I have many craft magazines. Some are subscriptions and some are single issues I pick up because of an interesting project or article. While I’m reading a new one, the magazine is enshrined in the sacred bedside table spot. This spot is also reserved for back issues and books for a specific technique or fiber that I’m interested in at the time. I distribute the other magazines around the house (and by that, I mean bathrooms). I don’t “distribute” in any meaningful or planned way; I just toss a few older issues into each bathroom and then move them around occasionally.
Right now, in my downstairs bathroom, there is the latest Piecework, Spin Off Fall and Spring ‘10 and Fall and Summer ‘09. There’s some miscellaneous yarn catalogs in there too. I’ve looked through these magazines more than a few times!
Last night, I was half-heartedly flipping through the Summer ‘09 Spin Off, thinking that it was past time to move it to the bookshelf and get something “new” in there. This was the first issue of Spin Off that I ever bought, just after I took a spindle-spinning class at the Sock Summit. So it’s been around a while, thoroughly read and admired.
But last night, during my bored look through, I flipped to a project that used handspun and woven ribbons to make a small bag. I must have read this project a dozen times, each time saying to myself, “Interesting. Very interesting. But I don’t like the look of that bag and I could never spin thin enough to weave a narrow band and what would I do with those strips anyway?”
This time, I looked at the ribbons, I read the project, and said to myself, “Hm, I still don’t like that bag, but I MUST DO THAT.”
I grabbed my laptop and typed “inkle weaving” into Google. And then I was down the rabbit hole, watching clocks and looms and shuttles fly by my head.
I tend to devour crafts. I love learning new techniques, new disciplines, new materials, new tools. Every year or so, I learn a new craft. Sometimes they stick, like spinning, and sometimes they don’t, like beading or wood carving. Sometimes, I don’t even know it’s coming. But the process is always the same and has been since I was a kid (although with more money and unlimited access to the Internet, it’s a lot easier now!) I stumble upon a new craft in a book, at a craft fair, on TV; it can be something I’ve seen before, but now I have to know how it’s done. I am immediately struck with the desire to know more about this craft. I can’t stop thinking about it. I suck all the information I can towards me like a planet’s gravitational field. I read and practice and read until I have grokked the new craft.
I don’t mean that I master the craft; obviously that would take years and years. But I get to a point where I feel like I understand the essence of the craft. I know the history of the craft, the materials usually used, the special terms to talk about it, the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques or tools, etc. I’ve practiced the craft enough to be able to produce something decent, maybe even beautiful. And then the new craft either takes a place in my normal rotation or it doesn’t. The knowledge sticks with me, but I might not continue making whatever it is once the initial shine wears off.
This happened with knitting. I was happily going along my merry way, making and selling chainmaille jewelry (which had the same process a few years earlier). Then I saw someone’s beautiful Knitted Bodice from Stitch Diva on Craftster. I fell in love with that sweater. Even though I knew I could never pull off wearing it, I was driven to knit it. I never did, cooler heads prevailing, but every time I think of it I give a little sigh of longing. But it started me on my rediscovery of knitting. I grabbed books from the library, I watched YouTube videos, I struggled through learning to purl. I started talking about “frogging” and “Kitchener” and “throwing.” I eventually churned out a wearable item in stockinette. And then I moved on to more interesting techniques, like cables and Fair Isle. As you can tell, knitting stuck with me long after I grokked it.
This is what happened last night. I was struck, suddenly, by a perfect storm of Must Learn. I spent the last year working on my spinning, but now my spinning is pretty good- by which I mean that I will continue to master the craft, but I can consistently make something decent. My yarns have been becoming thinner and thinner as I get more proficient, so I can spin the thin yarns for inkles if I want. I am itching to learn something new. Inkle looms are not very expensive. Weaving inkles has lots of design options with a smaller time investment. It can be done on the couch in the evenings with a cat on my lap. I can totally use those handwoven straps in sewing projects- I’m always looking for interesting ribbons and straps for drawstrings and handles.
The grokking has begun.
“Inkle weaving is a type of warp-faced weaving where the shed is created by manually raising or lowering the warp yarns, some of which are held in place by fixed heddles on a loom known as an inkle loom. Though inkle weaving was brought to the United States of America (US) in the 1930s, the inkle itself seems to predate this by several centuries, being referred to in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. The term "Inkle" simply means "ribbon" or "tape" and probably refers to a similarly structured woven good that could have been made on different types of looms, such as a box-loom.
Weaving on an Inkle Loom, Video (skip to 8:00 to see the actual weaving part, the rest is just set up)