A Week Away, Weaving

Whew! We’re home again, mentally exhausted and physically sore, but full of ideas and enthusiasm for a craft we love.

And you, too, can achieve all this!

I have one purpose in writing—to encourage you to go away, to find an intensive learning experience in your favorite craft, whether it is cooking, knitting, writing, gardening, quilting . . . just go.

Not a mellow retreat, not an afternoon crafting with friends, although those have their place.

Find yourself an opportunity to spend a week, or more, undistracted by daily chores and obligations, to work really hard, with nothing more important than immersing yourself in something you love.

Our week at Vavstuga Weaving School felt, at times, like boot camp. But, like boot camp, we came out stronger and more confident, and ready to move to a new level of weaving.

The course we took was Nordic Classics and, because I know there are weavers reading, I’ll give an overview of what we learned. For non-weavers, feel free to skip the details and just look at the pretty pictures. But, as you look, also imagine what you could make, in your own chosen medium, if you gave yourself the chance.

The Nordic Classics workshop focused on 6 weaving techniques associated with Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway.

We had taken only the Weaving Basics course before (I wrote about it!) and this was much more difficult weaving than that course, or any weaving we’d done on our own.

Our classmates, the other 6 people in the workshop, were much more experienced weavers than we and I was a little unnerved at first. But, with skillful instruction and guidance, as well as encouragement from the others, we were able to do work we’re very proud of!

We took on 6 different projects in what amounted to 3.5 days of actual weaving so we didn’t come home with finished projects. We have, in most cases, good-sized samples that can be turned into finished projects.

An overview of what we made:

Leno lace

This lace is made of fine linen thread. I was familiar with Leno, from working with vintage linens, but most lace like this, when done at a loom, is done with a very time-consuming technique of manually picking up threads, twisting them, and then holding them in place with a weft thread.

The technique we learned was treadled Leno, which while still fiddly, was much faster and more efficient than the traditional method. I was able to weave a 31 by 17 inch piece in about 3 hours.

Our instructor, Becky Ashenden, had come across this method in an old Swedish weaving book, and figured out how to make it work. I won’t try to explain it here—I’m not sure I could!

We cannot use this technique on our home looms—we can’t approximate the setup used—but the experience taught me about creative problem-solving! It also gave me a better appreciation for all the handmade lace I see.

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My lace–all the samples looked the same!

Enkel skillbragd

This weaving is done with two shuttles in wool over linen, the way much overshot weaving is done. I found it very scary to try because it looks so complicated but it turned out to be a joy to weave! The setup is not difficult—we can easily do it at home—and there are really only three possible “building blocks” of the design that are combined to create all the different patterns.

Enkel skillbragd is Norwegian in origin and the weaving was traditionally used as coverlets, lined with sheepskin. I brought home a piece about 24 inches square, perfect for a big sofa pillow.

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My enkel skillbragd

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Don’s enkel skillbragd

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Each with our own–don’t these people look like fun?!

Halvdrall

Halvdrall seems to mean “poor man’s damask” in Swedish but the structure creates a rich product! This is pretty straightforward to weave, with two shuttles, but looks so impressive!

Half of us wove on a warp of varied blues and the other half wove on soft autumn tones. We chose our own weft colors and the outcomes were so different and all gorgeous! Don and I brought home one of each colorway—they will make nice table squares at about 20 inches.

The technique was worked in a cotton and linen blend and would be great in placemats, towels—so many uses!

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My halvdrall

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Don’s halvdrall

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A variety from the group

Danish twill

This pretty twill can be done in innumerable designs, as we learned. It’s fairly straightforward to weave but is done on 10 shafts. That’s fine with me—I just acquired a 12-shaft loom! And I love twills!

We wove this on a loom that was quite wide and a little finicky. The weaving was accompanied by the sounds of shuttles crashing to the floor and muffled swear words . . .

None of us did very large samples of this—mine is only about 10 inches long. I like it a lot, though, and will find something to make of it. If I only knew how to put in a zipper . . .

