You may recall I have a friend Bridget who we met on holiday. She and her husband sat on the coach in front of us, and while he studied a map of Jordan she knitted. We got on very well, and she introduced me to many things including marvellous patchwork, knitting and weaving. Bridget also kindly follows this blog and when I mentioned a desire to learn to weave she pinged me an email.
“I spent last Saturday with my 10-year-old niece and we wove a scarf in a day – she did it from beginning to end – starting at 11 and finishing by 6. If you fancy that, it would be lovely”.
So last Sunday Nick and i went to see our friends. Bridget’s husband is a bell-ringer, and her son is great fun and works with one of my board members, so there was plenty to talk about while Bridget and I escaped to her workroom at the top her house. First she showed me some very fine examples of her own work – a silk cushion and a beautiful scarf she made for her late mother. The colour work was gorgeous and the very even weave impressive. My standard was set by a ten-year old however, so I was focused on getting the basics right and then working against the clock. Nick was in charge of lunch and cooked home-made pitta bread, lamb and salad.
Bridget’s loom was found in an attic and gifted to her. When I last saw it, it was in pieces and looking rather sorry for itself. But recently she had had it overhauled, and while all the fittings were in nylon rather than the original cotton bindings, it was sitting waiting for me at 10am.
I had read that for beginners the foot pedals are much easier to use than a table loom, but they do take up quite a lot of space and are a rather expensive piece of equipment. Bridget wrote:
“Mine is a four-shaft floor loom, 28 inch wide. And sometimes bits fall off, but we can sort it out. I think we should aim for a couple of metres about 30cms wide. I have two reeds, one 12 parts per inch, the other 6 parts. If we use the 6 parts then we will have a loose weave, but we will achieve something and I am all for results. On the warp we need 6 times 15 (say 14”/30cms) and double up for the selvedge times 2.5metres – and that will be our warp – so bring whatever four ply you have and we can organise it. It does need to be the same material as otherwise they stretch differently and that is complicated.”
Absolutely none of this made any sense before I got there, but it does now. I took cotton yarn as I had rather alot of it – a gift from my dear friend Jo – and I thought the wonderful deep teal blues might make a nice scarf. Plus I also had a 50p cone of red cotton yarn that I found in the Salvation Army shop in Walthamstow. Bridget did some calculation of how many threads we would need and we use a fiendish piece of equipment made by her husband. We included two types of teal and a stripe of red. Obviously those who love fabric will have worked out that weaving gets some of its uniqueness by having a variety of warp as well as weft threads. That flash of red looked so nice next to the blues. Bridget was very careful with the counting, using a little pink thread to hold it all together before moving it over to the loom.
The warp threads – one big loop – and carefully removed, loosely knotted are then attached to the loom. A wooden bar takes the looped threads and the cross over (where Bridget is indicating in the first picture) is preserved with two flat pieces of wood. Then each thread is feed through. This is obviously much easier with two people, especially when one is an expert. I pulled the threads through the nylon holders, and then through the reed, using a trusty opened paper clip. The threads were tied firmly in a bow on a roller near to the weaver so that the yarn is under tension. We got this done by lunch at 12.30.
Now we start weaving! First Bridget wound more yarn around the shuttles and this meant I could go quite quickly. She sat and knitted Christmas presents and amused me with her funny stories (this woman has great comic timing!). She also shared her plans for growing, in the church garden, sufficient flowers to decorate the church throughout the year – what a great project!
Bridget showed me two weaving methods. Using the outside “pedals” I made plain weave. This was fun and fairly quick. She also showed me how to weave a twill type weave using the range of foot pedals. I followed the instructions but also made some of it up, just to see what would happen. Actually it made a bit of a mess but I was very keen to see how the lifting of the different warp threads altered the weave and lengthened the floats.
This was one of the most fun things I have ever done. If you have a chance to do a course or even spend one day on this marvellous craft, don’t hesitate.You can see below that my work is uneven and rather messy. The stitch patterns are not correct. The scarf is not even finished! Bridget has kindly asked me back to have another couple of hours on it. But what a lovely, life-enhancing experience. Working together with a friend made it even better. Bridget is generous and kind, a great teacher and sharer of knowledge. I can’t wait until my next lesson.
I would love to have a floor loom like this. I think I could accommodate one in the Cotswolds. But first I need to go on a course or learn more. It is a most fascinating craft and surprisingly quick – quicker than knitting for example.
Any weavers out there?