I have a new towel design on the loom. I worked the design out on paper with the aid of my weaving software and did all the calculations. I chose a color combination I know I like, and spent a focused day getting the warp on the loom.
As I weave a sample, checking for threading mistakes and trying out pattern variations, familiar doubts start to surface.
I’ve experienced this what the hell was I thinking? many times before. I’ve learned to reserve judgment until the sample has been washed and dried. The cloth changes when it’s released from the tension of the loom and as it tumbles around in the washer.
But now I’m holding the sample in my hand and I’m still not sure.
Why did I make the warp 11.75 yards long? a voice in my head whines. I know the practical answer: it takes a lot of work to dress the loom so I like to make the warp as long as possible.
But it’s a risk. There’s the possibility that I won’t like it.
Of course, I always have the option to stop. I can cut the warp off the loom and give it to my friend Elizabeth for her fiber arts class. Or unwind the warp and make changes to the design.
I can also stick with it and find my way through to the end.
I stand up and walk away from the loom for a bit.
I’m reading a book about writing and start to wonder: What if this new design is a rough draft?
The samples I weave at the beginning of each project are rough drafts. They’re a chance to explore different weft colors and pattern variations. What if this entire warp is a rough draft?
With these thoughts I feel lighter. I have 11.75 yards to weave at least one towel that I like. I am not wed to this design forever. Only for 11.75 yards.
I make a fresh cup of tea and settle in to weave.
It’s slow going. I am caught off guard by how hard it is to find a relaxing rhythm. I didn’t think I’d chosen a complicated design.
As I weave, ideas come to me. Design possibilities bubble up. I think of a way to make the weaving smoother. I crawl under the loom and change the tie-up so I won’t have to think so hard about the treadling sequence.
Towel by towel, I reach the end of the warp. Once they’re all hemmed I have six towels that I like. I actually like them a lot.
Reluctantly I decide not to weave any more towels in this design.
It’s not just about the finished product for me: how a towel looks and feels. What’s more important is my experience of weaving it. Even with the adjustments I made along the way, I wasn’t able to find a satisfying rhythm. Each towel took twice as long to weave as they usually do. I spent more time than I wanted to unweaving mistakes.
I’m not opposed to concentrated, focused work. In fact, I spend hours carefully counting threads, making sure to keep them in the right sequence, and untangling the occasional mess.
But when I finally sit down to weave, I want to sink into a relaxing rhythm of treadle-throw-beat, treadle-throw-beat. A rhythm where my hands and feet know what to do and I make fewer mistakes. A rhythm where my breathing synchronizes with my body movements. A rhythm that allows my mind to wander. A rhythm where contentment spreads through my being and I know I’m in the right place.
This rhythm is one of the biggest joys of making cloth. It’s my non-negotiable.
Perhaps if I’d woven another 11.75 yards in a different color combination I would have found that rhythm. But for now, this one long warp is enough.
I’m ready to move on to the next weaving project and sink into that particular place of grace and joy.
My invitation to you: What is something in your daily routine that brings you that feeling of joy? Can you soak in it? I’d love to hear.
Photo credit: Nikki Gardner
There are only two Untitled 2 towels left. Maybe one is meant for you.