My Weaving Ways (Winter 2018)

I’ve just realized that I have not written anything about weaving since mid-November!

That’s kind of crazy, really, since I weave almost every day and miss it when I can’t. I love weaving and when I’m not weaving I’m usually thinking about it, reading about it, wishing I could spend more time at it.

I guess I haven’t written about it for a few reasons.

Some of what I’ve woven hasn’t seemed that noteworthy. I wove a lot for two craft shows we participated in and, while the things I made were pretty and well crafted, they weren’t difficult or technically impressive, by standards of accomplished weavers.

Sometimes I’ve thought about a post about weaving but would think, “Oh, I’ll finish this project first and then I’ll write about it.” But then, I’d finish and immediately start a new project and the cycle would begin again.

Sometimes I’ve thought about a post about weaving but, honestly, resisted writing one more post that is nothing more than, “Hey, look at what I made!” That’s not really what I ever intended this blog to be, simply, a place for me to talk about myself and do a perpetual show-and-tell.

So, why am I’m finally writing the show-and-tell, catch-up-on-weaving post?

Well, since I spend SO much of my time at it, if I don’t write about weaving I’m not sure what else to write about. And I do want to stay in touch with you, through the blog, and I do want the blog to reflect where I am in my own “loving hands at home” world.

So, here goes nothing:

I’ve made a few scarves and have more on a loom right now.

I made several sets of these chunky placemats and similar coasters. These have been very popular and I should really make more . . .

I made a zillion coasters because Don wound a warp for coasters before he hurt his ankle. I decided to do the weaving, to free up the loom. He said the warp would make 15 coasters . . .  but 36 coasters later, I finally got them off the loom!

And I’ve made a LOT of towels. I continue to like making towels best of all.

There! After waiting so long to do this, I have to admit it’s kind of fun to see all the weaving in one place. Thanks for indulging me . . . it’s great to have friends with whom to share!


The Weaver’s Helper

Do you remember Gigi?


A blog friend asked me about her recently.

She is doing great–she is almost 3 years old and weighs somewhat too much. She loves her food!

She has calmed down, as cats do when they leave kittenhood behind.

And, thank goodness, she isn’t as interested in the weaving looms as she once was.

Unless I am sitting at one, trying to thread heddles.


Every weaver needs a helper . . .


(No, her eyes aren’t blue. That’s the combination of fluorescent lighting and an iPhone camera.)

My Superpower


Who knew?

It took me much of my adult life to discover my superpower.

I knew I had strengths—I’m good with my hands and am a stable genius (although, honestly, the bar for that seems to have gotten considerably lower recently!)

But my work as a weaver has taught me that I am . . .

A yarn whisperer.

I can untangle any knot and, more, I enjoy it! I relish a good snarl so I can show off my superior ability.

People bring their tangles to me. My husband, in particular, relies on me to unkink his embroidery thread and untangle his warp threads when weaving. I balk and roll my eyes, but I secretly enjoy every moment.

I read accounts of how other weavers grow so frustrated that they cut their tangled weaving off the loom and throw it away! That is unthinkable to me! The waste, both of materials and of a good chance to make things right? That’s a job for the yarn whisperer!

In many ways, I should’ve recognized my superpower sooner–it’s an extension of  so many other parts of me.

I have always hated loose ends and chaos. Remember those really fine necklace chains that could get all knotted. I would spend hours on those.

Those piles of vintage linens I iron into submission? Just more evidence of my need to bring order to chaos.

I read murder mysteries and cheer on the protagonists as they untangle the knotty crimes. In the books I like to read, all’s well because it ends well . . . and tidy.

When we had a sailboat, I was fascinated by marlinspike seamanship—the making of nautical knots . . . but I wasn’t very good at it. I like untying knots better than tying them.

From all my years doing embroidery and quilting, I knew I was good at untangling. It’s only with my experience in weaving, though, that my true dominance has emerged.

With much other crafting, only one or two threads are in use at any given moment—they can tangle but not enough to test the mettle of a true artist of untangling. In weaving, we deal with hundreds of threads at a time—floppy, unruly threads that are just itching to become a tangled mess!

