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December 2018 Newsletter

Stocking stuffers

We experienced a mini-disaster here on Salt Spring Island. The storm of Thursday Dec 20 brought down numerous trees and power lines. We have no power and the road is blocked; a situation that’s unlikely to change for a number of days, if not weeks.

Grant is taking his chainsaw to Richard Flack Road to try to clear a path to Langs Road. Eben, Jane’s eldest son, reported 47 felled trees on Langs Road, which connects to the main road.

Thankfully we haven’t heard of any fatalities.

Business as normal is not possible.

Fulfillment of any orders placed yesterday and onwards will be delayed by an unknown amount of time.

My apologies. Have a safe holiday period and all the best for the new year.

Blog

Our blog has two number posts since the last newsletter; here they are in case you missed them:

Weaver Spotlight: JST Online Guild Member Linda P.
Design for Weavers: Colour Theory & Practice

If you want to subscribe to the blog, you can do it here:
https://jst.link/blog-signup

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Weaver Spotlight: JST Online Guild Member Linda P.

This month we are going to shine the spotlight on one of our JST Online Guild members…the talented Ms. Linda Pickett from Victoria, B.C. Earlier this year, Linda attended our last workshop and brought along some fabulous show and tell. I was so excited that I begged her to let me share 3 of the pieces with you.

She used all the techniques that were presented in the last 3 blog posts. She figured out what her sett was first, then she divided her space and finally she poured in the colour and threading structure.
These 3 pieces are amazing!
In Linda’s words:
A number of things came together for me this past year.  I think it was partly the online guild, partly that I framed some goals for myself for the year (first time I have done that), partly that I was working with yarns and colours that I like. I was inspired to play, to push things further, to experiment. I have let all this air into my cloth. I experimented with mixing yarns in my cloth that I would never have considered. I am weaving more mindfully (its kinda slow but I am enjoying it), I am doing better at watching the negative space, paying more attention to my technique.  The result is that I wove projects this past year that thrilled me, the most delighted I have been with my weaving since I first threw a shuttle (before I realized that that miraculous cloth closely resembled cardboard). So very exciting. 
 
One of the brilliant things about the online guild is that it is like getting a creative booster shot every month. I certainly didn’t weave everything; I didn’t “keep up” by any means but they always inspire me. Sometimes I almost can’t watch because my brain is too full for more ideas! So fabulous. 
‘Blankie’ is woven using Harrisville Shetland in PW at 8 epi and 8 ppi.  Linda pulled one of the Colour and Weave threadings (DDL) from the guild gamp and used it for the body of the blankie.
 She framed it with a natural zinger line and a solid border.
The drape and hand are spectacular and the colour is beautifully soft.
This next shawl is breathtaking; Linda used many of the techniques we learned in 2018. Her canvas was a mix of 18/2 merino for the warp and 16/2 cotton for weft. Woven perfectly balanced at 18 epi and ppi.
Graphically, she did a division of space in 5, and her outer borders are different widths….there is that asymmetry word again! 🙂
Then she had 2 sections with 4 D, 4 L colour and weave sequence from the gamp in Season 2 episode 4
and the centre section was solid white with a fine over grid of black on it. She put it all together using the ideas from Colour and Design, so naturally I was jumping up and down when she showed me this piece. (You can just imagine!)

Linda took it all tad further with this beautiful fine 40/2 linen scarf where she inserted some Bronson Lace into the graphic.

It is so easy to see how the graphic and the sketching helps you get to the warping board quickly:

She knew her EPI was going to be 24 because we discussed it based on all the sampling we do around here. She figured out how wide and how long, then she drew her graphic…..got her number of warp threads…fiddled around a wee bit making the lace threading fit (based on Season 1 Episodes 5 and 6),
and then she poured in her colours:

That’s the formula that just keeps giving and giving and giving!

We absolutely adore seeing what our guild members are weaving! Did you know that you can share your projects with our Ravelry Group, and also on Instagram using the #JSTOnlineGuild hashtag?

We look forward to another exciting year of weaving in 2019 – click here to learn more about Season 3: Pushing the Boundaries of Plain Weave. We hope you’ll join us!

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Design for Weavers: Colour Theory & Practice

Colour is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.

Claude Monet

Colour is the child of light, the source of all light on earth.

From “Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments”

My weaving colour choices are an emotional response, a response to some stimulus that has moved me—a flower, a painting, a picture in a magazine. I see something that I love, and then I interpret it in coloured yarns.

Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong; sometimes it looks stunning, sometimes—less stunning. But the great thing is, there’s always more yarn and there’s always another opportunity to try again and make it better.

Talking Colour

Colour is a big subject, and it has a vocabulary all its own. In designing, I work most with three aspects of colour:

  • Hue
  • Value
  • Saturation

Hue

Hue is easy. It’s what we naturally think of when we think of “what colour” something is: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple.

Another way to think of hue is where the colour sits on the colour wheel:

Value

If you were a painter, you could easily achieve a wide range of colours simply by adding black, white, or grey to your hue. This changes the lightness and darkness of a colour. This changes its value, which is the lightness or darkness of a colour.

If you add white to a colour, you have a tint:

If you add black to a colour, you have a shade:

If you add grey to a colour, you have a tone:

Saturation

A hue at its purest and clearest, as it would appear in the colour wheel, is said to be at its maximum saturation.

As you add grey to a hue, the hue becomes more desaturated—making it less clear and more muted. In the picture below, the outermost ring is the pure hue at its most saturated. As you move in to the centre of the circle, the colour becomes increasingly desaturated.

Using Colour

Weavers can’t mix on a palette like painters do, so it is important to play with combinations that might strike you as unlikely, because you’ll be amazed how some of them work in the cloth.

You will see in the sample work on the online guild that varying colours that have high and low saturation can give you the most amazing, complex colour in your finished piece.—Sort of like having a party with your quiet family, and then the loud crazy cousins come in and it becomes a hootenanny. ☺

I have some favourite moves I like to make when using colour, and I’ll share them with you here.

Gradations

I love gradation work.  This is where you can put all the tints and shades of one colour that you might have in your stash. A gradation builds movement across your weaving from light to dark.

If you then add an overgrid on your gradation, it makes an entirely new graphic:

You can shift through analogous colours, or in and out of one set of colours—for example, dark on the selvedge to light in the middle, or vice versa.

Analogous Colour Harmonies

I use analogous colour harmonies more than anything else in my weaving. They are the colours right next door to each other on the colour wheel.

Analogous colours flow into one another. Gaia uses them all the time: just start looking at flowers!

Some colour systems include four colours from the wheel in a row, others three. Personally, I think you can use as many as you want to create your own personal rainbow. If you are working directionally around the colour wheel you can never go wrong.

Analogous colour harmonies are the perfect place to start if you are unsure about using colour. Then you can add gradations of light and dark.

Complementary Colours

Colours that are right across the colour wheel from each other are called complementary colours, or complements.

Complements for Zingers and Accents

Complements make great zingers and accents.

When deciding how you want your complementary colours to interact, keep in mind that colour plus its complement (in theory, anyway) gives you a muddied look. For example, if you use one colour for your warp and its complement for your weft, the resulting piece can be very muted, possibly more than you expect.

If you want that big contrast, keep blocks of complementary colours larger in both the warp and the weft, so that the eye does not blend them into gray.

Our plaid sample is a great example of this. We have big red squares and big green squares. Where they weave on each other, they look muddy. But because our eye is drawn to the solid square of each colour, we don’t even notice the muddy areas.

Split Complements for Pairing

For a split complement, we first identify the true complement of a colour. Then we select the colours on either side of it to pair with the original colour. For example, the true complement of green is red.

To find the split complement, we look at the colours on either side of red.

If you are looking at one colour family and want to find some nice pairings, split complements always work. They make great zingers, too. Start looking for split complements in nature and you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

Many of the samples in the previous 2 posts use these principles.  Go back and have a look here and here.

So happy to share my approach to colour with you. To explore colour further, I invite you to join the JST Online Guild; our 2018 season focuses on Colour & Design, and you’ll receive immediate access to all published videos when you sign up! Click here to learn more (you’ll also receive our free PDF guide, Project Planning 1010).  Happy Weaving!

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November 2018 Newsletter

Take this opportunity to stock up on all your favourite yarns. This weekend only, all yarns 10% off.

Stocking stuffers

The festive season is just around the corner… if you’re looking for some great stocking stuffers for the weavers in your life we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite products.

Blog

We’ve started a blog last month, here’s the two articles you may have missed this month:

Design for Weavers: Fibonacci & Division of Space
Weaving Architecture: Step 1 of the Design Process

If you want to subscribe to the blog, you can do it here: https://jst.link/blog-signup

Online Guild update

Just wanted to let you know that we’ll be releasing our wee promotional video on December 6 about what’s coming your way in 2019. Pushing the boundaries of plain weave is the workshop we’ll be featuring. If you’ve been wondering about denting, cramming & denting, log cabin, warp-faced, weft-faced, double-weave, collapsed weave and supplementary warps then you won’t want to miss next year. Sign up before December 7 and you’ll get it at the current price of C$75 / year.

