Saturday, 11 June 2011

Weaving for Pleasure

I've wanted to try my hand at weaving for a while, but I've spent the last year concentrating on my spinning and knitting.  When I saw a rigid heddle loom course had been organised during the Wool and Willow Festival I made immediate enquiries, hoping desperately that it hadn't already been booked up.  It hadn't.  I smiled with glee; I really was going to learn how to weave!

The course was being taught by Joanna Kingston of Esgair Fibres.  A quick Google search revealed that I'd bought one of her woven scarves earlier in the year, when I was looking to buy something special for my mother's birthday; I couldn't wait to meet her, as I'd really admired her use of colour and texture.

We were a small group of six, and Joanna soon had us seated at an array of rigid heddle looms - mine was the 32", though I was going to be weaving a scarf of some 7 - 8" across.  Our first task was to choose our warp and weft yarns - no easy task given the delicious selection that Joanna had brought with her.  Initially, I'd considered using some of my own handspun, but as I wanted to learn exactly how weaving works I decided that I'd stick to commercial yarn for this session, and could move on to my own yarn when I'm ready to start experimenting.  In the end I opted for a linen mix for the warp and a variegated red Noro boucl√© for the weft, neither of which are too dissimilar from the materials I've been using in my knitting.

Warping the loom took around two hours, but Joanna took us through each stage methodically and calmly, thus reassuring us that this is not something to fear.  The secret to good weaving is good warping.  It's important to take your time.  Knot everything securely.  Check your tension.  Check it again.  If something's slightly off, re-do it - it's worth it in the end.  Unlike knitting, weaving isn't very forgiving if you make a mistake with your warp (and missing one of the slots on the reed is a definite no-no).  Slow down.  Concentrate.  Get into a rhythm.  Enjoy the process.  It's wonderfully meditative when you get into it...

There was just enough time to get going with the actual weaving just before lunch.  I was amazed at how quickly the piece began to grow; when you've been used to fine or relatively complicated knitting, you're resolved to the fact that you're not going to see a finished product for a considerable time.  I was determined to finish by the end of the day, as I really wanted to learn every stage of making a scarf, and wanted something wearable to take home with me.  So it was a case of head down and weave away:

I really couldn't tell you where the afternoon went.  All I know is that those four hours were pure bliss.  Each one of us attempted a different style of scarf, and it was lovely to stop and have a chat to see how each one was coming along.  I also had a wonderful time nattering with Joanna; it's not often that I get a chance to wax lyrical with a fellow yarn addict, so when that opportunity presents itself, there's no stopping me.  I can't help it: I'm obsessed.   She's also very patient and generous with her knowledge.  She knows the pleasure of weaving and wants others to share in that experience - if you ever get the chance to attend one of her workshops, then you really should.

And here it is, the finished article:

I'm ridiculously happy with the end result.  There's always a certain amount of trepidation attached to learning a new craft, but a good teacher will give you encouragement and constructive criticism, leaving you itching to start your next project.  I can't wait. 

(Later on, I found that I'd appeared on the Festival's blog: here's the photo.)


  1. That looks fabulous! A friend of mine has got into weaving and bought herself a loom. The warping sounds like a colossal faff, but she has made some lovely things.

    (I am afraid to try it for fear of another crazed, expensive hobby... but I might one day)

  2. Thank you! My pictures are a bit rubbish, though - you can't really see the graduations within the Noro. Will try again when the light's better.

    I think I would have been petrified of the warping had I known what was involved beforehand. As it was, Joanna took us through it all one step at a time, and made it seem very easy...but I'm sure I've forgotten some of it by now...

    I think this is going to become my new hobby. I see it as a *really good* way of using up my stash when the knitting mojo deserts me. As it does quite often.