I have to admit, my strength grows from weakness. T.H. White, in his book, The Once and Future King, told us that Sir Lancelot was known for his extreme kindness. He also explains that that kindness grew because Lancelot knew, in his heart, that he had a propensity for great cruelty. He had to be unremittingly kind to overcome his weakness.

My superpower grows out of my weakness. I can be impatient, I rush, I take shortcuts. I’m lazy and leave yarn out where cats can find it and have their way with it . . .

I end up with warps that are made up of 400 threads, hastily wound, and full of tangles. I end up with skeins and cones of yarn that are mangled and jumbled and muddled . . . the fault lies in myself.

But faced with these messes, the other Me kicks in! The fumbling, rushing Clark Kent steps into a phone booth and out bounds the superwoman, the Yarn Whisperer! I am patient. I go slow. I do whatever needs to be done, even if it means shutting the cats out of the room and sweet talking that yarn.

And, eventually, it all lines up, gets sorted, falls into place. It’s so satisfying to use one’s power for good.

What’s that you say?

Well, yes, it might be smarter and easier to avoid the tangles from the start . . . but where’s the fun in that??

A fish gotta swim, a bird gotta fly . . . and I gotta untangle.

I’ve got to whisper to that yarn . . .

And, how about you? What’s your superpower?

Someday . . .

Someday I’ll get caught up.

Someday I’ll tell you about the craft show and the trip to Florida and autumn in upstate New York (except now it’s over . . .)

Someday, I’ll update you on a lot of weaving and hand sewing I’ve been doing. Someday, I’ll be a regular correspondent here . . .

But not today.

Today is full of outside errands and chores, helping my mom adjust, keeping up with the basic details of family life.

So, today I’ll just show you a couple of photos that makes me happy–handwoven Christmas towels!

They started here.


And now they’re done.


I Wander As I Wind . . .

IMG_8789I’m winding warp. By the time the day is out, I will have 7 more bundles like this, all for a set of towels.

Winding warp is kind of boring, kind of repetitious, kind of mundane, but without it no weaving can be done.

When my mind wanders as I wind, I think of possibilities.

Because winding warp is all about possibilities and all about anticipation.

In this warp I see Christmas, of course, and winter. Snow and brisk winds and the cozy fires of home.

I see strong fabric where there is now simply thread.

I see useful objects that will please people who have values like mine, who value function and form and the imprint of the human hand.

I see hours spent watching the cloth grow, watching candy cane stripes wend through white, fresh and crisp and pleasing.

Through the occasional stress and struggles and bad news of daily life, I see making and becoming and creating.

So, I will go wind warp.

Our New Roommate . . .

I was delivered in late fall, in the mid-1950s. She was delivered two days later; we’re almost exactly the same age.

She lived her whole life in Vermont while I left upstate New York for many years, only to return and make my home here again.

Lately she found she needed a home so we invited her to live here. But she had to be willing to live in the garage until we found a place for her inside.

Does that sound mean? Making an older lady live in our garage?

It’s okay–she’s tough, and she’s happy to have a home where she is appreciated and can feel useful.

Our new housemate is a Macomber Add-A-Harness loom. Yes, another loom.

The Macomber company, started in 1936, is still in business and they could tell us that the serial number on our new loom meant the loom was delivered in late 1955 to Mrs. Maurice Jones of Montpelier, VT. Mrs. Jones, Jean, died at the age of 88 in 2013.

Her husband, Maurice, died just last year, at 93. When his belongings were dispersed, Jean’s loom sold at auction and we found it on Craigslist.

It’s a wonderful loom, sturdy and clean. It has 4 shafts but, as its name suggests, 4 more can be added, since the company is still going strong.

As often happens, the loom was sold with “extras”—when someone stops weaving, they have no need for the arcane tools of the trade.

And as much as I love the loom, it’s these extras that have really fascinated me.

Mrs. Jones went all in when she chose weaving as a hobby. She got books and magazines, some nice tools, and quite a lot of pretty thread.

In the 1950s, when a person wanted to buy weaving yarn, she couldn’t go on the internet and look at pictures or ask for samples. Mrs. Jones had to write to companies and request samples.

And she did. And she kept every sample she received.

