making notes at my peril

Oh dear. I have spent hours putting together the first part of a handout for a guild workshop. The handout is looking quite nice: I have found some good illustrations to use, thanks to the enormous stash of photos on my laptop, and my thoughts have been less difficult to organise than I feared. The step-by-step instructions are the hardest part, but I forced myself to get them down and I think they are OK for a first draft (though I still need to test them on a couple of victims). The problem is this: when I look at what I have written, I think, “Who the blazes would ever do such a ridiculous-sounding thing?”

The idea for this workshop arose from a talk I gave to the guild last year. I took along a sackload of samples so that it would be less about me talking and more about touching bits of cloth, which is what we all really want to do, isn’t it? People were very gracious and complimentary, which was lovely, and the pieces they liked the best were the ones where I had a madly multi-coloured warp. How did I do that?

So anyway, this workshop arose as an attempt to answer that question, and it is going by the name “Weave a cloth of many colours”. Of course, there are a thousand and one ways to weave a cloth of many colours, but I’m concentrating on the sort of weaving that was included in that sack of samples and, specifically, on some different approaches to designing a variegated warp – like these:

Most of these are pretty straightforward to plan, even if they are a fiddle to wind. However, there are some — and they are probably my favourites — which look like this:

I am planning various exercises for people to try and I am hoping that they will be bold, if not on quite such a large scale! However, as I look at the step-by-step process I have outlined for getting from a yarn wrapping to a warp plan (never mind getting to an actual warp), I am wondering why on earth anyone would do that, unless they were completely insane. And this bothers me. Are my working methods really as arcane as they seem when I put them on paper? Were they always like this or have they evolved to be so? Although I thought I was just writing down a normal and rational process, I now feel as though I have tied myself up in a gordian knot and mislaid the knife. Or is it that everything seems bizarre when you try and write it down? This is the hope I am clinging to, by the way, so please don’t snatch my lifebelt away…

So now I am looking at my handout, wondering how on earth I am going to encourage people to try it, or whether in fact an honourable person should be discouraging them. This way madness lies! Beware! Turn back while you still can!

I must admit that I am feeling both disheartened and rather exposed. And I haven’t even started on the afternoon session yet.

making notes at my peril” was posted by Cally on 22 April 2011 at

Creative Commons License

10 Responses

  1. Laura
    | Reply

    OTOH, we’re all a little warped or we wouldn’t be weaving, right? :^)

  2. Sheila
    | Reply

    And the warps in your photos are so gorgeous who wouldn’t want to try?

  3. Sandra Rude
    | Reply

    Hey, come on! They liked the results, they might as well find out the process required to get there. Then they can make up their own minds whether they want to do it or not. Grownups, after all, aren’t they?

  4. Carol Johnson
    | Reply

    I agree with Sandra. If they liked the cloth so much, and come to your workshop, they will probably want to create some for themselves. On the other hand, if they are so intimidated by the process, they may just want to commission a piece from you. Either way, they will hopefully develop a healthy respect for the process involved! Those are indeed beautiful warps, by the way.

  5. Evelyn
    | Reply

    Warps are so beautiful that sometimes it seems a shame to weave them, and these are exceptionally lovely. The process of help others understand what makes perfect sense to you is hard work!

  6. Meg in Nelson
    | Reply

    I think some of the things we weavers do are a little nutty. My friends have a good laugh when I say, yes, I do make a warp by taking one (or two or three) ends at a time and wind it around the pegs on the board. And these are folks who know roughly how I do what I do. When it comes to threading, (and when I show them a draft), some of my friends become a little alarmed, and others’ eyes glaze over. But we think nothing of it, don’t we.

    I don’t do wrappings. If there is a shortcut that makes sense, I’d try anything once, but our individual arcane process ensures we get the warps we want, so it’s not silly in the end.

    Do I sound uncharacteristically serious? Remember, Cally, I’m the weaver who goes into hysterical laughter and has even fallen off the loom bench because I can’t believe the intensity of our labor, and that we choose to do this in this 21st century. I’ll gladly be your “victim” if you like.

  7. Cally
    | Reply

    You are all very sensible folk. I think I have been spending too much time with undergraduate students, who want everything challenging broken into bitesize chewable pieces before they will try it… Tomorrow I am going to tackle planning the afternoon session, so I will hold your thoughts in mind, thanks!

  8. maggie
    | Reply

    If you do the color order on the warping board, then, yes – you’re nuts!
    I do multi color warps but makes lots of little chains and then design and place colors in the reed. (warping front to back) i also layer the chains with multiple sets of lease sticks. not perfect and looks an absolutely frightful mess going on but for me it works.

  9. Alison
    | Reply

    catching up on blogs… As a Professional Technical Author, I can tell you that yes, even the simplest processes can look crazy-intimidating when written down, because so many things are done automatically when you’ve done it a few times before. Even step-by-step instructions for getting a cup of tea. It really helps if you give people an overview of the major steps both up front and at the end; if it’s getting crazy, structure things by layers of detail, and do the same for each section. Top level for making tea:
    – boil water
    – put tea in teapot
    – add water & steep
    – put milk in cups
    – pour tea
    – serve

    …but you could break down ‘put tea in teapot’ further, and introduce decisions:
    – what kind of tea?
    – find teapot
    – warm teapot
    – how many people and how much tea?

    and so on. Structure is your friend. 😉

    • Cally
      | Reply

      That’s really helpful, thank you Alison! High-level overview coming right up.

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