The weaving studio was a riot of color. Yarns overflowed huge bins surrounding a large work area dotted with a multitude of different looms. Each loom boasted a different project, some large, some small, some in fine threads, others in yarns of varying thicknesses. To her surprise, Sonsee found she wanted to touch each one, to see how it had been done, to experience and relish in the way these pieces came together.
“When do we start?” she asked, eyes popping with the prospects before her. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“As soon as you pick your yarns,” Ana replied.
But there was so much to choose from and each time she found something, another color, another texture screamed at her, “Choose me, choose me.”
“Oh, Ana, which one? There are so many beautiful yarns here.”
“You have asked the right question and so I will give you the answer. First you must choose your warp threads.”
“Warp? What is that?”
“It is your basis, Toko, your skeleton if you will. It is the foundation that holds the beauty together. Here let me show you.”
She took Toko to the nearest loom. “See the threads that go up and down? That is the warp. You put that on first, then you begin weaving the threads that go across the piece. That is called the weft. Warp and weft, remember that. Now choose your warp first.”
Toko took a skein of dark pink yarn from one of the bins. She liked the spongey softness of it. It would be cuddly and she needed something cuddly to soften her room. Maybe she could weave a blanket for her bed.
“No, that will not work.” Ana wrapped the yarn around thumb and index finger on each hand and gave a tug. It broke apart. “You need something stronger for the warp. Otherwise it will break every time you beat the fabric.”
“Beat the fabric?”
Ana smiled. “Yes, beat, but that is a lesson for later. Now come over here. These are warp yarns.”
Toko was not please with what she saw. These yarns were harder somehow. They had no give, no stretch, no life to them. They just were what they were.
Before Toko could choose one of the yarns, Ana took a spool of colorless thread from the bin and handed it to Toko. “Here, this is best for a first project.”
It looked more like string. Well, I’ll just find something soft for the…what did Ana call it? Oh, the weft.
Toko headed back to the softer yarns, but Ana had other ideas. “This way,” she said and brought Toko to a bin labeled cottons. “These will be better for a first project.”
Resigned to doing as Ana told her, Toko found a dark blue yarn and started to match a second color. “One is enough for now,” Ana said. “Time to warp your loom.”
Instead of finding one of the many empty floor looms, Ana grabbed a wooden frame from behind one of the bins. “This is a peg loom,” she explained.
Toko took it in her hands. It was not hard to guess that the warping string would be wound up and down the pegs. But guessing that was easier than doing that, she soon found. Despite Ana’s careful demonstration, the first time she tried, it was too loose. She discovered that as she wove the first few rows of weft. “Take it out and start over,” Ana said.
The second time, the tension was uneven, some areas of the warp having been applied tighter than others.
By Toko’s third try, Ana was satisfied. “Now start over again and this time do only four inches. That will be enough to see how well you can control the yarns.”
Four inches, that was do-able and the loom was only 18 inches long. I’ll be done with this in no time. Then I can do something interesting.
Ana picked up a smooth piece of wood that had been deeply notched at each end. It was just a bit longer than the 4 inches Toko had warped. “This is a shuttle,” Ana said and then showed Toko how to wind yarn around it. “You will weave the weft with this.”
“But it is so fat. How will I weave it in and out? Wouldn’t a needle be better?”
“Only if you want to be at it for the entire month. Watch this.” Ana took another smooth flat piece of wood, this one thin but eight inches long and an inch wide. “This is a shed stick,” she said as she wove it in and out of the warp, then turned it up onto its side. That created a space between the warp threads, some held up and some down. “The space between the threads is called a shed.” Ana quickly passed the shuttle through the shed, then flattened the shed stick again. She moved it up and then took a comb to push the weft down, making an even line at the bottom. “This is called beating,” Ana explained.
Picking up a second shed stick, Ana threaded it through the warp, this time making sure the threads that had been up were now down. Turning the stick so that it formed a shed, Ana passed the shuttle through again and beat it down. “Now you try.”
Toko removed the second stick, turned the first onto its side forming the shed, and passed the shuttle through. She beat it down, then copied Ana’s steps as she wove the next weft into place and beat.
“Good, now keep doing that until you reach the top of the loom. I have other business to attend to. The toilet is over there,” Ana said, pointing to the corner. “Do not leave the room. Remember what I told you, there are spies everywhere.”
Toko wove another dozen rows, but noted the warp threads drawing in. Her piece was getting narrower. That would not do, she’d never pass onto more interesting work unless she could keep the width even. She removed her work and started over again, this time measuring the width as she wove. After seven rows, the piece remained even. But this was boring, just weaving row after row. I’ll get a second color.
Toko searched the cotton bin, finally finding a skein that was not exactly mauve and not exactly pink either. Nanna would call it a not-this-and-not-that color. It would do nicely, as would a taupe that matched it perfectly. She wrapped a shuttle with the pink-mauve yarn, but before going back to work, she needed to explore the room. There must be a way to escape.
Pretending to be stretching her back, Toko looked out the windows. A garden, beautifully tended, was surrounded by a high stone wall. I’d need more than a ladder to scale that. With only one door out of this room, she realized her options were limited. At least from the weaving studio.
Resigned to spending another day of captivity, she made her way back to her small loom but found herself distracted by the larger floor looms. She studied a few of them. It was not hard to see how the weavers had joined two colors, or how they had made vertical stripes. Well, at least I can add some interest before Ana comes back.
Toko started with the mauve-pink, angling it out as she wove up the piece. Twice she missed her mark, but she learned and when she had figured it out, boredom set in. Vertical striped were next. But too easy. She had noted that one weaver added short pieces of weft, leaving the tails hanging out the back. She worked in some taupe, too, before noticing that her edges were not clean, not straight.
She was about to remove the weft and try again when Ana returned.
“Look at that mess,” Ana scolded. “Rip it out! Rip it out now! Then it’s back to your room with you. And no supper. You must learn to listen to me.”
“But, Ana, I was only….”
“Do not talk back to me, missy.” She hit Toko hard across the face.
That night, the mark Sonsee made behind her bed was angry and deep. One more day wasted and I am no closer to escaping.