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My Danish twill

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Don’s Danish twill

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A variety from the group

Gagnefkrus (Honeycomb)

Look at this texture!

I thought this looked so difficult but by the time I got to this loom, late in the week, it was like a walk in the park!

The fabric, even on the loom under tension, has a neat texture, with those cells of fine thread surrounded by thicker threads. But, once it is washed, it becomes even more 3-dimensional and interesting. It would make wonderful fabric for upholstery or pillows. At 26 by 15 inches, my sample could be a small pillow . . . we’ll see.

We made this with fairly fine cotton, what’s know as 16/2 weight. It just so happens that we inherited huge cones of 16/2 cotton with one of the looms we bought so I see honeycomb in my future!

Opphamta

I loved opphamta and am sorry to say I can’t do it on my home loom. Or maybe there is a way to do it but only one that would be more fiddly and time-intensive than the way we learned.

Opphamta is Finnish and there are all kinds of these designs that look like cross-stitch patterns to me. It’s done with fine linen and the colors and fabric are so crisp and clean . . . My sample is fairly small, 11 by 26 inches, but I WILL find a way to use it at home!

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My opphamta

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Don’s opphamta

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A variety from the group

Don and I left the studio at 6 every day, exhausted. We covered the same projects over the course of the week but didn’t work on them on the same days so we compared notes and shared advice. We had a quiet meal, a strong drink, and fell into bed.

We didn’t stay at Vavstuga’s dormitory this time, which meant we introverts had more quiet time to re-group between intensive weaving sessions.

But it also meant we didn’t get to know our classmates quite as well as last time.

And they were wonderful classmates—upbeat, passionate (!) about weaving, and all so funny and fun. But, by staying in a B&B, we did get to know an equally wonderful pair of quilters who were in town for an intense and demanding quilting workshop, and loving it.

Which brings me back to my original point. These hard, demanding, stretch-yourself-to-the-limits experiences are amazing.

To be among like-minded people, to be a little afraid and to overcome that fear and meet success, to share advice and tips in a generous way, to come home re-energized . . . priceless.

To encounter a teacher who will give guidance into difficult concepts and just assume you can keep up, who will answer even the nuttiest questions and fix the stickiest mistakes with good humor and good sense . . . all priceless.

Priceless, but they come with a price, as do all things we value. These experiences don’t come cheap—they take valuable time and money—but they are so worth the expenditures. We have all been known to spend our money and our time on endeavors worth far less than what can be gained at a workshop designed to make us better at the thing we love to do.

Let it be known, I will follow my own advice. I’ll be going back to Vavstuga.

I hope you’ll find the opportunity to go somewhere similar, to go away, to dive in, to surround yourself, immerse yourself, indulge yourself in what you love.

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111 thoughts on “A Week Away, Weaving

  1. Kerry, what lovely samples! Thanks for sharing your week. It sounds like an inspiring experience and one that will bear a lot of fruit in your studio. I’m looking forward to the Drawloom Basics class next spring. It promises to be a true weaving retreat.

  2. Wow – it looks like you made amazing fabric. Exciting to learn new techniques, and to be able to do some on equipment you already have. As fro the zipper – I bet your cleaners has a tailor on contract somewhere who could do that for you! You are going to have the prettiest pillows!

  3. Thank you for posting all about your week at Vavstuga…I’ve been waiting to see your post about your weaving experience & I loved seeing the photos of your hard work. Vavstuga is a thrilling place, and I can’t wait for my own next adventure there in May 2017!

    • I think you’d like this workshop, Geri! It was really mentally challenging and the projects were so varied. But I know the drawloom course will thrill you most!

  4. This looks a great week. I really love the examples you’ve shown and look forward to seeing more in the same idiom. Are you going to take a break now, or are you too fired up?

    • We’re going to take a break from going back for more workshops–we need to practice what we’ve learned. It makes me crazy that, after that immersion, I haven’t touched weaving for over a week. I’m just trying to get caught up on the rest of my life. You must know how that feels?

