So … I’m sitting here drinking wine, thinking — holy shit — is this only the second day??? I’m in BIG trouble. Yep — pretty damn exhausted. Beaming is VERY physical.
We came in this morning and some weaving elves had been busily finishing off the winding from day one. It was really impressive seeing ALL of these mills full of long warps.
Here are the stages (including yesterday’s)
The weather was REALLY nice today, so we weren’t collapsing from heat exhaustion — which is a good thing.
Oh — did I mention that we had a FABULOUS lunch — thanks so much Kim and an “OMG this is a great dinner” — topped off by chocolate mousse — thanks again Kim — You’re the best!
Remember, I told you that you HAVE to prepare for Weaving Boot camp — it is like any extreme sport, you have to train for it.
I’m tired today! Not DEAD mind you, but pretty dang tired! Am I going to knit or spin tonight? I just don’t know, maybe, maybe not. I am sipping on wine as we speak.
Day one: We have 10 weavers and 10 projects to do in 15 days. YEE-HA. Three of the projects were in a partial state of readiness. The Daldräll curtain was beamed and ready for pre-sleying. The 8-Shaft Blanket (THIS is the one I’ll be making more of — remember that comment about making everyone — i.e. family a blanket??) was beamed and ready for threading, and the Finnish Opphämta is ready to be tied on. All the other projects (including a Shaft Draw loom project, which currently has no example, and is just an empty waiting loom) need to be started from scratch — the first step being, you guessed it, winding the warp. There are a LOT of warping mills in the barn right now.
The morning was spent starting on the blanket threading and winding, winding, winding. Shelburne Falls is having a little heat wave, so the temperature and the humidity started building. At first, I’m thinking “hey this isn’t so bad, it’s warm but not oppressive” well that started to change around 12:30ish, the air got so thick you thought you were breathing water. The thunderstorm is building, I can feel it. It is 4:56 now and it really looks dark out there — the skies are about to open. I can hear some rumbling — Oh GOD – – let the northern air in!
Yeah — it’s raining now, wrath of God rain … thinking about the Ark rain. BUT the air is getting cooler – YAY
After a great deal of anticipation, THE DAY finally arrived. Now all I had to do was manage a 10 hour drive — piece of cake.
Got the car packed up and ready to go. Clothes, books, electronics, food, spinning supplies, toiletries, pillows, blankie — everything I needed (?) for a 3 week stay at weaving school. We averted a near disaster. Once the car was packed, (no I did NOT need a car top carrier) I went up to take a shower and get dressed. Then it was just a matter of hugs and kisses for Lou and zooming off. As we were walking down the basement stairs I noticed the WINE and the COFFEE fixin’s at the bottom of the stairs — we ALMOST forgot them! HORRORS!
I had every intention of leaving EARLY, but spend most of the night after 2 am awake, so I had to sleep past sunrise — which is really unusual for me. After walking the dogs, doing my Tai Chi, making coffee and having Lou’s most excellent Buckwheat pancakes, we checked the LIST (how did we miss the coffee and wine???) & loaded up the car WITH the wine. After giving Lou lots of hugs and kisses I was pulling out of the driveway! BTW — Lou didn’t sleep at all — guess it was the coffee at dinner, the prospect of being without his split apart for 3 weeks, and some MILD concern about my drive. Though I am independent and fiesty, I haven’t taken …. well … ANY long trips by myself! (how in the world did that happen???) And … I kept asking him “do you think I can DO this drive???” Of course, he said, “sure, no problem” SO he might have harbored a few doubts — I know I would.
The plan was to stick to the freeway and avoid the google maps suggestion of driving all over the place, on Fred’s Road or Bob’s road. I took 90 East until it ran into 91 North — easy peasy.
I’m happy to report that, uncharacteristically for Sierra and travel, all went smoothly. Whew!
I listened to music in the morning, then started in on an audio book — Dune, my all time favorite Science Fiction story — of ALL TIME. Worked great! I stopped for RR breaks and gas and just kept driving – enjoying the scenery and the story. Unfortunately, because of the late start, I totally missed the welcome dinner at the farm. I went straight to the Water Street studio, grabbed a bottle of wine, the wine key and a glass, and had a lovely time.
Home away from home!
How does one prepare for an intensive 3 week weaving immersion program at Vavstuga? Like any intense physical experience — you TRAIN for it! By weaving? — well maybe. I have taken a different tack.
Staying in one position, often with a less than optimal posture can cause various maladies. Neck ache, upper back (shoulder blade) strain, Shoulder joints can get “pinched”, wrists ache, lower back pain. About the only structure that holds up well are LEGS.
