The Vavstuga Way

 

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My husband and I spent last week at a most special weaving school and were introduced to the Vavstuga Way. Vavstuga was founded on the Swedish and Scandinavian styles of weaving and teaching, and offers a number of really cool workshops each year. We were there for Weaving Basics.

What is the Vavstuga Way? Well, by the numbers:

One excellent school, in two locations, in one small town in rural Massachusetts. One pretty river runs through the town.

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One incredible teacher, Becky Ashenden. Becky is the founder and the heart, the soul, the electricity, the flame—choose your favorite metaphor to convey “life force”—of Vavstuga.

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Eight students in a Weaving Basics course. Six women, two men, some very experienced, some completely new to the craft. All congenial and happy to be sharing the week together.

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photo by Bettie Zakon-Anderson

Five days of weaving, for 10 hours a day.

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Eights looms. Four projects for each of us to finish—two towels, a small tablecloth, a wool throw.

 

Three times a day the bell rang, to announce yummy meals provided for us.

Swedish fiddlers—two; dancers—several.

 

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Almost too many to count:

  • Lovely handwoven items to use and learn from
  • Choices of colors in threads of cotton, linen, and wool
  • Tools and gadgets to purchase
  • Books to peruse and inspire

Innumerable

  • Mistakes made by students and fixed by Becky
  • Confused looks during drafting lessons
  • Laughs
  • Aches and pains
  • Doubts about finishing
  • Sighs of relief at finishing
  • Thrills at bringing our work home

The Vavstuga Way, by the impressions:

Maybe there are really two aspects of the Vavstuga Way. One is based on the use of a specific kind of Swedish loom and the details of using them—setting them up, adjusting them for ergonomics, weaving on them successfully.

My husband and I don’t have this kind of loom at home so some of what we learned will go unused.

But far more important than the specifics of looms and loom dressing is the other aspect of the Vavstuga Way. I see it as an attitude toward weaving.

I brought these lessons home:

  • The equipment and materials should be treated with respect but not awe. We learned to be less obsessive about each tiny detail of weaving and to focus on the larger process—good technique, quality materials, solving problems in ways that work for each of us, and our individual styles.
  • Natural is better. We used only the sorts of natural fibers that have been used for millennia—cotton, linen, wool—and to fully appreciate the qualities that have guaranteed that longevity.
  • Simple is beautiful. We did some of the most straightforward kinds of weaving possible and used color and thoughtful, consistent weaving to make lovely items.
  • Upbeat and energetic saves the day. Becky, our instructor, taught by example. Nothing fazes her; no mistake can’t be fixed; no frustration can’t be leavened with a quick joke and positive action.
  • I will worry less in the future about weaving the “right way” and using my loom the “right way.” I feel much more willing to re-think my system, to see what works for me, and be creative about what doesn’t.
  • What we make is meant to be used. We slept under handwoven coverlets, wiped our hands on handwoven towels and napkins. Every meal featured different handwoven table settings, each lovelier than the last. The curtains at the windows, as well as the tieback ribbons, the cushions on the benches, the rugs, our teacher’s clothing . . . all woven by hand, all being used with respect and enthusiasm.

Our intense week at Vavstuga is over and neither my husband nor I have touched a loom since we got home. But we spent much of the drive home and our time since talking about weaving, thinking about it, planning for more. And we’ve admired our work repeatedly!

And, of course, we are already thinking ahead, looking at the course listings for more advanced weeklong workshops, to continue our exploration of the Vavstuga Way.


For more information about the Vavstuga Way, visit their website and the blog Tammy Weaves, written by a member of the inaugural session of the Vavstuga Immersion program.

 

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56 thoughts on “The Vavstuga Way

  1. It sounds as if you both got real inspiration from that course. As I always thought you seemed pretty inspired anyway, I assume you’ll be flying when you sit once again at your loom. I look forward to the next instalment!

    • I did get inspiration, as well as the determination to really use what I’m making. I’ve been treating my handwoven as too precious and obsessing too much, I think.

  2. You’ve captured our week beautifully, Kerry! Thanks for sharing our inspiring week. It was a real treat and I’m getting right back at my loom today and so looking forward to it.

  3. A multi-day intensive course in a craft is so rewarding. You can step outside your normal life and concentrate without interruptions for cooking, shopping, etc. And what is the pattern of that wonderful navy and cream bed coverlet in your last picture? If you ever make that one, please put me down on your client list.

    • I don’t know what that’s called–isn’t it gorgeous? The whole place was like that.I completely agree about the reward of such a workshop. Now that I’m home, I’m just yearning for that chance to focus . . . and real life is slapping me in the face.

  4. Wow what a wonderful course. I love reading your post and seeing your beautiful images. Truly inspirational! You and Don really are making the most of retirement and engaging in what excites both of you. Your work is so beautiful and I love that you used lots of blue!

    • Thank you, Cathe–yes, we are trying to do what pleases us most since we have the chance. My use of blue and other subdued classic colors was sort of a joke at the workshop. Others were using wonderful bright and jazzy colors and there I was . . . being me. Kind of low-key, maybe boring. But me.

  5. How wonderful – you brought home with you everything that is important when inspiration meets activity ……… and letting everything rest after such an intense time is part of the process isn’t it. Just wait til you hit those looms again! I love how your teacher modelled the perfect way to ensure you use what you make – just wonderful!!

