I learned to weave in the 80s. A friend and I bought a 160 cm counter march loom together, that we both used quite a lot. But life got in between, as it often does. We both moved to smaller apartments, and the loom had to go on to a new owner. I was without a loom for more than two decades.
A couple of years ago I bought a smaller loom, 120 cm, also a counter march. But to my dismay I had to admit it was too big for me in my current physical condition. I had great difficulties crawling into it to tie the lamms and the treadles. So some weeks ago I decided it had to go. A dear friend is interested, so now the loom is in the attic waiting for her to be able to fetch it.
This is the 120 cm loom seen from the attic. It filled the upper landing almost completely.
Instead I bought a 60 cm table loom. Hubby put it together for me, and now I’m testing it. I think I like it very much! There’s only 4 shafts, but that should be enough considering I’ll use my handspun yarns where colour and structure means more than the weaving pattern. Tabby and twill will go a long way.
And this is my new mini-loom with weaving width 60 cm from Toika Looms. Quite a difference to what I’m used to, but not bad at all, only different. That’s twill I’m having a go at now, with sock yarns for warp and both commercial and handspun woollen yarns for weft.
Grandma’s rug weft
When I looked deeper into my box with rags cut for weaving, I found a ball that seemed to have at least two colours in it. The weft was clearly cut by my grandma, so the ball has followed me for centuries. My mother gave it to me in the 80s when I bought my first loom. I also found some blue rag weft that a friend gave me in the 80s, and green-white stretchy rags that came with my new loom.
So let’s see what’s in the pink-white ball:
There’s off white cotton of several kinds, some tightly woven, some that seems to be of the kind used for bandage, muslin, a cotton band that must have been used for lining, and pink, shiny fabric that must have been underwear of some sort.
The cotton band with sewing threads still hanging from it:
Grandma has sewn some of the rags together with black yarn:
… or red!
And all of a sudden I find something forbidden: a knot. And soon after more knots. Why did she do this? She strictly forbid me to use knots when she taught me how to cut rag weft:
Don’t mind the green weft above. It’s there only to separate the place mat I wove earlier from the blue-white-green-pink rug I’m weaving now, and will be removed later.
I tried to open one of the knots, but grandma was strong still in her old age. She was close to 90 years old when she sat in our garden turning old clothes into something useful. I couldn’t open the knot, so I decided to leave everything in the ball as it was and just beat it into the weave.
Knot bobble. It feels nice under my hand:
I don’t mind the bobbles! This will not be a very strong rug weave as I don’t beat very hard.
This is one way of cutting fabric. When you reach the end of the piece, cut like this. You can also cut to the end and sew the pieces together. Nowadays I think people just trim the ends and place them along side each other and beat them in. I do that most of the time when I weave poppana.
I have two more balls that may contain surprises. I won’t open them, I’ll just weave and see what will reveal:
Oh grandma! I loved her. She worked hard from early childhood, only the last years where easier. She used to sit by the window watching people go by, and once in a while she made coffee and we had a cup together. I’m so happy she lived in our house the last few years of her life.
Yes yes loom!
So now I’m started. As I haven’t woven with a loom for almost 30 years, I started with plain weave and poppana rags, the industrially produced thin rag weft that was so popular in the 80s here in Finland. You can still buy it in weaving shops. I found my old poppana in the attic, and also some of my grandmother’s rags, probably from the 60s. She used to sit in the sun in the summers and cut old clothes into rug weft. She would hurt her fingers from all that cutting, so she wound some of the rags around her thumb and middle fingers to protect them.
Hubby went to work the day I was to wind on, so I decided to do it on my own. It’s good to have thick, heavy books in your shelves! I put weights on the warp, wound on, opened more of the warp chain and adjusted the with, fetched a bucket and filled it with heavy books and attached it to the warp, wound on 10 meters of cotton… it’s not the best wind on you’ve seen, but I think it’ll work even if I’ll probably have to adjust some warp threads when finishing the fabric. That’ll be easy, as I weave short pieces like place mats.
The most difficult thing was to crawl into the loom to tie up the horizontal lamms and the treadles. And then I had to crawl out again! I’m not in the same shape I was 30 years ago. But after the third time I felt I was ten years younger – what a work out this is! When I asked people at the Väv 14 event in Umeå what kind of loom I should get for the needs I have nowadays, quite many said “not a counter march loom”. I was quite surprised, because 30 years ago that was exactly what you should get if you were a serious weaver. The explanation was even more surprising: it’s difficult to tie the treadles!
But I’m not afraid of tying the treadles, and after having tied the lamms for the first time I won’t have to do it again, as they are always the same, only the treadles vary. I have good books with clear instructions. I’ve done it before. I think it’s good for me to do difficult things, and besides, it’s difficult only the first time you do it. So contrary to the advise from these well meaning persons I now have a horizontal counter march loom, and I love it. It feels wonderful to grip the beater and have a go at it. The sheds rise perfectly, which is one of the advantages of the counter march.
I have more fun to learn: weaving terms in English and Swedish. I learned to weave in Swedish, but the weaving book we used was in Finnish, so I learned most of the terms in that language. The Finnish book is the best I’ve seen, and luckily I still own it. Many of my Finnish readers will know it: “Kankaita kutomaan”, written by Arja Hauhia and Marja-Liisa Paavola.
And otherwise? It’s soon November. This cactus, Schlumberga truncata, is called “November kaktus” in Swedish, because it often blooms in November. It was out under the rowans in the summer, and now it thanks us with lots and lots of pink flowers.