Under and over
I used the photograph of the cowslip meadow as the title for my last blog post, partly as a reminder of Friday morning, when I found myself driving the same route for the third time in less than a week. It’s on the outskirts of Ardington in Oxfordshire which is a pretty little village with a charming old school. The school is still open and busy, though these days, it’s not filled with children but groups of creative people enjoying the opportunity to learn new crafts and I was here to enjoy the second day of my Christmas present in a weaving workshop.
My sweet Hero had given me a rigid heddle loom a while back and after an initial flurry of activity, I haven’t done much with it finding it a sure fire way to back pain. But those aspects of weaving that have always attracted me to the technique still lure me in - pattern, colour, texture; a seemingly simple process with endless possibilities to explore. What’s not to love?
When I spotted a basic weaving dayschool at Ardington taught by Angela Pawlyn, using a rigid heddle loom just like mine, I lost no time in booking myself in. Spotting a second “next steps” day in June, I booked that one as well - might as well get into the groove, don’t you agree?
(And isn’t it fun to be among creative people - I can’t tell you how many times I admired that spiffy blackboard work!)
The joy of joining a class like this is that everything is so beautifully prepared, ready for the off. There were just five of us on Friday and Angela had warped several looms ready to go. Rigid heddle looms are generally simple structures and though I brought my own along, I was more than happy to leave it in the bag for now.
The first loom I worked on was set up for a balanced weave, where both the warp (up and down) and the weft (side to side) threads are showing evenly. After a short demonstration and a few words of explanation we were off.
Angela had warped each loom with a variety of colour arrangements so that we could explore some patterns. After a few straight rows of single colour weave, we tried switching it up a bit, discovering ways of managing the threads as we changed colour - carrying the loose thread up the side or working it so that the “right” colour was at the “right” side when we needed it. We learned how to join in a new thread and how to maintain a neat and even edge. I remembered how Miss Lin’s mother had chastised her for allowing me to get away with a very wonky edge when I spent the day working with her in Laos.
If we needed ideas or inspiration for a different pattern, then there was plenty of Angela’s samples for us to look at and we all found ourselves gazing admiringly at them from time to time, wondering “how did she do that?”.
One thing was sure, it might be a simple technique but the effects we might achieve were incredible. Practice needed! (and notice that twisted fringe…more about that later)
For now, I was fairly happy with my sample, which was fairly even once I’d managed to resist the temptation to beat it too firmly. It was nearing the time for lunch, though as usual in these circumstances, it was difficult to draw us away from such fascinating work. The sound of the school bell was irresistible however!
We changed places in the afternoon and those of us who’d worked on balanced weaves this morning moved over to work on weft-faced weaves where the warp threads would be completely covered by the weaving. We had all been admiring the “rug” which was set under Angela’s loom - a masterpiece of graduated colour and quiet design, we all agreed.
Again, there were plenty of ideas on hand to try and absolutely no reason to stand around waiting!
I chose “my” colours, wound a couple of shuttles and off we went. In no time at all we had all created a few inches of neat, even weave and whilst I did that, Angela had opened up my loom and was demonstrating a couple of ways to warp it.
The afternoon flew by. I think it would be fair to say we were all hooked.
We took the samples from the looms and chatted about “what next”. Angela’s four-shaft loom had been standing in the corner all day with the promise of twill weaves and zigzags…good things to look forward to in June! We laid our samples out on the table for a bit of show and tell and gave a collective gasp when Angela took a little gadget from her pocket.
It’s times like this when it’s such fun to be amongst like minded people!
It was this nifty little fringe twister that was used to create that beautiful finish on the brown/turquoise scarf we’d seen earlier. Yes, of course we all wanted one!
It was good to know that, when we gathered up our bits and pieces, I had another day with Angela to look forward to. In the meantime my challenge is to get going on my own loom and at least have something to show from this one, too.