Earlier this summer, we had a staff dinner for SweetGeorgia to thank our dyer, Ray Tse, before he headed home to Hong Kong to pursue his career in ceramic arts. At dinner, I had a conversation with Charlotte and Misty about making things and mentioned how many years ago I had considered becoming a weaver. Like not just playing with my loom on weekends, but like full-on, moving to the UK, going to Central St. Martin’s for their textile program, then becoming a production, artisan weaver and attempting to make a living and a meaningful life in that way. But things happen and circumstances change, and those paths wind away into the wilderness. That conversation reminded me of my loom and how much I missed the comforting rhythm of threading heddles, tying knots, and throwing the shuttle. The romanatic, melodramatic side of me also missed all those metaphors that weaving brings with it.
A few other tiny moments these past few years have nudged me back to the loom too. My public health nurse, Jennifer, now retired, came to visit me at home a few days after Russell was born. I didn’t know then, but discovered later on, that Jennifer was also a local weaver and explained that she used to weave with her kids underfoot, and taught them to count as she wove. I’m reminded of similar stories of my spinning and weaving teacher, Irene Weisner, who said she studied weaving while she had her young children. And again, how Jane Stafford built her weaving career and business while raising three boys around her looms. So it seems like it can be done. And the one thing that turned me onto the possibility of starting to weave again, now, was this photo. This mama, weaving at her loom while her baby is strapped to her back in a woven wrap. This single photo changed my perception of what was possible.
I’m not new to the idea of babywearing. I wore Russell in an Ergo for four naps a day during those early months, I traveled Europe with him in a carrier, and he’s nearly 3 years old now but still loves being picked up and carried. But I guess, I’m new to the idea of babywearing on your back. And then, I fell down the rabbit hole of babywearing and handwoven baby wraps.
There are some unbelievably gorgeous handwoven wraps out there. In fact, one of our previous dyers at SweetGeorgia, Farideh Barani, has built a handweaving business out of weaving wraps. But the sheer beauty of these simple but stunning expressions of colour, dye, and texture have completely inspired me to try weaving one for myself. But given all the work that is required, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make one if I didn’t know that I would enjoy wrapping at all. So, I bought myself the least expensive machine-woven wrap I could find to try it out. For the past month, I’ve been wearing baby Nina in a size 6 (4.6 metre) cotton woven wrap and have managed to figure out a bunch of different carries, including strapping her to my back. In fact, it’s how I’m getting these blog posts done. Nothing beats babywearing for that evening witching hour crankiness. And wrapping Nina has been the all the difference between getting sleep and no sleep this week while she’s had a cough and a cold.
Can you see the appeal? When life is chaotic and messy (and snotty and crazy), it feels like putting a thousand tiny bits of string into order and making them all stand straight is the best possible cure. You can literally beat your frustration out as you weave your cloth.
So, I pulled out an old 8/2 cotton warp I had handpainted about a million years ago and put it back on my Louet Spring loom. It was super tangled and, for some reason, I had cut both ends of the warp, making for a crazy warping time. But I managed to get it all back on the loom so I could weave some samples. Samples at 22 epi in plain weave, using 20/2 silk and 8/2 cotton weft, and more samples at 24 epi in plain weave, 2/2 twill, and broken twill. Trying to see what I might like best for a handwoven baby wrap fabric.
With this sample, I made a threading error and had to make my own repair heddle out of cotton seine twine to fix it up. I’ve also re-learned how to wind a pirn for the end-feed shuttle properly (so that the yarn doesn’t all fall off the pirn). So many things to re-learn and practice again.
I have a grand vision of making my own handpainted, hand-dyed cotton warp of 800 ends and weaving it with 20/2 silk weft. It’s a personal challenge and something to focus in between work and home life. It’s a challenge that requires me to learn how to dye with new dyes and a challenge that requires me to slow down and learn things again. But it’s a challenge that is so unbelievably inspiring to me right now. It makes me want to access and absorb everything in my path, and to do so much more than what I know right now.
What is driving your curiosity and creativity these days? Is there something you are absolutely obsessed with and just have to try making? What’s keeping your attention this weekend? If you’re in Vancouver and have some free time, I suggest stopping by the Silk Weaving Studio for a dose of inspiration. I was there a few days ago and nearly burst into tears with how beautiful everything was in there. Happy Friday.
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