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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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
The plainer design at the bottom is for the back of the tote.Another 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.
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 yards 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.
For now, it is the finest, fluffiest, whitest wool I have had the pleasure to touch. I have been flicking the locks open at each end, creating little puffs of wool that spin up into fine and lofty yarn. That’s not the beginning of the process or even the beginning of the story.
The story begins with Peaches, a Cormo sheep from Ensign Brook Farm, because it’s her fleece. It was the Champion fleece at the 2014 Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. Since this is the first fleece I’ve processed in over 30 years, I decided to start with something both easy and complicated at the same time. This is easy because the fleece is practically perfect in all aspects, but also difficult because Cormo is a tight fleece, full of lanolin.
I have been washing the fleece a handful at a time, because I want to preserve the perfect lock structure as much as possible.
As I spin the fleece I am being careful to make thin and even yarn that should become a soft and lustrous two-ply weaving yarn. I am surprised how lustrous Cormo can be. I am even more surprised how much easier it is to spin with the Very Fast Flyer on my Lendrum spinning wheel. Wisdom has it that you know when you are ready for this flyer. I think it has something to do with hitting a frustration point with the (not so) Fast Flyer when trying to spin fine yarn.
I am a long way from having yarn to weave, but that’s OK. This is slow cloth, starting with a fleece and eventually creating a soft and warm shawl. This is my personal version of fleece to shawl, not the frenzied competition that creates coarse and heavy cloth, spun by committee and woven under extreme pressure. No, indeed. This is a slow and mindful journey in wool.
The summer before I went away to Smith College, I enrolled in a tapestry weaving course at my local community college. I felt strongly that if I didn’t learn to weave, right that very minute, that the opportunity might slip past me and that I might never weave at all.
It was a glorious summer, and I learned as much about the world as I did about warp and weft. I was probably the youngest student in the course, and other than the anti-war movement that my whole family was involved in, I had grown up very sheltered from the rest of the world. I came away from the course with a love of both spinning and weaving, and a brain filled with the wonders of environmental activism, utopian societies and a belief that the individual has power to change the world. Who knew that my political beliefs would be formed thread by thread?
I’ve picked up my tapestry bobbins again, reaching back through time to remember how. I still have the instinct for expansive sweeps of color, broad lines sketched on paper, and then ignored as the weaving comes to life. I need to regain the gift of working more freely, adding little grace notes of color and texture as the work takes on its own life. This work is flat, intellectual, and too methodical.
Changing the world, one thread at a time. I still believe in that.
And, hand-to-hand, we cast the circle.
(Tapestry, Hands of the Goddess, Embracing Us All)
It’s good to look around and see if I can finish any weaving project that’s in progress. Hmmm. I could hem a towel or two, but that’s about it. Everything that’s on the loom or making its way onto the loom is still going to be a work in progress well into the new year. I’m OK with that. I have all the time in the world.
Walking through the house last Saturday, making sure everything looked tidy before a friend dropped by, I realized that I am making progress toward my desire of having my home filled with handwoven textiles. It brings me joy to have made these things or to have supported other weavers by buying their work.
- Living room-my block weave table square on the coffee table
- Dining room-my table runner and napkins from a local weaver
- Kitchen-my towels, my tablecloth, and a rug from a local weaving guild sale. And let’s not forget my seasonal potholders, woven with loopers on an old-style potholder loom.
- Library-my lap blanket
- Guest room-table square by Bev Bowman and rug from a weaver in Sweden
- Guest bath-my fingertip towels
- Studio-my color gamp
- Master bedroom-lap blanket by Lenora Fowler
What’s on the looms right now?
- Alpaca/bamboo scarf
- Yardage for a boudoir pillow
- Yardage for a Saori wool shawl
- Squares for a cashmere shawl (on the dreaded Weavette loom)
- A narrow band (maybe a lanyard, or maybe just to tie something)
What comes next?
- Placemats and napkins
- Tea towels
What’s in my dreams?
