Having just purchased my first loom, a Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle 15”, I was very pleased when I was asked to review Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom by Syne Mitchell. At its most basic, and historical, weaving is simply pulling fibers in an over and under pattern to create cloth.
In 2009, a team led by two Harvard professors working in the Republic of Georgia uncovered the oldest remnant of woven cloth found thus far: a 34,000-year-old piece of linen.
With such a long and amazing history, weaving has captured the imaginations of artists the world over, just as it has captured mine. Of course, at its very basics, fabric can be woven using sticks tied together with bits of grasses or strips of leather. And very early on weaving fibers could be simply reeds from the banks of the Nile. But as time went along, systems for weaving became more sophisticated, leading to the industrial age’s massive weaving machines through to today when artists and craftspeople have a variety of looms to choose from.
The rigid heddle loom is a great ‘beginner loom’ for anyone who wants to learn weaving and produce beautiful, usable fabrics. Less expensive than a floor loom, and quite a bit smaller, it allows you to start with something simple, like a scarf, then work your way up to creating fabrics that can be cut and sewn together to make incredible custom clothing. What you learn when using a rigid heddle loom is also transferable to more sophisticated looms, and is a wonderful way to begin the learning process. Why do I love weaving? Like knitting, weaving relaxes my brain and my body. The soothing, repetitive motions allow me to sink into the peace of the movements, while watching the colours and patterns both engages my brain and allows me to walk away from anything ‘outside’ of the process and simply relax.
Of course, weaving does require information, a how-to base when it comes to what materials you need, how much, and how you want your final product to look. Even though you may have expectations of exactly how your cloth will look, weaving can still surprise you, as the warp and weft come together, creating something that even experienced weavers may not expect. Something new, different, and wonderful.
Syne Mitchell has written a lovely book, starting with information on the history of weaving and continuing on through the different types and brands of rigid heddle looms. Mitchell describes the different ‘pieces-and-parts’ of the loom, and then goes on to describe the different type of weavers. While some are “scientific” weavers, meticulously detailing the how and why of their weaving, others (like myself!) are “intuitive weavers” who approach weaving with a grand sense of play – a “Stick your hand in the yarn bag and see what you come up with next” method that allows a sense of whimsy in their work.
Then, of course, there is the designing. Choosing your yarn, your colour palette, the feel of your work when you complete your project – all of these are important, and fun, parts of the weaving process. Of course, running out of yarn is no fun L when you have an idea of what you want your finished project to look like. Loom waste (the ends that are necessarily not part of the finished product, but are needed to ‘fix’ your warp to the loom), draw-in (the ‘shrinkage’ as you are weaving) and take-up (the over-and-under of weaving) will need to be calculated. An then, you have to decide the “face” of the project – are the warp or weft threads going to stand out as the pattern?
Yep. There. Is. MATH. Sigh. The thing is, Mitchell gives you a format for your calculations, making it quick and easy to find out how much yarn you need for any particular project based on factors like length, width and, yes, the size of the yarn you are using… I blew it on a wonderful hand painted yarn I had designed – I painted on sport instead of worsted yarn and, yep. Ran out of yarn! Duh. Mitchell helps with that, giving you a simple form you can print out and fill out for each project. Stick that into a plastic cover sheet with samples of your yarn and you can go back and recreate any project. From using a warping board to setting up your warp and rigid heddle, there are step-by-step directions to make everything easy. And we all love easy, right? Oh, and I really LOVE the parts that address “fixing your boo-boos!!”
Then there are the patterns! I am a complete color junkie, so the section on Using Painted Skeins Cleverly was quite a thrill. From the most simple ‘flat weaving’ to tapestry-like weaving designs and pickup patterns, it is all her, all laid out logically, and presented with beautiful photos. This is going to be my go-to book for weaving – I just wish I had been offered the book before I used all that gorgeous hand painted alpaca, and then ran out before my project was finished!
I received Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you are a weaver this books covers the basics for beginners, up to information even an experienced weaver will find useful!
This book will be released on November 3, 2015.