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September 16, 2015

The Weaving Mill—Emily Winter MFA Textiles 2015

by emilywinter

August and September have been busy—we hosted a second Volunteer Day in mid-August, which served as good deadline to stop the perpetual cleanup and focus on getting the mill up and running. The cleaning and organizing and vacuuming could go on forever, and at a certain point, it’s time to realize that nothing will ever be truly free of dust, things will not always be in their right place, and it’s time to start making work.

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William Clayborn sorting the nuts and bolts (photo by Lucas Vasilko)

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Lawanda and Jason putting away buttons and canvases (photo by Lucas Vasilko)

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Itema loom and some of our first trial fabric (photo by Lucas Vasilko)

When I was getting started this summer, I thought it would be six months before any equipment was up and running. But things are moving along a lot faster than I thought they would, and we are working on a first edition of 100 blankets! Each one is a little different—the blanket striping patterns are determined by the cones of yarn that were left in the mill, and the weave structures play with the possibilities of the dobby loom and continue with some of the ideas I was working on in my MFA thesis.

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Winding striped cones for weaving

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Cutting apart the blankets once the bolt is off the loom

I can’t run the looms during the day, as they’re very loud and disrupt regular Westtown programming. So during the day, I work on any number of non-weaving activities and when the Envision clients go home around 3:30, I turn on the looms. Weaving for 3-4 hours a day on a regular basis is really helping to build a muscle memory and I am getting more and more comfortable fixing problems on the loom (which, as it turns out, is how a weaver spends most of her time).

I am working with a fellow RISD Textiles MFA alum, Matti Sloman, here at Westtown. While in school, she and I talked often about what we wanted to do when we finished grad school: it usually came back to an experimental, community-based production mill. When I found out that re-starting the mill at Westtown was a real possibility, I called Matti. She moved to Chicago this summer, and we’ve been working together on this project for the last few months. 

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Me and Matti nap under our new blankets

After much hair-pulling and quite a few truly terrible ideas, we’ve settled on a name: The Weaving Mill. So, please visit www.theweavingmill.com for future updates and blanket sales at the end of September!

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