Monday, November 7, 2011

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

There is an old saying that "when the student is ready, the teacher appears" and thinking back over my weaving past, this has proven to be quite true.  I have been very fortunate in my mentors finding me along the way!

What I have discovered by taking on a student is that I have learnt as much, if not more, than the student! A learning curve for both of us...  I'm new to all this and still developing a lesson plan and so Denise has been very patient with me.  I thought I would find out what she has been doing in the past with her weaving and then determine what she wants to change, then to learn and try as new. The goals became: to use finer threads, explore pattern work, work at hemstitching and finishing. Turns out Denise is detail orientated much like myself so this put us both on the same page.

Denise has been weaving for past two years and has an eight shaft Gilmore jack loom. I have seen ads for these looms in older Handwoven's, complete with old Mr Gilmore proudly standing by his creation, but never seen one in person.  Denise sent me some pictures:

Its a great loom and my first thought was "this is a sturdy, well built little tank of a loom. I dare say her thighs get a work out lifting those shafts!

Since the set up and warping of her Gilmore loom is quite different from my Louet Spring, we agreed that I would wind and beam the warp. We also agreed that we would only use eights shafts and not the full twelve on the Louet as what ever we worked on must be relatable to her situation at home   So while we worked out dates that worked for both of us, I wound the warp and got the loom ready, threaded and sleyed for the big day.  Denise teaches classes in soapmaking and has a young son in school so we had some calendar scheduling to do.

I sent her pictures of the warping process so she would feel a part of what was to come.

The warp is a fine 16/2 mercerised cotton, sett 36 epi and fourteen inches in the reed, so 504 ends.  We are doing an 8 shaft snowflake twill! The threading and sleying went well. I customarily take my time and double check as I go and the end result?

We are good to go!

I am fully flattered that a weaver would want to come and learn with me and even more impressed that she would want to drive an hour and twenty minutes to do so!  Here's Denise hard at work doing trellis hemstitching:

Oh to have such flexible joints like that again! (She's showing off ). Denise brought along samples of her previous weaving to share with me (and vicariously, you) 

Cottolin and cotton towels, sett 24 epi. Her first project on an eight shaft loom!

Multi colored Tea towels are 24 epi, 8/2 hand painted warp (by Denise)  8/2 maroon bamboo. Weft is black 8/2 cotton.

A beautiful overshot shawl!  Silk/alpaca weft, sett 20 epi bamboo warp, woven on a four shaft loom.

Then my favourite, (and it was hard to choose!) overshot table napkins. "The napkins are an overshot pattern from " A Hand weaver"s Pattern Book " sett at 30 epi, 16/2 natural cotton warp, 8/2 natural cottolin weft. 4 shaft loom" 

 I planned my time with her accordingly so we would cover the goals we set originally and ensured that we covered those topics off.  So 'finishing techniques' is covered by the trellis hemstitching and luckily I had scarves pinned out on the styrofoam boards so we reviewed how to get nice consistent even fringes. We have discussed books that would be a great help to her to have at home. Then there are lots of little hints and tips from marking the centre treadle with a thick rubber band so you have a guide to where your feet are in the scheme of things. There was also a demonstration of efficiency warp winding.

I must say that it was wonderful to have her company in the studio and someone to talk weaving with! The neatest thing was hearing the thump - thump of a beater and it wasn't me making the noise!

Denise has been working away on what can be a rather tricky treadling and doing just fine. Well, she is now that we found my little mistake!  I had written out a cheat sheet to keep track and near the centre of the snowflake "X" the treadling reaches for a pivot point: 5,6,7,8 ...6,7,8,...1,7,8,.....1,2,8.....then 1,2,3,2,1. The 3 is the centre of the X and everything reverses from that point. In a Mental Pause moment I wrote the last 1 as a 3.  Why? I have no idea! My brain apparently thought it logical at the time. So Denise followed along treadling and then would have to unweave.  This happened a few times so I would sit down and weave the centre, throwing the shuttle and going on memory alone and it worked out fine. I have woven this pattern so often over the years I could do it in my sleep! Apparently just not while fully awake!  We finally worked out what I had done and I felt dreadful. It just so happened to coincide with a casual conversation between us on the ills of menopause and this will serve as a horrible warning to her (and you?)  as to what is coming!

