My December Design and Planning Process:

Each year, through the month of December, I set up my planning calendar for the new year, to determine what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, with respect to my weaving and spinning goals.  There are so many ideas and projects floating through my mind, but I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish in one year.  Throughout 2020 I have kept an “Ideas List” on my computer, and when I see something, I find interesting or think of something I might like to do, or something I need to do, I put it on my ideas list.  Now in December, I look at the list and make decisions on which ideas will move onto the 2021 project list.  Do I ever finish everything on my annual schedule?  No, but it gives me a direction and a goal post.  When I fall into an overwhelm situation, I can easily decide what to drop. Or, if an opening appears I can go back to my idea list.

Most of the time I begin with the end in mind.  I ask myself a question – at the end of this what do I want to have in my hand?  And of course, what is this?

Sometimes, the this is a simple one-off: 

  • A friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to make a scarf for her
  • I want to gift tea towels to my family members for Christmas
  • I want to make samples to try out a new technique or a new yarn

Sometime, the this is driven by guild requirements or another weaving event.  These pieces usually have a deadline:

  • Our guild is putting on a display to follow our study of Swedish textiles
  • Our study group is studying double weave
  • Our guild has been asked to participate in a show at the museum
  • To create an item of clothing to enter in the ANWG conference fashion show
  • I want to create pieces to sell at our guild’s annual show and sale
  • I want to create samples for a workshop I will teach
  • I want to weave the samples for each lesson of the JST Online weaving guild

Sometimes the this is more complex, more nebulous, more overreaching and will involve a series of coordinated pieces.  These project series could take several months or years to complete, no rush.

  • I want to create a series of pieces to memorialize the life of my mother and grandmother
  • I want to create textiles to represent music, a song, a story, or a movie that resonates with me
  • I want to create a series of shawls that show the evolution of fashion over the centuries
  • A challenge:  If I could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party what would I wear? What would they wear? What would the table settings look like?  What would the upholstery on the chairs look like?  What would I serve?
  • I want to work through one of my weaving books, (For example “Weave Classic Crackle and More” by Susan Wilson) and make pieces to reinforce the learning.

Now, I take out my calendar for 2021 and start filling it in.  First go in the hard deadline dates:  Guild meetings, show dates, birthdays, anniversaries, workshops, and conference dates.  Then I look at each of these dates and decide if I need to have anything finished for these dates.  For instance, until this COVID-19 thing is cleared up, for 2021 there are no conferences or shows scheduled yet.  I do have a friend’s Birthday coming up in April.  I have a 50th wedding anniversary for a couple in August, and a vow renewal event for another couple in August as well.  And family tea towels for Christmas are traditional.  I’m not sure exactly what I am making for each of these events, but I know that I will have to do something.  Working back from these deadline dates, I schedule the project to be completely finished one week before the event.  So, for example, working backwards from completion date, and being generous with the time frame, because, you know, things happen, I would schedule the Christmas tea towels as follows:

  • December 18 – Christmas towels completed
  • December 15 – all towels hemmed
  • December 11 – towels off the loom and ends zig-zagged and wash, dry, press
  • Nov 20 – start weaving towels
  • Nov 13 – dress the loom for tea towels
  • Nov 6 – measure warp for towels
  • Oct 23 – gather or order materials for towels
  • Oct 16 – design/plan warp for towels.

December 2020 towels on the Queen.  I have a strip of led lights attached to the underside of the castle.  These have been held on by masking tape for the last year.  I really need to get them attached more permanently.  In the middle of the castle I have attached a clear file pocket that hold the plan for my current project when I need it.

Each of these dates are marked on my planning calendar. I would create this kind of time line for each project that need to be completed by a certain date.

Next, I schedule in the soft deadline dates.  Some of these are pretty open ended, but I schedule them nonetheless.  They fit around the hard deadline projects, and I can usually work on more than one thing at a time.  Each piece will be in a different part of the process. 

For instance, I am following along with the JST Online Guild projects.  The episodes go live every five weeks, so I would look at my calendar and once I know the date the episodes will go live and the topics, I will decide if I am going to do a particular project.  I look for a three-week period between when, for instance, episode (1) goes live, and episode (2) goes live to dedicate to the project.  I want to fit the project in that three-week window, which is doable, because the pattern and material and sett are given, so it goes on the loom, woven, off and finished within the window.  If my calendar is already occupied for that time frame, or I don’t have the right materials, or the loom is otherwise occupied, then I can defer a project to November/December/ early January.  In any case, I want to complete the episodes for this season before the new season begins.  All of the episode projects are scheduled in my calendar.

