Monday, May 15, 2006

There is Weaving and There is Weaving

Oh. Hmmm. So. Normally this blog gets about 300 hits a day. Last Monday, carrying over to Tuesday, there were over 1200 hits. News gets around, I guess, and the subject matter might have been a bit provoking.

There were also a corresponding number of comments, both on and off blog. Wonderful comments, I might add, and thanks! One of the more thoughtful responses was by Carrie Brezine, whom I first *met* through her article in this book. I am both surprised, and pleased: the response level indicates an interest in weaving, at least, for which I am grateful.

So far, many of us have agreed the guild system is flagging. Some guilds are thriving, some, not so much. Conferences are put on by these organizations, so if guilds become extinct, perhaps so will the conferences that I have so enjoyed. I think conferences can be a good teaching venue, and a way to introduce weaving and spinning to people who do not know we still do these things. The guild system alone is worth exploring: will it recover, is it in need of an overhaul, will something else replace it? Obviously, as far as communication goes, the internet, lists and web logs are accessible and working well. Perhaps this will be all that we need.

I did get quite a reaction, however, with my perhaps cavalier comment that time, space and money are yes, impediments, but not daunting.

Well, it depends. For some people they are daunting. Perhaps I need to clarify: in the weaving I prefer, very little money or space is required. Time? Yes, we need time.

Weaving seems no more expensive to me than other related fiber hobbies: yarn for a sweater can easily run over $100 and that's just one sweater. You have to spend that $100 for every batch of entertainment, um, knitting. Spinning? A spindle can be a thrifty tool, but then there's that fiber: and we all know just a little is not enough. A wheel can easily be over $300. A good sewing machine can cost $600 (or much more), and that's not counting the expensive iron, the cloth and all the presser feet one can find. These prices are comparable to small weaving equipment. Yes, all this stuff can be put away in a closet, but if you *have* the closet space, you have the room for weaving equipment.

Or I would, since my weaving these days is more of the finger manipulated kind, and tactile. I describe it as *more like knitting* since I am doing knot by knot, thread by thread, and getting my fingers involved.

My preferences perhaps contrast with what most people must think of as weaving: big floor loom, complex warping and drafting, fabric which takes lots of time to weave off, requiring focus and study (and sewing skills). I have a floor loom, yes, and all the cones of yarn I could want for a while. They take up space. But for the last several years, I have done most of my weaving on this homely upright loom:


and the side view:


an inkle loom:

inkle loom

not so homely. Purchased, not home made, from Schacht.

And on small cards:

The upright loom takes about as much space as a side chair. The inkle loom is clamped to a table, but can be easily put away if the table space is needed. The cardweaving, well, what can I say?, it takes the space of a small bag.

These can provide hours, if not a lifetime, of weaving pleasure. There is complexity here enough to satisfy the most mathematical of minds, as well as simple hours of weaving fun.

The most expensive piece of equipment above is the inkle loom, coming in at about $70 these days. The upright loom (no longer made) could be built using about $100 of materials and a few tools.

On this unlovely equipment I have woven this:

goddess bag

and these:

pile bags

and these:


One can learn a lot about weaving on a back strap loom (which I prefer to call a hip strap loom, to indicate where the strap should actually lie), or simple frame looms, including the oft-mentioned-here pipe loom, whether it's PVC, copper or galvanized pipe.

Yes, you can buy $3000 looms that take up the floor space of a small factory (which they are). Yes, you can buy warping reels, yarn winders, swifts, bobbin winders, piles of reeds and enough books to open a small library.

Or not.

Weaving is not limited to fabric. Not everyone weaves for clothing. The weaving I most often do could be classified as beginner weaving. And it is. Very basic, very accessible, and very much weaving. Also, no less interesting, despite its beginner nature, to those who want to be mentally challenged. Cardweaving alone can be lifetime of discovery, challenging minds far greater than mine.

I did not start with a floor loom and a studio full of yarn. I started with a frame loom, then a hand made loom, then worked my way up to a studio full of equipment, worktables, a library and yarn in 30 years (not to mention some sheep, which went by the wayside because of that time issue: I'd rather weave).

I may be out of step in the craft world in general: I do what I do for the pleasure of the activity. Because of that, I find the time. When I was working and raising children, I got up early, like even 4 A.M., in order to find the time to do a little each day (this had the side benefit of not making me anxious to try to get stuff out of the way during the day: I had my *fix* already).

I am knitting lace shawls, which I may never wear and most likely will give away, because of the pleasure of the activity. I find it fun to weave knotted pile, and with it I make bags. I have about 15 so far. Obviously, I don't need more bags. But I weave more. Bands, whether cardwoven or pick-up, are fascinating and fun to weave. I have a box full. Someday they may be useful, but for the most part, it's the process.

I so appreciate this conversation, may it continue. I have had much to think about while I weave this week, thanks! I had planned to post about inspiration, and what inspires me to keep this up, but I have appreciated also more clearly defining what I like to do.


