More Than One Way

Tonia and I were talking recently about weaving. She’d ordered a simple loom, and I told her about one my dad made me out of strips of wood and popsicle sticks, back in 1968. And my friend Wendy sent me a sash she wove on a backstrap loom when she went to Guatemala several years ago. Weaving is popular right now, thanks in large part to the kids’ looms at the big box arts and crafts stores. They’re inexpensive and simple, and lots of adults are inspired to give weaving a try and see if maybe they want to go on and take a class and maybe someday invest in A Real Loom, the kind that takes up a sizable chunk of your living room and is like a magnet for your cat, who is sure you set it up just for him. Or maybe not: maybe using the simplest of looms works for what intrigues them about weaving strips of cloth and yarn and seeing where the process leads them.

What I love about this is that there are suddenly a bunch of ways to introduce yourself to weaving on a loom. A couple years ago you didn’t see these options and so thought, perhaps, that if you wanted to experiment with weaving, you either had to rent a loom (is that even possible? Yes, it is, at least in some places) or save up and buy one or find someone who’d let you come over and use theirs. Now you know you can get a really simple one, see if the process appeals to you, move a step up and see how that goes, and then go from there.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised at how many people have told me, “Oh, I’d love to learn to ______, but I don’t have the space/tools/supplies.” I know how it goes, because I don’t have a lot of space or tools or supplies, either; but I hate to think of people not trying something that might turn out to be perfect for them simply because getting started seems so daunting. Imagine how happy I am to see the proliferation of ways to do, well, almost anything.

Have you seen arm knitting? Yes, it’s just like what it sounds like: using your arm as a tool for knitting. So if you’re like me and just slightly intimidated by the idea of having to manipulate these long needles *and* deal with the yarn, suddenly there’s another way to find out if making stuff out of yarn is something you want to pursue. Plus it just looks like a lot of fun.

Air brushing? Say you really like the look of airbrushed color, and you’d like to see if it’s something you want to use in your work. Once upon a time you had to get the entire set-up to see if it was something you wanted to do, but now? From the very simplest to something more refined, there are a number of ways to try out the process to see if it’s for you. Using markers with a small compressor is viable option for almost anyone and is way, way easier than all those jars and hoses and nozzles that clog up and have to be cleaned.

You can try sculpting with air dry clay (scroll down and click on the links for reviews) instead of investing in a kiln, and you can begin making jewelry using cold connections instead of having to buy a soldering iron and solder and flux and, and, and—right off the bat.

If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can stitch by hand. If you don’t have a washing machine, you can dye fabric in a bucket from the dollar store, and there are kits you can use that don’t require you to order soda ash and a bunch of other chemicals.

Yes, it’s wonderful to have top-of-the-line tools: the good paints, the hand-carved loom, the fanciest set-up for whatever medium you love. But the truth? Sometimes it’s the simplest method that produces the most interesting work. If you’re just beginning and don’t have all the accoutrements yet, you’re forced to experiment and innovate and think, “What if?” And—whoa—isn’t that what it’s all about in the first place? Yes. Yes, it is.


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.

W8061_wabisabi-cov.inddFor more ideas about using unexpected materials or just those you have on hand, try Wabi-Sabi Art Workshop by Serena Barton.







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2 Responses to More Than One Way

  1. CarolineA says:

    I started weaving in 1986; I couldn’t buy a loom where I lived so I used a backstrap until I made my first box loom. I still make looms, although I have since bought several made by loom manufacturers. But when I have the urge to weave, its usually the simple looms I turn to, because I am a tactile person; I also spin my own yarn, so touching what I make is a very important part of what I do and I enjoy feeling the fabric come to life under my fingers.
    Looms do not have to be expensive. Even the cheapest child’s toy is a fully working loom, but without the bells and whistles of their bigger, costlier cousins and they can be as simple as winding thread around cardboard or a book. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you use is not a proper loom – a loom is simply a device to hold the yarn under tension as you weave, and the incredibly beautiful and intricate wool and silk brocades that come out of South America and SE Asia are made on primitive looms, and many of those things cannot be made on the modern floor loom, despite its sophistication!
    The magic comes from your fingers, and if you are a tactile artist, weaving is a new skill to consider, and there are lots of free resources online to help you. Its slow cloth, and very liberating in our busy overloaded life-styles, but its the very act of creating a fabric and seeing it come to life in your hands that makes it addictive.

  2. Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

    Caroline, I love your explanation of what weaving really is. Thank you. Except now I really want a loom. Any loom!