Making community

Weaving is mostly a solitary pursuit, especially when you need to concentrate at the drawloom. That’s OK, because I am an introvert at heart, and I require a great deal of solitude just to recharge myself after being among people. Yet, I love the time spent with others who make yarn, cloth and clothing.

I have long sustained an image of a community of weavers. It’s not a guild. I know that because I tried participating in a guild, only to realize that it took too much time away from actual weaving, and didn’t often align with my vision of creating calm and practical cloth.

Thinking like a dreamer, I had an image of a small cluster of homes, with shared studio space at the center. I also saw flax fields, dye gardens, and  communal flocks of sheep and cashmere goats around the perimeter of the clearing, and woods beyond that. Looking more closely at the shared studio, I saw the benefits of pooling our libraries and our knowledge, and of having someone there to lend a hand with beaming on a long and stubborn warp, or to give a bit of inspiration. If only I could find an intentional community like this. If only this beautiful dream were a reality.

It’s important to dream, but the dense strands of longing need to be prodded and teased apart into something more attainable and immediate.

I’ve thought of offering the guest bedroom and use of a loom to someone who would live in for a summer, helping me grow and process a small flax crop. That may happen, eventually. It will only make sense when I’m at home more often.

For now, I’m satisfied with making community one afternoon at a time, sharing what I know, receiving others’ knowledge in return, and taking pleasure in being able to give. It’s what makes me whole.

We’ve done some radical things lately, improving a Leclerc Colonial counterbalance loom by replacing most of the innards with Glimåkra and Texsolv parts. It’s amazing how the best looms are really a collection of sticks and strings. Leclerc looms are a bit over-engineered and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Things are getting radical in my studio, too. I bought a 50 shaft combination drawloom and am slowly getting it set up. I’ve also started on the next project for my handwoven home: face cloths and towels.

No pictures today. Soon. I promise.

Yeah, it is a form of resistance

Aside

I’ve been making a few tweaks to older posts, changing units of measure from English to metric.

I have never understood why the metric system failed to take root in the US. It’s logical. It’s the international standard. We are not so special that we should have our own system of measurements. Even England abandoned the English measures years ago.

It seems desperately important to me to embrace the metric system at the moment. Under the current regime, the US is hell-bent on becoming more insular, more dumbed-down, and more out of touch with reality. No thanks.

Most of my weaving equipment is metric to begin with, except for a couple of ’48/10′ reeds that I keep for weaving US patterns. I may ditch those in favor of proper 50/10 reeds, because so many US weaving patterns have mushy setts to begin with and could benefit from 2 more ends per cm.

Metric reeds, for those who do not use them, are measured in ends per 10 cm. To convert to a US reed size, divide the first number by 4.

Quintessentially Glimåkra

While I was setting up my drawloom, a few respected weavers called into question whether my big Scandinavian loom was a Glimåkra Standard at all. At first, I shrugged it off. Then I started to wonder, and it started to bother me a great deal. By questioning Per’s origins in that way, there was an implication that I should know better than to expect an inferior pile of cobbled together loom parts to behave like a proper loom.

When I though I had the only loom like this in the world, it was a plausible theory. The day that a second loom, exactly like mine, showed up half-way across the country, it was time to come up with a better theory.

The answer was in plain sight on the GAV Glimakra website:

In 1950 the two entrepreneurs Lennart Persson and Yngve Nilsson started Glimåkra Vävstolsfabrik (loom making factory) in the small town of Glimåkra in the south of Sweden. 1975 this company was bought by one of the larger groups of companies in Sweden, the Bonnier Group.

 

In 1999 GAV bought the loom manufacturing and the right to the brand name from Glimåkra and moved the loom manufacturing to Oxberg, near Mora.

Knowing that my loom was purchased in Sweden in the late 60’s, and later brought to the US by it’s first owner, what I have is a genuine old–dare I say original–Glimåkra Vävstolsfabrik loom with it’s proper bench. In those days, Glimåkra looms had four spokes on their ratchet wheels. They were shaped a bit differently than today. They were virtually unknown in the US.

You can just call him Per Persson.

A little yellow goes a long way

A little yellow goes a long way. The Queen Bee napkins are progressing, with two done and the third one leaving the simplicity of the bee skep and heading into the broken rhythms of the honeycomb and bees.

When I wove the first few picks on the alabaster warp, I chose a cool grey color because it was high contrast, and sure to point out any threading mistakes. I stayed with the color as I started adjusting the shed, for the same reasons. Then, I started the color sampling to choose the right yellow weft. I love the way yellow and grey play together. When I rented the house at Sparrow Hill, the yellow walls in the master bedroom were a source of frustration until I tamed them with cool grey and alabaster bed linens. This is the only way that yellow is really palatable to me.

Around that time, I realized that I had too much yellow yarn, so many 1 lb. cones of 8/2 un-mercerized cotton in the brand of yarn that I’ve decided to discontinue at my studio. I don’t like the hand of this yarn. The fibers are exceptionally short, and the yarn is dull and lifeless. It’s OK to use it up while learning the intricacies of the draw loom, and it’s OK to use it up for some quickly woven kitchen goods.

