaving.  I must confess that I’m usually thinking about the next project.

That’s where these questions hit home.  I weave almost every day.  The problem is always what to do with what you’ve woven.  I never want to be boxed in to where I have to think about what I’m weaving and it’s marketability.  In my opinion that’s the fastest way to suck the joy out of something you love, monetize it.  What I have done is custom weaving for people to augment my raw materials.  This is what lets me weave at this point.

As for making a living weaving . . . I wove overshot runners for a friend of mine to give to some of her family members for Christmas.  Ten days before the holiday I put on about an 8 yard warp figuring I would weave her three and then weave a few extra for others that have expressed an interest. These runners were beautiful, everything came together and I cut off the ones she needed for the holiday.  I then proceeded to weave off the rest of the warp and finish up the remaining runners.   I realized then I could never, ever be a production weaver, especially working on a deadline.  Some of the best lessons learned aren’t ones you’re looking for at all.

Sometimes questions need to be asked to let you see where you are going.  Most often they are asked in a most innocent way and you hear them at the perfect moment.


Weaving Hooks and Eyes

150113 Hooks and Eyes(2)

The last time I posted about this particular project I had left it wondering what the heck I was doing wrong because the pattern wasn’t looking quite like the draft.  My weaving instructor looked at it (under the cloak of darkness) and emailed me that I had been treadling it wrong.  I was close but not quite right.

The structure for this project comes from a back issue of Weaver’s Craft – Issue 11 Vol. 3, No. 1 Spring 2002.  I’ve added a link for my weaving friends because so many people asked me to explain it.  Honestly, I’m not deep enough into the project to do so.  I had an aha moment while I was weaving the other day (and doing it properly).  I realized when throwing the white shuttle that I was weaving the same pattern on the back side.  How cool is that?

150113 Hooks and Eyes(3)

I love the thickness of this fabric – perfect for placemats.  They will be totally reversible, light on one side, dark on the other.

The best thing about this structure for me is that I can use any overshot pattern and weave something that doesn’t have long floats that snag and pull.  Perfect for baby blankets, table linens, anything that will be used regularly.  Overshot has enough complexity to keep me interested while weaving and looks far more complicated than it is.  Threading and weaving requires a little more concentration but it’s totally worth it in the end as you can see.

Some Warping Stupidity

150109 Warp

A couple of days ago I decided it was time to put another project on the loom.  I have a nephew that’s expecting twins in the spring and opted for an overshot blanket.  I wound a 6 yard warp in 5/2 figuring I would weave two in different colors and have some room to play as well.  I was warping the loom this time using a roll of corrugated cardboard.  It went on like a dream, straight, even, perfect tension, yes!

I taped up my draft and started threading my heddles.  Hmmmm, there really didn’t seem like enough threads for the project.  I got halfway through and realized I had miscounted. By half. Ugh.

Now I’ve been known to wind a warp that was twice the number of threads but never under.  So I’m thinking, “What the heck am I going to do now – there’s 6 yards on here and 230 threads?”

It just so happens I was also planning on doing a couple of table runners for gifts later in the winter but there weren’t enough threads to do the ones I intended.  This sent me in search of an overshot pattern that would work for the people the gifts were intended for and spoke about the weaver (this is almost always how my design process goes).

I pulled out Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes.  This is my all time favorite book of overshot patterns.  I pored through the book for a good long while and finally settled on her pattern Old Fashioned Garden.  It has a 40 thread repeat so I could work it with an open and close of 14 threads and only have 15 threads hanging off the back of the loom in the end.

Today I’ll thread the heddles, tie on and hopefully weave enough picks to see how the design will work.

The babies will have to wait.

150109 Macomber

As a side note I just wanted to share how amazing this Macomber loom is.  The breast beam is hinged and can be lowered.  Great when you’re ready to thread and really don’t want to take the loom apart.  This loom is so high that I wouldn’t be able to thread over the beam comfortably.  There are so many things about this loom that are simply brilliant in their design.



Hand Made


Yesterday the weather wasn’t conducive to gardening, or much of anything outdoors.  Although there was plenty to do in the house (like vacuuming) I decided to finish up the project on the loom.

