“There she weaves by night and day, a magic web with colours gay” -Alfred Lord Tennyson.
I’ve always been interested in weaving, but I am a beginner, and I keep running into problems; my yarn is too static, the pattern doesn’t work, my warp breaks or slackens.
I am thrilled then, to talk with Kelly Casanova, a textile and fibre artist. Kelly has an etsy shop called kellycasanovaart
Kelly dyes, spins, sews, embroiders and weaves. And it is weaving that I am talking about to her today. True to those who know their stuff inside out and back to front, she has given me answers to some of the issues I have.
Whether you are experienced or a beginner, I am sure you too, will find this interesting.
Platypus: Who are you?
Hi, I’m Kelly – a wife and home schooling Mum to 4 and an avid fibre enthusiast. Most of my free time is spent weaving but I also love to dye, knit, spin, sew, embroider and indulge in a little photography. I am committed to using Australian wool, not only because I believe it to be some of the best in the world, but also to support the local industries of our beautiful country.
Platypus: Can you provide a brief outline of how you weave.
Currently I weave on a rigid heddle loom and have plans (one day!) to upgrade to a floor loom. I like to have a hand in any process I’m working at from start to finish, wherever possible. To that end, I dye most yarn for weaving projects myself (I also spin fleece I have dyed into unique yarns), weave the project – often handstitching the garment on the loom or sewing together once off the loom, photographing and finally wrapping and packing to send to a customer. It is important to me that my projects are unique, authentic and 100% Australian grown and made.
I often warp the loom on one day and begin weaving the next. This is because warping can be a lengthy process (depending on the project) and I mostly work at night.
People often ask me “how long did it take”. I usually shrug my shoulders or say either “not long” or “a long time!” I don’t pay too much attention to the time it takes me to complete a project. Perhaps if I thought about it too much I wouldn’t even start some projects that are an investment of many hours! I feel that it is much better that I am completely happy with a project, that I learn by making it and that it brings joy to me as the maker and somebody else as the buyer or recipient than to be hung up on how long it took.
I like to weave mostly functional items, being a practical person I like to know that my work is being used somehow, whether it’s a beautiful shawl to keep someone warm or a lovely kitchen towel that is a bit more luxurious and unique than your everyday towel.
Platypus: When did you start weaving?
I have always been a creative person and studied photography and painting at high school. After we were blessed with children, the desire to be creative became very strong and I started to build my skills, first with sewing classes, then an embroidery course, and from there I found it difficult to stop – in fact, I haven’t stopped! The wonderful part of learning so many creative skills is that you reach a point where the skills all combine, sometimes seamlessly. Most of the skills I have learned over the years are an immense help in weaving. I have only been weaving for 2 years but have advanced very quickly due to previous skills and knowledge and a whole lot of enthusiasm and experimentation!
Platypus: Do you have favourite accessories, or equipment that have been a bonus for you?
One of the great things about a weaving loom is that you can add equipment over time. For example, my loom came with one heddle size which was great to begin with, but now I have 3 different sized heddles for different weight yarns. The absolute best thing I have purchased for the loom in more recent times is two pick up sticks. What is a pick up stick? A flat, wooden stick with a tapered end. What does it do? Wonderful things! Armed with just one pick up stick you can create all kinds of patterns with a rigid heddle loom. My type of loom has only 2 shafts, so is one of the most simple looms on the market – however, with the pick up sticks you can create extra shafts and make a huge number of very interesting patterns. My weaving has become very exciting with the addition of these humble sticks. Rigid heddle looms are easy to obtain in Australia.
Platypus: Where do your ideas come from?
The ideas just don’t stop with me! I have a creative journal on hand so that I can sketch and scrawl new ideas – otherwise I forget them. I have a lengthy mental queue of future projects, and often a new idea will usurp my plans as I get new ideas through the physical acts of dyeing and weaving. I have a rather large weaving board on Pinterest and this is a great source of inspiration, as well as weaving groups on Facebook. I love books and beautiful magazines too.
Platypus: What is the best part- starting a project or finishing a project? Or halfway through? Or all.
I tend to agonise over a new project for a little while before I start. I’m a bit of a planner and because a lot of my projects are experimental I like to be a little bit careful. I hate wasting yarn and I hate it when something doesn’t turn out how I envisioned, so I go to great pains to avoid these outcomes! I do absolutely love finishing a project, cutting, unrolling from the loom and really seeing it for the first time as a whole piece. Most of the time I am overjoyed with what I see and if I’m not, at least I have learned. Every project teaches me something. I also love the process of photographing and sharing online, it is great to receive feedback and share what you’ve learned.
Platypus: Are there downsides?
Currently, my family commitments far outweigh my creative time. I weave mostly at night when the kids are in bed, which is not always optimal as I get tired at the end of the day. At the same time, I am so grateful to be able to pursue creative outlets in my own home and with my family. If I weave for a larger block of time I do get sore shoulders. The cost of setting up with a rigid heddle loom is quite affordable, particularly if you’re lucky enough to find one second hand. It is also relatively small and very portable. A floor loom, on the other hand is a large investment, so I may have to wait a long time to make that happen!
Another downside I have discovered is that Australian yarns from a weaving perspective are very limited. Particularly when using lighter weight yarns or materials like tencel and silk, there is little choice but to order from overseas or at least an overseas product from an Australian retailer. I think this is a great shame, we have such fabulous natural resources here but there is not enough demand.
Platypus: What tips would you give to someone (like me!) wishing to start.
I wanted to start weaving because there was something about hand woven cloth that absolutely captivated me. I waited, I researched, I talked to a lot of people, I got the support of my husband and after buying my loom I haven’t looked back. It was absolutely worth the money and has changed my life for the better. I didn’t do any classes for weaving, but if you’re unsure, a class can be a brilliant way of having a go without committing to a loom. There are weaver’s guilds in almost every state, some yarn shops offer classes and if these aren’t available Craftsy and Interweave have online classes so you can at least see how it’s done. Then there is Youtube, lots of information to be found there. Have a look at your library for books as well.
If you are already weaving but are unsure, get yourself a chart on sett and epi. It helps to understand which heddle you need to use for which weight of yarn. For example, for an 8 ply yarn I use a 7.5 dent heddle but for a 4ply I use a 10 dent heddle. Usually if I have warped with an 8ply I will weave with an 8ply as well to obtain a balanced weave – but this is adaptable too.
I work almost exclusively in wool and cotton, but many other types of yarn can be used. Some people use acrylics and this is fine if it is what you like and is appropriate for the project.
One important point on warp yarns – make sure it’s strong enough. Give it a tug between your hands before using – is it likely to break? Broken warp yarns are a bit of a pain (ask me how I know!) If you have a yarn that isn’t strong but you love it, use it for the weft – it doesn’t have to take stress under tension like the warp does.
Consider how your yarns are going to be together. For example, if you use an acrylic for the warp and a merino wool for the weft, how are they going to wash up together? Is one going to shrink and warp your garment?
“Sticky” yarns can be problematic. I once used an alpaca yarn to weave a scarf that ended up being awfully sticky and made it difficult to get a clear shed (or gap) to place the shuttle through.
Platypus: And what would you advise them NEVER to do?
Never listen when people tell you “you can’t do that” or “what a waste of time!” I heard a woman once say (a non creative, obviously) about one of my favourite yarn shops “those places are for people with too much time on their hands”. What rubbish! It’s how you choose to utilise your time that matters. Using your time to create beautiful and unique items with your hands is simply a wonderful, natural thing to do.
Platypus: Can we buy your product? If so, where?
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