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Design for Weavers: Fibonacci & Division of Space

Division of Space In my colour and design workshops, we always look to the world around to gain our initial source of inspiration. Photographs, gardening, travel, and fashion magazines can provide you with images that make your heart sing. I have a huge stash of magazines for students to thumb through, and once they find the right one we get started on the second step of the design process.

It starts with division of space.

The weaver has a canvas in my mind—perhaps a tea towel, blanket, or a scarf. They have already decided what yarns they want to use, what the EPI/PPI is, and the overall size of the canvas. Then they divide up the space on paper.

You can divide a canvas anyway you want, but I usually start with a division of two and build from there. I draw vertical lines first that represent the warp and then I play with horizontal division of space which represents the weft. You can add a frame, you can imagine a darker line or zinger. It’s playtime!

Sketching should be fun, fast, quick. Leave your rulers in the drawer; this isn’t about straight lines.

Our guiding light for division of space is the Fibonacci numeric sequence. Basically, it works like this: Start by counting 1, 2.

1, 2

Now add those together. The sum is your next number: 3.

1, 2, 3

Now just keep going: add the last two numbers in the sequence to get the next number.

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

…until you want to stop. —Sounds a bit contrived, but this sequence underlies some of the most stunning designs in nature—including your own DNA, the spiral formed by the hairs on your head, the leaves of a lettuce, the seeds of a sunflower, and the shell of the nautilus snail.

Now that’s magic in design. And we can leverage that magic to help us make decisions in weaving.

There are so many ways to use this numerical series. My first decision is the big division of space. I can divide the canvas in 2, 3, 5, or whatever number I want.

I use it to help me create striping sequences, like in the example below.

  • 1 end of yellow
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 3 ends of red
  • 2 ends of orange
  • 1 end of yellow

I use it when I’m working with block structures and it helps me create with unit weaves, like in the example below.

  • 2 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 8 units of A
  • 5 units of B
  • 2 units of A

I use it when I trying to figure out how many inches…..hmmmm,

  • 1” of green
  • 3” of blue
  • 2” of purple
  • 3” of blue
  • 1” of green

The numbers don’t have to be used in sequence. Use them however you want.

I never let it lock me in a corner. Say I have a perfect gradation of 7 reds…..and they all move beautifully into each other, I don’t worry that is isn’t a 5 or an 8. I just put them all together.

But if I can’t decide how wide a border should be, then I trust that it will be either 2”, or 3”, or 5” depending on the width of the entire piece. It gives me peace of mind when I need to make decisions and I don’t get analysis paralysis.

After the initial division of space I think about other words…

  • Framing
  • Zingers
  • Stripes
  • Plaid
  • Checks

I can add any of these things to the big division of space. It is a development.

Look at the photos below and see all the different ways the Fibonacci Numerical series has been used.

Plain Weave: Division of Space in 2 with a black zinger. Weft stripes are 3’s with a little zinger between them.
Plain Weave: Stripes are 2,3,5,3,2. Division of Space in 2 with a border and stripes. Weft colours are 3’s and 1’s in the colour changes.
Log Cabin: 5 Blocks of Log Cabin, 3 grey stripes.
Repp Weave:Asymmetrical Division in 3: Solid Left, Centre developed into 3, Right hand 3 blocks.
Repp Weave: Asymmetrical Division 5: Log Cabin Blocks of 3 and 1, Zingers of 2 and 1.

We go into this in great detail in the JST Online Guild – click here to learn more & download your free Project Planning 101 PDF.

Hope you enjoy Fibonacci. If you liked this post, be sure to save it to Pinterest for future reference!

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Weaving Architecture: Step 1 of the Design Process

I start every Colour and Design Workshop off by explaining to my students that there are hundreds of different ways to tackle the subject of design. Every designer has their own particular way of working, of organizing thoughts, and of bringing ideas to fruition.

All I can do, as a designer and a teacher, is to share my own system. It isn’t necessarily better than any other system. But it works for me, and it seems to provide my students with a good strong solid foundation around the process of designing.

I didn’t always work this way, early on there was a lot of hit and miss. But gradually, I paid attention to things that worked, I analyzed why they work, and I developed my system. I’m still refining it, and hopefully I will be able to work on it until the day I die. I want to weave forever. I will never ever tire of making beautiful simple cloth.