Denise must have forgiven me as she has written some very nice words about her time here:

I started following Susan's blog about 18 months ago.  Out of the thousands of weaving blogs, Susan's was one of the few that interested me.  I love the detailed patterns that she chooses, the colors, the beauty of all of her finishing touches.  Two months ago when I was checking her latest entry I was beyond thrilled to read that she was thinking of teaching...I could scarcely believe my good fortune!  I emailed Susan immediately explaining that I am not a beginner weaver ( two years into it ) but would love to absorb anything she could teach me. Perhaps remedy any bad habits I had formed, weave with a fiber other than 8/2 cotton, and understand a draft a bit more comprehensively or create my own.

The next morning I received a cheery response from Susan, we spoke on the phone that week about what I might like to weave then decided a visit was in order first.
I was welcomed into her home and  Susan's large, bright, very well organized studio instilled some serious "studio envy ".  Susan did not disappoint, the experience I had with her exceeded the expectations I had from following her blog.  I have learned some very valuable techniques I'm proud to say have broken one bad habit. I no longer do " the claw " with my shuttle! It has increased my speed/rhythm tremendously. The 1 1/2 hour drive has been more than worth it to me.

Spending time weaving with Susan has been an invaluable experience for me. I have picked up some great tips to make my weaving more efficient.  I love a good tip!
Susan is meticulous in her weaving record keeping (something I don't do very well ) and she has encouraged me to do the same.  I actually went home after one session with some beautiful sample notes in lovely plastic sleeves to start my own binder. So organized!
My lessons are winding up and I will miss my time learning with Susan, but I am coming back most certainly in the New year to be 'sponge - like' in her presence.

Yesterday was our last session together and the time flew by. We covered project planning, more hemstitching, pirn winding, hemming details and of course, weaving some more!  There is nothing that tells a story as well as a picture!

I caught her while hemstitching the last hem and a short while later, we had the grand unveiling!

I hope I helped Denise with her weaving skills. I know that she had a wonderful head start and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. I admire her commitment to learning more and finding the time in what is a very busy life, complete with a hubby and young son. With that sort of dedication, you know that she will continue to learn and grow as a weaver.


dorothylochmaben said...

Congratulations to you both on a great learning experience. Denise could not have been in better hands. She is one up on me though if she has given up the claw ! I see there is a photo at the top of the page especially to encourage me to throw that shuttle 'properly' !! I will try, I promise.
Seriously though, the final result looks stunning and I would just love to be able to have a similar experience.

Delighted Hands said...

So happy she found you and you could work out the lessons! You have started something wonderful for both of you! Excellent work on display, too....

Michèle Girard said...

She and I have the same loom. Actually the treadling is very light on Gilmore looms, no workout for the tights at all. If you were no so far, I'd be there learning too! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Susan, I *so* wish I lived even two hours from you! I would gladly take the drive just to spend time with you to improve my skills -- Your projects are consistently beautiful.


Susan said...

Hi Michèle!

Thanks for sharing your experience with the Gilmore loom. Good to know they are light to treadle.

I stick to CM looms now as they are 'joint friendly'. As of yesterday it was the 10th anniversary of my hip replacement!

I wish you and some of my other readers were closer as well. What a fun time that would be!

Thanks for following my blog...

Alsan said...

What is "the claw"?

Susan Harvey said...

Hello Alsan...

Hold your hands out in front of you palms down. Now curl your fingers like you are holding something (like a shuttle).... and you will see the "Claw".

There are some weavers who start out holding their shuttles like this and it really slows them down. The correct way to hold a shuttle is palm up and use a flick of the wrist to throw. That flick is difficult, if down right impossible, to do with the claw.

Hope this helps!

Alsan said...

Thanks, I will have to watch myself when I weave. I don't think I catch in the claw because I would have to then turn my hand over to throw. Not very efficient! I know I flick and push with my index finger, not sure about catching - funny, have to see myself to know what I do. Re-sleying at the moment. Thanks for answering!

Susan Harvey said...

Hi Alsan...

You catch the shuttle on the opposite side with an open palm up hand and pull the beater with the hand that just threw. It makes sense as your catching hand is now ready to throw. It sure speeds things up!

Take care, Susan

Alsan said...

That is why I keep picturing one of my hands turned down, it is when I beat - whoo hoo, doing it right! Thanks!