Friday, April 17, 2009

A Personal Look Back

I recently found a long lost friend! My very first piece of weaving:

It's a plain weave table runner with an alternating warp of pale cream synthetic orlec and natural cotton as warp and I used a fine cotton boucle yarn as weft. I don't recall the sett or total warp length and it seems I didn't write it down either. I did manage to hemstitched the ends and this runner was on my dining room table for a time but somehow it was packed up for one of our many moves and disappeared from view. It was woven on a 4 shaft, 45 inch weaveable Leclerc Colonial loom which was stuffed into a small spare bedroom. The brake slipped a bit and so there were jugs of water to help tension the bands, which were later replaced by a new brake ring.

To back up a bit in the story, I had heard of weaving and seen the Richmond Guild's studio space at the local library. There was no one there to let me in so I looked through the large windows at the looms and equipment and was fascinated. The loom right under the window had a beautiful warp on it and I was smitten! So I decided to go to the next meeting. To that point my textile endeavours were related to embroidery and crochet. Time to expand my horizons! Then my hubby came home and told me about a coming transfer for his job. Oh, dear....

Two months later we were into our new rental home in the Okanagan Valley in south central BC. I lived quite close to Lynnette actually. We went straight into the one of their longest and hardest winters in 25 years. We had 3 feet of snow in the back yard in late March. My main activity was shoveling snow and being bored, bored, bored! I knew no one there and to make matters worse my husband worked long night shifts and slept all day. He was a locomotive engineer. I cross stitched myself into a stupor that winter, but I hadn't forgotten about the looms and weaving. I had taken a video out from the library and watched how to beam a warp and remembered being totally stumped by the process. Obviously it would be better if I was shown how to do this. It couldn't be all that complicated right? A long story a wee bit shorter, I found the local guild and then discovered they had held their weaving classes back in January when I was more concerned with digging myself out of the snow! This was April and I still had lots of snow in the back yard. By May hubby Bruce had found a used loom for sale on the coast and we drove down and back in one day to collect it. I had no idea of how good a deal this was at the time but we paid $500 for a 45" Leclerc Colonial loom that could be either jack or counter balance, a bench, a Glimakra swift, an older electric bobbin winder ( which still runs great today after a new pedal was installed) shuttles and bobbins, reed hooks and lease sticks and even some yarns. There was a box of books, most are of the 1970's publications we all have or seen but there were some classics such as: Burnham's Keep Me Warm One Night, Collingwood's classic Rug Weaving Techniques, Davison's Pattern Book, among others. In fact all that was missing was the apron rods but a trip to a local machine shop fixed that. One weaver volunteered to come and show me the basics and she spent a day with me. Winding the warp around chair legs (I had no warping board as yet!), then beamed on from front to back.... and threaded a straight draw. There we stopped as we discovered the missing rods. I got a copy of Chandler's Learning to Weave and picked it up from there and wove off two runners. This was back in the spring of 1996.
The rest is history as they say.

I thought I had lost out on joining the Richmond guild when we moved there, but unknown to me, I had moved to weaving heaven! Not only was there the companionship of the local guild, there is a weavers guild in most of the cities in the valley there and I eventually joined many, became president of one and made many friends! The weaver who helped me that first time has a yarn store in her home and I spent many an hour absorbing colours and inspiration there ( and we won't talk about the money left behind either...) She freely shared with me and I will always be grateful. Woolhouse Tools also is in the top end of the valley and my new Gertrude loom came to me in July 1998. I renamed her Emmatrude.

Until that day, I used a variety of other looms. It seems that the Valley had enjoyed a weaving boom in the 80's and there was a lot of gently used weaving equipment coming out of closets and storage. We would buy the used equipment and my hubby would restore the wood, make repairs or replace and when they were ready to sell, they were as good as new. This was a neat way for me to be able to collect all the bits and bobs that you need to have. I'm still in touch with some of the weavers who bought our refurbished looms.

I met and made some real neat friends during those years and they are friends still. I also learned to spin, dye and attempt bobbin lace along the way as well. I had some great mentors who shared and encouraged me. I heard such things as:

  • "Want great edges? Then weave a mile"

  • " Get yourself in front of as many teachers as you can"

  • "There is no right way or wrong way to do anything."

  • " Always put on extra warp and play around with the treadling... experiment!" ( sample?)
So, enough about me.... I follow a number of weaving blogs and we all visit each other. I'd like to ask you to share your first weaving project and how you came to weaving. I'm sure that you are passionate about weaving as I am, and it has changed your life too. There is a 'real line in your life' where there was BW and AW. Those mean 'before weaving' and 'after weaving' of course.

To finish my story, I can't...... I'm only part way on my journey. Besides, the next warp is ready for Lilibet...

2/16's cotton to be sett 36 epi for tea towels..... 12 yards worth!


Life Looms Large said...

That's a great story!!! I love that you just plunged in and bought a loom because I did that too.

12 yards worth of tea towels! You go!!


Cindie Kitchin eweniquely ewe said...

I loved reading how you started to weave - and I will write about how I became a fiber fanatic in the near future. Thank you for such an interesting post to start my morning.

Lynnette said...

It's great to hear your story - I don't believe we've ever talked about it! I so wish I had saved my first pieces of weaving, but they don't call me 'chuck' for nothing!
I'm looking forward to seeing the towels on the loom..

Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio said...

Oh my gosh! I have tears in my eyes....thank you so much for sharing!!! I just love how it was 'meant to be' and you just knew it;)

jackie said...

Thanks for sharing! You have a great story. I have a great mental picture of you with your hands and face pressed against the window at the library looking longingly at the looms on the other side like a kid in a toy shop window.