I look back at Friday and I think just how much I learned in two days. It feels like an initiation in a way: like a new language that I have been given the key to… words and concepts that did not quite make sense to me before are now true forms in my mind. I now understand what treadling is, how to read a draft, how heddles work, and how to warp a loom; all such foreign concepts only three days ago.
Morning walk near The Mannings
It started with a drive up to Pennsylvania… E met me at my house, and we drove together. I drove and she knit socks while we talked about our excitement for the upcoming weekend. We took a leisurely drive to The Mannings, stopping at the yarn shop and then stopping for dinner. We arrived at the school and got set up for the night (you can stay on the premises with the owners if you are taking classes). It would have been possible to actually stay at home and drive up the next morning, but E and I agreed that staying there would help with the whole immersion part of the weekend – it truly felt like a getaway where we could focus on the art and practice of weaving.
The studio at The Mannings has dozens of looms for workshops and demos – it is fascinating to look at the construction of the looms and how each manufacturer differs. There were floor looms and a few tabletop looms, and by the afternoon of the first day, we each had a loom to use, and a project to work on. We spent a large part of the morning learning about all of the preparation – undoubtedly the most complicated part of the process – and preparing our warps. We chose kits that we already cut to length, but we still learned the process of using the warping board, measuring your yarn/thread, and how to determine the technicalities like “ends per inch” and “picks per inch”, which in theory are so very similar to the knitter’s preparation for projects: finding the right gauge, yardage, etc.
There were two kinds of kits available for students to use for their first woven scarf: E and I both chose the wool kits – Harrisville Shetland Tweed 2 ply and Mountain Colors Mountain Goat for the warp and weft. Many of the other students chose a nice cotton kit with Brown Sheep Cotton Fine and a pretty novelty beaded rayon thread. E chose a beautiful red/rust colored colorway, while I chose deep purples, indigos, and blacks.
E and me “slaying our reed”, not as gruesome as it sounds
There are so many processes involved with weaving, and taking the photos really helped solidify the steps in my mind. The slaying of the reed, and threading the heddles are the most time-consuming part, although I did find pleasure in these seemingly mindless preparation tasks – they are simple and repetitive motions that you can completely immerse yourself in. I kept on thinking how nice it would be to have a good audiobook to listen to while I was doing it!
…and finally, after all of the warping was finished, we could start the real weaving!
We went to dinner and came back to weave “after hours”. We stayed at the studio until about 10pm, when we returned back to the room and rehashed everything we had learned. E practiced a drafting diagram in our textbook while I read through complementary copies of Interweave’s Handwoven magazine: it was clear that we were both hooked! I was hoping to fit some knitting in, but my eyes got pretty heavy, and E reported that I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
We woke up early on Day Two and were excited about learning how to finish our day one knitting (cutting it off the loom, knotting a fringe, and washing). The finishing measures are equally important in weaving as they are in knitting: a sloppy finished weave can mess up a beautiful woven piece. As the pieces were drying after a dunk in some conditioner and warm water, we began prepping for our second project.
The looms for day two were pre-warped, which made a huge time difference. The warp was a nice perle cotton in ivory and brown, and we we chose the colors for the weft. The project was designed to teach beginning weavers about twills. We learned the basic concepts and the importance of treadles (which are so similar to pedals on a piano or organ) and how they can be used to change the designs of the weave.
We were all amazed at the beautiful work that came out of this sampler – and how each one looked so different due to the colors we chose. I went with a beautiful light brown with a pink sheen. I wanted something neutral and subtle, and I was very pleased with how it looked after a few rows of weaving and beating.
Linda’s sampler in orange
Weaving is a beautiful rhythm: when you get going on a piece, it feels like time just stops and it is just you and the loom, shuttle and thread in hand. As we were working, the studio fell silent, and it was a peaceful time. We were all progressing and learning right there. Within a short time – no more than three hours – we had beautiful samplers. The same patterns, but so different with the colors represented.
…I could definitely get used to this feeling…
I did not come home with a loom, but I am shopping. I have some space constraints, but I also want something that I will really use. The true testament to the durability of the looms came when Carol, the owner of The Mannings, told me that the loom I used on day one had seen hundreds of students’ hands (and their mistakes) and was still working beautifully after 23 years. That particular loom seemed like a great fit – E was on a similar loom, and she agreed. Now I just need to find one… Although I didn’t come home with a loom, I did pick up some other goodies, and of course, I brought home TWO handwoven pieces that are my real pride and joy.
…and you can see all of that in tomorrow’s post…