Once upon a time I came to MAKE to do weaving .
I already knew quite a lot in theory about some sorts of Iranian weaving. But I had never actually done any practical weaving until I met Joy In Weaving.
This is her Professional name and is precisely the right phrase to describe this amazing woman!
I have had so much joy learning from Joy how to weave!
Our little group were taught some of the very basic over under over under techniques.
Then Joy suggested we could start our own piece of weaving. I told her I wanted to make something big. She asked me How big?
Definitely Big I said or preferably Biggest! And I held my hands as far apart as I could reach.
Then I started to realise quite how amazing Joy is.
She asked me whether I was really going to fill-in all of that space and when I said I was, she organised for a big new loom to be made for me.
With my disabilities, I can’t saw wood or knock in nails. But Joy arranged for someone from MAKE (up above) to do that for me.
Meanwhile, she was also insisting that I make a sketch.
Let me confess that initially I didn’t like the idea of doing a sketch one little bit.
I had a clear idea, I thought. A waste of time, I thought.
But Joy is completely correct that sketches are vital.
I am a complete convert!
In fact, last week I just taught someone else attending our MAKE weaving class about the importance of sketches.
After I had done my colour-coded sketch, I needed to do the warping.
Warps are the foundation for the weaving. You weave wefts under over under over the warps.
Especially with a large loom – mine is 70 x 40 cm – it’s really important to make sure the warps are tight enough. With a big loom, you can’t really do that by yourself. So Joy and I pulled and pulled and tightened the warp – and it broke.
Then Joy and I and someone else from the MAKE team twisted two other threads together to make a new and strong warp. We pulled that combined thread-warp tight around the loom’s nails.
So now I had a home-made loom with home-made nailing and home-made warp. Using a home-made sketch to start some home-made weaving. What fun it’s been!
For the weft, I’ve used strips of donated material ripped and cut up. Reused plaits that someone else made in a previous project. Made new plaits and plaits of plaits from mixed strips of material. Plus I did some much more conventional thread weaving to fill-in some gaps.
All the way through, Joy has helped. Initially I was forever asking basic questions and getting practical help with basic things.
Like tying the weft on.
Saving me when I made the basic mistake of pulling everything too tight.
Even threading my needles – since I’ve got very poor vision and very shaky hands.
But Joy was always there helping and (very usefully!) challenging.
I started creating my own techniques. I even started threading some large needles.
That might not sound exciting to you, but when I was a child, I was proud of forever using my perfect eyes and steady hands to help other people thread their needles. When my vision and hands got bad, it was yet another bereavement that, with my disabilities, I couldn’t even thread a needle. Joy got me a large pink needle and initially she threaded it for me.
I made a raised bubbling whirlpool from some plaits of material.
But I told Joy I wanted something even more 3-D.
I wanted to make a mountain.
I brought some wire which I thought we might be able to use as a base for some material draped over the mountain.
Joy looked at me and asked why not weave the mountain?
Of course she was right.
She suggested I use metal warp to make a strong flat bit of weave which I could then wrap and sculpt into a mountain.
So I took my embryonic-mountain bit of cardboard and metal thread home.
Time at home with my weave was really great. Calming. Stretching as I worked out how to improve my home-made techniques. Exciting as I made quite a good strong bit of weave if I say so myself!
But I realised another lockdown was going to start. So (with permission) I went and ‘borrowed’ my weave from the MAKE premises. That meant I could – and did – keep on weaving at home.
I’m hooked on weaving now – I’m not stopping just because of the government restrictions!
We started Zoom sessions. Of course it’s not as good as having Joy physically on hand to look and touch. But Zoom did mean that some other weaving women could get involved. Which is great.
Joy has continued helping and challenging. Very quickly, I realised I’d made a Big Mistake with how I set up my metal warp. Luckily, we both saw that this was one of those good mistakes that can happen when you’re making something. All the extra metal I erroneously included meant that my mountain is much stronger and more able to be sculpted into the shape I want.
So now I’m sewing my mountain on some of the flatter main bit of my weave.
Joy visited to lend me some much larger needles since the pink ones are too small when I’m trying to attach the huge woven mountain. My eyes are just about good enough to thread the large needles with my new home-made threading technique, but I do keep on losing the non-pink needles in the weave!
Of course that wont stop me.
MAKE and Joy in weaving has given me much joy.
In and out of weaving.
It’s great to work with my hands. To make something Im proud of. To be calm. To play with colours and textures. To create alongside other creators.