I’ve been humming along on the painted warp (a bit past the 8-yard mark now), weaving about 3 hours/day, and have been using the intensive weaving time to work on technique. While my left-hand shuttle throws were smooth and without wasted movement, my right-hand throws felt stilted, like I was still doing it in parts. Throw – stop – move hand to beater, beat. Two separate actions. The left hand, on the other hand, was working in a single smooth action, where it would throw the shuttle and grab the beater in one fluid movement, never stopping.
So I spent some time working on just the movement of the right hand, trying to smooth out the movement between throwing and beating. It took awhile – about 6 hours of practice – but I managed to get the right hand movement as smooth as the left hand. Then I worked on coordinating the two hands so they moved as a unit, going back and forth in the same rhythm – another 6 hours of practicing. Since then I’ve been consciously working on smoothness and simplicity of movement, from the moment I sit down to weave – not worrying about speed, just trying to practice the smooth flow of movement, ingraining it into muscle memory.
Of course, speed follows economy of movement. I had warmed up this morning (it always takes about 10-20 minutes for me to “hit my stride”), and it occurred to me that with my newly smoothed-out technique, I was probably weaving faster than before. How much faster? I whipped out my trusty stopwatch, and wove 50 picks in 66 seconds before having to stop to advance the warp. That’s 1.33 seconds per pick! meaning that I’ve more than doubled my weaving speed over the past two years. And pretty much all I’ve done is smooth out the movements, synchronizing the hands so they never have to wait for each other.
At any rate, I’m pleased to know that I’m making progress, both in ergonomics/simplicity of movement, and in speed. Does speed matter? To me it does. The faster I can weave (with good quality, of course), the faster I can complete projects, and the more projects I’ll be able to fit in. Life is short, time precious, and I want to use my time as efficiently as I can. (Legacy of a time when I fully expected to die young!)
That’s not the same as hurrying, of course. Hurrying is when you’re struggling to go over your maximum speed. Hurrying usually results in feeling tense, not to mention sloppy technique. People who decry focusing on speed while weaving usually associate speed with hurrying. To me, speed is valuable, but it’s best approached obliquely, by fixing technique; then speed will follow, and you won’t have to hurry.
(I am reminded of a day from the time I spent working at Ben & Jerry’s. I was the only employee in the shop, it was a holiday (Christmas I think), and a swarm of people had just appeared. For the next two hours, I had a line out the door. But I didn’t stress. I worked as fast and as smoothly as possible, and somewhere around the end of the first half-hour, as I was chatting up the customer while reaching for an ice cream cup with one hand, scooping ice cream with the other hand, and closing the refrigerator with a foot, she asked, “How can you be so unflustered? You’re the only one in the shop and there’s a line out the door!”
I replied, “Well, I know exactly how fast I can scoop, and I know I can’t scoop any faster than that, so I’m doing what I can, and not worrying about the rest.” I was working hard, and fast, but I was not hurrying.)
Anyway – speed and hurrying aside – I am making good progress. The end of the warp is in sight – I estimate I’ll only be able to weave another 2 yards. That will give me about 10.5 yards of cloth before wet-finishing. I’m estimating about a yard of loom waste, so I lost about a yard and a half to take-up and adjustment of the bouts while tying on. That’s pretty substantial, so I’m wondering if I made a mistake in my numbers somewhere. Nonetheless, it will be plenty (and then some!) for the coat. I may have enough left over to make something else!