Dear readers, I have done a terrible thing. So miserable was I at the absence of my lovely 8-shaft table loom, missing all the justification for fancy fibres and silly spinning, that I went and bought a rigid heddle loom.
Although I was really in Japan for some hardcore temari studies, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a look for some weaving courses. It’s hard not to fall in love with the exquisite and wonderful world of Japanese textiles, in particular the world of 西陣織 (nishijin ori), the intricate weaving behind the most luxurious of fabrics.
I’d done a weaving experience at the Nishijin Textile Factory where I made a scarf/table-runner hybrid with all the charm and textural properties of a bag of fleas. Past that, I haven’t had much luck finding short, drop-in weaving courses. That was until I had the opportunity to not only meet the creator of saori weaving but to study in her studio.
What do criminals and crafters have in common? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, quite a lot! Their definition of the noun ‘stash’ is as follows:
stash, n.1 slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.).
1 a. Something, or a collection of things, stashed away; a hoard, stock; a cache.
The meaning of the verb ‘to stash’ isn’t much better either:
Murdering skeins is a bit of a hobby of mine. I’m not sure where I developed quite such an aptitude for transforming beautiful bundles of fibre into Eldritch horrors of the knitted world but it’s about the least useful skill a crafter can have.
Sometimes it has been clumsiness or underestimating quite what a disastrous effect travelling can have on your supplies. Sometimes it has been my notorious impatience with wanting to dive into a new project. Other times, I swear I simply turn my back and when I turn around, I’m greeted with a sight that invokes the more colourful regions of the English language.
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When you’re a child, there’s nothing more disappointing than getting some exciting new toy, only to find that it didn’t come with any batteries, they’re some obscure size you’d never have any spares of anyway and of course, it’s holiday season so you can’t just pop down to the shops either.
The grown-up version of this is having hauled some hefty piece of crafting equipment back home, precariously tied to your car, only to find you’ve forgotten some nut, bolt or screw that means you can’t fully assemble it immediately.
Luckily, particularly when it comes to weaving, necessity is the mother of invention and one of the true joys of adulthood is unfettered access to DIY stores and power tools. Plus, how often is it what you get to do is essentially crafting with a very heavy hammer?
Although most of us love our local craft shops, the unfortunate reality is it is often easier to buy online. Finding brick and mortar suppliers for weaving cottons seems to be particularly challenging which is a nuisance when you’re not too familiar with the naming conventions for thread weights and have no way of seeing them or comparing them.
To try and help with this, I’ve put together an assortment of threads, from the Güterman sewing machine thread to flat silks, along with the wraps per centimetre to give you some idea of how all the different threads compare.
Sod’s Law for Crafters says that, no matter how big your stash, you still will never have the right material for the project at hand. Having recently started weaving, that saying is more true than ever. All of my non-acrylic yarns are committed to projects and I don’t have quite the volume of silk I’d need for a decent sized warp.
That meant it was time to indulge myself in a bit of ‘necessity’ shopping. Shopping for weaving threads is quite an experience, particularly as a UK resident. ‘wc’, ‘nm’, ‘cc’ are all units you might see, as well as various fractions, weight per length and often, a complete absence of any useful information.
Day 1 of learning to weave hadn’t scared me off, so I was keen to get stuck into understanding more about the contraption that is the weaving loom.
There was still a bit of work to do to finish off warping up the loom but I did have some lovely baskets and bags of goodies to look forward to using…
There is nothing quite like getting stuck into a new thing. You haven’t quite yet realised how impossibly hard it will be to reproduce all the maddeningly complex projects you’ve been eyeing up on Pinterest and you’re new enough that you’re pleased by any new creation, no matter how wonky the stitches or sad the seams are.
It was back in Kyoto, at the Nishijin Textile Centre, that I first had a go at weaving. Nishijin is the legendary textiles district that gives its name to Nishijin-ori, the fabric produced there. It is known for its quality and the incredibly intricate patterns and designs in the weave that are often used for highly elaborate obis. In more modern times, nishijin-ori is often used in neckties or gamaguchi, the metal clasp purses that are very popular in Japan.