Post #3183: Snowy days

We are getting our annual three days of snow here on Gabriola Island, and since I know it will be mostly gone by the weekend I can say – sure is pretty. (If it were to go on any longer, I would become irritated – so it’s a good thing I live in a mild climate zone).

The photo above is from my studio, looking down at the house, the sauna and our California lilac bushes. When I look out the window from my work desk, this is what I see in front, to the left I get a peek-a-boo view of the grey ocean. Either way, it makes me glad that I work from home most of the time and that I have no plans to go anywhere today (except maybe the gym if the roads aren’t too bad this afternoon).

Since the Christmas holidays I’ve had a really hard time getting back to my regularly scheduled meditation and writing in the mornings, not to mention the fact that work is a big ole’ drag and I’m procrastinating on a number of things I need to get going on. The only thing that seems to have my attention at the moment really is weaving.

This is my warping board clamped to the back of my Julia loom. If you are looking for small space weaving – this takes up a floor space of 32 x 32 inches only for 26 inches of weaving width and the warping board can get stashed in a closet instead of taking up wall space.

On Sunday night we had a ferocious windstorm which took out the power,, phone and Internet. While our power came back by Monday morning, the phone and Internet were out until yesterday (Tuesday) morning. That gave me a bit of a work reprieve which I used to finish winding the warp chains and get the shafts onto the loom for my latest project. I am in the process of putting heddles onto the shafts now – and then I will get to start dressing the loom for….. Sauna Towels!

This is a bit of an epic project for me as it involves all 8 shafts, the full width of my loom, and 780 ends that all need to be threaded through the reed and heddles. At 26 inches wide, these aren’t even as wide as I would like them to be, but it’s an experiment in what kind of lightweight toweling I can make that would be appropriate to a sauna. I’m using 16/2 cotton, finer than what I use for tea towels, and am setting it at 30 ends per inch in a twill pattern which will make sturdy but drapey cloth – or at least it should. I’m guessing at the weight inspired by a Turkish bath towel I was gifted (my husband is jealous of it whenever we have a sauna together and really wants me to weave him one).

Experienced weavers will tell you that if you don’t enjoy the process of setting up and dressing the loom, you can’t really enjoy weaving; after all, dressing the loom with a warp can take more time than weaving it off! Since taking up weaving again these last couple of months, I have found a mindset that really works for me in this regard which includes:

  1. Taking as long as it takes. I find if I break the loom set-up and warping into manageable chunks (of less than 1-2 hours at a time) it’s a much more relaxed process. It can take me a week or more to get a warp on a loom, and that’s just fine with me as it saves me the stress of rushing, and the backache of too many hours in a row.
  2. Getting my process down. I now understand how to set up my loom in a way that works best for me and I approach it consistently each time. I no longer consult books about the best way to warp and set-up, I go to the processes that worked last time.
  3. Incorporating one new tip each time. Having said that, I do read lots of weaving books and articles, gleaning them for tips to help make my process more efficient. When I find something that makes sense to me, I try it out. This time I’m going to be trying a new way to tension my warp when I beam on. I don’t try all the tips at once because that would screw up my aforementioned process to much

For all that weaving is thousands (perhaps even tens of thousands) of years old, it is still a strangely experimental process for the individual weaver at home. There are so many differences in equipment, fibre, what works for the individual body, set-up and so on – that pretty much everything in the weaving books and articles is just a guideline. A lot of it comes down to figuring it out yourself. This is something I did not realize in the beginning and was frustrated when things didn’t come out “just so” each time. Now I see that with persistent practice, I am getting a much more consistent warp and ultimately, a more consistent weave.

So as the snow falls here I am going to return to the side of my loom where I am counting out the last two shafts worth of heddles and then perhaps this evening, if the power doesn’t go out again, I’ll start to sley the reed. Given my measured pace, I might have this warp on and ready to go by Sunday.

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