Why Take Classes and Workshops?

Over the past thirty years, I’ve taken too many classes and workshops to mention. Every one of them has expanded my understanding of some aspect of the fiber world, sometimes in unexpected ways. I think my first workshop was sponsored by the St. Louis Weavers’ Guild, taught by Elsie Regensteiner in the mid-1980’s, on rug weaving techniques. My latest classes I’ll get to shortly. There is always something to be learned from a new instructor, even if I already know a good deal about the subject. The instuctor may have a different approach that I’ve never tried, or a trick to solving a problem that is helpful to know. I occasionally have learned about a technique that I’m sure I never want to try again myself, although I may have gained a new appreciation of others’ work. I have often thought that I’m my own best teacher, at least for academic subjects, in that I learn from books, journals, and internet sources, and my own practice, better than from others. However, I’ve discovered that if I’m patient, there are ideas and techniques in weaving that I learn from others, but I would probably never have discovered by myself. Sometimes I learn from the instructors, but quite often I learn from watching and listening to my fellow students.

This year I participated in several different classes and workshops, in Colorado (RMWG and IWC) and Kansas (MWC). The first was Susan Wilson’s crackle workshop for the RMWG. I’d listened to her talks on crackle in California, and read (not thoroughly) her new book (Classic Crackle and More), but I thought I’d get a better feel for this weave structure if I actually tried it under her supervision. I was right, but I haven’t yet tried it on my own.

At the Midwest Weavers Conference in Emporia, Kansas, I tried a spinning class along the lines of “you can spin with anything!” led by Jeannine Glaves, from Oklahoma. It was inspiring and we all had a great deal of fun, trying to spin Christmas tinsel, and other oddities. Lucy Brusic and her husband led a class discussion of mystery books with a weaving/fiber twist in them, and I was introduced to a couple of authors I’d missed over the years. The third and last class at Midwest was “Dye It Yourself Sock Yarn”. I’m not sure I made sock yarn, but I did enjoy listening to the instructor talk about her way of dyeing yarn and dyeing my two skeins of yarn. (I almost never dye yarn on my own, just in workshops.) All of these were after I hit my head, and probably I didn’t get as much out of them as I would without concussion symptoms….

Tom and I both went to the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango in July. It was his first conference, and we were both apprehensive about whether he would enjoy it. He took a three-day workshop from Heather Hubbard on Rio Grande style weaving, using my 4S Baby Wolf loom. He turned out to enjoy it, and is still working on his project. Heather was a young, refreshing teacher whose style worked well for Tom, who was interested in various weft-faced weaving techniques, but didn’t have a lot of experience in any of them. My choice was Robyn Spady’s “On the Double–Two Tie” workshop, on double two tie unit weave. I had taught a class about double two tie many years ago, but never used it for much (after recommending that others try it!). I find the structure interesting in that it allows many different structures to be woven on the same warp threading. I’m not good at designing on a D2T threading, but the workshop was great, and Robyn is an excellent teacher. Right now, I’m weaving plaited twill towels on a D2T warp.

This fall, Tom and I both signed up for Lynda Teller Pete’s RMWG workshop about traditional Navajo weaving. Lynda is an outstanding teacher, with clear ideas about Navajo traditions in weaving. She’s a fifth generation Navajo weaver herself, and helped us through every step of weaving a small rug on the upright looms she provided. Tom probably got more out of it than I did, and was braver about trying different motifs, but I gained an appreciation of Navajo tradition and rugs beyond just enjoying their beauty. Even if it did take me five hours to weave the last inch, with Lynda’s help!

So, did I learn things? Yes, definitely. Did I learn things I couldn’t have taught myself? In most cases, yes. Did I love spending time with wonderful, creative people all interested in weaving? Absolutely, and I hope to take more workshops and continue learning from more inspiring teachers, maybe next summer!

A Conference is More Than the Sum of Its Classes

We’re home from another inspiring Midwest Weavers Conference. I’ve attended many of these, as well as other regional and national weaving conferences, since 1986. Even before I was involved in running a conference (Registrar, Midwests 2001 and 2003), I realized that the heart of a conference is not any one part of it, but all the parts combined. It’s mostly about the people I meet– yes, the teachers and the classmates, but also the vendors, the keynote speakers and jurors, my fellow committee members, and the people I meet in the cafeteria at meals or in the halls on the way to a class, sitting around sharing ideas, techniques, spindles, wheels. You could not achieve any of these relationships just by signing up for a single class, although I do take workshops, and learn from them and enjoy them. A conference is different–and that’s why I still go to them, nearly 30 years after I first started going! We all owe a tremendous amount of thanks and appreciation to the people who cooperate in running the weaving and spinning conferences we are so lucky to be able to attend.

