A too long weaving retrospective of just a couple of years

I came to weaving by destiny? benign coercion? inevitability?

One of the few things that made going to the college that wasn’t even my last choice because it wasn’t even on my list seem like it was going to be okay was that it had a fiber arts program, and though that wasn’t going to be my major, I was excited to have the opportunity for some woolly electives.

But it was killed right before I started, and one day the room full of sad, broken down looms was empty.

Fast forward to nearly a decade ago, I was whining here about starting up weaving – I’d been on the fence a long time – on the one hand, I don’t have the cash and space for it, and to some degree, time; and if I’m going to be honest, I was also holding off to look forward to taking it up in my cronehood – but on the other, it’s really cool to learn new shit and that feeling keeps me going, and I’m knocking on that crone door now.

Enter the first year of the pandemic, and N surprised me speechless with a birthday loom. At first I was overwhelmed – it was still during the toilet paper scarcity and I was scrambling to keep my job, so learning something entirely new (without the option of an in-person class where I learn best) felt a bit much.

But a week or to later, I watched a few videos and dug out a cone of variegated cotton from my stash. (I think I originally got it to knit a hand towel for a kitchen long ago?)

And I really dug it.

But I really hated warping it the first time, and the peg fell off, so there was a first time, and a second time, and maybe another time after that, but once I was weaving it was good. Well not good-good as the edges were frustrating the fuck out of me, but good because what I was doing was actually making cloth.

And I got a legit runner out of it – only a few skipped…stitches? Don’t know the word – threads? And the selvedge? edge-part is a little wonky but decent for a first go.

I started another immediately with what was left with the blue and white and some more white, and started digging it even more.

And then I got distracted.

Which isn’t quite my fatal flaw, but the reason it takes me years, decades, to compete things and why I have too much shit.

The issue was that the loom only came with two shuttles (that word I do know) and they’re long. I needed some shorter ones and more of them because I was dreaming in plaid by that point.

So went on a woodworky detour and made a bunch along with some… packing sticks?

But I didn’t stray too long and was soon able to cover the second dresser with a badly damaged finish that needs to be redone.

(That’s another long-suffering project.)

So then I was finally able to plaid the fuck out. (And I finally had to buy some yarn – yes, very problematic cotton from a soon to be somewhat canceled company. But it was what I could afford and get delivered at the time.)

The plan was to make 4 or so placemat things for the kitchen counters, but the loom room (aka shared home office) was too small to warp that length.

Did I mention I’ve only learned how to direct warp, and everything else seems like sorcery? Yeah, I still need a class.

So I did it on the deck. But the warp was too long at first, which I didn’t realize was a thing until something was weird when I was trying to wind on that last bit – I think that was it? Or at least everything was fine when I did it all over again a foot or two shorter.

And somewhere in a circle of social media hell I saw someone using clamps instead of warping pegs, and warping life has been much better for them – thank you random person.

But even though I got a long cloth, it wasn’t very plaid. So my warp dominated. So what does that mean to fix it, a different sized reed? Thinner weft? Who the fuck knows.

(Plenty do, I’m just not focused enough to find out (and I can’t keep buying reeds).

And after washing/shrinking, it well, shrank, so with hemming, four placemat things were going to be slightly too short, so I ended up with three slightly too long ones.

And yet again I forgot to measure it before washing so I couldn’t calculate the shrinkage – but who am I kidding, I’m not going to calculate anything.

So the next weaving-induced distraction was to make one of those peg-board yarn “walls.” But I don’t have a helluva lot of space to work with, but that’s a good thing because my weaving cotton can’t exceed the space and I’ve been pretty good about using it up as I’ve been able to thrift a bit lately too.

The next weave was a gift – for that first covid xmas when we didn’t gather. The colors went with some of the recipient’s decor, but I always forget we have a red table, even though I know we have a red table, and I’ve had that table since thrifting it in the mid 1990s, but I don’t usually choose red, and I enjoyed weaving with it. The red yarn was the barber pole kind (marled) so I liked the texture-y look it made.

Initially I used grey as the weft before switching to using the red (see more warp dominance!) and I was left with a little scrap.

So I sewed the scrap on to a broken basket handle (my family’s picnic basket from childhood) and vowed to use scraps ASAP so I’m not left with a load of things that aren’t things but could be.

The next weave was also going to be a gift.

I had fun playing with balls.

And thankfully I had several random colors that complement or match several colors of the recipient’s fiestaware.

And I’m still not loving warping and threading, but by this point I was doing it in one go.

And enter another distraction…

I used to do glass lampworking. I enjoyed it, but it was the one and only hobby I broke up with – it was just not wise to do it in my apartment at the time, and it was for the best, though some days I wish I didn’t give my shit away (though it was only a very cheap torch, so it wouldn’t bankrupt me to get another, but I have to leave this one be…) I think.

So anyway, I had a bunch of glass beads left over doing jack shit, so I strung them on some wire and attached them to some little curtain hook thingies to act as weights for flaccid threads. Is that legit? I don’t know, but they help and I’m still often getting at least one floppy thread on an edge…

But I really liked this one and it looked good with our fiestaware too.

At this point, I thought it was time to try a new technique.

I like the look of clasped weft and I’m interested in that whole Saori thing too, but before I committed to a big project, I brought out that toy loom I’m so glad I kept.

