Ashford Handicrafts artist of the month, recently took up weaving during the 2020 lockdown. She is now producing beautiful handwoven textiles. I hope you enjoying getting to know Rebecca a little more. Below is the wonderful article from Ashford. You cant not be inspired by Rebecca’s love of weaving. As well as her wonderful story of crafting with her Nana.
Ashford Handicrafts Artist of the month
Meet Rebecca from Handwoven
A little bit about Rebecca
Business Name: Handwoven
Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
Originally from South Canterbury, I’ve lived in Wellington, NZ since 1997 (with a couple of stints in Australia). I learned many handcrafts from my Nana – knitting, crochet, needlepoint, spinning, rug-knotting, and most significantly, handweaving. She had a rigid heddle loom and I wove a small table runner when I was about 6 or 7. My Nana and Pop were very proud of their Scottish heritage (many a Robbie Burn’s Night haggis sampling occurred in my youth) and I’m sure that this fed into Nana’s love of making things herself. They owned a farm, and most of the yarn she worked with was from their sheep, hand-spun and hand-dyed.
In my day job I’m a consultant, and in my spare time I weave!
In response to lockdowns and COVID, I started toying with the idea of buying a loom. Our son was seven, and much less likely to cause a craft-mishap!Rebecca – Handwoven
What was your background?
I studied architecture at university, and have always been attracted to practical crafts. I loved woodwork and metalwork at school. When we lived in Canberra, there was a giant Lincraft within walking distance of our apartment, so I dabbled in all sorts of things. Then we had our son, Logan, and hobbies that were ‘within arms-reach’ of a very busy toddler got popped away for later. Instead, I stuck to writing, which doesn’t tend to get in the way of small children! I built and managed a leadership blog for several years before being appointed Chief Executive of a Crown entity – which was incompatible with maintaining an active public profile.
First Weaving project
How did you get started on your fibre artist journey?
My first weaving project
In 2020 – perhaps in response to lockdowns and COVID, I started toying with the idea of buying a loom. Our son was seven, and much less likely to cause a craft-mishap!
At that stage, I didn’t know anything. Not even that Ashford was a New Zealand company! On 23 December 2020 I bought a second-hand Rigid Heddle Loom on TradeMe, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I soon bought a new 80cm Rigid Heddle Loom and stand from Ashford, I was intrigued by tapestry weaving, so I bought a Mirrix Zeus from the US, and I started dreaming about buying an Ashford Jack loom… Which I did in May 2021.
Cotton, Corriedale Wool and Weaving
How did your journey evolve over time?
Weaving began as a way to make practical items like scarves and shawls. I needed to learn the skills, understand the cloth, and the way colours interacted… the way different yarns behaved. I consumed everything I could find online. Initially I bought commercial knitting yarns to weave with, but as my skills and ambition increased, I started to experiment with cotton, linen and silk. I really love pushing the boundaries of my equipment and skill… I’ve woven very thick floor rugs on the Jack Loom, I’ve woven a triple-width blanket in wool I dyed myself (finished width was two metres – Queen bed sized). I wove some yardage from a lovely hand-dyed Corriedale wool (available through your Ashford Handicraft dealer, The Good Yarn) and made a bag – complete with laptop sleeve, zippered pockets and phone slots… My sewing skills aren’t as strong as my weaving skills, but I’ll try anything! I also love weaving with mohair warp and weft – it requires different techniques but the results are soooo fluffy!
While I have played with more complex weave structures, I don’t enjoy them. I love plain weave and twills. Laces and overshot and so on just don’t do it for me. At least not yet.
What do you do with your creations/art/finished pieces?
Some are destined to be gifts for friends and family, but most end up in my online shop.
If you sell your work – where do you sell it?
On my website (handwoven.co.nz) and occasionally in person at a craft or street fair.
Hand weaving and relaxation
How do you manage a balanced life as an artist?
I find consistency is the key. I try to weave a little bit every day. Importantly, I find hand-weaving is deeply meditative, and allows me to relax and replenish after a busy day at work.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Most often, the yarn tells me what it wants to be. I will look at a particular colour combination or dye-lot and I will think of a person, or a finished item, and off we go. I also get some great ideas from seeing other people’s work online, especially in weavers’ Facebook groups, or Instagram accounts. (You can find The Good Yarn Online Craft Group here)
Then I also get inspired about tapestry as an artform, and the potential melding of a largely European art-form with Māori weaving traditions. I’m intrigued by whether tapestry weaving could be used as an artform that helps New Zealand with the process of decolonisation.
My skills in tapestry weaving are much less advanced… and of course the first thing I did when my Zeus loom arrived was warp it all and start a rug as a practice piece… it’s so big that its taking forever to finish! But that’s me! Test the boundaries first!
Knitting yarn stash, colours and Ashford patterns
Do you have advice for people just starting out on their fibre journey?
Just jump in! it’s not cheap, though there are cheaper ways when you start – especially if you work with an existing knitting yarn stash. This is a great way to work with colour and pattern.
Then when you have the basics down, progress to natural fibres that tend to be a bit more expensive, and have quite different properties… they behave differently when you weave with them, and when you wet-finish them. You can felt them, for example, which can turn your finished item into a very different thing.
Where will your fibre journey take you in the future?
I plan to weave finer fabrics in yardage to make clothes, and also to continue exploring with tapestry weaving to create images and art works.
I dream of having enough space for a Cranbrook countermarche loom (I love weaving floor rugs) and maybe enough looms to run workshops and retreats! Watch this space!
Discover our free woven blanket tutorial right here
Fiori Australian DK IV Hand Dyed Merino Yarn$26.00 inc GST
Cottolin 8/2 – Cotton Linen Blend – 200gm cone$29.50 inc GST
Brooklyn Four Shaft Weaving Loom$830.00 inc GST
Ashford Double Knit 8 Ply Yarn$12.95 inc GST
8 Shaft Table Weaving Loom Kit – 80cm$1,690.00 inc GST
8 Shaft Table Weaving Loom Kit – 61cm$1,575.00 inc GST
8 Shaft Table Weaving Loom Kit – 41cm$1,445.00 inc GST
SampleIt Loom Complete Kit – 40cm$329.00 inc GST
70cm Knitters Loom with carry bag – includes second heddle kit$515.00 inc GST