Friday, 23 October 2015

Summer & Winter: A Tutorial in Towels

I did it!

I finished the tutorial and kits just in time for Twist in August and FibreFest in September.  Then I got busy with work and didn't do much about it, including blogging about it.  Part of that is not really knowing quite what to do next as I'm not really a salesperson or marketer, the other part is having a lot of other things (like work and the new OVWSG workshop schedule for 2016) on my plate.  However, my friend Sandy is a very good enabler and gave me just the right shove to take some more steps.  It was a bit of big shove:  she talked to Liz Gipson, the Yarnworker, author of Weaving Made Easy and star of several very good RH instructional videos, at Rheinbeck who offered her assistance and advice.  Liz suggested just putting the kits and tutorials up on Etsy and writing a blog post about them.  And graciously offered to put a link to them in her newsletter, which is, quite possibly, how you got here.

So, here's how I spent my summer holidays, writing a 54 page tutorial in towels to teach Summer & Winter on the RH loom.  (for more about S&W on the RH see Here Be Elephants)

My friends and guildmates had been pestering me to give a workshop on Summer & Winter for quite some time, but I couldn't quite figure out how best to do that. I'm a spinning teacher after all, not a weaving teacher.  Some of you will recall that I was never going to be a weaver at all.. (see: My Name is Elizabeth and I'm a Weaver).  I decided I could write something, then I searched around for an appropriate project.  I don't really like "workshop samplers", at my house they end up stuffed in a corner somewhere.  I wanted something that would end up as a functional piece of cloth, that would fit on most people's looms.  I finally settled on tea towels.  At least, I think they are towels, at Twist several people informed me they are actually placemats.   In the end it doesn't matter, the cloth is a useful size when it is finished without being too big for a first try at a new technique.

While I wrote my friends Beth, Terry and Sandy pitched in again and read over drafts of the book and did some test weaving.  They had multiple adventures in the process including the pawls on Sandy's loom suddenly declining to hold tension and tossing most of the warp on the floor midway through the project and Beth's grandchildren cutting off half her warp for reasons still not entirely clear...

However we muddled through and here is what the finished project looks like:

The kit contains a disc with copies of the PDF in high resolution (so you can see the pictures more clearly) and lower resolution (so it fits better on a mobile device like an iPad), hard copies of the graphs needed and enough yarn to complete the two towels and the bonus Polychrome sample.  To weave them you need an RH loom with at least 16" wide (it fits on my Ashford 16" which really isn't quite 16" of weaving width after being rounded up from the metric measurements it was designed in) set up for 2 heddles, 2 10 dpi heddles and 2 pickup sticks at least 16" long. 

These are some of the colours of the kits I came up with, with considerable help from Marie-France who joined me on a road trip to Brassard in August.  We spent about 2 hours wandering through the aisles picking out the 2/8 and 4/8 yarns I needed.  A LOT of yarn followed me home!

Then Terry and Christine spent considerable time each helping me wind those balls of yarn to make up the kits.  My "Spare Kid", Claudia spent more than a day of her summer vacation helping me design the packaging and burning the DVDs.  She also drew the threading diagram for me.

Showing them off for the first time at Twist was an adventure.  I had another set on the loom so people could watch the process live.  Many older weavers with tons of shaft loom experience were quite taken by my little loom that can.  They would look at the pattern developing on the cloth, then at the loom, then at the ground and
ask "where are the treadles?".  I tried to show them how the pickup stick and 2 heddles translated to what they were familiar with, sometimes I succeeded.  Several of them were very intrigued with how light and portable my loom is as well.

I repeated the process again at FibreFest in Almonte and more people were intrigued.  Weavers seem to fall into two camps: those who want the loom to do the work and are willing to have big,
complex looms to make that happen and those who like the compact, lightweight, simplicity of the RH loom and are willing to do pickup etc to make complex patterns happen.  I am hopeful there are plenty of people in my camp who want to try this out, and that the kits will be an enjoyable introduction to Summer & Winter on the Rigid Heddle loom.

A few kits are up on Etsy now.  You have the choice of a full kit with yarn and printed graphs (of which I have a limited supply), or just the disc with the PDFs (these I can make very quickly so the supply is reasonably endless).  If you choose the PDF you will need about 410 yards of 2/8 cotton in EACH of 3 colours and 205 yards of 4/8 cotton in a colour that contrasts well with the 2/8 colours.  

I am thankful to my friends for alternately shoving me and supporting me in this little adventure and to Liz for advising and encouraging a stranger.  I'm hoping we won't be strangers for long.  I'm also full of more ideas for the RH loom so I'm hoping the adventure continues with more tutorials and kits in the future.


  1. Such clever ideas should always be encouraged and supported. Apparently it takes a village to raise a weaver!