Thursday, April 16, 2015


The other day someone referred to me as being a 'traditional' weaver.  That description took me aback because for so many years of my career 'traditional' weavers refused me acceptance into the tribe based on my equipment choices and focus on efficiency.

I was, after all, using a loom with dobby and fly shuttle and according to them, I could no longer call my textiles hand woven.

It was the same when I added the computer interface, and again when I added air assist to the loom.

So to be called 'traditional'?  I had to think about that for a while.

Eventually I realized that the word traditional, like most words, is open to interpretation by the person who is using it.

On the one hand, my approach to weaving is to make cloth that will serve it's function well.  I aim for consistent beat, tidy selvedges and a density that is appropriate for that cloth's purpose.

On the other hand, I prefer to design my own drafts, not dip into the 'traditional' well - unless I do something 'different' like the overshot designs I turned into 4 block 16 shaft twill.  Not the traditional approach, and one that is made easy for me because of my non-traditional equipment.

I'm not adverse to free form design done 'well', it just isn't my personal approach to design.  I do prefer loom controlled patterning because it is faster.  I prefer finer, thinner threads because I like to make cloth that is finer...because thinner cloth will often perform it's intended function 'better' imho.  Using finer threads allows me to have longer floats to create different designs.  Having more shafts gives me more options for patterning, too, as in the heart design above.  Woven in 2/16 or 2/20 cotton at 32 or 36 ends per inch, those 5 end floats are not a problem where they might be more of a problem at 8 ends per inch.

And so on.

So, yes, I am a 'traditional' weaver if the definition is that I want to make cloth that serves it's purpose well.  I don't expect 'perfection' from anyone, not my students nor myself.  But I do expect that people will at least try to make cloth that has structural integrity.

But in the end?  That's just my opinion, just my approach.  Everyone is entitled to their own approach, their own definition.  And when that definition doesn't match mine?  Well, that's my problem, not theirs.


Anonymous said...

I suspect that by using the term 'traditional weaving' the speaker is referring to traditional things being made and traditional materials yarn/thread vs plastic tubs or copper for example.

Just keep on keeping on - your work is beautiful.

Stephanie S.

Peg Cherre said...

I'm totally with you, Laura. I try to stretch my use of color and design to be more 'current' or avant garde or something. Sometimes I just love it, sometimes I cross my fingers and hope someone else will like it. But always, my work is about function. Whether it's a scarf or shawl, a towel, or a baby wrap, I want the item to perform it's function well. Beautiful is important, but not AS important as doing its job well. And being a woman of a certain age, I do tend toward traditional designs, too.

Charlotte said...

I had to laugh reading the title of your post. I was accused of using modern methods just the other day, because I am using a flying shuttle to make yardage. The flying shuttle was invented in the 1730, modern? And I have got denied a place on a design fair because the person arranging it stated that I did traditional things, meaning weaving as technique. It turned out her aunt was a weaver, and then it was labeled old-fashioned of course. I often find people using these labels to lack knowledge about design, history and textiles. And then I completely agree with you on form and function, a good textile is a functional textile. Let's just weave on!

Sandra Rude said...

Brava! In my not-so-humble opinion, labels like "traditional" or "non-traditional" are so bereft of meaning you can interpret them however you want to. You make textiles with a traditional respect for their function and usefulness. You make original designs by using traditional forms in non-traditional ways. So what? The resulting textile is what matters, not the label! Keep on keeping on, as Stephanie says...

Laura Fry said...

Yes, it really doesn't matter, it is just a word. It just caused me to reflect and think a bit about what I do and how others might perceive it. to be perceived as traditional after years of being told I wasn't meant a bit of a re-evaluation of what I thought about the word. :)


Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

Oy, oy, oy... here (in the old world (or should that be "the Olde Worlde"?) overshot is a new-fangled way of cheating and make cheap-skate versions of Real Traditional 16-shaft patterns...

A different culture?

(OTOH - isn't weaving itself kind of traditional, as in "it is traditional to use cloth for making clothes"?)

Kerstin (from the Old World, in fact, from "the Homeland of weaving", as one of my old teachers put it...)