After her retirement following many years of teaching and performing music, my partner BA spent quite some time exploring, wondering when her next passion might reveal itself. Eventually, she found weaving. She’d done a little in her youth and enjoyed it, but her energies were largely expended in other ways, and finally with time, space and opportunity, weaving returned and this time it blossomed.
Over the past several years, weaving has insinuated itself into our household in general and BA’s life in in particular. Like many crafts developed over centuries and practiced worldwide, it has a vernacular all its own. Looms, shuttles, bobbins, heddles, castles, reeds and temples. And that’s just some of the equipment. Then there are the types of weaves: plain, double, block, twills, undulating and otherwise, repp, etc. Its really quite interesting.
As BA has studied and learned and grown remarkably in her skill as a weaver, I’ve learned a bit through osmosis. A room in our house is given over to weaving. Two of her four looms are generally on the floor at a time, there are shelves containing a magical array of colored yarns, arranged by material, color and size, hanks of hand dyed variegated yarns, and all manner of little wooden and metal gadgets that assist in the process as well as many lights so she can see what she’s doing.
Its a fiddly business, this weaving. A scarf that will be seven or eight inches wide when finished may contain 120 parallel strands of yarn “the warp”, which must be threaded in a very precise order through reeds and heddles, then attached to the appropriate shaft so that the desired pattern will emerge as the fabric is woven by passing the weft yarns through in just the right order, under just the right tension so that an even and consistent fabric is created. One thread in the wrong place can mess up and entire pattern. Checking and rechecking plans, then each step of the way is a big part of the process.
I love the colors, the textures, the patterns that emerge on a loom, and am amazed at what can arise from such seemingly simple components. And the longer I am exposed to weaving, the more I come to appreciate all that goes into a producing a handwoven work. It is indeed an art, as well as a craft. Scarves, jackets, bags, utilitarian or sculptural, I see things very differently since weaving came to my house.
And here’s a real undulating twill, photos of a shawl woven by BA for a friend to use at her daughter’s wedding: