I don’t know how to weave. Still, I do it. Join me as I move through warping a shawl in my handspun and hand dyed silk singles, in a slot-slot-hole-slot dance across the heddles.

Slot-slot-hole-slot. My hands move mindfully between the heddles, picking one thread at a time from the back heddle to the front. 40 + 40 threads per 10 centimeters for a width of 40 centimeters is a lot, all slinky, single, silk threads.

A drawstring bag full of marbles

A drawstring bag full of marbles was the key to keeping the yarn taught for warping. I spent a few evenings on the couch winding all of my 16 skeins onto medium sized marbles from the treasure box my now grown children had stored in the attic. The yellow cotton bag crowned with a red drawstring made me suspect that my husband had stored his marbles in it back in the late -70’s and early -80’s. Perhaps some of the marbles had been his too. The marbles can’t have been anything but surprised by being wrapped in shiny silk goodness.

Round balls of shiny yarn in shades of blue and teal, next to a speckled glass marble.
A drawstring full of marbles came to my rescue as I warped my silk singles.

A couple of days ago I had brought the yarn marbles to my local weaving room to warp. Transferring the fine threads to the loom, and inviting them to an adventure neither they nor I knew anything about, had scared me. Marbles had rolled across the floor in a jumble as I walked back and forth, counting the turns.

The stories in my hands

I go to the weaving room again. As my hands concentrate on separating the threads I realize they are the same hands that danced the fibers onto the spindle through the summer, and the same hands that rubbed fresh indigo leaves into the finished skeins, to receive a glittering row of blues and teals. As I look across the heddle I see the sparkle in each and every one of them. Some are fuzzier from heavy rubbing in the dye bath, some smoother from just having been soaked in an ice and leaf blend. It’s also the same hands that planted the indigo seeds back in March, and pruned the sweet stalks as they emerged from the wool topped soil. So many stories are vibrating in my hands through this process, and more will come.

A warp beam filled with shiny stripes of blue, teal and gold.
My hands remember all the processes they have been part of through sowing, pruning, dyeing, spinning and now warping.

Just as the fibers had spread their wings like fairies from the static charge as I spun it, the warp ends rise in the dry indoor air when I thread the heddles. I tie the warp ends from one broad and one narrow stripe together to prevent them from getting tangled. Through the static charge and their singlehood they are desperate to jumble and move.

Memories of a missed weaver

Slot-slot-hole-slot. One broad blue stripe, one narrow golden muga silk stripe. Kerstin comes into the weaving room and turns the radio on. The reporter talks about the dramatic wintery weather, cancelled bus departures and people helping their neighbous ploughing their garage driveways.

A rigid heddle with silky single threads hanging out of holes and slots.
Slot-slot-hole-slot across the heddle.

I ask Kerstin for general silk weaving advice, she is an experienced weaver. She says she’s never woven with silk. “But Joyce would have known, she wove with every possible material.” My mind takes me to the plastic totes Joyce had woven from recycled plastic bags and sold at the spring fair. Kerstin looks at the empty spot where Joyce’s loom used to stand and we both remember her fondly. Kerstin and Joyce, two widows, spent every day of the pandemic together in the weaving room, drinking coffee at 2. The last time I saw Joyce she came in with the basket of her walking frame loaded with vital medicinal equipment, parked it beside her countermarch loom and crawled underneath the warp to tie the treadles.

Slot-slot-hole-slot (and a beat-beat from Kerstin’s loom). The weather report is followed quite suitably by Madonna’s Frost. It’s been a while since I heard it.

I don’t know how to weave

I don’t know how to weave. Still I do it. The knowledge of not knowing helps me discover through my mistakes – since I never learned the rules of weaving I don’t know when I break them. And I am grateful. Every new weave is a thousand new experiences.

A sketch of the colour sequence in a weave. Broader blue stripes separated by thinner golden stripes, a pink and two purple stripes in the center.
I draw my planned colour sequence to understand how I need to warp.

I have planned this warp based on the sixteen skeins in different shades of blue and one purple, calculated width and length. I warp one stripe at a time from the center out. And yet, my calculated 40 centimeter width quickly turn to 60 and I have skeins left. I scratch my head, shrug my shoulders and thank my miscalculations for having the good taste of going in the right direction.

As I add the second heddle I realize the first one was a 30/10 instead of the 40/10 I had based my calculations on. Slot-slot-hole-slot all over again, with the correct heddle. I wonder whether my 60 centimeter width on the warp beam will mean trouble for my now 40 centimeter width on the cloth beam. My answer is that I will learn from whatever the outcome.

Twists and tangles

I notice that the golden muga silk threads tangle more than the mulberry silk, twisting around each other. This will be a challenge, I note to myself, remembering my last weaving project with a singles warp yarn. And I will learn from this one too. In my next breath I spot a missing muga silk stripe.

A row of warp thread bundles tied onto the warp beam bar.
Slinky little knots add to the challenge I face through the weaving process.

Slot-slot-hole and the last slot. All done and my hands are blue. I tie the ends around the cloth beam bar. It feels different than tying wool – the slippery surface makes the knots glide and I have to retie some of them several times.

Warp threads between two heddles. A hand reaches down to separate and lift the threads.
I need to fiddle between the heddles for a clean down shed.

This is it. This is when I find out if I have threaded the heddles correctly. While I have worked with double heddles before, I haven’t done it to double the thread count, only for a double layered weave and for twill. The lower shed is fiddly and I need to lift and separate the threads between the heddles to find the shed. But it works. This will be a slow weave, and I embrace the slowness.

The first golden thread breaks. This is my cue to call it a day. I will deal with it with a fresh mind and deblued hands tomorrow. I loosen the warp beam handle to relax the threads, pet the weave and thank it for the company and a good day’s work. Kerstin is on the floor tyeing her treadles. As I leave I hear the 2 o’clock news jingle behind me and Kerstin’s footsteps toward the coffee maker.

Happy spinning!

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17 Replies to “Slot-slot-hole-slot”

  1. I enjoyed your talking through the process. Also I admire your patience! Warping a loom brings out the worst in me…mainly my enormous lack of patience. If the thread had broken on me I probably wouldn’t be back the next day….maybe not even the next week. Bravo to your gentle nature.

  2. I enjoy all your posts but this one really shines with the background details, blue hands, and tying it together in the end with Kerstin getting her coffee as the 2:00 news comes on. Well done!

  3. As always I love your descriptive writing Josefin. We truly are with you in the weaving room, what a treasure to have such a place. Weaving is on my bucket list, probably for next year. Hope that golden thread is less naughty tomorrow.

  4. I’m glad you don’t know how to weave so the ‘rules’ won’t get in your way 🙂 Beautiful work, the combination of colours & I love those plumpish weft threads. Thankyou for your words.

  5. I totally enjoyed reading this. I am about to start a scarf weaving adventure. I don’t know the rules either. I do hope you show how to do the fringe.

  6. Hi, This is not a comment, but you were so kind and helpful to me when I was trying to teach myself how to use spindles and how to order one suitable for me. Since then at 84, I fell, broke my leg badly and had to have it nailed back to my hip! This was in August, and after being cared for by my daughter and son-in-law, I am back in my own house limping around with a cane. I have arthritis can can no longer spin with my beloved support spindles, so I just got an Ashford e-Spinner 3. I had no idea that for someone with no spinning wheel experience it would be an entirely new learning experience. After watching countless videos, I finally came across one that explained Scotch tension, wheel speed, the relationship and so on, so I think I actually might get to spin my fiber stash into yarn! I hope you are doing well. From what I have read on your posts, you seem to be , which is great. All the best. Veena

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