For the last year — since the Basics and Linen classes at Vavstuga, I have been in training! I walk in the morning (dogs), then do 30 minutes of Tai Chi and Shoulder exercises (from my physical therapist) and a few core exercises (Lower back and abdomen). Later in the day I do either 30 minutes of one of two different yoga routines (one for bone density and one for muscle strength) at home, or I go to a 75 minute yoga class. I now have lots more strong, dense, muscly muscles. I am stronger and in better shape than I have been my entire adult life! I am now ready for Weaving Boot Camp!
Have I been weaving? Yes — once back from Basics class, I dressed my loom with an AMBITIOUS checked table cloth in 4 colors and started weaving — using the full length of my loom (120 cm) — so that was cool and the tablecloth’s turned out great. I also wove a few old standby’s – towels. I also wove a few blankets (using double wide weaving) with Tuna wool (wow, what a nice, warm, cozy, soft blanket that made!) – and I am in the process of weaving 3 different types of towels as gifts for friends and family.
I am also spinning a LOT — I want to make EVERYONE a handspun, handwoven blanket, so I’m currently spinning projects what would make good warp.
What else am I doing to “get ready”? Well …. it’s all about THE LIST (I have been working on this since I signed up for the Mini Immersion class — I think I was actually the FIRST to sign up). Yes folks — a list of supplies. What should I bring? There will be some down time in the evenings (that is … if I don’t crash and crawl into bed at 8:00 pm every night — like last time — BUT I have been training, after all, right??) I need a List because I obsess, I hate to forget anything (obsess) and I really don’t like shopping (Lou does all the shopping).
THE LIST has all the normal boring stuff on it (Clothes, toiletries, meds, notebook, electronics … yada yada yada) and things like a Knitting project, a spindle project (I’m spinning lace yarn for the opening of my Etsy shop), my Hansen MiniSpinner with its supply bag (Zuca), yoga mat and blocks, music, COFFEE supplies, some food … AFTER ALL I am going away for 3 weeks … I should feel comfortable and at home, yes?
I am less than a week away from VAVSTUGA and I’m starting to feel — weird, happy, excited, anxious. I have cleaned up my music room and prepared it as the staging area for the physical manifestation of THE LIST (Pics to follow) Lou says “Yer gonna need a bigger car” — maybe I should go out and get a car top carrier? What was I thinking when I bought the Honda Fit?? I shoulda bought the Pilot, or maybe the Ridgeline – Rats!
Luck or Fate allowed me to move from the waiting list to active student for Vavstuga Weaving School's Basic class.
What a wonder THAT experience was! I didn't take nearly enough pictures to convey the experience and the atmosphere!
If falling into the basics class wasn’t cool enough – just before it was about to start, I got a Newsletter that mentioned the Linen class had an opening. Since I was already signed up for Basics, I could take the Linen class. OK – How could I pass up this opportunity??? Everything I learned in basics would be reinforced in the next class.
Linen from Seed to Cloth Vavstuga Weaving SchoolThe Linen class was everything I had hoped it would be. We traveled out to Shelburne Falls, MA – got set up on Country Aire campground (using our super spiffy Winnebago View) and had a lovely dinner and relaxing evening before the WEAVING marathon!
Just to get you started, look at a few of the photos of finished Products to give inspiration.
Note: when you go to Vavstuga, you will work and you will weave, weave, weave. You might want to train for this intensive activity. Make sure you are up for it! You will use all your powers of concentration, coordination (feet!) and rhythm while working on these wonderful looms. By the end of each day you WILL be tired, but you will also feel content and happy.
Day 1 This is a flax plant!
We took dried flax plants and rolled them with a marble roller, shook them and rubbed them to harvest the very small, flat, dark seeds! You NEED these seeds to plant more flax!
Harvesting seed — these pictures were from the first and last day. On the last day Becky spent time filtering out the seeds from the other material created by rubbing and rolling the flax heads, while we worked on displaying all of our hard work.
Then we took a field (haha) trip to the Flax house. Everyone had a strick of flax from Sweden to work with. Becky taught us how to use 3 grades of flax hackles to comb the tow out of the stricks and prepare them for spinning. These stricks didn’t really need to be hackled, but it made them nice and fluffy and gave us some tow to spin. Spinning tow is like spinning wool – BUT you have to fluff it up really nice before you begin. We spent the next hour or so spinning our tow. The afternoon was spent weaving on our projects, of which there was a total of 6.
These pictures show two separate days when we used the flax house for hackling our stricks. I liked to come early in the morning and spend an half hour or so just spinning and enjoying the morning light streaming through the windows of the flax house.
Day 2 Dressing a distaff.
