Woven Together With Character

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“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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier

Giveaway!

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.

Winner!

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!

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11 Comments

  1. darcie friesen hossack

    January is always cold in more than just temperature. Christmas is over. The accounting begins. Family, that pulled close together as though by an elastic, pulls apart to resume their daily lives. It’s just shivery and blanket-worthy every single one of January’s 31 days.

    Scarves, however, wrap up the wearer in an embrace just warm enough to warn away the chills, whether inside or out.

    Where is Woodcreek Cottage?! I’m smitten with that scarf 🙂

  2. On cold January nights I tend to spend the nights with my toes perched on the radiator and my fingers tippety-tapping around the internet in search of treaures as-yet-undiscovered. This would most definitely be one of those treasures.

  3. 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…

  4. I like to curl up on the couch, wrapped up in one of the cozy wool afghans I’ve crocheted, with a cup of tea and a BBC costume drama. Pride & Prejudice is perfect.

  5. My favorite thing to do on a cold January night is to have hot tea and watch some tv with my husband. 🙂

  6. When the snow is coming down in huge white flakes in January, I like to get a good fire going in the woodstove and let the flames transport me to a very peaceful place. Afterwards, I like to step out onto the deck to breathe in the cold night air and look at the stars shining above, a beautiful woven scarf snug around my neck.

  7. On a cold January night, you can find me bundled up on the couch under a warm blanket sipping a hot cocoa. Of course my faithful little dog will be curled up at my feet.

    You would most likely find my neck to be cold and bare as I haven’t yet mastered crocheting, knitting, or weaving like some of you have.

    Actually, I really will learn how to knit someday when I have more time. I apreciate the time and ability it takes, and love almost everything that was handmade.

  8. I love to spend these days quietly enjoying a cup of tea and reading a novel snuggled under my favorite blanket made by my grandma. The busy excitement of Christmas is over and I find January rest for the deepest parts of my soul.

    This is my first visit to thepeartree…love it!

  9. January to me is the month where the reality of winter sets in. It’s the “bleak mid-winter” come to fruition and I would rather do without it. The white scarf in the photo is absolutely to die for. I once saw a television program where the fashion expert told women that winter white around the face takes off years. I’ve been looking for more white scarves ever since. No surprise that such a lovely piece of art comes from Susan. Her music is stunningly beautiful, too. We’re blessed to have her in our community.

  10. It always amazes me to see such fine craftsmanship. I wonder about the hours spent and the finicky details that require hours of sitting still and concentrating on one thing so completely. What beautiful work Susan produces so lovingly, for only a pure love of a craft could bless us with such an amazing end result.
    January is a journey. It is something to focus on with an extraordinary effort in order to reap the value of the time as it passes.

  11. The coldest thing about January is how the house feels after all the Christmas trimmings have been put to rest in the basement. My solution is to leave one corner with green boughs and twinkle lights. Then when I snuggle up on the sofa with a beautiful scarf around my neck I can still watch the lights and remember all the blessings of the season.

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