Learning to Weave

It’s been an exciting few weeks.  I went up to Santa Ysabel to Julian Weaving Works to learn weaving with Beryl Warnes, who is a really spectacular teacher.  I have had to do a fair amount of teaching, enough to know what an art it is, and enough to know that I don’t have the gift.  A good teacher has a knack for knowing what a person needs to hear, when they need to hear it, in what order it should all happen.  They should be able to break down what seems to be a simple task into the simplest of tasks, to share them step by step.  They should know when to keep their mouths shut and allow imperfection to be its own teacher, and know, too, that perfect is the enemy of good.  Beryl has all of those things, along with kindness and real passion for her work, with graciousness and a willing to share her art and ideas.



It started with a table loom, generously gifted by a friend, in whose garage it had been languishing.  We had run into each other at a fiber festival and she watched me hover on the verge of spending a lot of money on a big loom to get started.  An hour later, I had a Leclerc Dorothy loom in the back of my car.

It didn’t take long to get some of my homespun alpaca onto it.  I couldn’t sleep, the first night, for all my excitement.


With Beryl, I completed my first work in some eight or so hours, a baby blanket for dear friends.  They didn’t seem like the traditional type, and so their blanket was not so traditional, either.


Look how rough the edges are!  But it looks hand woven.  I offered to bind them in ribbon, but the mother of its ultimate recipient said no.


The edges got better on my next piece, and I discovered how absurdly fun eyelash yarn is.  This is all plain weave.  Several hours of simple throwing the shuttle back and forth until I could hear the music of it.

There was some learning to warp the loom in there, which is a process that deserves its own post, when I am able to talk about it coherently.  There is a certain amount of terror involved in all those yards of yarn, the idea that somehow they will become irretrievably fouled.  The truth is that they are fairly carefully bound up at various intervals so that it won’t happen, but it will be some time before I believe it.

Then I learned this.


There is no real creativity in this work.  It is like following any kind of pattern.  It is like magic, though, to watch it form under your fingertips.  I took this work with me into the long shawls that I am working on now at home.

blueshawl If you look closely at the lighter threads over the darker background here and in the picture at the top of the post, you can see that there are long bits and short bits like Morse code, not just an even weave like the top of a waffle.  There is a different rhythm to that kind of work.  I don’t want it to look like a tea towel, but I want the light to move across it in ways that are interesting and beautiful, which meant that I wanted a more complex surface, but not one so predictable as the green and white above.

It’s a good start.  It is fascinating to see how the same underlying warp, that is the long threads that go from front to back, can yield such different pieces.

Soon, I will need to build my own warping mill so that I can get the yarn measured out for the loom quickly.  That’ll be an adventure all its own.

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