July 2022 Studio Hours Recap: Felicia Lo on Becoming a Weaver

3 August 2022
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By Sarah Thornton
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In July, our Studio Hours featured Felicia Lo, a self-described multi-craftual maker, who encouraged us all to give weaving a try. At home, she knits, dyes yarn and fibre, spins, weaves, and machine knits using both a flatbed and a new circular sock machine. She also works at these crafts at her 5000 sq. ft. studio at SweetGeorgia Yarns in South Vancouver, B.C. (near to both the airport and transit lines). The company has offered hand-dyed yarn since 2005 and about five years ago began offering online classes through the School of SweetGeorgia.

Felicia is known for her gorgeous use of colour and detailed photography; we were treated to both in her presentation. She shared her excitement about the intersection of her many crafts—she weaves with her hand-dyed yarns and often works with knitting yarns from her shop, including gradient-dyed machine-knit sock blanks.

Felicia unabashedly gave us her “very biased recommendations” for getting started with weaving. She suggested using a 4-shaft loom (table or floor) and showed us photos and briefly explained the operation of her LeClerc Fanny counterbalance loom. She also recommended starting out by weaving plain weave and playing with colour and texture. She shared that she wove mostly plain weave for ten years, finding endless possibilities in the technique.

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She then shared examples of cloth and scarves, both in photos and by holding them up to the camera so we could see the drape and fluidity of the fabric. Many of the pieces were made with hand-dyed sock blanks as warp and mohair silk yarn as weft. We marvelled at how the interaction of warp and weft thread colours can result in interesting and unexpected combinations!

We also talked briefly about weft-faced vs. warp-faced fabrics. In the case of weft-faced fabrics, the warp threads are widely spaced and are completely covered by the compressed weft. This allows for very deliberate blocks of colour and for the weaver to design while weaving. In warp-faced weaving, the warp threads are close together and the weft is only visible on the edges. This technique also allows the weaver to create blocks of clear colour, but design choices must be planned in advance. Felicia also touched on the magic of double weave fabrics—another plain weave possibility that can allow you to weave fabric twice the width of your loom.

Moving beyond plain weave, she recommended making a twill gampa piece similar to an embroidered stitch sampler or a set of knitting swatches, where you try several different types of weave patterns all in the same cloth, and weave them all at the same time, resulting in a piece of fabric with many samples of patterns. She encouraged us to use this gamp to pick a pattern and then extrapolate out to make a larger project.

She also shared a photo of three different pieces that were all woven on the same warp with the same overshot threading. The pieces all looked complicated and quite different from each other. Felicia explained that just changing the order in which you access the shafts allows you to create the different patterns. One piece featured circles, one diamonds, and another, beautiful swooping curves.

I particularly liked the photo of her Halvdräll towel, with a mostly white warp and geometric colour blocks. This pattern allows for constrained freedom—once the warp is on the loom and the threading pattern is set, there are still design possibilities available, like deciding the size and colour of the blocks.

We then talked about getting started with weaving (see recent article), and Felicia highlighted two key things. First, it is important to identify how much space in your house you can devote to the equipment. Floor looms can take up a fair bit of space, table looms need a table to sit on (some fold when not in use), and rigid heddle looms are small enough that you can hang them on a wall when not in use. Second, she encouraged us to consider our community of helpers and support. Are there people nearby you can ask for help? Do you have a local guild or group? Will you rely on online resources, such as the School of SweetGeorgia?

One member asked whether it is possible to build your own loom. Felicia recommended Paula Simmons’ book Spinning and Weaving with Wool which includes illustrations and schematics for how to make your own loom. This question also generated a flood of resources in the group chat for finding used equipment to buy, borrow, or rent. Many weaving guilds will lend or rent looms to their members, including the Atlantic Spinners and Handweavers, the Burr House (Richmond Hill, ON) Spinners and Weavers, the Victoria Handweavers and Spinners, and the Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners. Guilds often maintain lists of sale equipment (see the Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers’ list here).  Facebook groups are another option (for example, BC Fibre and Fibre Equipment). There is a robust secondary market for weaving equipment!