  5. I am so delighted that y’all took this time to learn how to make such beautiful woven pieces! 👏👏 I love a post that shows a persons creative passion. Well done! :))

  6. Now I’m in love with the halvdrall. It seems a bit like the summer winter pattern. And yes, to master new skills it helps to be cut off from one’s daily life and put in an immersion situation. I look forward to seeing your next woven offerings.

    • The halvdrall is gorgeous and not that hard to do. I haven’t done summer and winter weaving so I can’t really compare but I do know I want to do more of the halvdrall.

  7. Ha! I don’t even know what Danish twill is called in Danish…. It sounds wonderful – I hope I’ll be able to do something like that one day. Nothing I can take out of the budget though, it’s been pared to the bone already.

    • Yes, I know that this kind of experience isn’t practical for everyone, at any given moment of their lives. If you come into an unexpected windfall, treat yourself!

    • A friend did the flamboyant blankets class and loved it–and made a very flashy, gorgeous blanket. We made smaller wool throws at the last Vavstuga workshop. I LOVE mine!

    • It really is amazing–at the start of the week, I was so daunted by the samples we were shown and dreaded some of the projects, especially that Leno lace. But then, it was all do-able. A really great confidence builder!

  8. What you accomplished is so far beyond any skill I have, I can only say I’m in awe and your work product is gorgeous. But, I think the most amazing part of this whole post is that you share this hobby with your hubby. Now that is something most of us can’t boast about. Congrats to you both.

    • It’s funny but what you’re calling my skill is really just the product of a couple years of work and learning–it’s nothing you, or anyone else, couldn’t do. But, you’re right, having my husband to share it with really is special!

  9. I love seeing all these different weaves and hearing about them. This post also came at just the right time. I am scheduled for a weekend photography workshop in a couple weeks and had begun to dread it. Now I’m excited again and looking forward to learning about all the things I can do with my camera! Weave on!

    • Thanks, Melanie! It’s a very exciting time, learning all this new stuff. I thought of you while we were there–we shared breakfasts at our B&B with two women who were at a quilting workshop. They were going way outside their past experiences and doing art quilts, inspired by photos. SO much to learn in quiltmaking, too!

  10. What a wonderful experience, Kerry, and your work is wonderful. I thought I would be able to choose a favourite, but I can’t. Immersing ourselves in the things we love is a joy. I have just spent a week with a group of other botanical artists finding plants in outback New South Wales, and loved every challenging minute of it. Thanks for encouraging me to do more.

    • I enjoyed reading about your workshop–and I want to hear more about your progress on the painting! I haven’t been able to choose a favorite of the weaving samples either–they each have their appeal to me!

      • I forgot to say I like the idea of taking a week or so to do something new/adventurous/challenging. I had a look to see what options are available in NZ. Aunty Google (as another Kiwi blogger says) wasn’t very helpful. And you can blather all you like. It reminds those of us, in far off places, that America has great people doing wonderful things. 🙂

      • If you relied on the news only, you’d be pretty sure America was going to hell in the proverbial hand basket. Thank goodness the election is soon (although I do worry about the aftermath . . .) I hope you can find an adventure to gallivant to!

  11. How fun! I dream of being able to take intensive workshops like this, unfortunately even if I had the $ I will never be able to take that much time away from home 😦

    Two of the weave structures you learned you say you can’t do at home. I’m curious – why is that? I’m assuming it has something to do with the loom?

    • Vavstuga also offers a four-month-long immersion program! Can you even imagine being able to be away for so long?? Regarding the two structures that we can’t do at home: yes, it’s about the looms. We have jack-style looms and these seem to rely on countermarche. The Leno lace didn’t appeal to me that much so I don’t regret not being able to do that but the opphamta is a bigger disappointment. To do it the way it was set up in the workshop, she used a combination of a counterbalance and countermarche loom, with two extra shafts to allow plain weave. I think opphamta can be done another way, more manually, but I need to learn more. Sorry you asked??