Study Groups and Self-Directed Learning:   These projects require time for research and design.  Time is blocked off in the calendar for this, and then the actual project activities as described above are scheduled, once the research and design is completed.

Long-term, overarching, complex, multi piece project.  I pick only one overarching topic to work on throughout the year.  This may mean more than one woven piece, but they will all be related to the chosen topic.  These are the pieces that define me as an artist, where my artistic vision and voice are found, that will develop as part of my legacy.  They take time.  I will block off large chunks of time to develop and define the theme.  To brainstorm.  To incubate.  To research.  To sample.  To design.  To produce.  To reflect.  To revise.  Again, and again.  These projects move as fast or as slow as they must.  But by blocking out time devoted to the theme, it keeps the project moving forward.  

Documentation and Reflection:  I block out one afternoon a week to work on documentation and reflection.  I keep a studio log and file for each project to record hours and materials used.  This helps me determine a price if I choose to sell the item, and gives each piece value.  It also helps me know how long it will take to make a similar item.  After each project all the relevant paperwork and samples are gathered together in the file and stored for future reference.  I also fit in time to sit in silence with myself and reflect on what I am doing, how things are going, what went well, what was challenging, what do I want to change, where do I go from here?

Of course, things will happen throughout the year that can change my plans: the birth of a baby, a new family member, the guild could be invited to participate in a show, a conference opens up, a study group changes topic.  Or, on reflection, a finished piece may propel me on a tangent of deeper exploration.  Or, I could really dislike something enough to abandon a course and cut it off the loom and change direction.  But, going into January, I have a plan and a schedule, I know I can meet deadlines, and keep moving towards my goals.

I have three active looms in my studio.  The Queen is the workhorse, 4 shaft, 48 inches wide, 6 treadles.  The tie-up mainly stays in a plain weave  /  2/2 twill format, and The Queen is used for these straightforward weaves.  Loomella is an 8 shaft Baby Wolf, 26 inches wide, 10 treadles.  Used for 4 or 8-shaft projects that fit in 26 inches. 

December 2020 – Loomella holds an 8 shaft huck diamond pattern for table runners

The third loom is an 8 shaft Ashford table loom, 32 inches wide, on a stand.  The Ashford is used for 8 shaft projects that require more than 10 treadles, or have frequent tie-up changes.  Currently it is naked.

I spend 25 to 30 hours per week in my studio, taking care of all of the planned processes and projects described.

About spinweaverbarbara

I have been steadily weaving since 1980. I enjoy sharing and passing on my learning.
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9 Responses to My December Design and Planning Process:

  1. Gin says:

    Wow, your approach is so methodical and organized, impressive. I like to make lists but am no where near as diligent in planning as you are. Some excellent tips and guidance on how to plan for the upcoming year.

  2. Vicki says:

    Wow Barb, you are a busy weaver, beautiful work,I love your white creation it is very”royal”

  3. Lynne Russell says:

    Oh you are exactly the organized person that I always wished I could become. My Christmas tea towels are just being threaded through the heddles now. I applaud your ability to know where you are going and why. 🤗

  4. Vivian says:

    The tea towel is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your planning process. How did you come about to name your looms

    • Good Question, Vivian. The Queen was my first loom, built for me by my father-in-law from plans we found in a book. She has a 48″ weaving width. She is big and bossy, dominates the room and demands attention. Hence, the Queen. Loomella, the Baby Wolf, and I started our relationship on rocky footing. I bought her brand new, but I had a problem with one shaft randomly not returning to to starting position when I changed treadles, causing skipped threads that I didn’t always notice right away, and I ended up having to back up and unweave frequently. I had just watched 101 Dalmatians with the kids and I thought of Creuella de Vil, the evil high fashion designer, and I started calling the loom Loomella de Vil since she was high fashion but a little bit cruel. Eventually a friend came by and helped me find out where the shaft was sticking. A little judicious sanding and everything works well now, but the name stuck. Amy Ashford is plain and simple, gets the job done and doesn’t complain.

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