Saturday, July 2, 2022



paper quill

I'm all for doing things by hand.  I wouldn't have been a professional *hand* weaver for 4 decades if I didn't.



Time.  We run out of it at some point.  "Time becomes more precious, the less of it you have" sings Bonnie Raitt.  The first time I heard the lyrics, it resonated.  Deeply.

As a new weaver wanting to earn an income by weaving, I had to face issues of 'hand made' vs being able to actually produce enough to have an income.  

I started with myself, learning the most efficient ways to do the various tasks involved in weaving.  My husband cobbled together a hand bobbin winder, which worked.  Until I realized it was taking me longer to hand wind a bobbin than it was to weave it off.  Oops.

So I saved up my pennies and bought an electric bobbin winder.  

My first step to begin looking at other equipment and how efficient it was.  Was it also ergonomic?  That is, could I use it without injuring myself?  Such as a warping mill or board.  I paid attention to my body and figured out when it hurt and how quickly.  And if adjusting the placement of the tool or my own body affected how I could comfortably do what needed to be done.

As I extended my thinking beyond the immediate - warp winding, bobbin winding, dressing the loom, I carefully paid attention to the tools and processes.  What worked well; what didn't.

And so I became very efficient.  Like really efficient.  And some people began to question my tools, my approach, inevitably someone would say that they didn't want to hurry.

Hurrying is not working efficiently.  I don't hurry.  I have just pared away extraneous movements.  Changed my process from large motions to smaller ones.  Minimum input; maximum output.

Neither do I dawdle.  Then people started commenting that they wanted to enjoy the process.  Happens that I do enjoy my process.  I enjoy the fact I can go to the studio, sit down and 50 minutes later have a towel (approx 1200 picks).  I enjoy the fact that I can - mostly, because I do still make mistakes - dress a loom with little to no fuss.

I have a loom with some features that some in the weaving community would still, to this day, call 'cheating'.  Oh my, the consternation that was expressed to me when I bought an AVL with fly shuttle, dobby and auto-cloth advance.

One of the leading voices in the weaving world adamantly told me I was no longer allowed to call my textiles hand woven.

Um, yeah, about that...

The AVL was completely consistent with the legal definition by the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (as was) definition of hand woven:  each and every action of the loom was initiated by the weaver.  No throwing of a switch and walking away.

That doesn't mean I couldn't weave without these tools - electric bobbin winder, dobby, weaving software.  It just means that I can do it with less effort.  Less time (as in winding a bobbin by hand or via electricity).  I can wind a warp chain on a warping board and have it done and ready to go into the loom in minutes, not hours.  Of course a longer/wider warp takes longer, but still.

I can dress a loom in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

Am I bragging?  Trying to make newer weavers feel inadequate?  Absolutely not!  As one student put it, after seeing me demonstrate how I weave/shuttle handling tips, she now had hope that weaving would not forever be agonizingly slow, that with practice and intention she could get 'better', more efficient.  She left the workshop determined to work at her skills.

Efficiency is not a four letter word.  It is taking the time to analyze what one is doing, and if changes could be made to make the task(s) easier, less onerous, more comfortable.

Ergonomics means protecting ones body from repetitive injury.  

And I will keep banging on about these things so that anyone who is interested will see that they, too, can be more efficient *if they want to be*.  Because ultimately if someone is happy winding a bobbin by hand (no winder, just winding the yarn onto the bobbin using their hands), they should do that.  Just please, pay attention if your wrists begin to hurt.

Marie Kondo got a lot of bad press for saying that if something doesn't bring you joy, throw it out or stop doing it.  

Same for weaving.  None of us is entirely dependent upon making textiles from the raw fibre to stay safe from the environment.  Do what brings you joy.  

Want more info?  check out my You Tube channel.  My books.  My classes for School of Sweet Georgia.  Or other posts on this platform - labels to the right hand side on various topics I've addressed over the years.

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