I took it on a cabin vacation – the first one we’d had since lockdown, even though we essentially stayed locked down there or in the woods when folks were starting to do dumb shit again and think it was all over…

Anyway, even though I like rainbow yarn, I kinda hated this rainbow yarn (I thought the pink part was a tomatoey red) so the sample/practice turned into 3 (again 3, not 4) coasters I sent off to someone who didn’t acknowledge them so probably wasn’t a fan either….

But then I got the bigger project on the loom and didn’t enjoy it. I don’t remember what the exact problem was – maybe a bit too fiddly for my mind and fingers at the time? But I was disappointed again in the yarn – it didn’t have as much contrast as I thought it would.

But it made a decent piece of cloth, and we’re using it in the dining room (it’s not quite as dark as pictured).

So I figured it was time to do a scarf and in something other than cotton.

I got some subtle gradient sock yarn for super cheap and loved, loved, loved the greens.

And I love when the pooch curls up underneath, or better next to, the loom when I’m working.

But in the end, I don’t love the scarf for a few reasons –

Though I broke down and got a second reed, I probably should have gotten the next size down or rather the next size bigger, so I’m a bit bummed I can’t use it to blow through some of my sock yarn stash.

I fucked up the beginning and didn’t leave enough warp for easily made fringe, then I ran out of yarn and couldn’t waste the warp so finished it out with a foot or so of black. Then the hemmed edges ended up being kinda stiff and don’t move the same as the rest of the scarf which has decent drape despite being a little too tightly woven.

And the subtle gradient had a few very hard changes. Which doesn’t really bother me but would have if I’d paid full price for the yarn (it’s also probably why it ended up at like 80% off).

So I have to force myself a little to wear it, but it’s also a good reminder that I’m still learning.

(I still haven’t figured out what to do with the scrap though, because this time the weft was dominant… go figure).

My next fibery distraction counts as weaving and it took me away from the bigger loom here and there.

Yep, fell down the darning hole.

I’ve always darned & mended socks, but was finding it a bit tedious and I’m eternally irritated that I still can’t do a decent swiss darning/duplicate stitch. So I treated myself to a little speedweave style darning loom from a seller from Ukraine (just before the war) on Etsy.

And now our socks are basically immortal, and I don’t plan on unraveling any for reknitting any time soon.

I’ve been making an effort to kill or finish many long-suffering projects in the last couple of years, so it became time to deal with the thin cotton blanket from N’s old sweaters.

It had been off the needles for a year or two, and I was thinking I was going to restart it holding the yarn doubled so it would go faster, but that was going to somewhat defeat its original purpose of being thin and light. (How and why is this a caption? I still don’t like new WP which is “old” now)

So weaving it instead was the no-brainer option. I’d thrifted a white mixed content, but mostly cotton, sweater with a thin black thread so that made the project more interesting rather than the original black and brown.

I did two panels nearly the width of the loom then sewed them together. It took a few months to weave, but at the time of year I have the least amount of time due to garden demands.

I’m happy with the way it turned out and N seems to like it too – it was a milestone birthday present for him. When I do another (which I hope too maybe this year) I need to make it about 6 inches longer, but yes, I didn’t measure again, so once more I don’t know shrinkage percentage, only I’m pretty sure I warped it the length of the room, so I’ll have to do it elsewhere.

And the most recent weaverly distraction was basketmaking. I got a kit, I made the kit, I obsessed over growing willow and making willow caskets and I had my life figured out.

I only made the one basket.

But I would like to explore it further – would love to do a workshop or something, but again, those are pricey – probably not pricey enough for the instructor’s time and knowledge, but I was getting a little bummed I’ve never been able to go to craft camp.

So last summer I made my own – I had a few days to myself and a few specific goals – do a new thing (the basket), get some shit done but not so much it’s a slog, and have open round-robin sessions of knitting, sewing, spinning, and miniature work (has that made an appearance here…?)

It was good times, albeit a slightly lonely camp experience, but it gave me a new habit of plotting out weaving patterns beforehand – thanks self for keeping 20+ year old grid sketchbook and 30+ year old prismacolor pencils – and put most of my projects back on track for the rest of the year.

The last two weaves of the year were also gifts.

The pale green and orange of this one were chosen by the recipient – at first I thought I’d be bored with just two colors but I spent time figuring out the stripe sequence beforehand and I liked the result. The weft was orange too.

At first it was green and a little dull, and I went a few inches before switching to orange, so I had another scrap in the end. This became a salt & pepper (and wine) rug for our table along with some sickly sweet baby chick fabric edging that matched a little better in the basement light, but I picked it up as a souvenir fat quarter last summer, so it’s probably the only thing that I’ve ever made from things I got in the same year and all new at that.

The final weave of the year (not exactly final because I’ve just started a new scarf with handspun this week) was for the same recipient as the one with red above.

I enjoyed this one again with the marled red and sketched out at least a dozen stripe patterns before settling on this one – note to self that the edges always end up looking less wide than the pattern. This one ended up surprisingly longer than expected, but I didn’t switch up anything after starting, so I didn’t have a false start scrap.

We’ll see how the current scarf turns out – if I’m not happy with it, I might try another? Or else I’ll move on to the other things I’ve been thinking about – another thin cotton blanket from old thrifted sweaters, a beach towel, maybe a ruana kind of thing, and maybe fabric to make bags/pillows – I’d like to do some sort of basic jacket, but I need to know how to make/control for a decent sewing & wearing fabric.

And I’m fantasizing about giant floor looms and coverlets too…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A too long weaving retrospective of just a couple of years

  1. Pia

    If you keep getting warp dominant fabric and you don’t want to buy a more open reed, then you need to use thinner yarn instead…. 😉

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