Weaving on a Deadline

Who among us hasn't woven on a deadline, be it a textile exhibit, guild sale, magazine submission (of course, I encourage these commitments), or an upcoming birthday or holiday gifting opportunity? Karen Donde has been weaving on deadlines for several years now, as a student in a professional crafts program, and today she shares some excellent lessons she's learned. ––Anita

I dropped off exhibit pieces for the Haywood Community College Professional Crafts graduate show today. Haywood has a cooperative relationship with the Southern Highland Craft Guild, which includes an annual exhibit of work by students graduating in fiber, jewelry/metals, wood and clay at the Folk Art Center, just north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Center is headquarters for the SHCG, a juried regional craft guild founded in 1930.

Haywood Professional Crafts students have been working on these exhibit pieces since before our final semester began last January, and some were thinking about them long before that. So why is it we were working right up to the deadline into the wee hours of the morning to get everything finished by the jury yesterday morning?

Part of the reason can probably be attributed to the old adage, “If it weren’t for the last minute…” Well, you know the rest. However, I’ve been thinking about why I was up past midnight two nights this weekend sewing my final pieces, and I think there are lessons to be learned for anyone who is weaving pieces for an exhibition or another major deadline.

Lesson 1: Choose familiar materials. This is probably not the best time to experiment with yarns you’ve never used before, especially if you plan to dye them. Even a project you’ve woven successfully several times can go awry if the yarn is more stretchy, twisty, tangle-prone, or slippery than you are used to. Handwoven’s Master Yarn Chart can be a great resource, and a sample is always a good idea. (However, even if a fairly open sett finishes beautifully for a 12” sample, it can get ugly if the beat is too light to sustain consistently for 72 inches or the weft is slipping around on the selvedges as the cloth goes around the breast beam. Deciding to re-sley and weave another shawl at the eleventh hour throws a real hitch into the finishing schedule.)

  The loom sleyed
  Karen’s exhibit yardage after threading
2,352 warp ends from two warp beams.
A road trip to buy 400 more heddles
slowed the process.

Lesson 2: Resist the urge to attempt something too far beyond your current skill set. They call it a learning curve for a reason. As those of us who drive curvy mountain roads every day know, sometimes you have to slow down and be prepared for unexpected detours. For example, expanding a tied weave/double back-beam technique to weave 44"wide yardage instead of a shawl or scarf is really something you should try when there is no pending deadline. Otherwise you might find yourself driving to the nearest weaving tool supplier or paying overnight shipping to get another 400 heddles.

Lesson 3: Plan to make the project twice. This was advice our instructor, Amy Putansu, gave us on the first day of class this semester. It seemed a little excessive at the time, but it proved an invaluable exercise. Working out the details and challenges on a practice piece using materials as close as possible to your finished cloth makes production of the exhibit work less stressful on the maker and the materials, especially if it is handwoven fabric.

Bubble Skirt  
What Karen learned making the 
first Bubble Skirt made the final 
one easier and more successful.

This goes beyond the typical garment “muslin.” The difference between how a garment will fit or perform in muslin vs. handwoven cloth can be dramatic. It’s something you don’t want to learn two weeks before the deadline. I am SO glad I heeded this advice. Of the four handwoven pieces in my exhibit entry, only one was show-ready on the first try.

Lesson 4: CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR for the last 30 days before the exhibit pieces are due. This is hard and I admit to being the worst offender. Despite the most carefully mapped route and your best efforts, you will encounter delays and roadblocks. You catch the flu. A snowstorm cancels school and knocks out power for three days. Your iron dies or the sewing machine goes on the fritz. Your significant other invites family to stay over in your guest room/weaving studio for the weekend. Life keeps reminding you that plans are only that: plans.

If you have made big, unbreakable commitments during the weeks before your deadline, thinking your project will surely be finished by then, you are playing with fire. No matter how valuable the opportunity, how enticing the invitation, or how guilt-ridden we feel, we (I) have to learn to say no.

One final word of caution here: beware the extended deadline! Chances are good you will have already booked that extra weekend you are given at the last minute. So don’t count on it, and if it happens, pretend it didn’t.

And if you need some resources to help you along, make sure to check out the great deals at the Interweave Spring Clearance Sale on weaving books, video workshops, and issues of Handwoven.

Now, where did I put that new Call for Entries?

Karen Donde


Practical Advice for Editors

Liz Gipson

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Well, I am embarrassed. Wednesday's wonderful newsletter post on Practical Advice for Weavers" was written by former Handwoven managing editor, rigid-heddle weaving champion, and founder of YarnWorker.com, Liz Gipson, not by SpinOff managing editor Liz Good, as I reported. Thank you, Liz!  And practical advice to myself and other editors: look before you Liz! ––Anita

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