This summer I was lucky to participate in the MidAtlantic Fiber Association biennial conference. Like so many conferences these days, it was presented online. That didn’t diminish the talent or interest of the students. In fact, it seemed that even more than usual were interested in attending and I had to increase the number of students able to attend. There was enough interaction that attendance did need to be limited, but since we weren’t constrained by space, we could accommodate more people than we usually can.
I found that there are many advantages to presenting online. I showed videos and narrated them as I went. When students had a question, I could replay the pertinent part of the video. The general consensus was that students could see much better using that format versus trying to fit a dozen people around one loom during an in-person demonstration. My presentations were recorded and attendees had access to the recorded sessions on the conference platform for a few weeks after the class. During that period, they could come back as many times as they needed and view the lecture and videos. They also had my email and I corresponded with students as they showed me their progress and asked questions after the conference.
The students did not have to haul around their looms. The daunting task of loading and unloading looms at each end of a conference is challenging. New weavers could work in their own spaces with their own equipment. If they needed to take more time than usually allotted in a weekend conference, they could. The students didn’t have to pay for travel, either. Hotel stays, meals and travel expenses can cost more than the conference fees, so online teaching makes learning weaving accessible to more people.
Of course there were some disadvantages to teaching online. I couldn’t see what the students were doing as they wove. Usually I walk around the room and can see problems as they develop. In person, I can catch mistakes in the early stages when they are still correctable. Neither could I read the body language of the students, so I couldn’t see when they were getting frustrated or when they weren’t comprehending the material. Mostly I found, though, that people spoke up and questioned as soon as they felt left behind.
Our new reality means that teaching virtually is here to stay. I’m glad I have had the opportunity to develop online teaching skills and I hope to become better at it. I anticipate that there will soon be another opportunity to teach beginning weaving online.
On January 10-12, 2020 I taught an overshot workshop at Yadkin Valley Fiber Center to a delightful group of students. They came prepared with looms warped and questions ready. We had a full two and a half days of weaving, talking, learning and sharing. Students started with the same threading pattern and worked their way through various treadling variations. Each made their own decisions regarding color and thickness of the weft. Along the way we talked about the theory of overshot, how to design overshot and what life must have been like for the weavers who came before us.
For new or non-weavers, overshot is type of weave structure that creates blocks of pattern when some threads skip, or shoot, over the cloth. The structure was used in making coverlets. Old time weavers used cotton (or linen) thread crossed with wool thread. The resulting cloth was lovely and warm. We used cotton thread and some wool thread in class.
One student had mistakenly used warp twice as thick as what was called for so her samples were extra large.
It is always fun to see how each student’s work is unique, even though all start with the same instructions. That is what makes handwoven creations works of art. You can see it in the photos below.
We didn’t just weave traditional overshot. We added some other structures that are possible to weave on an overshot threading, like the flame point variation shown in the above pictures. We also wove honeycomb.
The students labeled their work as they went. When they went home, they cut the sampler off the loom and washed it. Everything changes with washing. The warp and weft threads relax and settle around each other. Some cloth that looks two dimensional on the loom becomes more three dimensional after it is washed and dried.
I’m proud of the work everyone put into the class. Everybody helped each other, sharing tips, supplies and extra yarn. Thanks to Leslie at the fiber center for wonderful hospitality in her new surroundings. It was a great place to meet. I came home from the class inspired by my students and ready to try some new ideas of my own.
On the weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 I’ll teach a workshop for Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild in Albemarle County. We’ll explore huck lace, spot huck and many variations of the huck structure. We’ll also try some non-huck patterns you can weave using the same threading. It’s always fun to weave with others. Weavers spend a lot of time with just themselves and their looms. When we weave with a group, we bounce ideas off of each other, coming up with lots of “what-if” ideas. It is always inspiring. Here is a sampling of just a few weaves we’ll explore.
I have been playing around lately with double weave-pick up. I taught a class in West Virginia on double-weave and had enough of my sampler warp left to practice the technique. It’s pretty time consuming and you have to really pay attention, much more so than when weaving scarves. I found the meditative quality pleasant.
In double weave the loom is set up so that two layers of cloth are woven simultaneously, one above the other. If you want, you can form an image by hand-manipulating how the two layers of cloth interact. This is called double weave pick-up. When you weave double weave pick-up, you use a stick to pick up some threads from the bottom layer and weave them into the top layer, then pick up other threads to weave top layer threads into the bottom layer. Below you can see part of my process and a couple of finished pieces.
I used 10/2 cotton threaded at 32 ends per inch (16 ends per inch in each layer). The colors were deep purple and red-orange. When the colors are next to each other they read as orange and blue. As a side note, I wove some of these pieces while UVA was winning the NCAA basketball championship. Their colors are orange and blue–go ‘Hoo’s!
Picking the purple threads
Weaving orange while selected purple threads are raised
Picking up the orange threads
Selected orange threads stay above while half of the purple threads are raised.