Post #3063: Learning on two looms

I had a bit of a weaving breakthrough this weekend.

It turns out that some shuttles (the thing with the weft thread in it) are more easily thrown than others. Also, it turns out that sometimes standing is better than sitting. On my 4-shaft J-made loom, these details made all the difference and I’ve completed two different fabrics in the last two days.
But let me back up a bit here. The photo up top – that’s fabric being made on my Ashford Knitter’s Loom. I got that loom for my birthday – it is 20 inches wide and capable of making cloth just shy of that width in plain weave (that is, the equivalent of a 2-shaft loom) The very first thing I made on it was some rather grumpy (to me) fabric out of some yarn that I didn’t feel like using for anything else. Because the yarns were so unbalanced (that is, totally different fibres and weights), the weave was uneven. Initially I was really unhappy about this — so unhappy that I didn’t take pictures of it or anything and I wadded it up in the bottom of my loom bag. Then last weekend I had a need for a small mat for the zendo and I remembered the rough fabric that I had thrown away from me on completing.

Turns out, the rough weave was less upsetting to me five weeks after the fact, and after cutting, seaming and finishing I had this:

As in, a totally usable piece of fabric that works as a rough weave and for its intended purpose.

After making the first rough fabric, I had started warping some tea towel fabric in orange and natural cotton and then abandoned it in the dining room partway done. It sat there for about six weeks until last weekend, while getting ready for easter festivities, I decided to finish threading and tying it up so I could move the loom out of the way and set my table. After my guests departed on Monday I was left with a fully warped loom, and so I wound some bobbins up for one of my boat shuttles.

I had not been successful up until this point at learning to “throw” the shuttle on my J-Made 4-shaft loom, and so I was surprised when a little way into weaving on the rigid heddle I was throwing pretty easily – after only a few hours of practice it was relatively smooth (and would have been smoother if my warp was a bit more uniform). This weaving thing suddenly seemed possible.

So I pondered if my throwing problem on the J-made was the shuttle and went up to the studio to take a look. I first tried with my newfound throwing skills using the small open bottomed shuttle that I had on the loom…. but no dice. Even with my improved technique I could not get the shuttle to fly. So I switched off to a close bottomed shuttle and lo! Things became much easier.

And so I spent the last few days weaving off two warps on two different looms. Yesterday morning I finished my first set of tea towels:

Tonight I will finish the orange tea towels. And then I will start the process all over.

What I am really trying to write about here is how we learn things, how the lessons come from picking things up, putting them down, and picking them up again. There was a time in my life when I refused to try things I didn’t already know how to do because I was afraid of looking stupid. That changed when I was a little past thirty and I decided to learn about sewing. There are things that I made in that learning time that I still use today and I expect that will be true about these early weaving attempts as well.

I am thankful that I got over that insecurity that stopped me so many times when I was younger, but even now I feel it when I struggle with mastering new skills. I do walk away sometimes, or I pick up different tools for awhile and play with those instead. What this last week has reminded me is that 1) even ugly things are useful and often beautiful, 2) learning time is allowed, and 3) coming from a different angle often helps break down the lessons.

So I have two sets of tea towels. Tea towels with issues, no doubt, but usable objects in their own right. I look forward to two more projects going onto the looms: a nine yard warp for many more tea towels on the J-made and a small floor mat made with “found” yarn on the knitters loom. More lessons ahead!

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