Loom Juggling

Four floor looms live in our house, as well as the four cats. I’m not counting small portable looms like inkle looms, tapestry looms, pin looms, etc., or the two table looms. Anyone would think that would be plenty of looms for any project. But I only really like weaving on floor looms, and only two of those are portable (Schacht Baby Wolves). I have a deadline of September 1 to weave a length of tartan for my stepdaughter’s wedding, which needs at least a 4S floor loom. I also need two free looms for the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, CO, in July. I also have other weaving-related tasks and trips–how to juggle the looms so that the right one is free at the right time, with advance time for dressing it (putting the warp threads through the reed and heddles and winding it on)??? Solution? Rent one… Then I don’t have to have the tartan done by the middle of July, and can make it all work. Doesn’t cost much to rent a loom from the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild, and it will make my life work better. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have through my association with the RMWG….programs, workshops, and loom rentals!

Honored & Thrilled

The RMWG Web Award “recognizes a Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild member who has interwoven her/his life into the guild.” There have been 19 awards starting in 1994. Nominations for the award are sent to the Executive Board, which votes to choose one each year. The honoree receives a beautiful sterling silver pin handcrafted by a local silversmith in an orginal design related to weaving.

Silver Pin 1

Saturday May 18 I was stunned to receive the Web Award for 2013. This was one of the most meaningful recognitions I have ever received. I am grateful for the recognition of my efforts on behalf of the guild. I treasure the lovely pin, but also the friendship, support and appreciation I’ve received from guild members over the past seven years. I joined the guild in 2006, and have been active in various ways since then, so I guess I actually have interwoven my life into the guild in many ways (Treasurer, Registrar for Colorado Weavers Day 2012, Programs & Workshops Committee, Sale Committee, Workshop Registrar, Webmaster and Communications Chair, plus a couple of study groups). I am indeed honored to be part of such a wonderfully creative group of fiber artists.

As if the Web Award weren’t enough for excitement on Saturday, my pink cotton and gold tencel “Interrupted Twill Diamonds” shawl (see the Handwoven Textiles link, the image toward the bottom) won the “Best Overall” award in the May Fashion Show as well. Anita Osterhaug (of Interweave Press) chose the fashion show awards, a difficult task as there were more than 20 remarkable entries.

Thank you to whomever nominated me, and to the Board for deciding to honor me with the Web Award this year.

Just Off the Loom

On April 15, I mailed my first samples for the “Early Weaving Books & Manuscripts” study group of Complex Weavers. The description of the study group on the CW web site says ” A forum for those who love the challenge of early weaving drafts. Bimonthly newsletter, some with swatches.” It has been run by the illustrious weaver Marjie Thompson for over 20 years. Some early weaving drafts require extensive analysis to interpret; some have already been studied and updated, including many on Handweaving.net. For my samples this year I chose an eight shaft draft from a series of seven monographs published in 1900-1901 by Charles Petzold, handweaving.net draft #22413. The samples for the EWB&M group should be chosen from works published before 1923. For some unknown reason, my warp was bright pink–thoughts of spring amid the snow? Usually I’m not a pink person. I wove the samples with a pale peach rayon, which toned down the pink-ness of it all, but still….

From my notes for EWB&M–My inclination is always to try for balance and symmetry in my woven patterns. This draft’s asymmetrical treadling was a challenge to me not so much for its difficulty but because I kept wanting it to be symmetrical. I tried a lot of alternate symmetrical treadlings, many of which I liked a great deal. In the end, I decided to quit trying so hard and just to weave the samples with the original treadling to see what the original cloth from the published draft would look like. The resulting gently textured cloth would be good for table linens, a dresser scarf, or maybe towels.

I wove the rest of the warp off in a symmetrical treadling, with a pale gold tencel weft (maybe ecru?)!

Pink Cloth on Loom

The cloth itself after finishing (washing, drying) is among the Handwoven Textiles above. Also the cloth from the symmetrical treadling.