Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Sara has posted a series of very interesting commentary and questions on the state of weaving, weaving guilds and conferences. There is no particular doubt that weaving is on the wane at the moment, the guilds are growing somewhat older and the conferences available are consequently in danger of falling to the ax of an aging, tiring membership. I have absolutely zero answer to any of her questions. (Except as a sidelight to one comment she made, that only 20% of the subscribership to Handwoven is estimated to actually currently weave, and that is just to say that that would strike me as typical of any endeavor - that catch phrase of 20% of the people do 80% of the work has truth behind it no matter what the field. So what are the total numbers of subscribers to Handwoven and are they going up or down? 20% of 100,000 is a lot larger than 20% of 5,000)

Her posts have given me furiously to think, however, and have made me pull my head from the sand to some extent. I'm not a weaver. I am not exactly sure I want to be a weaver. But in view of the cost/time/space/effort thing perceived to be involved with being a weaver, I have been doing that metaphorical sitting in the corner, fingers in my ears, La la la I can't HEAR you. So I haven't really explored what I need to do in order to be able to do what I want to do. And if someone came up to me tomorrow and said, you have 3 weeks to live, I would be kicking myself big time for wasting time and that's just plain stupid. I may not want to do what I think I want to do, but not finding out whether I do or not is idiotic.

So. What do I want to do? I'll start by thanking Sara for outlining some of the ways to be a weaver on the cheap, to see if you like it. That's a most excellent start, because I look at all of those and say, No, that isn't what I want to do. And so for me, the answer is No, I don't want to be a weaver. Weaving for the sake of weaving is not what pulls me in. I admire the heck out of 99% of the woven stuff I see but it doesn't grab me and say come play.

What I want is something different - I want to play with silk. I adore silk. Playing with silk cocoons doesn't interest, I don't want to reel silk, particularly. It's fun to watch but doesn't draw me in. I like spinning silk, on the wheel and on spindles. I like needlepointing with silk. I like knitting with silk, and crocheting with silk, but while silk in any of these options is fun, it doesn't show the silk to its absolute best advantage, such as here, or here. So. What I want to do is make silk fabric. Which then leads back to: weaving. I don't want to be a weaver; I want to weave with silk. A distinction without a difference some might say, but one that I'm finding important in the clarification of my thoughts on the subject.

And that 's about as far as my coherent thinking has gone on this topic. I've more ideas rolling about in my head, but mostly what I have is questions. All of my other fiber activities involve miniaturization - itty bitty needlepoint and cross stitch, lace knitting on #2 or 3 needles, filet crochet with a #3 hook, spinning laceweight on a lightweight spindle. I'm not an ultraminiaturist but I like the fine stuff. How does that fit in with weaving silk fabric? What sort of weaving equipment will let me produce what I want and where do I get it and how best to learn how to use it? Can I start with a rigid heddle table loom and get to where I want to go, or is that a dead end. Much to ponder. Even more to research.

So, Sara, I don't have any answers to your questions. I do know that the items mentioned to lure knitters into weaving through Big Yarns just make me shudder. Not to say that they won't work, but I didn't get into knitting through Big Yarns either.


Sara said...

Ah, thanks Elizabeth, a dialog!

As for weaving silk fabric: a table loom would be the least expensive viable alternative to a floor loom, which would produce real fabric (tm). Rigid heddles have a specific dent (ends per inch) and while you might be able to double or triple that, it becomes an exercise in patience.

Table looms can be slower than floor looms, and hard to develop a comfortable weaving pace, but they will give you real fabric, and teach you the basics, which will transfer to a floor loom whenever.

Look for used ones, so the $ hit is not so bad at first.

If *I* had only three weeks to live? I think I'd have a yurt sale, so all my tools would go to people who want them, and my heirs would not have the trouble of dealing with them. The sale would coincide with a grand potluck, a big goodbye party!

beadlizard said...

I enjoy weaving silk ribbon on a really good tape loom. I like that it's easy to get good tension on the warp, that it's miniature so I can see it, and that I don't have to lean. Tape looms can be used on a couch! What I really want is a 16-harness tape loom... --syl

Elizabeth said...

Now that I'm vowing not to keep sand in my ears, I will be checking out the local weaving guild - they have a floor of a building downtown and it strikes me that will be the first place to check for weaving lessons and available equipment for rent or second hand. A project for this summer.
Is there really such a thing as a 16 harness tape loom? The spinning guild has a small antique tape loom but I've no idea how many harnesses it has.

Ellen said...

If you want to weave fine (as in using very thin threads) silk fabric, I'd jump directly to a floor loom. Table looms are SO SLOW that I use mine only for workshops. If I had to start from scratch now, knowing what I know now, I'd get a 4 harness loom that has the capability to add 4 more harnesses later. Right now I have both a 4 and an 8 (in a very small space). One of these companies ( I forget which one) sells used equipment as well as new: Woodland Woolworks or the Woolery. Also, one of them has free shipping. Local guild newsletters frequently have equipment for sale. My guild has everyone on e-mail, so members can advertise stuff for sale, and it happens quite frequently. It might be worth joining a guild just for that, plus, you get workshops and seminars on various weaving topics. Go for it.

Debbie said...

I was just browsing through old Handwovens, and came across the May/June 1995 issue, with an article on Mary Dietrich's silk thread tapestries. She uses a 12 by 14" frame loom, and does amazing things:


Carrie K said...

I'm one of the 80% that get Handwoven and have never even attempted it, but I've also watched Sara' blog for awhile.

If you're interested, you should do it. It's so beautiful.