I am not good at writing about the odd things that touch me deeply. I don’t always have the words to bring you along on some of the detours on the journey called life. Detours that have made me dance with joy or feel that a deep void has been satisfied. Especially when these oversized feelings are triggered by a small piece of cloth or a cup of coffee.
I mention coffee, because I’m a tea drinker. But, once a year, I have one delicious mug of coffee in celebration of my father’s birthday. He loved good coffee, and now, some thirty-one years after his passing, a steaming mug of coffee is still a strong connection with him. Joyeux anniversaire, Papa!
That wasn’t what I sat down to write. I was thinking about Vävstuga. I spent two blissful days there in July, and haven’t shared a word about it. My class was an independent study in band weaving, focusing on the bands woven in Mora, Sweden, using a loom traditional to the region, and Moraband by Barbro Wallin as my textbook. It sounds dry when I say it like that. In truth, it was two days of total immersion and total joy.
I know you’ve heard me talk about Moraband, mostly in the context of losing the book for months following my move to Buttonwood. It became a symbol of my frustrations with having to spend so much time packing and unpacking when I just wanted to live. I think you know that I finally found the book in a box labeled “night stand” but you may not know that I tried to figure out the process and didn’t quite get it because I was applying it to the wrong kind of pattern.
This is what I wove, to be used as a side border on another band that I have yet to weave. I honestly didn’t see the benefit of using saved pattern lashes, all the more so for a wider band with a complex pattern where the rows didn’t repeat all that often.
I was sure I had missed something. I’m still a beginner when it comes to reading Swedish. I know the weaving words fairly well, but pages of instructions can be daunting and hard to follow. Even in my native English, that’s not the way I learn best.
Thus, the independent study was born. I’d wanted to go back to Vävstuga for another class. Becky Ashenden is an excellent teacher, easing you into an understanding of something, and giving you just enough of a push over the crest of each new concept that you fly down the other side. Whee! She’s the right kind of teacher for a visual or kinesthetic learner, and I am both.
So, with fond memories of my Basics class in mind, I drove up to Vävstuga on a beautiful July morning. The epiphany came when Becky opened the book to a chapter on 15-thread patterns and said that the loom was set up for this kind of design, where the pattern threads were in 5 blocks of 3 threads. An entire chapter of patterns could be woven from this setup. Suddenly it all made sense. Whee!
I wove for two days on the strength of that one piece of information. As I wove, I absorbed how the loom was set up and started making direct mental links between the chart and movements that raised or lowered the groups of half heddles thatmake the pattern for each pick. Wordless links. Instinctive movements. I was exercising a different part of my brain and it felt good. The best way I can explain this is that it is like leaning to sight read music. Remember the thrill when you realized that you could see a phrase of music and produce the notes without thinking about the names of the notes? You just see the image and make its sound.Well, I saw the images and moved the heddles, with no word-like thoughts in between.
Two days of this was exhilarating and exhausting, and it showed in my weaving. My band grew wider and wider as my hands got too tired to tug on the weft and keep the weaving uniform. I made mistakes, saw and acknowledged them, and decided to keep going. This was a learning experience, not a finished product.
That sounds awfully tedious, but it wasn’t. There were other weavers in the studio, and we chatted in that disjointed way that happens when you are concentrating in another part of your brain. We took afternoon tea together. Various alumnae dropped in. Magic took hold of us. Somehow, on the banks of the Deerfield River, in the very New England town of Shelburne Falls, we were transported to a little “v” vävstuga or weaving studio in Sweden.
Being surrounded by beautiful handwovens, big Swedish looms that creak and whisper, and being a part of the unbroken tradition of Scandinavian weaving is magical. There is no other word for it.
Taking what I learned, I set up my band loom at home to match, removing the shafts and the treadles and using what I would call an inkle loom shed. The bundles of yellow, red and green threads are the half heddles, used to raise or lower the pattern threads. This is Moraband. I finally get it. I am weaving my way through the same chapter of the book, taking my time to weave a neat and even sampler band.
This one is for real.
The moments of bliss continue, and even in the quiet of my own studio, I am still wrapped up in the Vävstuga magic.