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September Blog Weaver Spotlight!

We are so happy to share some of the beautiful work of our Online Guild members.

It is truly amazing to see where they have taken the online lessons, how they have adapted them to suit themselves and their technique. When members have the courage to change my drafts, change the colour, change anything they want… it fills my heart to overflowing.  When I see these posts on the Forum and Ravelry I know why I love my job so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop teaching.

So…..it is with great pleasure that I share some of the beautiful work from one or our Online Guild members.  This month we bring you Clare!

My name is Clare Cunningham (diveblue on Ravelry) and I have been a member of the guild since the first season when a friend suggested I have a look. I had started weaving a year or two before and had a couple of floor loom classes under my belt. From the beginning, I loved the pace of learning with the videos. It was also nice to get a fresh viewpoint in that first season on the mechanics of weaving. Jane’s aesthetic appealed to me from the get-go. I am a graphic designer and her clean, graphic sensibility and fearless use of color were very appealing to me.

I came to weaving by way of being an avid knitter. I loved the idea of using up my stash which had tipped the scales to the “more yarn than one can knit up in a lifetime” side. I also found the processes to be very similar. There is a catharsis to all that counting, threading, and sleying. I was once told that knitters have to be somewhat OCD and that is probably also true of weavers! I love all stages of the process, including the design work, and rarely follow a commercial draft.

I wanted to remain true to the workshop drafts and follow them to the letter, but I’ve made a few tweaks along the way, mainly for ease in winding and warping. I like to hold two threads in my hand which I find easier to keep straight in the cross when peeling threads off the lease sticks and I also like to begin and end at the same point on the board so I always hold a minimum of two threads in my hand and keep the numbers in the draft to multiples of four. I therefore have to round up or down any odd number instructions in the draft. Not very Fibonacci-esque at times but I try to keep the proportions the same. 

In the first project, the Asymmetry draft, I swapped out the red for a deep pink which was readily available in my stash, a color I knew would work well with the greys. In planning the subsequent pieces for this project I tried to make my weaving “deliberate” and have a finished piece in mind. In the past I have tended to weave to a firm plan as far as the warp and structure goes, and would then get bored, changing up the weft as I went along. I’m finding that the more intentional a project is the more I like it. I make an effort now to dial back on the randomness. This towel is woven as written: 8/2 in warp and weft and a sett of 18. 

The second piece was inspired by Swedish weaving that I had been looking at. I made use of repetitive sequences, something I keep in mind regularly these days. I find the pieces that have an asymmetry and appear to be random hold together much better with some repetition— either in the pattern of the weft or in a color turning up again later, if only briefly. It is the 8/2 cotton warp with 8/4 Maysville cotton rug warp as weft. The sett was opened up to 15 and it makes for a very thirsty bath towel. 

Below is the preliminary sketch that I “poured the detail” into. It is a division of space in 5s.

In the last piece I opened the sett up to 12 with the 8/2 cotton as both warp and weft. It is very gossamer and light as air. I tried some sampling at this sett and had great success with Zephyr Jaggerspun.

The Color and Weave sample colors were chosen from a distant memory — a woman’s outfit I saw on the street as a child. I have loved them since. Chartreuse, to my mind, is a neutral and goes with anything.

I greatly admired Jane’s shawl with the beautiful drape from the first season and I was trying to come close to its fluidity. The piece is sett at 15. The warp and the crepey green stripes in the weft are in 8/2 cotton. The rest of the weft is 5/2 bamboo. The cotton stripes shrank differently to the bamboo and look like seersucker. The bamboo was a success in achieving the drape I was after. 

I used the full draft and have to confess that I struggled with holding multiple warp threads in my hand. I had wound off a number of balls and they didn’t play well with one another! The final outcome was worth the warping struggles. The patterns are magical as they appear.

I had a great deal of fun with Parrot and loved the color play. I was missing one of the pinks and swapped it out for another blue. As I started to weave it was the colors created by the weft on top of the warp that really caught my interest. The layers of transparency added depth and the more complex and murkier the color the better. In this piece I especially like the brown, earthy tones created by those overlapping colors. 