Yarns from Lily and Butterworth and Troy and Golden Rule. If none of these names are familiar, it’s because the companies no longer exists. The Lily yarn you can currently buy has nothing to do with the Lily Mills of Shelby, NC, and though Troy still exists, the company now sells quilting cotton fabric. The others . . . all gone.

Mrs. Jones records are a mini-museum of weaving in mid-20th century America.

Did she become a great weaver? The evidence suggests she did not.

All of the requests for yarn sample are from 1955 and 1956.

The magazines are from the same years.

The items were all stored in newspaper-lined boxes, and the newspaper was from 1967.

Mrs. Jones’s obituary mentions that “Jean enjoyed flowers and gardening, her berry patch, mowing her acreage on her ‘Jean Deere’ tractor, bowling, square dancing, hand work, cooking and entertaining,” but says nothing of weaving.

It may be that she wove for a while. The man from whom we bought the loom remembers that, at the auction, there were hand-woven items and the auctioneer speculated that they were made on this loom.

Or maybe the weaving bug, that old arachnid, never really bit. And maybe the loom has been quiet for all these years.

I’ll keep Mrs. Jones records because I don’t know what else to do with them—I can’t just throw them away.

And all that yarn? Will we use it? That’s a tough one. When that yarn is gone, it’s gone forever, just like the once thriving textile industries is the United States . . .

But the loom will be quiet no more! Don has big plans for her.

She won’t live in the garage for long—at 60-something, she deserves better.


Are You Up For A Challenge?

I’m always up for a challenge!

I mean, I like small challenges in my daily life—solving a problem, figuring something out, overcoming a difficulty, meeting a goal.

But even more, I love an external challenge–a set of standards or constraints, presented to a group of people, to see how they respond individually.

For instance, a number of years ago, we did a family fitness challenge. Four of us each put in $125 and set a 3-month time limit. The plan was to see who could exercise, for at least 30 minutes, for the most days in that time frame.

Two of the four participants exercised every single day for three months and shared the prize! And, of course, even those of us who “lost” won because we did far more than we would’ve, without the challenge.

Challenges are a big deal in the crafting world. Sometimes, these challenges are pretty straightforward—for instance, my quilt guild’s challenge last year was to make a red and white quilt and to incorporate, somewhere, two specific red and white print fabrics, which we were given.

Other challenges are more . . . challenging. One of the most intriguing I read about was a Beatles challenge, where each quilter chose a Beatles’ song to provide inspiration. My blog pal, Snarky Quilter, chose Paperback Writer and made her quilt a depiction of a pulp novel.

If you read a lot of craft blogs, you’ve probably come across a lot of craft bloggers who are participating in challenges and reporting back in their posts. Whether the crafters are knitting, embroidering, or quilting, challenges seem to draw us in.

What’s the appeal?

Part of the fun of a challenge is personal—I feel like I’ve done some of my most creative work in response to a challenge. Having guidelines and limitations is both constraining and liberating!

The best part of the challenge, though, is the unveiling, when the participants come together and show how they’ve each addressed the challenge. It is always fascinating to see how different people interpreted the guidelines and all the different directions creativity can go. A challenge creates a sense of community while celebrating individual creativity.

We went to the Vermont Weavers’ Guild show last weekend. We saw a number of lovely hand-woven pieces but, for both of us, the best part of the show was the display of challenge pieces.

The weavers had each chosen a postcard of an Impressionist painting and used that to inspire their choice of color and weaving pattern. The towels were displayed with the inspiration cards.

I loved the idea that practical, earthbound kitchen towels were inspired by transcendent works of art!

We spent a lot of time at the three racks of towels, choosing favorites and talking about what the weavers accomplished.

Seeing this challenge also got us thinking about ways we could use art as inspiration. It was fun to think about our own favorite paintings and consider ways we could use the colors. Don thought he might go the direction of Monet’s water lilies while I would look to the work of my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent. Wouldn’t these colors be pretty in a towel?


Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent

One never knows where the next challenge is coming from, in life or in craft. Our life challenges may weigh heavily, tire us out, bring us down. Happily, our craft challenges can do just the opposite–lift us up, energize, give us new insight.

Have you participated in a favorite artistic challenge? Have you blogged about it? If so, consider leaving a link in the comments!