Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cold Remedy

Not sure how this raucous variegated got into my stash - lime green isn't one of my fav colours, after all - but it was time to use it up. The rust red weft seems to be taming it quite nicely.

After 5 days of languishing I was getting antsy. My cold has settled into my chest so my brain is functioning - sort of - and I decided to try to sweat my cold out by weaving. Rayon chenille is straight forward to weave anyway so thought I'd get cracking. There are 4 more wound warps ready and waiting for me, and I'd like to get them all done before I set the Fanny up for the tea towel warp for Tien (who is arriving next Thursday!)

Not feeling well my patience is at a low ebb and I got a bit exercised over a thread on one of the chat groups I belong to where people were, once again, decrying the use of mechanical assistance and when the line can be drawn about a textile being 'hand' woven or not.

I suspect the chasm between hand weavers and power loom weavers began during the Industrial Revolution. Hand weavers were being displaced by power looms, losing their jobs - and during an age where there were no social safety networks (or not many other than the church or the poor house) losing your livelihood to a machine must have been horribly frightening.

I suspect the chasm was widened further during the Arts and Crafts movement when useful items that were made by hand were extolled as being superior to items made by industry. Something that may very well have been true during the early days of mechanization taking over from hand work.

But let's face it - we have all seen inferior work produced by hand as well as by machine, and quality work produced by hand and by machine. The fact that something is made by hand is no guarantee of quality. Unfortunately.

Since I chose weaving as a career, I have from the get go been concerned with working efficiently, both in my actual hand movements and in the choice of tools that I have purchased. To my mind buying a loom with a dobby, cloth advance and fly shuttle just made all sorts of economical sense. Without my AVL dobby loom, I could not have been as productive as I have been over the years.

But the loom does absolutely nothing on its own. It is a hand loom and always will be so long as I own it.

The Canadian government (in its wisdom) came up with a legal definition for 'hand woven'. To paraphrase - each and every action of the loom must be initiated by the weaver.

In other words, I cannot flip a switch and walk away "to have a cup of tea" as one person put it recently. No weaver, no weaving going on.

I'm tired of having people who don't understand how a dobby loom (computer aided or mechanical) works, have never seen a fly shuttle let alone used one, or come to the realization that an auto-cloth advance does not take control away from the weaver, point their finger at me and cry "not a hand weaver".

I disliked it 30 years ago, and I dislike it now. But I remind myself that these crys of 'impostor'
are being made out of ignorance. These people simply don't know and don't understand that the addition of mechanical assistance takes nothing away from the weaver. In fact, the weaver actually has to know a lot more because they need to know how to operate the equipment, and when something goes wrong, how to fix it. They need to know how to adjust it so that they get the results they want, just like they need to know how to adjust their technique when weaving on a loom without all this mechanical assistance.

Many people don't realize that I have more than one loom. One is the AVL equipped with computer assist, 4 box fly shuttle, auto-cloth advance etc. But my other loom is a 4 shaft Fanny counter balanced loom.

I love both of these looms - the AVL for it's complexity that allows me to efficiently weave very complex designs - the Fanny for it's very simplicity.

Today when I'm still feeling so sick, my tool of choice is not the AVL - I need way too much mental acuity to weave successfully on that loom. My tool of choice today is the Fanny.

And I will always consider myself a hand weaver, regardless of which loom I am weaving on.


Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio said...


barbara said...

Laura - you are and always will be a "hand weaver" in my mind. I totally agree with the statement, if you move away from the loom and it ceases to function - then you are a hand weaver. There will always be great discussion about this subject. Sometimes the consumer is not aware that they are not purchasing a "hand woven" item, but if they love it - so be it!!!! Glad to hear that you are feeling better; and sometimes we all step up onto our "soap box" and "speak our minds". That is not a bad thing!!! Weaverly yours ... Barbara

Susan said...

Yes, this topic comes around often enough to be annoying doesn't it?
I get people ask me why I don't have a computer hooked up to 'speed things up" and others who praise me for not. ( Not enough sheckels right now or I would get a dobby!)

But this us versus them stuff seems to go on everywhere! When we used to sail, it was the purist attitude of sail versus the stink of diesel engines. (We raced on a friends sail boat and lived aboard a power boat!) Years later, we bought a dog and ran into the CKC versus pound pup. It seems there is always an elitist mentality out there no matter what it is!

I guess I can live with and ignore the two camps but what I *hate* is being called a hobbyist weaver or 'into crafts'. Ggrrr
My MIL calls it my 'stitching thing I do' and after 25 years, she isn't going to change!

Take care of the cold....
who's nursing a toothache and waiting for Monday

Sandra Rude said...

Hear, hear!
Get well soon.

Delighted Hands said...

I sympathize with the cold thing-just got over 6 weeks of a battle with a nasty bug and I finally feel great again-give yourself time. I think each new development brings controversy; I machine quilt and that has gone through a similar polarization but the gap is closing so continue to educate people! You are a great teacher and you have weight to your opinions.

Cerita said...

Hi Laura, I completely understand how you feel! Machine knitters go through the same thing, apparently it's "cheating", and that just makes me so angry! The worst of course is the criticizing person usually has have NEVER seen a knitting machine, let alone used one!!! Same thing, yes the machine knits, but I still have to cast-on, shape the garment, cast-off, put it together, block it by hand etc. etc.!

You are hand-weaver, you make handwoven cloth, plain and simple! How you get there, whether is a dobby loom or any other loom doesn't matter. Like you say, you still have to work it BY HAND.

Good on you for speaking up!

Blossom Merz said...


I have an AVL mechanical dobby with a flyshuttle myself. When people ask if my cloth is handwoven I tell them, "Yes. There's no electricity involved. These threads (warp) are lifted by this leg, these threads (weft) are laid in place by this arm and beaten tight with this arm."

I guess I've been lucky that nobody's accused me of cheating yet, but I'm not usually talking to other weavers, either.

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear Laura! I hope that more interesting threads emerge about weaving. It is too complex a craft to get hung up on this issue time and again