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The Thrill of Saori weaving and beyond

Picking up a Saori loom

Jayne’s new joy

Occasionally, I get to share the joy of others when they pick up their new Saori looms. Here you can see Jayne, an experienced weaver, starting to weave on her new loom that she just finished threading.  If customers can pick up their new looms from the studio they can usually stay a couple of hours to learn how to thread a pre-wound warp. The process is quite different to other ways of threading as it doesn’t have a conventional weavers’ cross and you thread the reed and heddles at the same time – so its good to go through it.

Saori clothing

Woven Saori top by Carolyn. Granddaughters need Saori too. Photo: Carolyn H

Saori weavers in Australia are a small but growing group. In fact the total number of weavers generally are quite small. Weaving is an underground activity…so a little alternative and almost illicit perhaps!

I’ve thought about why Saori weaving is growing and I think there are a few reasons. Firstly there are so few rules. Every aspect of it is structured so you can ‘discover’ weaving enjoyment in your own way. Yes, we still share tips and knowhow but currently this is mainly around management and use of either the Saori loom or other looms doing Saori inspired weaves. Yes, you still need to develop some skill around using the loom as a tool but with the Saori loom it is very straightforward and allows much more of you time to be involved in lots of weaving rather than set up or examining every row of weaving for flaws and mistakes.

Silk pre-wound warp into exquisite top - Barb

Silk pre-wound warp into exquisite top – Photo: Barb J

Saori style weaving as a way and approach to free form weaving is not new but I can’t get around the fact that the Saori loom is largely responsible for some of this popularity. The mindset, many of the techniques and the general aesthetic is possible on other looms but so much just isn’t. The supporting accessories are also designed to make weaving and set up very comfortable. No more gym attendances to have the strength to lift the beater off the loom! Read more

A single bangle doesn’t jangle

Red weavesA favourite proverb of mine and totally apt to apply to my workshops and my work in general. We all learn from each other but in Saori workshops I see it more as a collective energy swirling around the room as beaters place each new row of weft onto the loom. My last group was the Newcastle Spinners and Weavers. A group still carrying on the great textile traditions of Newcastle, remembering Larry and Mary Beeston and the several mills which existed there, and the Timeless Textiles Gallery. And now Saori inspired weaving and textile creation!  A great venue housed ten weavers including complete beginners to weaving. It was a great day and I feel exceptionally privileged to have four of the weavers doing a second and even third Saori workshop with me!

Once again it’s amazing how quickly everyone just takes off weaving. Within half an hour I could see such diversity of colour approach and techniques, some immediately inventing their own ahead of me showing them such things!

I also took the four shaft Saori loom and Kathy worked some experimental clasped weft taking advantage of all four shafts. It’s a three colour process but creates four ‘shading’ possibilities in the cloth. You can see the four here in the photo. Kathy used very distinctive and contrasting colours to show the extent of the technique. Very nice.


I really want to show you all of the weaves but the light wasn’t friendly to my camera. This often happens when I’m outside my studio! There are a selection here but I know I’m missing some really lovely work too.

Next year the Newcastle guild are having an Open day on 11 April at Broadmeadow. I’m planning to be there and will have the Saori loom open to the community for hands on enjoyment. There’s also a rumour about a Saori Newcastle group!

A very warm thank you to the whole group, Carolyn S, Carol, Deya, Barbara, Kathy, Carolyn B, Robyn, Kerry, Helen  and to Jayne for organising it. Read more

