It has been a very long time since I’ve dealt with a major loom screw up. A really long time. Like I don’t remember the last time? And it isn’t because I’m so very good at this whole weaving thing, but it sort of is. I’ve been weaving since the mid 70’s. If there is a mistake, or screw up, I can assure you I made it or did it at some point in my career. One of the glorious things about being a weaver is the pure tenacity that controls what we do and how we approach a situation.
Of course by now, you are all familiar with my daughter and her major accomplishments as a weaver. She works for me now, and is responsible for converting all of my garment patterns into digital downloads. She is also responsible for filming, producing and editing all of my videos for my YouTube channel, The Weaver Sews and writing all of the Closed Captioning. (Yes, I caught that there were a couple of misspellings in previous episodes…) I couldn’t have moved into this next portion of my professional life without her, but that’s not why I did it…
My daughter, Brianna, yes she has a real name, not the one she uses on Facebook, was asked back last winter if she would give a lecture to her old weaving guild in MA, near where she went to school. The lecture, on differential sett, was scheduled for April of this year. And of course we all know what happened in the northeast by April. The world was cancelled.
Since my daughter is a soon to be 28 year old millennial, she does her best work under deadline pressure. (Truth be told, so do I…) The guild called her last week and asked if she would be willing to give the lecture remotely. Hahahahah! Of course she said yes, which is what I would have done at that age. I use to have a sign on my studio door that said, “Say yes, then worry…”
So my daughter had to build an entire lecture that only existed as an outline, and weave all the samples in less than two weeks (the lecture is next week), plus edit and create new content for me, plus work in the evenings on her schooling, (yes, she is still in school to get her vet tech license). But that’s not why I did it….
One of the samples Brianna decided to weave, was exploring what happens when you use differential sett with really slippery rayon, warp and weft, and then slippery rayon warp and a dragging kind of weft like Shetland wool. The sample with the slippery rayon warp, though challenging, was completely successful. She then wound a warp with the Shetland wool, and the idea was she would tie into the rayon warp and repeat the experiment with a rayon weft and a wool weft, producing an additional two samples.
At one point, she said to me, as I was weaving on another of the looms in the studio, “This is ridiculous, tying in a new warp, I could have started fresh, sleying and rethreading in half the time…” and I couldn’t disagree with her. I’ve never found tying in a new warp to be a time saver.
I went off to do something else and came back and she had only tied in about 2/3rds of the warp, and she moved onto a different loom to do other samples of different weave structures. She told me that she was fed up and didn’t have the time to waste tying in 600 ends on a table loom. But that’s not why I did it…
I went off to other projects of my own, like writing the script for Friday’s The Weaver Sews Youtube installment. I came back and decided to finish tying in the rest of the warp, which would have been 200 ends. It wasn’t a big deal, and I can do stuff like that in my sleep. I was surprised when she directed me to make a square knot, I had always tied in new warps with an overhand knot, but I learned long ago that I didn’t argue with my late husband, and I don’t argue with his daughter. Even though I have almost a half century of experience…
I finished the task and then turned the job of beaming the 1 1/2 yard warp of sticky Shetland wool, onto the warp beam, over to my daughter. I think I went off to bed…
I came back the next day to find the warp abandoned. It was a complete disaster. I don’t think even at my worst I’ve ever had a mess like that. Partly I take some responsibility because my daughter has worked along side of me since she first learned to throw a shuttle. She never had the opportunity to fall flat on her face, like most weavers, including me, have had to do. I’ve always been there to guide her, when she chooses to listen to me. But that’s not why I did it…
Largely what happened, is that when she put tensioning bars in the back of the warp, and tried to beam the new sticky Shetland warp into the old slick rayon warp, the square knots didn’t hold, they slipped right out. And for some reason, the Shetland wool ends, that slipped out of the knots, ended up in the front of the beater, probably about 200 of the 600 ends. I think this wins an award for the most messed up warp I’ve ever seen. That’s partly why I did it…
I felt really sorry for my daughter, she was trying so hard to see this lecture into fruition… But that’s not why I did it…
I felt partly responsible because I knew that when you tie in a warp, you always use overhand knots. There are a lot of things I know, but I don’t know why I know them. And because my daughter requested square knots, I obliged. But that’s not why I did it…
I laid awake all Thursday night haunted by the mess on one of the looms in the garage right underneath of me. I kept thinking, if that were me, I wouldn’t have gone to bed without fixing it. But that’s me, even though I knew I had a video to shoot in the morning. I didn’t sleep the whole night. My daughter just moved to a different loom, and started on a different group of samples she had been planning.
In fact my daughter was so upset by what happened that she couldn’t even look at the loom. She couldn’t even walk over to that area of the studio. She is not use to having major loom screw ups… I’ve largely protected her from that… But that’s not why I did it…
We stopped everything to shoot the new video Friday morning, and I had some computer/business stuff to attend to, but Friday afternoon, I sat at the loom and thought, it has been a very long time since I’ve bailed a loom out of a major temper tantrum, and you know what? I really wanted to just dive in there and fix it. That’s why I wanted to do it.
A couple of years ago, I had my new to me dog chew up a skein of yarn that was being wound into pirns for the weft yarn for a project I was working on. I got distracted by the doorbell, and when I returned I found the skein stretched around my loom, and all the way down the stairs, and the skein chewed beyond help. I can’t believe the number of weaver’s who offered to have me send them the skein and promised to untangle every last yard. There is something about fixing a monumental disaster that is really appealing for a weaver.
