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Find your kung fu!

Today I felt like writing about weaving and how it is not only an outer but also an inner process.

This month I'm working on a new batch of shawls, and I know in my bones these are going to be special. And by special, I mean they may not feature as intricate designs as the shawls I've made before, but they are rather a step back into the basics and a more personal exploration of colors and different yarns together.

As some of you may know, I learnt about weaving through friends at a local open studio. I started at the hard end perhaps, beacuse the first thing I ever wove was a Lappish shawl (left pic detail), the traditional kind, resembling a scottish plead pattern. It had fringe on all four sides and was fun and challenging to make.

In Finland the majority of weavers make rugs from recycled textiles and cotton weft, but shawls and 2-3 ply wool and linen yarns had me right at the start. As a knitter, using wool yarn in a totally different structure is exciting. Also harnessing these big giant looms for something so small and intricate fascinates me.

The first warp my "sensei" Katri ever had me do was a diamond twill pattern for a set of 8 heddle harnesses with something like 500 threads. I am not a patient person, so maybe she was testing me?

Learning at an open studio has been great, because you get an insight into silent knowledge from the years and years of the weavers' collective experience you see come through there. It's a great community of women too.

This winter an unexpected opportunity presented itself, I got asked to set up some old looms at the local Steiner school. Last night I finished my first warp outside sensei's studio. I had a friend help with dressing the loom on Thursday and yesterday I wove the first few rows.

I've got a very basic two heddle harness pattern going on, but it's so deeply satisfying walking the hundreds of threads through the process from a 14m warp on the warping board to a coiled braid for transport; to dressing it onto the back jack; then threading the yarn all the way through the heddles and reed and then, just then the warp opens itself for you like the open road and you weave, you weave your heart out!

I don't know what it is about weaving; it's meditative, magical and addictive and it becomes a part of you, an expression of your very being, in material and in color and in movement.

It's a beautiful experience on so many levels I wish everyone took the opportunity to at least attempt this feeling of satisfaction that comes from acquiring a skill and then being able to harness a material and technique to make something useful from scratch.

People, find your kung fu!

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