For at least 27,000 years, peoples from across the globe have discovered ways of weaving. Within different regions unique traditions developed, created by the confluence of technology, material, and culture. At the Marshfield School of Weaving, we preserve and teach the British-American expression of traditional textile making. While this system has much in common with other European and Eastern traditions, we have inherited the form practiced in Scotland and learned by Norman Kennedy in the first half of the 20th century. This tradition reaches back to the introduction of the horizontal loom to Britain during the Middle Ages and is the same one that was brought to early America through British colonization. This time honored way of making cloth was widespread in our region before it all but disappeared under the powerloom. Today, the Marshfield community is the heart of this vibrant tradition in the United States.
FOUNDATIONS OF WEAVING
Why are all first-time students—even experienced weavers—encouraged to take Foundations? In short, because the historic equipment and methods we use are not taught anywhere else. Weavers traditionally were much more responsible for the function of their tools than is possible with modern mass produced looms. They utilized particular skills that maximize efficiency and ergonomics. This class is centered around engaging with our antique looms and the techniques they’re designed for; every intermediate and advanced class we offer is quite literally built on this foundation. This class is offered one week a month and the dates are posted on our calendar page. Click Here!
The Marshfield School of Weaving is home to the largest collection of working 18th and 19th-century hand textile tools in the United States. Using handmade equipment perfected through centuries of textile making for the first time is a lesson itself for even the most seasoned weaver. The experience of sitting at a loom that has made cloth for generations of weavers past and generations of weavers to come invites each student into this craft tradition. Students will use 200-year-old spools, skarnes, warping bars, quill wheels, and looms, as well as newly made shuttles, pirns, and temples.
Each student will take their own project through from start to finish. Class begins with an introduction to project planning including yarn sizes and calculating setts, followed by multiple end warping (making a warp using multiple yarns at once) and forming a lease using a skarne and warping bars. Next, students beam on their warp with a raddle using solo or assisted methods, learn how to construct the loom harness, draw-in (thread the heddles), sley the reed, tie on the warp, build a counterbalance shedding mechanism, and tie up the treadles in walking fashion. In weaving, students are introduced to the finer points of shuttle handling, pirn winding, and proper use of a temple. If time allows, the webs will be wet finished, otherwise students will receive instruction on how to carry this out at home. Unlike a class focused on creating a collection of woven samples, this class is an in-depth look at the entire weaving process with a strong emphasis on technique.
Students may choose to weave one of two projects scaled to their experience level: a length of toweling, or a wool throw inspired by a traditional Scottish wedding blanket. New weavers will work with cotton for the towels or plied wool yarn for the throw. More experienced weavers may choose to weave towels with plied or singles linen, or challenge themselves with a throw woven of singles wool yarns. Either project may be woven in plainweave or twill. The toweling may be woven as napkins or a small tablecloth. Weavers with their own loom access may make a longer warp and any unwoven length may be chained off for weaving at home. Students who finish early may wind a warp to take home or weave on a loom that’s already warped if available.
WHAT COMES NEXT
After a student has completed the one week Foundations class they can now take any of our Guest instructor classes. or participate in our Special Projects/Refresher Weeks.
Special Projects and Guest Instructor Weeks
We are now pleased to offer a wide variety of classes taught by guest instructors in more advanced weaving and spinning techniques such as our Fleece to Fulling class, Warp Painting with Silk and Weaving Hemp clothing fabric - to name a few. See our calendar here for more options.
We are also now offering our former Foundations students and long term alumni the chance to come and refresh their warping and loom set up skills in our Special Project/Refresher weeks. The focus will still be on perfecting technique but the use of other weave structures will also be encouraged. Projects such as overshot, warp and weft faced rugs, fine silk, checked fabrics and fine wool are all open to study. Check out our calendar here for the weeks that classes are offered.
Workshops: Dyeing, Spinning & Other Techniques
Natural dyes have been a source of awe and delight for millennia and are the subject of shorter one to four day classes.. Local plants are the focus of Dyestuffs From Vermont Meadows, Gardens, and Hedgerows, a class that changes with the seasons and rhythms of nature. Get the blues during the Indigo Intensive, a four day plunge into vatted indigo where students set-up indigo vats, build shades from sky blue to midnight, and experiment with surface design techniques like resist dyeing. Students use mordants to shift colors from scarlet to purple and try their hands at fabric printing.
Spinning classes and working with the processing of bast fibers and flax are also offered in the spring and summer months.