Vavstuga is a Swedish-style weaving school about 2.5 hours away from my house.
Short version of this post: A friend and I visited Vavstuga and learned a few things. Read on if you dare....this gets long.
Last winter, a weaving friend and I planned to take a day-trip for one of the "Vavstuga Days". We got snowed out last year, but this year we were in luck!
Several times a year, all 12 looms at Vavstuga are set up with different warps. Weavers, experienced or brand new, can come and weave for half a day or more.
Our plan was to wake up super early, drive down, and weave for the whole day. We figured that we'd be able to complete whatever project we were working on if we allowed a full day. We made a reservation - which was a good thing. The entire week was booked by the time the week started.
Look at just some of the weft yarns for use in the studio!!
When we arrived, the looms were waiting, all dressed and ready to go. Each loom had a different Christmas item. (Other times of year, Vavstuga Days doesn't have a holiday theme.)
Choosing among 12 Projects
Each student chose a project to work on from a selection of towels, runners, napkins, placemats, a tablecloth, and possibly other items.
When I learned to weave, I was in a similar group setting and my project for the week was something I hated. I find it hard to get excited about weaving if I'm not working on something I love - I was fortunate at Vavstuga to be able to work on warps that I loved.
Becky did a quick demo of her method for winding a quill. (I'm a convert to that method now. I like it better than what I'd been doing before. To me, it seems like the yarn comes off the quill more evenly and smoothly.)
My Morning Project
For the morning session (from 9 - 1), I selected this linen warp-faced runner in 16/2. There were samples next to the loom of the runner with different wefts. I used 16/2 as my weft also.
It was my first time weaving with linen. I was pleased that it wasn't especially tricky. I paid attention to my selvedges and made sure to pull the linen tight. Otherwise it tended to leave a loop at the edge since linen is so stiff.
Both of my projects that day were warp-faced. The instructions were to beat with the shed still open, then beat again with the next shed open - so use a double beat for each weft pick.
You can see that there are steady loom feet on these looms. Some looms still moved while they were in use. Mine didn't, so I'm not sure if it was the loom or the weaver that caused looms to walk. The feet help protect the hardwood floor, but they're not perfect. The floor can still get scratched. (I've been curious about these feet in case I move my Toika to my living room some day.)
On this loom, we kept one foot on each treadle to keep the heddles taut - otherwise things could get caught and sheer off whole groups of warp threads. I think that's because this warp-faced project was very densely sett. I was fortunate not to break any warp threads during the day.
This loom was one of the only countermarche looms on the floor. It had the very nice feature of being open on the side, so if anyone needed to adjust the lamms or treadles, they could walk into the loom from the side. (I have to crawl over a beam and under a different beam to get into my Toika.)
This was my first time working with an overhead beater. I found it hard to get used to.
This loom also did not fit me very well. My legs were too long (crammed against the knee beam) and my arms were too short (tired shoulders from reaching out too far for the beater).
I'm lucky that I've never experienced weaving on a loom that didn't fit before. Now I realize why everyone always tells you to try a loom before you buy it. This loom probably could have been adjusted to fit me better, but I'm not sure about the distances from the breast beam to the beater and the knee beam - they don't seem adjustable and they were what gave me problems.
Better Technique = Better Selvedges
One thing I learned during the morning is that improving my technique at the loom improved my selvedges. Specifically, Becky gave me pointers on throwing the shuttle and reminded me several times to keep my hand in the center of the beater. (At home, I swear my hand is always on the center of the beater - but I wonder if it's just that when I think about it - it is, and if I'm not thinking, sometimes it isn't.) When I focused on weaving as instructed, my selvedges were noticeably improved. I even got some of my first selvedge compliments when I showed the finished product to my weaving group - and they are first rate weavers!
This warp was extremely tight. I could pull as hard as I wanted on the weft without any draw in. At first, the warp was so tight I could barely release the brake to advance the warp.
I worked on the runner until I felt like it would fit my kitchen or dining room tables. By then, I was pretty stiff from the loom, so I was ready for a lunch break.
We took a short walk to a sandwich shop and brought food back to the Vavstuga dorm. There's a communal kitchen, with handwoven towels and napkins. We ate in the kitchen with its view of the river.
It would have been fine to bring lunch also. The day we visited, there were several students staying overnight, several students with a friend or two along, folks on their own and students who were only there for half a day. It wasn't a big group lunch scene because some people were weaving up until the very end of the morning session. (9 am - 1 pm)
Afternoon Rep Weave
For the afternoon, I worked on this rep warp. This loom was much more comfortable for me.
I've never woven rep before and didn't really know how to do the selvedges.
For warp rep, you alternate a thick yarn and a thin yarn. Vavstuga sells 3 types of string yarn: Mini, Midi, and Maxi. They come in a variety of colors and are groups of cotton threads, not really plied together.