Blogger Naomi said...

What can one do with inkle-woven bands? They're the weavings of yours that I would be most interested in learning to do myself (after my budget has recuperated from my recent purchase of a spinning wheel), but I don't know what I'd do with the results.

While I'm commenting--I've been reading via bloglines, and this philosophical series of yours has been really interesting. Thanks.

(Also, yes, I'm one of the young, working people who might be interested in a local fiber guild if the meetings were times that didn't conflict with work. And it'd help if it were in a place more easily accessible without a car...)

12:04 PM  
Blogger Maus said...

Wo ein Wille ist, da ist ein Weg (oder Platz). I think if you really want to do something, like in, REALLY, it doesn't leave you alone during your dreams, then you will find space, money and time to do it. Easy as that. One can always shift priorities (regarding, space, time, money) and many people do so.
what again and again annoys me with guilds is that I am told what to do and how to do it. This goes well for a while as long as I am a brute beginner, but then when you want to spread out, get creative, do as you please, somehow that's looked upon with a frown. So, lately, I have shyed away from guilds, because all I really want to do is play and have fun. I do like my play_mates and we are a chaotic bunch with different interests and different abilities but we nurture each other without being restrictive.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Bren Ahearn said...

Hi Sara,

Yes the process is what keeps me going -- I love exploring the same structure or process over and over again in different iterations. I know I'm not going to get rich weaving, but I'm very happy exploring. I too am stuck on beginning-level weaving; I have been fascinated by plain weave for years. Thanks for opening up this dialogue on the potential extinction of the guild system. I just moved to Sacramento and am guild-less in my new hometown because I work during the week when the local guild meets.


9:26 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Regarding conferences, I think a lot of people (ok, maybe just me) think that you have to be an experienced weaver or spinner to participate. Convergence was in my hometown when I was just beginning to weave, and I didn't go because I didn't realize they had stuff for beginners.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Beryl Moody said...

One thing that people who haven't delved into weaving need to know. Once it hooks you, you may start to resent housework, yardwork and anything else that keeps you from your drug. There are tremendous rewards waiting for those that put in the effort to learn how to warp a loom and read a draft.

I also worry about what I perceive to be the shrinking and graying weaving population. But, let's look on the bright side of things. The bird flu, global warming and economic collapse will probably get us before the last weaver dies:-)

10:25 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You (and Maus) are right when you say that time, space and money are not real impediments (although they are/were my excuses). If something really resonates with you then you find a way to do it.

It was helpful to hear you describe alternatives to large looms. I am certain that the demytification of weaving is the first step in making it more accessible and more popular.

1:42 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

once again, such a good thoughtful post, thanks.

a few years ago, i got seized with the weaving impulse. living in a teeny room, sharing a house with 5 other people plus my four cats, oof, there just wasn't space. but, you're right - where there's a will, there's a way. i got candace crockett's book on cardweaving from the library, some yarn, a fork, some pieces of cardboard, and, my only real splurge, a stick shuttle. i made a lovely little band that it so beginner it hurts.

for other reasons, i didn't weave any more, but the seed was planted and i'm planning to go crazy once school ends for me in a few weeks. anyhow, yes cardweaving! amazingly simple, yet truly fascinating. thanks for reminding me.

11:08 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

Hi Sara, thank you so much for your thoughtful posts. We may have met in person once or twice (Convergence Cincinnati? SOAR Michigan 2004?) I've always remembered your name since Ed told me your work was beautiful, and I looked it up and found he was (as always) so very right. You are absolutely correct to point out that the complexity and challenges in weaving may lie in the mind and fingers of the weaver, as well as or instead of in the equipment. I'm hoping to have some free time this summer to work with gauzes on my body-tensioned looms again, even if I can't get the floor loom set up. Thanks for inspiring me to think more about weaving.


1:40 PM  
Blogger Cal said...

I'm a beginning weaver and appreciated your comments on simple looms. I know nothing about color, nothing about weave structure, so I am just starting simply with homemade looms and seeing what patterns and colors look good together.

Your comments about guilds, aging population of weavers and time are all related. Time is the critical issue. For me, personally, weaving competes with work, gardening, reading, writing and travel. As much as I enjoy it, there are many other things I enjoy, too. More generally, in my generation, work opportunities opened up for many women, no doubt diminishing the pool of potential weavers. (I'm focusing on women because women seem to be more interested in weaving.) In the younger generation, even more opportunities opened up in sports and outdoor activities, further reducing the pool. So, weaving is competing with many more activities and will lose out to many of those.

But, there are weavers out there! I've been amazed, first teaching myself, how many co-workers, neighbors and friends turned out to be weavers and very helpful. Now, I'm taking a tapestry class at a junior college. There are also floor loom weaving classes. All of these classes have lots of people learning to weave. They provide a potential group of guild members, if the guilds would go out and get them.

11:27 AM  

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