We all have pivotal moments in our lives, and one such pivotal moment for me was having the opportunity to be the Teaching Assistant for Jack Lenor Larson at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1984. Jack and Randall Darwall taught a course called “The Consummate Cloth.”

It turned out to be three weeks of doing nothing but studying sett and finishing our cloth. We wove everything mostly in white yarn and in 2 structures: plain weave and four-shaft twills. We sampled. And sampled. And sampled. And sampled. —And over a three-week period, the 12 students attending created hundreds of samples striving for our teachers’ vision of “the consummate cloth.” Their criteria were simple⎼the end product had to have all of exceptional drape, hand, and bias.

This experience formed the basis of my design process. I break this process down into three main components, which I identify as Architecture, Graphic, and Colour. In today’s post, I’ll start with Architecture. When I think about the architecture of a piece of cloth, I liken it to the architecture of a building.

  • Buildings have good foundations; cloth has hemstitching or a straight header upon which to build.
  • Buildings have studs; cloth has warp threads.
  • Buildings have floors; cloth has weft threads.
  • Buildings have a strong beam structure for exterior walls; cloth has a selvedge.

I build a piece of cloth the way I imagine a carpenter builds a house. And I feel that the most important decision that I make—the very first decision I have to make, right at the outset—is what my ends per inch (epi) are going to be. Ninety percent of what I weave is balanced cloth, because I generally make simple items—scarves, stoles, towels, blankies—things that we can wrap ourselves in. Highly functional and useful. Now, all of these items need to have optimal drape. And what I know is that a 50/50 piece of cloth will have the best drape possible, because it will have perfect bias. (For any newbies out there, a 50/50 cloth has the same number of ends per inch and picks per inch.)

I have spent the last 35 years weaving with many of the same yarns over and over again and I have learned that there is not just one sett for any one yarn even if the structure never changes. For instance, consider the number of setts possible for a 8/2 cotton:

For our visual learners, these photos of finished pieces should give you a better idea of the many possibilities for handwoven cloth:

8/2 cotton warp and weft sett at 22 EPI /22 PPI woven in twill
8/2 cotton sett at 12 EPI woven with boucle cotton at 12 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and weft sett at 18 EPI /18 PPI woven in PW
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 18 EPI/18 PPI woven in Twill….crazy huh!
8/2 warp and 20/2 silk weft sett at 16 EPI/16PPI woven in PW
8/4 cotton warp and 7 gauge bambu weft sett at 36 EPI for Repp Weave and then resleyed and opened up to 12 EPI/ 12 PPI in Plain Weave….two dramatically different fabrics from one yarn.

Two things of note….

  1. We can only weave the open setts if we have great technique and know how to control our beater.
  2. As our sett increases there will come a point when we will no longer be able to weave the cloth balanced no matter how hard we beat because the fabric is heading towards warp-predominance. That’s not a bad thing, and under some circumstances might be just what you’re looking for.

At 40 EPI, 8/2 cotton will be totally warp faced. So if you want to use this yarn to weave Repp….you got it baby! One yarn, many different setts and many different types of fabric. How cool is that! So many possibilities hidden in one yarn and it is knowing how to use your reed that makes it all possible.

I sample in plain weave then twill and finally explore supplementary weft structures.

From this testing, I develop what I call my “canvases”—and once I have those canvases I get to add graphic and colour, which I’ll get into in greater detail on the next blog post. Click here to receive future posts in your inbox so you don’t miss out!

For more great weaving tips from Jane, click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter. You’ll also receive a free PDF download of Project Planning 101: A Weaver’s Toolkit.

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Septober 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to Septober

Fall is my favourite time of year. It brings cooler weather but with bright sunshine; the garden is overflowing; the apples are pressed into juice (this year we did our apples and pears together and it is fantastic. Just sayin  ).

And of course with autumn comes Thanksgiving Day. I usually do feel thankful every day of the year, but on the Thanksgiving Weekend (which we just had in Canada) I do reflect a little more deeply on all the blessings I have in my life. I have so many:

  • I have a wonderful and supportive family,
  • I live in a wonderfully supportive community,
  • I have an amazing staff running my business.

And, not least, I have been able to spend my life weaving and fostering our little business.

Few of us would be doing what we get to do (weaving and spinning and knitting) without all the farmers who grow the fibre in our yarns. When I think about it, we have silk rearers, flax growers, cotton farmers, and shepherds shepherding all those beautiful hoofed beasties – the alpacas, the angora goats, the numerous breeds of sheep – all working for us. Then there are all those hard-working folks who turn the fibre into yarn and all the dyers who pour their colourful hearts into it. An army of artisans stands behind every cone of natural yarn, and I am thankful to all of them.

