Category Archives: Shelburne Falls

VavStuga Basics Class, Part 3 ~ Handwovens

Wool blanket warp using Swedish Tuna wool, doubled.

After the blanket warps were made and beamed, we could choose to weave on either the red or blue warp.  As tempted as I was by the red, I chose the more calm, peaceful blue, shown above.  For weft I used a muted blue (see Part 1 for photo of blanket in progress).

Blanket after fulling.

A bit closer, and showing fringe.

We were shown how to twist and tie the fringe, and later than evening I stayed up quite late to finish the fringe on my blanket.  The next day, fulling was done, by Becky, using a washer and dryer.

I always say weaving should be used and not put away, and now that these photos are done, I will use mine.  I had to wait, though, because if I had put this blanket down on my bed, I would never have gotten the cats off of it!

Weaving of two other students, using color for weft.

The next weaving I did was the two block, 8 shaft damask in broken twill, using single linen warp, 2 ply linen weft.  Other students used contrasting colors (from the warp) for their squares.  I decided to go for a more traditional look, almost tone on tone, so my weft choice was just a shade or two different from the warp.  This also makes it more challenging to photograph, especially at night, using my phone, after dark!  It definitely needs more spritzing and pressing, since it had thoroughly dried overnight near my woodstove.  A cold mangle has become very high on my Wish List, or should that be Need List?

My traditional look damask piece.

Towel warp.

Next came this cottolin towel warp, 4 shaft, straight twill threading.  We used 8/1 tow linen for weft.  I liked the brighter green and red, it made me think of Christmas, so I wove it using a bright green tow linen, which highlighted the green (and red) in the border, and the other warp colors toned the green down a bit.  A new weaving friend in the class wove hers in bright red. 

My Christmas towel (brighter in person than in this pic).

Towel hanging just left of my kitchen sink.

You can’t tell from this photo, but this towel is hanging from a small section of tree branch, cut, trimmed, and fastened to the cupboard with a screw.  I’ll have to put a few photos up of different parts of my home, which has been described by visitors as “unique.”

Warp for a tablecloth.

My last piece of weaving was this small tablecloth, 8/2 Bockens, both warp and weft.  I was the last person to start weaving at the beginning of the week, so I was the last person weaving at the end of the week, as I had to wait for a loom to be free.  Not to worry, this gave me a bit more time to browse through VavStuga’s amazing library. 

Finished small tablecloth, just fits the island in my kitchen! 

I started this piece at almost 11 AM and had been told shuttles would be put down at 3 PM whether we were finished or not.  I really wanted a finished piece, not a sample, so likely wove faster than I ever had.  I finished at 2:50 PM, ten minutes to spare, Whew!!!    

My pie plate, by potter Anne Appel, goes well with this cloth.

I think this piece turned out very nicely, except in my haste to actually finish this piece before we had to stop weaving, I forgot to put the “light sections” in as in the warp.  At home, if I make a mistake in warping or weaving, I always stop and fix it as I don’t want to look at my error forever.  This day, though, I had a time crunch and decided to just go with what I’d done.

I had to laugh when I had woven several inches and then noticed it.  Becky walked over, I said, “I forgot…”  She said, “I thought you did it on purpose!”  Then I flashed back to the beginning of the week and talking about designing symetrical and asymetrical warps, laughed and said, “oh that’s right, I was tired of all that symetry!”  (Not!)  Every time I look at this piece, I recall my error, ut still, it’s nice as is, and I can always weave another.  Meanwhile, I will enjoy this one!

New weaving friend Diane, of St. Paul, MN.

Myself, out on the warping porch.

Weaving my tablecloth.

Flying home, I kept thinking what a great week I’d had.  Two months have gone by and I still feel exactly the same way.  I had heard from other students that things run on schedule, and they did.  I don’t know how else you could get all of that in five days!  I’d heard (online) from at least four other weavers, and all said I would have a wonderful time there, and so I did.

Becky is a wonderful instructor, very knowledgeable, clear explanations and demonstrations, and has more energy than anyone I’ve seen in a long, long time.  And, the handwovens she kept pulling out, whether for this class or future classes, are fascinating.  If you are interested in Scandinavian weaving, and traditional methods, this is a wonderful place to learn. 

Susan, who has a smile that lights up a room, is there keeping everything running smoothly, answers questions, and at the end of the week, takes care of your purchases, bills, and ships anything home you don’t take with you.  

Gentle Sara, apprentice at VavStuga, took care of our breakfast each morning, worked on her big loom, weaving wide lace curtains, and still had time to chat a bit or answer a question.

The loom/school space is wonderful, filled with countermarche and counterbalance looms, a great library, wonderful warping equipment, the shop is close by in another part of the building, and accommodations are upstairs.  

Lunch and dinner, served on the porch overlooking the river and scenic view, were delicious!  At each meal, the table is set with completely new handwovens, amazing!  And how I wish I’d kept my camera with me at all times.  There was a lot of laughter and stories told over those meals.  After lunch we would have 20 minutes or so to go for a quick walks and dash into local shops and galleries.  

We wove from 9 AM to 9 PM, with time out for lunch and dinner.  After dinner, we would go back to our looms and weave until 9 PM.  Then, running up to get a jacket, some of us would go out for a short walk, just to be outdoors for a bit, get a little exercise in, then go up for more chat, perhaps some knitting or weaving on a bandloom, then rest up for the next day.

I have to add, the lighting in VavStuga class area is wonderful, something I need to have someday.  I say “someday” because I will likely be moving at some point and will not be adding a lot of fluorescent light fixtures now in my weaving studio (what is really a good-size living room) wood ceiling!  But that lighting is also on my Want/Need/Must Have List.

I had a package sent home, with three new books, Becky’s “bead” tie-up system for my countermarche, five tubes of cotton, a threading hook and a band knife (both made locally), along with a few other bits & bobs.  And, a bandloom was shipped to my home, something I had wanted for a good 16 years or more since seeing once in a Glimakra catalog and a photo of something similar in an early issue of VAV.  How nice to have been able to do a bit of weaving on one before making a purchase! 

The bandloom will likely be appearing soon on this blog.  VavStuga can be a very dangerous place to someone, like myself, with no weaving shop within a couple hundred miles.  All those handwoven curtains that week made me want to go home and weave curtains and valances for my windows, and of course, I’ll need tiebacks (bands!) for them.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it!  

I am back weaving at home now, incorporating a lot of what I learned as it comes time to use it.  I am so looking forward to September when I will be back in Shelburne Falls, attending the Basic Drawloom class.  Meanwhile, I’ll be here, weaving and learning. 

(Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with VavStuga, except as a student and customer.  I did check with Susan before using interior photos.)     

VavStuga Basics Class, Part 2

Entrance to VavStuga Shop

I had an early morning flight from Madison, WI to St. Paul, MN, where I briefly met Diane, another student that week, before we boarded the flight to Bradley Intl. Airport in CT.  From there, we shared a shuttle van ride to Shelburne Falls and VavStuga, giving us a chance to chat and get to know each other a bit.  Arriving an hour before we could go into the building, we “hid” our suitcases and set off in search of dinner at a small local cafe.  When we returned, we took our belongings up the flight of stairs to our “home” for the next few days and settled in. 

The space is decorated in Swedish style, simple, comfortable, and very welcoming. 

Upstairs kitchen for students.

The kitchen is an open, very pleasant space.  The coffee pot was almost always on, as was hot water for tea or hot chocolate.  Though all our meals were provided that week, there are classes where they are not, so the kitchen has a stove small refrigerator, and a microwave for preparing meals.

Breakfast was brought up around 8 AM by Sara, the current VavStuga apprentice, and we all sat around the table (seats 8) together.  When we were finished, we were welcome to go down and begin working, or browse through books in the school library.

Sitting area.

The sitting area has two comfortable Swedish chairs, and a bookcase filled with Swedish weaving books and magazines.  Handwoven curtains adorn the windows, and a beautiful old Swedish rep weave rug is on the floor.  We couldn’t believe we were walked on it daily. 

Glimakra bandloom.

When we arrived there was a Glimakra bandloom between two bedroom doors that we were welcome to weave on anytime.  Susan came up and gave us a demonstration, and a couple days later, this second bandloom (above) was brought up as well.  Before I left for home, I had ordered one as I had wanted one of these small looms for 16 years or so, since seeing one in a Glimakra catalog as well as in an early VAV magazine. 

Single bedroom.

