Crafting for Comfort or for Challenge?

For those of you who make things, or garden, or write, or bake, or even take walks in the great outdoors, do you tend toward challenging yourself in new directions, pushing yourself to do more and more difficult? Or do you choose familiar, comfortable techniques and projects and paths to soothe you?

For most of us the answer is probably, “It depends.”

It depends on mood, other stressors in our lives, the time have available to work on a project, and maybe, basic temperament.

My basic temperament leads me to the familiar, the soothing, the comforting . . . the easy.

I don’t especially like fussy, complicated designs that seem, to me, overwrought. And I seem to have enough tenseness in my life without looking for more stress in my crafts. So I very often do more of the same, return to the familiar, make more of what I’ve already made, just variations on a theme.

But even I, sometimes, feel the need to push myself a little. My two most recent weaving projects, while not at all, in the least, wild and crazy, were forays into slightly different techniques.

And what I learned was that, even though I was moving away from my comfortable, known weaving, I was moving into weaving that was, almost immediately, as comfortable and manageable.

In other words, just because it was different, it wasn’t hard or stress producing or uncomfortable. And that was important for me to learn.

One project was kitchen towels. Nothing new and different about that! Kitchen towels, made of cotton and linen are, by far, my favorite weaving product. What made these towels a little bit of a walk on the wild side for me was that I used a weave structure I hadn’t before—called false damask—and I used 8 shafts, not for the first time but I haven’t used them too often.


Many (most?) floor looms have 4 shafts—when you add more shafts, you can achieve more complex designs. My loom actually has 12 shafts but I’ve not used all 12 yet!

The thing that drew me to this particular weave structure, was the way the checks on the towels look like they are made of interwoven bands.


For weavers, this pattern is #246 from A Weaver’s Book of 8 Shaft Patterns, edited by Carol Strickler.

IMG_1793I honestly wouldn’t’ve looked at this draft twice if I hadn’t received email from my prolific weaving pal, Joan, with a photo of her towels. They were so fab, I had to do my own!

The details: 8/2 cotton warp in white, with narrow navy stripes; 24 ends per inch. Weft in varying colors of 8/2 cotton and narrow navy stripes.

I like the yellow one best! And I wove coordinating tabs on my band loom.


My other recent project was two scarves from one warp.

This structure is called Atwater Bronson lace and, honestly, it couldn’t be much easier! But it achieves this pretty lacy effect.


For weavers, this pattern is straight out of Next Steps in Weaving by Patty Graver. Her project is for a table runner in 3/2 cotton. All I did was substitute finer, 8/2 rayon and Tencel, which achieve the narrower width and a super silky drape and feel.

I used warp stripes in both a deep teal in Tencel and a variegated rayon thread that included teal, purple and turquoise.


I lined the lace “windows” up with the warp stripes so, when I wove the pattern, the windows alternated between the plain stripes and the variegated.

For one scarf I used the same deep teal as weft and, for the other, I used navy blue. I was surprised that I liked the effect of the navy better—it makes the brighter colors glow. The only other difference between the making of the two scarves is that the windows are shorter in one and quite long in the other.



Both of these projects were a joy to weave. I expected them to be difficult and to create agita but they were both manageable and  . . . really easy.

I was avoiding branching out because I craved comfort and reassurance yet I found just those things by taking a baby step outside my comfort zone.

And I achieved a different kind of comfort and reassurance in knowing that I was becoming the kind of weaver who could branch out, who could attempt new approaches, and could be successful, without drama.

A lesson, perhaps, to apply to other aspects of my life  . . . ?

74 thoughts on “Crafting for Comfort or for Challenge?

  1. Your scarves are beautiful, I love the colours, I think as I’m getting older I’m pushing my self more out of my comfort zone, but I do still like my simple cross-stitch projects 🙂

  2. Your scarves tick all my “must have” boxes – color, weave and length. I love lace weaves and am happy you’ve branched out to them. I like the idea of edging out of one’s comfort zone rather than leaping.

    • I have been liking the lace weaves, too, and am a little surprised that I do. And they work so well in these medium-weight scarves. When I find the right fibers, I see a shawl, to keep, in my future.

  3. The scarves are lovely but those towels are truly fabulous,I love all the colors! I think it’s great that you took baby steps,baby steps are important. Sometimes I want to forget the baby steps and take giant ones ,which my friend doesnt work very well, as you have to pick yourself up to go back to baby steps. I enjoy a challenge in one project, the rest I like comfort projects .

    • The towels were very fun to weave, choosing different colors and seeing the effect develop! I’m actually doing a scarf in that same weave pattern now and it is SO different because of the different colors and fiber. Really fun to see. And I couldn’t agree more about baby steps–they’re really the only kind of steps that seem to work for me!

  4. A feeling of awe came over me as I read this post. Holy guacamole! To say I am impressed is an understatement. What a talent you have!

