A Happy Accident

My drawing skills are nil, but I’ve always enjoyed blending colors and thinking in terms of design possibilities.  It took me many years, however, to find my creative niche and that was thanks to an industrial psychologist for whom I was doing temporary work.  It was he who said my underlying need to be creative was going to be the source of much frustration if I didn’t yield to it.  “But,” I said, “I’m not creative!”  By walking me through a series of questions, he proved me wrong and from that day forward I feel that life has been one great exercise in creativity.  

WeavingHow weaving came into the picture is a happy accident.  At my girls’ elementary school auction someone donated 6 weeks of weaving lessons which no one bought.  Somehow I ended up with those lessons, and they opened the door to a whole new world.  I never dreamed anyone would want to buy anything I made, but from the beginning that proved not to be true.  

Early on, I concentrated on wall pieces and created large installations for several Houston office buildings and banks.  I won’t go into all the reasons why, but it didn’t take long for me to figure out that wasn’t going to be my direction.

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While trying to determine my next step, I remembered that as a child I loved designing paper doll clothes, mixing patterns and colors in unique combinations.  That led to weaving cloth for garments, and I was thrilled by the results. My first piece was a vest which I sold right off my back.  That led to years of designing one-of-a-kind wearables for clients who valued my work as a means of expressing their uniqueness.

flowers/tablescapeThere were many wonderful moments during that period, but several years ago I burned out on cutting and sewing and began working with designers to create blankets, table linens, accent pillows and yardage for dining room chairs, piano benches, stools, etc. Such work gave me incredible design freedom.

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At the same time, I began focusing, too,  on fashion accessories such as scarves and shawls.  

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These have allowed me to satisfy clients who appreciate having a distinctive piece.

caleb-1-2I never would have dreamed that weaving would become a vocation.  It is certainly not one that ensures upward mobility or a hefty salary, but it feeds the soul and becomes a means of self expression.  For that I will ever be grateful.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Lulu’s Studio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow that you’ve shared a bit of the history of weaving and been introduced to a variety  of looms, come on into my studio where there is quite a sophisticated setup.  The loom is a 16 harness, 60″ production loom designed by AVL in Chico, California.  With it, the design possibilities are limitless.

img_8625After years of struggling with graph paper and colored pencils, I now do all the preliminary design work on the computer which allows me to glimpse what the fabric will look like no matter what its color combinations and treadling order.  I can spend hours testing the variations and determining the integrity of the cloth.

img_4963When I am ready to weave, I choose colors from the vast array of fibers in the studio.

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I use primarily silk, rayon, perle cotton, bamboo and chenille threads because they are lightweight and drape beautifully.  There was a time when I dyed many of the fibers, but once I found a resource (Silk City Fibers) that had not only the ones I desired but a rainbow of colors, that step was eliminated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce a design and colors are determined the hard part of preparing the loom begins.  First,  the warp threads are wound and placed on a warping board.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen  they are threaded on this device

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand wound onto the beam.  These are the easiest steps.

img_4956Now comes the hard part of threading the loom without making an error in the threading order that has been designed on the computer.  Not only does this take a lot of time, it requires intense concentration, no conversation or TV watching!  When I need a break, I’ve learned to be very careful to make note of the spot where I quit.

img_4421With the threading done, checked and rechecked, the warp is tied onto an apron and the weaving begins.  The computer is connected to the loom and a little black box reads the treadling order as I work the foot treadles and throw the fly shuttle.  In just minutes, I can see the results of all the preliminary work  which gives me such instant gratification.  And you can’t imagine the sigh of relief when I see that there are no threading errors.  Believe me, they show up quickly and after saying a few colorful words, there is no choice but to correct the mistake!

