Tag Archives: weaving

From Bread Bags To Friendship To Covid-19

Last August I got a letter.  It was from a woman two thousand miles away.  She said that my posts on loom restoration had been very helpful in assembling and refurbishing one that she had recently acquired.  Since then we have sent a lot of what we have done back and forth.  Each of our families have chosen to stay at home over the course of this pandemic, and we have found our own ways of being creatively productive.  Her work is amazing; she is a Master weaver.  Over the past couple of months she has woven bread bags, chair upholstery, and scarves, worked on vestments, and sewn virus masks.  It’s amazing!  Here is some of her work…

My own work here has focused on finishing construction on our weaving shop and anchoring our power loom…


…along with getting accessories up and running like this cone winder…

And now I am in to preparing equipment for spring farming, starting with installing new axles and refurbishing some trailers that will be good now for decades to come, and farming equipment…


Isolated on our farm there is no end of work to do over this time when staying separate is the best gift we can offer to one another…well, that and weaving gifts!  :)  Today we start planting our garden for 2020.

A healthy tension will make all the difference at this time for many of us, namely, be compassionate toward others, learn new ways to not become anxious, and realize that others may not have your best interests in mind.

Stay safe!

Dedicated Weaving Shed

Over the past three days we put down plywood, wired, added electrical boxes, insulated, sheeted plastic, and panelled a building that for years has been in the works, namely, a dedicated weaving studio.  Complete with a loft it will be able to accommodate several people in a simple, wooded setting of solitude.  Electricity will be able to be switched between a generator or better yet, 12 volt rechargeable batteries with a solar panel.  The kitchen will be meagre but adequate.  And there is an area for washing up and personal needs.  While not completed, it is now at a point that can be easily heated and worked on over the winter to be fully finished.  Much of the building materials used here are personally made or scrounged in keeping with the self-sufficient nature of weaving itself.

And as of last night…

Pioneer Life – Doukhobors


As the Doukhobors moved out to these villages they first erected makeshift shelters, either of poplar poles or turf; sometimes, where there was a hillside, they lived the summer through in a dugout, and there were also a number of tents.  Outdoor ovens were built for baking bread, and the blacksmiths set up their forges and made charcoal out of the available timber.  Like most communities that have traditionally been self-contained, the Doukhobors found little difficulty in going immediately into operation in a strange environment, for they had among them men who knew all the necessary crafts.  Among the first things they obtained through the bonus fund was a quantity of iron bars and leather, and with these they immediately set about making harness, spades, and tires for their wagons.

This self-sufficiency, which was carried into many fields of activity, undoubtedly helped the Doukhobors to survive with very little money during the first years on the prairies.  One of the first gifts of the American Quakers was three hundred spinning-wheels, and with these the Doukhobor women span the woollen and linen thread they later wove on homemade looms into homespun cloth.  Furniture was made out of hand-hewn wood, and utensils, such as spoons, were carved out of the same material.  Some of these crafts continued to be practised for decades…

The Doukhobors, Woodcock and Avakumovic


‘Rediscovering The Sacramentality Of Things’

Lili Blumenau, 1912 – 1976, was a visual artist teaching weaving and creative fibre design in New York and operated her own studio there.  She was instrumental in designing the presentation at the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition in 1958 (Expo 58).  It was the first world’s fair following WW2 and opened with a call for world peace.  Charlie Chaplain’s, The Gold Rush finished second to Battleship Potemkin in the first-ever international film critic’s poll, and someone tore off the bottom right corner of Mozart’s Requiem as a souvenir while it was on display.  (The missing piece has not yet been recovered.)

Stunned at the church’s inaction on behalf of the poor in 1933 Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin founded the Catholic Worker Movement in New York City, NY during the depths of the Great Depression.  Their simple love for God led them to simply open houses of hospitality (an ancient, formal churchly model) where anyone could find meals and a safe place to sleep and live without conditions.  It was non-violent direct support for those in need.  Seeking to rely less on donations they founded their own farms, giving residents an opportunity to work growing food, and eventually offering retreats that taught spirituality and skills.  Weaving was one such skill and upon making a retreat to the Peter Maurin Farm, Lili Blumenau became a supporter of their well-placed efforts.  Upon the writing of Blumenau’s work, The Art And Craft Of Handweaving, Day wrote a review of it in The Catholic Worker newspaper in 1955.  I ordered a first edition copy of the book yesterday for a very modest cost.  The review follows…

Lili Blumenau is familiar to some of the Catholic Workers since she made a retreat with us some years ago at Easton, Pa. and in the ten years since then has taught three or four of our number the fundamentals of weaving. She has a studio on Tenth Street, off Fourth Avenue, and she is an instructor in weaving at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. This book she has written tells of the evolution of spinning and weaving from thousands of years before Christ, and there are beautiful illustrations of basket weaving, Egyptian spinning implements, wall paintings of spinners and weavers in Egypt down to present day photographs of girdle looms among the Indians of Guatemala. One illustration is of a Coptic child’s tunic of natural linen, plain weave, decorated with tapestry woven motifs in bright colors, which dates from the fifth century. This tunic is in Cooper Union Museum not far from the Catholic Worker and I must certainly go to see it. It is very like the baptismal robes some of our friends are making today. There are not only pictures of every kind of loom and tool but a clear explanation of their uses. There is one section of the book given to design. At the end, a buyers’ guide for looms and accessories, yarns and a very good bibliography and index.

