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57 – and the little snippet project

Saori cloth

Silk hand-dyed ikat warp, silk weft

Guess what! I’ve turned 57. In Saori weaving this is a bit significant. It is the age when Misao Jo, the founder of Saori in Japan, started weaving by herself. Her sons all married off, and now for time where she could focus on her journey in weave.

In a typical course of events, we all love being mothers of little people and we don’t regret any of that very hectic, worrying time, but there comes a time for a little snippet for ourselves, if we’re lucky enough. Most women today seem to have that snippet before they marry and have children so will be in a different position when they turn 57. But I married when I just turned 19 and devoted myself to what I thought was important in my family…today a perceived narrow option, yet what I enjoyed –  a very rich life.

If you are approaching or hoping to be 57 anytime in the future or you are past that number and well underway with the snippet project – what excitement awaits and beholds. Now for creative weave games utterly for the self.

An interesting thing about having a Saori studio is the constant challenge to how I view weaving as a craft and process.  I didn’t expect this. Even though I have always  puzzled with identification in Art vs Craft type, I didn’t expect challenges within the craft of handweaving itself.  But I should have.

Saori clothBecause I have woven most of my life, my love of all weaving techniques and styles has grown. I learn about people from this craft and how they live, what they value and why they do it.  Many weavers specialise in a type of weaving; after all we only have so much time. I’ve dabbled here and there and there and here because I am crazy for it all.  I’ve got a 24 shaft compu-dobby Toika especially to do the puzzle weaving and high tech and cupboards full of frame looms and sticks for the low tech, higher skill weaving. I’ve woven on the inkle loom ad nauseum, with styles from the Baltic, England and South America. I’ve dyed, wrapped, puzzled, been elated and been frustrated. And then, for the first time, the Saori loom has given me the perfect tool for showing others how to weave cloth. It’s all sorted and I can relax with it. There is nothing like a floor loom to produce yardage.

The basic Saori loom has 2 shafts and can only do ‘plain weave’.  Sometimes, it seems this is the contentious part. Suddenly plain weave can be subversive! At last. Because there is a long history of pattern weaving using four shafts and more, plain two shaft weaving suddenly seems like you’re not weaving!  Tapestry weaving is also ‘plain weave’ but is held up as the highest form of art weaving. This is because plain weave offers opportunities for unique cloth because anything you add to it is manually inserted or processed. Where more shafts in weaving ‘automate’ some of the thread lifting options, plain weave on two shafts or shedding leaves you to do it all yourself. If you are adding, inserting or lifting threads by yourself to your own pattern you can easily get irregular and unstructured looks.

Knowing about four shaft weaves and more requires a more technical approach, for sure. It’s about learning more about the craft of handweaving that has been developed over the time of human existence. But I don’t think it’s study is necessarily more meaningful, brainy or more worthwhile than working with two shaft plain weave and it’s extensions. It’s all a wonder.

Each state in Australia has a Handweavers guild and offer courses in handweaving. Unlike other countries, such as England, we don’t have an overseeing association of Guilds in Australia so they are all different and do different things. The state handweaving guilds have never ‘federated’! State guilds are located in capital cities and each state guild sees their subsidiary regional guilds in different ways. Some view them as members but others are affiliates and part of the structure of the guild, especially in the smaller geographical states. They all keep the traditions and ensure the skills are taught to new weavers whilst expanding their own. Anyone can approach the guilds to learn plain weaving…or multi-shaft weaving.

However, in contrast, Saori weaving is not just learning plain two shaft weaving. We focus on the coincidence of creation in cloth. Different to a conventional teacher I offer support to a weaver or utter beginner to explore their own way.  There are no set rules or the impeding doom of mistakes. Some need support or rather confidence with decisions in colour, texture  or seeing themselves as a creative person who can create beauty and art afterall. We generally work together and, beyond learning the operation of the loom for weaving, the weaver takes off and explores the interaction of the threads intermingling themselves.  I introduce different techniques if time permits and most often the new weavers ‘discover’ some techniques by themselves as they relax into it.  The driver in Saori inspired weaving is the innate human ability to create to your own rhythm. This aspect of the Saori concept appeals to many. It is a way of using the medium of weaving cloth to create in your own freeform way.  It is art meeting craft. It takes away barriers and unites the artistic drive with the skill based one.  I think this was the thing that really got me into Saori weaving.  For once a way of creating art was about a shaft loom, weaving fabric yardage and wearing it. I didn’t have to feel wanting because of a lack of painting on canvas skills. The Saori approach is an excuse to be free and feel connected. We all have permission.

Saori inspired weaving is an attitude rather than a technique. 

Although many techniques used in Saori weaving are conventional and can be done on any loom that produces two weaving sheds the Saori loom is superior for this way of working because it is a genuine floor loom. The feet operate the loom while the hands are free to ‘paint’ and develop the unique cloth. The loom is also designed in such a way that new, fresh and disobedient techniques are now possible.  For example, the very large space between the reed/beater and cloth beam allows full working vision for creative techniques and new ones like the bumply weave which isn’t possible on most other table looms.  Warp distortion techniques without a second warp beam are also not possible on small and most table looms of any kind. The loom action is light because of the 2 shaft counterbalance system. Naturally the less hardware on the loom the easier and lighter it is to use.

loom warpSince Misao Jo turned 57, (she’s 102 now) her sons have worked intimately with her to produce the Saori looms which are tools in concert with her approach to free and unique weaving. There are lots of easy ways to thread and warp the loom and it’s worth getting some lessons in this if you buy a loom.  When I first purchased a Saori loom many years ago from Japan I warped up the loom in a very dodgy time consuming way – if only I’d known the warping system it was designed for! You can see here that the only reasonable way I could see was to join the original warp with weavers knots and create a dummy warp. Please don’t bother with this method in this case!

In my little snippet project I have a full year planned with many private and individual workshops in the studio. I am looking forward to teaching in Tasmania, Braidwood and Mittagong over the next few months.

I have an studio open day on 18 June, with 2 x 3hour sessions to try Saori. All are welcome. More two day workshops will be planned after July. Please note that the studio will be closed for orders 18 March – 5 April.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. A wonderfully inspirational story Kas.
    Thank you for sharing it.
    I am well into my little snippets journey and thoroughly enjoying my passion for weaving.
    Thank you for the opportunity to continue to learn about this wonderful craft

    March 15, 2016
  2. Beautifully expressed Kaz. For me, discovering SAORI weaving myself at age 57 was the best and propelled me into opening Art Weaver SAORI Studio ( just over 2 years ago now). Sharing this joyous approach to weaving is a constant delight and these looms really do make the process much more enjoyable. Best wishes to a fellow March birthday girl too!

    April 2, 2016

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