I thought about Fibonacci numbers with all the divisions of space in the weft. This piece reminds me of the spaces on a Parcheesi board!

I had a Piet Mondrian grid in mind when I started this piece. I focused on “making squares” and planned for a pure color square of each of the warp colors as I approached from either side by using the clasped weft technique. The only color that could not be reached was the red square in the center so in this instance I used the inlay technique described by Jane in the episode. 

My favorite piece from this series is an overlay of the asymmetry sample from lesson one. There is so much saturated color in this warp that a white “zinger” seemed like the best choice. 

I find that my biggest successes are the pieces in which I’ve pushed myself to go outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes I get an idea and immediately dismiss it as being a little too “out there.” I challenge myself to follow through with these because these are the pieces that often end up being the most successful, and if not, give me the most satisfaction by way of the effort. Jane has given me the courage to take that leap!

Learn more about JST Online Guild

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Weavers of Sabahar Part 4 – Heddle Fundraiser, Please Help :)

Welcome back to the last of 4 posts about the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

If you have been following this story in previous posts, you are no doubt amazed at the cloth that comes from the looms at Sabahar. So much love and labour goes into every inch of fabric and I feel so blessed to be able to work with these artisans and help in any possible way.

The bulk of Sabahar’s business comes from international buyers outside of Ethiopia who support members of the World Fair Trade Organization of which Sabahar is a member. Kathy has a small marketing team who go to WFTO trade shows to exhibit Sabahar’s fabrics and get orders.  

While planning for my March visit Kathy asked me to help her set up a Research and Development Team with 3 of her weavers. The goal was to develop some criteria around the design process that would encourage new ideas, develop creativity and solve problems with the resources at hand.  

For someone like me who loves to sample and loves the question “what if”….. it was the perfect job. 

Our first job was to define what a R&D department does.  I explained that is pushes limits, looks for new ideas, it assumes very little and tries everything it can think of.

We started by sampling with their staple warp yarn, 40/2 cotton grown and spun in Ethiopia. My question was …”what can we do with one yarn, plain weave and a reed”.  Colour was not a problem because of those wonderful dyers you’ve met in previous posts.

Beliefs around what can be done with one single yarn are the same in Ethiopia as they are in other parts of the world.
A yarn is sett at such and such ends per inch or cm and with small variations and there they live. It was time to challenge those assumptions.

I arrived in Ethiopia armed with samples. We put our first test warp on the Jane Loom that Louet had provided to them a few years back on my first trip. We wove, resleyed, wove some more and resleyed. We used different wefts and combinations of wefts, cotton with some recently acquired wool and linen, cotton with handspun cotton and handspun silk weft, singles, doubles, triples, changed the sett again, tried clasped weft and….we learned a lot.

We washed everything, played with water temperature, gentle swish, big squoosh, hard wash, and we learned a lot.

And at the end of this first warp we had 14 different samples and everyone, including myself, learned a lot.

Kathy had a request from a buyer for linen fabric. Linen is not grown in Ethiopia but she was able to obtain several weights from a mill in India. The weavers were having a lot of difficulty working with this new yarn. It was sticky, abrading in the heddles (remember those heddles do not have an eye) and it took so long to weave. Thanks goodness there are tricks that can be learned about weaving linen and good warping techniques that are vital for its success.

The first thing we did was change the way the warp was made using only 2 ends at a time. You can see the linen cones on the steps, they travel up to a reed hung from a tree and down to the warper. No cones tipping over with this method 🙂

Degu chaining a very long and perfectly wound linen warp.

The next thing we did was open up the sett of the linen so the warp wasn’t so dense coming through eyeless heddles! The abrasion was greatly reduced and this meant that we had one very happy weaver who wove the entire warp off in two days. Fewer ends per inch, fewer picks per inch, no sticking, less abrasion…happy happy.

