Resources for beginning weavers

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vavstuga Basics

Way back in October, when I signed up for my Vavstuga Basics class, I wasn't sure what my expectations should be.

Whatever they were, the reality has blown them right out of the water.  This has been one of the most extraordinary weeks of my life.  For the past week I've been weaving 10 hours a day; and when I wasn't weaving, I've been eating like royalty, devouring books from the weaving library, examining hundreds of examples of woven Scandinavian pieces, or falling exhausted into bed.

I must first start with Becky.  If there were a professional league of weavers (or potential elves), Becky Ashenden would be a first round draft pick.  Not only is she an amazing teacher, she is also full of good humor and curiosity.  Case in point:

ME:  "Uh oh Becky, I found a mistake in my warping."
HER:  "A mistake?  What kind of mistake?  OHHHHHH!  I LOVE this one!  This is a great one!"

Never before have I seen someone so happy about my errors! She's not enthusiastic, she's ENTHUSIASTIC.

My fellow weavers were a diverse bunch.  There were novices (like me, but also someone who has never in her life touched a loom) as well as accomplished weavers here.  We all seem to be having a grand time. Most of us are staying at Vavstuga, which can house 6 people above the studio in a neat little living space.  It's a bit loud up here but I wouldn't want to stay anywhere else.  The studio and living quarters have an amazing view of the Deerfield River, and we are nestled among several artists studios (careful with the checkbook!) and neighbor to the Bridge of Flowers -- an old trolley bridge transformed into a garden.  We are eating amazing Swedish meals -- starting the day with cheeses, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, and hard boiled eggs and ending with salad, bread, a hot dish, and homemade dessert.The living space is packed with handwovens -- rugs, overshot coverlets, napkins, and a different tablecloth every day.

The dining area (made up with another amazing handwoven) looking ou
the Deerfield River and Bridge of Flowers.

The amazing Bridge of Flowers at dawn.
The studio is amazing.  This room is completely full of Glimakra looms, a huge library of weaving books in every language, spools and spools of cotton and linen, and an intriguing collection of tools.  This place is all about Scandinavian weaving, so counterbalance and countermarche looms are our tools.  Having only used jack looms, this is exciting for me.  I'm hoping to not want a new loom after this week, but it may be inevitable.

"Squid towels" in the bathroom.  I'll be making these
cool towels sometime soon!
Our weaving week started with us all sitting down and winding color cards for towels and picking 2 from all the choices to make this week.  (Happily, one of mine got picked -- a design I'm calling "sand and sea".)  We then spent 2 days warping up 8 looms; 2 with cottolin dishtowels, two with linen block weave table cloths (more like table napkins, as they are small), two with cotton table cloths, and two with wool blankets.  That leaves 3 days of weaving; enough time to complete all 4 projects for most of us but some people went on to a bath mat as well.  Every day we had "drafting class" at 11, where we do drawdowns by hand, all based on a theme, and then Becky pulls out dozens of examples of woven items that display that theme.  It's a bit overwhelming to see how productive she has been.  It emphasizes for me how very little I know, but also inspires me to get to work.  I'm thinking I need to just warp up a black warp and do a wide variety of designs on it; rethreading if need be.  Perhaps this fall will be the season of sampling!

Examples of Becky's handwovens.

Yet more examples.  They just never stopped coming.
In the afternoon we also meet to fill out project sheets for our projects; which is great. Although I keep a project book, it's not as meticulous as it needs to be.

Now to the important part:  what I came home with:

My finished products (they just need to be hemmed):

I also left with a bunch of items for my stash; cottolin (actually Bockens Nialin), tow linen in a few color, and some cotton for  napkins.  I was tempted by many weaving tools, but I didn't want to buy things if I had a serviceable tool already.  They have very nice sleying hooks, for example, but I already have a perfectly good one.  Those shuttles, on the other hand . . . .

I'm also leaving with my head spinning from all the directions I could go from here.  I'm not much of a homeware weaver, but I think I will be in the future.  The logo of Vavstuga has three words in it that I think really reflect what goes on in the school:  Tradition, Creativity, and Technique.  All of these qualities will be on my mind over the next few months as I process my stay at Vavstuga -- I'm so glad I went!


  1. Thanks for this report. I'm on a waiting list for this class later this year. I hope I get in and don't have to wait until 2012!


  2. It's worth the wait! You'll love it.

  3. Where are you in Maine? I like to weave and teach biology too. I'm in midcoast. Every time I find someone online like this I wonder if I've seen you about, crossed paths, out even cut out in front of you in traffic.