Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Guest Post - Mary Lessman

There are times in my life when I know I’m one of the very fortunate. This February I got to be with Laura in Prince George. In addition to spending time with two people who seem to enjoy me as much as I enjoy them I had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and my weaving. Laura was at the end of a warp on the AVL and offered to let me weave 2 towels. I have little experience with linen and she had a couple bobbins in a humidor so I was set.

The surprise for me weaving on the AVL was how much attention I could pay to just the mechanics. The computer keeps track of the “treadling” sequence; the automatic advance keeps track of the fell line. “All” I had to do was keep track of me. It turned out to be quite a job. Here are things I learned in the order my mind became aware of them.

8    * Wear Ear Protection. This is especially necessary when working with an air assist. That baby is LOUD. It is a lesson I’ve taken home. I have a Baby Mac and have been weaving with noise cancelling headphones on and really have noticed the difference when I take them off.

·        * Keep your feet flat on the floor. On the AVL one foot presses the pedal. One foot is, if you’re me, on its toes making my calf cramp. That habit took nearly 2 hours to break. My take home is to be aware where your feet are. I’ve found there is a good resting place for the foot not treadling at the moment. I can weave longer with more comfort if I am thoughtful of my feet.

·         *A pelvic tilt helps concentrate the power in your core when you pull the beater: That baby is heavy! It’s got all sorts of add-ons for a flying shuttle (If I recall correctly it can manage 4 colors at a time) and controls the cloth advance. Laura can throw the shuttle fast enough to just let the beater ricochet its way back and forth. I’m not so fast and needed to control it on the far side of the swing. It takes a whole lot of core strength to slow it down to my speed. Keep that tilt going! It has made a huge difference in my home weaving. I maintain good posture and can weave longer and feel better all around.

·       *  Relax your shoulders. Good posture lets you weave longer.

·       * The weight of the bobbin changes the throw strength. I didn’t appreciate how much difference this makes over one bobbin. I had to change my technique as the bobbin emptied in order to have it cross the entire width of the warp and end up in my hand ready to toss back. This isn’t as noticeable with my smaller loom but really made an impression on me.

·        * Watch the angle in the shed, too much leaves loops. As I was using linen the thread itself wanted to sproing like a spring in the shed when the humidor hadn’t moistened the inner yarn on the bobbin. I would have way too much slack to lay flat. Keeping track of all the above things made watching for this fall by the wayside too many times. Selvedges suffered.

·        * A humidor is your best friend with linen. The yarn softens and turns the selvedges better.

·       *  When Bobbins are dry in the center they are harder to control. Make sure they have plenty of time to humidify.

·       *  Fixing broken threads is the same with 16 shafts as with 4. You can get good at it. It only looks intimidating. When you are getting too much experience look for a reason.

·       *  A loud, breathing, puffing, clanking machine isn’t scary when you know what makes all those sounds. It’s possible to sort out what is happening where. Knowing helps make weaving deliberate to achieve the result you are hoping for. Weave with intention. It does help the results.

·      *   Relax your shoulders. It helps you with your rhythm, Loom Music as Laura calls it. Your accuracy will follow. Eventually the speed does too.

·       * Don’t use extra motions. I thought I was holding the shuttle above the beater each time but had the time to realize I was lifting it as I was supposed to but pulling it back towards me. The shuttle wasn’t waiting in the perfect place to hit the race and make the next pick. I was using energy I could use to keep weaving. Be aware where your hands are. You can weave longer and with more accuracy.

·         *Advance the warp regularly. There is a small sweet spot. You will get better results-straighter selvedges and a more evenly beat web if you advance every inch and a half or two inches (on my Baby Mac) making the entire process more rewarding.

·         *About this time I was breaking a sweat. This weaving is work! Make sure to tighten your core and make a slight rocking motion back to beat, forwards when changing the shed. When this motion comes from your core it reduces wear and tear on your upper body. You can weave longer. I mean that both that day and as a lifetime activity.

·        * There is a rhythm that will improve your selvedges and your cloth. Throw the shuttle, beat before/as the shed closes, change shed and repeat. The yarn is free to settle into the length it needs for a repeatable length of yarn in the pick. When I would throw, close the shed “locking in” the length of the yarn and then beat, the length of the yarn changed depending on how close the fell line was to the beater and the exact angle of the thread to the fell line. My selvedges straightened right out. My friend Kaaren said it doesn’t always hold true and I plan on having a chit chat with her about that. She’s a wonderful and knowledgeable weaver too.

·     *    When something changes look for the reason. This loom has quite a learning curve and so do I. “What you don’t know you don’t know” is huge with this kind of equipment. Why were the warp threads breaking? Why was the fell line changing (I forgot to reengage the gear of the advance mechanism after I fixed a broken thread. Laura had warned me.)

·      *   Distinguish between operator error and loom error. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s not.
·         Relax your shoulders. Have I said how important I think this is yet? It’s easier to weave when your shoulders aren’t all balled up. Easier to sleep that night too.

·         Sometimes you have to ask for help. Laura isn’t a helicopter instructor which was good for me. I could announce every once in a while what I had just learned so she could get a giggle. When I needed help though, I needed an explanation why things were going wrong.

·       *  Last but not least, sometimes you just have to walk away Renae. Come back another day. Sleeping seems to help your body remember the lessons learned that day so things fall into place easier the next day.

All this made me realize just what a process it is learning to be an Efficient Weaver. Yes, I’ve taken her class and I have her wonderful Video  The Efficient Weaver  Thanks to both of those I had an idea what I wanted to pay attention to and where I was heading. If you have a chance, both are wonderful learning experiences and she didn’t pay me to say that.

Lest you think I did nothing but weave, I learned these things and with a couple of them my body learned them too with a two hour session one day and an hour and forty minutes the next. I was weaving with every sense open and attentive. No daydreaming happened. Each movement was felt and thought about. When I weave with intent at home these lessons have and are becoming part of my weaving practice.

What about the rest of the week? Why, I learned the basic stitches of bobbin lace. The second day it also started to become body memory. I reveled in the snow and left snow angels around the neighborhood. I spent an evening with my Prince George guild and enjoyed women whose company I love and who return the love. I watched Laura enjoy her new e-spinner, The Device, while I spun on my Russian spindle. We drank a lot of tea and laughed a lot. Everywhere I looked there was an inspiring bit of hand woven to make my heart sing. I’ll be back in three months. Who knows what I’ll learn then! I can’t wait.

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