  5. I love those towels, and they seem pretty complicated to me. You just keep on going. As for me, I’m in a ‘comfort mode’ moment, but I hope it won’t last ….

    • No, really–not complicated at all! I mean, I couldn’t’ve figured them out two years ago but, at this point, they are really straightforward. And that’s what learning is all about! And what’s wrong with “comfort mode” I ask??

  6. “And what I learned was that, even though I was moving away from my comfortable, known weaving, I was moving into weaving that was, almost immediately, as comfortable and manageable.”

    I love that! I don’t weave, but in my knitting, I like having a few projects going. One that challenges, or stretches me, and maybe teaches me a new skill or technique, and which I can feel real pride in the completed object. The others all fall into the comfortable category – still good, things I can be happy to wear or share, but which are not noteworthy. And as I go the challenges in the first become comfortable. I still remember my first lace piece – an Estonian lace wrap that took me TWO YEARS to knit. I ripped out so much! Now lace does not intimidate me at all, and often a lace piece is one of my comfortable ones now.

    And I adore all that you have been weaving – the towels are lovely, and those tabs! They are just the perfect finishing touch, they are truly works of art. The scarves are amazing as well, I love the differences brought by the different color wefts. You are so talented. I can’t even imagine what you would do with 12 shafts!

  7. Your weaving is gorgeous! I want to do those same towels, after seeing Joan’s lovely batch & now yours! Great work!

    • Thanks, Geri–that’s a huge compliment coming from you, when I admire your weaving so much (and wish I had a way to see more of it!) When Joan emailed me the photo of her towels, the first question I had was, “Do I have enough shafts to make those?” I’m doing a scarf now in the same pattern (decided to make use of the tie-up while I had it!)

  8. I like the yellow and blue towel, too. And I noticed you put a handy hook on it. 🙂 The most recent creative deviation for me was baking Irish soda bread. As an Italian girl, that’s quite a detour from biscotti. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying it with jam in the morning.

    • Yes, the handy hooks are woven on a special little band loom–I love that finishing touch! And I love Irish soda bread! Well, and biscotti, for that matter . . .

  9. What you weave is SO BEAUTIFUL and satisfying to see! Thank you for doing it and thank you for documenting your work and thank you for writing about your process and sharing it all with us!

  10. Those towels are gorgeous! They have a three dimensional look…like the lattice on a pie. Very clever!

    As for me, the good old comfort zone suits me just fine!

    • Yes, lattice on a pie–that’s the perfect analogy! The weaving process was fun because I could just watch that pattern emerge. I making a scarf in the same pattern now–I don’t love the colors but it’s still fun to weave!

  11. I like to have one project of each of knitting, machine sewing, embroidery and crochet on the go at once, all of different difficulty levels. I do whichever one I feel like at the time, depending on my mood, how much time I have to spare or sometimes whether the daylight is good enough. Your weaving is fabulous!

    • I’m a lot like that, too–multiple projects, shifting moods. Even with the weaving, I might have three looms in action so I can decide “easy or challenging?” It’s nice to have options!

  12. Those scarves are sumptuous! An interesting concept to ponder in more general terms though. I think I have been pushing a little outside my comfort zone lately. And it hasn’t been too painful!

  13. All your weaving is gorgeous. I’m not sure I’ve ever become sufficiently expert at anything to have a ‘comfort zone’ but, to take knitting as an example, there are projects I can do whilst watching T.V. and things I can’t 🙂 I do like occasionally drifting off in a completely different direction and am considering taking a leaded glass course locally which would be completely different to anything else I’ve ever done.

    • If you can knit and watch TV, I think you must have a certain level of expertise–I wouldn’t be able to knit and do anything else at all! And I think you’ll find the leaded glass to be quite familiar, at least aspects of it–piecing and joining patterns to make a new design? Sounds like sewing and quilting to me, just a different means of joining the pieces together. Have fun with it!

  14. Oh Kerry! I love the scarves with the combination of threads, so beautiful and the texture is perfect; elegant, interesting and just the right amount of flash. I am in love with the kitchen towels, I can see that yellow with a lovely cornflower blue,ma Kelly green, and red and white would be so crisp. You can just weave up a bunch more and we will all drool!😄 I love your life lesson in this post. Isn’t wonderful that we can keep learning at a happy pace and enjoy it so much? You illustrated perfectly a Suzuki teaching maxim I just read. Don’t worry about getting to the end, find the next best step for each learner.

    • Thank you, thank you! I admit, when I made those towels, I ran out of warp before I could use all the colors I wanted to! I’m sure I’ll make more at some point. And I’m making a scarf in the same pattern now and, if I ever finish it, I’ll show you–SO different! And, yes, I love finding my own pace with these things. I haven’t always been good at taking time to lay a strong foundation for my work, often pushing ahead before I knew what I was doing and then being disappointed. My current pace is just right for me!

