The Quirks of Handweaving

You can’t plan every aspect of weaving perfectly, and unless you weave the same projects day after day, there will be times when the unexpected happens. If you aren’t afraid of unexpected results, you might be more open to the path that opens up. It might just be a learning path, otherwise known as a mistake, but there could also be times when one path leads to another, and you find yourself weaving something you weren’t expecting. That’s when the quirks of handweaving take control.

Anyone who has been weaving a while will remember a time when a seemingly solid plan for a project went awry, and they had to problem-solve. Even though we all know that sampling is essential to planning successful projects, sometimes even that isn’t enough. Elisabeth Hill recently wrote about planning napkins in naturally grown colored cotton thinking she had the perfect draft and the perfect plan only to find that the colors and structure blended in such a way as to create light-colored mud. Sarah H. Jackson weaving for the May/June 2018 issue of Handwoven had a similar problem with pale colors and a strong summer and winter design that didn’t go well together.


Elisabeth Hill’s napkins that didn’t turn out as planned. Photo credit: Elisabeth Hill

I’ve warped scarves with the idea of weaving a twill with one color weft only to decide halfway through that the design was boring. That’s a problem to solve. Do you unweave or figure out a way to introduce another weft color or twill sequence that works well with the first? How about a rag rug that is too thin? Do you add weft to make it thicker, or do you figure out a way to make it into placemats or tote bags? What about a color combination that is turning into mud? Do you change the tie-up and/or treadling so that there is less interaction between warp and weft, or do you change the weft color? Both might work, and solving that problem will advance you in your weaving skills.


Sarah H.Jackson changed her palette completely so it would play well with her strong design. Photo credit: George Boe

None of the weaving books I’ve read nor the videos I’ve watched really address the issue of changing plans midstream and problem-solving, but when I hit a snag, I find my library usually has the solution, though it may not be labeled as such. When my treadling gets boring, I look for alternatives in books and magazines. When I need to change a weft color partway through a scarf, I use the method Trudy Sonias used for her Ombre Infinity Scarves in Handwoven March/April 2016. I have made rag rug handbags when my rug wasn’t turning out how I wanted it because I had seen some by Felicitas Sloves in Handwoven November/December 2002.

Embrace the quirks of handweaving, and let it lead you in new directions.
Weave well,

Featured Image: Ready and waiting to pick a weft color. Photo Credit: Susan E. Horton

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