Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Warp and weft

My first introduction to weaving came when I was still in single digits, during a demonstration at a pioneer village. I was fascinated by the simple mechanics of the floor loom; amazed that a person could create fabric that looked just like what I saw when I went to the fabric store with my mum.

Looms were expensive, but library books were free. Inspired by the black-and-white photographs in one ancient tome, I gathered yarn and tree branches and popsicle sticks and set about constructing a belt loom. That was the easy part.

I was soon stymied by my inability to use a hole-punch to make holes in the popsicle sticks; creating a heddle was going to be harder than it looked. It took my dad's help to make the heddle a reality, but after hours of him painstakingly drilling, gluing and clamping, I was ready to weave. Many crooked belts and coasters and lopsided purses followed.

Eventually I learned to knit, and weaving was almost forgotten. (But not entirely – I still have that popsicle-stick heddle tucked away.) Fast forward twenty-five years, and here I am, once again a weaving novice.

This time, I'm taking a class at a local yarn store. The tiny rigid heddle looms we're using aren't much different from the loom I improvised out of scrap wood, and the fabric I'm making suffers from the same uneven edges and tension issues I dealt with all those years ago.

But other things are the same. The shuttle goes back and forth; the heddle goes up and down; every so often I wind the fabric up to give myself more room to work. It's the simplest of work, but still very satisfying, and I know I'll wear my raggedy-edged scarf with pride.

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