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.
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.