The Efficient Weaver

I have had the good fortune lately to encounter two really efficient weavers – one in person and one via video.  As you know (if you read my blog) I have been working with Becky Ashenden of Vav Stuga Weaving School. She is almost superhuman in her speed and efficiency, having spent many years earning her keep as a production weaver followed by years honing her skills managing projects/classes/students at the school.  She has really thought through every knot, tool placement and gesture to maximize efficiency – it has been the only way she could possibly do all she does.  Becky is also a musician and dancer and seems to have great command of her physical space.  Even though I don’t currently have a Swedish loom, I have taken home many tips and tricks that I have learned from Becky.  A few examples, are “the magic string” tie-on method, her method of using the warping reel (she forced my out of my comfort zone by insisting that I wind a warp for a class holding 12 threads at once – and it WORKED!), her method of starting and ending new bobbins and more.   I am sure that I will continue to learn from Becky’s years of attentive, thoughtful experience.

The second of the “Efficient Weavers” from whom I have sucked info recently is Laura Fry. Laura Fry is a Canadian weaver who has made her living as a production weaver since the late ’80s and is now a weaving guru. She has a great website, and seems to be completely generous in her responsiveness to weaving questions and queries. She coincidentally?  also came to weaving as a musician/dancer I downloaded her video called . . . “The Efficient Weaver”  from the Interweave site a couple of days ago, and have really enjoyed trying some of her tips and tricks.  Her set-up is similar to mine in that she is working on a jack loom, but she does a rough pre-sley at a table then beams using a valet, transfers the cross and threads back to front – very similar to the Swedish method at Vav Stuga.

So, I had one day in a somewhat fraught schedule to try to be “an efficient weaver” , so yesterday I decided to try to recreate a set of very sweet napkins that Becky wove and that are often seen adorning the table at the Vav Stuga lunches.  I’m not exactly sure of the materials used by Becky, but I had some 22/2 natural cottolin and some cream softball cotton that I decide to use.  I wound a warp of 300 threads, 5 yds long for 8 – 14″ x 14″ napkins.  I only had two spools, so I only wound with 2 threads, but I did do a rough pre-sley ala Becky/Laura/Ute, beamed using my valet (a rod mounted on my studio ceiling and horse shoes as weights), transferred the cross and threaded from the front. I used Becky’s “magic string” method of tying on (she explains it in her awesome little book  affectionately called “flippy” or Dress Your Loom the Swedish Way. I had a coffee break and proceeded to weave.  True, they are small napkins, all in plain weave – no floating selvedges, no temples and 22/2 so no fine threads, but efficiency worked.  I got a 5 yd project warped, woven and washed (yet to be hemmed) before having to rush in to make dinner for ravenous teen. Efficient weaver1

Using twill tape as the napkin template – hems and accent yarn placement marked.  Becky uses grosgrain ribbon – more elegant!Efficient weaver2


right off the loomEfficient weaver3

Every inch of warp used (again Becky’s great notion to use thrums to create lovely, useful choke ties)Efficient weaver4 Efficient weaver5

Washed and ready to be hemmed (by hand right Ute:))Efficient weaver6

Oh how I love those that figure out all the hard stuff and pass it on.


  • October 28, 2014

    Beautifully elegant.
    You would have laughed seeing me trying to thread my loom yesterday. Used a raddle for the first time and back to front method. Trying to find a way kinder on my shoulder tendons. Hmm, that wasn’t it.

      • October 29, 2014

        Hi, I have torn rotator cuff tendons in both shoulders, one worse than the other. Threading front to back i would thread the heddle and then flick the thread to the side and I’ve figured its the flicking that is aggravating the tendon. I was also having trouble finding the next thread from the cross behind 16 shafts (eyes growing old – bifocals didn’t help) so I had another go yesterday with the warp chain following a different route over the top of the heddles. I’ll work out something to suit as I’m not stopping weaving any time soon.

  • November 4, 2014

    Marcia Cooke

    Hi, Lisa! So nice to meet you at Vavstuga last month, and thanks so much for your help with my blanket “issues”! (It came out great and is heading to Baltimore for the silent auction fundraiser at my son and daughter-in-law’s opera company. Killing me to give it up, but….)
    Love the napkins! Hope they will be in the Kitchen class in June….but I might have to try something like that before then. Another gift idea!

    Best, Marcia

  • June 15, 2016

    These machines have a long time to look back, we should have to weave the fabric workers