    • Our teacher was an inspiration in lots of ways! I know no one with more positive energy. I am full of desire to weave right now but am slogging through all the chores that didn’t get done while we were gone. Reality strikes . . . sigh.

  6. What a fabulous week you had! I love these kind of intensive courses; whether you are learning a language, playing music, doing art or craft you get so immersed in the subject the outside world almost ceases to exist.

  7. This sounds like one of those courses that bears fruit for a long time. What a fabulous week. I can’t wait to see your new weavings and hear how you produced them. Sounds as though you had a really foot time, too!

  8. How absolutely wonderful!
    What a great way to write about your week, each bullet point and bolded item interesting.
    And your lessons are great, ESPECIALLY the first one.

    • We learned so much, Laurie–and I’m worrying that I’m forgetting a lot of details because they came at us so fast. I guess I’ll just have to go back soon!

  9. I am not a weaver, know nothing about it, but that was surely the most fantastic experience ever! How wonderful! Love d reading all about it in you post. Happy weaving!

    • Hey–it’s good to see you! I hope things are going well–I’ve missed your posts. This weaving experience was amazing–I was nervous every time I wiped my mouth with a napkin but I do believe the weaving wants to be used!

  10. What a fantastic environment to immerse yourselves in!
    “What we make is meant to be used.” I am learning that lesson as I dig out boxes of my handwoven fabric from back corners of back cabinets, and find inspiration for jackets.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Hi Grace–good to see you here! I have to admit that, as much as I want to use my handwovens, I find it difficult to wipe my dirty hands on my towels. But it’s also silly to just let the things pile up . . .

      • I found it silly to spend the time weaving towels that we can buy for a dollar…until I followed a whim and made one. I’ve made dozens since, and am looking forward to my next warp of them. My newly-handwoven ones look the same new as the ones that we have been using for years! And they feel so luxurious when we use them, and we enjoy them every day, so they add quality to our lives.

        Likewise, I felt great distress when I (deliberately) cut my handwoven fabric, and vowed to never do so again, and to also show my respect by never touching it with a sewing machine. A year ago, I changed my mind. I’m on my way to replacing much of the contents of our closets with clothes of handwoven fabrics.

  11. Sounds super! I bought my first HD floor loom in 1976 (the Bicentennial Convergence in Pittsburgh PA) and took many classes in Harrisville after that. Have you been there? Such a bucolic town and the classes were great. And I took a two week class at Penland, which sounds more like your experience. Honestly, I was so excited that I barely slept and I loved the stimulation from all the other craft studios. I am mulling over John Campebll now, as it’s not too far away. Anyway, sounds like you had the Best time. I loved all the photos that you took and also on the website!

    • I have not been to Harrisville and I really need to go! A friend has taken classes there and she says good things, too! We’ve already signed up for another course at Vavstuga–just loved the intensity and the chance to do nothing but weave for a week!

  12. It sounds like a wonderful week! Were the looms pre-warped so that you could get so much done? Or was that part of the process?
    I use my handwoven towels every day and they have held up so well. I also have my handwoven curtains in my sewing room and I enjoy looking at them. Other handwoven things like throws have gone off who remembers where, but I learned something from weaving each of them.

    • We worked on several looms and they were in different stages of being dressed so we all got some time winding warp, sleying, threading heddles, etc., but didn’t do every step, fully, on every loom. It was a good balance. I think. I’d like to make curtains . . .

  13. What a fun time. And how cool that your husband went with you! It’s so fun to see all the different pieces and all the different uses for woven creations.

    • It is so nice that my husband likes weaving, too–there are a lot of parts of the process that are simply easier with two people who both know what’s going on!

  14. Kerry, what a fun, meaningful week this sounds like. And Becky sounds like a great teacher.
    I’d be happy just to stroll through and admire the beautiful wools and the sight of others weaving, and I’d be the one confused by the drafting lesson, for sure.

    • A stroll through this place would leave your eyes dazzled! It was a little overwhelming–made me think about how much I don’t know and want to learn . . .

  15. What a terrific time you’ve had. I love that you and your husband share the same passion for weaving and that you could take such an inspiring course together.

    I’ve worked my way through all the photos. I fall in love with color, texture, books, yarns and simple decor so thanks for the eye candy on this Friday afternoon. I’m recovering from dental surgery, so this is a nice pick-me-up.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes you.

    By the way, are you and your husband in the photo, above? I love having a face with a “voice.”

    • Dental surgery??! Aargh–I hope you’re bouncing back quickly. Thanks for taking the time to look at my photos–I think they really convey how special the place is. And, yes, I am on the far left of the group photo and Don is 4th from the right. You’ve made me realize that I’ve posted very few pictures of myself over the years . . .

      • The photos really help tell this story full of color, texture and craft. It’s such a beautiful place. It’s nice to have a face in mind when you read posts

      • My clumsy fingers hit send before I was finished. I enjoy having a face with a voice. Thanks for pointing the two of you out in this pic. All this time I assumed you we’re embroidered with a bow in your hair. You really are three-dimensional with a lovely smile to boot.

        I had an emergency root canal procedure Thursday after several days of a toothache. The worst.

  16. How amazing to spend a whole week learning about a craft and having things to take home to show for it! I would love to do something like that, and it sounds really inspiring. It’s a good sign that you weren’t sick of weaving by the end of it. The turquoise colour of the (towel?) that you made is so pretty. I love that the place you stayed had so many woven fabrics – like a mini showroom! x

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