We have just come off the excitement of The Campaign for Wool and it’s time for another event. For those of you who missed it, the Campaign for Wool was hosted in Bryant Park on 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue (NYC) and included knitters, spinners, thirty sheep grazing and even replacing the water in the fountain with wool. The Campaign for Wool was initiated in October 2008 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who had observed that the wool industry was facing enormous and unprecedented challenges.
We now head off to the Pruyn House and the The Hudson-Mohawk Weavers’ Guild. Every year the group shares their expertise with the public at its annual Show and Sale. This event is held November 15-18 during the weekend prior to Thanksgiving at the historic Pruyn House in Latham, NY. If you’ve not been to the Pruyn House this is a good time to enjoy this historic landmark.
Built in the early 1800’s, the Pruyn House served as a summer home for the family of Casparus and Ann Pruyn. Over a very full weekend, the guild takes over the Pruyn House, with each room devoted to a different classes of weaving. There are separate rooms for scarves, bags, clothing, table linens, gifts and, of course, handwoven rugs. Guild members work all year to create items for the Show and Sale, and they spend long hours that weekend staffing the event.
Each room features an experienced weaver who can explain the features of each creation and consult on selection
Last year I purchased the most elegant, reversible jacket,complete with bat winged sleeves. These one-of-a-kind items are considered “wearable art” because of their uniqueness and beauty. Maybe it’s a ‘girl thing’ but I found it so magnificent that I wore it over my pajamas for a week! It’s creator, Kim Harrison from Ruxville Farm Fiber Arts in Moseley, Virginia will most likely be on hand again his year top discuss and display her crafts.
Kim Harrison and family raise champion moorit and merino sheep, shear them to harvest the fleeces, and create top quality handwovens in the undyed natural colors of the sheep. The creation of beautiful hand-crafted clothing made from the very sheep she raises is completely different. Hand-made goods created from silk, cotton, rayon, and other natural fibers are also available, and each is truly one of a kind. Kim along with crafts people will be displaying at the show
Hand-weaving is alive and well in the United States and across the world. In New York’s Capital Region, the Hudson-Mohawk Weavers’ Guild provides support and encouragement to modern-day weavers.
The guild was formed in 1978 and currently has approximately 90 members. The guild’s chief aim is to bring together hand weavers and spinners to sharing knowledge and enthusiasm for the crafts and to promote weaving as a viable craft through education, demonstrations and exhibitions.
Membership is open to anyone with interest in hand weaving and/or hand spinning. Guild meetings are held monthly from September through May, with a scheduled educational program each month, plus plenty of time to share recent weaving experiences and finished pieces.
Weaving is an art with many facets. There are infinite combinations of different weave structures and color/yarn combinations to explore, making the study of weaving a lifelong undertaking for many modern-day weavers.
Among the many variations of weaving is the making of hand-woven rugs. Many weavers enjoy making textiles for the home, including curtains, table linens and rugs. However, rugs present special challenges compared to these other types of projects.
They can be made using cotton rags (rag rugs) or virgin yarns of wool or other fibers. There are also cut pile or hand tied rugs, but those are less commonly made by hand weavers in the US. warp threads run vertically and are set up first on the loom. The weft threads are then woven across the warp threads to produce a cloth. Most often American weavers will use a strong warp yarn of cotton or linen, then weave in a weft of rags or thick yarn. Rags can be new fabric or used fabric.
Recycled denim jeans are a great weft as they are quite sturdy and are already dyed an attractive color. The ends of each rug can be either fringed or hemmed, according to your preference. Depending on the particular type of rug, the warp and weft threads may show equally, or either the warp or weft may predominate.
A wide variety of weave structures can be used to make rugs. Tapestry techniques, in which the weaver manipulates pieces of weft yarn with his or her fingers in a plain weave across the warp threads, can be used to make an attractive rug with limitless design possibilities. Since the weaver places each weft directly among the warp threads, and can change colors at any point across the weft line, there is complete freedom to make any type of design, even something quite pictorial. The warp threads are spaced widely and are completely hidden by the weft as it is packed in with a tapestry beater. The direct manipulation of each weft thread can be quite time-consuming.
Other weave structures rely instead on a using the loom to lift particular groups of thread in a particular order with each weft shot to produce a pattern. Krokbragd is one such structure originating in Norway, and it is commonly used today to make rugs with beautiful color effects. Krokbragd produces a weft-faced texture, and the warp yarns are completely hidden by the densely packed weft. This weave produces angular designs with color progressions governed by the choice of weft yarn used in each weft shot.
Simple plain weaves and twills can also be used to make rugs, but it is important to ensure that a sturdy warp yarn is used, as the warp will show on the surface of the rug when using these structures. It is thus part of the design as well as being subject to more wear. By setting the warp threads very closely together, it is also possible to make a warp-faced rug, in which the weft threads are mostly hidden. This type of rug lends itself to lovely stripes of color running in the warp direction. Depending on the weave structure, the two sides of a rug may be similar or may show entirely different patterns or colors on each face.
Modern day weavers can take advantage of complex looms with many pattern shafts; the most complex looms often require a computer interface to control the order in which the shafts are used during weaving. Similarly, while weavers used to design patterns on graph paper, many now take advantage of specialized computer programs to design the patterns they will use for each piece. Although many weavers integrate these modern advances into their craft, the basic wooden loom design is almost timeless, and a well-built loom can last for many decades.
Because rugs take so much abuse (they are literally walked upon everyday), they must be very sturdy. Thus a loom designed to make rugs must heavily built. They are typically made out of thicker wood than a regular loom. The beater, which compresses in the weft, is weighted in order to provide greater force to pack the weft in tightly with each beat. Special gears permit the warp threads to be maintained at a very high tension during the weaving process. A regular floor loom is likely suitable for making a rug or two, but any weaver serious about making rugs will eventually get a loom meant for rug weaving.
Care of hand-woven rugs is relatively simple. Wool naturally repels dirt, so vacuuming and spot cleaning is all that is typically needed. If the rug is very soiled, it can be carefully hand washed and sometimes even machine washed in cold water. The various breeds of sheep produce very different types of wool. While a fine wool like merino is very soft and often used for clothing, this fine fiber will easily felt when washed if agitated or upon quick temperature changes. But the wool used for most rugs is coarser and resistant to felting, so it can be washed with less worry of felting damage. Most cotton or rag rugs can be machine washed. With good care, a hand-woven rug can provide many years of service in your home.
Don’t forget to add this event to your calendar, Nov. 15-18th at the Pruyn House in Colonie, New York Fabulous Floors Magazine will be covering the event and giving out copies of the Wool Book. You can download the wool mobile application at the Google Store.
Lisbeth Calandrino is the associate publisher and social media manager for Fabulous Floors Magazine. She can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.