Four Shaft Saori Adventures

Saori four shaft loomA few Saori weavers in Australia choose to have the option of the 4 shaft spring system conversion kit. This can be a great choice for many reasons. For established weavers it allows all the patterning options of the classical weaving they love combined with the efficiency, portability, comfort and compact styling of the Saori loom. It’s also the ultimate comfort way to have a 4 shaft floor loom eliminating somewhat cumbersome hand operations of the table loom.
But for some people it is seen as a step further into the wonderful world of weaving. These weavers are new to our craft but are thirsty for more. They wonder about four shafts and what possibilities they are missing.
Having two extra shafts allows more options in how the warp threads can managed so you can weave patterns. Little repeating patterns across the weave and twills are its thing. In contrast to the two shaft loom it naturally wants to avoid freeforming by providing another two options for lifting a warp sequence across the cloth for you. If you want to weave the Saori free style way on it the challenge is to be flexible with the possibility of regularity repeating patterns whilst making good use of those extra two shafts. Although patterning isn’t the only reason you would want a 4 shaft loom it is the main one weavers look to.
This highlights a need for a creative painterly approach combined with a structure approach. A nice combination. You need some extra knowledge about weaving drafts and what might work for the threading and how your approach will bring about a very unique and individual cloth. Four shafts is naturally more complex than two. There is more mechanics and hardware on the loom and more to thread. Read more

The Photo Thing

woven bangles

Handwoven bangles. This was non-digital slide format.

woven textile

Photographed with early digital camera. Same styling as older work

Today is the day to reveal my small workings for the photo thing. See the other posts at Picture-Perfect. Thanks to Meg Nakagawa for this opportunity. I kept mistyping the photo thing to the photo think and I think that is pretty right in my case. I’ve photographed my textiles for a long time. Photo shoots used to take all day with special blue lights or greaseproof paper on a window – no digital camerato check what you just shot. Just lists that might be compared to the processed photos but usually not. It was like feeling my way in a dark cave. Read more

Ramping up my dye book

dyed skeinsDyeing is so relaxing and cathartic. It’s so easy and produces the most amazing colours normally not available anywhere. When the Online guild were running a Precision dye workshop with Margaret Coe this month I jumped at the impetus to update and re-work my dye book and learn even more about my dyes and their possibilities.

I’ve been using Drimerene K dyes for a long time and I’ve gotten to know the quirks of the dyes…their  weaknesses and strengths.As fibre reactives for cellulose fibres they are fantastic. Although Procion dyes seem to be popping up everywhere I don’t use them very often because I need to reserve the dye solutions for future use. Procion are only effective when in fresh stock solutions. This may suit many people but is a disadvantage to me.

Dye bookThe Precision dye workshop is based on exploring the primary palettes in a dye set to produce  a range of secondary and tertiary colours. We’ll also mix Tri-chromatics. It’s a paint mixing exercise! My previous dye books focus on how different strengths of dye produce different shades. I also used small amounts of black for toning which can soften colours without becoming dim and murky. It’s a great resource and I recommend the possible hassle in compiling it.

I guess too, because of this previous experience, which I remember in a very hot December with my children only just avoiding pots of dye everywhere, I was able to have a lovely controlled, organised and small dye run this time. Read more

Braid Love

braidBraiding is so relaxing yet stimulating at the same time. I’ve just written a Craftsy post on Braids every Weaver should know. The post is an overview, with links to tutorials, of a few different braid structures that fall into a weavers journey. The slentre or loop braid, lucet braiding and the wonderful Kumihimo braiding.

The best instruction for accessible Kumihimo that I have ever seen is by Shirley Berlin in Handwoven Magazine May/June 1999. She shows you how to set up a 16 strand braid on a circular cardboard disk, emulating the traditional Japanese Marudai stand,  then it is followed with a very direct and easy way of designing your own 16 strand patterns by Alison Irwin.  I have used this tutorial repeatedly over the years to young children and teaching teens. SO easy to produce a very impressive and complex braid. Read more

Removing and replacing a SAORI Inside Set

Inside setsRemoving, replacing and generally just having the availability of a Saori inside set is wonderful.

But the words “inside set” aren’t really descriptive of the function or process of the whole thing. When I first came across this, it was a very new concept to me, at least for a small craft weaver. I know that similar things are used in Asia and have heard of it in production weaving in Europe for saving patterns, but not for us ‘little’ people. It just makes so much sense. No need to buy several looms to run several different warp types or widths to weave when you feel like it. One loom can become many looms.

The main attraction for me too, was how I could use one floor loom to teach others but still do my own work. It really makes sharing and teaching possible where other looms are too dedicated to the one owner weaver. Read more