-17º this morning, and I'm in love with winter, day and night. It's a wonderful time to weave, when there is fresh snow and sun, the shop is bright and warm, and there is a faint scent of my geranium, if the sun is shining on the plants. I love to weave paper flowers on spaced linen warps, on my old barn loom. Why I love to weave on this loom, though it is very rustic, a counterbalance, with just two shafts, is that it is very good for weaving plain weave and linen warps. Simple weaves.
The loom was built by Norwegian immigrants to Coon Valley, Wisconsin, in the late 19th c. It was taller once, but its legs have been sawed. There are signs of a bench that used to be bolted to the front, but it has never had a bench since I've owned it. I taught myself to weave on this loom, standing up, weaving rag rugs, and I am strongly, affectionately, attached to its mass and homely beauty. It's called a barn loom, because it looks like it belongs in a barn, like a large, steady draft horse, ready to work.
The solid warp beam, a tree trunk, grown on a Coon Valley hill over 100 years ago, and shaped into an octagon, has a 28" girth. The distance from the back beam to the front is long, and there is a lot of room to keep the tension on the linen just right. The overhanging beater, as it swings to beat the fell, makes a satisfying thump. While I needle in the paper yarn rya knots, the soft crinkling rustle of white paper sounds like gifts being unwrapped. A cup of cool water sits next to me on the breast beam, with a soft brush in it, to open the paper yarn petals. I feel like a gardener working in a winter flower garden. The lightness, and ephemeral appearance of the linen and paper garden is an unlikely product of the overbuilt loom that created it.
The flower petals in this are made of strong, Finnish paper yarn, I ordered from Tampere, Finland. The paper yarn is threaded on a blunt tapestry needle, and tied into the weave as it progresses. I also used Japanese paper chenille, mohair yarn, unraveled plastic tarps, and white linen in the knotting.
There is a story here, of course; but one I think I'll tell some other day. Traditional Finnish transparency weaving is what these come from, as well as Japanese suspended panel weaving that I have always noticed, and admired.
When I weave paper and linen, in a grid like this, I think of windows, of air and light moving back and forth through the weaving, past and future, memory and forgetting. The blooming is imagination, and possibility. Sometimes the "blooms" are just 8 petaled flowers, but sometimes they are more like explosions. When I first started to make them, a few years ago, I wondered what I was making. I thought they might be the frost covered windows in the coldest corners of our house. But I change my mind, and find they hold many more meanings than that for me. Weaving them carries me away.
(I plan to enter this piece, Memory and Forgetting, in a Scandinavian art fiber exhibit, which features an exchange exhibit with a handicraft museum in Finland. If accepted, it could fly to Finland next summer!)