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.

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.

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.

Wicked productive

Said with my best approximation of a Massachusetts accent, of course. It is the place I call home now, so I might as well use the local idiom.

I have been wicked productive in the past few weeks. My winter study project in the Swedish art weaves of the Skåne region is off the loom. Yes, it ran long past winter, but I was having such fun with it. I am thrilled to see the fabric, because it was woven face down. It’s fabric for a tote bag. This is the front

IMG_6792The plainer design at the bottom is for the back of the tote.IMG_6790Another project from the winter is finally done. You may recall this shawl, called Opposites Attract. I’m going to appreciate its thickness and warmth on a cold winter’s day. Today, I am content to drape it over a chair in the library and enjoy the warmth of a fine June day.

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What’s happening in the studio?

I still have warp for more Swedish art weaves on the 4-shaft Julia. The other Julia is set up to weave the wide border for my Stjerne coverlet.  Three meters done, and four to go. Per, my big old Standard, is naked, as is often the case, but there is something very exciting in his future. I have purchased a ‘harnesk’  or single-unit drawloom! There are some minor technical difficulties in getting the loom extension set up.  Per is a non-standard Standard. There are loom parts all over the studio right now. It looks like a loom exploded in there.

I have fallen in love with weaving damask, and am so excited that I will be able to do it in my own studio. Here are two pieces that I wove at Vävstuga Weaving School a few weeks ago.

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Winter is over, but my project rolls on

I’m still weaving on my ‘winter’ project of Swedish art weaves. It’s been nearly impossible to share what I have woven, because these techniques are woven face down. I only had small glimpses of what my work looked like until it came so far over the beam that I could peer down at it.

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It is to be a small cushion cover, and I’m currently weaving a simple striped length for the back.

I’m not sure when this warp will be off the loom. If there will be enough left, I want to keep weaving. Halvkrabba pin cushions? Fabric for a small purse?

Honey’s new adventure

This time, I think I have the right mix of looms. Yesterday, I said goodbye to Honey, my first floor loom and long-time sidekick in this adventure we call weaving. It was time. Looms become sad from disuse, and weavers become sad when a beloved loom sits unused in the corner.

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A loom can be an absolute thing of beauty, but not be right for the weaver any more. The last two years have been such a journey of understanding for me. I have a much better sense of how like to weave and what I need in a loom. I’ve learned methods of weaving that are more efficient and easier on my body.

It wasn’t easy to come to this decision. I had been easing myself into it for almost a year now. You cannot imagine my sense of utter relief when my ad was answered by a weaver that I know and respect. That made everything so much easier.

So, Honey is on her way to her new home. New adventures in cloth await us all!

 

Weaving together the disparate threads of a story

This isn’t the story of a young woman who drew her life plan with such confidence, all the lines firmly inked with pen. Or how she found herself in love with a dreamer. Virgo and Aries were not destined for happy ever after. No, we leave that young woman in the past, standing on a mountaintop with a string puddled at her feet. while the balloon sailed freely away.

She took that string home and learned to weave.

She prowled the mountainside in the company of mythical cheetahs, leaping, and dancing, drawing life plans next with charcoal, and eventually with a stick in the sand. Virgo can be the firm bedrock of the mountain, but also the shifting sand, swept freely by wind, water or a carefree hand.

Isn’t weaving one of those things drawn with firmly inked lines, the thread held taut in submission and manipulated by the visions of frustrated mathematicians? Or does it become a dance of fingers across dynamically tensioned threads, a harp upon which to play music from deep within the heart?

This is the story of a dreamer who lets the thoughts of smiling people wash across her, occasionally wincing at a hidden thread of bitterness or sorrow. One who has worn the circlet of the stars with reverential mirth, and one who still feels too young to claim the cloak of the wise crone, though it came along with the teapot and other trappings of the office. She aspires to all this, but her dance card is full and there are countless ideas that deserve an enthusiastic “YES!”

In Grasse, the fields are carpeted with lavender, or at least they were the last time I was there. Things change, but not in the context of this story. The fragrance hovers above the ground, rising and falling with the wind and sun. This is the dynamic tension between dream and reality, balloon and mountain, me and the string. This is how I weave and why I weave.

May I present Aislin to you? She is the wise and calm woman of that chance meeting on a broken-down subway train, the face I see in the still waters that rise in the woodland glade, and when I ask who she is, her answer is always the same.

“I am whoever I am needed to be.”

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one for sorrow and two for joy

As I start my second journey through Zati: The Art of Weaving a Life, I can’t help but notice how that childhood rhyme, used for counting magpies, ravens or crows, describes the journey. The first time I worked through the small and intensely thoughtful keyforms outlined in the book, I was mourning my mother’s passing. I never quite finished the projects, and am in fact, still weaving the shawl. It’s coming to an end. Finally.

Along the way, I’ve woven the occasional amulet when invoking something new into my life, and have woven the receiving bowl as both a chance to receive life’s blessings and also as an opportunity to share them with someone else.

Now, I am weaving from a place of joy, bouncing through the keyforms, not necessarily in sequence. This is my first chance to enjoy and embrace the spring season at Buttonwood. Last spring, everything was mud outside and unpacked boxes inside. My mother always said that the snow should go off with the wind and sun rather than rain. While the snow is by no means gone, the March wind blows with vigor and enthusiasm.

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Spring in the hilltowns is only a promise in March. I celebrated the equinox in blowing snow. Yet, I know it is spring because the snow melted from the paths and deck railings within a day. I also know that this is spring because of the light. The days are long now. I’m filled with energy, and the house is filled with sunlight and the sounds of chanting. In the garden, under the frozen soil, the spring bulbs must be getting impatient. “When, when?” they ask. “Soon, soon,” I whisper. The magic for awakening the earth must wait a bit. I will not rap on the frozen ground and ask them to awaken in bloom. Not yet.

I did weave that promise into an amulet, along with the intention to question less, and do more (such as going to kirtan last Wednesday on an absolute whim), and to trust my instincts and go where they lead me.