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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Reflections on weaving

My weaving lessons have now come to an end, and I realise, while I've shared a lot about what I've been seeing, I haven't shared much about what I've been learning here.

For me, this time has been a slowing down, a time of accepting that what I'm creating is not going to be perfect and a chance to develop a daily practice.

As it was a new skill I was learning, in a foreign language no less, I decided early on that I was going to keep the weaving pretty simple, leaving the more ambitious or experimental project to the weeks of embroidery. I think this was a good move. It made me less precious about the work. I didn't worry too much when my first attempt had a section of uneven weaving. It's something that I probably could have prevented if my teacher and I spoke the same language, but instead I learned from my mistake and my second attempt is much more consistent.

Wonky first attempt.
I'm also letting go of the fact that there's a rust stain repeated throughout the cotton on my warp and weft – something I also would have discussed with my teacher had we had a common language, but again, I've just let it go and I'm treating my pieces here as samplers and preparation for trying new things at home.

I'm not even particularly concerned about whether I remember how to warp the loom or finish off the piece. YouTube has so many tutorials to set me straight and I will be taking a semester of weaving at some point, so I'll be able to do a refresher then.

Eufracina, our teacher, specialises in a type of backstrap loom weaving that involves a supplementary weft. This means adding in additional threads in each row to create your pattern. It's taken us a little time to get our heads around this – a time-consuming process with patterns not created on a square grid, but rather on a brick grid, as pictured.
During the first week, Eufracina taught us on looms that were already warped. Our challenge was to understand how to get a consistent weave and to try out a bunch of different patterns so we could plan our own piece for the following week.

On the Sunday we went to visit Eufracina's house where we learnt to warp the looms ourselves. I was really keen to weave something using the coyuchi cotton, but we weren't able to get our hands on some in time (thankfully I have now secured about 450g, so that will certainly be coming home with me). Instead I chose to use the natural cotton again and some brighter colours for the pattern. I've also kept to simple geometrics and tried out a series of stripes. I think, for me, the bigger issue has been keeping the weave consistent, so I wanted to keep everything else fairly simple. Plus I'm always a fan of stripes!
I'm pretty happy with my final piece (pictured at top) and already have plans for my coyuchi cotton. I'm also interested to try the type of backstrap loom weaving the Navarro sisters did, where they had multiple warp colours and a single weft colour.

I'm certainly more conscious now, looking at the types of woven fabrics I'm seeing (in stores, markets and the textile museum), of how the weave might have been created and the huge amount of work that goes into each piece.
Backstrap loom weaving by the Navarro Gomez family.


  1. Hi Tara,
    I stumbled across you via Instagram and have enjoyed your photos. I found this post really interesting, particularly as I've just started learning to weave myself (though on a very simple Brinkley loom). It is extraordinary to view woven textiles with a greater understanding of how labor intensive those intricate patterns are to create. Love your blog and your photographs are beautiful. What type of camera do you use? All the best, Leslie

    1. Thanks so much Leslie. Yes, I know what you mean! I found myself flipping weaving over so I could figure out how it was done.
      I just bought a new camera before my trip, and I'm so happy with it. It's an Olympus OM-D. I bought the bottom of the range as I like cameras to be really portable. Apparently the E5 (midrange) is an older model, there's something in the 10 that's even better. And the 1 was just huge so I gave that a miss. I can still buy other lens for it down the track too.