Beth Smith

Road Blocks – part 2

Yesterday I talked about a road block I had encountered once in my spinning and how it was a pretty simple thing to overcome once I rearranged my thinking. Today I’m going to tell you about one I had with weaving that held me back for years and years because I didn’t ask the right questions I think.

I was never one to love making a gauge swatch with m knitting. I never loved making a muslin for dressmaking. I was never a real sampler. I wanted to dive right in and get going. That often led to disasters. Usually expensive disasters because I love expensive fabric and yarn. Sometimes my tendency to dive in still gets me in trouble but I’m much smarter now and I have fewer issues than I used to. Anyway, I was interested in weaving. I was fine with threading the loom and winding the warps. I was good with throwing the shuttle and finishing the fabric. It should have been a great thing for me to do. But everything I read, talked about making a sample to be sure the sett was correct. (Sett is how closely the threads are arranged in the warp and affects how the fabric behaves.)

Now, not only was I wanting to weave, I wanted to do it with handspun yarns so there is no chart to tell you where to begin. And I knew from experience that the formula of setting at half the number of wraps per inch didn’t necessarily work for the fabric I wanted to make so that meant sampling was a must.

Here’s where I started to break down in my head. So, say I want a fabric that is 20 inches wide in the reed. Say I sett that at 10 ends per inch and I weave about 10 inches for my sample. What if that sett isn’t correct? How do I fix it? I asked that question to lots of people and they all said well, you just resley the reed. Sounds simple, right? Not to me and my head. that sounded like a tragic thing. I want the cloth to be 20 inches wide. Now I need to resley the reed at a closer sett which means I’m going to lose width! My 20 inches resleyed at 12 ends per inch now becomes about 16.5 inches wide! That was my thinking. And that made me a little nervous and how many times can you ask the same people the same question before they disown you?

Years went by. I’m not kidding. YEARS! I finally asked Sara Lamb the same question, again. For about the one millionth time. At the time she was in the midst of sample making for her Spin to Weave book and here’s what my wise friend said. You buy me a plane ticket and I will come and spend 4 days with you and I will spin and you will weave at least 4 things. My heart pounded a little and I said ok.

She came. The first day I wound a 2 yard warp and put it on the loom and wove it off before the end of the day. The second day I wound a 3 yard warp and and put it on the loom and wove it off before the end of the day. The third day was 5 yards and I still wear that cotton as a shawl. The fourth day we spent much of the day beaming 6ish yards of silk. I still have that silk yardage that was meant for a kimono jacket….

Here’s what happened. I got comfortable with the loom. I felt ok about the warping/dressing process and learned to do it more quickly. I worked some things out in my brain. There was no sampling that happened that week but I feel like I became a weaver who can work out problems.

I also learned…well it was reinforced…the value of in person instruction. Classes are valuable. There are things you learn in person that never come through in a video. Sara sat across the room from me and she could see if my wrist needed to bend slightly differently, she could see some things I was doing that may have been slowing me down, she could see if I was sitting at the loom in a way that might make my body hurt later. Things that were easily changed that the person on YouTube isn’t going to notice about you:-) In person classes might feel expensive but it’s learning for life.

Now, if I’m going to make some samples I begin with the close sett because You can always go a bit wider or cast off some of the edge threads but you can’t go to a tighter sett without losing width.

Have you been thinking about what’s holding you back?



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