Whenever I want to weave something bigger than a band I take my rigid heddle loom down to the local vävstuga. A vävstuga is a local weaving room, but also so much more.
If you are a patron (or want to become one) you can see more of the vävstuga where I weave in my March 2022, June 2022 and January 2023 video postcards.
Vävstuga – the local weaving room
Väv means weave and stuga means cottage. A vävstuga is a space, not necessarily a cottage, where members can come and weave, sort of a local a weaving room. Back when people were weaving for their household needs or for textile manufacturers many homes had their own looms. With the Industrial Revolution moving weaving to the textile industries, private looms were less common. Local weaving rooms started emerging in Sweden in the 1950’s.
It’s difficult to tell how many weaving rooms there are in Sweden, but in a bachelor’s thesis about the vävstuga I read that there there are at least 900 throughout Sweden, probably a lot more.
My local vävstuga
In my area of around 1000 households in six housing associations there are two weaving rooms, both equipped with five or six floor looms plus weaving tools and material. The weaving rooms were planned when the area was built in the mid -80’s and the looms were paid for by the housing associations. I pay an annual fee of around $40 plus any material I use (which I don’t since I use my handspun yarns only). This is where I went when I first wanted to learn to weave.
Every season the members come together to plan what to weave on each loom. Everyone gets a slot in the weaving queue for their desired project. I started out like that too, but quite quickly realized that the system didn’t work for me. Since basically all members are senior citizens they weave during the day and get quite a lot done. I only have a couple of hours on the weekend. Also, I wanted to weave my handspun yarns. So I bought a rigid heddle loom. Whenever I have a weaving project I bring it to the vävstuga.
You can see a previous project I wove in the vävstuga here.
A whisper from way back when
My vävstuga is screaming of the -80’s, in every wall colour, flooring, interior decoration and the looms. Even the weaving patterns the members use are from the -80’s.
Before we moved to our town house we lived in a flat just like the vävstuga. The preschool where our children went half a lifetime ago lies in the vävstuga building. About eight years ago, when my then twelve year old son came in to the vävstuga for the first time he stopped the second he passed the threshold. In a single breath he relived all the smells of the apartment where he had lived the first six years of his life and of the preschool. He decided to treat the vävstuga as sort of a sacred place, where he didn’t allow himself to use his mobile phone. He wanted to savour the air and the memories that came rushing over him.
A twill thrill
My current project is a twill weave in my handspun yarn. “Twill?”, you may say. “On a rigid heddle loom?”. Yes, twill on a rigid heddle loom. A rigid heddle loom is originally a two shaft loom, but with a double heddle, a shed stick and a heddle stick I am able to create a four shaft weave. It is quite fiddly and takes a lot of time, but it works. I have always been a bit intimidated by large floor looms with numerous possibilities that I will never understand. My rigid heddle loom is simple enough for me to get a grip of and expand when I need to. So fiddly and time consuming twill it is.
I’m weaving with handspun singles in both warp and weft. It’s definitely a thriller, the warp gets very fuzzy. After having consulted my weaving friend Maria I spray it with hair spray after every advance. It works surprisingly well.
A map of what I have learned
Just a few warp threads have broken so far and I know by now how to fix them, almost without panicking. I remember one of my first weaves where about 30 warp threads broke. I did panic, but I also realized that I just had to fix them. Until then I had spent so much time, love and dedication on spindle spinning all the yarn and I just couldn’t just let it go to waste.
This is my approach to every weaving experiment I tangle myself into. As I say to my students: My mistakes are a map of what I have learned. And it’s quite evident in my weaving. It is the bumpiest, prettiest and most endearing map.
I’m almost half-way on my weave and there is a whole spectrum of challenges and potential disasters ahead. But I will finish and all will be well. I’ll write a separate post when I’m done, telling you all about the wool, the spinning, weaving and finished project.
When I skip down to the weaving room and open the door I say “Hej Vävis!” (roughly translated to “Hello Weavy!”), my heart tingling with weaving anticipation. The vävstuga is a place where I get to spend time with my weave and see it grow centimeter by centimeter, a place where I get to create with no other projects or tasks calling for my attention, a place where I get to learn.
Time does seem to have stopped in the vävstuga. Yet, all I can hear is the sound of the beater adding row after row to the fell and the ticking of the wall clock. Usually I get to the vävstuga in the morning before the other members come. I relish in the silence, the liberating lack of clutter, things to be done. In the vävstuga I allow my thoughts to come and go, like the shuttle stick moving through the sheds. Like a breath moving between my inner and outer worlds.
When I turn the light off I pet my weave, thank it and take my leave with a “Hejdå Vävis!”. The weave and the weaving vibrate in my heart and hands as I walk back home.
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