To make a scarf that is 60 inches long and 10 inches wide, you need 380 yards of carpet warp yarn, cut into 120 individual strands each measuring 114 inches. Each of these 120 strands is then fed through an individual space in a 12-dent reed and then each of those is threaded through the eye on a heddle on one of four harnesses. And that’s just the warp, or the vertical portion. The weft, the horizontal, is another set of calculations. If you want to dye your warp or weft yourself, treat it with ikat, paint it, or do any other special treatment, then there’s several more steps before you even get to the loom.
I love weaving. It’s tedious, time-consuming, involves lots of math, and leaves little room for error, but I think those are some of its good points. The creation of your own textiles, at least for me, is all about the process. Counting out hundreds of threads and making sure that each is placed in just the right spot on the loom has a calming effect. Like yoga or other ancient forms of physical training, the repetition of certain movements and habits can center the mind and bring comfort. When I’m sitting down to weave, I let my mind clear and focus on the feeling of my yarn between my fingers as I throw the shuttle back and forth, or the sound of the harnesses as they move up and down with each step on the treadles.
Working as a web developer, I have developed a love/hate relationship with technology. Some of it is great, like my automatic cat feeder that lets me sleep in instead of being woken up by a hungry cat. Other inventions, such as the automatic flush toilet, make my life more stressful than streamlined (I’ll tell you when I’m done, toilet!). Coming home to my old farmhouse and sitting down at my loom is a release from all the technology that surrounds me. Looms are, in themselves, a great technology, but there’s no screens, no electronics, and no wifi involved. Just wood, steel, and cotton. My progress is clearly visible and the results are always interesting.