Early last week I spent the better part of three days determined to get a standard warp onto the sectional beam of my BIG AVL (aka BIG ALVIN). The warp is 12 years old! You must be thinking why on earth would I save a warp for that long, and why, oh why, would I then try to put that warp on a loom not meant for it.
A conservative guess on the time I’ve spent so far on this might be 12 hours. And, if you consider that I needed an extra set of hands for some of this (i.e., patient husband) the total hands-on hours is probably 15 or 16. That is just to get the warp onto the beam.
My first attempt involved winding on one of the two warps, using my trapeze (made by my husband). Bob helped with this process, and we had to stop at every set of section dividers to get each section of warp into the proper divisions on the beam. It was slow going, but luckily it’s short warp.
But doing this a second time seemed more challenging for the 2nd warp, so we undid everything and took the two warps together. I divided the whole warp into 2″ sections in order to wind them on one at a time. This horrible sight would give most weavers the heebie jeebies. It certainly felt Herculean to me. It’s two 30″ wide warps that needed to be separated into 2″ sections for the sectional beam.
Why am I doing this? Twelve years ago in May I had a most unique experience–both good and not so good. Some months earlier I had signed up for Vav Stuga’s basic class. I envisioned May as the most perfect time of year for seeing the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, while immersing myself in full days of weaving all week long at Vav Stuga. It should have been one of the most fulfilling experiences. But just a short time before my class began, my father died. It was not expected. It left my mother, who needed full time care, alone. The entire family showed up to be with my father as he was removed from life support, and then we gathered around my mother to care for her and make decisions about her future. I called to cancel my class at Vav Stuga, but it was too late to get a refund. We worked hard to get my mother moved back to New England, where she stayed with me for two weeks before we found a comfortable and safe place for her to live. I took off to Shelburne Falls! During my week in class my mother called me between five and six times a day. She was bereft. She was angry. She was somewhat unhinged. Over time I began fully understand her mental state, but at this time, so early in the process, I was overwhelmed. I could not concentrate.
And yet… I was an experienced weaver of 40 years by the time I attended the basic class, and I had benefitted from some amazing teachers along the way. I completed the various projects in the class in time to be offered the ability to make a warp to take home. My sights were set pretty high! I had seen a tablecloth project in one of the Vava med Hemslojden issues in the Vav Stuga library, and of course, I didn’t want a medium sized, 45″ table square. I wanted a tablecloth to fit my dining table. After all, I had a big 60″ wide Toika that was calling me to make a tablecloth!
I love monk’s belt, and the idea of it running both weftwise and warpwise was a thrill. In the book the colors were all in shades of red and rose with cream monk’s belt, while this photograph shows it in blues and cream. I had big plans for a spring colorway in pale green and soft yellow, with coral monk’s belt and fine stripes between the squares. Sometime in the last decade I sold that Toika and replaced it with big BIG ALVIN, hence the dilemma about how to get the warp on my loom.
All I can say is when I get an idea in my head it is hard to let it go. It was a lot of warp to make in the short time I had left at Vav Stuga, back in 2011. I wasn’t at my best mentally, so I have now discovered that I made a few mistakes in the part of the warp that has the monk’s belt supplemental warp threads. I added those in during my beaming process.
I am quite sentimental about this project. It was a difficult time of my life, and yet this escape to an idyllic location, spending a week with like minded weavers in a wonderful setting, is a memory I cherish. This tablecloth warp is a significant part of that memory. My roommate from that week is someone whose friendship has deepened over the past 12 years. And she is somehow also tied up in my need to make this project a reality. It’s complicated, for sure–both emotionally and technically.
Here are Bob and I, feeling somewhat relieved that the winding-on is done. However, I am now faced with the not-insignificant worry that those sections do not have consistent tension.
At the end of last week, before leaving for a long weekend in Maryland with our grandkids and kids, I began threading. There are 1300+ warp threads. I have made it past the right hand border and the right hand monk’s belt pattern in the warp. I now have a long stretch of the stripes in the middle threaded with monk’s belt as well, but not the double warp threads required in the warp patterned area. Whew!
But other things are now demanding my attention. At the end of the month I will begin teaching two tapestry classes each week through early November. I need to get organized for that. In my own work, I want to try my hand at Helena Hernmarck’s tapestry techniques on a twill ground. I am trying to wrap my head around the instructions she sent me, and I’ve decided to tackle this on a floor loom. Since BIG ALVIN and Baby Wolf have other projects on them, I have rented a small Dorset floor loom from my guild.
To balance the chaos I’m feeling in these projects, I try walk several times a week. My smarty-pants watch keeps reminding me to ‘take time for mindfulness.’ That only makes me feel more frantic! It’s not helpful at all. I feel like a woman with her hair on fire, and that may be why I noticed a sign for a hair salon recently: “Hairdresser on Fire” Would someone, other than me, really go inside that place?
There is a local walk that does seem to take me down a notch in anxiety. I love passing by this house, and think of it as the ancestor of my house. My house is a Dutch colonial with a cedar roof like this one, and lucky for me, better porch railings. My house has a room, our den, that is really the ‘breezeway’ between the house and the garage. I don’t think this house has a garage in that area to the right in the photo, like my house does. My house is also yellow, but with green shutters and door. Anyway, this housenfeels like the more perfect version of my house (aside from those railings, easily fixed). And why not? It was built in 1766. My house was built in 1976, 210 years later with some very nice reproduction touches to make it feel like an 18th c. house. I have sea stars in my windows too! My house is a wannabe of this house. And this house has a beautiful barn in the back and less property to maintain.
This house may be the smallest house in town. Isn’t it sweet? When I pass by I think of sitting in those wicker chairs myself sometime, maybe with a glass of lemonade and my knitting.
And this shed! Whoa! It’s not big enough to be my weaving studio, but I do daydream of spending time in there, doing something creative. It must be that jolt of red in a such a lush green environment that calls to me.
And then there is this big, rambling farm house….sans farm at this point. There is bound to be space in there for an amazing weaving studio. I’d love to get inside to find out where.
And so I’d better get myself downstairs to find the things I need for class and maybe get another inch or so threaded on my tablecloth. I feel the summer starting to wane, and I have much left to accomplish. Soon I’ll know if I’ve successfully bent the rules in putting a standard warp on a sectional beam, or if I’m just hopelessly stubborn. I am hoping for the prior!