Cooking at the Loom

I collect cookbooks, which is pretty funny considering that I almost never follow a recipe. This time of year, my M.O. is to go to the farmer's market Saturday morning, revel in the colors and smells of farm-fresh produce, bring home a fridge-full of luscious food, and then revel anew in the mouth-watering pictures in my cookbooks, contemplating what to make. And then begins the inevitable tinkering. No recipe fits exactly what was in the market this week, but (I tell myself), many of the best dishes are originally peasant food, and peasants use what's in season and at hand, so I am being true to tradition. And while this recipe looks pretty good, a hearty peasant like myself could never be satisfied with so little garlic, and a pinch of cumin and a dash of coriander would not go amiss, and . . . We do eventually get dinner on the table (sans "food stylist" photos, alas) but the pleasure is as much in the process as in the food itself.

Handwoven twill throw inspired by a Handwoven magazine project   

Maggie the cat enjoys this throw based on a
project in Handwoven March/April 2003


Many of my weaving friends work from a chosen palette of yarns, especially if they're weaving to sell. Others buy yarn for specific projects. (A discipline I greatly admire: their stashes are far less embarrassing than mine.) For better or worse, I often approach weaving much as I do cooking. Now and then there's a project with yarn bought for a specific purpose, but often as not, I find some appealing yarn and then decide what to do with it. For example, several years ago, I was in stash-reorganization mode and ran across a huge pile of Norwegian worsted-weight singles yarn in grays, greens, and a bit of blue and red, bought on clearance and crying out to become a cozy throw for our family room. But where to start? With the ingredients, of course.


There were plenty of colors for stripes, and with a bulkier yarn, best not to get too elaborate with the pattern. Out came my weaving "cookbooks," books of drafts and old copies of Handwoven, because one must have inspiration from the project introductions and those mouth-watering pictures. Bingo! The March/April 2003 issue was all about stripes, and there was Terri Bruhin's pattern for a three-color twill shawl, perfect for my yarn. The sett was the same, and I graphed out different stripes using the colors I had. My clearance yarn pile was a little short on red, but a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride fit in perfectly, and I was happily weaving in no time, making up the weft sequence as I went along. It turned out there was enough yarn to make two throws, so I tied on the second warp with a different color sequence, and had one for each couch. They're long enough to wrap around two sets of shoulders, which encourages cuddling on a winter evening, and the cats occasionally enjoy them, too.


Now, I have once or twice woven a project as written (no off-road weaving for me on rep or network twills), but I enjoy my weaving cookbooks as much for inspiration as for directions. There's a world of yarn to be savored, and just as every peasant lives by the wisdom of his or her village, I live by the wisdom of our weaving community. So to every one of you who has ever shared a recipe, in a workshop, in print, online, or wherever, thanks!


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