This is a 72″ runner with a linen warp and wool weft.  I made it for a friend of mine who has been one of my weaving cheerleaders since the beginning.  She has an older home and her love of blue and white traditional overshot drove the project.  I told her last year that I would make her something and that’s what lead me to the linen warp.  It was an experience.

These are my favorite projects, the ones I make for particular people.  It’s a different kind of effort.  As I said before it’s really the process not the project. Once it was off of the loom, fringed and wet finished I photographed it and then folded it and got it ready for presentation.   The gifting is my favorite part.

The end of last year I was weaving some beautiful twill towels with the intention of gifting one of them to one of my biggest cheerleaders.  The intent was Christmas as he wondered how he could get on my Christmas list.  Well, as usual, life got in the way and they weren’t ready by Christmas, or by January.  His health took a turn for the worse after the holidays and in my heart I knew this was the end.  It all but stopped my progress on that project.  It came to a screeching halt actually.  He passed away in March and with that I had to change my entire mindset on those towels.  I did finish them and gifted them to my oldest daughter – they were her colors.  In weaving the last of the warp though he was constantly on my mind.

I don’t know how to explain what happened when he died honestly.  The week after his death I was a total mess, trying to find meaning in what had transpired surrounding it.  After his memorial service I was at total peace.  Not just peace with his passing, peace with everything.  It was as though the moment he died he took all of my lifetime crap with him when he left.  I just had to be quiet enough to see it.  Now I always knew we had a connection and over the past year or two he was more than ready to lend an empathetic ear but this was unexpected.  There is no other explanation, the calm with my life came when he left.  Thank you.

The loss of a dear friend, in the middle of a project like that gives urgency to finishing things when they are made directly for someone.  I really want this to go to its intended home.  Although I have never seen her table I imagine it laying there and the pleasure it will give to its recipient.

Last year, after winning a blue ribbon on an overshot throw at the Eastern States Exposition, Paul wrote on my post about it.  “Hands made this. Hands were used by a person. A person made this. It holds and conveys the sense and feel of those hands and the spirit of that person. Yes, it is beautiful.”  There are people who intrinsically understand this about things that are hand-made.  Maybe it comes from making art of your own because I know many people who don’t get it.

I will continue to weave and create beautiful things and giving many of them away.  I think a little piece of my soul goes with them most of the time and I gift to those that can see it.

Lomogram_2014-07-31_03-28-54-PMThe bonus on most weaving projects is I always warp a little longer than required so I can play at the end.  The photo above is a small table runner I made in a variation of the pattern and that one stays on my table.



Weaving Wednesday

Runner (2)

I surprised myself with the short amount of time it took to weave this runner.  I wound and warped my loom last Wednesday and took it off on Monday morning to fringe and finish.  There were a couple of rainy days but I don’t think I spent more than a few hours a day on it and not at all during the weekend.

This table runner is 18″by 72″ with a tencel warp and cotton weft with tencel tabby. This particular overshot was easy to do although I must confess I had to make two string heddles to fix a threading mistake.   That’s when weaving lessons pay off – I’ve been taught how to fix some of my mistakes without taking it apart and starting all over again.

I have one class left for the year and some of us will be doing some other fiber related craft since our weaving projects are finished. Meanwhile I’m thinking about what to put on my loom next.

Thoughts on the Big E Experience

130930 Big E Ribbons


I just went to the fairgrounds to pick up my entries to the Big E.  It closed yesterday.

The fairgrounds the day after the fair closes are complete chaos.  It’s filthy and crowded – not in a good fair kind of way either.  The street sweeper actually swept right up against my car just before I got into it to leave.  There was trash everywhere.  It is interesting to see the dirty underbelly of this huge fair in the broad light of day – makes you want to stay home.  It could be because the smell of fair food was not there, that’s what draws you in.  All you smell is sausage and peppers, french fries and fried dough.  This morning it smelled of manure.

