Sunday, November 1, 2009

A lost craft?

For my first blog, I thought I would share my recent weaving experience with you. It seems that ever since I moved to Madison (Wi) four years ago, all I’ve been hearing is “where are the weaving classes?” Our beloved Lakeside Fibers used to have them, but then….?  Enter Lauren Paul. Friends of mine and I have an informal craft group. Lauren came to the craft group by way of another friend and responded to our weaving pleas with “Hey, I know how to weave and I can teach you.” Yea!!!! Lauren, pictured below left, graciously offered us a four-part weaving class that she dubbed “weavenings”.

During the first class, she introduced us to basic weaving vocabulary and ‘the loom’. There is something really mystical about looms. Practically speaking, when you first approach one, you wonder how you’re ever going to work that thing. But, it goes deeper than that. Women (probably some men, too) have been passing down the knowledge of how to weave on a  loom for generations. So, when you look at one of these looms, you are reminded of our connection to the past. Often, the looms themselves, and also weaving patterns, are passed down through the generations.

We assembled a new loom during the second class. I won’t go into assembly details, but let me just tell you that it did involve a candle and a flame. (I know you’re intrigued. You can’t hide it!) The loom that we assembled was a Kromski Rigid Heddle Loom (right).

At the end of assembling the Kromski loom, we realized that the loom itself is also a warping board. I personally didn’t realize the profundity of this until later, but at that moment, Lauren was beaming with true-weaver’s delight.

During the third class, we learned how to make a warp on a warping board (picture above). The warp is the yarn that is loaded onto the loom before weaving can begin. The basic method is to wind the yarn around a series of pegs to achieve the desired length. During the warping process, you are also creating “the shed,” which is the opening you weave your yarn through once the warp is on the loom (pictured left). When you first witness warping, it makes no sense at all. Even the most 3-D minded people struggle to see the end result. Thankfully, Lauren talked us through it step by step (patiently, I might add). Apparently in some cultures, a warping lesson includes no words, only actions. Students learn by observing, not listening. (I’m really glad that Lauren didn’t do that.) If you ever get the chance to learn to make a warp, just take a deep breath and flow with it – it’s worth the eureka moment at the end.

We had to wait a whole week, until the fourth class, to load the warps onto the looms. By this point, we were hooked and some of us were even having dreams about weaving! Getting the warp onto the loom involves another complex set of steps. And I should tell you, it can be a bit of a nail-biter. At this point, the warp - which was so carefully wound and counted and secured the week before - is going to be CUT! (Ah, scary!) The cut ends are then tied to one side of the loom. Then came the job of threading the yarn onto the loom, the whole while preserving the organization of the warp strings which forms the shed. I know it seems very complicated, but, just wait for it … here is your eureka moment. Once you cut and tie the other end of the warp to the other side of the loom, you finally see how it all goes together! Then comes the best part – weaving!

So now we all have the skills we need to begin and I'm sure our questions will come flowing out of us in email form to Lauren. But, as with any craft worth doing – the joy is that there is always more to learn. We're really lucky to have Lauren as a resource.

Check out Lauren's blog:

I really don’t think weaving is something can learn from a book, as I have done with many crafts. Weaving is something that needs to be taught and observed. More than that, it’s something that connects us to each other and connects us to the past.