I saw a table runner in En Rand och Några Rutor that had the same relationship between the colors that I found in my grey and yellow yarns. The original used black and shades of red. I adapted the number of ends to suit 8/2 cotton and wound a six meter warp.

The first project was this table runner.

The, resleying the warp to make towels, wider and softer than the runner, I’m finishing up a set of three towels.

I still have too much yellow yarn. Should I wind another warp, of the brightest yellow, and weave an apron with monks belt bands? The ground weft would be the pale yellow, and the pattern weft would be alabaster and grey. It’s a possibility…

 

First project ON the drawloom

While the assembly of the drawloom consumed most of my summer and early autumn, I am now completely consumed by weaving the first project on my Myrehed single unit drawloom.

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There is something so satisfying about pulling draw cords according to the charted design that I drew. I feel like I have finally found an outlet for my somewhat primitive drawing skills. And, should I not feel like drawing, there are so many sources for charted traditional folk art motifs.

One of my uncles kept bees, and I have given serious thought to getting a hive. Bees are a threatened resource because of the pesticides used in industrial farming. I shudder to think of a world without bees, for it would be a world without fruits and vegetables.

What stopped me from getting a hive is that it would produce 40-50 pounds of honey a year. I probably use a pound of honey in a good year.

Instead, I shall weave my hive and bees, and buy my honey and beeswax from a local farm.

This is the  beginning of a pair of casual napkins for the kitchen table, woven in broken twill using 8/2 cotton. They will be perfect for the breakfast table, especially when serving toast with honey.

Weavers with Blogs

Aside

I’ve updated the list of Weavers with Blogs to include my current reading choices, and also kept a few perennial favorites who I still read on occasion. The site looks much less dusty now, I think.

It’s also time for some new banner images.

 

A good harvest

My garden is metaphorical, but the harvest has been very real. What becomes of winter studies and grand projects that leave me crumpled and worn down by the hot days of summer? They come back to life in autumn, when I am refreshed and once again excited.

img_7089 My winter study in Swedish art weaves is now my favorite shoulder bag. Something about the shape is familiar from my student days. I can feel my hand resting on that bag, but I cannot see it in my mind. The memory is based completely on touch and hand position. It is also familiar from more distant lives, a different bag holding the worldly goods of the barefoot gipsy girl that the gaj called Wild Blue, or another holding the few scraps of sacred text and the begging bowl of an old Buddhist nun.

img_7185The band for my Stjerne coverlet is off the loom, and I played with the ribbon swirls for a while before settling down to sew the band into a mitered border. Despite the three sewing machines in my studio, my hand reaches instinctively for needle and thread. Hand-woven fabric deserves hand-sewn seams. I can backstitch along at a good rate, and I enjoy the contrast between the cool linen border and the complex surface of cotton and linen overshot by woolen pattern threads.

Even the drawloom project is coming along. The first warp is neatly wound around the warp beam and threaded through the pattern heddles at the back of the loom. Now, the long-eyed ground heddle are hanging on their shafts and I am threading a simple broken twill for the first project.

The house and studio have been caught up in enthusiasm of the harvest. I donated three bags of clothing and one large bag of yarn, and have discarded several bags of useless stuff. It feels good to be free of things that no longer bring me joy.

I still marvel at the turns of fate that have brought me to this present moment, and especially at the inner calm that arises when I weave cloth.

 

You can live with someone for years

You can live with someone for years and think you know them. Then one day, you realize that you don’t know them at all.

Per, the big loom that I’ve always called a Glimakra Standard, has had his paternity called into question. When I was adding the extension for the drawloom, there were too many things didn’t fit correctly. His warp beam did not fit into the bolsters. The extension was 10cm. shorter than expected. Had I been able to insert the back beam, It would have been too low.

Why did I ever think he was a Glimakra? That’s what the logo on the beater says. But beaters do not a loom make. The rest of the parts are similar enough to the Glimakra Standards I’ve woven on at Vavstuga. Who notices 10cm when the looms are not side by side and the benches are different. The beater is old, based on the logo and the lack of hardware at the bottom. I just assumed that the whole loom was an old Glimakra.

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Then there was the bench; the one that came with was not a typical Glimakra bench. But benches do not a loom make. I sit on an Oxaback bench by choice, but that does not turn Per into an Oxaback Cyrus.

So, who is this loom I’ve been living with for the past two years? For now, I’ll just call him Per and describe him as a large Scandinavian loom. He’s my big countermarch loom, 135cm, with 10 shafts and treadles, and I still love him, quirks and all.

We managed to customize the loom extension so that it would fit. Everyone at Vavstuga was so accommodating in making this happen. We made up solutions as we went along, adding blocks to the bottom of the extension uprights, and inserting a spacer between the uprights and the bolsters. Everything fits, and the add-ons are almost imperceptible. I even got into the act and cobbled together longer bolts for the bolsters, using threaded rods and locking hex nuts.