I had been assigned the very pleasant single bedroom.  Each bedroom had a duvet and cover, and this room also had a beautiful coverlet as well as a handwoven blanket.

My bedroom window, complete with handwoven curtains and a beautiful Japanese maple just outside, in full glorious autumn color.

Another bed, with handwoven coverlet and blanket.

A beautiful handwoven rag rug.

At the other end of the warping porch was where we dined.

A delicious lunch and dinner were served daily at the far end of the warping porch.  At each meal, the table was set with beautiful handwoven table linens, changing at each meal.   

The Bridge of Flowers, with the entrance next to VavStuga.

The Bridge of Flowers is a most pleasant way to cross the river on your way to shops and galleries.  It was November, so there weren’t too many blooms left, but I’ve seen photos taken in summer and it is beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in September.

Looking across the river.
If you followed the reports of damage in New England from Hurricane Irene, you may have seen the flooding here.  There are videos on YouTube.  

The rear of VavStuga as soon from near the entrance to the Bridge of Flowers.
Susan told of being about a minute before being evacuated from the building with the very real fear of never seeing it again.  Though the retaining wall stayed in place, most of the backyard, up to within a few feet of the building, was washed away.  Thankfully, the building was untouched, the backyard has been replaced, and hopefully this will not occur again.

Part 3 will be of my finished weavings and a bit more of what I learned at VavStuga.

VavStuga Basics Class, Part 1

VavStuga in Shelburne Falls, MA, Nov. 6-12, 2011.

My journey to VavStuga began nearly a year ago.  After 20 years of putting my life on hold for husband and children, I now had an empty nest and decided,… It Is My Turn!  I would now focus on my weaving and fiber interests, and a very real need, hunger, to learn new methods and techniques.

My paternal grandparents emigrated from Norway, so I have long been drawn to things Norwegian/Scandinavian, including weaving.  VAV Magazine had long been an inspiration as were my growing collection of Scandinavian weaving books.  It seemed to me the best way to merge my weaving and the need to learn would be to take classes at VavStuga where traditional Swedish techniques are taught. So I called, paid my deposit, and waited nearly a year for this class. 

My dream was to take a drawloom class at VavStuga, but I found out that first I would need to take their “VavStuga Basics” class, required before taking most of their classes.  That was fine, I had no doubt I would learn a lot, and so I did.  The class was Nov. 7-11, 2011. 

VavStuga classes are taught by Becky Ashenden, and Susan Conover, her business partner, keeps everything running smoothly. 

Becky Ashenden

Susan Conover

Wrap samples.
Monday morning began with a table covered with dozens of tubes of cottolin, a rainbow of colors, and we were to experiment with color, stripes, symetrical and non-symetrical designs.  Two looms were warped up with the group favorites. 

After the “wraps,” we were off to the warping porch, with warping mills, cone/spool holders, large electric ball winder, and more.  We took turns working on the blanket and towel warps.  A blanket warp was used to demonstrate warping with a trapeze.  With no extra hands at home to help warp looms, that is next on my “must have now” list.

Wool blanket warps on two looms, threaded for twill.

My first weaving at VavStuga was a blue & green blanket, also my first time weaving that wide with wool.

My blanket, in progress.

Tan and black cotton tablecloth warp.

Blue and white cotton tablecloth warp.
Looms were beautifully warped!

Next came threading all the looms we would be weaving on,…

…followed by weaving.

Weaving completed and off the looms.

In one week, each student completed a blanket, a towel, a small tablecloth, and a two-block 8 shaft weave.  If anyone had time and inclination, they could also weave a floor mat (bottom, center in pic above).  I was the last to start weaving and the last to finish, completing my fourth piece 10 minutes before we were to put shuttles down.  Whew!  One evening we made braided fringe on our blankets, and the next day they were fulled.  All other pieces were serged and brought home to finish hemming.  Photos of my completed pieces will be in another post.

L to R:  Becky, Janice, Maggie, Jody, Amanda, Diane, Nikki, Margo, and Sara (Becky’s apprentice).
I wish I could say I have photos of every technique and new-to-me thing I learned that week, but I do not.  Rather than be distracted by taking even more photos, I wanted to focus and hopefully be able to remember what I was seeing and doing when I returned home.
Parts 2 and 3 will be up this week.  A drawloom class?  I will be back at VavStuga in 2012 for Basic Drawloom!