A few weeks back I was cleaning up some really old files and I came across my very first order to Henry’s Attic back, in January of 1992. I was reading the list of yarns on that order and I realized that we still sell all those same yarns. Now, I have never met either Henry or Samira, but I feel like I know them somehow after all these years and I’m thankful to them because they have been at this forever, too. Then I started to think about all our other yarn suppliers and the mills we have been dealing with for all these many years and there are so so many. I am grateful for all these long-lasting partnerships, alliances, and connections.

And then there are all my students and customers and members of the Online Guild, we would not be here without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting in me and supporting me personally and JST as a business. I am so grateful.

Harvest Splendour tea towel kit

A few weeks back Joan and I were wandering around the yard marvelling at all the fall colours. We started to collect little piles of leaves, twigs and Japanese maple helicopters  , it was such a beautiful pile. When we got back to the studio I was looking at all the amazing colours and decided to design the Harvest Splendour Organic Tea Towel Kit.

I started with a 3 stripe overall division of space but after I wove them I decided to make the sides a bit narrower and the centre stripes a bit wider. I know this will give you more curry and brass to play with while weaving and I love those zinger accents in the weft.

I also decided to weave these in Venne Organic 8/2 cotton, it was a no brainer… it was Mother Earth who provided such brilliant inspiration and therefore I needed to honour her by using the kindest yarn we sell. Organic cotton is kind to the earth, plain and simple.

Blog

We’ve started a blog – I have it on good authority that they’re quite the rage. Here’s the first two posts:

In Praise of Good Selvedges: Practical Tips for Weavers
Weaving Philosophy: Find What Works For You

If you want to subscribe to the blog, you can do it here:

https://jst.link/blog-signup

Mohair price increase

The price we’re paying for mohair has increased. We’re going to hold off increasing our prices until Nov 1.

If you were thinking of making one of our mohair blanket kits – Spring StripesThree Stripe or Two Stripe – then now is the time to buy it… unless you foresee a slump in the worldwide price of mohair.

 

Jane appears on the Weave Podcast

Jane chatted with Weave Podcast host, Sarah Resnick, about the Online Guild and weaving in general.

Listen to Episode 36: Online Weaving Guild with Jane Stafford.

 

 

Online Guild price increase

When I first envisioned the Online Guild I budgeted to present one hour of video each month. All the filming we have done in 2018 and for 2019 has produced videos that are 2-3 hours long! I have completely blown my budget. But how can I cut anything out? I just can’t!

Alas, after much number crunching the Online Guild dues are going up to $99 (Canadian) starting December 7, 2018.

If you’re not already a member Online Guild, you can Join the Online Guild before December 7 at the original rate. If you are a member, unfortunately our system doesn’t allow renewal in advance.

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In Praise of Good Selvedges: Practical Tips for Weavers

We’re all in search of that perfect straight edge, that golden selvedge, and there are many ways we get there. We employ special threadings, floating selvedges, denser edges. You can use regular shuttles, open bottom shuttles, end feed shuttles or temples to aid you in your selvedge journey.

A good selvedge shouldn’t be hard to find.

I have trained a lot of weavers over the years, and selvedges are always (cough) on the table. Over the years, I have come to feel that some of the thoughts below are quite important, so I’m sharing them with you today.

Thought #1: The loom is my instrument!

I always tell people that the loom is my instrument…it is my version of a violin. The shuttle is my bow and the cloth is my music. Any string musician will tell you that their bow needs to feel good in their hand, and so my shuttle needs to feel good in my hand too. My favourite “bow” is the Schacht open bottom shuttle, because it allows me to tension my bobbin from underneath each time I handle the shuttle. My shuttle fits my hand perfectly—it is not too big or too small—and I use the same shuttles for all my weaving.

Thought #2: Bigger isn’t necessarily better!

Sometimes we weave with thin yarns, sometimes we weave with heavier—and when we do we think we need to change the size of our bobbins in regards to the size of the yarn. If we use a bigger bobbin we can get more yarn on it and therefore weave for a lot longer. The choice of a longer bobbin necessitates the need for a longer and larger shuttle. Bobbin lengths increase by 1″ of length. When you stop to figure out just how much more yarn you can get on that 1″ longer bobbin, you will be surprised to find out that the answer is “Not Much”. However, you now have to put that bobbin in a shuttle that is 2″ longer than your favourite regular shuttle which fits your hand like a glove. A 4″ bobbin (the regular kind) fits an 11″ shuttle, 5″ bobbins fit a 13″ shuttle, 6″ bobbins fit a 15″ shuttle. (I’m glad they don’t make longer bobbins because then we would be wielding lengths of 2×4.) Any advantages we gained from those 1″ increases in bigger bobbin size are quickly and dramatically lost because now our “bow” doesn’t fit our hand as well and we can lose control of our technique.