  15. I’m very glad you dared enough to give these two particular changes a try – they are fabulous! I swear I can feel the silky fabric of the tencel and rayon beneath my finger tips as I looked at your photos! So elegant!! One day I will visit your shop and find myself this particular pattern of towel too – I love that interwoven look – and you will have made them in all my favourite colours so I have to purchase several at once! 😀 Despite your feeling that you stay in the known and comfortable I think you have grown as a weaver exponentially. Maybe that’s why you have gotten so good – you practise your craft and move to only include a new skill when the other is well rounded and ready to be extended. Which as you know, is the perfect way to learn and grow …….. I’m such a butterfly in my crafting – I get bored easily and as soon as one technique has been employed I’m moving on, looking for the next one to try. Therefore I don’t really build up a body of work – just a series of one offs, comprising some hits and many misses. I need to take a page from your book and settle happily into the known and see what happens 😀

    • It’s interesting–I’ve always thought I got bored easily, too, and didn’t give myself time to develop in a craft. But weaving has changed that and I think it’s because there are so many different directions to go with it–some structured, some freeform, easy, complex, colorful, low-key, practical, frivolous–I simply can’t ever get bored! I also disagree that you haven’t stuck with an approach and developed it–I’m thinking of your series of paintings of women and your light catchers! And if I had had enough warp for one more of those towels, the next color I had set aside was a bright, light turquoise–woudn’t that have looked fabulous?!

      • Anything in light, bright turquoise makes me drool 🙂 It would indeed have been fabulous!! You are right about the paintings and the light catchers – it’s true both did and have developed. Perhaps I’m not quite as flibberty-gibberty as I like to think. And I have a plan to take the LC’s to the next level…….

  16. beautiful work! I love trying new weaving drafts, but I’m not as comfortable with weaving as I am with knitting or spinning, it takes an especially confident day for me to take the plunge and try something out of my normal toolbox.

    • Thanks for your comment! Since I don’t knit and haven’t touched a spinning wheel in a very long time, I do understand how some crafts are more daunting than others!

  17. Oh, I love those kitchen towels. I am a great user of dishtowels! And that green one….The pattern is so interesting. I’m glad it was new AND easy. I have found myself taking different routes on my walk to work and seeing new landscaping and new flowers and buds and it’s been wonderful. It must be spring. We want to get out of our winter patterns!

  18. It was your beautiful scarf that really caught my eye. One (or this one!) can never have too many scarves, and yours is wonderful. The thing that amazes me about your towels is how even the weaving is. That to me is the sign of an expert.

    As for sticking to the tried and true, well, I usually want to try something different. I love the latest shiny new thing, and I also feel that there are so many things to do and too little time!

    • Thanks, Ann! It’s funny–I hardly ever wear scarves but they are fun to weave! And the even weave comes, I think, from weaving pretty quickly and setting up a rhythm–that’s something I’ve been working on!

  19. Choosing comfortable over challenging is so much easier, isn’t it… I wasn’t going to set myself any challenges for this year, but I didn’t want to do comfortable either; I thought I could take a middle road but so far… I’ve stuck with comfortable 😀 .

    • Yes, comfortable is just so . . . comforting, isn’t it?? And I think when other aspects of life are challenging, w e should have comfort in our lives where can find it!

  20. Gorgeous work as usual – like you, I love the yellow but all the pieces are utterly delicious. I am very gung-ho about the projects I take on, so I need to be a bit careful about not over-stretching myself. Not because there are things I can’t do – I believe that everything is capable of being done eventually – but because there are things I think I am going to like and then don’t. Obviously you can only find out what you like by doing it, but there are still lessons which can be learned to avoid making the same mistake again. So pausing for breath before diving in headlong is a good strategy! 🙂

    • Thanks, Liz! I, too, have been known to dive headfirst into something, usually a whole new craft that I think I’m going to love. I buy all the stuff and stockpile it, only to find it doesn’t suit me at all. Take basket weaving, for example . . .

  21. Both projects lovely, Kerry, absolutely lovely. What a great question you posted. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. I have to agree with you, I often stay with the familiar. Mostly this is based on time, wanting to knit, spin, felt, or make something and only a certain amount of time to indulge. I’ll have to really consider your question though and challenge myself to be sure I am not getting too ‘stuck in my ways’. Thank you!

    • You’re so busy in other ways, that it makes perfect sense to me that you want to relax into a comforting project for your “down” time. I, on the other hand, have tons of free time and need to stay on my toes! Do what suits you!

  22. I love your weaving posts, Kerry. It seems there are so many ways you can employ your craft. Those tea towels are charming, and they really do look like woven ribbon. You’ve made a scarf in my favorite colors and materials and I especially love the drape and softness of rayon. It’s one of my favorite fabrics to wear during the hot summer months.

