Another day at the loom
The lovely thing about a workshop like this is that everything is there, prepared and ready to roll right from the off. Though Angela dismisses questions and comments about the time she must need to get all of those looms warped with a wave of her hand, anyone who has gone through that process knows from experience that it’s not a five minute job.
With so many beautiful samples and inspiration around the room, all six of us were eager to get started!
It was a good idea to warm up first though, to refresh my memory with some straightforward weft-faced stripes on the rigid heddle loom we’d used last time. Important reminders to pay attention to the edges, to be careful when beating the weft down - I can be a bit heavy-handed!
I was keen to get started on the four-shaft loom though - one of these , though on a table top rather than a stand. All ready to go, Angela had warped it with a plain cotton thread, though it was only when I got started that I realised that she had done something clever with those three sections, resulting in variations in the pattern that began to appear.
I started with the pink woollen yarn that was already wound onto a stick shuttle nearby but once I realised the benefit of a greater contrast, I switched to the green…
The process of weaving is repetitive and rhythmic - soothing, even - and once the process is established, it’s very satisfying to watch the fabric develop row by row. Establishing that rhythm isn’t so easy for a relative beginner like me however, especially in a room with distractions! The loom I was working was set up to use four of the eight shafts - so four different sets of warp threads could be lifted at a time by means of four levers marked (unsurprisingly!) 1,2,3 and 4. The twill patterns I was weaving were mostly achieved by “two up, two down” settings and the pattern written out as
1 and 2
2 and 3
3 and 4
4 and 1
By repeating those combinations of levers, a simple twill or diagonal stripe would appear and it doesn’t take much imagination to realised that reversing the order will reverse the pattern too, resulting in a diamond and a zigzag.
The number of patterns achievable using just those four levels is remarkable - simply switching the order of the pairs of threads lifted created a different pattern - but it also prompted a new problem. Where was I? Was it just 2 and 3 I lifted, or was that 3 and 4? Was I going forwards or reversing?
Fortunately, that’s where having a great tutor on hand helps. No sooner had I sat back feeling lost, wondering how on earth I could work out where I was in the order or working than Angela was explaining how to work out where I’d stopped. Phew! Disaster averted!
My heavy-handed beating (pressing down the last line of weft) was beginning to make the pattern a bit dense, so I thought a change of colour was needed to indicate my efforts at bringing a lighter hand to the job. I would a bit of purple wool onto a shuttle and worked on that for a while. Somewhere in there, we took a break for lunch too, which might explain some of the inconsistencies in the pattern!
Lunchtime was also an opportunity to look at the work of my classmates, a couple of whom were weaving cotton rather than wool. Hmm. I think I liked that better.
So the last few lines were woven in thin cotton, double thickness and are probably my favourite of the lot! However, I’d not sooner begun than it was time to stop. The day had flown by and I was keen to watch Angela’s demonstration of finishing techniques, including the nifty little fringe twister she’d shown us last time.
Another great day then and finally, on the 12th June, my Christmas present finally came to an end. I have renewed confidence with my rigid heddle loom and have spent enough time with the multiple shaft loom that I know I don’t need one of those - fun to use for a short time, but really, the potential of the loom I have provides enough interest for me for quite some time to come!
Next time, I will begin with cotton…