How Weaving Found Me: SweetGeorgia Yarns’s Felicia Lo on Curiosity and Craft

6 July 2022
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Whenever I see my two young kids playing around my weaving looms, throwing a shuttle, or trying to beat a weft, I wonder how much of this will stick. How much of this will be memorable to them when they are grown?

My first exposure to weaving was a plastic Fisher Price toy loom that I had as a kid. It was remarkably sophisticated for a toy loom. It had a lever that I could flip to change a shed to weave plain weave—basically like a frame loom with a heddle bar. I recall warping it up with some white acrylic yarn and weaving enough cloth to make a small purse. Feeling satisfied with my new-found weaving skills, I put the loom away under my bed where I kept all my other experimental crafts, like a latch hook rug kit of a tiger face, fun fur I had collected to sew Beatrix Potter-inspired stuffed animals, and a small yarn stash.

“You Need to Learn To Weave”

One craft lead to another and for many years, through elementary and high school, I knit and sewed my own clothes. After years of knitting with whatever leftover yarn had been destashed to me, in my mid-twenties I started to get curious about the yarn I was knitting with. Exploring the construction and composition of knitting yarn made me interested in spinning my own yarn, so I joined the spinning class at Place des Arts, an arts education space in Coquitlam, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. The class was held over ten weeks in a small room that was packed full of weaving looms and spinning wheels. I distinctly remember my spinning teacher giving me a gentle nudge during one of our evening sessions and saying, “You need to learn to weave.” Surrounded by these magical and mysterious floor looms week after week, I finally let my curiosity take over, and I signed up for a weaving class.

I remember those first thoughts: I couldnt possiblyI could never It wasn’t until I allowed myself to think, Why not? that I took those first steps. The first step to learning to weave was allowing myself to be open to the possibility of adding a new craft to my growing list that included knitting, spinning, and dyeing. Once I became open to the idea of weaving, everything about weaving seemed to unfurl for me.

First, it was learning how to wind a warp under the guidance of my weaving teacher. Then, it was being allowed to take a Leclerc Dorothy table loom home with me each week. Then, it was being given the opportunity to sit at a 36” Leclerc Nilus Jack floor loom and weave a blanket of my own design. Then, it was switching to a 36” Leclerc Fanny Counterbalance loom and weaving a rag rug. Over and over, chances to sit at various looms and try different weave structures popped into my life. I started putting my hand-dyed yarn on the looms, weaving plain weave, then twill. By the end of that session of weaving lessons, I placed an order for a brand-new Louet Spring 8-Shaft Countermarch loom . Looking back, it sounds incredulous to jump in with both feet like that, but I just knew weaving was going to be a part of me.

The loom feels like an extension of your body… It makes you feel capable of creating something bigger than yourself.

image description: a close up of a weaving loom, threaded with multiple colours of yarn; two hands are visiible at the front of the frame, ready to begin the task of weaving

My love affair with weaving exists on multiple levels, from the physical and tactile sensation of weaving to the aesthetic play of colour, texture, and design and the emotional meanings I’ve assigned to cloth and the making of cloth.

At the most fundamental level, I love the feel of a floor loom and the treadles. I would drive forty-five minutes from Kitsilano to Coquitlam, week after week. Even on days when there wasn’t class, there were open studio days when we could use the looms, and I went into the studio to spend time working on my project. It was so peaceful. I loved being tucked away in that fibre arts room. When they weren’t being used, the looms would get shuffled into the corners and packed away like Tetris blocks, and then when the weavers arrived we would push them out again to weave.

image description: a floor loom in a fibre studio

Weaving is a physical process that combines rhythm, movement, haptic feedback, the feel of the shuttle in your hand, the weight of the beater, and the effect of tension on the yarn. I consider weaving a full-body activity that requires endurance and stamina, not unlike distance running. Warping the loom by yourself, with a trapeze or with a crank-and-yank technique, can feel like exercise and weight training. It’s physical, and I love how the loom feels like an extension of your body, allowing you to become part of something bigger that has a greater mechanical advantage. It makes you feel capable of creating something bigger than yourself. 

image description: a weaving loom, a fabric partially completed on it

Weaving textiles is visual and dimensional. As someone with a graphic design background, I get excited about the idea of laying in yarn and having it intersect with other colours in endless ways to allow colour and shapes and blocks and design to come to life, line by line, as you weave the cloth. We’re creating blocks or lines of colour but also simultaneously creating the underlying structure that makes the visual design behave in different ways. Maybe we’re creating a weave structure that produces a shine, sheen, drape, or rippled appearance. The weave structure has a visual effect as well as functional effect and, whether it is insulating and warm or lightweight and breathable, these effects are all designed and created by the weaver.

image description: a multicoloured fabric, in the process of being woven

Finally, weaving helps me make sense of life. Many weavers describe the act and process of weaving as moving meditation. I’ve also described weaving as therapeutic because putting all those warp threads in place and making them line up perfectly involves creating order from a certain amount of chaos. I’ve begun to look at weaving as an ongoing adventure into the unknown. It’s like traveling to a new place, each time not knowing what I will find. What will I learn about the cloth, or myself?

image description: a close-up of a woven fabric on a loom

When I weave, I think about the interlacing of souls and the intersecting of lives. That our paths cross once and maybe never again. Or maybe we are a thread that goes back and forth over the same path very slowly, making what feels like little progress. Perhaps we change our treadling sequence and completely new designs emerge in the cloth. Maybe hand-dyed colour transforms in front of our eyes when it’s blended with a weft of a different hue or a different texture. It’s this idea that the thing that we have designed, planned, put onto the loom, and set out to weave, changes as it’s being woven, pick after pick. The warp threads might be shocking or vibrant hues, but laying in weft picks of a different hue will temper the warp colour and subdue it. The cloth evolves into something that is a blend of your plan and your execution —and that’s the reward. The surprise. The unexpected. That’s life. And it reminds me that I need the resilience to accept how things turn out in the end, both in weaving and in life.

image description: handwoven fabrics in a variety of colours

I love that weaving feels like a culmination of all the knowledge and skills I picked up through decades of knitting, spinning, and dyeing. When I weave, it feels like I get to use everything I’ve ever learned about fibre and yarn, whether it’s twist and grist or fibre characteristics and colour theory. Every step of the weaving process requires hours of practice, knowledge, and experience—like how the movements of winding a warp are so different from the movements of threading heddles. I love how each step is a different activity. As long as I have strength to raise a shuttle, I will continue to explore the diverse corners of weaving with a sense of adventure, optimism, and openness to what can be created.

Featured and second images by Greta Cornejo, all other images by Felicia Lo.

Copyright © Felicia Lo except as indicated.

About Felicia Lo

Obsessed with colour and craft, my journey through knitting, sewing, spinning, dyeing, and the fibre arts have led me to weaving. I’m the founder of SweetGeorgia Yarns and the School of SweetGeorgia. You’ll also find me talking about making time to make things here on YouTube. Through Lo Meets Loom, I explore weaving from both personal and professional perspectives. I’ve been learning to weave since 2006 and started on a Leclerc Dorothy table loom. Soon after, I wove a blanket on a Leclerc Nilus jack loom and a rug on a Leclerc Fanny counterbalance loom. Working on these humble projects has brought me a joy that I have been trying to articulate and share ever since. Today, I weave on two Louet Spring countermarche looms, a Schacht Baby Wolf jack loom in cherry, a Leclerc 45″ Mira and a Leclerc 27″ Fanny counterbalance looms to explore interactions of hand-dyed yarn in handwoven cloth and teach all of these skills and crafts at the School of SweetGeorgia.

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