Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What is the most time-consuming aspect of weaving?

Question five from Jacqueline at Cheapskate Blethering. Hop  over to see her contest. 

Folks always wanted to know, “how long did it take you to make this?”  Eventually I devised the answer, “From the time I start until the time I finish.” It generally got a laugh, and deflected the question without an answer.

In the end we had ten looms in the studio, each threaded for a different kind of fabric or weave. That eliminated the need to rethread the heddles. Our brother built us many wondrous jigs and fixtures. We literally could put forty cones of thread on the floor, run the ends through the holes in a fixture he built, put the ends through the tension box and commence turning a hundred and fifty yards of thread into each section. Then we tied the ends in sequence to the ends of the old threads, pulled it all through the heddles and reed, tied the sections to the apron and it was another warp to weave. Jan and I each could put on a new warp in a few hours. She could tie twice as fast as I could, though, and she often took pity on me and tied the new to the old.

Off the loom, the weaving is not fabric, it is “the web.”  It must be “fulled”, made full, all the little spaces between warp and weft brought together. In the old days the web was submersed in a stream, pounded with smooth stones. Put in a “fulling” tub and tromped by many feet or worked by many hands.

We did it in the washer and dryer.

Jan and I each cut out the garments, and sewed in the beginning. We were decent sewers, but not great, and when sewers came into our lives, we let them do what they did best. The first was Janet, who had a degree in sewing. I learned so much from her, from how to make a pattern to using the straight of the grain.

We had Sewin’ Susie, the wife of a childhood friend, and Linda, a costume designer. Linda was among the dearest people in my life. A kind and gentle soul who lived for her husband and sons. She was battling cancer when she came to us, and was a fighter to the end. We finished up our last two years without Linda, for we were planning on retiring and it was hard to think of anyone else sitting in Linda’s seat.

Every job was just part of the process of moving from thread to garments to sell. I never had an answer to “how long does it take you to make this?”, so I answered “from the time I start until the time I get done.

Sue at the serger, greeted by Fiona.
Angus and Fiona adored Sue.