Self-Sufficiency in a Loom

Last weekend, I went to a Fiber Festival here in town (the first one I’ve ever heard of). No, it didn’t feature prunes, beans and high-fiber foods…we’re talking textile fibers. Alpaca, yak, sheep and various blends of wool, plus silk, bamboo and other fibers that people who work with yarn like to turn into clothes, blankets, bags and other fun stuff.

In any case, there was an overwhelming amount of beautiful handspun and dyed fiber there (and raw fiber too, for those who spin), and I brought home several skeins of wool and one of cotton, and left a silk and bamboo blend one there that I really wish I’d picked up too. But it was expensive, so probably just as well I didn’t nab it. *sigh*

Anyways, at one of the booths where I bought some wonderfully thick and soft black handspun, the woman had a small “lap” weaving loom for sale. I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and ultimately decided not to buy it. And then I kicked myself for leaving it there the whole rest of the weekend. I even mentioned to my spinning/knitting friend at work that I couldn’t stop thinking about this loom, and how much fun it might be for the thinner lace-weight yarns I have but don’t want to knit or crochet with (I prefer thicker yarns – the small hooks/needles hurt my fingers).

As it turned out, my friend knew the woman selling the loom, and contacted her to see if it was still available. It was, and long story short, I sent a check, and the loom was delivered to my house this past Saturday. An hour, maybe 90 minutes later, I’d learned a whole bunch of terms I didn’t know before, and had woven my first inch or so of fabric from some recycled silk yarn I had in the closet.

My first weaving project - some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

My first weaving project – some recycled silk fingering-weight yarn.

I was actually kind of surprised, to be honest. The method described in the instructions made the motions far less tedious than I thought they might be, and I found the whole experience very relaxing. I spent another hour weaving another couple of inches yesterday, and again, found it a very calm and restful activity. It does take a lot of time, especially with the thin yarn I’m using, but it’s relatively mindless, and will result in a gorgeous piece of fabric.

While I ran the threads back and forth, I thought about why I was so drawn to get the loom and learn to weave. Or why I’m interested in any of the fiber arts I take part in – crochet and knitting, mainly. I mean, I do them because I enjoy the work, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only do I feel a sense of connection to the past when I do these types of crafts with my hands, but it also gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency.

I’ve always been a very independent person (too independent, says my mom), and I’ve also always been interested in homesteader-type activities. Crochet was one of the first hobbies I learned as a child, and it feels good to know that I can make both warm and useful things with just some yarn (or whatever) and a hook. I started knitting just because I think knit stitches are better for clothing (tighter), and weaving will broaden what I can make even more, in terms of household items and possibly even blankets and scarves.

Making things with my hands using simple tools gives me a sense of connection to the past that very few other things do. These crafts have been passed down for generations on to the next, and there’s just something that feels very important about keeping the hand-made version of them going as people cycle in and out of life. Not just because there’s value in knowing how to take care of ourselves without the technology of mass-production, but also because of that feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with knowing how to take raw materials and turn it into something useful and practical (as well as beautiful, in many cases). The more self-sufficient I feel, the more confidence I have, and that applies to all areas of my life, not just my homesteader-style hobbies.

Which is justification enough to learn how to spin my own yarn one of these days too, right? Although we may need a bigger house…

But I draw the line at raising sheep outside an actual apocalyptic-type situation. I helped a friend with 4-H sheep in high school. They’re cute, but stupid. I’m not a fan.

Alpacas have personality, though…