I knew I won first and second place for my weaving because daughter Cait had gone the first few days and sent me photos while she was there.  You gotta love modern technology.  I didn’t know that every single entry comes back with a critique from the judge – excellent.   The evaluation is based on eight criteria – Design, Materials, Creativity/Originality, Color, Technique & Workmanship, Condition, Finishing and Appropriateness of design to submitted work.  On the red and white Maltese Cross all aspects were checked excellent except for Design and Creativity/Originality.  My assumption is it has to do with it being a traditional design in a traditional color scheme, they’ve seen it before.  The scarf on the other hand the judge apparently didn’t like my color scheme at all.  Design and Creativity got a fair, Color got a needs improvement and appropriateness was good.  Everything else was excellent.  I can weave well but the comment really told the story – “The color stripes interfere with the pattern.  Very well executed.”

This actually made me laugh a little.  I got a ribbon (because they don’t have to give you one) and a good one at that.  The judge just hated the color.  Maybe I should pass on using a variegated yarn on my next overshot project.  Then I thought “that is soo subjective, just because the judge doesn’t like my striped overshot doesn’t mean I don’t like it”.  I already have plans for another overshot project (or two) using variegated yarn so the comments won’t stop me. I just may not enter something like that next year.  It’ll be a crazier and a more radical departure from tradition but will be executed so well that they will have to acknowledge it.  Never try to discourage a person like me when it comes to something I think is working.


Weaving Wednesday 11

130706 Keith's Scarf


I was a mad weaver last week.  This piece started out as an experiment in sett really.  I had a draft but wanted to use something other than what it called for, because I didn’t have access to the required materials and I just HAD to weave SOMETHING.

The warp is a Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca Fine which is a  wool/alpaca/nylon blend, the color – Potting Soil Mix.  The weft is Berroco’s alpaca in red.  The pattern is an overshot called Orange Peel.  The name alone made me want to weave it in orange.

I am proud to say that this project went off without a hitch – from warping to finishing.  It also happened in 5 days.

We were going to a nephew’s 30th birthday party on the 6th (yes, I am that old) and I needed a gift.  After asking Bill if he would wear it (no, he can’t put anything around his neck), I decided to give myself that deadline.  The biggest problem I ran into was finishing.  Living in a house with no air conditioning in the middle of a humid heat wave is not conducive to air drying a 72″ wool scarf.  I confess to putting it in the dryer on air for a half an hour without adverse results.  I also didn’t realize how hot I would be twisting fringe.  The results were worth it.

This piece is yummy – so soft and warm.  I’m sure it will get used in San Francisco.  I was a little sad to see it go but had woven it with the recipient in mind, those are always the best projects.

Now I have to admit that I’m just a little on edge because there is nothing on my loom right at the moment.  I have a number of choices right now but I think I will weave a gamp of Harrisville wool that I just purchased.  I figured Harrisville was the way for me to go because I love the way their wool is spun and dyed.  So 18 colors, 72 inches – I can’t wait to get it started!  On the other hand if this heat keeps up maybe I should consider making something in cotton.

Weaving Wednesday 6



Last night at class I started by winding the warp onto the warp beam for the Maltese Cross throw that I’m making.  The warp is JaggerSpun Maine Line 2/8 wool yarn (it’s yummy).  This is my first foray into wool and it behaves a little differently than cotton – it’s “sticky” so extra care was taken as the threads came through the lease sticks.  The warp is 36″ wide so it’s just fitting on the loom.  This loom is the same loom that I have in Rowe.  I’m seeing many wool projects in my future, mainly because I just love the feel of the yarn.  Somehow loving the feel of it makes every part of the process that much more enjoyable.

IMAG0544These are the chained warp threads from the front of the loom as they are being wound onto the beam.  I warp from the back to the front.

IMAG0550This is the view from my seat as I was threading the heddles.  You can see a little piece of the draft hung on the castle of the loom, that’s my instructions, it shows what thread goes into what heddle in order.  There are a total of 432 threads in this particular warp, I had half of them threaded by the time I left last night.  Next week I will be finishing up the threading and sleying the reed.

It seems like such a production when you try to describe it to someone but I find all of it to be very relaxing.  I need to concentrate to make sure threads are in the right order, and they aren’t crossed.  The perfectionist in me tries to make sure everything is in order so when I throw my shuttle the first few times I’m not looking at it in disgust trying to figure out how many mistakes I have to fix before I can weave.  This is where I think the perfectionist trait pays off, weaving is very unforgiving.  If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  Of course some of those errors quite possibly are only things that I would see – but I would see them from across the room.