Why Spinners Weave

I'm sitting in Sara Lamb's class at SOAR 2009 in Sun River, Oregon. Outside, the aspens are golden, the sky is hazy blue, the pines are dripping rain from last night's shower. Inside, sixteen would-be weavers are sitting, transfixed.

These women are all spinners. Most are knitters, too. One or two have a loom they bought or were given years ago, and they never quite figured out what to do with it. This is a spinning event—what are they doing in a weaving session?

Well, they make more yarn than they know what to do with. Or they've knit enough socks and sweaters to clothe the masses, and now they want to make dishtowels or placemats or silken kimonos or sturdy bags. In a hurry.

Sara is wearing a lovely unstructured handwoven jacket, hand-dyed warp, simple plain weave. It took her two hours to warp her loom, one hour to weave the cloth, less than an hour to sew it up. Amazing!

And that's her gig. It's been done for millennia, anyone can do it, and it's actually fast and easy.

Sara's brand new book, Woven Treasures, is the proof. Time-honored techniques on modern rigid heddle looms that can be warped up in mere minutes. The results? Exquisite bags, pouches, and totes in plain weave, pile, soumak, and twining with endearing embellishments.

For spinners who have been a little put off by floor-loom weaving for the space it takes, or the time to set up, or the confusion of drafting and tying up, or whatever, this book is a godsend. A real loom that can be set up in 15 minutes and that can produce such lovely work.

Crafting the book was a process. For years, Sara's looms of choice were her big floor loom or a do-it-yourself device made of copper pipes. Not necessarily the thing for the average would-be weaver. But Sara has found that the contemporary rigid heddles are splendidly efficient, sturdy, and versatile—far cry from the ones she moved away from 30 years ago.

So this simple loom, and her creative imagination, are the basis for all the splendid pieces in Woven Treasures, and a real eye-opener for those of us who have spent decades weaving on floor looms.

Sara's enthusiasm is catching. Read her book and you'll see what I mean. Now I'm going to wander outside and breathe some fresh, crisp, piney Oregon air and daydream about what I'm going to weave when I get home.


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