On the Weavers’ Trail

Over the weekend I visited the Working Weavers’ Studio Trail in Massachusetts, with my friend Jody.  We only had part of the day on Saturday, so we chose three studios that are about 1 1/2 hour drive from our part of Connecticut.  All three studios we visited were in Florence, Mass, just north of Northampton, the home of WEBS.

First we stopped at Scott Norris’ studio, which he calls Elam’s Widow.  He works mostly with linens which he dyes himself with fiber reactive dyes and mordants with soda ash and salt.  I am curious to try dyeing linen, and he generously offered to give me some tips to help me get good results. He weaves linen towels in several sizes, including large bath towels–in wonderful color combinations.

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Jody and I both bought plain weave hand towels, like the ones in this photo.  I also bought a silk handkerchief–can you imagine?  Such a luxury, that I’ll never actually use!  It happened to be a huck pattern that is similar to one I’ve woven myself as napkins, in 40/2 linen.  Here is a photo of the two together.  This pattern really sings in silk! I wish you could touch it too.  Amazing!

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Nearby was a wonderful old manufacturing building, called the Arts and Industry Building, that has been turned into artists’ studios.  Two weavers have studios there, Christina Hammel and Paula Valeta.  Chris’ studio is on the 3rd floor and the stairwell is part of the experience of visiting.  The stairwell is full of light where plants are growing, and the stairs and banisters are original vintage, well worn wood.

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There is a philodendron ivy that hangs from the 3rd floor and has grown all the way down the stairwell.

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Chris Hammel’s studio has lovely views of the far hills.  What a great place to work!

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Chris is an instructor at the nearby Hill Institute, and maintains her own studio in this historic building.  Along with items for sale, she had a display of various weaving techniques for visitors to see.  I loved these shadow weave table linens, especially the orange borders!

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I love the color choice in these towels and the little woven turtle in the book.

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This little top for a child has inspired me to think of things I can make for Tori as she grows.  At one point Chris had considered starting a clothing line of handwoven garments for children.  I will consider it a great accomplishment if I can keep my own little one in handwoven outfits!

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At the left hand corner of that photo you can just see a bit of shadow weave and some small woven bands, both Andean pebble weave and kumihimo.  Here is a better look.

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Along with looms, Chris has a taka dai set up in her studio.  Her husband made it for her from plans by Carol Miller Franklin.  My husband started building me a taka dai about five years ago, based on Rodrick Owen’s plans.  That project got set aside when we packed up and moved to Connecticut.  He has had problems with it anyway, since some of the details require metric tools that he cannot find here.  Carol Miller Franklin’s taka dai measurements call for tools that are more readily available here.  I am excited by the possibility of finally getting a taka dai of my own–even if I have to wait for Bob’s return to woodworking next spring.

A short ways down the hall and up a half flight of stairs brought us to Paula Valeta’s studio.  She also has large windows with views of the surrounding hills that are starting to glow with autumn colors.  She has created a wonderful display of her woven samples, using embroidery hoops.  This is a great idea that I plan to use in the future.

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If life weren’t so crazy these days, I would have taken the whole weekend to visit all seven studios on this Weavers’ Trail.  They plan to do it again next year, and I plan to make time for the whole thing!  There is nothing like a bit of contact with other weavers and a good dose of inspiration to fuel ideas for future work.  We saw weaving acquaintances from other guilds, and I had the happy surprise of bumping into my New Hampshire friend, Emily! Jody and I topped off the day with lunch at Paul and Elizabeth’s restaurant in Northampton.

This weekend I hope to have another dose of inspiration when I take a field trip with my bobbin lace guild to visit the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic, Connecticut.  I may not be weaving much these days, but I am stocking up on inspiration for some future ideas.


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