I sort of think that it has to do with creating calm in chaos. There is so little in the world that we have any control over. But what happens at our looms, that thing, we have control over. And if what happens on our looms becomes total chaos, then patience, tenacity, and time will make it work. That’s why I did it.
So I started Friday afternoon, after the shoot, and I began to reassess the 600 ends and how to best resolve the mess. Cutting the whole thing off and starting over was an option, but it would mean wasting a perfectly good 1 1/2 yard Shetland warp, that I paid good money for…
I decided that the best way out, was to carefully pull the warps that ended up in front of the reed, since they were only 1 1/2 yards, and resleying them where required (because this was a differential sett warp, there were dents where there were as many as five ends) and then carefully tying them back into the slippery rayon warps that went through the heddles, one by one. I probably spent 10 hours. This was really really challenging.
I did it because there is something intensely satisfying about bringing order to chaos. There is something intense about saving a project. I had my doubts that this was even weaveable, 5 ends of Shetland in a 12 dent reed on a table loom didn’t see realistic, but that wasn’t for me to judge. I grabbed my 5X glasses, a magnifying OTT lite, and a sley hook and started in. 10 hours later I was triumphant.
As I suspected, the warp was unweaveable at that dentage, Brianna had to pull some of the densest parts of the warp, but after much bitching and kvetching, she managed to get the sample she needed, but that’s not why I did it…
For all of you out there who have ever had to deal with the warp from hell, remember that there is something healing in finally controlling that which would not be controlled, something triumphant about making something from total chaos. And that’s why I did it. It has been a long time since I’ve had to bail out a major loom screw up, and I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t my screw up, but I felt like a warrior on a mission and I was ultimately successful. Mission accomplished. It was sort of poignant that in the middle of the last inch and a half, that the election finals were called. No matter who you supported, the wait is over. And there is a sort of relief there, and now we as a nation can move forward to what I hope is a common goal. My ten hours of determination over a warp from hell was finally over. And I won.
Brianna did manage to beam and weave the new samples. She did as I suspected have to cull some of the warps in the densest part of the reed. But she learned that on her own. And she also learned that when tying in a new warp, you should use overhand knots. But kids learn by falling flat on their faces and picking themselves up and reevaluating the experience. I never had anyone to tell me otherwise, so I learned the hard way, by trial and error, but that weaver’s tenacity kept me moving forward.
To say that I’m so proud of the body of samples she has produced as a result of this exploration in differential sett would be an understatement. And what she has learned from things that I would have loved to have prevented from my vast experience would have deprived both of us from an experience that ultimately benefitted both of us.
So next time you are faced with the warp from hell, have a drink, and dive in head first. There is some personal triumph that no one else but a weaver will understand…
And now I’m ow why I do it!
Thank you, Daryl!
This is a great tale if triumph over chaos, weaver’s dedication — and a mother’s love. Thank you.
I always have to go back & make order out of my mess ups so I relate! I giggled as I read this because it is just what I would have done- except it would have been at least a week before I could get all 10 hours invested….??
You hit the nail on the head once again Daryl. It’s all about creating order out of chaos… rising to the challenge… taking a deep breath and diving in… and knowing in your heart you can make it right! It may be that we are both cancer survivors and have experienced the chaos of fighting and conquering the dreaded disease. Or it may just be in our innate nature. That said… I wish you had sent me that skein of yarn your dog ruined. I would have loved to bring order out of that chaos! It is SO darn satisfying!!!… Read more »
I have a skein from hell. I guess I won’t throw it away, just yet.
So true! Beautifully put. I have often thought that I can’t control much in the world, but I can control (well, to a certain extent) what happens at the loom….
5/2 slinky taught me a double overhand was better. If a warp couldn’t be wound in 1step, odd knots would completely unwind. I do consider humidity rather than loom demons, but I’m no scientist.
5/2slinky also demands special knot tying. 2 overhand secures the knit will not unfold. I think it’s a humidity issue rather than time and loom demons, but I’m no scientist
And, finishing the chaos is really satisfying! So satisfying! Good job, Daryl and Brianna.
I love how you say calming the chaos. That is probably why I put a warp on a loom at a museum. I was visiting the Northwest Quilt and Textiles Museum in La Conner, WA when I saw a HD loom sitting in a corner with a tangled mess of a warp. It was only 6 ” wide and sett at 16EPI in a 3/2 cotton. I looked through this fabulous museum but couldn’t leave the warp sitting there like that. Amy, the director, said it had been like that for a year. The person who started it wasn’t there… Read more »
Thank you, I am just about to tie on to an overshot threading. The warp which is left on is a fine acrylic/wool yarn and I want to tie on cotton(multi ply) I will use an overhand knot.
Been there done just that, and it might very well have been the one and only time I tied on a warp. I was doing it to save warp yardage…it does not save that much. Starting fresh each time is a lot more satisfying than dealing with whatever number of unruly ends. Yeap! overhand knot, no square knot nor weavers not or anybody’s knot: overhand knot.
That is why we do it – order out of chaos. We are an amazing lot. Thanks for sharing
I needed that
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You might enjoy the reactions a bunch of software developer types had to this essay when I offered it to them: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25195659