I finished the "sampler" piece out of the blur and white warp, and then decided to use up the rest of the warp for something straight forward -- a simple dish cloth. I rather like the way it turned out and it has me wanted to do a lot more of this kind of work.
Here is an inspiring short film on master weaver and artist Ethel Stein, who passed away at the age of 100 years. Her career as a textile artist was long, and remarkable as she worked well into her nineties. In the short film below, it is so inspiring to watch her moving slowly but with precision through the work of designing, warping, and planning out the complex pieces she creates. I also admire it because weaving takes time -- it is a slow, thoughtful process and one handles every thread -- multiple times -- before a work is even set up and ready to weave. I find myself more and more attracted to the idea of slowing the pace.
I ordered a kit for making three dishtowels as I thought it would help me learn the basics of weaving fine cotton thread and finish with something useful. The were three different blues and a white cone, and instructions, which after a frustrating time of warping (it's been a while) and then finally getting it set up, I wove about two inches and ...well, hated it. The instructions were thin and I had too many mistakes, and even when corrected, the pattern as written seemed to not deliver the cloth I had hoped to make. So after wrestling with it for five days, I decided to let it sit and spend some time thinking about whether to trash the whole thing, or come up with a better solution.
A week later, I cut the warp off at the reed...and made the decision to re-sley the entire warp with a entirely new configuration, one I knew and could trust to turn out well. I used the Finnish Birds Eye patterns from my ancient copy of A Handweaver's Pattern Book, by Marguerite Porter Davidson, purchased some forty years when I first started weaving. A simple twill pattern formed the base. Pulling all the warp threads out of the heddles and then re-dressing the loom from the back to the front provided my first lesson in something I had not known how to do. I rather liked it, except for the whole hump-backed leaning over the reed to grab the warp threads.
I also made a decision that this piece would be a learning piece -- a fun piece, a sampler of experiments, different patterns, stripes of contrasting colors -- and the right to be free enough not to stress the small mistakes. It would also give enough weaving of a single piece to figure out how to manage tension, cleaner selvedges, and a consistent pick per inch of the woven cloth. And yes, I definitely got a whole lot better in all three of those areas-- though frankly, the beginnings were pretty rough, messy edges, uneven tension, and just...less sure of itself. Plowing through it smoothed out the issues and it was reassuring to discover that there was beauty and pleasure in seeing the cloth appear.
First rows in twill...
Getting more ambitious and playing with a longer lozenge shape -- it's a lovely pattern, with its interlocking smaller pattern outlining the long center.
And this section, which I liked the best -- a gradient of stripes, each with its own small pattern. I would easily do another entire piece just in these sort of smooth flowing stripes. It teaches me so much how color operates in the fabric and how the patterns within the stripes can disrupt or enhance the design.
And here is the piece, finished enough that I chose to cut it from the warp. (I have some left over on the loom and will probably try some different with it -- I don't want to waste either the cotton thread or the opportunity to keep on playing with it in new ways.) I will be turning in the selvages because it is the only way I can keep the width a bit more consistent (and because as I mentioned, the beginning was pretty ragged.) I'll hemstitch the ends, then wash, block, and yeah, use it on my kitchen table.
Midori Snyder is the author of nine novels for children and adults. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati, a novel inspired by early Roman myth and the Italian "Commedia dell'Arte" tradition. more>>