Weaving Hands

Just look at these busy, happy hands!

As one of the people behind these hands, learning the most basic techniques of weaving, I can tell you that the hands often felt awkward, inept even. The hands faltered but did not fail. And the inexpert, novice hands were guided by the expert, experienced hands to a place of satisfaction.

I told you about a month ago that I’d been meaning to learn to weave (IBMTD) and that I’d found a workshop to take.

It had been a long time since I had taken a course. I like to think I can learn things on my own, by doing research and reading. I’m often stubborn about seeking guidance and asking for help. I tend to flap about and try to teach myself and make a lot of mistakes and get frustrated.

But, having just finished the workshop, with my husband and two other weaving newbies, I’m reporting back and also want to encourage you to take a course the next time you want to learn a new skill. And, P.S., weaving is a wonderful route to go, if you haven’t tried it before.

The workshop was perfect. Run by our local arts council, we had a teacher who is both an expert weaver and passionate about introducing new people to a craft she loves. As a bonus, she is also a retired teacher, so she actually knows how to teach!

Examples of our instructor's work

Examples of our instructor’s work

The workshop was limited to only four students so we got to know each other well and got lots of specialized help. None of us had any background at all in the craft so we learned together and from each other.

We learned on very simple frame looms; basically these were made of four pieces of wood and some nails to wrap string (the warp) around.IMG_5973

At first I thought I’d hate these looms—I wanted to learn on a big, fancy floor loom! I wanted to make shawls and blankets and twills and tweeds.

But we all learned to love our small, portable frame looms.

With the guidance of our teacher, we each made a small tapestry, incorporating many basic weaving techniques. We learned a new vocabulary, along with the skills—warp and weft, of course, but also sumac and tabby and rya.

The neatest thing about this kind of weaving is that it could be almost entirely improvisational and encouraged experimentation and creativity. Whereas loom weaving, as I understand it, relies heavily on following patterns and being very precise, our weaving evolved mostly without plan.

We chose colors as we went. We added different textured yarns and string and other fibers. We were shown how to incorporate shells and metals and stones and beads.

It was as if we couldn’t make mistakes and that is a wonderful, liberating way to learn!

We had our final class yesterday, put the finishing touches on our masterpieces, and sat back and appreciated them.

As the final session of class wound down, we got great news! Our instructor has arranged with the arts council to allow three of us to continue to the next level. In two weeks, we’ll start a new workshop to learn to use harness looms and to thread the heddles and sley the reed (whatever that means)!

I’m excited about this new venture but I know I’ll miss my homely little frame loom.

When I looked at our finished tapestries, the best part was seeing how different they were. Four people started at the same place, with access to the same materials and techniques, and created four entirely unique tapestries.

I’m sure there’s a profound metaphor for life here somewhere . . .




32 thoughts on “Weaving Hands

  1. Amazing! I, too, want to learn weaving. I got a little potholder loom and have been working with that, but I really need to work up to the next level loom. I’m thinking the peg loom, which looks similar to the loom you worked on:


    I love how alive and energetic the finished tapestries are — and oh yes, the metaphor 🙂 I’m eager to hear how your next class goes!

    • The peg loom looks a lot like what we were using but smaller and more expensive! I wish I could show you how easy it is to make what we were playing around with! It’s just stretcher bars that artists use for canvas and nails. But, yes, find a way to continue–it’s so fun and creative!

      • Ah! I was going to make a pin loom from stretcher bars but then I used the stretcher bars to frame a needlework project. I’ll have to get more! I bet there are peg loom-esque instructions on the internet somewhere for me to follow. Good idea!!

  2. Love this! I’ve also always wanted to learn to weave! I made little potholders has a child but sadly never progressed beyond that. There’s a shop not too far from our apartment here in northern California (Penelope’s Den … http://www.penelopesden.com/#!about/cjg9 ) that has a giant loom and the owner gives classes on portable frames … she also incorporates twigs. Looks like I need to take advantage before we move. Thanks so much for telling about your experience, the finished products are beautiful!

    • Do it!!! Go take a course while you can! I think, once you have the basics, you’ll be able to use books and videos to progress but it’s much better to get the basics from a person!

    • Thanks! You really should try it–I just feel that all these fiber arts have so much in common. I’m thinking that quilting and weaving should come together in interesting ways . . .

  3. The colours are beautiful 🙂 Which one is yours? I love how textured they are, they’ll look great hanging on someones wall. if they were bigger you could make an amazing rug! I tend to learn things by myself, but I would love love love to take a class, it must be such a different experience xx

    • In the series that shows all four in a row, mine is the last one (img 6331). Texture seems to be what this kind of weaving is all about–it’s pretty neat. I think you really would like taking a course, and having other students to learn from. It was interesting to see what my classmates were doing–we all had the same instruction but went different directions with it.

  4. Those are so cool! I love learning new crafts. I took a crochet class years ago and sadly my teacher (who was very great at crocheting) was not very skilled at teaching. What a difference it makes!

    • It makes a huge difference! I took ice skating lessons twice, from one bad teacher and one great teacher–I’m still not a good skater but I love it, after having a good teacher!

    • Glad you saw my post and know that I’ve made a move! I still lurk around your blog–maybe someday I’ll at least understand the vocabulary you use! 😉

  5. Life’s rich tapestry eh?I love that you could make mistakes….some of my best ideas have been born this way. Wonderful to see what different hands and brains create from the same beginning.

  6. The class sounds wonderful, and I like how the instructor insisted that you become proficient on the frame looms. And, congratulations on being part of the group that will be moving on to the more complex looms.

    • Bwahahahaha! I was looking though a book my teacher brought to class and screamed “THAT’S what I want to make.” It was . . . a blanket. A beautiful, classic cream wool blanket, with a navy blue windowpane design. I could die fulfilled . . . .

  7. Pingback: Peeks at Progress: The Quilt and the Weaving | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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