Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hula Hoop Weaves

Yesterday I found myself in a space filled with fabric scraps and hula hoops. 

Quite the dreamland, if you ask me. 

After work, I trekked up Pittsburgh's historical north side so that I could engage in a craft workshop at City of Asylum. The creative hub, which functions as a safe space for literary writers seeking asylum, hosted an outdoor weaving workshop for crafters of all skill levels. 

As I entered the space, I was happy to find mismatched materials and fabric scraps strewn about. 

"Comfort," I thought. 

Eclectic fabrics - my favorite! 
The delightfully haphazard practice of laying out all materials available seems to percolate in crafting communities, and as such, I have become very familiar with the organized chaos. However, I also noticed a pile of hula hoops in the middle of the space, and I wondered if maybe - just maybe - I had misread the website and this was actually the Weaving Workout, not the Weaving Workshop (we can all imagine the resultant blog post that would have been the product of that special opportunity).

Before I had time to get too worried, the workshop designers from Contemporary Craft began to explain the process of making. All crafters were instructed to pick up several handfuls of fabric scraps and one hula hoop. Luckily, the project was conceptualized through a blend of familiar terms: weaving terms, like warp and weft, and bike terms, such as "spokes on a wheel". We were told that we would be creating small rugs out of the fabric scraps.

In weaving, the warp threads are held tensely in place on the loom, and the weft threads interact with the warp through over-under movement.

The weft threads move over-under-over-under, while the warp threads stay put.

To begin, we put together our DIY warps by first tying long fabric scrap across the hula hoops. The resulting figure resembled a bicycle wheel. It was important to note that the warp needs to have an odd number of threads - or in this case, fabric - because over-under pattern of the weft needs to alternate with each new row. To create an odd number, we tied one extra scrap of fabric to the middle of our "wheel" and attached the other end to the hula hoop.

The workshop designers from Contemporary Craft explain how to create the warp.

Once the warps were crafted, we learned that the fabrics of the warp would be hidden by the colors of the weft. I wish I would have know this from the start. I would not have spent so much time picking out the funkiest scraps for the "spokes". The workshop designers warned us to be weary of how tightly we pulled the fabric pieces of the weft. If pulled too tightly, we may produce loose baskets instead of rugs. Greater tension would lead to a more intensely three-dimensional piece.

As we began to move the weft fabrics over and under the pieces of the warp, I noticed that the crafting space became much quieter. The chatter dimmed and conversations became less linear. Why? I am not sure, but based on my own experiences and prior crafting projects, the movement of the hands-on craft tends to be quite mindful and it can be easy to get swept up in the emergence of unplanned patterns. Though our finished pieces were small, it is possible to make these woven rugs on a much larger scale.

Hannah, the City of Asylum workshop organizer, ties the last piece of her warp.


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