      • Four months! Wow! That’s like a full college semester! Thanks for the weave structure info, and no I’m not sorry I asked – it was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for 🙂

  12. I don’t know what I would immerse myself in, but I’m going to think deeply about this. In the meantime, may I reblog the post? I have quite a few readers in Sweden who might appreciate the designs.

    • I think you should immerse yourself in a challenging photography workshop–you already have such a good eye for detail! And, yes, I’d be honored if you re-blogged my post. Becky, the owner of Vavstuga, studied at Saterglantan, which I guess is a famous weaving and craft school on Sweden.

  13. Such beautiful work!! And what a joy and bliss to spent a week with kindred spirits and learn so much. It is all so beautiful and I just would love to have a close look and gently touch the fabric for its texture ( clean hands yes!) In just a few weeks I am going with a few friends to a knitting retreat!!! Learning more about Norwegian knitting….your post has enhanced my anticipation xoxoxox Johanna

    • Oh, exciting! A Norwegian knitting class sounds perfect–I love the Scandinavian “look” of all their textiles. I’ll be looking forward to your blog post all about it!

  14. Breathtaking! You describe an experience I would love to have in quilting and wood cutting and one day I’ll get there. What stunning samples – I have learned so much from your post! I’m going to re-read it now – thank you!

    • And thank you, for your nice comments! We had breakfast, every morning, with two women who were at our B&B, and at a quilters’ workshop. They were being challenged and stretched just as much as we were!

  15. [J+D] “I have one purpose in writing—to encourage you to go away, to find an intensive learning experience in your favorite craft, whether it is cooking, knitting, writing, gardening, quilting . . . just go!” That’s our motivation in blogging too!

  16. What a wonderful celebration of the week you and the week Inhad quilting! You are so correct that the immersion process sparks creativity, a bit of daring and tremendous satisfaction. Way to go👍👍👍. Sally

  17. I agree with everyone who has already commented. BEAUTIFUL weaving work and inspiring text. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and perseverance and encouragement with all of us! And weaving, of course, can be such a rich metaphor for how life unfolds. Nature and nurture, warp and weft, the fascinating ways that our lives are connected with the loves of other beings on this planet… Thank you, too, for including photos of everyones work so that we can marvel at the different manifestations of the same process.

    • You do write the best comments! 🙂 I think part of the reason I like weaving so much is all those metaphorical possibilities! And the ways weaving shows up in folklore and literature–I love being part of the tradition.

  18. I am planning to do that as soon as I can get away. I think it’s an awesome idea and I haven’t done that in a very long time. Thanks for the tips!

  19. Thanks so much for the class recap and the B&B report! I will make my reservations tomorrow as I don’t want to miss staying there. I am sure it’s a compromise to stay away from the school, but Peter won’t want to stay there and I need to recharge as well. Did you take any meals at V?
    Loved seeing your samples. Looks like you accomplished a lot. Can’t wait!!!

  20. Hello Kerry, What a delight to read about your Nordic Weaving Class Experience. I for one, know exactly how tired you were each evening and admit, I miss the regiment! And I TOTALLY agree that everyone needs to go and have a week or more enjoying an art/craft/gift they love. My time at Vavstuga has been priceless!!!! (though as you say, costly at the same time, it’s SO worth it!)

    Could you share more about how the treadled Leno is set up? 1 or 2 sets of shafts…. how many shafts? what actually makes the twist? any other bits of wisdom about this technique you might share? answer when you have time, no hurry!

    Congratulations to you and Don and your classmates – beautiful photos of beautiful work!

    • Treadled leno–oy! It’s done on only two shafts with three treadles. BUT there are these special heddles Becky called doup heddles and the warp threads go through them in funny ways so, when you press the leno treadle and use a sword, it twists the threads to make the leno pattern. I am not explaining it well. It was very fiddly–we had to tap the leno treadle between every plain weave pick, to straighten the doups, then stand up, insert the sword, throw two picks in the same shed, take the sword out, etc., etc. I can’t believe Becky was able to figure it out! I think you’re going to need to make another trip back to Vavstuga!

