Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Treasure

I found this little handcarved shuttle in an antique shop in the Baltimore area. It was on a table full of treenware, and my eye clapped on it immediately. As I picked it up, my heart started beating faster. It felt warm and silky in my hand, and I knew I was taking it home no matter the cost. There was no tag, so I took it to the counter and asked the price. The clerk looked at it blankly and said "What is it?". "A shuttle," I replied. The clerk shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'll have to call the owner."

As I shifted nervously from foot to foot, the clerk said into the phone, "It's this weird wooden shoe thing." "Five dollars," he said to me. I handed him the money and he gave me a look that said "what kind of nut would pay five bucks for a weird wooden shoe thing?"

It nestles in my palm as if it was made for me. The finish is silky smooth from years of weaving. I can still see the marks from the carving tool in the inside. The carver wanted it to be beautiful as well as functional and decorated it with a diamond pattern on the top. It was obviously a well loved shuttle as the eye the yarn comes out is completely worn with grooves on both sides.

I have been production weaving for 26 years, and none of my shuttles show this kind of wear, so I imagine it may have been used for more than one generation. Because I know nothing about the origin of this shuttle, I get to imagine a whole story around it. I see a young man lovingly carving this shuttle for the young woman he is courting. She is already a talented weaver with a love for the craft, so the young man knows that a beautiful shuttle will be a path to her heart. They are married, and the young woman weaves yard after yard of cloth for her home and family. She teaches her children to weave, and they carry on weaving cloth for clothing and towels and sheets and table linens. The grandchildren learn to weave, but now cloth can be bought cheaply in stores and the loom is stored in the barn. The shuttle is still treasured, though, because they know the story about how Grandpa courted Nana by carving her a shuttle. It passes down a few more generations until one day, a niece or nephew is cleaning out their old Auntie's house for an estate sale, and see this "weird wooden shoe thing" and throw it in a box with all the other wooden spoons and potato mashers and butter paddles. It makes its way to an antique shop in a jumble of wooden ware, until another weaver finds it and can read the story in its worn finish. It has found a good home and has a place of honor and is loved again.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Do you ever make a really stupid mistake, and when you discover it, you realize you had lots of signs on the way? I hate it when that happens!
I make a line of scarves that are one of my "bread and butter" products. They are a simple product, somewhat boring for me to make, but they sell very well. I use a "dummy warp" and weave warp after warp in different colorways, until I have a nice selection.

I just wound on a warp (using the yarn I dyed in Carol Soderlund's class), and I found it was missing 12 warp threads! I can replace one or two or three warp threads by hanging them off the back of the loom on weighted spools, but 12 would surely be a tangled disaster.

I realized then that I ignored plenty of signs along the way that I was making a mistake. Did I pay attention? Noooooooo..... I have done this at least 100 times and I usually do it by rote.
First sign was when I had 4 empty cardboard spools. I have been using up some of my leftover spools, so just passed it off as some of those I emptied.
Second sign was when I was threading the tension box. The front reed in the box does not have enough dents for all of the ends in the section, so I have to double up some of the threads. When I was threading the dents, I even said to myself,"hmmm, there's enough dents", but didn't stop to consider what that meant.

It wasn't until I had all of the new warp tied to the old warp that I realized there were not enough ends. To fix it,I had to pull each section separately off the beam and chain it. I then rethreaded the ends of each chain through the tension box again with the 4 extra threads added. Feh.... It took two extra hours to put on this warp because of my inattention.

The warp is on, and almost woven off. Here are two scarves woven on the warp- the wefts are two different colors of rayon chenille.