I had to pay attention to which shuttle I was throwing and how the shuttles interacted at the selvedges. In addition, to get a smooth edge I needed to twist the string yarn at the selvedge.
This was slow weaving, but I wove enough to make a runner or a tote bag. I can't explain how I managed the shuttles, but I'm pretty sure I could do it again. Resting a shuttle on the cloth or on the breast beam was key to keeping track of everything.
Best Thing I Learned
For me, the very best thing about my trip to Vavstuga is a little surprising. At Vavstuga, one of my classmates told me to go ahead and advance the warp while sitting at the loom instead of walking around behind it. The looms have brakes similar to the brake on my Toika. I was hesitant, but I tried it and it worked fine.
Since I've been back home, I've been advancing the warp on my Toika the same way all week. It's worked absolutely fine. So what, you're thinking??? To me, this is big news, good news!!
Before I bought my loom, all the weavers in my weaving group told me the one thing not to do was buy a loom with a ratchet and pawl brake. But when I looked into Toikas, I just fell in love with my loom. And it has the dreaded ratchet and pawl brake.
Even the previous owner said she'd walk around to the back of the loom to advance the warp. So I've felt like that was a compromise I made when I bought my loom and I was OK with it. Not delighted, but willing to make the trade-off.
The great news out of Vavstuga is that at least on normal warps, I don't have to walk around behind the loom to advance the warp. I can stay seated and just move things forward. I'll be more cautious when I have a super tight warp just in case, but it doesn't seem like peoples' tales of horror of the whole warp beam unwinding out of control will happen as easily as I was warned it would. (Hopefully writing this doesn't somehow jinx me and doom me to warp beams unwinding catastrophically!)
For the first half of the afternoon, a speedy weaver next to me wove a tablecloth on this loom. (She was speedier than me, but not superhuman. I think most weavers could finish the tablecloth for a round or square table in a half-day session. Definitely in a full day session.)
I tried the treadles on this loom since it was set up for something so wide - smooth and easy to lift! That's one of the big advantages of countermarche or counterbalance looms over jack looms.
Jack looms require much more strength to live the shafts, both because the shafts and their metal heddles are heavy, and because of the physics of the loom.
I'd read that countermarche looms were easier to treadle, but this was my first chance to actually sit at a countermarche loom set up to weave something wide. (Big sigh of relief since buying my countermarche loom and re-finishing it took a lot of time in this past year!)
Before I purchased my countermarche, I tried a friend's jack loom set up to weave a 36" blanket and my hip hurt within 5 minutes. I am very hopeful that I won't have problems like that with my Toika countermarche.
I can just go ahead and add this shuttle to my Christmas list!! When I weave wide, I'll need bigger shuttles than the small Glimakras that I have at home. (Please note that I didn't make a tablecloth! I just loved sitting next to some one who did!)
The shop also carries tools, books, and parts for Glimakra looms. It looks like a lot of the Glimakra parts would be compatible with my Toika, but I'd have to go in person to be absolutely sure - bringing Toika parts with me to compare.
Believe it or not, I was so tired, I couldn't shop. I guess that's a drawback of doing a day trip.
Plus, I usually weave for at most 3 hours in a day. I probably wove for about 4 or 5 hours out of our day at Vavstuga - and my shoulders were pretty tired by the end.
Because I'm a frugal Yankee, I'm going to give you price details. My total for the day was $69.30. The black, red and green linen runner from the morning was $7.14 for materials (all linen I believe). The cotton rep runner was $25.14. The prices are calculated by weight, and the rep is of course much thicker and heavier than the linen. The remainder was the fee for weaving for the day.
I felt like that pricing was really reasonable. I'm including these details partly because I was curious ahead of time if I should find out about the relative costs of different projects.
I was pretty project focused during my day at Vavstuga. There are other ways to enjoy it also - enjoy the setting, enjoy the company of other weavers, learn from the many tools and books and samples available for study, ask questions about anything you're interested in or focus more on the looms and learn about them.
I was happy that we chose a whole day, instead of a half day session. That way we each got the chance to make 2 projects, and if we had selected something that can take a long time (like placemats) we'd have been able to finish in the full day. A half day would have been good too - since we wouldn't have been quite as tired, and we'd have had time to explore some of the other places of interest to weavers in the area.
I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of my runners at home as this post is getting quite long already. Sorry about that....I just want to record my impressions and the things I learned so I can remember them!!
PS: I can't believe I wrote this whole post and neglected to say great things about the Swedish cookie and cake spread in the afternoon. Overlooking the river, sitting at a table dressed in handwoven holiday linens, having a tea/coffee/cookie break was fantastic!! I'm not one to forget about cookies!
Runners I Wove at Vavstuga
19 hours ago