I am a millennial who grew up with the internet. It’s been wonderful in that as I’ve grown, so too has the information at my fingertips. Want to learn how to do a knotted lattice fringe? Need schooling on creating pockets in fabric with doubleweave? How about color palette inspiration or a random strip generator? It’s all a click away. The problem is that most people show only their best work online, and that can be intimidating. Whether it’s woven scarves or cookies decorated with royal icing, it can be easy to think that one must go from learning a skill to being an expert in that skill, or it’s not worthwhile. I know I’m guilty of feeling this way sometimes—I think I’ve picked up and put down sewing dozens of times over the years because I get frustrated that I’m not able to do the complex and complicated. It finally took a Yule log to make me rethink all this.
I’ve always wanted to make a Yule log cake. They look so complicated and utterly fancy—they’re a true showstopper. While on maternity leave with no place to take the wee one (no open parks, no zoo, no library story time, etc.) I decided to try my hand at making a Yule log during E’s nap times. I began frantically researching and looking at recipes. As I did, I learned that Yule logs are really just a bunch of simple techniques executed well and put together. The techniques are neither difficult nor complicated, but you need to have them down pat: making buttercream or stabilized whipped cream, baking a sponge cake and rolling it, making meringue, making ganache, etc. It’s not about being able to do one fancy technique Ok; it’s about doing a number of simple techniques extremely well.
Weaving is much the same way. By simply building up and really nailing the fundamentals, you can truly open the gates to more complex weaving and design. Weave projects that use one or two special techniques rather than many. This way you can learn the ins and outs of, say, bead leno or Atwater Bronson lace, and feel truly comfortable in those processes. Then, when you’ve built up a stable of techniques, you can combine them in ways to create the complex cloth of your dreams. Not only will complicated projects be less daunting, I bet you’ll also find the outcome to be much more technically beautiful than if you had jumped ahead into the complexities of weaving.
An excellent example of using fundamentals to build a complex, beautiful project is Anne Merrow’s Tree Scarf from the Little Looms Holiday 2020. In it she combines multiple techniques including clasped warp, Danish medallions, and (my favorite part!) tassels. It’s such an interesting, fabulous piece of cloth—the kind of scarf that you just want to keep looking at because you find new things to love about it. It’s because Anne understood these basic techniques, and could do them well, that she was able to combine them in such a beautiful way.
So while I was originally thinking of having grandiose weaving goals for 2021, I think perhaps I’ll remember the lesson of the Yule log and instead try to focus on really perfecting the basics.