Our next challenge was trying to create a heavy fabric with that 40/2 cotton. We couldn’t make the cotton fatter no matter how much we fed it…so we used multiple ends as one. Another way to get a thicker fabric is to use a weave structure with a longer float. We decided to have a crack at twill.

There are always challenges, like how to turn a traditional 2 harness loom into a 4 harness loom. Kathy had asked me to bring some texsolv heddles from Canada so that is where we started. Texsolv heddles have eyes….yes….wonderful, easy to thread eyes!

We finally got everything on and the warp threaded but, we were having a heck of time getting everything balanced.

Then creativity shone its face upon us! Someone came up with the idea of using wide elastic, like the kind that hold up your undies. These elastic bands were all the same length, had the same stretch, and worked like a hot damn managing our harnesses.
So funny 🙂

Oh yeah baby, we did it 🙂

We treated 8 ends of 40/2 cotton as one end, threaded it to an alternating extended point twill (Goose Eye) then played and played. I know how to count to 4 in Amharic so I sat beside Ermais and counted out 1 und, 2 ulet, 3 zost, 4 aret for the threading and when he treadled, it became, und/ulet, ulet/zost, zost/aret, und/aret. Going backwards was a little harder but they were so patient with me and we laughed a lot when I blew it.

After we played with twill, I suggested we try other techniques on this warp. Heck, why not try denting and clasped weft..we had tried that on our first warp and it was pretty cool.

On our last day together, Ermais, Anteneh and Ayele presented our sampling to the greater body of weavers at Sabahar. They were so empowered as they shared what they had learned with their fellow weavers. These weavers will then share with the outside weavers and the learning will continue to seep beyond.

Below is Kathy Marshall, the founder and owner of Sabahar with Degu, the Weaving Production Manager.

Kathy started all of this 16 years ago in her kitchen with a basket of Eri silk worms and a dream. A dream filled with hope to make a difference in Ethiopia. She now employs over 100 artisans working at Sabahar 1 & 2 with weavers, spinners, dyers and finishers in addition to over 100 families working outside of Sabahar raising Eri silk worms, weaving and spinning. When I think of all she does every single day, I am truly overwhelmed.

The Texsolv heddles I brought made such a difference to the weavers who had them installed on their looms…however, there was only enough for 3 looms.  

It would be GREAT if all the weavers at Sabahar and the outside weavers could have texsolv heddles and guess what… We can help with that! JST has created a category on our website where you can purchase HEDDLES FOR SABAHAR. 100% of your purchase will be sent to Texsolv in Sweden so that they can supply the weavers at Sabahar with new heddles. Small gestures of many create great feats!

I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts. If life goes as planned, I will return to Sabahar again next year and share more stories with you 🙂

Love Jane

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In Memory of Ann Belau

Once upon a time there was an online weaving guild and some weavers formed groups to follow along with the guild. There were big groups and small groups, formal guilds, and informal get-togethers. Some groups took on weaving projects or challenges together. Sometimes, they put on shows to share the beautiful things they created.

Ann Belau belonged to two of these groups. One was a small local group in Three Rivers, CA; the other was the venerable, valley-wide guild Handweavers of the Valley. It’s clear Ann was a key member of her weaving groups—a teacher, an organizer, an event planner—and that she was driven by her own innate desire to learn as much as she could of spinning, dyeing, and weaving.

Left to right: Ellen Henderson, Ann, Linda Hayden, Mary Lou Hanson, Sophie Britten.

I really connected with Ann and her weaving group when, last October, she designed the foyer for the 39th show and sale of her local guild—displaying her study groups samples of all the episodes of the online guild. It was, by all accounts, a stunning display of colour and weaving. As guests arrived, Ann sat at her loom and gave teaching demonstrations of preparing the loom for weaving. At the time, I was thrilled and inspired and a little awed to think that I had had a part in such a truly remarkable achievement.

Ann has left us now, although she will never truly leave her family, her community, and her weaving friends, by all of whom I know she was deeply loved.

