“There she weaves by night and day
a magic web of colours gay.”
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott
It’s not uncommon to hear music coming from Susan Adams’ West Kelowna home. After all, the concert pianist and Early Music specialist has a room dedicated to housing her collection of antique and reproduction piano fortes and harpsichords.
But the day The Pear Tree visited, Susan was making music of a different sort – a symphony of clicks and clacks and “Pee nickle, po nickle,” as the folk song, Music of the Loom, describes.
Susan’s other passion, textile arts, led her to take up weaving about 10 years ago. And, while she’s attracted to the piano and loom for their own, separate reasons, their similarities are not lost on her.
“They’re both old technologies,” she said. “They both have a lot of strings stretched across them, and foot peddles to work. But the difference is, once you’ve constructed a beautiful thing on the piano it disappears the next second. With textile arts you have something to hold onto when you’re finished.”
Fiber arts in general continue to use old technologies – even ones, like weaving, that have been modernized with new machinery or equipment, Susan points out.
“I mean, really, how many ways are there to interlock threads?”
Susan’s own loom is a Leclerc, built in traditional French design from the 18th Century. Made from sugar pine wood, it hails from Quebec.
Long before Susan bought it second hand, in a shop in Calgary, the loom started its life in a veterans hospital in Alberta, back in the 1940s. There are still burn marks in the stool from chain smokers whose cigarettes burned a little too long while they got caught up in the rhythm of the machine.
Since she can remember, Susan has been interested in the way fibres and colours combine. She’s been knitting nearly all her life, and learned embroidery in school. A friend taught her how to crochet when she was in high school, and she picked up tatting 20 years ago.
Now, in addition to making her own sweaters, scarves, mittens and hats, Susan weaves her own fabric – fabric she’s used to make tea towels, cushions, shawls, tea cozies and wall hangings.
She also sells her work, under the label of S Designs, at Woodcreek Cottage in Kelowna, Craft Connection in Nelson, and in the Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar.
One of the first lessons she learned, from a professional weaver she met when she was just starting out, was that there’s often a surprise waiting in the finished product when weaving.
“It’s true,” she affirmed. “You can plan and plot a project out before hand, but quite often there’s an unplanned twist to it that makes it more interesting. Usually it’s a colour surprise. When placed so closely together, two colours often make another colour. And if you use colours that are close to complimentary, you often get a strobing effect. It gives the fabric a sense of texture and depth.”
In the future, Susan would like to do more interior design inspired weaving – such as wall panels or home accessories. But in the mean time, she can be heard treddling and shuttling – and sometimes even singing her patterns out loud.
“The pattern notation for weaving is similar to musical notation, so I have been known to hum a draft.”
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier
The Pear Tree is excited to offer our first giveaway! Leave a comment below to be eligible to win the S Design scarf featured on the loom, pictured above, left (the finished one, at right, is a larger white version). It’s finished, now, and ready to be worn in style. Need an idea to comment on? Tell us about what you like to do on cold January nights when you just want to stay where it’s warm. We’ll announce the winner 8 a.m. Friday morning, January 8, 2010.
The Pear Tree is pleased to announce the randomly chosen winner of our first ever giveaway is Shannon, who said:
“On cold January evenings I like to relax in front of the fireplace, knitting needles in hand clicking away on the latest garment for one of my kids, while sipping a cup of homemade hot apple cider to warm my bones.
I have a love for the fibre arts myself and this article has me intrigued with weaving! The scarf is beautiful! I knit, crochet, sew, and enjoy the ancient art of tatting as well, but I do not weave. Maybe someday…”
Congratulations! We will be in touch shortly seeking delivery details.
Thank you to everyone for your participation, we enjoyed reading your responses. Watch for more giveaways to come!