Thought #3. Sequence of events.

The sequence that you use to throw each pick is very important. I throw the shuttle, and then beat on an open shed. I leave the beater against the fell of the cloth while I change the shed and then I bring it back to the castle after I have changed the shed. So this is the sequence: Throw, Beat, Change, Beater Back …… Throw, Beat, Change, Beater Back. (See Thought #8 for the additional tug that could be given at this time if needed.)


When you beat on an open shed, you allow the shed to take what the shed requires. The beater actually pulls yarn off the bobbin and into the shed. It stops when the beater touches the fell of the cloth and it has taken just the right amount.

When we consider the alternate way of beating in a weft yarn (which is to bubble and beat on a closed shed), we have created a closed situation where you must create the same scenario exactly the same way each time you throw the shuttle—and that is a very difficult thing to do. If your bubble is too high, then the excess yarn squishes out the side at the selvedge. If your bubble is too low then there isn’t enough yarn in the bubble to fit the shed and your selvedges draw in. Try the method above and see how this little sequence solves so many selvedge problems.

Thought #4: Wind a good bobbin!

I know that everyone reading this will have had this experience. You are weaving away and you get towards the end of your bobbin and the yarn on your bobbin starts to jam up. When this happens all of our focus is on that stupid bobbin and yarn not coming off, but as we tug and pull we aren’t paying much attention to the fact the other selvedge is being tugged and pulled.

One of the reasons your yarn is stuck is because you filled the corners of the bobbin when you first started winding it and those corners have now collapsed like a mountain slide of scree—I know! I know! We are all taught to do this. It’s in every book you open.

Here is an alternate approach. It provides you with a situation where the yarn is able to leave the bobbin freely, right down to the last inch.

Once upon a time, before there were plastic bobbins with ends bits there was the paper quill. Paper quills were wound with a firm straight movement from side to side, slowing moving away from the edges and winding closer to the centre with each pass. Now, I love plastic bobbins with end bits, but I wind them the old fashioned way, like a paper quill. You wind straight across from side to side, filling up the bobbin until it is half full, then with each successive pass I come a little closer to the centre creating a ‘sausage’ shape. As the bobbin fills, you stay away from the sides and you wind them firmly with your fingers, guiding the yarn onto the bobbin, right up close where you have the most control.

Thought #5: Find the Sweet Spot!

It is so tempting to weave just a little further before we advance the warp. We all do this, but it is a bad habit and it is a habit that is detrimental to your selvedge. When you weave too close to the beater you force your warp into a situation where it has to open its mouth too wide. It is yawning, and when it yawns, it pulls on the weft yarns at the selvedge. You don’t notice this until you advance your warp and then you go—oh heck—look at that. My selvedges are messed up, it must be the tension on my warp, or maybe it is the yarn I’m using that is slippery or heck, it must be the stupid loom’s fault……WRONG! It’s a bad habit. If you get into the good habit of advancing your warp frequently you won’t be putting your warp into that stressful situation which makes your weft sloppy at the selvedge. SO CUT IT OUT already! Weave in the sweet spot…..that perfect little space in the middle where Goldilocks lives and everything is juussst right!

Thought #6: On Temples.

Now I don’t mean to be boastful and all, but if I may say so, I do know how to get perfect selvedges. People compliment me on my selvedges all the time. They might think I need a good haircut or some new shoes, but I always get the nod on my selvedges. I have never used a temple in my life. I appreciate their role in rug weaving and ikat weaving, but for the general run-of-the-mill type weaving that I do, they simply aren’t necessary.

The temple’s main purpose is to prevent draw-in. Now, I think that a little bit of draw-in is desirable—and necessary to aid in even weaving…selvedge to selvedge. A little bit of draw-in is like having good firm walls holding up the roof of your house. Your selvedges are the walls of your cloth and the rest of the warp is the interior studs. Your weft is the floor of your house.

