Sunday, November 18, 2018

Weaving, or: another crafty distraction.

For starters, I want to reassure you all that I am making steady progress on this year's NaNo novel. In fact, I'm right where the NaNo folks say I should be -- 30,000 words today. Together with the 12,000-ish words I wrote for this book prior to the start of NaNo, I'm basically at the point in the narrative where things should begin hurtling toward the denouement -- and they have.

Neither the book nor the series has a title yet, but I'm sure that will fix itself by and by. It always has before.

I'm saying this upfront because I didn't want to scare y'all by telling you I'm picking up another hobby: weaving.

The term "fiber arts" encompasses a multitude of disciplines, and aside from creating my own fiber from scratch (as in raising sheep or cotton or something), I've tried nearly all of them at one point or another. As I kid, I learned sewing and embroidery. Crewel work was a natural outgrowth of embroidery, as it uses the same stitches. I picked up needlepoint when I was in college. Most of that stuff went by the wayside when I started raising kids. But then some years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to knit, so I got a book and taught myself. 

Some fiber arts I've taken to more than others. Crochet and I have never gotten along, despite my mother's best efforts to teach me. Then there's spinning. A couple of years ago, I learned how to spin yarn with a drop spindle, and managed to spin a whole skein of yarn myself -- but while I like collecting pretty spindles, that's probably as far as I'll go with it.

So with some trepidation, I signed up for a two-day, pre-Halloween "weaving retreat" at fibre space, our local yarn shop in Alexandria. It was an intense couple of days; our instructor, Liz Gipson, confessed on day two that she called it a retreat because if she called it "Weaving Bootcamp," nobody would come. But there was a method to her madness. On day one, we worked in pairs to warp our looms. Warping is the process of putting the long threads on the loom so that you can weave the cross threads (called the weft) through them. It's also the thing that gives most new weavers fits, so doing it twice on the first day was a genius move. Also, we started with a small project -- a 24-inch-long table runner -- which we easily finished in a day. Here's mine. I hadn't yet washed it or trimmed the fringe when I took this photo, but you get the idea.

On day two, we warped our looms again and started a new project: a scarf that incorporates colorwork in the design. The pattern called for a light main color and a contrasting accent color; I had to be different, of course, so I used a dark variegated yarn for my main color and a light gray for the contrasting color. Here's the project in progress on the loom. I'd tucked the shuttles in between the warp strings so I could take the loom home.

Both of these yarns were leftovers from earlier projects, and the scarf turned out so well that it's giving me ideas for all the leftover yarn I have from all my other projects. Plus my enthusiasm for knitting has been waning a bit lately, and weaving has the same kind of Zen appeal while using up yarn a lot faster. And you can weave more than just long, thin things; this little loom won't do rugs or tablecloths in one piece, but there's nothing saying you can't weave a bunch of strips and sew them together. Or weave your own cloth and use it to make clothing.

I haven't yet warped the loom for project number three, but that's only because of NaNo. Come the New Year, I see placemats in my future. And maybe a handwoven kimono-style jacket -- possibly even featuring that yarn I handspun.

These moments of warped blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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