Now that we had tow, we also had line flax – this will be spun into line linen, for that you need a distaff. You can dry spin line flax, but – you should really wet spin it, which means that you wet your fingers, preferably with your saliva while spinning. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this, but it’s no big deal! If it makes a better product, I’m all for it.
These are pictures taken after the instruction — sorry I was so wrapped up in paying attention to this new skill that I forgot to snap a few pictures!
Later we talked about dew retting as opposed to water retting. In order to prepare the plant for hackling and then spinning, we needed to separate the fiber from the straw (the core of the plant – is like a skinny straw and it’s in the middle – we gotta get rid of that part). The trick is controlled rotting. Dew retting is just letting the plants lay on the grass and have dew and sun help us out a bit. Water retting is all about putting the plant in water which gets nice and warm – promoting a different kind of bacteria to break down the plant. Water retting gives a nice pale color, dew retting gives rich darker colors.
The rest of the day was spent weaving, using some of our handspun tow in the rustic runner and/or in the overshot project.
Day 3 Braking and Scutching
To separate the retted flax straw from the fiber you have to CRUNCH it and SCRAPE it – crunching is called Braking and you use a Flax Brake. Scraping is called scutching and you use a scutching knife and a scraper. It’s all about braking the fiber away from the core and getting rid of as much of that straw as possible before hackling it. There were a few farm chores – flipping the dew retted flax, and emptying out the water for the water retted flax.
Once the flax chores were done it was back to the barn and the weaving looms. What’s it like to weave with Single Ply linen? It means that you MUST pay attention to the warp and not just the pattern you are weaving. Look at the shed – are there gaps? Look at the warp passing through the heddles – is fuzz beginning to build up – why is that happening? Look behind the heddles – are there any warp threads hanging down?
With single ply Linen, warp breaks, it’s just a fact of life. Learn how to properly fix a broken warp thread and you will weave on with confidence and you won’t try to avoid finding those pesky broken warp threads! The sooner you catch them, the better off you’ll be.
Day 4 More spinning More Weaving
Finish up any spinning you wanted to do and finish up your weaving projects. Everyone was really keeping up with the projects and the spinning time was very relaxing. I was sure I would not like spinning line flax, but I was totally enraptured by it!
The water retted flax needed to have 1/5 of the water replaced and this would continue for a few more days, until the flax plant showed signs that the fiber was beginning to separate from the straw.
The afternoon class was a wrap up of the flax processing cycle and a show and tell of all the different colors of Flax that you can get! It was a pretty cool class.
Day 5 Wrapping it all Up
Time to finish weaving, cut off all our pieces, show them off and wrap up any other chores to be done before going for lunch in town.
Wrapping it up
Displaying our work
Becky thought it would be nice to take the table top outside against the side of the barn and display our work there. Emily and I (I’m the older one — on the left) held the draw loom projects — as a single length of warp for all to admire!
OUR Weaving Projects. Here we are weaving away in the barn!
Draw Loom – you could design your own project for the single unit draw loom, or use one that Becky set up for you. This project used 16/2 linen for warp and 8/1 Tow for weft. It was on a Single Unit Draw loom in 6 shaft satin with 140 units.
6 Shaft Basket Weave Table Runner – I LOVED this project and plan on recreating it as a full sized table cloth. Warp and weft are 16/1 Tow linen. Colors are Red, Gold, Bright Green and Blue.
Rustic Runner – The idea here is to showcase your handspun and/or use various weights of commercial linen tow and line, weave structures could be plain weave, basket weave, twill or any combination of the above. I pretty much stuck with a very open plain weave. The warp is 12/1 Line Linen — unbleached. Weft is various weights of commercial and handspun.
Overshot Runners– There were 2 of these using different warps. One was Daldrall Krus Och Rand with 12/1 Line linen warp and weft (or you could use handspun) The other was Leksandskrus Daldrall in 20/1 white line linen – it was really delicate and beautiful, well worth the occasional broken warp thread.
Twill Sauna Towel – the was a 4 shaft twill – nice and easy yet elegant with an occasional pair of bleached warp threads between twill sections. It used 8/1 Tow Linen for warp and weft.
8-Shaft Fancy Twill – this was the only project (besides the Draw Loom) with 2 ply warp. The warp was 16/2 black and the weft was the color of your choice in 16/1. The design was totally fun and the treadling fairly straight forward.
I can’t go without telling you what a wonderful environment the Farm House provides for spinning and weaving. It was beautiful and peaceful; a true etheric delight. I tried to take a range of photos that would give you a taste!
