The life of a piece of cloth begins and ends like any life - conception, birth, life and death. Some of the details differ but the similarities are interesting. The varied stages for cloth may be more extensive than most people would imagine.
My handwoven cloth begins as an idea in my mind. I might see something in nature - a combination of colours, a pattern or even just a feeling - that inspires me. Ideas also come from magazines, industrial upholstery, another weaver's work - of course, and endless other sources. Inspiration usually requires a period of incubation before I'm ready to take it further. This stage can include combining cones of colours and leaving them out in my studio to observe and judge for myself, with impulsive or thoughtful changes made. Incubation can take a few days or a few years.
Once the idea has pretty well gelled - and it never totally gels until I see the new woven cloth before my eyes - I'm ready to warp the loom and weave.
More about that process is posted on the "how" label at the right of this blog, and particularly on the five links for "How Long Does It Take To Weave A Blanket" and then the HLDITTMAB ones. These posts take a reader through more details of the warping and weaving processes.
I always like to see the growing front beam of new cloth.
Then the long stream of finished cloth is unraveled from the front beam of my loom and unrolled on the floor for cutting. Fringing or hemming follows, then a careful system of wet finishing the cloth and finally pressing.
The cloth is now born and ready for its life. Once it has found a use, it will soften and become even nicer, whether it's a wool blanket or cotton towel. I enjoy seeing well-used blankets and towels, whether in my home, or when visiting family or friends and spying something I've made - often long ago. I like to check the condition of blanket fringes and how well towels have weathered countless washings.
I haven't seen any of my blankets looking old yet, as the ones I've seen look great after 20 years and more. Towels, however, age beautifully and start to wear thin after about 15 years. Then they're great as rags. I know mine are really useful at the barn and I just gave a freshly washed old one to a horse-owning friend for her own use.
The idea for a blog on cloth production has incubated for some time, but many aspects of life itself are prominent in my own life now. I just realized that!