Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baby Steps

Thanks for all of your kind words of encouragement for the new, big, fear-inducing project I am facing. It helps to know I am not alone, and I also try to tell myself it is just weaving. Earth will not tip on its axis if it's not perfect. Moving on:

loom warped

Luckily, weaving is a step-by-step process. As long as I think of just the next step, the big projects are less daunting. I love warping too, which helps, the lining up of all those neat little threads, and the still unsullied potential:

loom warped2

I have little nails marking the warp in 1" increments, and a mantra which helps keep the process going (26 down, 10 to go):

loom warped3

The only casualty so far:

warped finger

My thumb. The coarse warp yarn wore a groove in the top of my finger (ouch!).

Most projects start out with hopes and expectations. Many projects finish with a satisfied sigh of completion and a job well done. Some projects either languish, unfinished, caught at a point of dilemma, or are finished having not reached the hoped-for outcome. If I am honest, about 1 project in 10 is really spectacular, and about 1 in 10 is a dog which should never have seen the light of day. The rest are fine, good, serviceable, but not breathtaking: towels, curtains, fabric; good cloth, but not masterpieces.

I live for the breathtaking, the occassional project which has more hopes, dreams and energy attached to it. I plan more carefully for these projects and take the baby steps mindfully so there is a possibility of achieving breathtaking again.

Baby steps: first the warp goes on the loom, then I'll tie the heddles, the re-tension so that every warp is taught and even (never really get to even, but I get close), then some twining, the hem and finally, at last, the knotting. I have lots of baby steps before I ruin begin to weave the Big Scary Project.

Weaving is good with the baby steps. Besides warping, sometimes (as now) directly onto the loom, there is threading heddles or in this case making the heddles, devices used to create the shed, or the space between layers of warp where the weft will pass. Tensioning and tieing-on are the last steps before the first, tentative actual weaving begins: the header, or hem.

So weaving, while appearing to be a daunting process overall, is a series of events, not unlike, say, spinning: first we sort, pick through and wash the fleece. Then we pick the locks, and card or comb the fibers, or dye them and then card or comb them, then oil the wheel, pick up the roving and begin. The hope and potential is kept alive through the several steps which precede the actual ruining spinning the fibers.

Ahem. Working on the attitude here, really, I am.

Starting at the wrong place in the process makes anything more difficult. My friend Sue is weaving again, having bought a new rigid heddle loom. Sue owned and wove on a Harrisville loom long ago but sold it, moved, and spent several years working and away from thoughts of weaving.

Once retired though, an opportunity arose for her to buy an AVL loom for a good price, with attendant goodies like shuttles, books, swifts and assorted tools. She was lured back into thinking of weaving.

The AVL, though, is not a first loom. It was like jumping into the middle of a project, a bit overwhelming. A couple of guild members who own and use an AVL tried to help, but they are long past the Baby Steps part of the process, and only made the whole thing more confusing. Sometimes it is challenging to break a process down into the increments that allow for understanding.

Sue got frustrated and sold the big loom. She tip-toed into shallow waters once again with a smaller loom, a Baby Wolf, but it languished in the corner while she recovered from an illness. She sold it, thinking she'd never have the energy again to weave.

Then, along came BJ, who weaves on and teaches weaving with a rigid heddle loom. BJ is patient, soft spoken, not demanding nor didactic, a good teacher. She was encouraging, and showed Sue all the nice things she (BJ) had woven on her rigid heddle loom.

So Sue bought one, and BJ helped her set it up. When it came time to set it up again, Lindsey patiently worked through the process with Sue, giving her more confidence and a successful second project. Sue warped and is weaving the third project now by herself, having woken up in the middle of the night with an idea of houndstooth fabric.

Baby steps. It is what brought Sue back to weaving. The right teacher, a calm and non-judgemental person, and a good friend who knew a lot about weaving and could walk Sue through it step by step the second time. And now Sue is off and running, weaving again, on her own:

Sue weaving

Baby steps.


Blogger Wendy said...

Fabulous post. I love the point you make about 1 in 10 projects being spectacular, I'm going to write that down (even though I think my ratio is a little lower)

1:36 PM  
Blogger Deanna said...

Aaaah, the satisfaction of reading a wonderful post and hearing echoes in my noggin. Is there anything quite as lovely as a new, unwoven warp? .... Chuckling at the crossed-out words and recognizing that Queen of Hearts who unrelentingly criticizes from within and continually changes the rules...... Cringing at the loom saga (which I also resemble), and thankful for the gentleness of baby steps.
You should write a book, you know.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Websafe said...

How do you do. I found your blog through searching Blogger blogs for "Peruvian textiles."

I understand the fear of facing a blank page. And you have to do so much preparation!

Sadly, I'm not a weaver, but I am a 2D designer. Would love to hear from weavers about pre-Columbian textiles, especially double cloth and Paracas textiles.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Marcy said...

Wonderful post, Sara. But I'm not sure whether I feel comforted or frightened that someone of your towering stature ;) still feels such fear.

Me, I loves me the baby steps. They just don't lead me to spectacular.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I'm so glad to hear that Sue has returned to weaving again. I just went from weaving out of duty because I bought the loom, to falling in love with weaving - don't know what happened.

You warp is huge - even huger than you said. But when you think in terms of baby steps, it's still weaving, after all. Nice thoughts - thanks.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I'm so glad to hear that Sue has returned to weaving again. I just went from weaving out of duty because I bought the loom, to falling in love with weaving - don't know what happened.

You warp is huge - even huger than you said. But when you think in terms of baby steps, it's still weaving, after all. Nice thoughts - thanks.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Anne P said...

I think it's wonderful she found a long lost love. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning to get up a head of steam to get going again tho. Fun!

8:52 AM  
Blogger marchwind said...

I'm a beginning weaver and it is really nice to know the more experienced weavers also become afraid and hesitant to begin. Thank you for posting your fears as well as your triumphs.

8:34 PM  
Blogger lala412 said...

Hi! I found your blog through Interweave, when I was trying to find weaving blogs. I have quite a few small looms (weavettes and triangle looms, and a Mirrix Big Sister tapestry loom), and am planning to get a rigid heddle loom this fall. Which kind did your friend get? I'm leaning towards Flip - I had been thinking about the Kromski Harp, but the Schacht website has SO much helpful information, plus Flip has the separate beams and braces and the spot for the second heddle already built in... anyway, I was just wondering. I can't wait until someday when I'm no longer traveling for work and I can settle down and get a BIG loom! :-) Although, I am having a LOT of fun with the small ones!

4:26 PM  

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