The Weaving Upswing – Top 5 Weaving Products of 2018
I believe weaving is on the upswing. It may be strictly anecdotal and I may be biased (imagine!), but in the past few years, I’ve noticed many new weaving books being published, a surge in membership in my own weaving guild, and more interesting weaving projects posted on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. In June, I went to Convergence in Reno, Nevada, and although I don’t know if the attendance was higher than usual, the energy certainly was. Handwoven’s subscription-renewal rate remains strong, and our special-issue publications such as Little Looms 2018 and Loom Theory 2018 are popular.
To me, the upswing is the product of four main sources: technology, equipment improvements, new yarns, and the DIY movement.
Modern technology’s instrumental role in transforming weaving is interesting. As weavers, we are pursuing a craft that has ancient origins. Yet, computers—in particular, weaving software and computer-driven dobbys—have given many of us new avenues to follow. My instinct tells me that the ever-popular echo designs couldn’t have been created before the invention of weaving software, and such designs are so much easier to weave if you can use a dobby to control the treadling. We use email to send drafts and patterns; we use spreadsheets for calculations; and we use cellphones to record our weaving progress and projects. We often buy our yarn from online retailers and view color cards on our screens. When I moved to California 15 years ago, I struggled to find a guild. The guilds closest to my new home didn’t have websites or any online presence. Today, all of them have websites, and there are even online weaving groups that function as guilds.
I’ve woven on old looms, including a barn loom and a very old rigid-heddle loom. For me, the newer looms are more enjoyable to weave on. I say “for me” because I know many people prefer the older looms, but I like a loom that is quiet, has a good shed, and is perfectly balanced. My rigid-heddle loom is a case in point. Both sheds are deep, the loom sits firmly in its stand, and I never have a problem with the warp not going on evenly—well, that is, no problem caused by the loom. Both of my floor looms, too, are quiet and square. Their brakes work as they should, the harnesses lift smoothly, and I am comfortable weaving on them. Other new equipment—such as shuttles that feel good in the hand and are beautiful to look at; new types of warping reels; and variable-dent heddles—contributes to weavers’ enjoyment of the craft.
Handwoven January/February 2019, which was our yarn-blends issue, reminded me of the many new yarns that have come into the marketplace over the past few years. Maybe they were there all along, but my sense is that if they were, they were being used for knitting or in industry and not by handweavers. Today, we have access to an ever-increasing selection of fibers, including lyocell, bamboo, and soy silk, as well as the traditional fibers, and there are interesting mixtures of new and old. Also, many yarns previously considered only for knitting are finding their way onto rigid-heddle looms—and not just as weft.
The DIY Movement
Finally, the DIY movement has spurred interest in weaving of all kinds and, in particular, weaving on small looms such as inkle, rigid-heddle, and tapestry looms. In a fast-pace world where space is often limited, weaving on these looms offers the satisfaction of creation without the expense and complications of a lot of specialized equipment.
This all may very well be anecdotal, but I feel like I am part of a community that is growing, positive, and creating beautiful handwoven products, and that feels great. Join me.
Featured Image: Karen Isenhower’s Stained-Glass Scarf from Handwoven November/December 2018 was woven in Swedish Lace. Photo by George Boe.
Check out Interweave’s Top 5 weaving products of 2018.