Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Getting Started

At one point in time we were all novices in our chosen craft.  Technical terms were a foreign language that we had to master before we could participate in a conversation.  We had to develop hand movements akin to writing and learn how to coordinate feet hands and head as you would in a sport.  There were calculations and ratios to memorize too.
Our early efforts were far from perfect.  Our hand spun yarn may have been both over spun and under spun along its length but the marvel was being able to move your feet so the wheel turned with a consistent speed and the fleece fed to the wheel formed a yarn that did not disintegrate.  My first efforts were a far cry from the lovely dyed yarn in the picture.


For new weavers the biggest challenge is dressing the loom.  In the beginning, it is like trying to dress an uncooperative 3 year old for a winter day.  At least the loom does not squirm around but at times the warp show signs of having a mind of its own.  There are tangles to separate, broken threads to mend and order to be made from chaos.  But oh the satisfaction when you have that perfectly aligned and tensioned warp just waiting to be turned into cloth.

At some time, we all made that first scarf from our own yarn.  It may have been a little thick and thin in places but we made it ourselves, from scratch and it deserves a place in our personal history.  Here's to the place mats with the slightly wavy edges, the mug rug made out of yarn so thick we could hardly thread the heddles, the too short scarf of unknown fibres we got from the thrift shop and all the other first projects that got us started.

There is always something new to master no matter how long you have been working at your craft.  The dyed yarn in the photograph is the result of experimentation which is part of mastering a new skill.
The subtle colour variation in the woven shawl is another example of experimentation with dyes.  While these examples are lovely even experts have failures when trying something new.


Don't assume everything you see is so difficult you can do it yourself.  This bag is made of squares woven on a simple loom then joined together with stripes of material for form a bag.  Even simple weaving can create something that has a very complex appearance.

So, in closing the next time you see a beautiful hand crafted item remember that the person who made that item had to start somewhere and they probably have some cherished but not so perfect items in their creative past.  The struggles and the mistakes they suffered were necessary so they could learn how to do it better.  Take pride in your early works.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Activities for the Artisan

It will be several months before the weather matches that illustrated in the photo.  Oh, a beach walk is still possible but the sky will have more shades of grey.  There will be more white caps in the water and the walker will be wearing his dark coloured rain gear.  The setting may be the same but the colour palette will certainly be darker.

You could pack your bags and head to somewhere that looks more like the photograph or you could take advantage of the current weather.  It is perfect for staying inside and working on projects.  A number of our members did just that according to the show and tell portion of our monthly guild meeting.

Karen treated us to a glimpse of what her new 16 harness loom is capable of producing.  She has been busy learning how to design and weave using a computerized loom.  She brought some lovely scarves.

Her designs are not limited by the number of treadles available and the harnesses are much easier to lift  It takes considerable physical effort to lift a group of harnesses fully loaded with yarn.  I often think weaving is equivalent to time in the gym.  You get an upper body work out as well from pulling the beater, especially if you happen to weave rugs.



Karen's restrained use of colour is in contrast to the corduroy seat cover pictured below.  The colours were the result of the weaver trying to use up odds and sods from her stash.  Although it was woven for a practical purpose we thought it was worthy of a space on a wall.  All it needs is an evocative title.

The show and tell portion of our guild meetings illustrates the diversity among our members.  We have very different approaches to design, colour and materials.  We also have different tools and different skills sets that we can use to add to our creations.


The simple design of this throw allows the beauty of the fibres used to stand out.  The darker bands have a small amount of glitter that elevates the piece.  It was done on a four harness loom using simple weave structure.

The final photos show more from the two different study groups.  The colour gamp illustrates how the neutral colours in the warp alter the weft colour as it crosses them.

The yellow striped scarf is the result of a collapse weave experiment using a highly twisted single cotton thread as the weft.  The cotton weft pulls in causing the warp threads to pleat and buckle.