    I get bored easily, so I tend to hop from thing to thing I suppose. I enjoy card-making, hand stitching, writing, gardening, sewing, decorating and sometimes knitting. I’m teaching myself (slowly) how to crochet. It’s fun to mix things up.

    • I was just saying to Pauline that I always thought I got bored easily, too, and I guess I still do have a lot of little random projects going, but weaving has addressed some of my boredom issues–there are SO many different directions to go with it! Thanks for your generous enthusiasm about the weaving!

      • I feel the same about sewing. You can make clothing, furnishings, animal bedding, gadgets, dolls clothes, plush animals…the list seems endless. Each item can teach you a new skill. In August my younger son heads for college and I’ll be able to claim a long desk top for crafts and sewing. I’m excited about the space (and hope it softens the sadness I’ll feel with an empty nest).

  23. The scarves are amazing, but the towels are fascinating. The look of a woven basket really surprised me. And why does that show up most for me on the yellow one?

    Yes, it’s good to make steps away from the usual, even if they are baby steps. I do like to do the same thing over and over, but with variations. I guess that’s why I like the medallions. The structure is so familiar now that I *know* them completely. But I keep trying to find new interpretations of them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    • I’ve been trying to figure out why the pattern is so evident on the yellow towel! I think it’s the light, clear color. It ends up being a subtle change and the subtlety heightens the interwoven look, I think. I do know I did a sample with a dark green and it didn’t work at all. And I think that experimenting within the framework of a well-understood technique, as you do with the medallion quilts, makes a lot of sense. There’s a safety net built in there.

  24. Nice work! The towels are a great weave structure and I can see why you were drawn to them. Thanks for all the details for us weavers…we do like to know.
    I haven’t woven with Tercel. Can you wash it? I keep avoiding it as I don’t know how it “works” but I know several weavers using it. I am thinking of making a shawl but I don’t see scarve production in my future. I really don’t wear them.
    Hope you’re thawing our up there! ;-D

    • Yes, you can wash it and, in fact, the wet finishing made the scarves much softer and silkier. I did what Laura Fry said to do, “Finish Tencel with warm water, light soap or detergent, agitation and hard press. This will give it a lovely sheen and drape.” I did the washing in my utility sink, put them in the washer to spin the water out and then put them in the dryer until they were just little damp. Then pressed them hard with a medium iron.

  25. I can only say that your weaving is STUNNING! I was never a fan until I see the things you create. The scarf stole my heart. I have to admit those towels would be hard to pass up. I’m glad you were moved to push past the comfort zone. I don’t end up doing much that is easy. Something in a project always makes it harder than it needs to be. I see something I love and want to make and end up struggling through but it’s often worth it. I have never made anything as pretty as that scarf though.

    • Thank you so much, Marlene! I love weaving–I guess you can tell! I’ve spent a lot of my life jumping around from one craft or project to another, never getting very good at anything. The key with weaving, I think, is that I am pursuing it, really sticking with it, and I’m getting better!

  26. I love, love, love your weaving posts! The towels and the scarves are just gorgeous. I’m usually not a huge fan of Bronson Atwater Lace, but the colors in your scarves bring out the contrasting textures in a subtle, beautiful way that is really special. Weaving is the perfect pursuit for people who get bored easily, don’t you think? So much opportunity to change things up and experiment.

    I like to mix up the comfortable and the new in just about everything–cooking, reading, gardening, weaving, sewing.

    • Thank you, Brenda! I didn’t think I’d like any of the lace weaves much, when I first saw them–I’m not a lacy kind of gal. But they’re growing on me . . . And, yes, weaving is the absolutely perfect pastime for the easily bored–there are so many different aspects of every single project AND so many directions to go in the craft.

  27. I love the towels and that yellow gives such a fresh crispness to the design! The scarf is wonderful and the colour is one of my favourites!
    I used to enjoy a challenge but recently everything creative has to be soothing and do-able – ‘real life’ is the challenge!

    • I hear you about “real life” being a challenge of its own!! That was so true for me last year and I guess it shows that real life has calmed down a little, that I’ve been willing to take on something a little new in the weaving. I hope your real life mellows out, too . . .

  28. Hello Kerry! I’m back from an amazing trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and making some blog visits. I can see that you have been busy and succeeding at the new challenge you gave yourself.I love the color and design of the towels and the scarves.
    As I read through this post, and absorbing all your positivity, I thought “I want to do that”
    Maybe someday 🙂

    • Nice to have you here, Laurie–what a whirlwind you’ve been caught up in! Maybe someday you’ll slow down but I don’t see that happening any time soon!

  29. I’m impressed with your weaving! I like to have a mix of simple and challenging projects, so I can choose what to work on depending on what kind of day I’ve had.

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