Many yards of fabric have come from this studio, and I haven’t even touched the surface of  creative possibility.  If you will come back one more time, I’d love to tell you the story of how I got into weaving and show you some of what has come off the loom.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Warped to Weave

No doubt early weavers had no tools other than their hands with which to work, but I bet it wasn’t long before they figured something out that would allow them to be more efficient.

img_1395Perhaps it was something as uncomplicated as a frame loom that allowed warp, vertical threads, to be attached. The skills may have been more advanced, but something very similar to this was used to weave those beautiful tapestries that were mentioned in the last post.

img_7604The same construction for what we call upright looms continues in use today. In this country, they are often associated with Native American weavers who create stunning blankets and rugs.  Incidentally, this concept influenced the construction of my first loom which the hubby made of 1″ pipe and notched 2×2’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes the body serves as a loom.  Here the warp threads are held in place by the foot, and the weft (horizontal threads) is manipulated with the fingers to create intricate design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn other cases, the warp is tied at one end to a dowel  or stick and secured at the waist to keep the threads taut. To create design, the warp threads are lifted and lowered with the fingers and small shuttles carry the weft threads across.  Who knows how far back such techniques go?  What is fascinating is that with all the changes that have made weaving simpler, some cultures continue ages old process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the 12th century, much of what we know about weaving, including the introduction of a floor loom, had evolved.  Floor looms allowed the weaver to sit on a bench and operate pedals with the feet.  Keep in mind that weaving is the interlacing of warp and weft threads and at least two separate warp threads are required. In this photo you can see that one set of threads stays down while the other is lifted up.  Weft threads run between the two and, in its simplest form, that is how all threads are laced together to become fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years, floor looms became bigger, often with more harnesses allowing more complicated designs.

2During the Industrial Revolution came the most significant change.  The jacquard loom with flying shuttles was introduced thus starting the highly mechanized production of textiles in place today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile many people think handweaving is women’s work, morocco-777in some countries it is man’s work, too.  I like seeing men have a sensitivity to threads and a sense of pride in making beautiful fabric.

img_1271Yes, over the centuries weaving has changed, and the people who weave by hand are becoming fewer and fewer.  Whenever I see the remains of an old loom I find myself wondering at its history and wish it could tell me the story of the person who once worked on it.

 Now that you have some insight into the history of weaving and the apparatus that make it possible, next up is a visit to my studio.  I hope you all join me there.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

A Little Bit of History

For some time readers have asked about my weaving, so as I am pretty much housebound these days, this seems a good time to write about it and weaving in general.  Let’s begin with some background that I hope you find interesting .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid you know that that the only surviving being that has been weaving longer than man is a spider?  History suggests that man discovered early on that lacing reeds, grasses and twigs together provided items such as clothing, shelter, vessels  and sleep mats that made life more comfortable. So it is that weaving is said to have preceded other skills such as pottery making, metalsmithing or glass blowing he/she eventually developed.  Knowing something of the history of weaving makes me very proud to continue this ages old tradition.

st-petersburg-191As time passed, weaving became not just practical but an art form.  Skilled weavers were held in high regard among royalty who frequently appointed them to court positions.  Here, weavers created beautiful tapestries that were used for decorative purposes as well as taken to battle where they made encampments more like home.  Often tapestries were prized spoils of war.  Thankfully, many survived various ransacks and have been preserved so that we might enjoy and marvel at the work done by hand in another time.

Now, here’s a little tidbit that may be fact or fiction.  Christopher Columbus’s father was one of those court appointed weavers.  As a youngster, Columbus was an apprentice, and it is thought that his dislike of weaving resulted in his going to sea.  The rest is history!

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While weaving is a respected tradition in other cultures and patterns are passed from one generation to another, in America it is less so.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly on in this country, hand loomed fabrics were for clothing and bed linens made of wool and cotton spun and dyed by the weaver.

FranklinSlaveholders often had an outlying shed where women and children spent their days weaving fabric for necessities.  

Today, much of what was once handwoven is produced by machinery which contributes to the scarcity of weaving in developed countries. However, language is peppered with references to weaving.   We speak of the tapestry/fabric of life, the threads that bind and tales/lives woven together.  A woman who spun yarn and remained unmarried became known as a spinster.  On an on it goes, but I’ll leave it at that today and come back later with a fascinating look at looms.  

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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