Tuesday, January 9, 2007

What Is An Accomplished Weaver?

Sue was kind enough to come over in the rain this morning to look over the shawls I've woven so far for the Exhibit(ion). One of the problems I had was the too-fine fringes on Shawl 4; she took one look at it and suggested I make them half as long. That way, the fringes don't look so scrawny. I'll post before and after pictures when I've made the changes, but that piece is going to look so much better.

I've been thinking what makes one an accomplished weaver. Technical competence is a must, as is knowledge of fibers, colors, and weave structures; some knowledge of dyeing, spinning and/or sewing/pattern-making are desirable. It's the weave structure that puzzles me.

When I started weaving, I had so much fun with plain weave, I wove just that for nearly five years, mixing yarn width, colors, and especially playing with spacing and cramming, without ever trying Log Cabin or Color-and-Weave (different placements of colors that can produce an optical illusion with plain weave.) Then I moved on to twill, and I have been happily weaving twills for, oh, going on six and a half years, and I'm just starting to get to know this weave structure. For the time being, I'm perfectly happy to weave just twills for a few more years, before reluctantly moving on to something else.

There's another element to this. Previously, weavers learned structures from mothers, masters, teachers or books, and then they might have drawn what we call weaving drafts by hand, on graph paper. This is like a blueprint for a piece of cloth, where on the Y-axis you enter the threading, and on the X-axis you enter the order and combination of shafts lifted for a particular pick. (There are two ways to show the latter, but we won't get into it now.) Then, you worked your way though either vertically or horizontally and colored in where all the warps (or all the wefts) were lifted in a particular pick so you can see the weave structure.

Sample Draft: Shawl 3

I did some of that with 4-shafts weaves, and then I got a drafting application; now I only need to enter the information on the X- and Y-axis, and computer will automatically fill in the interlacement. In other words, I started using a calculator, or a spread sheet, soon after learning addition and subtractions, but not quite multiplication or division.

I still read up on a particular weave when I have to learn one (this time last year I had to learn about Repp weave and create a draft of my own), but I can still sit down and do half the work and let the program figure out the fiddly bits.

Similarly, even though I am a novice, I have a big 16-shaft loom, which allows me to play with more intricate lifting combinations (i.e. weave patterns) even if I stuck to, say, twill, than a 4- or 8-shaft allows. So I don't have to move on to another weave structure to entertain myself.

So, Sue would ask me what weave structure I used in Shawl 3, for example, and I said there is a link to the draft on my blog, and I wasn't sure if we were still speaking the weaving language, especially now that we can exchange or download drafts.

Conversing with an accomplished weaver as Sue makes me wonder how I want to educate myself, and what kind of an accomplished weaver I would like to be.

Anyway, this is Sue's work from a couple of years ago; feast your eyes, but no touching, please.

9 comments:

  1. Hi Meg,
    I can't believe the work you put into this!
    Good luck with the exhibit.
    Paul

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  2. Hi, Paul. Yeah, doesn't it look beautiful? It's one of Sue's.

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  3. Yes, it's beautiful.
    And the amount of work that you take to make a shawl is hard to believe -

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  4. Paul, the thing about weaving is, it's not complicated/complex, but many steps taken one after the other, if that makes sense, in contrast to, say, driving an F1 car, where I assume you'd have to pay attention to a lot of things at once??? So it's long and slow, but each step is not particularly difficult. But looking at Sue's, it's a case of the whole being greater than the sum of all parts (or steps), because the finished product make the collective steps look complicated. I think this is what I mean.

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  5. On the other hand, Paul, it could be just a wee bit like F1 driving, in that some of the tasks become instinctive and we don't know we're paying attention, but we notice when something does go wrong. Japan's very first F1 driver Nakajima used to listen to the engine sound while he raced rather than look at the panels or computer screen or whatever else he had; the man had an incredible ability to hear the minute changes in the engine, and in a fare more rudimentary way, I sense before I see when, for example, a warp is about to break or the weft is not sitting right. So you think I should try F1 driving next?

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  6. F1 driving? Meg, that would bore the shawls out of you! :-)
    I almost forget to breath, reading your blog and comments to the comments. You are amazingly talented, diligent, artistic, endlessly hard working.
    Breathless and admiring you in Vienna,
    Merisi

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  7. And I don't know how to drive a car, of any type!

    Thank you for your compliments, Merisi. I did a bit of a boo boo this morning with fringes and so I'm in a "Oh, well, this will have to do" mode today.

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  8. Meg, you are my new muse! Just starting to learn to weave and your blog is giving me hope and inspiration...although the mere thought of a 16-harness loom makes me slightly dizzy. For now, four harnesses and a pile of books as I struggle to get my mind around reading a draft. Thanks for your blog and would it be ok for me to list you as a link on mine?
    Thanks,
    Catherine Veleker

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  9. Cathrine, thank you for your visit and welcome to the Tribe. I wish you many happy (and slow) years of weaving. And it's an honor to be linked from your blog. I love the photos - they are beautiful.

    I'm starting to think the key to happy weaving is to weave whatever you want to weave, in many ways. If you don't weave what you like, then... I wove on Rigid Heddle for the first several years and part of me had such a great time I though I'd never need 4 shafts; I felt the same way about 4, too, now that I could weave twills!!

    You must be busy with lambing, but stick with it, and do please post more photos of your work as you finish them! See you again!

    Meg

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