As I progress with my largest project to date, weaving project #16, it strikes me that I've jotted down some tips as I've learnt them, and still continue to learn (and sometimes relearn), and that it would be useful (for me primarily) to have them in one place.

First, a bit of background: My weaving is entirely hand held and involves just a weaving needle and a frame (either a converted picture frame or a Dutch plank loom - both of which are really just wood with nails hammered in). No complicated kit. Yet! For a beater (the thing to push the weft (the thread that is woven with) down) I'm currently using a kitchen fork, although I have just ordered an afro comb after a friend suggested that it might just work as well. The barrier to entry is low.

The lessons:

  • I can do 1.5-2 hours at a time - after that my concentration fades and I start to make silly mistakes - and this, in turn, leads to frustration which in turn leads to tension difficulties. Enforcing this timespan allows me an opportunity to review my work and progress regularly, and this gives me chances to adapt. I regularly need to remind myself of this!
  • I need silence. I can't weave with the tv or radio on. Probably because I like to be able to concentrate.
  • I like to be alone, probably relates to the silence thing. Fortunately, I wake up earlier than Richard and so I can normally sneak in a couple of hours weaving on a weekend morning. And the dog's presence is fine, she often just curls up next to me, or occasionally ends up on my lap with a loom balanced on her head.
  • I like to transcribe the drafts into an exercise book that I keep by my side. This allows me to tackle more complex drafts than I could do by memory alone. And I also get to annotate as I go. This provides a useful history of what I did, and what I attempted and stopped (only one to date I think), which draft I followed (I add the number from to my notes). I was interested to see that according to the Barbican's Bauhaus: Art as Life exhibition, that I visited last weekend, Gunta Stölz and Anni Albers did the same thing - they even had some examples of their plans on the wall next to the finished products.
  • I do my weaving in chunks based on the weft repetitions - so if a draft has 6 different lines of weft work which are then repeated, I will work in 6 line chunks, always (or at least always trying to) completing a repetition so it's clear where I should start next time.
  • The tighter the warp (the threads running top to bottom that form the basis) the more even my selvedges (edges) are. I've seen people suggesting using fishing wire as the outermost warp thread to give additional strength. This makes sense to me though I have yet to try it and suspect it to be more of benefit to rugs than bookmarks! I was delighted to see that the Bauhaus exhibition featured some woven wall hangings which had distinctly unstraight edges. This is obviously hard, and my inability to keep them straight isn't unique to me - always good to know.
  • Not all threads are made equal. Cottons are very ”splitty” and I haven’t yet managed to weave using a multi-ply cotton thread as a weft which hasn't ended up in an inconsistent and messy result (see weaving project #5). They are ok as warp threads though.
  • Time spent unpicking to remove errors is time well spent. Looking at something afterwards and knowing that I’d spotted it but chose to carry on bothers me.

I'm sure I will have more items to add to this list as I continue my journey, but it felt that now was as good a time as any to review my progress.