      • There is always more to learn. I really appreciate your description of the set up for the Leno Lace. I had not heard of doup heddles, so I searched and found this article http://www.weavezine.com/content/give-it-twist-doup-leno.html . I thought you would appreciate it. I found a few others, but none mentioned using only 2 shafts with the doup heddles and sword. I’m trying to get my brain around this set up and agree, I need to make another trip to Vavstuga! Thanks again, I’m thrilled to know about this technique.

      • That article looks like it’s on the same track as what Becky did, although not exactly the same. I honestly didn’t pay full attention to the set-up because I knew I’d never do this at home. Tonya wove off the leftover warp and really enjoyed doing so so she might be the perfect person to explain more fully how the whole thing works!

      • 🙂 Kerry, thanks for confirming the article is on the same track as what you wove! I do think I’ll ask Tonya. And like you, have enough other things I want to weave, that this is not something I think I’ll weave in the near future, yet want to get my head around it, just in case I’m inspired sooner than I suspect!

  21. Reading your intro had me nodding my head. Your enthusiasm is very catching! It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to take an architectural photography course; I’ve been looking but haven’t found the right one for me straight away, and then put it to the back of my mind. Thanks for the reminder!

  22. Hi, Kerry (and Don!)! Happy to find you on Ravelry, and blogging, too! Love it when I can keep up with classmates from Vavstuga. Enjoyed meeting you both and hope our paths cross again. Also sorry if I talked your ears off at dinner that night…I don’t get out much, as you could probably tell. I will say this was the most intensive Vavstuga class I’ve taken to date, so you guys did great. Inexperienced, my foot 🙂 Off to add your blog to my blog reader…..

    • Hi Marcia! It’s great to see you here and I’m heading over to your blog to spend more time, too. We enjoyed our time with you very much and dinner was fun–no worries! Don’s been weaving but I haven’t gotten there yet, since we got home. Soon!

    • The “fun” lately has been just trying to get caught up from 10 days away. The leaves didn’t stop falling–we have piles of outdoor work to do! I just want to weave . . .

  23. Vävstuga is intoxicating. Love, love, love the learning experience. And yes, one does indeed feel as if one has been hit by a truck, but hey….no housework, AND one gets to socialize with like-minded people!

    • Yes to all you said! I love hearing that bell ring and just walking in to lunch, with good food and a beautiful table set! And then leaving the table to go back to the looms . . . wish I was back there now!

  24. I am so happy to see that you’re off learning new skills and pursuing a hobby you enjoy. Good for you!

    I would be hard put to choose a favorite, as every one of them has something special about it. I hope you get your leaves raked, pronto, so you can back to what really matters. 😉

  25. Holy wow, Kerry! This is truly lovely stuff! What a person can do in a week away – and thanks for suggesting we all try it sometime. I’d like to one of these years.
    But hey, Young Lady: this is also a terrific post. I’m suggesting you get it published somewhere additional to your blog. It’s really good, girl!!

  26. Kerry, this is amazing – what stunning work! And such a great idea to go away for total immersion. I have often toyed with the idea of a knitting retreat and you have definitely rekindled that idea! 🙂

  27. Really enjoy reading all these! Because of my teaching schedule, I attended Sagas and Fluff instead, but this held great interest for me and it was so nice to see the class photo and a couple familiar faces. The joy of Swedish weaving (expanded to Nordic) is that there is so much to get excited about, to learn, to explore, and in the company of some wonderful colleagues. Thanks for your blog–the photos are lovely!! Can’t wait till my next opportunity.

    Gail Ross

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Gail! I hope you get to do the Nordic Classics someday–it is not for the faint of heart but you come away with so many new ideas! Becky talked a lot about Sagas and Fluff while we were there and now it’s on my list–but, then, all of the classes are on my list!!

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