Your beginning hemstitching is the basement, strong and tight for you to build on. I don’t use floating selvedges unless I absolutely have to, like in a twill. (Or in a basket weave or canvas weave—these two weave structures both have two picks in the same shed.) With some weave structures you do need to employ different threadings to make the selvedge structurally secure, but in most weaving you don’t need to do anything except use your good shuttle handling technique, a proper throwing sequence, good bobbin winding skills, and diligent warp advancement to get those great selvedges.

Thought #7: Sibling Rivalry at the Edge!

One side of your weaving is often better than the other—and it is usually the side opposite your dominant hand. So, right-handed weavers often have a better left selvedge, and left-handed weavers often have a better right selvedge. The reason is, your dominant hand is often more confident and has greater control as compared to its non-dominant sibling. So, your right hand is controlling the left selvedge, and the left hand is controlling the right selvedge. (This is, of course, not always the case, but it often is.) If you want to get both selvedges the same, you need to pay careful attention to your hands, to see if one is doing something in some way different from the other. Maybe it is a little wrist action before you throw your next shot. Or maybe your finger sits differently on the bobbin on one side and not on the other. Your job is to patiently and quietly pay attention to what the good hand is doing, and try to send that—knowledge—to your other hand. Remember that your mind is controlling the whole show.

Thought #8: What should I be looking at?

When I weave, my eyes are moving back and forth between three different spots.

  • When the shuttle hits my right hand, my eye is watching the left selvedge. That’s because the right hand is controlling the tension on that left selvedge.
  • My eye then travels to the centre of the loom and watches as the beater comes down with its weft yarn. (I am often looking at the negative space in my weaving to get the proper picks per inch. If you are weaving a balanced fabric, then the negative space should always be forming a square. It is easy to watch for those squares.)
  • Just before the shuttle heads to the left I give the shuttle a teeny weeny little tug. My finger works like a brake on the bobbin and this little tug pulls out any sloppiness that might be at the edge as the weft yarn turns the corner.
  • While my shuttle travels across to my left hand, my eye is focused on that right side.
  • Then my eye goes to centre again to watch what the beater is doing.
  • At the selvedge, I give that little tug, as before. (I actually have a name for this. I call it Intentional Weaving. That is, I’m not just sitting there, banging away, beating the living daylights out of my cloth. I am placing each weft yarn as its own event, carefully—and I am watching the selvedges form right before my very eyes.)
  • In general, I don’t fart around with the selvedges, manhandling them with every pick. It is all done through controlling the yarn on the bobbin and controlling the shuttle with our hands— the most wondrous tools we have.

Thought #9: Pass the torch!

When I put a shuttle into any new weaver’s hand for the first time, I am mindful of how I do it. If you teach someone good technique right from the start, you are giving them one of the greatest gifts you can. We all know how hard it is to change bad habits. If you learn to weave with bad technique—well, changing it later on can be quite difficult.

  • Palms to the sky! Hold your shuttle with your palms up. That is what I always say to my students.
  • Use the shuttle that fits your hand well and feels good, because you will be more confident with it.
  • Go slowly at first, gain confidence, and then bring up your speed. If you start to lose control, slow down until you find your comfort zone again. It is just like driving a car.
This is Molly who used to work here after school when she was in grade 8.

In a Nutshell.

If you start with a good warp AND wind a good bobbin AND Weave Intentionally AND pay attention to sequence—you will have good selvedges—without the need of extra tools, expensive shuttles, or pirns. If I can get great selvedges out of a seven-year-old student within an hour, you can have good selvedges too.

The easiest way to get there is to practice. Put on a narrow warp, about 12″ wide, with yarn that you have no to emotional attachment to and that you aren’t planning to give away as a present and try some of the techniques above. By the end of that warp your selvedges should be perfect!

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Weaving Philosophy: Find What Works For You

My philosophy on weaving is really very simple: we should all just be having a blast and enjoying the ride. Weaving is an amazing craft because it provides a creative vehicle for so many different personality types, from the precise analytical mind, to the free-spirited, let’s-fly-into-the-wind types, to all the rest of us in between.

We all see the world differently, and we process information differently. Weaving allows all of us to advance in our own way and arrive at our destination feeling creative and fulfilled.

That said, no matter which way you approach weaving, there are a few things that are a given. We have to learn how to manage our threads and get our looms dressed as easily as possible. And we have to learn a lot of techniques to get the job done. Good technique is central to our success.

Beginners have a lot to take in—a whole new vocabulary, hand and finger dexterity, brushing up on arithmetic :). But also, learning how to stay focussed and hopeful with so many possibilities laid out in front of us on a gazillion websites, blog posts, magazines, books, Pinterest, Instagram…you name it, you could spend all your time just looking and never doing, and you could get really confused.

