About My Work

When I weave, my imme­di­ate atten­tion is on repeat­ing actions I have done thou­sands of times. After lengthy prepa­ra­tion — dye­ing, mea­sur­ing, thread­ing, ten­sion­ing — I sit on a smooth wooden bench almost inside my large floor loom. The taut warp is in front of me. Yarn for the weft is spread about on shut­tles, on the table, on the floor. I have an idea in mind. I want to use the wool I’ve dyed with cochineal. I want to play with the bro­ken twill motif I liked so much in the last rug. I want to make a rug with a light background.

The design evolves as I work. I start in a direc­tion, which then changes and grows. What are my choices, my lim­its? What degree of sym­me­try or asym­me­try will be pleas­ing? When do I want one por­tion of a rug to mir­ror another? How will I achieve bal­ance this time? Will that bright flash be too much or add sparkle?

Each project starts at the warp­ing board, where strands of linen are mea­sured to the length required. Knots are tied around the warp bun­dle to keep the strands from get­ting tan­gled. The warp is taken to the loom and left lying across the front bench. It is spread to the width of the project and secured to the back beam before wind­ing on under tension.

Winding a warp skein

Wind­ing a warp skein

Three bouts of linen

Three bouts of linen

Spreading the warp

Spread­ing the warp

Tensioning the warp

Ten­sion­ing the warp

After the warp is wound onto the beam, indi­vid­ual threads are selected and threaded through the hed­dle eyes. When the thread­ing is com­pleted, all threads are sleyed (pulled) through the reed. Small groups are secured by knots to keep the threads from slip­ping out of the reed.

Selecting a thread

Select­ing a thread

Threading a heddle eye

Thread­ing a hed­dle eye

Threading the reed

Thread­ing the reed

The warp ends are tied in groups to the apron bar. Now is the most crit­i­cal step: both time and atten­tion are required to detect slight dif­fer­ences in ten­sion and estab­lish a uni­formly taut warp. A head­ing of thicker weight yarn is used to spread the warp evenly. I then put in a row of dou­ble twin­ing to pro­vide a strong edge for the fin­ished rug.

Knotting the warp to the apron rod

Knot­ting to the apron rod

Checking the tension

Check­ing the tension

Double twining to start the rug

Dou­ble twin­ing to begin

Taut warp

Taut warp

I wind wooden shut­tles with wool yarn I have pre­vi­ously dyed, and begin.

Unwind enough yarn from the shut­tle. Step down on the trea­dles. Throw and catch the shut­tle. Check the edge ten­sion. Cre­ate slack in the weft to go evenly over and under the rigid warp. Lift weight from the trea­dles. Grasp the cen­ter of the beater and lean back­wards, pulling the beater for­ward against the fell of the weav­ing. Release the beater. Step down. Repeat. Repeat again. Let my body absorb all the details and cre­ate that motion again. Pay atten­tion. Stop pay­ing so much atten­tion. Repeat.

Winding a warp shuttle

Wind­ing a warp shuttle

Throwing the shuttle

Throw­ing the shuttle

Securing weft ends

Secur­ing weft ends

Shuttle at the fell line

Shut­tle at the fell line

The design keeps evolv­ing. The idea in my mind changes again. Peri­od­i­cally I unwind the woven cloth from the front beam so I can see the entire work.

After end­ing with another row of dou­ble twin­ing, I cut off this rug and secure the warp ends at the loom. More fin­ish­ing work is com­pleted off the loom to make a secure bind­ing on each end.

Examining the pattern

Exam­in­ing the pattern

Cutting off the finished piece

Cut­ting off the rug

Securing the warp

Secur­ing the warp

Treadles

Trea­dles

A very spe­cial thank you to Ron Ham­mond, who has given me per­mis­sion to use these pho­tographs from his show, “The Work of the Weavers.”  Please visit his site, Green Man Pho­tog­ra­phy, to see more of his won­der­ful images.

 

 

 

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