I was inspired again — now what to do for a distaff — I saw a picture on the internet of someone who used an old bridge lamp — glorioski — I HAVE one of those!
I shook out my braid, spread out the fibers and used one of my cotton ties to gently attach it to the top of the bridge lamp.
Now I can place my “distaff” wherever it is best for me and my wheel! DANDY!
I have had the best Summer of recent history THIS year – the Summer of 2017. This was the year I retired and turned 60. I have always worked – since I was in 7th grade. Not full time, mind you, but I always had some kind of job. My last job was as a High School computer science and math teacher. I was REALLY ready to retire.
In the first month of my last year of teaching I bought a Glimakra Standard 120 cm Vertical Countermarch loom. I knew after doing a little research that this was the loom for me. I sold a LOT of equipment to pay for it, and to pay for the Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School in Massachusetts. You don’t HAVE to have a Glimakra loom to benefit from this class, but if you DO have one, well ..... it’s a godsend, since all their looms are Swedish style looms. Even in January, it was too late to sign up for the Summer classes, but I asked to be put on the waiting list for any August classes that opened up. Much to my shock and surprise I was contacted in June – an opening had occurred in the July 31 – August 4 basics class – how lovely – starting on my birthday, and ending on my first born son’s birthday. Isn’t fate lovely??
If you are a weaver, if you want to be a weaver, if you have dabbled in weaving you NEED to go to Vavstuga! You will have a week long, intensive experience that will change the way you think about weaving.
Where did I put my school projects??
Basics Class at Vavstuga Weaving School
In order to take most of the classes, you have to take the Basics class, but don’t poo-poo it! I have been weaving for over 15 years (off and on) and my mind was exploding with all the great information I gleaned from this totally awesome class! There were many “aha” moments, and many more “why didn’t I think of that??” moments as well. Becky Ashenden is a great teacher -- very organized and focused, but she is also just a Hoot and TOO MUCH FUN!
We had students who had Swedish Looms, Jack Looms and even a Rigid Heddle loom! EVERYONE learned skills that they could take home and apply to their chosen weaving tool.
We wove a small wool blanket, a Cottolin/Cotton square table cloth, a Cottolin/Linen towel with a hanger band (made on the band loom) and a Linen Block Weave Sample (nice for the center of a table) on all 8 shafts.
Each of the looms was in a different state of readiness for weaving. Two looms – with cottolin/linen towels were ready to go. Two Looms – Cotton/Cottolin Table cloths needed to be threaded and tied on and have the Tie up done. The two looms with linen warp and weft were ready to be threaded, tied on, tied up as well – these were reserved for dressing the loom with a buddy! I think I’ll have my friend Shelly come and buddy warp with me from now on – it’s pretty fun. The two looms that would become the lap blanket had to be dressed from scratch, wind the warp (using a warping mill), beam it (using the trapeze method), thread it (with a buddy) Tie it on and do the Tie up (heddles/lamms/treadles). By the time you were done – you KNEW how to dress a Swedish loom!
The rest of the week was spent weaving, half of the second day through the morning of the fifth day. Most of us were finished on Thursday evening and spent the morning in our fringe twisting party on the porch.
EACH day there were also morning and afternoon classes on reading and creating pattern drafts, planning projects and analyzing weave structures from woven cloth. The days were structured and JAM packed with information. Lunch was also included in the class fee and they were wonderful! Kim is a super cook and meal planner.
We also had a traditional Swedish diner at Becky’s childhood home – the Farm house. It was a very special evening. The food was wonderful and we all had a lovely time chatting around the large dining table. Of course, everywhere you go, whether it is the water street studio or the farmhouses, there are fabulous woven household items; rugs, placemats, tablecloths, curtains, blankets, napkins, hand towels. Just hanging around either studio is inspirational. I am looking at my home AND my RV with an eye to adding hand woven items! After dinner we had a tour of the MANY looms in the house, all dressed with projects. Most of the looms at the farm house are draw looms, individual draw or shaft draw, and Becky treated us to a showing of her many finished projects – mostly done on draw looms. A life spent weaving is full of beauty.
The week SPED by -- I couldn’t believe how fast all this fun ended!
I was SO inspired by my experience that when I got home (2 weeks down time before heading off again) I dressed my loom with a project called the Country Kitchen Checked Cloth – a 40.5” (width in reed) 58” table cloth made from Cottolin (Bleached, Unbleached, Brown & Red). It has 976 ends and took me 4 days to dress the loom. I warped for 2 table cloths – and they are going to be fabulous.
ALL the pictures:
Many know me as Dakota Skipper -- that's my Cowboy alias. I LIKE to write and I like to share. Please enjoy reading about my frolicking fiber adventures!