Long Thread Podcast: Deb Essen

Season 7, Episode 10: From the simplest pin loom to the most complex draw loom, designer and teacher Deb Essen explores the structures and surprises of handweaving.

Anne Merrow Oct 7, 2023 - 4 min read

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Many weavers find their inspiration by asking, “What if...” Since she first sat down at a loom, Deb Essen has pushed the limits of her weaving by asking, “Why can’t I?”

Deb has followed that question since childhood, right through her career as a weaving teacher and author. Since she first neglected her table-clearing duties to watch a weaving demonstration at the age of 9, the craft of weaving has held her fascinated. And despite the disciplines of teaching, designing, and writing, that childlike spirit of exploration still gets free rein in her weaving studio. “I play with everything. I mean, that’s the beauty of weaving,” she says. “There’s something to play with all the time.”

When Deb talks about her favorite classes, the word “play” comes up often, and her approach is as lighthearted as it is methodical. “There’s always an amazing surprise for everybody in the class,” she says of her class on color in weaving. “You kind of have to throw color theory for artists out the window” and sample different color combinations. (Deb will be teaching color in weaving at the first Weave Together with Handwoven event February 25–29, 2024.)

For weavers, the classic color-wheel tool is just a starting point, says teacher and designer Deb Essen. To learn to use color successfully, weavers need to balance theory with plenty of playful sampling.

Deb’s love of structure isn’t limited to complex multishaft looms, or even to pick-up patterns on rigid-heddle looms. When the new Zoom Loom debuted, Deb accepted the challenge to play with the small loom and see what she could create. “You know, never say no,” she says, and developed a line of toys and figures made solely of 4" woven squares. She explores the possibilities of texture, color, and pick-up on the little squares, too.

Mixing pick-up patterns with color changes, Deb designed a Treasure Box for the first issue of Little Looms. Photo by Joe Coca

We’re looking forward to Deb joining us in Loveland, Colorado, February 25–29, 2024, for Weave Together with Handwoven. Her classes include Color in Weaving and two classes on weaving with pin looms.

This episode is brought to you by:

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dje handwovens, Deb’s website and line of weaving kits
Color in Weaving video
Easy Weaving with Supplemental Warps book