söndag 2 februari 2014

The inept weaver

When I was in third grade, my crafts teacher allowed me to use the full-size loom in the school basement. It stood in a small back room next to the crafts classroom. I remember the smell in there, the dust and the weird, cold, fluorescent light. Like on so many other occasions, the tetris devil reared its hypnotic head. I spent the lunch breaks down there weaving, as soon as I had wiped the ketchup off my little snout I paddled down to the loom and had at it. In the end I had a rag carpet, half a meter wide - and about six meters long. It fit nowhere in our house. The hallway outside my mum's office was the only place I ever saw it laid out in its full length.

Since then, I have woven absolutely nothing. Tablet-woven bands do not count in this matter. I like the simplicity of a minimal toolkit. The needlebinding needle is my personal favorite - with that tiny item alone, you can make almost anything. I love the spindle above the spinning wheel. The needle above the sewing machine. And then there is, of course, my original toolbox love above all others: the alphabet. With just 28 characters that take up no space at all, or can be easily fitted into a pocket, we can shift the entire world.

Weaving, on the other hand, frightens me. Theoretically I could whittle a needlebinding needle from shit I find on the ground within the space of ten minutes, spend an afternoon with someone learning the basics and then tinker on my own to learn more. But I can't make a loom myself. I can't even really figure out how it works by looking at it. There is no way I could learn how to use it if left alone with it. It takes loads of material. There are instructions that you have to read or hear. The stakes seem just a little bit too high, especially for someone like me who can't even successfully detangle my iPhone headset.  

For the longest time I felt that weaving was something I would not bother with, that I would stop short of making my own fabric, and most certainly never ever buy a loom. Then, a few summers ago, I was given one as a gift. Fantastic! The universe supports my hoarding! I was genuinely thrilled, and the loom now awaits my time and courage, but it's there. In the meantime I've found a toy loom at a flea market, and decided to use it for learning purposes. If I could manage that, maybe the full-size version wouldn't seem so frightening after all.

Yeah. Right.
 Turns out, you have to know what you're doing even with a toy loom, unless you are prepared to use the pre-prepared cotton warp that comes with it. When you buy used toy looms like this one, from Brio, the warp is almost always an apocalyptic tangle of frustration and knots, you can really tell why they decided to get rid of it, like, "Muuuuuum! I can't get it to woooooork! Come and fix it!" and she's like, "WTF, you have to work on this for hours before you're able to grind out a stupid carpet for the doll house, let's toss it and go play with matches instead..." My extremely patient friend Vix spent hours rewarping this stupid little thing with wool yarn - extremely kind of her. Now I feel I have to honor her effort and finish the damn thing, one of my most dreaded UFOs this year.

So how come it turned into a UFO? Brio may know their way around when it comes to retro toys and little wagons and stuff like that, but they know shit about looms, apparently. The pitiful excuse for heddles included in this one are made from floppy cotton string, don't keep straight, weigh nothing and don't do a damn thing. Even with Vix's patient warping, the shed is practically nonexistent, making for a very slow and tedious workflow. I had to fix it to ever be able to finish even this puny scrap of fabric.
What would MacGyver do?
The slats (yeah, I'm out on a terminological limb here) that hold up the heddles needed to go higher than I could push them with the stupid turning crossbar at the top, so I made them a little bit taller by inserting drinking straws under the top section of the heddles. The slats had practically no weight in themselves and needed to be weighted down, so I scotch-taped some larp cutlery to the lower pair to make the heddles fall straight.

Ten points for trying, no points for style.

By now it's possible to create a minimal but workable shed, and I can actually produce a strip of fabric about 15 centimeters wide. The below picture makes it look like burlap or that kind of 1970s fabric wall coverings, "vävtapet" in Swedish - but it's actually a medium brown, sort of ashy rather nice color. Same weft as the warp for now, until I run out. Then I might use some scraps to get stripes. Can't wait to see if this could actually become something, will keep posting.

Yay! Looks itchy though.

2 kommentarer:

  1. You're not inept! That loom sucks! Toy looms should be banned as they make something fun into a painful, complicated struggle.

    If you're still hesitant about the full-size loom, you can borrow my miniature table loom. It looks like a toy loom, only a little bigger and with a proper reed and proper heddles. And it works.

  2. Hey, it's not just me who tried to sucessfully make a toy into something useful :)
    A lot of swearing on the way - at least I got about 25-30 cm width. I made a viking dress for my two-year-old.
    So don't give up... or by the way, DO... and take Arachne up of her offer :)
    Good luck and nice reading you!