Weaving Workshop with Martin Weatherhead by Elizabeth O Connor

On a dark and wet winter’s evening, I battled to get my 4 shaft Glimåkra Victoria table loom into the back of my car. It was Friday, November 22nd . The following day I was up early and drove to Malahide Castle in Dublin for a 2-day workshop on weaving. 

Martin Weatherhead of Snail Trail Handweavers in Wales came to Malahide Castle to give a masterclass in weft-faced weaving on the weekend of 23rd and 24th November 2019. Martin and his wife, Nina, met us as we carried in our looms and set them up ready for the workshop. There were 6 of us participating in the class; Orla, Barbel, Geraldine, Gethin, Katherine and myself. We had various levels of experience and knowledge of weaving. We were all united in looking forward to learning lots during the weekend. 

After introductions and cups of tea and coffee, Martin showed us several examples of weft-faced weaving, everything from full sized floor rugs to small A4 size samplers. Martin also had some books on the topic with him, as well as a bundle of worksheets covering various types of weft-faced weaving. We were then free to choose which type of weaving to do.

Most of us decided to start with Krokbragd (from the Norwegian for ‘Crooked Path’). This is a weft-faced weaving technique which usually is woven on three shafts. It can also be woven on a 4 shaft twill threading as long as shafts 2 and 4 lift together, and this is what we were going to do.

I was the last to start weaving as I had not had the time to warp my loom at home during the previous week, so I had to warp my loom with my chained warp before I could start weaving. Luckily, I had Martin’s help so I had excellent guidance and warping went smoothly. 

I have to admit that weaving Krokbragd did not make sense to me straight away. I couldn’t visualise what I was doing and how I should weave to get the pattern I wanted to get. I wove cute lozenges, but that was more a lucky accident than by deliberate and repeatable weaving. 

I went home to my AirBnB that evening and read a bit about Krokbragd online. I came to a better understanding of the technique but still I wasn’t too confident in my ability to actually weave the traditional Krokbragd ‘Flames’ pattern. 

Luckily, the next morning at the class, as I was walking around to see everybody else’s work, I had the good fortune to see how Gethin had written down her lift plan. Gethin explained it to me and kindly let me copy it out. After that, I wove to the plan and the pattern appeared! That was a joyous moment. 

Finally, I could see the pattern and I was better able to ‘read’ the weaving in front of me, so I knew where I was and what was coming next. I managed to weave a small but interesting sampler of Flames in black, red, orange and yellow. I am very pleased with that sampler as I know how much learning and development as a weaver has gone into it.  

We used Damascus knots to finish our pieces of weaving. There were a lot of happy weavers at that point, pleased that we had taken on the challenge and overcome it. 

There was still some time left in the day. Many of us wove a twill sampler. Martin had brought with him rug yarn which we could buy and the ball winder, scales and calculator were going non-stop as finishing time approached. 

The time came to pack up and take our farewell. I drove home to Limerick feeling great. The battle with the loom and the drive had all been worth it!

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