Back to School

I took a break from making socks and scarves to take a 3-day weaving workshop. The technique was 4-end block weaving and the medium was rug weaving. The workshop was taught by Jason Collingwood and sponsored by the Vermont Weavers Guild of which I am a member.

On Wednesday morning 17 eager faces appeared with 17 looms to be wrestled from cars into our temporary studio. It’s a large room in an old victorian building, wood floors, high ceilings, very few working windows (two gorgeous bay windows at either end.) I mention this because we were working in close quarters, lining three sides of the room and leaving one end for the instructor. It was three days of fairly warm weather, mid-80s, humid and very little airflow. A couple of box fans helped, but it was definitely shorts and t-shirt weather. And so we learned, and worked with wool (of course!). Fuzzy, warm, wool.

Each morning there was an instruction session introducing new techniques. Then we would weave. After lunch break there was a second instruction session, more new stuff, and then more weaving. This was our pattern for the workshop and I confess that I went home each night fairly worn out.

I found the weaving awkward at first. We were using stick shuttles which are not my usual tool. They were completely appropriate for the sample-sized rugs we were weaving, but I hadn’t used them since learning to weave on my rigid heddle loom more than 5 years ago, so I had to reacquaint myself with managing the yarn flow.

Here’s what I did the first day.

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Starting the decorative twined edge right above my header

After tightening my tie-on at the front we wove a header and then had options for twining a decorative edging. I chose to twine with my weft yarns while some of my classmates used the same linen as in their warp.

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Here’s the center of the twined braid. You can see where I changed direction to make it symmetrical.
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Almost to the end of the twining

Now it’s time to weave!

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At the beginning just simple blocks and background

By day two we had moved ahead to more interesting patterns. This was my attempt at log cabin. Had this been my intention all along I would have threaded for a smaller number of wider blocks. This pattern is lost here. But the technique still works.

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The log cabin weaving pattern is barely noticeable in the center block. My side blocks are too narrow to illustrate it.

At some point that day we learned about a clasped weft technique and there was no looking back for me.

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Clasp weft technique

For the non-weavers: you can see that I have gold columns on the right and green on the left, both over the blue background. In this technique I have gold on my shuttle and a cone of green sitting on the floor to the left of the loom. I weave across with the gold, wrap it around to pick up the green and pull the gold partway back through. By shifting where I place the clasp (the gold wrapped around the green) I can have the gold go farther over to the left (look at the upper left ) or the green go into the gold columns (upper right).

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Clasp weft technique at the bottom and clasp with Summer & Winter above the twined divider

You can see above that I attempted some mountains (in green against the gold in the center block).

Over the course of the three days Jason demonstrated techniques on our looms as we all gathered around to observe. Notes were scribbled, cameras were everywhere to attempt to capture examples, whiteboard notes and anything else we were sure our brains couldn’t hold.

It was intense, lots to learn in a short time. There were more techniques than I had time to attempt. It was frustratingly slow at first, but a rhythm finally came along with understanding.  By the end of the third day 1, 134, 2, 234 was more than a set of numbers to memorize. I could keep track of which shuttle held my pattern color and which the background. And best of all, I was starting to be able to look at my weaving and know what I needed to do next. The patterns were making sense.

Here’s my workshop piece:

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Day 1 at the top, day 3 at the bottom

Midway down you can see where I started braiding the ends from the twining. I have more to do, as well as to finish the warp ends (which you can’t see dangling from each end.)

So much fun!

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Author: Jennifer Kortfelt

Owner, Heron Pond Designs, a fiber and textile exploration.

2 thoughts on “Back to School”

  1. This sounds and looks like a great experience! You learned a lot–I hope you’ll do another project at home, soon, to make sure you remember what you learned. I can relate to how overwhelmed you must’ve felt–I felt the same way at Vavstuga–physical exhaustion, plus my brain was so full!

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