Felicia generously shared a coupon code for D&T members (valid through July 31), giving them 15% off the SOS All-Access membership pass and for yarns and fibres from the store. She invited us to follow her weaving-specific webpage at Lo Meets Loom and @lomeetsloom.

After Felicia had to dash off, Kate and Kim gave us a sneak peek into upcoming projects and articles and let us know about two upcoming in-person shows (Fibrations in August and Knit City in September), both in B.C.

Show and Tell

During show and tell, Canadian yarns and patterns featured prominently!

A new member shared a sweet, knitted bag that she worked in yarn from Briggs & Little. The pattern, Flock by Petite Knitter, features embroidered sheep and a clever drawstring.

The next presenter showed a double-loop cowl with lace based on the Sauveuse des Anges stitch pattern, knit in Rowan SoftYak DK, a very soft, cotton-blend yarn with great heathered colours.

Next, we saw a Henslow’s sparrow! Member and designer Kirk shared his pillow project (Ravelry link) and how it relates to At Last Count, a recently published novel by his wife, Claire. He worked with Topsy Farms yarns, using singles yarn held doubled to achieve the colour blending that made his sparrow so realistic. The sparrow is a symbol of hope in the book, and the pillow is a beautiful tribute.

A member shared her Lunenburg Pullover (Ravelry link) work-in-progress as she wanted to share her pleasure at how the colours had come together. She’s also knitting in Briggs & Little yarns (Sport and Durasport). She reminded the group of The Great Canadian Wool-A-Long hosted by Small Bird Workshop from August 1st through October 31st.

She also shared a fun fact about weaving: Pierre Berton’s father used to build his own looms and was an early member of the Victoria Handweavers and Spinners Guild (fact found in Drifting Home, a beautiful memoir of Berton’s youth in the Yukon).

Carrying on with the Briggs & Little theme, we then saw a member’s take on a Pop Blanket where she’s substituted crochet for the specified knit stitches. She’s using B&L Heritage and Noro Kureyon.

Last winter, Kate showed us some black fingerless mitts and socks. This month, she showed another pair of socks in the same yarn (SweetGeorgia Mohair Silk Sock) but this time we could see the details on camera as she used a bright chartreuse, a much more knitter-friendly colour!

We then saw a Pebble Beach Shawl knit from Trailhead Yarns Cabot Trail yarn made from Tencel, which drapes like silk.

Lastly, we saw a sweater work-in-progress from Karri of Leystone Farm. The sweater is a mash up of the Oa stitch pattern from Kate Davies Designs and shaping from Seclude by Alicia Plummer (Ravelry link). We were excited to see this project: The natural-coloured yarns are from Karri’s own Southdown Babydoll sheep, and were spun at the Long Way Homestead mill. We’ve been following Karri’s progress since her article in D&T in  where she chronicled her journey into becoming a sheep farmer.

As usual, we left this month’s gathering inspired and look forward to upcoming Studio Hours for more great stories!  

Sarah Thornton head shot

About Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton is a connector - she loves bringing people and ideas together, especially over local fibres and foods. When not teaching college Biology labs, she knits, spins, designs, teaches, and occasionally weaves in her new studio space on Vancouver Island. She's also a cyclist, skier, hiker, and gardener! Find her patterns and classes at sarahthornton.ca and @sarsbarknits on Instagram.

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Common Threads: Volume 14, August 2022

Common Threads: Volume 14, August 2022

[Open Access] A round-up of fibre and textile arts and crafts in Canada in August, 2022. Online photo galleries of exhibitions from earlier this year, late-summer events to visit around the country, and news of the Great Canadian Wool-A-Long, including links to vendors, discount codes and free presentations.

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