Emily was off speaking at a conference on the east coast last weekend and I decided to take myself camping. I loaded up the car with all my favorite bits of camping gear, a cooler of random stuff that was in the frig, and looms + yarn. I had multiple small projects in process and somehow I thought three days in the woods was going to be enough to finish all of them.
Instead, I started a new one.
This little idea was in my tapestry diary idea book and I decided to weave it while testing out this new Handywoman loom.* The piece is called The Beckys and it is about the way I mostly see myself versus how someone else in my life sees me. I’m pretty much the eternal optimist, so you can guess which side is the one I think expresses something about me.** The yarn is wool and silk from weaversbazaar with 20/6 cotton seine twine warp. The campground is pure Colorado.
Recently I’ve been asked a few times how I decide what yarn to bring with me when backpacking or camping.
The camping question is easy: I bought a car topper for my Subaru so even if I’m camping with someone else, there is room for whatever yarn I want (within limits of course… I can get carried away).
But when backpacking, yarn colors are a challenge. I love to have options. I don’t know what I will decide to weave and so I don’t know what colors I’ll want.
I’ve tried different solutions to this problem.
Wind off smaller amounts of lots of colors on small strips of cardboard.
Bring just a few colors and embrace limitations as a great design tool (I hate this one but go with it often).
Bring a large ziplock stuffed full of dyed fleece locks (one of these squishes down to almost nothing and can be stuffed in the weird corners at the bottom of your pack).
Option #3 means I have to bring a flick carder which sort of goes against my ultralight motto. I’m working on a solution for the next trip which involved an order of carding cloth.
Below is a photo of my backpacking weaving kit. My car camping kit takes up multiple bags and boxes and I don’t think I’ll show you that lest I incur more teasing from my camping buddies. The loom is a 4 x 6 inch loom by Jim Hokett who has, unfortunately for us, retired. It is one of his lightest woods. I’m afraid I’ve never seen a lighter alternative though I do think there are a few good options out there for small light-weight wooden looms.***
I bring a tiny beater, a shed stick, a 5 inch weaving needle, a sawed-in-half knitting dpn for an open shed rod, a tapestry needle, and one bobbin if I’m bringing a spindle and making handspun.**** Otherwise I don’t bring a bobbin for commercial yarn. I bring a few bundles of warp—the thin warp is to warp the loom and the fatter warp is to twine the top and bottom of the loom to even out the spacing. The card to the right with the reddish handspun yarn on it and the photo next to that one are examples of option #1 above. The card is a piece of matte board (or the softer butterboard is easier to cut) with a few slots to hold the yarn. I just wind a few yards of some colors around it. I’m not going to weave more than a few square inches on one backpacking trip, so I can bring multiple cards with lots of colors for very little weight. On my last backpacking trip I brought the small bag of Colonial Persian yarn to the left which also worked well because it comes this way. I posted more photos of that last backpacking trip including photos of that twining technique on the blog HERE. I have also posted about my travel weaving kit HERE.
I put all that into that little tyvek zippered pouch and the whole thing weighs 6 ounces… which matters when you’re backpacking.
I don’t have a solid answer about how I decide which colors to bring on a backpacking trip or for other travel. Even if I bring three bags of yarn car camping or on a road trip, I inevitably don’t have the color I want. And I think maybe this is a good thing. Innovation comes from not having every possible material at hand. So more and more I’ve been trying to leave home with fewer colors and to challenge myself to weave with whatever I have. That might mean I change a design idea a little bit or that I decide to try a design again later with different colors to see what happens when I do have the yarn I originally wanted. I guess I just want to encourage you to be brave, don’t fill the car topper with yarn (talking to myself there), and to just use whatever you have.
We’re going camping again in September. I’ll let you know if I manage to follow my own advice.
The purpose of traveling or hiking with looms for me isn’t to make fantastic tapestries. I don’t expect to produce a two-by-two inch masterpiece on a tiny loom at 11,000 feet. What I do expect is to find a nicely shaped rock to lean against while I weave a little something that reminds me of that place. Process not product.
I took a long hike up to Mummy Pass on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park on my camping weekend. It was a nice day for a hike and I did a little weaving on a saddle overlooking the Mummy Range. I realized that I was in the same spot as I had been a few years before in August but that year it was snowing.
Last weekend as I was weaving at Mummy Pass, I was watching this storm roll in. It was in the east and I denied that it was coming my way for quite awhile. But finally when I heard some distant rumbling, I decided to head back below treeline. I never did get rained on, but neither did I get struck by lightening. After 12 miles, I was back at camp with soda and a book in hand.
Back in camp I finished the piece I started on my backpacking trip when I was weaving in my tent in the rain. That was the piece woven with Colonial Persian which is the same as Paternayan.
The flowers up there were stunning. I saw my first columbine for the year and I spotted this guy hiding under the top rock on a cairn on the way down from Mummy Pass.
*Handywoman is in the process of relocating her shop, but she’ll be taking orders again soon and I’ll write a blog post with my thoughts about this loom then. But I can tell you that I’m really excited about this loom.
**For example, a few weeks ago I woke up and it was raining hard. I offered, “It is raining rainbows!” to which my less relentlessly optimistic partner groaned and rolled her eyes before silently leaving the room.
***Purl and Loop makes some fairly lightweight looms. I am not so fond of the solid backs, but one of these might work for backpacking. The other loom I think would work really well for this purpose is a curved wooden loom sold by Weaving Rainbow. The Arched Loom on THIS page is the one I am talking about (look under Weaving Looms and Tools, I can’t seem to get a direct link).
****Metal-tipped bobbin by Milissa Ellison Dewey. These bobbins are my favorite.