- Bath towels and wash cloths
With the cold, bright days of winter coming, I wonder how much of this I will weave before spring?
Some thirty years ago, I had a passing fancy for a handful of towns along the Connecticut River in Franklin County, MA. Each of these towns had one or two outstanding shops that I would visit on occasion. I found myself in Greenfield on Saturday. The Textile Company is still on Power Square, and they still take only cash or checks. Outside, it’s an unimpressive old factory building, covered in asphalt siding, but inside is a gem of a fabric shop. They have just enough quilting fabric to satisfy, without there being so much that my head starts spinning.
I found a packet of pre-cut fabric squares, which quilters call ‘charms.’ They are very charming. I am going to make a pair of pillows, pieced but not quilted. By the time I’m done, the narrow, mostly red, stripes will only be 1/2 inch wide, there may be some hand-sewn kantha stitching, and vintage buttons attached.
Somehow, I came away with too much fabric. The salesperson was very enthusiastic. I suppose I can use the remnants in some rag place mats.
That was as much of my shadow as I could find in Greenfield. Lund Silversmiths is no longer in business, and the breathtakingly creative jeweler on Main Street moved to NJ years ago.
I took a meandering route home, driving through Turners Falls and Millers Falls, where a faint shadow lingered. Renovators’ Supply is still there, somewhere, but doesn’t have a retail showroom at present.
The Connecticut River is beautiful as it passes through farmlands, and it was a particularly pleasant afternoon, warm enough that my vest and scarf kept me comfy. I don’t remember the river being this lovely. Change is gradual and continual. I have become a person who notices rivers.
Life at Buttonwood gets better every day. If I could only figure out what box contains my copy of Barbro Wallin’s Moraband, things would be near perfect. I’m tempted to order a second copy, but I suspect this is supposed to be one of those life lessons in patience. Didn’t I already have this one last year, when the new sheets went missing for months, and were finally discovered in a box of art supplies? Did I not learn enough from that?
On the side of perfection, the woods are full of birds, and I have seen so many young ones out exploring the world. Several mornings, I’ve seen young wild turkeys dutifully lined up behind their mother, exploring the land. This morning, a little robin, his plumage half way between juvenile and adult, was on my lawn.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sparrows and robins are ordinary or boring. While they may be plentiful, they are also insouciant and fascinating little bundles of feathers.
Turning away from the window, a bit reluctantly on such a nice morning, I am making good progress on the band loom with the curtain tieback. I have a little more than ten inches done, and need forty in total for the borders, since they are used on either side of the central band.
As I expected, I am weaving more efficiently using a Glimåkra band knife with the weft thread wrapped around the handle. I am also becoming more efficient in writing about weaving. I can now click on a icon for a Swedish keyboard and get the additional vowels that are necessary to spell words like väv (weave) and dräll
Each time I meet new people in the community, I feel the ripples of connection spreading around me. Neighbors. Fiber arts community. Earth spirituality. One circle overlays the next as it ripples across the tiny pond.
Last August was very different. I was on my victory lap, still in awe of the circumstances that contrived to drop me here in my beloved hills. Everything was new, and a bit overwhelming. This August, I’m still filled with joy and awe, but I’m also deeply content. A year of bliss has filled in the empty places.
Yesterday, I hemmed a small tablecloth I had woven at Vavstuga in February. I sat on the balcony that overlooks the meadow, nestled deep in it’s shaded recess. This is my favorite spot on weekend mornings. The breeze was such that I caught occasional soft drifts of banjo music from one of the neighbors.
Later in the afternoon I made potato leek soup, slightly more golden than is typical, because I used a rich and flavorful vegetable stock. Of course, I enjoyed using the newly hemmed tablecloth.
I just wound a striped warp for the band loom. It only has 47 threads but it was slow and fiddly to wind because the colors changed every thread or two.
I’ll be weaving a pair of curtain tie backs. I’m not sure where I will use them but these are the principal colors in my house, so I have many choices where I can use them. Red is not part of the palette; it’s my least favorite color. That makes it ideal for tying a warp.