I put a new warp on the loom last week, after three months of not weaving at all. It was a tough decision as it meant cutting off a warp of tencel that I had only made one of three intended scarves from.
Peruse the Internet weaving forums and it becomes apparent that time economy is a popular subject. One way to cut down on set-up time is to warp for multiple projects at once – a notion I found quite captivating. Even non-production weavers value this approach as it means more time spent actually weaving, and less time spent on set up per item.
I have now tried this a few times in the last year – 8 tea towels, 3 scarves, etc. (For the record, these are not even particularly long warps – the most I’ve attempted is 8 yards at a time).
From these little experiments, I’ve discovered a couple of things – one, long warps are difficult to wind on evenly and two, I don’t like weaving the same thing for a long period of time. For both of these reasons, I have not finished weaving a long-ish warp thus far – I mostly end up with warp problems and because I’m bored with the weave at that point, rather than problem solve, I cut the whole thing off and start over.
Thus my tencel scarf warp – as much as I loved the pattern I was weaving, the warp had breakage problems and after weaving one scarf, I just couldn’t be bothered to go on weaving more. But because I had so much guilt about cutting off the rest of the warp I stopped weaving for three months rather than dealing with it.
Thinking about this last week, I’ve come to realize that I’m a much happier when I warp for one or two items at a time (four tea towels, one scarf) rather than pushing for larger production numbers on each warp.
If I wove professionally, my feeling about long warps would change.
First of all, I’d have to learn to put them on properly, but also my time would literally translate into dollars per hour spent on a piece of finished work. It’s why a handwoven tea towel from a master weaver can cost as much as $30. Perhaps an hour of labour has gone into that (warping, weaving, finishing hems combined) plus materials cost, and the cost of upkeeping equipment such as looms and sewing machines. In this equation warping for 25 tea towels makes the most sense.
But I don’t weave (or sew, or knit, or crochet, or bake, or can food) for money. It has been often suggested by friends and family that I take commissions or sell my finished products (I think that’s considered a compliment in our culture – only if you can sell it does it mean it’s actually worth something) – but I already have a job that pays quite a lot more than I could make with handwork. The value for me is not what I can earn in dollars, but in the comfort created in outfitting our home and larder, and the reciprocity and community-building power of gifting handmade goods to people in our life.
This is an orientation in which time is not money, but instead, time spent on making is love.
It sounds cheesy right?
Time is love.
It’s the only way to explain my motivations at this point – as time-saving, and money-making would bring no additional pleasure in the making process. On the other hand, the contemplation and manifestation of the gift or the garment or the party or fancy dinner creates a thread connecting all the parts of my life in a joyous whole.
Time spent in the act of making (including the loom-dressing process) – is time spent in the act of loving my home and the community of people who warm it. When I make clothing for myself, it is time spent on self-care and nuturing positive feelings about my body. These are not things we need to economize on – something I need to remind myself when I am tempted to go against my instincts and rush this time in the studio to each product’s end.
How much is the focus on productivity (which exists among all the textile forms – sewists, knitters, weavers alike) a pernicious infection from the culture at large in which the quality of “fast” takes primacy over well-made, or ecologically-friendly? What happens when we give ourselves the respite of changing focus? How do we feel if we take up a small meditation each time we sit at the weaving or sewing bench and allow ourselves to feel the love that this time represents?
I don’t have an answer to these questions so much as an inkling that this gets at the root of the maker’s motivation. As the old poem tells us “work is love, made visible” – a meditation I work with daily as a guiding approach to making that I hope continues to inform my the choices I make in all my work.