Monthly Archives: February 2012

What Makes Weaving “Fun”?

One of the contributors to a weaving magazine described her recent project as the “most mundane piece [she’s] ever undertaken … non-creative and repetitious beyond belief,” yet later in the article, she goes on to say “it’s one of the most engaging projects” she’s ever undertaken. This project, she tells the reader, is cloth for a pair of colonial breeches her brother will wear as a blacksmith at a living history museum.

She is discovering something we get to experience every day in our weaving shop.  Every project on our looms is either for a particular person or for the furthering of our skills as we teach and support and exchange knowledge with each other. This gives meaning to every project and task, so we would never be able to describe any project as “mundane.”

One of our apprentices wove a 4 yard sample of cotton cloth. She did this in preparation for weaving 9 1/2 yards of fabric to be made into a dress for her cousin to wear at the rehearsal dinner of her upcoming wedding. The 9 1/2 yards included enough fabric to make a shirt for the groom.  In the “tedious” job of threading the heddle, she was assisted by her sisters, age 10 and 18 and a number of friends, who handed her the more than 1,800 warp ends to be threaded onto one of the 6 shafts of our Dobby loom.  We were excited about her progress every step of the way, and when the beautiful dress and shirt were completed, we all felt a sense of fulfillment.

Yohanna, one of our weaving teachers,  just finished a commissioned piece on our drawloom.  (We purchased the drawloom 3 years ago and are still exporing its potential.)  Yohanna was asked to design an upholstery fabric to match some unique Italian tiles in peach, green, and beige tones.  On the drawloom, you can replicate any pattern that can be drawn on graph paper.  Yohanna warped up 45 pattern shafts to produce 3 different patterns simultaneously.  One of the patterns was threaded in straight draw, and two of the patterns in point, at 51 warp ends to the inch.  In creating this lovely cloth, Yohanna pushed the limits of all of her knowledge of the draw loom, and at the same time, the project opened the way for all of us in the shop to see new possibilities for this loom.

Our “work” here at Fibercrafts is never boring.  It’s a joy to wind the warp, beam on, thread heddles, adjust tension, weave within a limited time frame, deal with minor (and sometimes, major!) setbacks, put on the finishing touches, and get ready for the next project. Knowing that each project has a purpose or that we’re making it for someone we care about — that’s what makes weaving fun.

The Ploughshare Booth at February TOFGA Conference

The Ploughshare will have a booth at the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Conference (TOFGA) in Mesquite, Texas on February 17-19, Friday through Sunday. Two of The Plougshare’s staff, Butch Tindell and Aaron Alexander will be managing our booth.  We welcome you to drop by and say, “Hello.”

TOFGA is an organization that seeks to educate and facilitate networking between organic and sustainable producers (farmers and gardners) in Texas. The Ploughshare is a TOFGA member and one of the sponsors of this conference.

At the conference, there will be three days of sessions or seminars. We can’t be sure exactly what the content of these will be, but a few that looked interesting to us are:

  • Intensive Grazing (Sabino Cortez, Erath Earth)
  • Organics on a Budget (Justin Duncan, Prairie View A&M)
  • Poultry Production (Jules Assata, Shades of Green and Jennifer Huf, Slow Food Farm)
  • Goats and Lamb (Ty Wolosin, Windy Hill Farm)
  • Microogreens (Hans Hansen, Twin Persimmons Farm)
  • Drought Management Resources (Alyssa Burgin, Texas Drought Project)
  • Edible Ornamentals for North Texas (Leslie Finical Halleck, Halleck Horticultural)
  • Vermicomposting (Heather Rinaldi, Texas Worm Ranch)

To see the full list of sessions, visit:


The conference will be held at the Mesquite Convention Center at Rodeo Center.

A Wooden Spoon from a Log

Wooden Spoon Made from a Log

A wooden spoon and the remaining half of the log from which it was made

This past Saturday, The Ploughshare’s Woodworking School had a one-day spoon making class, attended by seven students. They each made a stirrer, a spoon, a spatula, and a ladle from kiln-dried woods (cherry, pine, walnut and mesquite) using simple hand tools.  Everyone completed or nearly completed their projects in the class. The main thing left to do was sanding and adding a mineral oil finish.

As part of the class, Frank Strazza, the instructor, demonstrated how to make a spoon from a log.  He started with a pear tree log about 5 inches in diameter that had just been cut a few days prior. Using a froe, a hatchet, a drawknife and several other simple hand tools, he made a large Swiss-style wooden spoon. Below are some photos, showing how he did it.

First he split the log in half with a froe and mallet.

Splitting the Log with a Froe

Splitting the pear log with a froe

Next he shaped the face with a hatchet, then carved the bowl.

Carving the bowl of the spoon using a gouge and mallet

Carving the bowl of the spoon using a gouge and mallet

Once the bowl had been shaped, Frank made several stop cuts (visible several inches from the bottom end of the log) using a hand saw, then removed the bulk of the waste material using a hatchet.  He used a sweeping circular motion to make somewhat of a slicing cut.

Quickly removing wood with a hatchet

Quickly removing wood with a hatchet

Frank brought the work-in-progress back into the shop and continued shaping it with a drawknife.  He used a shavehorse to hold the spoon. It’s basically a foot operated vice that grips the spoon firmly but lets you reposition it quickly and leaves your hands free for working.

Shaping the spoon with a drawknife

Shaping the spoon with a drawknife

For finer shaping, Frank used a spokeshave.

Shaping the spoon with a spokeshave

Shaping the spoon with a spokeshave

Below is the nearly completed pear spoon, along with a few other spoons made from  firewood-sized logs. From top to bottom, the woods are black walnut, hackberry, peach, and pear. All that’s left to do on the pear spoon is wait a few days until it dries, scrape it with a card scraper, sand it, and apply some mineral oil to protect the wood and bring out its natural beauty.

It’s amazing to see what you can make from a rough log.

Spoons made from logs

Spoons made from logs

My son also attended the spoon-making class. Below is a photo of the spoons he made during the class, after he’s sanded and oiled them. He was pretty excited about the class. Although he’s been making spoons for a few years, he felt like what he learned in the class is really going to revolutionize the way he makes spoons.

Pine stirrer, mesquite spoon, walnut spatula, and cherry ladle

Pine stirrer, mesquite spoon, walnut spatula, and cherry ladle

Spoon making is relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s also a great way to strengthen your skills as a woodworker — particularly your ability to shape wood and learn to work with, rather than against, the grain.