Every one who has come to Peter Maurin Farm has been very much interested in our loom and spinning wheels, one from the Hutterites of Montana, one from French Canada and two from India. We are also, Tamar and Susie and I, familiarizing ourselves with the spindle, that small wooden stick with a round wheel which is the earliest of spinning implements and has been made of stone, metal or wood. By twirling this tick Tamar has been able to make very even thread from wool and flax. The children are beginning a scrap book of pictures of sheep, their sheering, the carding, washing, spinning and weaving of wool and it is a fascinating compilation which takes in discussion of village industries in India and Israel, and the latest, today, a picture of a loom clipped from the Catholic Charities Drive folder. You hear a great deal about these crafts in jails and veterans’ hospitals and mental hospitals. “After the horse is stolen the barn door is locked.” We need to use our hands, to develop skills, to rediscover the sacramentality of things. To whittle, to knit, to crochet, to mould in clay, to weave, to darn or mend also, – – all of these are the quiet occupations which make for Peace. Besides, as Peter Maurin used to say, men make their millions by the machine and spend them for hand made articles, rugs, drapes, tapestries, linens, clothing.

One of our friends who made a retreat with us, who was not at all satisfied with her office and clerical work, began to learn to weave with Lili Blumenau and became so proficient that she was able to design and weave samples for manufacturers (all of which work can be done in the home on a small loom) so that perhaps she will one day attain to rural living and have her own sheep and produce her own wool.

Lauren Ford, the artist, of Sheep Fold, Bethlehem, Connecticut, every year has given us fleeces of wool which we have washed, dyed, teased, carded, spun and woven and sometimes knit into various garments. And we are only beginners, who do this in odd moments with visitors and friends.

Do get the book and start to weave your own drapes, couch covers, towels, scarves and hand bags.



Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving In Early Canada

In 2007 Adrienne Hood published her book, Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving In Early Canada.  Ninety-nine pages long, it gives a general overview of weaving from the the arrival of Europeans through the initial establishment of factories.  It includes a list of functioning, period-farms across Canada today in the back.  A nice bedtime read with lots of photos, it’s a nice addition to my library, and at $.97 plush shipping I can’t complain!

A $0.97 Treasure Ordered Today: Review

51wg-y3well-_sx258_bo1204203200_Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada
Hood, Adrienne

Beautiful full-colour photographs reveal the story of spinning and weaving in Canada.

Every spring in early Canada, fluffy sheep dotted the countryside, and in summer, blue flax flowers waved in the wind. By the fall harvest, they provided raw materials for the production of wool and linen, the focus of Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada.

This engaging social history explores the methods, tools, and patterns used by early immigrants to create their homemade textiles. The Acadians, Quebecois, Scots, English, American Loyalists, and German Mennonites all brought with them traditions that were reflected in their beautiful handiwork. The process was laborious — it took a full day to spin a pound of wool — but also social and creative. As settlements prospered, spinningwheel makers opened shops and commercial weavers set up operations — until industrial mills moved the whole process out of the home.

Lavishly illustrated with colour photographs, this book explains all the stages in making fabric and offers striking examples of clothing, quilts, and coverlets. The photography highlights the work of historical interpreters at prominent sites, including Black Creek Pioneer Village, Upper Canada Village, Kings Landing, Lang Pioneer Village, Highland Village Museum of Nova Scotia, and Joseph Schneider Haus. Fashioning Fabric will appeal to any reader interested in the “fabric” of everyday nineteenth-century life.


‘Always Weave A Sample’

simple sample of black on white placemat

It was a simple suggestion, but sitting over brunch on Saturday my friend simply said how important it was that people be able to see a sample of what you will weave.  And it’s true.  For many people it is extremely difficult for them to envision what a verbal description of an item will actually look like when it is finished.  I was a good reminder that I should not take what I do for granted and impose it on others.

Professional Handweaving On The Fly-Shuttle Loom – Laya Brostoff


A good copy of this book was purchased from a book seller in Edmonton for $25 CDN and arrived today complete with blueprints and several other documents from its last owner.  I will look through them over the next couple of days and hope to find the plans for building a flying-shuttle on the new Nilart loom.  I really look forward to doing so.