When I started to weave it was much easier. There were far fewer resources. And there’s a sense in which that changes everything. There weren’t the kits and all the patterns like there are now—and because of that I learned so many valuable things right from the start. Because in those days (you know—around the time of the dinosaur) we were pretty much designing everything from the very first project. If you wanted to make a placemat, well, you took the yarn you had, figured out the ends per inch by wrapping it around a ruler, decided how wide and how long and how many you wanted to make…you did the arithmetic. You decided where the colour was going to go. And then you got going.

 

Fewer options meant fewer contradictions, too. I was blessed early on to have many wonderful teachers. But I also learned early that each one of them felt quite strongly that their way was best. At the art school I went to, we had a constant string of top notch weavers and artists rotating through the school. One teacher would say, “You should do it this way” and then the next teacher would say, “You should do it that way.” What I figured out was—there are a heck of a lot of ways to do the same darned thing. Eventually I stopped listening to all of them and figured out my own way, based on tidbits from all of them.

Hence, the first year of the online guild focuses on FOUNDATION. I present different ways to do things but the most important thing I try to get across to you, the weavers, is that you have to try different things and find the way that works best for you. Always be open. Do comparative studies. Try one way and then another—but find out what works for you. Remember, it isn’t right, it isn’t wrong…it is just different.

What’s your weaving philosophy? Share it in the comments, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Ravelry. We’d love to hear from you!

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How the JST Online Guild Came to Be

When I started weaving, 40 years ago, I did not belong to a guild. In fact, I’d been weaving for nearly eight years before I even knew there was such a thing as a weaving guild.

It was when I moved to beautiful Salt Spring Island after art school that I discovered the joy of the weaving guild. I was swooped up by my local guild: a wonderful group of warm and caring women. These women supported me as I navigated so many things that were new to me at the time–especially being a new mother and the loneliness of not having family close by.  I started my teaching career at that guild and I remember that period as a lovely time of sharing, weaving, a lot of love, and a lot of laughter.


For many years, as my teaching schedule became more and more demanding, I travelled all over both Canada and the US teaching what were almost always weekend workshops. I loved those weekends–but I always felt like we were all just getting started when it was suddenly time to leave. Sometimes, I felt sad and maybe even a bit cheated that we could only scratch the surface over a weekend.

After years of this I saw I wanted to do it differently.  I committed to making my home studio a fully functional workshop space, so that I could offer retreats that could extend a full five days. I saw so clearly how much further we’d be able to journey in those five days, especially if everyone had access to floor looms.

Those first workshops, I had no idea if anyone would sign up. I had that voice in my head—you know the one. (“All the way to Salt Spring Island? For a weaving retreat?”). I just had to hope it was true what they say (“If you build it they will come”) and I had to trust that, somehow, weavers would show up.

Show up they did. We sold out every offering within hours of posting, and our weavers came from all over the continent.  I was completely blown away.

For the past 10 years, that’s been my mode of teaching. A workshop every three weeks, like clockwork, for all those years.  It’s been great.

How the JST Online Weaving Guild Came to be

Fast-forward to the fall of 2016. The workshop wait lists had been getting longer and longer. I started to see that I was never ever going to be able to accommodate all the weavers who wanted to attend my workshops. So I started to consider the possibilities.

I had made a few videos for Louet many years before and I had heard from hundreds of Louet’s customers over the years how much they had enjoyed them and how much they had learned from them. So, then—what’s the next step? Videos for workshops? My retreat students and I tossed around lots of thoughts and ideas and slowly I found the courage to attempt it. I still had that voice in my head—you know the one. (“An online weaving guild? Really??”) But as always, I would never know unless I gave it a try.

I really didn’t know where to start but one of my students, Ellen, is an experienced marketer. Ellen helped me collect all my thoughts and ideas on a storyboard–and suddenly, it all just fell into place and I saw what I would do. I would start at the beginning—the same way I do in my live workshops–so that all weavers could come along on the journey. Then–the same way I do in my live workshops–I’d take my online students through the possibilities of various weave structures.

On the set with Jane Stafford
I hired a local film crew who make videos in the community and we booked our first five-day session, just to see what we could do together. It was a blast! In our first week we captured enough footage to make three episodes. We learned a ton together and have now made over 30 videos together.

And here we are. It’s now official: JST’s Online Guild is a going concern with members on every continent. (Well, except Antarctica. What’s with those penguins anyway? Or could it be a shortage of string?)  And so, I would like to thank you for your support in this exciting adventure, and invite you to come join the party.