Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coaching Weaving

Having Syne come to the studio meant I spent some time analyzing what I do in order to try and come up with the language needed to convey the skills being shown.

You can read about Syne's perspective here: http://3.ly/B3x

One of the things that new weavers don't understand right away is that the relationship between the weaver, the loom and the materials being woven is a three way conversation.

For example, the warp I wove today was a bit of a challenge.

(I apologize if the picture isn't in focus - I'm still getting used to my new glasses!)

This weaving is not my best work. The yarn is a wool/silk blend, very softly spun and therefore a lot more elastic than what I'm used to. Given that elasticity, it should have been set at 12 epi not the 10 I chose, especially given the weft that was used.

But this is a sample warp, and these are things I needed to learn about the qualities of the yarn in order to plan a 'real' project.

(What I actually wanted to use was for weft was wool but the only yarn I had on hand that was the right colour was a silk. The silk was a bit too fine and very slippery, so my beating is not as consistent as I wouild like. )

One of the reasons I wanted Syne to weave on the four shaft loom was to evaluate the physical skills she came to me with already. After giving her time to get used to the strange (to her) loom, I video taped her while she wove. We were then able to look at what she was doing and tweak her physical movements.

I then video taped her again after she had time to incorporate the changes and reviewed her movements so that she could again see what she was doing. After that we worked on how to figure out the choreography of the various treadlings with suggetions for how I remember the sequences.

Unlearning muscle memory in order to learn new muscle memory (changing treadling sequences) is also a skill. We have to put our minds to the task of over riding what we have learned in order to learn the new information.

Some people are more open to being able to do this than others. Dancers, for example, are constantly learning new dances - new choreography - new step sequences. Not so different from weavers, really.

After finishing the tea towel warp and feeling comfortable with the loom and that particular warp, I radically changed gears on Syne and we set the loom up with a very open weave. The yarn was a silk boucle warp and weft, and the set was 10 epi. The challenge was to control the beat and create a gauze fabric.

When we weave we must do that in co-operation with the equipment and the yarn we are using. We must be open to feedback from both so that we can choose the manner of how we use them in order to create the quality of cloth we desire. Learning the limits of the equipment and the yarn is an important step in becoming a proficient weaver.

After weaving with the Silken Twist (available from Yarns Plus http://yarnsplus.com) I now have a much better understanding of how it behaves e.g. it stretches under tension so I have to weave longer in the loom in order to get the woven length required, the set to use and which yarns I would like to combine with it. The fact that this particular cloth isn't my best work doesn't mean that it isn't perfectly acceptable as it is. But I now have the information I need to continue on to create a fabric that is good, instead of just acceptable.

And therein lies the on-going challenge, and what keeps me fascinated with weaving.


Delighted Hands said...

Fascinating, and very helpful! Thx.

Dorothy said...

I'm going to give some thought to the "three way conversation" idea. It's very interesting, as I approach playing the piano like this, but hadn't seen that the same attitude will help in weaving.

Unlearning things can be very challenging - when I started learning to ride a motorbike in my 30s for ages I wanted to push off the ground with one foot when starting off, because I was so used to bicycles. It took months to unlearn! We don't realise how habits grow, this is something else I shall think about when I'm weaving and stop and ask myself more often what I'm doing and why. I'm going to pin a reminder note on my loom in a moment.

I enjoyed what reading what you've written here, and then I read Syne's blog too. Thanks to both of you for sharing the fun.

Sharon Schulze said...

ohhhhhh... videotaping!

Oh, I just can't wait!