It’s a gloomy, chilly day with the threat of snow, so I thought I’d give you a brief tour through my studio and a glimpse of what the process involves using a few of the new photos that Michael Stadler took last month.
Welcome ~ please come in.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the very large work table where I do all my planning, calculating, and messing around with ideas, samples and possibilities. All the cones you see at the back of the table are under consideration for future work, including a possible run of kitchen towels, which I’ve never done before.
The biggest features in the room are my computer-assisted looms, tools which, on a good day, make the visions I hold in my mind achievable. The larger one, pictured below, is named Beulah (for Big Loom); the smaller one is Sally (for Small Loom). Beulah has a 48-inch weaving width; Sally has a 30-inch weaving width. Both stand close to six feet tall and five feet front to back. They are made out of hard maple and are very substantial. Each arrived at my studio in eight heavy crates, and had to be completely assembled. Each has its own dedicated computer, for technical reasons I won’t entertain you with here.
My most common process of developing a warp for a series of — say — scarves follows this sequence ~
Look at the shelves of possibilities,
zero in on some of the hand-dyed skeins of yarn,
and make a choice, or perhaps several choices (for especially complex mixed warps). How could one resist such glorious colors and textures??
Once I decide which one(s) I want to use next, the yarn gets wound into balls, then — based on my plans and calculations for that specific warp — I measure out the proper number of threads at the needed length on my warping board. Once controlled by choke-ties, I make a big fat chain of the warp, essentially single-crocheting it with my hands.
Here you see two 13-yard-long chains of mixed warps for lengths of fabric to be made into garments ~
For such complex (as to color and texture) warps, I usually choose plain-colored smooth weft (crosswise) yarns to weave with. Again, lots of choices, and invariably a few tucked somewhere in a corner that I discover with delight at just the right moment. I try to keep the cones of commercial yarns arranged roughly by color, as that helps me narrow down my options quickly. I use primarily rayon, cotton, tencel, silk and bamboo.
Once the warp is threaded onto the loom in the sequence I’ve devised on the computer — using special weaving design software — and the tension is adjusted so it’s even across the width of the warp, I’m ready to weave. With the computer-assisted interface between the loom and the software, the process of weaving usually goes smoothly and without error, and I can daydream a bit as I press the treadles, throw the shuttle, and firmly beat the yarn into the cloth I’ve designed.
The white twill tape along the left side of the woven portion is a simple measuring device, so that I can easily keep track of how far I’ve gone. Most of my scarves are woven about 72 inches long; most shawls are 84 inches. Plus fringe, in both cases.
Finally, after the weaving is done, the pieces get cut off the loom, checked for errors, washed vigorously, ironed firmly, fringes trimmed, and hung to be admired and sold to go to a new home.
This is one of three such wall racks I have along the long side wall of the studio. They were designed and built by my friend Marcia Wiley, who understood my desire for a combination of simplicity, flexibility, and functionality.
What I do is work, but it’s never labor.