But I am still thinking about Ann, about her weaving group, about the people she connected with, and about the people who connected with those people. I am reflecting on how weavers who belong to an online weaving guild—in the cloud!— still find ways to organize, to connect, and to form community and engage with one another in meaningful ways.

I always get this sense of awe watching people take up the lessons of the guild and run with them. But there was something about Ann and her group that laid it out for me in a new way. Somehow, thanks to Ann and the people connected to Ann and the people connected to the people connected to Ann–I saw something new about the creative spirit and how it tends to organize.

First, we weave and then, we find one another. We self-organize–in guilds, in small weaving groups, at the community centre, in our homes. We are bigger than the organizations we create, but we also sometimes find our home there, as Ann’s daughter says Ann did. We decide to create beauty out of our own spirit; then we find our partners, our sisters, our friends. And then we create astounding things together. We work, we create, we talk, we share, we laugh, we learn—and we produce beauty.

Maybe we are like the bees. Maybe each of us is a single bee. In solitude, we weave our own life and experiences. But then we find one another and come together, and maybe then we are like a hive. And within our hive, we reach out with our sisters for craft, for mastery, and for beauty. And then one day, when we leave the hive, maybe we are like Ann—we launch into the open air with sun on our face, the wind in our hair, the blue sky over our wings—on a mission to find the flowers, and then to dance their location for her sisters, also working and dancing under the sun.

This is what we do. It really is what we do. It is the most beautiful thing imaginable. And I am so, so privileged to be included in that. I have all of you to thank for it, but it took Ann to show it to me.

To see some of Ann’s beautiful work, please read this blog post written by her daughter, who has given us permission to share the link here.

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Handweaving in India

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

A few weeks back I received a request for information about the beautiful textiles on the back wall of the studio in the videos. Laurel asked if I could share some information about them…. how they were woven, where I found them, interesting facts about them and about my travels.

Handweaving in India: some of the beautiful handwoven samples on display in the JST Textiles studio

What a great idea… those textiles are hanging on the wall because they provide me with more inspiration than I could use in a lifetime and they are all woven in India.

In 2011 I was invited by Charlotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver to go to India and assist as a weaving facilitator at a Masterclass she was hosting in a village some hours north of Calcutta. That trip changed my life in more ways than I can say. I have been back to India several times since and have also worked in Ethiopia. I’m actually going back to Ethiopia in March to continue working with some of the very fine weavers at Sabahar and I’ll certainly post about that little adventure.

Going to India confirmed what I have always believed…..that we can weave the most beautiful fabrics on the simplest of looms. If our technique is top notch and we train our hands and eyes we can accomplish great things. If we question our beliefs about right and wrong (or it must be done this way) we come to understand that there are a million ways to approach things and everyone needs to embrace what works for them and that is dependent on the resources we have on hand.

There are 8 million handweavers working in India every single day. Their use of pattern is like a language, it has great cultural meaning and is miles deep. The fabrics created are extremely different between villages, regions and states. This means you could spend a lifetime learning about cloth in India.

I could go on and on but I think I’ll start with the warping process in the first village I was in. I’ll add a new post every other post.

Remember, in rural India weaving is a village affair, imagine walking into a village where 1000’s of weavers are busy at work. I was in heaven.

A simple 2 shaft pit loom. Notice that the beams are all made from giant bamboo. The weavers sit on the ground with their feet in a dugout where the treadles are.

Handweaving Around the World: India

This is a reeled silk warp being prepared. In this village they start by making a gigantic sectionally wound warp and the warping reel will hold warp for many looms. Once it is all on, the weavers bring their thread beams in and wind off enough for their sari or whatever they are weaving.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

The thread beams and harnesses are taken outside when there is bright sunlight to thread them.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Then the beam and harnesses go back onto the loom where they are sleyed and weaving begins.

What a blast!

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Hope you’ll come back for more.

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Handweaving in India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

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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.